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Historical Introduction

Victims of the Stalinist ferocity at the massacre of Katyn. Scanpix

Poland, one of the biggest countries in Europe, was first attacked by Communist Russia soon after its rebirth in 1918. When Soviet Russia invaded in 1920, Poland suffered heavy casualties before eventually defeating the Red Army. The following period of independence brought rapid development and Poland’s economy surpassed countries like Spain or Portugal. In 1939, however, Poland fell victim to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany and was split among Nazis and Communists, both of whom launched waves of destruction. The Brown and Red terror had much in common: during 1940–1941, Communist authorities conducted four deportations on their chunk of Polish territory, sending  1.660-2.636  million persons off to Siberia. Tens of thousands were arrested; the NKVD massacred more than 20.000 Polish officers and intelligentsia in Katyn and other execution sites. In 1944–1945, the Red Army took over Nazi-occupied Polish territories as well, imposing a Communist rule. Parts of Eastern Poland were annexed to the Soviet Union, while parts of Germany were attached to Poland. Some 1,2 million Poles were resettled from Soviet-annexed territories. To suppress the fight against Communist regime, about 27.000 members of the Polish resistance were arrested and deported to Siberia, where many were shot by the NKVD. Polish people refused to accept the Communist regime. In 1956, Communists used the army to put down unrest in Poznan, but were forced to make concessions after a wave of protest engulfed the whole country. The concessions failed to restore Poland’s development and its economy soon fell behind countries that it had easily surpassed before World War II. Poland’s political resistance culminated in the independent „Solidarity” union movement that was initially suppressed by martial law, but whose activities eventually crumbled Communism and, in 1989, led to creation of the first non-Communist government in Central and Eastern Europe.



Facts

  • About 2 million persons suffered from Communist repressions in Poland
  • The Soviet army occupied eastern regions of Poland on September 17, 1939

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