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182 NATALIA S. LEBEDEVA THE RED ARMY INVASION AND THE FOURTH PARTITION OF POLAND THE TOUGH AND dramatic start of World War II used to be on the margins of historical research in Soviet times. Until the middle of the 1980s, Soviet historians and writers simply regurgitated articles from the notorious communiqué “Falsifiers of History.” They fully justified the Soviet-German treaties of 1939, denying the existence of secret protocols related to these treaties , and they also praised the Soviet Union’s prewar policy, claiming that it was designed to ensure peace and security for the Soviet population. Alongside Germany, the governments of England, France, and the United States were alleged to be the main instigators of the war. It was claimed that Poland had ceased to exist as a state by 17 September 1939, and they called the Red Army’s operations there “the liberation campaign in Western Belarus and Western Ukraine.” Cooperation between the Soviet Union and Germany in the period dating from autumn 1939 to June 1941 was simply “forgotten,” as was the fourth partition of Poland, sovietization, deportations, and mass repressions in those areas annexed in September 1939. Significant changes did not occur until the late 1980s. At this time, historians and the general public alike began to revise their view of Soviet foreign policy from 1939 to 1941. The abolition of censorship opened up access after the collapse of the Soviet Union to many previously closed archives, while new funds allowed academic research to be intensified. Tens of thousands of documents were brought to light and published, indicating details of the activities of Stalin, Molotov, the Politburo of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, the People ’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, the People’s Commissariat for State Security, and other authorities in the 1939–41 period. Volume XXII of Foreign Policy Documents, 1939, dealt with not only the Soviet-German treaties and secret protocols but also the abundance of material related to their prepara- 183 THE RED ARMY INVASION AND THE FOURTH PARTITION OF POLAND tion, as well as detailing other aspects of Soviet-German relations such as the sovietization of the territories annexed to the Soviet Union. Volume XXIII of Foreign Policy Documents, 1939, contained materials belonging to the period between 1940 and early 1941. These covered Soviet-German relations in detail . In 1992, Russian and Polish researchers and archivists started work on a four-volume edition of the Katyn documents. Russian-Polish volumes of materials on the Polish underground in the Soviet Union in 1939–41 and on deportations in 1940 were also published at that time. Many works, published in the 1990s, detailed the fourth partition of Poland , the fate of Polish prisoners of war, and mass repressions. Nevertheless, recognition of the historical realities was quite complicated in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia. Even today, there is no consensus in Russian society on the “Polish” policy of Stalin, as well as on many other issues. There is a fairly widely held view that, in August 1939, the Soviet authorities, not believing that Great Britain and France’s appeasement policy would lead to any decisive steps in holding back the Nazis, agreed to sign a nonaggression pact with Germany, thus winning time to prepare for war. On 11 April 1939, Hitler issued a directive, codenamed Fall Weiss (Case White, or the White Plan), to prepare for an attack on Poland; it was to be ready to implement by 1 September. On 23 May, at a meeting with the top military ranks, Hitler announced, “There is no room for mercy on Poland and there is only one solution left: to attack Poland as soon as possible. A replay of the Czech scenario is out of the question. It shall come to military action. Our goal is to isolate Poland. The success of this isolation is critical.” Speaking on 22 August 1939 in front of the Wehrmacht’s top commanders, Hitler clearly defined the goal as the destruction of Poland. “This is not about reaching a certain milestone or a new boundary, this is about the destruction of the enemy,” he stressed. As for Stalin, he had far-reaching ambitious plans of his own—collecting the territories of the former Russian Empire lost during revolution and the civil war and also a weakening of Western democracies and the Axis powers as a result of the war. The actions of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822980957
Related ISBN
9780822944409
MARC Record
OCLC
914230098
Pages
704
Launched on MUSE
2015-08-17
Language
English
Open Access
No
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