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Monuments to Soviet troops in Poland

The Red Army lost more from 600,000 to 650,000 soldiers in combat operations on the Polish territory

MOSCOW, October 21. /TASS/. Amendments to the 2016 Law on de-Communization that take effect in Poland as of Saturday, October 21 may affect 469 objects - buildings, monuments, obelisks, sculptures, tablets, columns, and statues - that ‘glorify Communism’. Monuments to the Red Army soldiers make up more a half of that number.

Local authorities will take decisions on each object or place name after consultations with experts on history and culture but primarily with the National Memory Institute

The law makes an exception for the monuments located at cemeteries and other burial sites, the objects demonstrated for research purposes or as works of art, and the objects listed as architectural monuments.

The government will allocated about $ 1.4 million to finance the dismantling that is to be completed within the next twelve months.

At Present, Poland pulls down, relocates or renames the monuments dating back to the Soviet period more often than other countries. Back in 2015, Russia accused the Polish authorities of waging a war on monuments, as the Poles outraged on or destroyed more than ten Soviet memorials in that year alone.

On the face of it, Russia and Poland reached an agreement in 1994 that makes it mandatory to keep up and protect all the established sites of commemoration and burial of the victims of wars and repressions.

However, as of 2014 the Polish authorities espouse the concept, which treats all the monuments to Soviet liberator soldiers as symbols of Communist that do not fall under the aforesaid agreement.

The Red Army lost more from 600,000 to 650,000 soldiers in combat operations on the Polish territory. In 1997, a list of all the Red Army monuments located outside of cemeteries and burial sites was drawn up.

The authors of the list established that 561 military monuments appeared in Poland in the postwar years. A total of 230 of that number survived through to 2017. The best-known of them is the cemetery of Soviet soldiers in on Zwirko i Wigura Street in Warsaw where the remains of about 21,500 Red Army soldiers are buried.

Installed in front of the entrance is a big obelisk and a sculptural group that serves as a reminder of the fierce combat operations of 1944 and 1945 in Poland.

Unknown vandals desecrated the cemetery in March 2017. The action triggered a resounding international scandal.

The list of the dismantled and relocated objects includes the monument to Marshal Ivan Konev, which the Poles pulled down in 1991. It was taken to Russia later and installed in the cit of Kirov.

Poland also had several dozen monuments of Lenin and Stalin but the bulk of them do not exist anymore.

Not all the Poles advocate the dismantling of Soviet-era monuments. Some activists speak in favor of their maintenance and restoration. In the mid-2000’s, the activity of Marian Wyszynski who found and took photos of small monuments and obelisks to Soviet soldiers, came to public limelight. He sent the data on the monuments needing restoration to the Russian Embassy in Warsaw.

One more instance is the Kursk volunteer association that redecorates Soviet and other war memorials in Poland. They restored more than ten monuments in 2015 alone.

Janusz Sanocki, an independent deputy of the Sejm and one of the seven deputies who voted against the revised 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.".