IPN lashes out at Moscow’s attempts to justify Soviet WWII invasion of Poland
The Russian Federation’s recent attempts to justify the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocol to divide Eastern Europe, including Poland, as well as to paint Poland as an ally of Nazi Germany and a potential threat to the Soviet Union in 1939 have been met by a fierce response from Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN).
Last week, the Russian Ministry of Defence published a set of archival documents from the Second World War on a special website dedicated to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (pakt1939.mil.ru).
An official Russian announcement along with the documents said that the publication is supposed to be a form of “preventing falsification of history and attempts to revise the results of the Great Patriotic War and World War II”.
A few days later, the IPN responded by saying that the publication of the Russian claims, “at best proves the incompetence of the authors of the site, and at worst – their desire to manipulate history”.
It went on to say that the documents, “do not give any grounds for a review of the state of knowledge about the period immediately preceding the outbreak of World War II, and in particular the reasons for the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.”
The move from Russia is part of a recent Kremlin campaign to push its view of the causes of the Second World War, claiming that the Soviet Union took control of two-thirds of Poland as it saw Poland as a threat to its security.
To support this line, the documents published by the Russian defence ministry include a 30-page handwritten note by the Red Army Chief of General Staff Boris Shaposhnikov, dated 24 March 1938, addressed to the People's Defence Commissioner Marshal Kliment Voroshilov.
The report assessed the military threats to the USSR from various countries, including Poland. In the document, Poland was described, along with Germany and Italy, as the most probable enemy in “the fascist bloc”.
However, the IPN stated after analysing the documents that on the eve of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Red Army did not foresee any threat to the Soviet Union from Poland.
It said that just a few months after the report in questions was written, “Soviet military documents treat Poland neither as the Soviet Union’s potential enemy, nor as an element of the ‘fascist bloc’.
“Our country is perceived exclusively as an unquestionable target of the German aggression, planned for late August or early September 1939.”
The IPN in its statement said that by presenting Shaposhnikov’s report as proof that Poland was a military threat to the Soviet Union, the Russians are guilty of “ahistorical manipulation”.
Another set of documents published within the same batch consists of ciphers sent on 21 and 26 September 1939 to the Politburo describing the “unbridled enthusiasm” with which Red Army troops were met in eastern Poland, as well as cases of disarmament of Polish troops by the local population.
The IPN in response stated that: “Such events, widely publicised in Soviet propaganda, did take place incidentally throughout the Eastern Borderlands, but primarily on the part of representatives of national minorities.”
It went on to say that, “portraying the unanimous support of the people of the Eastern Borderlands for the approaching Red Army is completely false.”
This latest move by Russia follows the publication back in June of scans of the original Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by a website connected to the Russian foreign ministry.
The scans include the secret protocol, according to which Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland were divided into German and Soviet “spheres of influence”. Poland was to be partitioned, with areas east of the Pisa, Narev, Vistula and San rivers going to the Soviet Union, while Germany would occupy the west.
The Soviet Union triggered the secret protocol when it invaded Poland on 17 September 1939.