Poland Dismantles Four Soviet-Era Monuments

Photo Credit: Ralf Lotys / Sicherlich / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0
Photo Credit: Ralf Lotys / Sicherlich / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0

Four Soviet-era monuments have been dismantled in Poland, in both condemnation of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and to remove symbols of the USSR’s power following the Second World War. The actions by the country’s Institute of National Remembrance has brought about a negative reaction from the Kremlin.

Karol Nawrocki standing in a suit
Karol Nawrocki serves as the head of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance. (Photo Credit: Mateusz Wlodarczyk / NurPhoto / Getty Images)

The statues, which date back to 1945, were removed by workers equipped with heavy machinery. When they were erected, they were intended to memorialize the Red Army soldiers who lost their lives fighting Germany during World War II.

The continued existence of the monuments and other Soviet-era memorials has been an issue of contention between Poland and Russia, with the former having taken a number of steps since the collapse of the USSR to remove symbols of the Kremlin’s power over the country and its population.

While Russia claims to have liberated Poland from the Germans, the majority of Poles feel the Red Army brought with it a new form of oppression. Germany invaded the country in September 1939, signalling the beginning of the Second World War. Russia followed suit just over two weeks later, with Poland subsequently being divided between both nations for the duration of the conflict.

The monuments that were removed were in Glubczyce, Bobolice, Byczyna and in a wooded area near Staszów. Speaking at one of the removals, Karol Nawrocki, the head of the Institute of National Remembrance, discussed how the statues symbolize the oppression Eastern Bloc countries suffered while under the umbrella of the Soviet Union.

“This is a monument to disgrace, a monument of contempt of the winners over the victims,” he said. “In 1945, the Soviets did not bring liberation, they brought another captivity. They were capturing Poland and treating it as booty.”

Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov condemned the statues’ removal, telling the media, “This is a lie, because so many citizens of the Soviet Union died liberating Poland. [It is] another attempt to fool the younger generation of Poles, feeding them lies and provoking hatred for Russians.”

Under Russian law, any person(s) can be prosecuted for the removal or damage of Soviet monuments, regardless of whether they are in Russia or another country. If convicted, the penalty can be up to three years in prison.

Soviet-era monument in Glubczyce, Poland
Soviet-era monument in Glubczyce, Poland prior to its removal. (Photo Credit: Ralf Lotys / Sicherlich / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0)

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Poland has demolished a number of Soviet-era monuments since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. In March of this year, the decision was made to remove the 60 remaining statues and memorials that remained across the country.

Other Central and Eastern European countries have undertaken similar measures, including Latvia and Estonia.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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