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1 ADAM DANIEL ROTFELD AND ANATOLY V. TORKUNOV INTRODUCTION IN SEARCH OF THE TRUTH A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE POLISH-RUSSIAN GROUP ON DIFFICULT MATTERS I Times are changing. The same is true of people, countries, and the value systems guiding politicians in their endeavors at home and in relations with neighboring states. Twenty years after the start of the Great Transition and demise of the division of Europe into East and West, Poland and Russia have made a joint effort to clear their relations of the lies and deceit that have accumulated over the years. Our countries are trying to build a relationship based on partnerlike respect for national interests and on recognizing what is distinct and specific to each partner. The current state of Polish-Russian relations carries the burden of history. Our memory of historical events significantly contributes to how we look at the world and how we perceive ourselves in the world around us. It is important to ensure that memory is not subject to manipulation and deliberate falsification of the past, that it resists attempts to obliterate the traces of what was shameful and deserves to be condemned. Historical facts are indisputable. However, their interpretation may vary. Different nations have different assessments of the same events. Moreover, the passage of time makes new generations evaluate historical facts and events in a different way than their ancestors did. This is because the new generations are aware of the consequences of decisions made by their forebears. Those who believe that it was not the Katyn massacre but the lie about the crime that put a divide between the Poles and Russians are right. Meanwhile, truth purifies, as Russian prime minister Vladimir V. Putin said on 7 April 2010 in Smolensk. Polish prime minister Donald Tusk added, “Truth not only purifies, but also illuminates.” These words were uttered after the close of joint Polish-Russian commemorations in the Katyn Forest, organized to mark the passage of seventy years since the crime. After the end of the mourning ceremonies, the two prime ministers met 2 ADAM DANIEL ROTFELD AND ANATOLY V. TORKUNOV with the co-chairs of the Polish-Russian Group on Difficult Matters. During the meeting, they voiced appreciation for the work of our group, without which the joint commemoration to remember the Polish officers shot and killed in the Katyn Forest probably would not have taken place. Established by the governments of both countries, the group has played the role of a catalyst in Polish-Russian bilateral relations. One of the results of the work of the Polish-Russian Group on Difficult Matters is the joint volume titled White Spots—Black Spots: Difficult Matters in Polish-Russian Relations, 1918–2008, published both in Warsaw and Moscow (in Polish and Russian, respectively). This book is based on the expertise of Polish and Russian scholars who, over fifteen pairs of chapters, assess the most difficult problems in bilateral relations over ninety years, from 1918 to 2008, in a “mirror” approach incorporating both the Polish and Russian perspectives. This book is about our common history in the twentieth century—a history that the two countries were largely destined to share. Polish and Russian authors wrote this book together, with readers in both Poland and Russia in mind. They tried to do this in a way so as to distance themselves from the difficult but, we repeat, shared past of the two countries. They were doing so with the future in mind—so that it is based on truth and mutual understanding. II The road to publishing this volume was not an easy one. It all began in 2002, when the leaders of our countries decided to create a mechanism unusual in the practice of international relations—the Group on Difficult Matters in light of Polish-Russian history. The group in its original makeup (which was entirely different from the current composition, as appointed in 2008) first met in 2005 and later held another meeting. These sessions, however, did not produce the expected results. This was in part due to political tension in Polish -Russian relations at the time. A fundamental change in the lineup of the group took place in December 2007, when it acquired what in fact was a new status. Without going into the reasons behind that, we should note that in the early years of the twenty-first century, the concept of “historical policy” gained popularity, and that approach is not easy to assess. Problems arising from...


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