Kramer: The Botyan legend, with its inherent assertion that the Soviets saved Krakow, continues to fuel bad relations between Poland and Russia

PONARS Eurasia
09 Mar 2020

(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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