Poland–Russia relations

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Poland–Russia relations
Map indicating locations of Poland and Russia



Poland–Russia relations (Polish: Stosunki polsko-rosyjskie, Russian: Российско-польские отношения) have a long but often turbulent history, dating to the late Middle Ages, when the Kingdom of Poland and Kievan Rus' and later Grand Duchy of Muscovy struggled over control of their borderlands. Over centuries, there have been several Polish–Russian Wars, with Poland once occupying Moscow and later Russia controlling much of Poland in the 19th as well as in the 20th century, damaging relations. Polish–Russian relations entered a new phase following the fall of communism, 1989–1993. Since then Polish–Russian relations have at times seen both improvement and deterioration. According to a 2013 BBC World Service poll, 19 percent of Poles view Russia's influence positively while 49 percent express a negative view.

However, since the Russian annexation of Crimea, over 60-80% Poles are worried over the future conflict with Russia, giving the fact Russia still maintains control in Kaliningrad Oblast, and the pro-Russian Belarus.[1]


Poland and Ancient Russia[edit]

One of the earliest known events in Russian-Polish history dates back to 981, when the Grand Prince of Kiev, Vladimir Svyatoslavich, seized the Cherven cities from the Poles. The relationship between two by that time was mostly close and cordial, as there had been no serious wars between both.

In 966 Poland accepted Christianity from Rome while Kievan Rus' - the ancestor of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus - was baptized by Constantinople. In 1054, the internal Christian divide formally split the Church into the Catholic and Orthodox branches separating the Poles from the Eastern Slavs.

In 1018, Svyatopolk the Cursed who fled from Kiev turned for help to the Polish king Boleslav I the Brave, who defeated Yaroslav the Wise in a battle on the Bug River. The Kiev campaign of Boleslaw I was crowned with the capture of the city, but Boleslaw, instead of transferring power to Svyatopolk, began to rule in the city himself. In response, the people of Kiev raised an uprising, as a result of which they began to “beat the Poles”. Boleslaw fled with the treasury, and also took Yaroslav the Wise's sisters with him. The Cherven cities, were restored to Poland until conquered again by Yaroslav the Wise and his brother Mstislav the Brave in 1030-1031.

A similar story took place in 1069, when the Grand Duke Izyaslav Yaroslavich ran to Poland to his nephew Boleslaw II the Bold, and he, having made a trip to Kiev, intervened in the Rus' dynastic dispute in favor of Izyaslav. According to legend, a relic sword named Shcherbets, which was used during the coronations of Polish kings, was notched when Boleslaw I or Boleslaw II struck the Golden Gate in Kiev. The first option can not be true due to the fact that the Golden Gate was built in the 1030s, the second is also not confirmed by the results of carbon dating of the sword, which, apparently, was created not earlier than the second half of the XII century.

At the same time, Kievan Rus' and Poland also knew long periods of peaceful coexistence (for example, during the life of Vladimir after 981) and military alliances. Thus, the Polish king, Kazimierz I, concluded an alliance with Yaroslav the Wise in 1042, marrying the first to the sister of the Grand Duke Maria Dobroneg. In 1074, according to the chronicle, peace with Boleslaw II was signed in Suteisk by the Smolensk prince Vladimir Vsevolodovich Monomakh, and in 1076 he together with the Volyn prince Oleg Svyatoslavich came to the aid of the Poles in a military campaign against the Czechs. The Grand Prince of Kiev, Svyatopolk Izyaslavich, made peace with the Polish king, Boleslaw III Krzywousty, who in 1103 married the daughter of Svyatopolk Sbyslav; when in Poland a struggle broke out between Boleslaw III and his brother Zbigniew, the Rus' troops came to the aid of the king and forced Zbigniew to recognize his power [1].

Like the principalities that arose from the disintegration of Kievan Rus', Poland experienced several Mongol invasions in the XIII century, however, despite the devastation, the Mongol yoke was not established, which subsequently provided Poland with an advantage in the development of trade, culture and public relations. In 1340, Vladimir Lvovich died, the last Galician heir to the Rurik dynasty, after which the Galician principality was inherited by Kazimierz III the Great and annexed to the Kingdom of Poland.

