poland was not the aggressor*

June 8, 2009

so to follow up on friday’s post in re: poland & russia, a nice editorial from the telegraph that says what i said, only better and with more knowledge of russia. in addition to giving some more context to the issue, the author, Simon Heffer, brings up an even more distressing idea, one that i hadn’t thought of but which seems kind of obvious now:

In history there is a distinction between revisionism and distortion. The former makes a sensible reinterpretation of known facts, often with the support of additional and uncontestable evidence, such as newly unearthed contemporary documents. Distortion requires no new evidence, but can require the disregarding of facts we already know. It is clear what the Russians are doing: and I fear it is not merely to make themselves look good, or to rehabilitate Stalin and his ideas, or to use history to seek to humiliate a troublesome and fiercely independent neighbour.

When the Baltic States threw out the Russian occupier in 1991, a part of the former East Prussia annexed by Stalin – Kaliningrad, the former city of Königsberg – remained Russian. However, like that other Baltic city, Danzig, it now finds itself landlocked away from its motherland. Poland is to its south and west, Lithuania to its east. Are the Russians trying to tell us something? Is Russia about to make a demand for a land corridor through Poland to Kaliningrad, for the same reasons that Hitler sought one to Danzig 70 years ago? If so, is Russia intending to argue that the denial by Poland of land access to Königsberg could provoke a big international fight, and possibly terrible destruction, and that it would be Poland’s fault for not giving into a “modest” demand?

I simply don’t know. But when people start twisting history and wielding it as a blunt instrument without any provocation, we are wise to start asking ourselves why.

is Heffer merely being paranoid or does he have a point? is Russia going to risk an international incident to gain back some land in Eastern Europe? now that Poland’s a member of NATO, will that be enough to deter Russia from striking militarily? if it doesn’t, what happens next? are we on the verge of a major war?

i’ll admit, this all seems  little over the top, a little hysterical, a little hyperbolic. but i don’t think we can simply write this off as unimportant just because the whole idea of WWII being avoidable if Poland had just given in is patently and obviously ludicrous. there has to be a reason why the Russian government would decide to take this stand, would decide to push through an Orwellian** bill making it a punishable crime to say that the Soviets occupied 4 countries that they very much did. and if that doesn’t make you worried, then maybe the idea that Russians are trying to rehabilitate Stalin (seriously, click the link and look at the picture), a man who, it is argued, intentionally starved millions of his own citizens to death, among other horrifying crimes.

i don’t know about you, but i’m with Heffer in thinking this is seriously disturbing.

*apologies for that somewhat irreverent title. if you had german with mr. monahan in 1995, you’ll get it; otherwise, probably not.

**side note: 1984 was first published on this day in 1949.


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