The fate of Poland and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact still haunts the bourgeoisie of different countries. The so-called “partition of Poland” is used as a favorite slap to the face of the communists, used to show Stalin as the aggressor. Particular interest in this topic emerged after the statement of the Polish government where it blamed the Soviet Union for the outbreak of World War II. We’ll try to answer this question.
The Nature of Poland’s politics
Poland reborn was a landlord-bourgeois state with the desire to return its former glory – Rzeczpospolita, or Greater Poland. Initially, the territory of Poland was limited by the former Kingdom of Poland. However, in 1919-1922, by the decision of the Versailles Peace Treaty and a special order of the League of Nations, Poland received German territories – the province of Posen, parts of Silesia and Pomerania, as well as the “free city” Danzig.
But this was not enough for Poland. Driven by predatory aspirations in 1919, Poland decided to declare war against young Soviet Russia. The failures of the exhausted Red Army allowed Poland to seize the territories of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus, where mostly non-Poles lived. As a result of the war, more than 100,000 Red Army soldiers became Polish POW. They were held in Polish concentration camps, such as the camp in Tuchola and Strzalkow. According to various estimates, at least 60,000 Red Army soldiers died in these camps.
The next step for Poland was the forcible seizure of a part of Lithuania, along with its capital Vilno, where a large Lithuanian population lived. Despite the frankly aggressive and violent nature of this adventure, it was officially approved by the decision of the League of Nations in 1923. But even on this, Poland’s colonial appetites were not satisfied. In 1938, it became an accomplice in the criminal Munich agreement, occupying the Cieszyn region of Czechoslovakia with its troops.
Poland’s aggressive foreign policy was distinguished not only by military expansion. Despite occasional cooperation with Germany (non-aggression pact, cooperation agreement, a joint partition of Czechoslovakia), Poland did not want to be its ally. On March 21, 1939, Hitler offered to transfer to him the German territories that had been torn away in favour of Poland. There were proposals to open the “Polish Corridor” and join the Anti-Comintern Pact. If Poland had accepted these proposals, it, together with Germany, would have attacked the USSR. However, the Polish government firmly rejected German proposals and demands. Not because of the Soviet Union, but because of the lack of a wise and rational assessment of the situation. The lack of a consistent political line and the political short-sightedness of its leadership led Poland to disaster. Instead of a peaceful settlement of disputes, Poland faced the military might of the Third Reich.
Since 1926, a militarist authoritarian regime had been established in the country. Power was concentrated in the hands of First Marshal Józef Pilsudski. The non-Polish population was deprived of basic political and labor rights and freedoms and subjected to regular repression. In 1934, a camp was created for the opposition, including communists. Severe restrictions on the rights of press and gathering were introduced. In essence, the established regime found itsely intensely admirous of fascism.
This aggressively militaristic Polish Republic, which was so close to fascism, and whose policy led to tragic events, found itself in the face of death. Its fate was determined – without Poland’s Danzig, Silesia and Pomerania, the “Greater Germany” was impossible. Neither Poland nor Britain nor France could defy the German war machine. On March 28, 1939, Hitler broke off the non-aggression pact with Poland and took control of the Lithuanian city of Memel, preparing a military operation to seize Poland. After Poland, the road opened to the Soviet Union; sworn enemy of all imperialists and fascists.
Before taking into consideration the Non-Aggression Pact between the USSR and the Reich, as well as the “aggression against Poland”, let’s take a look at the international situation in the 1930s, which led the world to catastrophe.
The coming of the Nazis to power meant one thing – the imminent start of a new war in Europe. And even then the two sides of the impending war were clear. One side is the class war of the bourgeoisie against communism in Europe, against the USSR. The communist threat to the bourgeoisie was more than real, and the existence of the USSR as a bulwark of the world revolution, as a living example of the successful building of socialism, always put imperialism under threat. It was necessary to complete what the Entente and the White movement could not do during the Civil War. The other side was the imperialist massacre between Britain and France on the one hand, Germany-Italy-Japan on the other. Slaughter for the re-division of the world, including for the possession of Soviet territories and the Soviet people.
