Spoiler: The Kremlin lies again. We ought to be used to it by now since Kremlin has been vomiting lies especially about its war crimes in Syria and Ukraine. But the Kremlin has taken its lies to a new level recently. This year it is 75 years ago since the WWII ended. In Soviet and Russia, it has been commemorated as the Great Patriotic War which means that they prefer to forget Stalin’s alliance with Hitler which started the war.
The existence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and its secret protocol was acknowledged by the Soviet Union during the Perestroika. However, Putin seems to regret this. Not just regret it but unbelievable enough even blame Poland for being attacked by the Nazis and Soviet Union.
German governments and the german people are well aware of the Holocaust and other atrocities that its people were guilty of during WWII. The Kremlin under Putin takes another approach towards histroy. The Great Patriotic War is a matter of national pride for the Kremlin. Anyone reminding it of the crimes committed by the Soviet Union and its troops during the WWII, become targets of propaganda and disinformation from Russian media. Appealing to nationalism and patriotic sentiments is also a way to distract the ordinary Russian’s attention from his or hers stagnating living standards.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact triggered the WWII
It is a well-known and undisputable fact that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Hitler and Stalin caused the WWII. However, when the European Parliament merely stated the fact in its resolution, Kremlin got upset. To begin with, there were attempts by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to claim that the Soviet Union was forced to make a pact with Hitler, that many countries had pacts with Germany, that the Versailles Treaty had something to do with the attack on Poland or that the Munich agreement was the cause of the WWII.
This is of course bullshit and somehow the Kremlin never mentions that no other country had an agreement to split other countries between them or that the Soviet Union and Poland also had a non-aggression pact which was unilaterally abolished by the Soviet Union on the day its troops attacked Poland in the back. But Putin himself finally killed satire when he claimed that Poland was responsible for the WWII. That is so sick that I refuse to put a link evidencing his vomit. The Polish Premier Minister and President rebutted this nonsense forcefully.
Somehow the Kremlin also tends to forget that Soviet and Nazi Germany also agreed on economic cooperation. Soviet supplied Germany with grain, fuel and raw material which the German forces could use in the attacks on the western front, Yugoslavia and in the Battle of Britain.
The Kremlin not only “forgets” and make up new lies, it also repeats old lies made by the time of the attack on Poland. The most common is the one that Soviet had to intervene in Poland to rescue Belarusians and Ukrainians living in Poland. This was supposedly justified by a collapse ot the Polish government and state. The lie was first used in a note, co-authored by Soviet officials and Nazi Germany’s ambassador in Moscow, Schulenburg. The note was delivered by the Soviet government to the Polish ambassador in Moscow, Waclav Grzybowski, at 3 am in the morning of 17 September 1939 in Kremlin. Grzybowski refused to accept the note since it constituted a violation of international law. He also stated the obvious; the irrelevance of the German attack for Poland’s sovereignty. The note was delivered to the embassy later and following Soviet’s attack on Poland, Grzybowski was arrested by the NKVD emphasising that the Soviet Union was a rogue regime.
In the Soviet occupied part of Poland, the NKVD carried purges of the population
The purges targeted people who were suspected of being opponents to the communist rule. This ”focus group” included many people, especially white collar employees and those who were suspected to have had contacts with or knowledge of the world outside of Poland, including philatelists. The Soviets also carried out mass deportations of polish citizens to remote parts of the Soviet Union. Around one million polish citizens are believed to have been deported under terrible conditions both on the overcrowded trains and on the locations where they were thrown off the trains and forced to stay. Many died of course.
And the Kremlin probably want to forget that the Soviets carried out the Katyn massacre even though Putin has asked for forgiveness for it. Around 18 000 polish military and police officers were taken prisoners by the Red Army after the attack. At least 15 000 of these were executed in the woods of Belarus, Poland and Ukraine. I may be understating the number of victims. Some sources claim that the actual number that were executed amount to some 22 000.
Defeating the Nazis with American, Canadian and British aid.
When Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Soviets had to retreat from the parts of Poland which they had occupied. Before they left, the Soviets made sure to kill the people they jailed for being suspected of anti-Soviet. The killings were carried out in the over-filled prison cells either by gun fire or hand grenades.
And the Kremlin somehow also forgets that even though Soviet supplies were used by Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, Great Britain, together with Canada and USA, supplied the Soviet Union with arms, ammunitions, food and other materiel after the Nazis’ attack on Soviet Union in June 1941. Great Britain delivered 7 000 aircrafts, 27 ships, more than 5 200 armoured vehicles, 5 000 of artillery, 4 000 ambulances and trucks and a lot of other necessary materiel including 15 million pair of boots. The American help amounted to some 400 000 jeeps and trucks, 12 000 armoured vehicles including 7 000 tanks, 11 400 aircraft and 2 million tons of food.
On Stalin’s orders, the Red Army watched the Nazis crush the Warsaw uprising with Russian ROA soldiers
The aid from USA and its allies increased the Red Army’s mobility and flexibility. This was one of the main factors behind the fast advances of the Red Army against the German troops. The Red Army advanced fast also through Poland and pushed the Nazis back. However, on Stalin’s orders, the Red Army halted on the eastern bank of Vistula, the river that runs through Warsaw so that the Nazis could crush the Warsaw Uprising.
