Statement of Polish MFA on false narratives presented by the Russian Federation
We are concerned and disbelieving to note the statements made by representatives of the Russian Federation authorities, including President Vladimir Putin, about the causes and course of the Second World War.
They allude to the propaganda messages of the Stalin’s totalitarian era, already condemned even by a Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland wishes to remind the key facts of Polish foreign policy of the pre-war period and Poland-Soviet Union relations as well as the information on the Polish victims of Soviet repressions during the Second World War.
The Republic of Poland, which regained independence in 1918 after 123 years of captivity and exploitation by the partitioners: Austria, Prussia and Russia, adopted a consistent balanced policy towards both Germany and the Soviet Union.
The said policy resulted in Poland’s efforts to sign a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, which was eventually completed on 25 July 1932. Upon Soviet initiative, the pact was prolonged by ten years on 5 May 1934.
In the same manner, Poland strived to normalize its relations with Germany by means of the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of January 1934.
Despite the peaceful policy pursued by the Republic of Poland, the Soviet Union took direct steps to trigger war and at the same time committed mass-scale crimes. Under the order no. 00485 issued by the then People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs in August 1937, 111,000 Poles, Soviet citizens, were murdered and several dozen thousand were deported or arrested (as part of the so-called Polish Operation of the NKVD).
USSR’s actions were approved by the Nazi Germany. After first German claims against Poland made in January 1939, Soviet ambassador in Berlin Andrei Merekalov offered Germany political cooperation on 17 April. Notably, Hitler denounced the Non-Aggression Pact with Poland on 28 April.
The agreement was sealed by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in Moscow on 23 August and its secret protocol under which Eastern Europe was divided into German and Soviet spheres of interest. The protocol violated the independence of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Romania.
On 1 September, Germany launched its cruel military aggression on Poland. On 17 September, as agreed in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Poland was attacked by the Soviet army, which violated the provisions of the non-aggression pact. At this very moment Poland was struggling against German troops and Polish government remained on the territory of Poland. The Red Army invasion violated international law and customs. On 28 September 1939, the Soviet Union signed another treaty with the III Reich, the Boundary and Friendship Treaty, which sanctioned the division of Polish territory between the two invaders.
Fifty two per cent of Poland’s territory and 13 million of its inhabitants fell under Soviet occupation and were then subjected to mass repressions. In 1939-1941, at least 107,000 people were arrested and over 380,000 Polish citizens were deported deep into the USSR.
Following the decision of top USSR authorities, nearly all captured Polish army officers and numerous members of Polish elite, that is over 22,000 people, were shot in spring 1940 in Katyn, Tver, Kharkiv and other places of execution.
In 1940-1941, Soviet authorities carried out four major deportation operations from former Polish lands in February, April and June 1940 and in May-June 1941. The largest groups of displaced persons were sent to the Arkhangelsk oblast, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Swerdlovsk and Irkutsk oblasts, in the Komi Republic and Molotov oblast, and from April 1940 on in Kazakhstan.
USSR’s repressions of Poles continued over the next years. From January 1944 until the end of 1940s, at least 85,000-100,000 Poles (other nationalities not included) were directly victimized on the former Second Republic territory.
A notorious example of Soviet repressions of Poles was a treacherous imprisonment of Polish deputy prime minister and fifteen other leaders of the Polish Underground State by the Soviet security service. Their show trial was held in Moscow in June 1945. They were sentenced to imprisonment and some of them were most probably killed in prison.
According to historians, credible calculations put the total number of victims of Soviet repressions from 1939 until after 1944 at 566,000 Poles (including all three categories: arrested, deported and murdered). An estimated 259,000 of Polish citizens, victims of repressions can be identified by name, using the sources available today.
The Polish side takes the view that the right path to follow in the Polish-Russian historical dialogue is to re-launch the Polish-Russian Group for Difficult Issues which has already had substantial achievements, such as the findings on the USSR’s role in the outbreak of the Second World War. With his words, the President of the Russian Federation erased the joint effort of Polish and Russian experts, as well as the legacy of his predecessors, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, who – despite all the difficulties - struggled to find the way of truth and reconciliation in Polish-Russian relations. A reliable and critical look at history, instead of propaganda, would allow to pay tribute to millions of victims of Stalinist repressions, also on Russian side.
MFA Press Office