There are some moot points between countries which while discussing cause usually painful reaction on both sides and even it may threaten severe exacerbation of relations. So called Volhynian massacre is the same theme for Poland and Ukraine. It is the massacre of polish population in western Ukraine in the summer 1943. Two countries have failed to agree on a common statement of assessment of those events over the past 70 years. For one country it is mutual tragedy, for the other it is a war crime. Moreover, today some political figures have started to use the memory of the peoples of this ethnic conflict in their geopolitical games today.
This year in spring activities dedicated to the 70th anniversary of victims of those events has begun in Polish and Ukrainian cities. Against this background, suddenly emerged issue of adoption the new tougher resolution evaluating those tragic events which uses term “genocide” has divided polish society on two camps. The Seim has adopted a compromise statement proposed by the ruling party “Civil Platform” (Platforma Obyvatelska) as “genocide with signs of ethnic cleansing. The agiotage raised around this issue broke the fragile consensus that was reached in times of Presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leonid Kuchma a decade ago. Thus until these days the historians from both sides have agreed on a mutually acceptable interpretation of events in Volyn 1943-1944. Grzegorz Motyka, the member of the Board of the Polish Institute of National Memory, explains the situation in the way that Ukrainian specialists qualify those events as a social riot with many victim on both sides, but in Poland those events are believed to be as one of the most terrible war crimes of World War II. Up to the present day there is no clear answer what was the cause of a bloody conflict between Poles and Ukrainians who for centuries lived together peacefully in the same area. There are many reasons for that. The events 1943 are concerned with the general context of Polish policy towards Ukrainians of that time, the participation of both sides in bloody war against fascism and the influence of the external forces interested in the clashes between the Poles and Ukrainians as themselves.
The third power Polish historians and politicians believe that the presence of a “third power” is one of the essential elements of the current political standoff between Poland and Ukraine now. Making a speech at a ceremony to commemorate victims of the Volyn tragedy in Lutsk, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said, “it should be remembered that Polish-Ukrainian conflicts have been always used by a third party, the one who always threatened our independence and freedom.” Researchers studying those events of the World War II have been supposing that a key role in the Volhynian massacre had been played by the commando units of the Soviet NKVD which had been moved across the front line to provoke the Polish-Ukrainian conflict. There are documentary evidence in the archives of the secret service of the former Soviet Union that in 1943-1944 the NKVD troops under the guise of Ukrainians destroyed Polish villages, and posing as Poles were killing the Ukrainians. Many experts believe that nowadays the effect of “third power” on Polish-Ukrainian relations have not only preserved, but it is regrettable to note – has been increased significantly. It is no secret that Russia tries to destabilize the situation in Ukraine in order to wreck the process of signing an Association Agreement with the EU. Moscow is trying to prevent the involvement of Ukraine to the orbit of EU because it would mean loss of influence and opportunity to determine vector of Ukrainian foreign policy and its economy. Poland is one of the influent states of the EU and the main strategic partner of Ukraine. To neutralize the Poland’s efforts as the main power of integrating process of Ukraine to EU, the “third power” does everything possible to spoil Polish-Ukrainian relations, to retain Ukraine in zone of Kremlin’s influence.
Polish politicians are in service of the “third power” Most experts believe that the current escalation of Polish-Ukrainian relations and adoption of known resolutions concerned the Volyn tragedy by Polish lawmakers on the eve of the fateful Vilnius Summit could only be beneficial to Russia. A number of aspects of backstage struggle between Polish parties and movements in this background seem to be interesting. The main parties actively use the current hype connecting with the Volhynian massacre in political games. Two major parties that exacerbated issue of Volyn tragedy in parliament are formally the political opponents. The PSL party is the member of the ruling coalition, and the PiS party is actually in the opposition to the current government. However, the two political parties use the conservative and nationalist slogans and focuses on patriotic voters. Experts believe that acting such a way the ruling PSL party tries to strengthen its electoral position. On the other hand the fall of Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s rating is an incentive for the PSL party to mobilize their voters by playing on the patriotic feelings. However, some analysts tie together tough PSL’s position on Volhynian massacre and its long-standing and good relations with Moscow. PSL party has a strong position in the energy and agricultural sectors of the economy that allows it to develop strong relations with Russia. The party leader Janusz Pehochinski is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy of Poland. Representatives of PSL actually are cementing the ruling coalition in the Seim. Therefore, if PSL goes out from coalition, Donald Tusk’s party will lose the majority in the lower house of parliament. In the result, either the President will be forced to accept the resignation of the government or the ruling party will have to find new allies.
Operation “Soft power” of Russian secret services in Poland Moscow announced that during the third presidential term of Vladimir Putin would advance its strategic interests by using the “soft power” policy recently. It should be noted that the potential of Russia’s “soft power” abroad and especially in the post-Soviet states began to form immediately after collapse of the Soviet Union based on various non-governmental organizations with the pro-Russian orientation, and Moscow actively uses them to implement its foreign priorities. The basis for the advance of the Russian “soft power” policy in Poland are the representatives of “Kresy” movement which was emerged in the early 90s of the last century with the active participation of the Soviet and later Russian special services. According to archival documents during the war and after it many of the leaders and members of nationalist movement cooperated with the NKVD and its successors. Polish “Kresy” organizations being the members of World Kresy Congress have always been ardent opponents of the political rapprochement of Warsaw and Kiev. It is not surprising that their “political” ambitions in the current Polish parliament are represented by right-wing conservative party PiS. PiS insists on inclusion term “genocide” in statement of assessment of Volyn events as well as recognition on July 11 as “Day of remembrance of Kresy”.
Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation It is very difficult to seek the perpetrators and the causes of this tragedy. The process of historical reconciliation between the Polish and Ukrainian people which began in the early 90’s isn’t possible without difficult and painful discussions over this topic. Undoubtedly these tragic events require impartial study by scientist and historians from both sides. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has underlined in his speech in Lutsk several times that “the past even the most dramatic cannot divide forever…”. Poland and Ukraine are facing many challenges and the main of them is the signing the Association Agreement with the EU. However, the intransigence of some representatives of the Polish establishment and radical groups instigated by the “third power” could damage these efforts.
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