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271 WOJCIECH MATERSKI POLITICS AND ITS CONSEQUENCES SOVIET-GERMAN COOPERATION, BASED on the treaties concluded in August and September 1939—though it visibly cooled in time— precluded the prospects for Polish independence. That was obvious as long as Poland was torn apart by the two collaborating regimes of occupiers . Only conflict between them would create a chance for the Polish cause. The situation radically changed in June 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. That shattered an alliance that had brought about the fall of the Republic of Poland. The signing of the Polish-Soviet normalization treaty (Sikorski-Maisky Treaty) on 30 July 1941 meant the restoration of diplomatic links between the two countries. Opportunities appeared for rescuing hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens deported deep into the Soviet Union and kept in harsh conditions, as well as for the development of Polish armed forces on Soviet territory. The next two years were marked by conflicts and misunderstandings of varying intensity over the implementation of the July accord, particularly with respect to the amnesty decree and the organization in the Soviet Union of Polish armed forces. The position of the Polish side in that primarily diplomatic confrontation gradually weakened. Moscow’s prestige and clout within the anti-German coalition was vastly enhanced by the breakthrough in the military situation and the assumption of a permanent combat initiative by the Red Army. The United States and Great Britain now considered the Soviet Union their number-one ally, playing a crucial role both in Europe and in the final showdown with Japan. Poland , meanwhile, was seen as an increasingly embarrassing burden in that decisive phase of the war and in the maneuvering over the future world order. 272 WOJCIECH MATERSKI The Problem of Borders and Citizenship after the Treaty of 30 July 1941 The Polish premier attached secondary significance to the issue of borders in the negotiations before the signing of the treaty of 30 July. He agreed to postpone the matter until after the war, restricting himself to the formula that “the 1939 Soviet-German treaties concerning territorial changes in Poland have lost their force.” This, doubtless, was an extremely grave diplomatic mistake. The first misunderstandings over the issue of borders and citizenship appeared in connection with the fulfillment of the amnesty decree. They concerned the interpretation of the term “Polish citizens.” Beginning in late October 1941, local authorities in the Kazakh SSR, followed by their counterparts in other republics, started denying Polish citizenship to Belarusians, Ukrainians, and Jews from the territories in eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union. The Polish embassy repeatedly protested against localities in eastern Poland being treated as Soviet territory. The embassy made the first formal protest over the matter to the People ’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (Russian acronym: Narkomindel) on 10 November 1941. The Russian response presaged a serious and protracted conflict. The Narkomindel advised that all citizens of the annexed territories of eastern Poland had acquired Soviet citizenship under the law of the Soviet Union, while “the question of borders between the USSR and Poland has not been resolved and will be considered in the future.” During his talks in Moscow in December 1941 with Premier Władysław Sikorski, Stalin attempted to introduce the topic of borders. He stated they should reflect the incorporation of Eastern Prussia into postwar Poland and should run along the Oder in the west. That show of generosity was obviously meant to weaken the Polish premier’s resolve in upholding the inviolability of the border affirmed in Riga. Premier Sikorski—exhausted by the visit and in failing health—refrained from taking up the difficult subject of the borders. He restricted himself to the general declaration that Poland’s eastern 1939 border could not be questioned. Shortly after departing from the Soviet Union, Sikorski further argued that the time had not been right for discussing such a pivotal issue. He insisted that it would be better to wait for the spring of 1942, when the Germans were expected to launch their offensive. It is possible that Sikorski—with his cabinet sharply criticized for its eastern policy—wanted to avoid any liabilities inherent in internal political bickering. The postponement of the border issue was to have grave consequences in the future, since it would prove difficult to address the question in a way consistent with the Polish raison d’état. Also, it had a highly adverse impact 273 POLITICS AND ITS CONSEQUENCES on Polish citizens in the Soviet Union...


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