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George Sanford (political scientist)

George Sanford is a former professor of politics at the University of Bristol, England.[1] He specializes in Polish and East European studies. On several occasions he has been interviewed on Polish affairs in the mass media.

Study of the Soviet massacre of Polish prisoners of warEdit

Sanford's study (2005) of the Soviet massacre of Polish prisoners of war in Spring 1940, based on authoritative Soviet documentation, provides a dispassionate and comprehensive account of the planning and implementation of the whole NKVD action - a flagrant breach of International Law. About 14,600 PoWs (officers including educated reservists, soldiers, policemen and border and prison guards) were transported from three camps at Starobelsk, Ostashkov and Kozelsk to be shot in NKVD prison cellars in Kharkov and Kalinin (now Tver) as well as in the Katyn forest near Smolensk. Another 7,300 were killed by the NKVD, largely by senior executioner Vasili Blokhin, as part of the same action in Belarus and the Ukraine. German Nazi revelation of the Katyn part of the massacre in April 1943 was a cynical attempt to split the Western Allies and the Polish Government-in-Exile in London from the Soviet Union. Sanford goes on to show how the truth about the 1940 massacre was sacrificed to realpolitik considerations of maintaining allied unity and defeating the Nazis. In particular, British Foreign Office (FO) and American records confirm that both Churchill and Roosevelt were fully informed of the real truth about the 1940 massacre and took conscious political decisions to lie about it to defend their respective national interests. This explains why the struggle to establish the truth about the 1940 massacre proved so tortuous and long drawn out. Only with Gorbachev's admission of Soviet guilt in 1990 and the publication (mostly in Polish and Russian) of the relevant and detailed NKVD documents made available by Yeltsin in the early 1990s was it possible to ascertain the definitive truth, especially about the non-Katyn aspects of the massacre. Sanford examines in detail how the British Foreign Office repeatedly reconfirmed its 'open verdict' line, from 1943 until Gorbachev's admission, notably when the official FO Historian's Rohan Butler 1972 review did so in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. The 1940 massacre was a key episode in the history of the Second World War with crucial implications for Russo-Polish relations; but it also now raises central issues about international law and morality and how these can constrain historically dominant realpolitik considerations of power politics, including the prevention of genocide and massacre.


George Stanford has published several books and numerous articles and books chapters. His book publications include:

  • Polish Communism in Crisis, 1983
  • Military Rule in Poland: The Rebuilding of Communist Power, 1981-1983, 1986
  • The Solidarity Congress 1981: The Great Debate, 1990
  • Democratization in Poland, 1988-1990: Polish Voices, 1992
  • Building Democracy?: The International Dimension of Democratisation in Eastern Europe (ed.), 1994
  • Historical Dictionary of Poland, 1994
  • Poland: The Conquest of History, 1999
  • Democratic Government in Poland : Constitutional Politics Since 1989, 2002
  • Katyn and the Soviet Massacre of 1940: Truth, Justice and Memory, 2005


  1. ^ Richard J. Hunter; Leo V. Ryan (1998). From autarchy to market: Polish economics and politics, 1945-1995. p. 30. ISBN 0-275-96219-9. Retrieved 3 January 2011.