Russia’s Historical Revisionism – Story of Warsaw Uprising

On May 8, Europe celebrated the 75th anniversary of the end of the “Great Patriotic War”. Different from the rest of the world, the post-soviet states celebrate this day on 9th May. As usual, Russian president – Vladimir Putin was planning a grandiose ceremony to commemorate this landmark moment of Russian history. However, it was postponed due to spreading the COVID-19 pandemic and was held on 24th June. Putin invited leaders from around the globe. Some of them rejected the appeal, some just could not accept it because of the COVID-19 regulations. Nevertheless, several leaders still attended the ceremony, including president of Belarus – Alexander Lukashenko, President of Moldova – Igor Dodon, as well as the heads of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Serbia. For Vladimir Putin, V-day has quite important significance. Through this celebration, he is trying:

1. To consolidate Post-soviet space;

2. To cement the legitimacy of the Soviet Union and its legal successor – Russian Federation;

3. To fabricate the history and spread disinformation regarding the events of WW2.

The president of Russia had already made some controversial comments about the history of the Second World War. One of the most important targets of the Kremlin’s hybrid warfare is Poland. Speaking at an informal summit of the commonwealth of independent states (CIS), Putin directly blamed Poland for the firing up the world war. According to him “It was Poles, it was them who, while pursuing their mercenary and exorbitantly overgrown ambitions laid their people, the Polish people, open to attack from Germany’s military machine and contributed to the beginning of the Second World War”. This remark represents the clear illustration of the Kremlin’s historical revisionism. Another critical fabrication concerns the exaggerated importance of the Red Army in the liberation of Warsaw. Putin pointed out that Polish people should be thankful to the Red Army, which liberated Warsaw and the whole Poland from Nazi tyranny. Let’s examine Russia’s historical revisionism and revisit the events of 1944, when Poles had tried to oust German rule.

The story of the Warsaw Uprising:

The Second World War started on the 1st of September, when the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. The Red Army also infiltrated Eastern Poland according to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, signed on the 23rd August, 1939. On September 29, Poland was once again divided between Germany and Russia along the Bug river. The Germans took the Western part of Poland, while the Soviet Union occupied the Eastern territories. Poland fought with both regimes, but the country was defeated. In 1944, Poles started an uprising against Nazis, by which they unsuccessfully tried to oust the German army and overtook control of Warsaw. On June 6, 1944, allies started operation “Overlord”, which aimed to liberate Nazi-occupied France and get territorial gains in the Western front. The principal aim of this operation was to besiege Nazi forces from both sides. Allies fought against the German army on the Western front, while the USSR made advances on the Eastern front. By the end of July 1944, the Soviet Red Army approached Warsaw. The Kremlin was trying to make sure the Polish underground movement to fight against the Nazis. Poles did not trust Stalin, even though they started the revolt against German forces, hoping to gain control of Warsaw before the Red Army could “liberate” it.

At the beginning of August, the Polish Resistance Home Army started an uprising under the leadership of General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski. In the first stage, Home Army defeated German forces and overtook almost full control of the city, though yet powerful Nazi regime sent some reinforcements. German air forces (Luftwaffe) bombarded Warsaw for the next 63 days. The Soviet army neither aided nor allowed allies to support Polish rebels. Without a helping hand, German forces easily defeated the Home Army, completely destroyed Warsaw, and deported almost Warsaw’s full population. Without any hindrance, the Soviet Union faced little resistance in replacing the government in exile by the satellite communist government. Great Britain, USA and France considered that the government in exile was the only legitimate government of Poland. However, because of the Soviet occupation, it was agreed on the Yalta conference, that the government in exile would not return to Poland. After the end of the Second World War, Poland became a satellite of the USSR and compulsorily joined the soviet bloc until the end of the cold war (1989).

To summarize, Putin’s remarks about “liberating” Warsaw lacks any rational arguments because of 3 main reasons:

1. Soviet’s pledge, to help the Poles, was a lie. They utilized the Polish resistance movement to weaken both: Home Army and Nazis. The Kremlin used a well-tested -” divide and rule” method;

2. Besides not supporting the Home Army, USSR rejected a request by the British to use Soviet air bases to airlift supplies to the rebels;

3. The liberation of Warsaw was not the only merit of the Soviet Union. It was a joint effort of allied forces.

The case of the Warsaw Uprising demonstrates Russia’s historical revisionism in action. Poland and other targets of the Kremlin should strongly respond to these fabrications.

Giga Jokhadze

Research Fellow

The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tbilisi or The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.

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