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Law endangering monuments to Red Army soldiers takes effect in Poland

Its experts are convinced that about 230 monuments devoted to the Red Army and located across the country fall into the category of objects advertising communism

WARSAW, October 21. /TASS/. A revised law on de-Communization that envisions the pulling down of monuments and memorials associated with Communism or any other totalitarian system takes effect in Poland.

The amendments concerning commemorative sites were endorsed by the Sejm, national parliament, in July and then signed by President Andrzej Duda. Now they have taken legal effect.

The law puts the highly controversial National Memory Institute into the role of the main consultancy on the issue. Its experts are convinced that about 230 monuments devoted to the Red Army and located across the country fall into the category of objects advertising communism.

Since the local authorities are welcome to turn to the Institute for recommendations, all the monuments may vanish over a period of the next few months.

The law claims that memorials and any other sites of the kind should not commemorate the individuals, organizations, events or dates emblematizing Communism or any other totalitarian system.

This provision leaves out the monuments located at cemeteries or at other burial sites, the sites demonstrated for research purposes or works of art, the objects listed among architectural monuments, as well as the sites that are not publicly displayed.

As for all other memorials, Polish lawmakers propose their dismantling within twelve months after the amendments go into effect.

As of Saturday, October 21, local self-government agencies have the power to dismantle one or another monument, which they find to fall into the realm of the revised law. If they have any doubts, they will be welcome to seek advice from the National Memory Institute.

If the memorials promoting Communism are not eliminated within the next twelve months, regional governors will be expected to intervene in the situation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has informed the Polish authorities Moscow will not leave the law unanswered and the Federation Council, the upper house of Russian parliament, has asked President Putin to instruct the government agencies and department to draw up possible restrictive measures against Poland.

Polish authorities claim that the February 22, 1994, intergovernmental agreement on burial sites and commemorative places devoted to victims of wars and repressions concerns only cemeteries and the sites where soldiers are buried. They say the memorials installed there will not be dismantled.

As regards the monuments located outside of cemeteries, government officials call them symbols reminding of the Communist period in the country’s history. The interpretation of World War II events accepted in Poland today it was not freedom but, rather, new occupation that Red Army brought to Poland and hence the monuments commemorating the Soviet soldiers, who died on the Polish territory should be dismantled.

Only seven deputies of the Sejm voted against the amendments. Most of them are members of Nowoczesna Party, a representative of which, Jerzy Meysztowicz told TASS monuments should not fall victim to the worsening Polish-Russian relations and it is a matter of diplomacy to clear up the issue.

"We believe the problems of history should be considered proceeding from good will and the willingness to discuss issues and not in the situation where one party that has taken the helm of power offers some solutions and then another party comes and introduces measures of its own," Meysztowicz said.

"Poland and Russia have a group for the solution of complicated historical issues and problems of this sort should be scrutinized there," he said adding that scrutiny of the problems should be done on the basis of the intergovernmental agreement, not in the format of the revised law.

Janusz Sanocki, an independent deputy of the Sejm who also voted against the law, believes that de-Communization in Poland has reached absurd dimensions.

"I find this destruction, these attacks, this searching for false historical groundworks to be our error," he said. "I’m against it and I think we mustn’t destroy these monuments."

"Hadn’t the Red Army won the war against Nazism and Hitler, the Germans would have erased the Poles as a nation," Sanocki said. "That’s why it’s important today to look at these monuments from a perspective different from the times of Communism, to view them as a memory important for the Russians, not as monuments promoting a system.".