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Polish-Russian relations

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Title: Polish-Russian relations  
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Subject: Andrzej Nowak (historian)
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Polish-Russian relations

Poland–Russia relations



Poland–Russia relations have a long history, dating to the late Middle Ages, when the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Muscovy struggled over control of their borderlands. Over centuries, there have been several Polish-Russian wars, with Poland once occupying Moscow and later Russians controlling much of Poland in the 19th century as well as in the 20th century. Polish-Russian relations have entered a new phase since the fall of communism in both countries around 1989-1993. Since then Polish-Russian relations have seen both improvement and deterioration, depending on various factors.

According to a 2013 BBC World Service poll, 19% of Poles view Russia's influence positively, with 49% expressing a negative view.[1]


Muscovy and Russian Empire

Relations between Poland and Russia (Muscovy) have been tense from the beginning, as the increasingly desperate Grand Duchy of Lithuania pulled the Kingdom of Poland into its war with Muscovy around 16th century.[2] As Polish historian Andrzej Nowak wrote, while there were occasional contacts between Poles and Russians before that, it was the Polish union with Lithuania which brought pro-Western Catholic Poland and Orthodox Russia into a real, constant relation with both states engaged in "the contest for the political, strategic and civilizational preponderance in Central and Eastern Europe".[2] While there were occasional attempts to create an alliance between the new Polish-Lithuanian state and the Muscovy (including several attempts to elect the Muscovite tsars to the Polish throne and create the Polish-Lithuanian-Muscovite Commonwealth), they all failed.[2] Instead, several wars occurred. Notably, during the Polish-Muscovite War (1605–1618), Polish forces took Moscow[2] –an event that would become one of the many defining moments of the future Polish-Russian relations.[2][3][4] Muscovy, now transforming into the Russian Empire, was able to take advantage of the weakening Commonwealth, taking over disputed territories and moving its borders westwards in the aftermath of the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667).[2] By the beginning of the 18th century, with the deterioration of the Commonwealth political system (Golden Liberty) into anarchy, Russians were able to intervene in internal Polish affairs at will, politically and militarily (Silent Sejm, War of the Polish Succession).[2] Around the mid-18th century, the influence of ambassadors and envoys from Russia to Poland, could be compared to those of colonial viceroys[5] and the Commonwealth was seen by Russians as a form of protectorate.[2][6][7] With the failure of the Bar Confederation, opposing the Russian influence, the First Partition took place in 1772; by 1795 three partitions of Poland erased Poland from the map.[2] As Nowak remarked, "a new justification for Russian colonialism gathered strength from the Enlightenment": Poland was portrayed by Russians as an anarchic, dangerous country: its Catholic and democratic ideas had to be suppressed by the more enlightened neighbors."[2]

Over the next 123 years, a large part of Polish population and former territory would be subject to the rule of the Russian Empire.[2] Several uprisings (most notably, the November Uprising and the January Uprising) would take place, attempting to regain Polish independence and stop the Russification and similar policies, aimed at removal of any traces of former Polish rule or Polish cultural influence, however only in the aftermath of the First World War would Poland regain independence (as the Second Polish Republic).[2]

Soviet Union

Immediately after regaining independence in 1918, Poland was faced with a war with the new Bolshevik Russia, with the Polish-Soviet War eventually ending up with a Polish victory at Warsaw, spoiling Lenin's plans of sending his Red Army west to spread the communist revolution.[2] For the next two decades, Poland was seen by the Soviet Union as an enemy; eventually an agreement with Nazi Germany allowed the Soviet Union to successfully invade and destroy the Second Republic in 1939.[2] The brutal mass murder, known as the Katyn massacre, of 20,000 Polish officers that took place soon afterward, in the background of various Soviet repressions of Polish citizens, became another event with lasting repercussions on the Polish-Russian relations.[2][4]

After the Second World War and with the Allies' permission during the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union whose Eastern front rolled up Nazi Germany from the East ended up in control of the Polish territory. Stalin decided to create a communist, Soviet allied Polish state, the People's Republic of Poland.[2] Poland became part of the Eastern bloc, as the People's Republic of Poland. Soviet control over Poland lessened after Stalin's death and Gomułka's Thaw, and ceased completely after the fall of the communist government in Poland in late 1989, although the Soviet Northern Group of Forces did not leave Polish soil until 1993.


Modern Polish-Russian relations begin with the fall of communism –1989 in Poland (Solidarity and the Polish Round Table Agreement) and 1991 in Russia (dissolution of the Soviet Union). With a new democratic government after the 1989 elections, Poland regained full sovereignty,[2] and what was the USSR became 15 newly independent states, including the Russian Federation.

