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Victor Zaslavsky receives the Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought for Class Cleansing

Congratulations to Victor Zaslavsky, who on December 5th was awarded the 2008 Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought by the Heinrich Böll Foundation for the German edition of Class Cleansing: The Massacre at Katyn.

Class Cleansing explores the truth and cover-up of the murder of 25,000 Poles in the Katyn Forest.

In early April 1940, the Soviet secret police executed 25,000 Polish prisoners of war in the forest at Katyn. Afterward, the Soviets blamed these murders on the Nazis, constructing one of the greatest historiographic falsifications of the 20th century.

In his new book, Class Cleansing: The Massacre at Katyn, Victor Zaslavsky revisits the events that occurred in the Katyn Forest and examines how they were distorted by the Soviet government in order to create an “official version” of history. Using secret documents that were unavailable before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Zaslavsky reveals the startling complicity of Western governments and left-leaning historians in maintaining this fiction.

In an era when the management of history has become routine and the shaping of public perception a service offered by high-powered PR firms, Zaslavsky’s book is even more relevant. Class Cleansing provides an early case study of the now familiar control and manipulation of historical narratives.

In Bremen on December 5, 2008, Zaslavsky accepted the Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought from the Heinrich Böll Foundation for his work in Class Cleansing.

Praise for Class Cleansing

“…demonstrates with care and enviable clarity how the Katyn Massacre—a seemingly ‘minor’ episode—can be the key to understanding the ideologies and techniques of 20th-century mass murder.”

—Pierluigi Battista, Corriere della Sera (2006)

“Katyn was a Polish tragedy, but also a black mark on the history of international relations in the 20th century.”

—Norman M. Naimark, Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor in East European Studies, Stanford University

“…a synthetic, sober report covering the last 60 years of efforts to unearth what really happened, how the crime was covered up and later belittled by the murderers, and how Anglo-American politics acted in complicity.”

—Albrecht Rothacher, Asia Europe Journal: Intercultural Studies in the Social Sciences and Humanities (2007).

About Victor Zaslavsky

Victor Zaslavsky was born in Leningrad in 1937 and forced to emigrate from the Soviet Union in 1974. He has taught at the University of Leningrad, Memorial University of St. John’s, Canada, University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and Universities of Venice, Rome, Naples, and Florence. His work has earned him the 2008 Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought, and he has been a member of the editorial board of Telos for more than thirty years.

Click here to purchase Victor Zaslavsky’s Class Cleansing: The Massacre at Katyn.

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