Outrage over Russian claim that Poland started war

5th June 2009, Comments 1 comment

The extraordinary piece -- which flies in the face of conventional wisdom that the expansionist ambitions of Nazi Germany caused the war -- was published in a historical section of the official ministry website.

Moscow -- Poland and Russia headed Thursday toward a new row over history following an article on the Russian defence ministry website claiming Poland was responsible for starting World War II.

The extraordinary piece -- which flies in the face of conventional wisdom that the expansionist ambitions of Nazi Germany caused the war -- was published in a historical section of the official ministry website.

"Any person who studies the history of World War II in an impartial manner knows that it started because of Poland's refusal to give into German demands," wrote Sergei Kovalyev, head of historical research for the defence ministry's northwestern branch.

"The German demands were quite moderate," he added, saying the Third Reich in 1939 was merely seeking to annex the Baltic city of Gdansk and construct roads and railways on Polish territory towards East Prussia.

"It is difficult to say that these demands were without foundation," he said.

The Russian daily Vremya Novostei said that the article -- published in a section titled "History: against lies and falsifications" -- was "harmful" for Russia.

Arseny Roginsky, a historian who heads the Memorial rights group said: "This vision of events profoundly disgusts me. The author is simplifying the facts, is deforming them in order to arrive at the desired conclusion."

"The danger is that this was published on the ministry defence website. If people believe that this is the opinion of the ministry, then this is a step towards a dangerous aggravation in international relations" he told AFP.

The Polish foreign ministry said it had demanded an explanation from the Russian ambassador in Warsaw.

Polish foreign ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski said that after the request, a Russian official told Warsaw that the piece "does not reflect the Russian federation's position in any way."

The article was no longer seen on the defence ministry's website late Thursday.

The controversy came after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's order to form a commission to defend Russia from historical "falsifications" sparked warnings from historians of a return to Soviet-style propaganda.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said the articles did not necessarily reflect the ministry's official position, Interfax reported.

"This section publishes various, including controversial, articles on military history and military science. These articles should not be viewed as the defence ministry's official viewpoint," he said.

Russia has had an edgy relationship with Poland in recent years, especially since Poland, a close US ally, joined NATO and agreed to host controversial US missile defence facilities inside the country.

Historical issues also continue to shadow relations between the two countries, often relating to the Soviet Union's initial wartime cooperation with Nazi Germany through the Nazi-Soviet pact.

Russia's high court in January threw out a bid by campaigners to reopen an enquiry into a 1940 massacre of Polish officers by Soviet secret police at Katyn.

In 2004, Russia's military prosecutor shut down an enquiry into the massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers that for decades was blamed by Soviet authorities on Nazi troops but was carried out by Stalin's secret police.

AFP/Expatica

1 Comment To This Article

  • Polak posted:

    on 5th June 2009, 17:56:13 - Reply

    Well, that is true, ectally. We, Polish, should not fight back when nazi germans together with russian bolsheviks invated Poland in september 1939. European Union would be white and jewfree zone. European flag made out of swastika, hammer and sickle would have about seventy years now, and most importantly, this american imperialists would be still sleeping in Great Separation, away from rest of the World devited between those two Peacefull Nations - Russians and Germans.