What does the the Civic Platform’s (”Platforma Obywatelska” in Polish) historical policy aim at?
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It seems that the main line of the current government’s policy is indicated in a statement by Donald Tusk published as an answer to a survey of the weekly ”Znak” in 1987: ”What will there be left of Polishness if we substract the elevated, morose and comic theatre of unfulfilled dreams and unjustified delusions? Polishness equals insanity”
Tusk’s government is executing Putin’s policy
An interview with professor Andrzej Nowak, a historian and lecturer at the Jagielloński University, chief editor of the bi-monthly ”Arcana”. Mariusz Bober interviewing.
A statue made of costly granite to commemorate the Soviet soldiers and the lack of will to properly commemorate the late Polish president along with the other victims of the catastrophe in Smoleńsk – what is the purpose of such a Civic Platform’s historical policy?
- So much reluctance is seen in the recent actions performed by the current president as well as among other public servants of the ruling party, including the general statue keeper of Warsaw (who aswering the suggestion of commemorating the Katyń victims announced to introduce a ban on erecting any kind of statue) that it elicits embarrasment. All of this looks grotesque and shocking. Especially if we take into account the initiative of unshrouding the statue of the Soviet soldiers who died in the fights with Poles during the Battle of Warsaw. Bronisław Komorowski supported this initiative even before becoming president. In this case the initiative to erect quite a large statue was accomplished in no time. What’s more, it’s unshrouding was planned to take place exactly in the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw. The matter of the statue in Ossow constitutes an element of the general historical policy of the ruling government in Russia.
The Civic Platform wants to administer the policy of the so called ”reconciliation” kneeling.
- This is a symptom of the so called ”new opening” towards Putin’s Russia that originated the moment the Civic Platform came into power. The actions accompanying this policy became more intense especially during the last year’s 70th anniversary of WWII. The foreign minister’s speech was of large importance concerning this case. It’s about his article in ”Gazeta Wyborcza” which was a all its own greeting towards the prime minister of Russia, Wladimir Putin, who was then arriving to Poland. Let me remind that Sikorski wrote that Russia has never been closer to democratic virtues than at that time, that is in the year 2009. Let’s not forget that in the last 9 years of Wladimir Putin’s rule about 300 reporters were murdered, all the electronic media of this country inhabited by 140 million people were completely subjected to Kreml; the Russian army killed tens of thousands of Chechens, citizens of the Russian Federation. Did these standards really make minister Sikorski so proud? The applause after Wladimir Putin’s speech in Westerplatte was also shocking and was only properly commented by ”Nasz Dziennik” and a small number of media. Let’s recall the fact that the Russian Prime Minister justified the Soviet aggression on Poland in September 17 1939, stating that the Soviet-German pact was a natural result of the unfair treaty in Versailles. Putin in that speech wasn’t actually adressing Poland but, again, Germany, reminding that country about the things they achieved thanks to Russia. A silent acceptance of this speech on the Polish part along with subsequent heaps of propagandist lies told by Putin in Smoleńsk on the 7th of April was also appalling. Let’s keep in mind that at the press conference held after the meeting with Donald Tusk, Putin went back to blaming Poland for the alleged ”slaughter” of a ”fantastic” number of Russian captives – that is 35 thousand caught after the Battle of Warsaw. This way he put into practice Michail Gorbachov’s propagandist gimmick, who ordered the Russian propagandists to search for an ”anti-Katyń” to ”soften” the significance of the Soviet crime done unto Polish officers in the year 1940. Unfortunately, the statue erected in Ossow to honour of the Soviet soldiers is fully compatible with this way of thinking.
… which is a de facto statue of Wladimir Putin’s political history.
- Yes, because it commemorates the soldiers of the Red Army who fought against Poland and does so not under a red star, which would be adequate to historical facts, but under a Orthodox cross. This is completely denying the historical truth about the Red Army but it’s perfectly consistent with the new historical synthesis which is being created in Russia on the request of Kreml and the Russian government. It all comes down to enshrining all the USSR’s conquests as a continuation of the Russian empire, so that the ”white” Russia in its worst feature – that is imperialism – would ideally coalesce with the Soviet imperialism but no longer under the red star but under the Orthodox cross. This act’s glaring dishonesty and the shocking phenomenon of building the statue in Ossow comes from the fact that it wasn’t a war between catholicism and orthodoxy but a war lead by the aggressive communist idealogy aiming at conquering the whole world. The Red Army didn’t only consist of Russian soldiers but also of Polish communists that were fighting against their own countrymen! The Soviets were also supported by Latvian volunteers, children of Lutheran parents, Jews and Calmucks. It was surely not the Orthodox religion that brought them together! The army defending Poland didn’t also constist solely of Poles but also of Ukrainians, Belorussians and also – what we all should remember – Russian anticommunists inspired by Borys Sawinkow and Stanislaw Bulak-Blachowicz. For political reasons it wasn’t them that Bronislaw Komorowski wanted to commemorate but the soldiers in the Red Army – as ”Orthodox” victims. As victims of the war with Poland. In Russia, on the other hand, the case is interpreted spot-on: ”the new Polish government” is ready to commemorate the ”Russian” victims – those victims that in some way may even justifly or at least explain Katyń… If anyone doesn’t believe my words, I recommend reading the Moscow edition of ”Wriemia Nowostiej” from August the 17th.
So is the ruling Polish government putting the Russian historical policy into action?