Muscovy and Russian Empire[edit]

Capitulation of Russian garrison of Smolensk before Władysław IV of Poland in 1634

Relations between Poland and Muscovite Russia have been tense, as the increasingly desperate Grand Duchy of Lithuania involved the Kingdom of Poland into its war with Muscovy around 16th century. As Polish historian Andrzej Nowak wrote, while there were occasional contacts between Poles and Russians before that, it was the Polish union with Lithuania which brought pro-Western Catholic Poland and Orthodox Russia into a real, constant relation with both states engaged in "the contest for the political, strategic and civilizational preponderance in Central and Eastern Europe".[2] While there were occasional attempts to create an alliance between the new Polish–Lithuanian state and the Muscovy (including several attempts to elect the Muscovite tsars to the Polish throne and create the Polish–Lithuanian–Muscovite Commonwealth), they all failed.[2] Instead, several wars occurred. Notably, during the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–18), Polish forces took Moscow[2] – an event that would become one of the many defining moments of the future Polish–Russian relations.[2][3][4] Muscovy, now transforming into the Russian Empire, was able to take advantage of the weakening Commonwealth, taking over disputed territories and moving its borders westwards in the aftermath of the Russo-Polish War (1654–67) and later participated in the destruction of the Commonwealth during the Swedish Deluge.[2] By the beginning of the 18th century, with the deterioration of the Commonwealth political system (Golden Liberty) into anarchy, Russians were able to intervene in internal Polish affairs at will, politically and militarily, see (Silent Sejm, War of the Polish Succession).[2] Around the mid-18th century, the influence of ambassadors and envoys from Russia to Poland, could be compared to those of colonial viceroys[5] and the Commonwealth was seen by Russians as a form of protectorate.[2][6][7]

With the failure of the Bar Confederation opposing the Russian political and military influence in Poland, the First Partition took place in 1772, followed by the Second Partition, and the Third Partition of Poland. By 1795, the three partitions of Poland erased Poland from the map of Europe.[2] As Nowak remarked, "a new justification for Russian colonialism gathered strength from the Enlightenment": occupied Poland was portrayed by the Russian authors as an anarchic, dangerous country whose Catholic and democratic ideas had to be suppressed by the 'more enlightened neighbors.'[2] Over the next 123 years, a large part of Polish population and former territory would be subject to the rule of the Russian Empire.[2] However, Poland was undergoing a cultural and political revival after the First Partition culminating in the Constitution of May 3, 1791 and the Kosciuszko Uprising in 1794. Several uprisings (most notably, the November Uprising and the January Uprising) would take place, attempting to regain Polish independence and stop the Russification and similar policies, aimed at removal of any traces of former Polish rule or Polish cultural influence, however only in the aftermath of the First World War would Poland regain independence (as the Second Polish Republic).[2]

Soviet Union[edit]

Poland–Soviet Union relations
Map indicating locations of Poland and Soviet Union


Soviet Union

Immediately after regaining independence in 1918, Poland was faced with a war with the new Bolshevik Russia, with the Polish–Soviet War eventually ending up with a Polish victory at Warsaw, spoiling Lenin's plans of sending his Red Army west to spread the communist revolution.[2]

For the next two decades, Poland was seen by the Soviet Union as an enemy. The Soviet Union supported subversive activities of the Communist Party of Poland, Communist Party of Western Belarus, Communist Party of Western Ukraine. The NKVD killed 111,091 Poles in the Soviet Union during the Polish Operation and deported many families to Kazakhstan.

Eventually a secret agreement with Nazi Germany allowed Germany and the Soviet Union to successfully invade and destroy the Second Republic in 1939.[2] The following years of Soviet repressions of Polish citizens, especially the brutal mass murder in 1940, known as the Katyn massacre, of more than 20,000 Polish officers and its subsequent Soviet denial for 50 years, became additional events with lasting repercussions on the Polish–Russian relations.[2][4] In 1944 the Polish Home Army timed their capital's uprising to coincide with the approaching Red Army on the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces. However, the Red Army stopped at the city limits and remained inactive there for several weeks. Also, the Soviet Union did not allow its Western Allies to use its nearby airports for airdrops into Warsaw for several weeks. This allowed the German forces to regroup and demolish the city while defeating the Polish resistance and causing between 150,000 and 200,000 civilian deaths. The tragic circumstances under which Poland's capital was liberated further strained the Polish–Russian relations.