The imperialists of Great Britain and France hoped that when the class side of this war would initially show itself, that Hitler would attack the USSR first. In the hope of this outcome, England and France – the guarantors of Versailles, the leaders of the League of Nations – did not restrain Hitler. Moreover, they contributed to the growth of Germany’s military power, fed Hitler with the territories and brought Hitler to war with the Soviet Union. What could not be done with the hands of the Russian counter-revolutionaries now had to be done with the hands of the Third Reich.
In 1933, Germany had withdrawn from the international conference on disarmament. Instead of retaliatory measures like sanctions, pressure or isolation, Britain and France decided to completely shutter the conference. On October 20, 1933, Germany left the League of Nations to finally go beyond the jurisdiction of international law. In 1934-1935. Hitler annexed to Germany both the Rhineland and Saar regions, previously under the control of the League of Nations. In 1935, Hitler broke the Treaty of Versailles, aided by a naval agreement with Great Britain. Under the terms of this agreement, Germany received the right to form a navy equal to 35% of the entire fleet of the British Empire.
No retaliatory or preventive measures to withdraw from the League of Nations, the rupture of Versailles, the buildup of military power and the expansion of territories followed. The League of Nations, England and France (as well as the United States) silently watched the revival of Germany, sometimes even helping her in these endeavors. Germany calmly held Anschluss with Austria and swallowed Czechoslovakia, to which Chamberlain happily exclaimed: “I brought you peace!”
Germany connected the huge industrial capacities of Czechoslovakia to its state machine and became the unconditional ruler of Europe. At the time of the eve of World War II, Czechoslovakia was one of the most industrially and economically developed states in Europe. The well-known Skoda throughout the war produced tanks, aircraft, armoured vehicles, artillery and anti-aircraft guns, small arms, and ammunition for Germany. All this was a free advance from the imperialist bloc to the Third Reich for the alleged defeat of the USSR.
Thus, the only one who at least somehow tried to secure Europe from Hitler’s aggression, prevent war and secure its people was the Soviet Union. In 1933 the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) issued a special decree on measures to counter the war in Europe. The decree describes the collective security system, the military-political alliance of European states with the aim of containing Germany, isolating it and protecting each member of this system.
The geography of the spread of collective security was constantly changing, but the constant point has always been the requirement for the mandatory participation of Poland. In February 1934, Poland refused. A repeated proposal within the so-called “Eastern Pact” also did not produce results, and later the negotiations resumed in 1939 again stalled due to the unwillingness to cooperate on the part of Poland, which led to the failure of the creation of collective security.
France, the United States and Great Britain have behaved similarly in relation to collective security since 1934. However, after the breakdown of the non-aggression pact between Germany and Poland, England and France realized the inevitability of a military clash and even tried to move the matter forward, which resulted in protracted “Moscow negotiations” that were unsuccessful.
The stumbling block in all these negotiations was Poland’s categorical refusal of the USSR’s proposal to let Soviet troops pass through Polish territory. This was vital, first to defend Czechoslovakia, then to defend Poland itself and prevent further aggression by the Reich. The rationality and necessity of this requirement were recognized by everyone, even for the ardent anti-communist, the future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, but not Poland itself. Neither Britain nor France tried to persuade Poland to agree to the Soviet proposal. Referring to Poland’s refusal, they wanted to get the Soviet Union to assume unilateral obligations.
It would be fair to say that Poland was among those who led Europe to war, allowed the war to happen, that Poland itself is guilty of its own destruction.