- I won’t judge the intentions but I see the results. In my opinion, they all contribute to putting Putin’s historical policy into practice. All of it does reflect the tenets of its propaganda – stating that it is the Poles that are responsible for the death of the Russian captives and that this is the reason why they are building statues – to admit their guilt. This is exactly the opinion that is spread through the Russian press under Putin’s control. Poland’s representative, the ruling president, decided to commemorate the Red Army with a statue embedded with an Orthodox cross, to commemorate the army making their way to Warsaw to do away with the Polish country! This army aimed to make Bolsheviks out of Polish citizens. So if now the Polish government is legally erecting a statue in the memory of the Bolshevik army, it’s not only making a historical high treason compatible with Putin’s ”memory policy” but are also denying the sense of the Polish struggles to independence, the struggles to build a 20th century Poland! If they’re erecting a statue for the Red Army that wanted to destroy the country of Poland, then in that case a simple question arises: what did our ancestors die for when defending Warsaw in the year 1920?
The government’s representatives, including the current general secretary of the Board for the Protection of the Memory of Historical Battles and Martyrdom, Andrzej Kunert, claim that they only wanted to commemorate the casualties of the battles…
- A decent burial of the dead is everybody’s duty. It’s sensible to mention some circumstances, though. Firstly, why did the Polish authorities took scrupulous care to erect an impressive statue made of granite for the Red Army soldiers but didn’t decide to renovate the plain and old concrete crosses of the defenders of Ossow and Europe that were erected before WWII? Secondly, the cemetaries for the Polish soldiers and Polish victims of stalinism are not build by Russia but are build and maintained from Polish resources by the Board for the Protection of the Memory of Historical Battles and Martyrdom. Should then Red Army statues be build because of the initiative of the Polish government? Of course, a mound saying something like ”They came to conquer Warsaw. May they rest in peace” could be build for these soldiers. What is important or at least should be important for the country of Poland is whether someone died while attempting to destroy Poland or while defending it against a brutal agression. At the same time the Polish government is doing everything they can not to commemorate the democratically elected head of state, i.e. Lech Kaczynski, who died this year in Smolensk.
The commemoration of those who came to liquidate the Polish country is becoming more important than the commemoration of those who defended it.
- Let me remind you on this occasion that it was Bronislaw Komorowski who in the contract parliament and in the parliament of the first cadency was among the ”Solidarity” MPs the most ardent critic of re-establishing the 15th of August as the Polish Army Day. He justified it then, as the new Minister of Defence, that this holiday wouldn’t suit the body of generals (having its roots in the People’s Army of Poland)… And now it turns out that the 15th of August can be a proper date – to commemorate Red Army soldiers. This is at least puzzling.
Does this mean that the present government is not capable of establishing proper rules of pro-Polish historical policy?
- I cannot make a clear judgement on this matter. It will be easier when this government comes out of power and that is something that happens to any government at some point in time… But we could make some initial assesments. It seems that the main line of the current government’s policy is indicated in a statement by Donald Tusk published as an answer to a survey of the weekly ”Znak” in 1987: ”What will there be left of Polishness if we substract the elevated, morose and comic theatre of unfulfilled dreams and unjustified delusions? Polishness equals insanity – this is the first association that comes to my mind in the face of the painful stubbornness that appears whenever I touch on this inconvenient topic. Polishness always evokes feelings of protest inside of me: its history, geography, general bad lack at most times and God knows what more have put a burden on my shoulders that I’m not really willing to carry… Fleeing from the Poland situated on this planet is fairer decision, this Poland on a specific land that is poor, dirty and lost and because of it this Poland so often makes us blind and narrow-minded, leads us to the lands of myth. This country is a myth in itself.” During that speech, the then 30-year-old history graduate from the University of Gdansk and a liberal activist of the Gdansk oposition defined his vision of historical policy. This was a vision radically opposed to what he called insanity. And insanity was understood as cultivating the memory of battles, victories, defeats and casualties in the name of Polishness which is exemplified by the Battle of Grunwald or the Battle of Warsaw.
Civic Platform’s members often claim that by this they are fighting with the fatalism present in the Polish history but it’s all the other way round because the Battle of Warsaw is an example of a wonderful triumph.
- Yes, it was a great victory not only for Poland but also for Europe. It wasn’t a pointless sacrifice. Remembering the Battle of Warsaw is not an obsolete martyrology. This battle was a true success because it allowed to sustain Poland as a country. Why, without this triumphant battle, there would be a Second Republic and 20 years of independence – after 123 years of captivity. That 20-year-long period gave us a lot more, for example in the cultural aspect, than the whole history of the Third Republic altogether! Without the victory in 1920 there wouldn’t be the literary achievements of Żeromski, Reymont, there would be no Iwaszkiewicz (not the one from the Ode to Bierut) nor Lesmian, there would be not music by Szymanowski, clearly there aslo would be no pieces of art by Schulz nor not even Gombrowicz’s irony. Without a doubt the economic output of the Second Republic was also more significant than the one that took place in the last two decades. What remains of the last 20 years apart from the glitter of new banks and shops and the styrofoam that covered the fronts of the blocks of flats from the period of the Polish People’s Republic? We don’t have a second Gdynia! On the contrary, we’ve done everything to terminate the economic significance of the first, to eradicate not only the shipbuilding industry but also a number of other industry branches. We cannot be proud of a reformed zloty if we aim to replace it with the euro as fast as possible… That sacrifice at the Battle of Warsaw allowed a great advantage for the whole nation, for millions of Poles. Poland remained Poland – against the will of the army whose soldiers were to be commemorated in the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw by a new statue in Ossow.
Perhaps we wouldn’t aslo have a Polish Pope…
- It’s hard to imagine that a boy born in May of 1920 could receive a catholic education if the Bolsheviks conquered Poland. We cannot reduce our history only to victims that are denied any sense. From their sacrifice grew a tangible success that elevated Poland in a lot of dimensions. Perhaps we wouldn’t be talking this way today or even in the Polish language, had the Red Army subjugated Poland 90 years ago.
Thank you for your time.
transtation: Michał Nowicki