A major cause of embarrassment for leaderships of the former Soviet Union and Russia today, is ROA. The Russian Liberation Army led by Andrey Vlasov fought against the Red Army on the Nazi’s side on the Eastern Front. They did however, take side against the Nazis in the Prague Uprising and played a larger part in the Liberation of Prague than the Red Army. That’s another part of history that Russian school children won’t learn about.
Anyway, the ROA took part in the crushing of the Warsaw Uprising. Polish divisions of the Red Army, (previously imprisoned by Soviet), refused to obey orders and tried to cross Vistula. As they didn’t receive the help needed from the rest of the Red Army, the attempts were unsuccessful. The Nazis could slaughter around 200 000 people and level large parts of Warsaw to the ground.
Mass murders, rapes, looting and deportations following the Soviet’s liberalisation of Poland from the Nazis
On its way through Poland, the Red Army did not only liberate Poland from the Nazis but also from Polish freedom fighters and soldiers of the Home Army. Stalin wanted to make sure that the legal exile government should not be to rely on any troops of its own. He established a puppet government of his own in Lublin.
Not only did the Soviet troops go after the soldiers in the Home Army. Just as during the occupation 1939-1941, the NKVD targeted anyone potentially constituting a threat to communist rule. The NKVD overtook the Nazis’ camps and filled these with tens of thousands of polish citizens. Many of these were later deported eastwards to Siberia. The NKVD-men did not use gloves. People were tortured and murdered.
The part of the population that wasn’t arrested and deported or killed lived in constant fear of being so or having their property stolen and looted by soldiers in the Red Army. And they didn’t stop there. Many polish women were raped by gangs of soldiers who often murdered the women afterwards. Many polish men who tried to protect the women were killed or beaten. At a hospital in Gdynia, polish men guarded the women in the maternity wards because soldiers in the Red Army tried to rape even these women as reported by Madeleine Pauliac at the French Red Cross.
The mass rapes carried out by the Red Army in its way to Berlin was first reported by a Red Army Lieutenant Vitaly Gelfand. There are of course no official statistics of the number of Polish women who got raped by Red Army soldiers but surely tens of thousands.
When the Red Army conquered Nysa, Soviet solders forced their way in to a monastery for nuns. The nuns were given a choice. Those that declared themselves as Polish were raped while the German nuns were killed. The result of the liberation in Nysa was 27 killed nuns and around 150 raped nuns. But other Red Army soldiers weren’t as discriminatory. Women who had been moved by the German troops back to Germany for slave labour, were also raped by the Red Army Soldiers who.
The looting of Poland didn’t stop at Red Army solider stealing furniture, clothes and especially wrist watches. Machinery, whole factories and railway tracks were removed and transported to Soviet Union.
The Soviet occupation of Poland turned it into an economic disaster
After the other victory powers shamefully betrayed Poland and let Soviet turn it into a communist satellite country of the Soviet Union. The devastating effects this had on the Poland are well-known as well as its success story after the end of communism, c.f. Figure 1.
Figure 1. GDP per capita in Poland under communism and afterwards
Source: Top panel: Maddison Project Database, version 2018. Bolt, Jutta, Robert Inklaar, Herman de Jong and Jan Luiten van Zanden (2018), “Rebasing ‘Maddison’: new income comparisons and the shape of long-run economic development”. Available for download at: https://www.rug.nl/ggdc/historicaldevelopment/maddison/
The Polish economy collapsed during the 1980s when the country defaulted on its foreign debt. Poland was also plagued by hyper inflation and shortages of even the most basic consumer products. In the summer of 1981, hunger demonstration broke out.
When the Polish people started to demand not only lower prices and food, but also civil rights and the right to form free trade unions, the Kremlin decided to intervene. After having watched how the civil society and Solidarity grew stronger, Kremlin pressured the Polish government to clamp down on Solidarity and the growing civil society. Finally, Kremlin’s puppet Jaruzelski took over and introduced martial law in Poland and arrested thousands of members of Solidarity and civil society organisations. Lech Walesa was arrested, and Solidarity was declared illegal in 1982. Under Jaruzelski, the communist regime murdered hundreds of members of the opposition and peaceful demonstrators. A horrifying example of the brutality of the communist regime, was the Pacification of Wujek. Nine striking miners were killed and more than twenty injured by the regime’s riot police force, Zopo. Jaruzelski’s crimes against his own people should not be discussed in isolation. The most likely alternative to Jaruzelski at this point in time was not a democratic society. It was a Soviet occupation. That would probably have been even worse. The Polish communist regime’s hard grip became looser after Gorbachev introduced Glasnost and Perestroika in the Soviet Union.
Applebaum, A. Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956.
European Parliament resolution on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/RC-9-2019-0097_EN.pdf
Moorhouse, R. The Devil’s alliance: Hitler’s pact with Stalin 1939-1941.
Piatkowski, M. (2018). Europé’s Growth Champion. Insights from the economic rise of Poland.
Sculz, A. (2017). Polens historia.