At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Stalin was able to present his western allies, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, with a fait accompli in Poland. His armed forces were in occupation of the country, and his agents, the communists, were in control of its administration. The Soviet Union was in the process of incorporating the lands in eastern Poland, including the mass expulsion of the Polish population, which it had occupied between 1939 and 1941, after participating in the invasion and partition of Poland with Nazi Germany. Stalin was determined that Poland's new government would become his tool towards making Poland a Soviet puppet state controlled by the communists. He had severed relations with the Polish government-in-exile in London in 1943, but to appease Roosevelt and Churchill he agreed at Yalta that a coalition government would be formed. The Soviet Union supported Polish demands to be compensated by the loss of the former East of Poland, from which 2-3 millions Polish citizens were expelled, by German lands east of the rivers Oder and Lusatian Neisse which had homed 9 million Germans. Stalin allowed Polish authorities to man the Oder-Neisse Line as border, notwithstanding the lack of international consent for the new border, to prevent Germans from returning to their homes after the German capitulation.[8]

Many Poles were killed (e.g. during the Augustów roundup) or deported to the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin decided to create a communist, Soviet allied Polish state subservient to him, the People's Republic of Poland.[2] Thus Poland became part of the Eastern Bloc, as the People's Republic of Poland. The Soviet Union had much influence over both internal and external affairs, and Red Army forces were stationed in Poland (1945: 500,000; until 1955: 120,000 to 150,000; until 1989: 40,000).[9] In 1945, Soviet generals and advisors formed 80% of the officer cadre of the Polish Armed Forces. The communists held a majority of key posts in this new government, and with Soviet support they soon gained almost total control of the country, rigging all elections. Many of their opponents decided to leave the country, and others were put on staged trials and sentenced to many years of imprisonment or execution.

Soviet control over Poland lessened after Stalin's death and Gomułka's Thaw, and ceased completely after the fall of the communist government in Poland in late 1989, although the Soviet Northern Group of Forces did not leave Polish soil until 1993.


President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Poland Leszek Miller in 2002

Modern Polish–Russian relations begin with the fall of communism – 1989 in Poland (Solidarity and the Polish Round Table Agreement) and 1991 in Russia (dissolution of the Soviet Union). With a new democratic government after the 1989 elections, Poland regained full sovereignty,[2] and what was the Soviet Union, became 15 newly independent states, including the Russian Federation. Relations between modern Poland and Russia suffer from constant ups and downs.[4] Among the constantly revisited issues is the fact that Poland has moved away from the Russian sphere of influence (joining NATO and the European Union)[2][3] and pursuing an independent politic, including establishing a significant relations with post-Soviet states;[3] for example, Poland was the first nation to recognize Ukraine's independence and Polish support for the pro-democratic Orange Revolution in 2004 in Ukraine has resulted in a temporary crisis in the Polish–Russian relations.[3] Occasionally, relations will worsen due to remembrance of uneasy historical events and anniversaries, such as when Polish politicians bring up the issue of Russia apologizing for the '39 invasion, the Katyn massacre (which many Polish citizens and politicians see as genocide, but Russian officials refer to as a war crime rather than a genocide),[3][4] or for the ensuing decades of Soviet occupation;[3] in turn, Russians criticize Poles' perceived lack of thankfulness for liberation from Nazi occupation (despite later being taken into Soviet occupation).[4] During the 1990s, assistance granted by Polish government and civilian agencies to members of the Chechen separatist movement had been met with criticism by Russian authorities.[10] In 2009, there had been controversy over the Russian government and state media publishing claims that Nazi Germany, the Empire of Japan and the Second Polish Republic had allied or intended to ally against the Soviet Union before the Second World War.[11] These claims were denounced by Polish politicians and diplomats as an attempt at historical revision.[12][13][14] Other issues important in the recent Polish–Russian relations include the establishment of visas for Russian citizens,[4] US plans for an anti-missile site in Poland,[15] the Nord Stream pipeline[3][15] (Poland, which imports over 90 percent of oil and 60 percent of gas from Russia,[16] continues to be concerned about its energy security which the pipeline threatens to undermine), Polish influence on the EU–Russian relations[3][15] and various economic issues (ex. Russian ban on Polish food imports).[16][15] Since the fall of the Soviet Union, with Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus regaining independence, the Polish–Russian border has mostly been replaced by borders with the respective countries, but there still is a 210 km long border between Poland and the Russian Kaliningrad exclave.[17]

Dmitry Medvedev in Poland – meeting with Donald Tusk

2010 plane crash[edit]

The BBC reported that one of the main effects of the 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash would be the impact it has on Russian-Polish relations.[18] It was thought if the inquiry into the crash were not transparent, it would increase suspicions toward Russia in Poland.[18] The Wall Street Journal states that the result of the joint declaration by the PM's Vladimir Putin and Donald Tusk on Katyn on the verge of the crash, and the aftermath Russia's response has united the two nations, and presents a unique opportunity at a fresh start, ending centuries long rivalry and confrontation.[19]

2011 dialog centers[edit]

