(NYTimes) As far as many Russians are concerned, Alexei Botyan, a Soviet spy during World War II, was a hero whose daring actions saved the Polish city of Krakow from destruction by the Nazis.
But the Poles, and a number of respected historians, have a different take. To them, Mr. Botyan (pronounced buh-TYAHN) may have been a fine intelligence officer, but he had nothing to do with saving Krakow. [...]
“But there is absolutely no evidence that the Germans intended to demolish a dam to bring about Krakow’s destruction,” Mark Kramer, a Soviet specialist and a Cold War historian at Harvard, said in a phone interview. [...]
“This whole supposed escapade wasn’t even mentioned until the award was given,” he said. Mr. Botyan “was a capable intelligence officer, but his role in the closing months of the war has been markedly overstated,” Mr. Kramer said. [...]
The Botyan legend, with its inherent assertion that the Soviets saved Krakow, Poland’s showcase city, continues to fuel bad relations between Poland and Russia, Mr. Kramer said. [...]
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