Poland marks anniversary of 1863 uprising against Russia

Mariusz Blaszczak, the defence minister, unveiled on Sunday a commemorative plaque dedicated to the January Uprising heroes at the new Polish Army Museum, being built in the Warsaw Citadel, a 19th-century fortress erected by order of Tsar Nicholas. Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Poland on Sunday marked the 160th anniversary of the 1863 January Uprising, the largest and longest-lasting armed insurrection against Russian rule on Polish soil.

A cornerstone event in Polish history, the uprising started on January 22, 160 years ago, and aimed to restore the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. But it was eventually and brutally suppressed the following year by imperial Russian forces.

Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, wrote in a message posted on the presidential website that "With arms in hand, Poles stood up against the tsarist empire, which did not recognize our rights to self-determination and was destroying all that was Polish in a process of fierce Russification."

"Our nation spoke with a powerful voice of pride and protest," he added.

Mariusz Blaszczak, the defence minister, unveiled on Sunday a commemorative plaque dedicated to the January Uprising heroes at the new Polish Army Museum, being built in the Warsaw Citadel, a 19th-century fortress erected by order of Tsar Nicholas.

Blaszczak said that the Warsaw Citadel is a place sanctified by the blood of insurgents who were executed there by the Russians after the revolt was supressed.

"The January Uprising broke out because Poles never surrendered to everything that is related to oppression... deprivation of freedom, because we have this trait, the desire for freedom, in our genes," he said.

In Lithuania, the country's president, Gitanas Nauseda, also paid his respects to those who fought and died in the 1863 January Uprising.

"We have never forgotten our heroes... but in these days when the fraternal nation of Ukraine is forced to defend itself against brutal Russian military aggression, their memory is especially important to us," he said.