Poland–Russia relations: Wikis


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Polish–Russian relations
Poland   Russia
Map indicating location of Poland and Russia
     Poland      Russia

Polish-Russian 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 Russians controlling much of Poland in the 19th century as well as in the 20th century. Polish-Russian relations have entered a new phase after 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.




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.[1] As Polish historian Andrzej Nowak wrote, while there have been 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 "the contest for the political, strategic and civilizational preponderance in Central and Eastern Europe".[1] 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 have all failed.[1] Instead, several wars occurred. Notably, during the Polish-Muscovite War (1605–1618), Polish forces took Moscow[1] - an event that would become one of the many defining moments of the future Polish-Russian relations.[1][2][3] Muscovy, now transforming into the Russian Empire, was able to take advantage of weakening Commonwealth, taking over disputed territories and moving its borders westwards in the aftermath of the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667).[1] 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).[1] Around the mid-18th century, the influence of ambassadors and envoys from Russia to Poland, could be compared to those of colonial viceroys[4] and the Commonwealth was seen by Russians as a form of protectorate.[1][5][6] 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.[1] 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."[1]

Over the next 123 years, a large part of Polish population and former territory would be subject to the rule of the Russian Empire.[1] 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).[1]

Soviet Union

Immediately after regaining independence in 1918, Poland was faced with a war with the new Bolshevik Russia, eventually the Polish-Soviet War would end up with a Polish victory at Warsaw spoiling Lenin's plans send his Red Army west, spreading the communist revolution.[1] For the next two decades, Poland was seen by the Soviet Union as an enemy; eventually an alliance with the Nazi Germany allowed the Soviet Union to successfully invade and destroy the Second Republic in 1939.[1] 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.[1][3]

After the Second World War and with the Allies permission during the Yalta Conference, 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-controlled Polish state, the People's Republic of Poland.[1] 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 would not leave Polish soil until the 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,[1] and what was the USSR became 15 newly independent states, including the Russian Federation.

The modern Polish-Russian relations suffer from constant ups and downs.[3] Among the constantly revisited issues is the fact that Poland is moving away from the Russian sphere of influence (joining NATO and the European Union)[1][2] and pursuing an independent politic, including establishing a significant relations with post-Soviet states;[2] 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.[2] Occasionally, relations will worsen due to remembrance of uneasy historical events and anniversaries, such as when Polish politicians talk of Russia apologizing for the '39 invasion, the Katyn massacre (which Poles see as genocide and Russian officials as a plain, old criminal act[2][3]) or for the ensuing decades of Soviet occupation;[2] in turn Russians criticize Poles' lack of thankfulness for liberation from Nazi occupation.[3] Other issues important in the recent Polish-Russian relations include the establishment of visas for Russian citizens,[3] US plans for anti-missile site in Poland,[7] Nordstream pipeline[2][7] (Poland, which imports over 90 percent of oil and 60 percent of gas from Russia,[8] is always worried about its energy security which the pipeline threatens to undermine), Polish influence on the EU-Russian relations[2][7] and various economic issues (ex. Russian ban on Polish food imports[8]).[7]

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.[9]

Deployment of US missile defense shield in Poland

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."[10] A high-ranking Russian military official said, "Poland in deploying [the US system] opens itself to a nuclear strike."[11] 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.[12] Russia later announced to set up missiles in Kaliningrad, a city close to neighboring Poland.

Influence of Polish-Georgian and Polish-Chechen relations

The strength of Polish-Georgian relations often negatively affects relations between Poland and Russia, due to the animosity between Georgia and Russia. This was especially noticeable in the 2008 South Ossetia War, when Poland instantly backed the Georgian side and supplied technical assistance (along with Estonia) to Georgia when its internet system was hacked. There are many events celebrating the alliance between Georgians and Poles, particularly when against Russians, who increasingly view this friendship with a cynical eye. This policy by Poland has a long history stretching far before the post-Soviet era (see Prometheism). Most notable is a statue in Tbilisi on November 22, 2007, celebrating the "contribution of Poles to the independence of Georgia and other states from the Soviet Union". Needless to say, Russians do not look upon this positively.

Poland has also sporadically provided assistance to the Chechen separatists. Despite the fact that Poland has never formally recognized Chechen independence, it has had informal relations many times, and currently has a diplomacy with Achmed Zakayev's government-in-exile, which also has a number of branches in Poland, despite being mainly based in the United Kingdom. Additionally, during the First Chechen War, many Poles volunteered to fight on the Chechen side. The positive attitude of Poland and Poles to Ichkeria and Chechens is largely parallel to the policy regarding Georgia, and looked upon even more negatively by the Russian side, which possibly correctly views it as an attempt to weaken Russia and a continuation of Prometheism.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Andrzej Nowak, The Russo-Polish Historical Confrontation, Sarmatian Review, January 1997 Issue
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Richard Bernstein, After Centuries of Enmity, Relations Between Poland and Russia Are as Bad as Ever, New York Times, July 3, 2005
  3. ^ a b c d e f Peter Cheremushkin, "Russian-Polish relations: A long way from stereotype to reconciliation", Intermarium, vol. 5, no. 3. (2003), School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  4. ^ Hamish M. Scott, The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756-1775: 1756-1775, Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 052179269X, [1] Google Print, p.249]
  5. ^ Jerzy Lukowski, Hubert Zawadzki, A Concise History of Poland, Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 0521559170, Google Print, p.84
  6. ^ Hamish M. Scott, The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756-1775, Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 052179269X, Gooble Print, p.181-182
  7. ^ a b c d Breaking the Ice?, Warsaw Voice, 20 February 2008
  8. ^ a b Adam Grzeszak, Polish-Russian Relations: Bones of Contention Piling Up, Polityka, 2006
  9. ^ (Polish) Informacje o Polsce - informacje ogólne. Page gives Polish PWN Encyklopedia as reference.
  10. ^ "Rice to visit Poland to sign missile shield deal". AFP. August 18, 2008. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gLzVO9YmRVo2zJXJwfNJ0XQRZQWg. Retrieved 2008-08-18.  
  11. ^ Bhadrakumar, M K (August 18, 2008). "China seeks Caucasian crisis windfall". Asia Times Online. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH19Ag01.html. Retrieved 2008-08-18.  
  12. ^ "New round of US-Polish missile shield talks due this month: minister". AFP. August 16, 2007. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5ilIooUD4GuMxVdC8rScevZxpIWgw. Retrieved 2008-08-22.  

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, 12/22/2006
  • 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
  • Why uneasy relations exist between Poles and Russians, Polish Culture Site
  • 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


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