Creation of parallel Polish and Russian dialogue centres was decided during President Medvedev's visit to Poland in December 2010.[20] The Polish Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding supports cooperation of youth from both countries. Russia has created parallel foundation called The Russian-Polish Center for Dialogue and Understanding,[21] which does not fully cooperate with the Polish Centre. Its director, Juri Bondarenko, presents controversial opinions about Russian-Polish relations.[22] The Foundation has organised a trip for Polish students to Russian-annexed Crimea,[23] being aware the visit breaks Polish law.[24]

2014 airliner shootdown[edit]

Following the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, the Polish government on 24 July cancelled the "Polish Year in Russia" and "Russian Year in Poland" that were planned for 2015.[25][26]

Ukraine revolution aftermath[edit]

Poland has repeatedly requested additional permanent deployment of NATO military assets to Poland following Russia's annexation of Crimea and subsequent support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.[27] Poland has been a staunch supporter of tougher sanctions by the EU against Russia in response to these events.[citation needed] Poland's continued support of the new Ukrainian government and criticism of Russian interference has angered Russia and increased tensions between both countries.[citation needed] On 30 July 2014, Russia banned import of Polish fruit and vegetables amid the Ukraine sanctions war. Russia's food hygiene authorities said the imports had unacceptable levels of pesticide residues and nitrates. They earn Poland more than 1bn euros (£795m; $1.3bn) annually. Russia is Poland's biggest market for apples. The move follows EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.[28]

Historical revisionism[edit]

Both Poland and Russia had accused each other for their historical revisionism. Russia has repeatedly accused Poland for not honoring Soviet soldiers fallen in World War II for Poland, notably in 2017, in which Poland was thought on "attempting to impose its own version of history" after Moscow was not allowed to join an international effort to renovate a World War II museum in Poland[29] and destroyed monument honoring Soviet soldiers fallen in the war.[30] Meanwhile, Poland also accuses Russia for its unlimited historical distortion, notably back to 2014 when Putin signed a bill using any comparison of Nazi to Soviet crimes as a punishment, as the Poles were also treated brutally by the Soviets; although Russia's historical revisionism might have influenced Poland's Andrzej Duda over its Nazi war crime laws;[31] and Poland also has concerned that Russia's political and historical revisionism might put Poland at risk.[32]

Russian intelligence and influence operations in Poland[edit]

The 1997 textbook Foundations of Geopolitics by a controversial Russian sociologist and philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, among other things, dwells upon the Eurasianism, and within Dugin's plans, Poland (as well as Latvia and Lithuania) would have a "special status" within the Eurasian-Russian sphere of influence.[33] In 1996, Poland's Prime Minister Józef Oleksy resigned because of his links to Russian Foreign Intelligence Service agent Vladimir Alganov.[34] In 2004 Polish intelligence recorded Vladimir Alganov talking about bribery of top Polish politicians.[35][36]

Russian military exercises have practiced attack against Poland. Exercise Zapad in September 2009 practiced a simulated nuclear attack against Poland, suppression of an uprising by a Polish minority in Belarus, and many operations of offensive nature.[37]