So, the fate of Poland is a foregone conclusion – it had no chance to withstand the power of the Third Reich. At the same time, the fate of the Soviet Union was already completely decided. Both sides were well aware that the Polish campaign would be the prologue for a war between antipodes. But Germany had direct allies in Europe and Asia. The Reich also had unspoken allies. Among other things, Germany had unprecedented military power. The USSR, on the other hand, did not have allies and military support behind it, was not yet fully prepared for such a war and was afraid of a massacre on two fronts (Europe with Germany and Asia with Japan, Hitler’s ally).
A difficult and seemingly dead-end situation has developed. How to delay the inevitable for maximum preparation for it, how to protect yourself when all options have failed? How, if possible, to secure other peoples from the impending threat, when everyone has already given up?
The only way out in such a situation was to make a deal with the enemy, get ghostly guarantees from them and use it against them. Such a diplomatic manoeuvre made it possible to gain precious time to prepare for war, to improve their position as much as possible. And so, on August 23, 1939, a Non-Aggression Pact was signed in Moscow between the USSR and Germany. Protocols on the delimitation of spheres of influence played a key role in this document. Under the terms of these protocols, the eastern territories of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as some lands of Romania and Finland were transferred to the Soviet Union.
The Soviet leadership understood perfectly well that Germany would take the German part of Poland, and destroy the rest of it and turn it into its colonies, into its slaves. Also, Germany essentially intended to do the same with other countries of Eastern Europe: either annexation and Germanization or colonization and extermination. Both options are terrible. To avoid this, in the name of saving peoples and preserving territories (resources, infrastructure, economy and culture), the Soviet Union took the liberty of protecting them under the wing of socialism. The purposes of protection are also evidenced by some sources that report the deportation of 320 thousand Polish population from the territories of the Ukrainian SSR and the BSSR in 1940-1941. inland of the Soviets, away from Germany, from the General Government, and all Nazi atrocities.
On September 1, 1939, a German war machine invades Polish soil. 10 days after that, the Polish government fled to neighbouring Romania, and then to England. The Polish state ceases to exist. On September 17, the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to the Poles, in which it said the following:
«…Warsaw as the capital of Poland no longer exists. The Polish government has disintegrated and shows no signs of life. This means that the Polish state and its government have virtually ceased to exist. Thus, the agreements concluded between the USSR and Poland were terminated. Left to itself and left without leadership, Poland turned into a convenient field for all kinds of accidents and surprises that could pose a threat to the USSR. Therefore, being hitherto neutral, the Soviet government can no longer be neutral about these facts … In view of this situation, the Soviet government ordered the Red Army High Command to order the troops to cross the border and take under their protection the life and property of the population of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus…»
It was necessary to take control of the ownerless territories, where arbitrariness, fear and chaos already reigned. It was necessary to defend these territories until Hitler took them for himself. Based on all the listed facts and circumstances, it is impossible to regard this event as military aggression against Poland.
Liberation and recovery
The further course of the war also showed what and who did more for the liberation, restoration and prosperity of the Polish people.
The Polish government did everything possible to tear its own country and people to pieces, not to protect them. They incurred Nazi wrath, were left without protection, and then completely left their country. In the battles for their native country, the Polish troops did not differ in staunchness and strong fighting spirit. Over 400 thousand soldiers surrendered to the Nazis and the same number were captured by the Soviet troops, which in total is 80% of the Polish army .
Poland’s security guarantors – England and France – did nothing to protect or liberate it. For the sake of their own selfish ends, the imperialists undermined the collective security system and pushed Poland into the jaws of Hitler. Even the conclusion of military alliance and guaranteed military support in the event of German aggression, Britain and France proved to be extremely sluggish and weak. The battle for the Polish Republic is quite rightly called the “Phoney War”. Ob September 3, 1939, to Hitler seized upon Poland, and in that period between May 10, 1940, Denmark and Norway, and also made impressive preparations for the French campaign while Poland, England and France put up military resistance.
The Soviet Union did the most of any nation for Poland and Polish people.