Relations between modern Poland and Russia suffer from constant ups and downs.[4] Among the constantly revisited issues is the fact that Poland has moved away from the Russian sphere of influence (joining NATO and the European Union)[2][3] and pursuing an independent politic, including establishing a significant relations with post-Soviet states;[3] for example, Polish support for the pro-democratic Orange Revolution in 2004 in Ukraine has resulted in a temporary crisis in the Polish-Russian relations.[3] Occasionally, relations will worsen due to remembrance of uneasy historical events and anniversaries, such as when Polish politicians bring up the issue of Russia apologizing for the '39 invasion, the Katyn massacre. (Many Polish citizens and politicians see as genocide, but Russian officials refer to it as a war crime rather than a genocide[3][4]) or for the ensuing decades of Soviet occupation;[3] in turn Russians criticize Poles' perceived lack of thankfulness for liberation from Nazi occupation (despite later being taken into Soviet occupation).[4] During the 1990s, assistance granted by Polish government and civilian agencies to members of the Chechen separatist movement had been met with criticism by Russian authorities.[8]

In 2009, there had been controversy over the Russian government and state media publishing claims that Nazi Germany, the Empire of Japan and the Second Polish Republic had allied or intended to ally against the Soviet Union before the Second World War.[9][10][11] These claims were denounced by Polish politicians and diplomats as an attempt at historical revision.[12][13][14] Other issues important in the recent Polish-Russian relations include the establishment of visas for Russian citizens,[4] US plans for an anti-missile site in Poland,[15] the Nord Stream pipeline[3][15] (Poland, which imports over 90 percent of oil and 60 percent of gas from Russia,[16] continues to be concerned about its energy security which the pipeline threatens to undermine), Polish influence on the EU-Russian relations[3][15] and various economic issues (ex. Russian ban on Polish food imports[16]).[15] Since the fall of the Soviet Union, with Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus regaining independence, Polish-Russian border has mostly been replaced by borders with the respective countries, but there still is a 210 km long border between Poland and the Russian Kaliningrad exclave.[17]

Deployment of US missile defense shield in Poland and the South Ossetia War

Poland–Russia relations saw a dramatic worsening in the middle of the 2008 South Ossetia war. Poland had taken a leading role in the international community's response on the side of Georgia and against Russia. A bilateral agreement between Poland and the United States was announced which would allow the US to install and operate an interceptor missile defense shield, a move which Russia sees explicitly targeting it, prompting Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to state that it made Poland "a legitimate military target."[18] A high-ranking Russian military official said, "Poland in deploying [the US system] opens itself to a nuclear strike."[19] One potential site for such planned anti-missile installations is near the village Redzikowo which lies about 50 miles west of Gdansk, close to the Baltic coast.[20] Russia later announced to set up missiles in Kaliningrad, a city close to neighboring Poland. In 2009, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski asked the United States to deploy more troops in Poland to fight off any Russian invasion, after joint military exercises between Russia and Belarus, which Poland claims involved a simulated landing on the Polish coast. Russia strongly criticized the statement. Political analyst Vladimir Kozin accused Poland of trying to "annoy Russia", attempting to destabilize the situation in Europe, and disrupt negotiations on a Russian-proposed security treaty.[21]

2010 Plane Crash

The BBC reported that one of the main effects of the 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash would be the impact it has on Russian-Polish relations.[22] It is thought if the inquiry into the crash is not transparent, it will increase suspicions toward Russia in Poland.[22]

The Wall Street Journal states that the result of the joint declaration by the PM's Vladimir Putin and Donald Tusk on Katyn on the verge of the crash, and the aftermath Russia's response has united the two nations, and presents a unique opportunity at a fresh start, ending centuries long rivalry and adversement.[23]

Russian intelligence and influence operations in Poland

The Russian textbook Foundations of Geopolitics, published in 1997, has been one of the most influential books among Russian military, police, and statist foreign policy elites. It has been reportedly used in the General Staff Academy of Russian armed forces. It believes in a sophisticated program of subversion, destabilization, and disinformation spearheaded by the Russian special services. The operations should be assisted by a tough, hard-headed utilization of Russia's gas, oil, and natural resources to bully and pressure other countries. Russia would divide Europe and Poland (like Latvia and Lithuania) would have a "special status" in the empire.[24]

In 1996, Poland's Prime Minister Józef Oleksy resigned because of his links to SVR agent Vladimir Alganov.[25] In 2004 Polish intelligence recorded SVR agent Vladimir Alganov talking about bribery of top Polish politicians.[26][27]

Russian military exercises have practiced attack against Poland. Exercise Zapad in September 2009 practiced a simulated nuclear attack against Poland, suppression of an uprising by a Polish minority in Belarus, and many operations of an offensive nature.[28]

See also


External links

  • Dabrowski, Patrice M. Russian-Polish Relations Revisited, or The ABC's of "Treason" under Tsarist Rule, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History - Volume 4, Number 1, Winter 2003, pp. 177–199 muse
  • Goldman, Minton F., Polish-Russian relations and the 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections., East European Quarterly, 22 December 2006
  • Oscar Halecki, Polish-Russian Relations: Past and Present, The Review of Politics, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Jul., 1943), pp. 322–338, JSTOR
  • Library of Congress, On Polish-Soviet relations in the early 1990s
  • Lubecki, J. "In the Shadow of the Bear: Polish-Russian Relations 1999-2005" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois. 2008-05-08 allacademic
  • Cornelius Ochmann, Alexey Ignatiev, Petr Shopin, Polish-Russian Relations, Koszalin Institute of Comparative European Studies, working paper
  • Unge et al., Polish-Russian Relations in an Eastern Dimension Context
  • Harding, Luke, The Guardian. 2009-09-01 [4]
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