Resident diplomatic missions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Samuel Osborne. Russia could invade Poland "overnight" – The Independence [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Andrzej Nowak, The Russo-Polish Historical Confrontation, Sarmatian Review, January 1997 Issue
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Richard Bernstein, After Centuries of Enmity, Relations Between Poland and Russia Are as Bad as Ever, New York Times, 3 July 2005.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Peter Cheremushkin, "Russian-Polish relations: A long way from stereotype to reconciliation", Intermarium, vol. 5, no. 3. (2003), School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  5. ^ Hamish M. Scott (2001). The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756–1775. Cambridge University Press. p. 249. ISBN 0-521-79269-X.
  6. ^ Jerzy Lukowski; Hubert Zawadzki (2001). A Concise History of Poland. Cambridge University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0-521-55917-0.
  7. ^ Hamish M. Scott (2001). The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756–1775. Cambridge University Press. pp. 181–182. ISBN 0-521-79269-X.
  8. ^ Eberhardt, Piotr (2015). "The Oder-Neisse Line as Poland's Western Border: As Postulated and made a reality". Geographia Polonica. 88 (1): 77–105. doi:10.7163/GPol.0007.
  9. ^ Rao, B. V. (2006), History of Modern Europe Ad 1789-2002: A.D. 1789-2002, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  10. ^ The Garden Times, Associated Press, "Information center a thorn in Polish-Russian relations", 31 May 1995.
  11. ^ Traynor, I.; Harding, L. (3 September 2009). "Remembrance of things past puts Russia at odds". Brisbane Times.
  12. ^ "Russian TV accuses Poland of secret Nazi pact". Euranet. 24 August 2009.
  13. ^ Harding, Luke (1 September 2009). "Fury as Russia presents 'evidence' Poland sided with Nazis before war". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Brisbane Times, Traynor, I., and Harding, L., "Survivor denounced pact as blaming the victim", 3 September 2009 [2]
  15. ^ a b c d Breaking the Ice?, Warsaw Voice, 20 February 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  16. ^ a b Adam Grzeszak, Polish-Russian Relations: Bones of Contention Piling Up Archived 2012-02-24 at the Wayback Machine, Polityka, (PDF), 2006.
  17. ^ (in Polish) Informacje o Polsce – informacje ogólne Archived 2009-06-25 at the Wayback Machine. Page gives Polish PWN Encyklopedia as reference.
  18. ^ a b "Looking beyond Poland's "unprecedented disaster"". BBC News. 10 April 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  19. ^ "Poles and Russians unite". The Wall Street Journal. 12 April 2010. p. 1.
  20. ^ Wprost, Stworzenie Centrum Polsko-Rosyjskiego Dialogu ma poparcie sejmowej większości
  21. ^ Foundation "Russian-Polish Center for Dialogue and Concord" (Фонд «Российско-польский центр диалога и согласия»), 2014, archived homepage.
  22. ^ Niezalezna.pl (15 April 2015), "Katyń was not a genocide. Read Marx and Lenin" (Katyń to nie ludobójstwo. Wystarczy poczytać Marksa i Lenina). Internet Archive.
  23. ^ "The Russian-Polish Center for Dialogue and Understanding: Announcements". Archived from the original on 2016-06-29. Retrieved 2016-06-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  24. ^ Wschodnik.pl (25 September 2015), Polish students' trip to Crimea sponsored by the Russian foundation (Polscy uczniowie pojechali na Krym na koszt rosyjskiej fundacji).
  25. ^ Polish Year in Russia cancelled following MH17 catastrophe, Thenews.pl, 24 July 2014.
  26. ^ "Poland Cancels Year of Bilateral Celebration With Russia Over Ukraine". The Moscow Times. 24 July 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  27. ^ "Ukraine crisis: Poland asks Nato to station 10,000 troops on its territory". The Telegraph. 1 April 2014.
  28. ^ "Russia bans Polish fruit and veg amid sanctions war". BBC News. 1 August 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  29. ^ "Moscow accuses Warsaw of Russophobia for barred access to WWII museum renovation project".
  30. ^ "Twice a victim: Poland destroying monuments honoring Soviet soldiers' war sacrifice". RT International.
  31. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/03/opinion/russia-poland-history-laws.html
  32. ^ https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_an_unpredictable_russia_the_impact_on_poland
  33. ^ John B. Dunlop (August 2003). "Aleksandr Dugin's Foundations of Geopolitics" (PDF). Princeton University.
  34. ^ "Polish PM forced to resign over links with KGB man". The Independent. London. 25 January 1996. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  35. ^ Barnett, Neil (8 January 2006). "From Poland to Hungary, Gazprom takes stealth route to domination". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 27 February 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  36. ^ Fleishman, Jeffrey (5 December 2004). "Oil scandal rocks Polish leadership – Some fear Moscow gaining influence". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  37. ^ "Intel Brief: Poland On Edge Over Russian Drills". ISN ETH Zurich. 18 November 2009. Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  38. ^ Embassy of Poland in Moscow
  39. ^ Embassy of Russia in Warsaw

Further reading[edit]

  • Dąbrowski, Stanisław. "The Peace Treaty of Riga." The Polish Review (1960) 5#1: 3-34. Online
  • Dabrowski, Patrice M. "Russian–Polish Relations Revisited, or The ABC's of 'Treason' under Tsarist Rule", Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History – Volume 4, Number 1, Winter 2003, pp. 177–199 muse
  • Goldman, Minton F., "Polish–Russian relations and the 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections", East European Quarterly, 22 December 2006
  • Halecki, Oscar. "Polish–Russian Relations: Past and Present", The Review of Politics, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Jul., 1943), pp. 322–338, JSTOR
  • Harding, Luke, The Guardian. 2009-09-01 [3]
  • Library of Congress, On Polish–Soviet relations in the early 1990s
  • Materski, Wojciech. "The Second Polish Republic in Soviet Foreign Policy (1918-1939)." Polish Review 45.3 (2000): 331-345. online
  • Cornelius Ochmann, Alexey Ignatiev, Petr Shopin, "Polish–Russian Relations", Koszalin Institute of Comparative European Studies, working paper
  • Unge et al., Polish–Russian Relations in an Eastern Dimension Context[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

  • Lubecki, J. "In the Shadow of the Bear: Polish–Russian Relations 1999–2005" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois. 2008-05-08 allacademic