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Poland condemns WWII invasion

September 25, 2009

At the beginning of World War II, the Soviet invasion of Poland led to massive loss of life in prison camps and massacres. A new resolution from the Polish parliament condemns the invasion - and irks Russia.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin
Poland's resolution condemns crimes from the era of Josef StalinImage: picture-alliance/dpa

A resolution unanimously approved by the Polish parliament this week condemns the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland in 1939. The resolution referred to a series of massacres of Poles in Russia, as well as mass deportations of over one million Poles to Siberia. Poland also called on Russia to condemn the crimes.

Sixteen days after Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany on Sept. 1, 1939, troops under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin were sent into eastern Poland. A year later, a Soviet-led massacre in the Katyn forest left over 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals dead.

Angry reactions from Moscow

The response from Russia warned that the Polish resolution, which said the Stalin-era crimes amount to genocide, was a set-back to improving ties between Russia and Poland.

"The resolution adopted by the parliament deals a serious blow to efforts to develop normal neighborly relations between our countries," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the resolution was "tendentious and politicized."

Polish parliamentary speaker Bronislaw Komorowski
Bronislaw Komorowski says Russia has trouble dealing with its pastImage: AP

Polish parliamentary speaker Bronislaw Komorowski said Russia's reaction indicates the country is still coming to grips with its past.

"The fact that Russia has reacted so nervously to a resolution that has nothing to do with present-day foreign policy is a sign that it is still unable to come to terms with its own history," Komorowski said.

Tense relationship with history

While the resolution brought a seventy-year old conflict to the forefront, both countries have previously had difficulty in addressing their shared history.

Another contentious issue is the non-aggression pact signed between the Soviets and the Nazis on the eve of World War II. During a visit to Poland by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a few days before the resolution passed, Putin made a surprising departure from Russia's previous attitude towards the pact by calling the document "immoral." Many had hoped Putin's visit marked an improvement in frosty Polish-Russian relations of the past few years.

But according to commentators, Poland and Russia appear to have wasted an opportunity on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II to use memories of their joint struggle against the Nazis to bring them together – and instead decided to dwell on the past to cultivate their differences.

Author: Rafal Kiepuszewski (mz)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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