Since 1933, the USSR fought to protect Poland from German aggression, knowing the importance of ‘German’ territories in the Polish state. At the same time, the USSR rejected the “policy of appeasement” that it had been pressured to do, transfer of Polish territories to Hitler, as the imperialist West did to Czechoslovakia. On the contrary, collective security from the very beginning to the end presupposed the obligatory participation of the Polish Republic in order to guarantee its territorial integrity and state sovereignty, to guarantee protection from aggression and support during aggression.
The Soviet Union defended a good half of Poland by concluding the now-condemned Non-Aggression Pact with Germany and resettling the Polish population away from the future invasions and infiltrations of Nazism.
The USSR, together with the AL and AK, liberated Poland from the German boots in only 23 days. During these days, 43 thousand Soviet soldiers and about 1 thousand Polish soldiers died, over 400 thousand German soldiers were killed.
The Soviet Union provided support to the Polish people not only in the fight against Nazism but also in rebuilding the country from the dire consequences of the war. The restoration began even before the end of the war. After the liberation of Warsaw, with the active assistance of the USSR, the Joint Fund for the Reconstruction of Warsaw was created and by the end of July 1945 Warsaw was significantly cleared of rubble and debris, ruins, etc. (700 cubic meters of ruins were dismantled) by the forces of Soviet soldiers and local residents with funds actively received from the USSR.
The first three-year plan for the economic recovery of the Polish People’s Republic was developed and implemented jointly by Warsaw and Moscow. In 1947, when Poland was in a drought, the USSR sent thousands of tons of food to this country, thanks to which the country avoided mass starvation. It is also worth noting the agreement in 1948 on the supply of Soviet industrial equipment in the amount of $ 500 million, which ultimately turned out to be free of charge .
Also in the postwar period, the USSR and Poland arranged mutual resettlement of peoples. Thanks to this, the Polish Republic turned into a mono-national state of the Poles.
Do not forget that the USSR restored the pre-war territories: Gdansk (Danzig), Poznan (Posen Province), Breslavl (Upper Silesia), Eastern Pomerania, etc. Moreover, according to the decision of the Potsdam Conference, Poland was transferred to a significant part of the territories of Germany to the east of the Oder and Neisse rivers, and part of East Prussia . In the east, only Western Ukraine and Western Belarus were returned to the USSR.
The “Polish government in exile”, which the modern Polish state claims to be the successor of, has done absolutely nothing to restore Soviet-era prosperity to the country in its nearly 30 year reign.
An adequate and rational analysis of the above materials inevitably leads to an understanding that accusations of hatred on the USSR of hatred of the Polish nation are absolutely groundless. Tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers gave their lives for the freedom and independence and enrichment of Poland. An incredible labour of the Soviet people, natural and financial resources was spent on the restoration of Polish statehood, on the restoration and development of its economy, its infrastructure of medicine, housing, heating, and electricity and transportation for all Polish people as well as funding for cultural institutions. It is impossible to misconstrue that these titanic efforts were done out of hatred for Poland.
Despite the fact that the Poland of the bourgeois and landlords had more than once openly expressed its hatred of the Soviet Union. It is noteworthy that only its own short-sightedness prevented Poland from successfully participating in the division of the Soviet country.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was necessary, legitimate and just. No matter how difficult and contradictory this decision was, there was no other way out for preparing for war, to prepare for the protection of peoples and territories. The agreement with Germany and the Liberation campaign of the Red Army in Poland was a part of a well-calibrated strategy, the basis of which is political pragmatism and calculation.
It should be emphasized that the Red Army’s Liberation Campaign was not one of aggression against Poland or the capture of Polish lands for itself, since at the time of the military intervention, Poland ceased to exist as a state and as an army force capable of resisting Nazism.
Modern Poland with its architecture, created with the assistance of Soviet architects, with its mono-national character, its infrastructure, culture and territories, is the merit of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the most important credit to be given the USSR is the very existence of the Polish people, their ability to live and prosper, and not to rot in the shackles of fascism.