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79 ALEKSANDR V. REVYAKIN POLAND AND THE SOVIET UNION IN THE LATE 1920S AND EARLY 1930S IT WAS EARLY spring 1936. The international crisis was in full swing due to the introduction of German troops in the Rhineland demilitarized zone and the denunciation of the Locarno agreements by Hitler’s Germany. Jacques Chastenet, a former French diplomat and at that time the chief editor of the Paris newspaper Le Temps, had arrived in Moscow. He was reputedly tied closely to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the Soviet capital, the visitor was welcomed with heightened attention. On 16 March, he was received for a conversation by the Deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Nikolai Krestinsky (People’s Commissar Maxim Litvinov was attending a session of the League of Nations Council in London at this time). On 19 March, Chastenet was received by Vyacheslav Molotov, chair of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union. In addition to the vital international political issues, the French journalist was interested in the prospects for Soviet-Polish relations. Chastenet simply asked Krestinsky, “What can the Soviet side do to improve relations with Poland ?” If the record of this conversation made by Soviet diplomats is true, Chastenet then pointedly remarked that, “in Poland itself, the difficulties in improving Soviet-Polish relations lay primarily in the area of sentimental and historical moments.” We have purposely decided to draw attention to these statements by the former French diplomat and journalist. It seems that Chastenet noticed one of the “pain spots” not just in Soviet-Polish relations at that particular point in time but also more generally in the relations between historical Russia and historical Poland. It seems that even the “sentimental and historical” difficulties have been a constant stumbling block in the recently rejuvenated discussion between Russian and Polish historians on controversial issues of the countries’ common history. 80 ALEKSANDR V. REVYAKIN Our Polish colleagues have a good opportunity before them, if they wish to critically examine the conclusions and arguments of Russian historians. There can be no doubt that much of what we have done in studying international relations, as well as how it has been done, deserves to be criticized. If only the criticism would be of benefit. As for us, we cannot ignore some of the provisions in certain papers by Polish authors published in a joint Russian -Polish collection of articles. In fact, an article by Stanisław Gregorowicz, “The Place and Role of the USSR in Polish Policy during the ’30s,” describes Soviet policy toward Poland more than it does Polish policy toward the Soviet Union. In addition, the author clearly defines Soviet policy as “anti-Polish,” which is not quite consistent with the known facts, even those presented in the article. But let it be so, especially because the Soviet policy really merits reproach, to put it mildly. But at least a word could be uttered by the author about the fact that Poland itself pursued a policy far from friendly to the Soviet Union. Also puzzling are some of the provisions in the article by Wojciech Materski , “Polish-Soviet Relations (1932–1939): The Key Problems.” The author laments that, in the second half of the 1920s, Poland allegedly “found itself in the background” of Soviet foreign policy, behind Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. But, as is clear from the article itself, during the interwar period Poland also preferred relations with these same powers. And there were objective grounds thereto that are not even necessary to specify. If the case in question should be bilateral Soviet-Polish relations, then another regrettable thing would be that, in the 1920s and 1930s, the Soviet Union and Poland could not fully leverage the available potential in their relations (proximity, an extended common boundary, a certain cultural affinity, etc.) to their mutual advantage. Materski has not found any explanation of the fact that the thaw in Soviet-Polish relations that emerged after the 1932 nonaggression pact had, by 1934, already been replaced by a new cooling. He cannot see any connection therein with a sharp turn by Poland to rapprochement with Hitler’s Germany, whose revanchist and expansionist aspirations at that time did not seem to inspire any fear among the Polish leadership. However, the “sentimental and historical” difficulties are our common heritage with the Poles. One can hardly argue that this heritage is evenly distributed between the two nations; rather, it is asymmetrical: what one nation considers valor and...


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