Why to fight with memorials (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The campaign in Poland against World War II memorials to Soviet officers and soldiers, who had liberated the country from the Nazi occupation, is gaining momentum. Warsaw has created a legal framework allowing the disposal of Soviet/Russian memorial objects or taking them out of public sight, including the most widespread monuments of gratitude to the Red Army. Why?

In June 2017 Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the latest amendments to the so-called Decommunisation Law – national law of 1 April 2016 banning propaganda of “communist or any other totalitarian regime”. The changes introduced to the legal framework in this sensitive sphere are in fact broadening the scope of purge in Polish public domain aimed at erasing symbols considered to be ideologically “wrong”. Sadly, monuments and memorial plaques are also under fire.

Russia has repeatedly drawn international attention to the fact that the new Polish measures are in direct violation of legal obligations under a whole range of bilateral treaties and agreements signed by Russia and Poland between 1992 and 1994 to maintain and preserve Soviet memorial sites.

Beyond legal aspects, this issue has a crucial moral dimension. The monuments of gratitude to the Red Army are a reminder of the Soviet Union’s decisive contribution to the Victory over Nazism and to survival of Poland as a state. The USSR paid an immense price for the liberation of Poland from the Nazi occupation – over 600,000 Soviet soldiers and officers gave their lives in that country alone. A lot of them are buried on the Polish territory, along with the thousands of Soviet prisoners of war who were kept in Nazi concentration camps.

And yet, apart from the state and municipal activities in this regard, the new law is encouraging and motivating Polish citizens to actively participate in removing “hostile” memorial objects. This atmosphere of impunity has already resulted in several acts of vandalism at Soviet war memorials in the Polish cities of Sosnowiec, Olsztyn, Warsaw, Strzegom, desecration of monuments in Lidzbark Warminski and other towns.

The policy of Warsaw is creating unnecessary additional friction in Europe, poisoning relations between our countries and peoples. Russia urged the international community and first and foremost those countries who fought with us against Nazism during the World War II to discourage Polish authorities from devoting their energy to the ignoble war with monuments and memorial sites. It is universally important to preserve the memory of those who defeated fascism, and combat glorification of Nazism. In this regard, Russia will continue to put forward at the UN General Assembly its resolution on “Combating glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. We appreciate growing support of our initiative.