Polish parliament condemns 1939 invasion by Soviet Union

 

POLAND’S PARLIAMENT has passed a resolution condemning the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of eastern Poland and Stalinist crimes that bore “characteristics of genocide”, provoking an angry response from Moscow and undermining hopes of a rapprochement with Warsaw.

The resolution specifically denounced the 1940 massacre by Soviet forces of some 20,000 Polish officers, priests and intellectuals in Katyn forest in western Russia, and the murderous Gulag prison camp system, and stressed that the Soviet regime deprived Poland and its Baltic neighbours Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania of their independence after the second World War.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler in August 1939, paving the way for Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1st and for Soviet troops to cross its eastern border on September 17th.

“In this way . . . Poland became the victim of two totalitarian regimes: Nazism and Communism,” said the resolution.

“The Gulag archipelago took millions of human lives, including those of many Soviet citizens . . . the organisation of the system, its duration and degree mean that these crimes, including the Katyn crime, carry the traits and characteristics of genocide,” the resolution continued. Parliament also “condemned all attempts to falsify history and called upon all people of goodwill in the Russian Federation to act in a united manner to reveal and condemn Stalinist-era crimes. Polish-Russian reconciliation requires respect for historical truth.”

Seventy years after the start of the second World War, and 20 years after partially free elections in Poland helped send communist regimes tumbling across eastern Europe, Moscow and Warsaw are still at loggerheads over the history of the last century.

It took until 1990 for Moscow to admit responsibility for the Katyn massacre. Current prime minister Vladimir Putin has refused to apologise for crimes committed during the Soviet era, and has publicly lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union.

At events in Poland this month to commemorate the start of the second World War, Mr Putin acknowledged the pain felt by Poles over Katyn. But he also insisted that the Kremlin had little choice but to sign the 1939 non-aggression pact with Hitler, because Europe’s other major powers had already made deals with him, such as the 1938 Munich agreement.

Mr Putin and other senior Russian officials have lambasted what they call attempts to “distort history”, such as a resolution adopted this year by the OSCE that likened Stalinism to Nazism.

Russia’s foreign ministry swiftly criticised the Polish resolution as “tendentious and politicised”. “Adoption of the resolution seriously harms efforts to develop normal good-neighbourly relations between our two countries,” the ministry said. Washington’s decision last week to scrap plans to build part of a controversial missile defence system in Poland had fuelled hopes of better relations between Warsaw and Moscow.

Russia has also reacted furiously to claims by Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko that famine caused by Soviet policies which killed millions of Ukrainians should be classed as genocide.