Polish Agency Looking to Remove Soviet-Era Monuments

Monument of "Polish Gratitude to the Red Army" in Warsaw, 2011. Photo Credit.

An agency in Poland is trying to have Soviet monuments removed from the streets and installed in “educational parks”. The agency claims that the monuments are bitter reminders of Moscow’s heavy-handed rule. Moving them to the parks would make them less conspicuous.

The National Remembrance (IPN) – which is charged with investigating crimes from World War II through the end of communist rule – wants local authorities to remove “monuments of gratitude to the Red Army”.

“The monuments … would most likely be placed in … monument parks,” said Grzegorz Waligóra, from the IPN’s research department. “An educational park will be built where visitors can see the monuments as well as learn why they were built and by whom.”

Monument of "Polish Gratitude to the Red Army" in Warsaw, c. 1965.
Monument of “Polish Gratitude to the Red Army” in Warsaw, c. 1965.

The agency is compiling a catalog of about 300 monuments. It would recommend preserving the ones in good shape. Excluded from the plan would be Soviet cemeteries in Poland.

Waligóra said that two potential sites have been proposed for a monument park. One of them is a former Soviet army base in Borne Sulinowo in northwest Poland.

The plan allows local authorities to decide for themselves whether to move the monuments. Moscow is critical of the plan. It urged historians to “talk to the Polish veterans … who fought side by side with Russian soldiers.”

In July of 2015, Moscow was outraged by Polish authorities in Nowa Sól when they destroyed a memorial that showed Polish and Red Army soldiers as brothers in arms.

Then, in September, Moscow summoned the ambassador from Poland to protest the removal of a Soviet statue in Pieniężno.

The history between the two nations is complex. Soviet troops liberated Poland from the Nazi invasion during World War II. The Soviet Union then dominated Poland for the next 40 years before the Polish government embraced democracy and joined the European Union.

Poland has been among the harshest critics of Russia’s annexation of the Ukraine’s Crimea region.