Former Red Army base to house Poland's Soviet-era monuments

AP News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2016 10:48 AM
Former Red Army base to house Poland's Soviet-era monuments

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities are planning to move more than 200 communist-era monuments to Soviet troops into a former Red Army base for a display testifying to a historic "untruth."

Pawel Ukielski, deputy head of the state Institute of National Remembrance, or IPN, said that the plan covers structures put up in the 1940s and '50s to glorify the Red Army's march through Poland at the end of World War II as it was defeating the Nazi Germans.

The Soviet army and the new communist authorities were putting the monuments up as tokens of gratitude for liberation from German occupation. But at the same time the Red Army installed the communist authorities and put Poland under decades of control by Moscow that ended in 1989.

Another IPN official, Andrzej Zawistowski, said the plan includes 229 monuments that refer to "what we consider as untruth: gratitude for having given Poland independence."

Democratic Poland has made a point of speaking more directly about events that have been misrepresented in its 20th century history. That includes Russia's dominance, a theme that was presented under communism as friendly cooperation.

Russian authorities have protested the removal of some of the monuments in recent years, saying it exposed a lack of gratitude for the sacrifice of the Soviet troops who freed Poland from the Nazis. A few of the monuments have been dismantled on various occasions and put into storage, as local authorities decided they misrepresent decades of communist captivity as freedom and don't belong in the public space anymore. Some of them feature the Soviet symbols of hammer and sickle that are now banned in Poland as symbols of an oppressive regime.

The new plan does not include monuments in cemeteries or the burial sites of Red Army troops, which are to remain intact. Some 600,000 Soviet troops were killed fighting the Nazis in Poland and remain buried there.

Under the plan, which is estimated to cost up to 2 million zlotys (450,000 euros), the monuments are to be put on display for the purpose of teaching about history in Borne-Sulinowo, a town in the northwest where Soviet, and later Russian, troops were stationed until 1993. Located in the middle of the woods, the military base there was closed to the Poles and was not even listed on maps.