Amnesty for Polish citizens in the Soviet Union

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Amnesty for Polish citizens in USSR refers to an amnesty in USSR for those deprived of their freedom[1] resulting in temporary stop of persecutions of Polish citizens under Soviet control[citation needed].

Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939,[2] breaking relations with the Polish government and repressing Polish citizens in the occupied territories.[3] The outbreak of the Soviet-German War in 1941 and Sikorski-Mayski Negotiations[4] led to the change of Soviet policies towards the Poles, as leniency was needed if Soviets were to recruit and create a Polish force under their command. On 12 August of that year Soviets issued an amnesty to Polish citizens.[5]

Those who could prove they were Polish citizens had their citizenship restored (it had been annulled in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion in 1939). Yet there was no clear definition of the "Polish citizenship" and eventually the Soviets limited it only to Polish ethnicity (which de facto covered some Polish Jews, but not the Ukrainian or Belorussians who were former citizens of the Second Polish Republic).[6][7] The decree did not cover people imprisoned or under investigation by the Soviets; and it was common for 'special cases' to be denied the amnesty on technical grounds[8] or even denied information about the amnesty[9] or the possibility of joining the Polish forces.[5] Also some commanders of labour camps refused to release Polish citizens enslaved in them.[1] According to an NKVD document of 1 August, 381,220 people were to be covered by the amnesty;[10][11] however the generally accepted figure was over 1.5 million were deported.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

The term amnesty is criticized in Polish historiography,[1][7] as it implies the Soviet Union had a legal basis for persecute Polish citizens (some of whom, for example, were persecuted for "treason of Soviet Union" - even though they had been Polish citizens in independent Poland, not breaking any Polish laws[19]).

However the Soviet Union claimed that the territories they occupied in 1939 were Russian, and by virtue of a referendum they had organised, the inhabitants of these territories were therefore Russian citizens. Whereas Polish Prime Minister Sikorski's critics in the Polish government-in-exile held the view that an "amnesty" could only be granted by a State to its own citizens and these citizens were Polish. Dr. Józef Retinger — of whom Anthony Eden had said that after Sikorski was the most important person in the negotiations — states that the blame for using the word "amnesty" rather than "release" was entirely on the Polish side and not the Russians. In his memoirs Retinger writes; "I am afraid that the responsibility for this lies on the shoulders of a good Polish diplomat, Mr Potulicki, who drafted this document.". According to Retinger, Potulicki had erroneously used the word "amnesty" and not "release" in the text of the treaty and there was no time to change the document before the signing took place.[20]

After the Anders Army left Soviet sphere of influence, repressions towards the Polish citizens reintensified. Stalin affectively revoked the Amnesty on 16 January 1943 [21] when all Polish citizens including Ethnic Poles were once again declared part of the population of the Soviet Union.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Mikolajczyk, S. (1948) The Pattern of Soviet Domination Sampson Low, Marston & Co Pages 17-19
  2. ^ Zaloga, S.J. (2003) Poland 1939, Osprey ISBN 1-84176-408-6
  3. ^ Malcher, G.C. (1993) Blank Pages: Soviet Genocide Against the Polish People, Pyrford ISBN 1-897984-00-6
  4. ^ Hope, M. (2005) Polish Deportees in the Soviet Union Veritas ISBN 0-948202-76-9
  5. ^ a b Piesakowski, T. (1990) The Fate of Poles in the USSR 1939~1989 Gryf ISBN 0-901342-24-6
  6. ^ Cienciala, M. (2007) Katyn A Crime Without Punishment Yale University ISBN 978-0-300-10851-4 Page 139
  7. ^ a b Applebaum, A. GULAG A History ISBN 0-14-028310-2 Page 407
  8. ^ Krupa, M. (2004) Shallow Graves in Siberia Birlinn ISBN 1-84341-012-5
  9. ^ Gross, J.T. & Gross, I. (Editors) War Through Children's Eyes Hoover Institution ISBN 0-8179-7471-7 Page xxv
  10. ^ Polian, P. (2004) Against their Will CEU Press ISBN 963-9241-73-3 Page 118
  11. ^
  12. ^ Davies, N. (1986) God's Playground A History of Poland Volume II Clarendon ISBN 0-19-821944-X Page 451
  13. ^ Polian, P. (2004) Against their Will CEU Press ISBN 963-9241-73-3 Page 119
  14. ^ Hope, M. (2005) Polish Deportees in the Soviet Union, Veritas ISBN 0-948202-76-9 Pages 29
  15. ^
  16. ^ Malcher, G.C. (1993) Blank Pages Pyrford ISBN 1-897984-00-6 Pages 8-9
  17. ^ Piesakowski, T. (1990) The Fate of Poles in the USSR 1939~1989 Gryf ISBN 0-901342-24-6 Pages 50-51
  18. ^ Mikolajczyk, S. (1948) The Pattern of Soviet Domination Sampsons, low, Marston & Co
  19. ^ Davies, N. God's Playground Volume II Page 451 ISBN 0-19-821944-X
  20. ^ Retinger, Joseph (1972). Memoirs of an Eminence Grise. pages 119 - 120: Sussex University Press. p. 265. ISBN 0-85621-002-1. 
  21. ^ Hergt, K. (2000) Exiled to Siberia Crescent Lake ISBN 0-9700432-0-1
  22. ^ Voigt, F.A. (1943) Poland, Russia and Great Britain

Further reading[edit]