Touchy move of Soviet War Monuments by Poles

Soldiers’ Monument located in Liberty Square, Włocławek, Poland. The monument is of a Red Army soldier and Polish peasant, holding hands. The Soviet Union used Red Army monuments in Soviet occupied countries as a propaganda tool.

The Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), based in Warsaw, plans to move over 200 monuments originally set up by the Soviets after the end of the Nazi occupation in WW2.

Relations between Poland and Russia are currently strained. This new plan to move the statues could worsen diplomatic relations further. The movement of a monument in the town of Pieniezno last year caused a strongly worded response from the Kremlin. Poland considers the Soviet occupation of Poland at the end of World War II as oppression, and with Poland now having strong ties to the West and being a member of NATO, relations between the two states are uncomfortable.

The IPN plans to move the monuments to an educational park that is to be created in a former Soviet military base at Borne Sulinowo, a small town north-west of Warsaw. The director of IPN’s Education Department, Andrzej Zawistowski, said: “[the monuments refer to] what we consider as untruth: gratitude for having given Poland independence.”

Russia feels that the Poles are required to protect war memorials under an existing bilateral agreement signed in 1994, but Poland deems the agreement to cover cemeteries only, which are not affected by the plan to move the monuments. Russia, on the other hand, believes that this plan emphasises the dearth of gratitude of the Polish people for the sacrifices made, on their behalf, by the Russian forces during World War II.

Mr. Zawistowski said in a recent interview, “The plan will include only monuments expressing the gratitude towards the Red Army, and it will not affect Soviet cemeteries. The educational park will show these monuments within the right historical context.

The IPN will assist in the removal and re-erection of the monuments in the Educational Park.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE