Though they should be on the same side in their opposition to globalism, Russia and Poland have recently entered into an unholy spat over the history of World War II.
The Russian Ambassador to Poland stated recently in an interview with the Russian news site rbc.ru that relations between Russia and Poland are “the worst since the end of WWII.” The website stated that the Ambassador’s comments came at a time of “the most severe crisis in Polish-Russian relations in recent years.” The cause of this crisis is a decidedly ungentlemanly spat over each nation’s part in World War II. The Poles are understandably irked by the communist-Nazi alliance, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which led to the invasion of Poland in 1939, sparking Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in Poland’s defence. The Russians, on the other hand, are equally annoyed by the failure of the Poles to recognize the role of the Red Army in liberating Poland from the Nazis in the latter stages of the war, the Soviets having switched sides after Hitler betrayed his alliance by attacking the Soviet Union.
The Russian Ambassador spoke of “the decisive role of the Soviet Union in the victory over fascism,” adding that World War II “was won – first of all – by the Soviet Union and by those – only those – who were on our side.” He then continued, anything but diplomatically, by stating that “Russia has a great history of a victorious nation and there is no need to settle it with anyone.”
The Poles beg to differ. In mid-February, at around the same time that the Russian Ambassador was making his comments, the Polish Embassy in Moscow made an official request to the Russian foreign ministry for Russian support for a Polish state visit to the site of the Katyn Forest Massacre in 1940. The Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, stated his desire to go to Katyn to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the Massacre, wishing “to pay homage to the victims of the terrible Soviet massacre perpetrated in the Katyn forest.” For those who have no knowledge of this communist atrocity, it relates to events following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. Following the invasion, about 250,000 Polish soldiers, including over 10,000 officers, were taken as prisoners of war. In the spring of 1940, the NKVD, the infamous Soviet secret police, executed about 22,000 Polish citizens detained in camps and prisons in the Soviet Union, at Katyn but also in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Minsk, and Kalinin.
On February 19, only a few days after the undiplomatic war of words between Russian and Polish diplomats, the Estonian Parliament entered the fray by passing a resolution, entitled “Historical Remembrance and Falsifying History,” which condemned Russia for attempting to “re-write history” and which denounced the part played by the Soviet Union as one of the main initiators of World War II. The resolution also denounced “the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact along with all of its secret protocols, the occupation of the Baltic States and the partitioning of Poland by two totalitarian regimes.” The Estonian Parliament, pulling no punches, blamed Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for carrying out “mass annihilation on a scale unprecedented in human history.” The Russian Ambassador responded by calling the Estonian resolution “blasphemous.”
What is one to make of this very uncivil war of words?
First and foremost, it will be clear that very few people outside of Russia are going to sympathize with Russia’s efforts to whitewash over the bloody stains of Soviet history. Even if it is true (which it is) that the success of the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front was absolutely crucial to the Allied victory over the Nazis, and even if it is true (which it is) that the Red Army’s victory in the Battle of Stalingrad was one of the greatest and most courageous episodes in all the annals of military history, there is no excuse for the refusal to disown the tyrannical actions of the Soviet secret police and the barbaric nature of the massacres perpetrated on civilians and prisoners of war. This does nothing but discredit the Russian government in the eyes of the world, alienating it from many potential allies.
What is needed is a reiteration by President Putin and the government of Russia of its commitment to a post-communist future based on anti-communist principles. What is needed, furthermore, is a reiteration by President Putin of his support and respect for the legacy of the great Russian witness to truth, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. In many respects, modern day Russia is more “conservative” (for want of a better word) than most of the countries of the West. It has come a long way, and much of it in the right direction, since the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia is not the Soviet Union and it does itself a disservice and harms itself in the eyes of the world when it fails to distance itself from the ugliness of Soviet tyranny.
It is ironic, in the midst of this unholy spat, that Poland and Russia have both emerged in recent years as part of the healthy resistance to the rise of globalism. They could and should be on the same side in a common struggle against the globalist foe. With sufficient restraint, the governments of Poland and Russia can avoid the harmful consequences of knee-jerk Nationalism, which sets anti-globalist dissidents against each other. With such restraint, conflict can be avoided and amity established. If the nations of eastern and central Europe could become brothers-in-arms, uniting against a common globalist enemy, they would become a political force for good and the true friends of all sovereign nations attempting to free themselves from the globalist yoke.
It must be conceded that this best-case scenario seems increasingly unlikely as both sides in the Polish-Russian conflict lose their heads in the heat of the fray. It is, therefore, a sad reality that the only real winners in this war of words are the forces of globalism.
As we ponder these things, let’s also ponder the words of G.K. Chesterton who reminds us that “my country, right or wrong” is akin to “my mother, drunk or sober.” We might love our mother or our motherland, whether she’s drunk or sober, but we should not ignore her drunkenness, nor should we sanction it; still less, should we become drunk with her. What is needed in all nations at all times, and in Russia and Poland at this particular time, is sobriety.
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The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay.