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589 ANDRZEJ GRAJEWSKI THE MUTUAL PERCEPTIONS OF POLES AND RUSSIANS The Burden of Communism One of the chief factors distinguishing the sociopolitical reality in Russia from that of Poland was the attitude toward coming to terms with the communist system, that is, taking appropriate action or refusing to deal with it. In Poland, the process consisted of the following important stages: the rehabilitation of persons subjected to repressions in the People’s Republic of Poland (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, or PRL) for having sought independent statehood, the transfer to new state institutions of the archives of the former security agencies and the opening of the documents therein, and the introduction of a mandatory examination of the past of public officials to determine whether they had cooperated with the secret political police. It turned out that, in the process of coming to terms with the past, the rehabilitation of persons repressed for political reasons aroused the least resistance in both Poland and Russia. In July 1991, the Sejm adopted, practically without opposition, a law that permitted the invalidation of sentences passed against persons repressed in the PRL for activity in support of independent statehood, and it created the possibility of compensation for any sustained wrongs. A similar law in Russia did not arouse controversy either and was adopted by the Supreme Soviet in October 1991. The prosecution of Stalinist crimes was initiated in Poland in 1991. That was the result of changes introduced in the functioning of the Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, which since 1945 (originally as the Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland) had been tasked with the prosecution of Nazi crimes. In its new form, the institution was renamed the Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation and also conducted investigations into crimes committed in the years 1945–56. 590 ANDRZEJ GRAJEWSKI Problems with Archives The opening of the archives of the communist security agencies and the conducting of lustration proved considerably more complicated. The records of the totalitarian state’s secret police aroused high emotions and political quarrels after 1989—as, indeed, they had during earlier key junctures in the country ’s history. This was because whoever controlled them possessed not only knowledge about the past but also powerful documentary weapons for the political infighting at the time. In the early 1990s, the secret police archives in the former German Democratic Republic, or GDR (subsequently, the Federal Republic of Germany, or FRG), and Czechoslovakia were transferred to independent institutions. Those entities were tasked with providing access to documents produced by the security apparatus of the communist state. Procedures were also put in place for the lustration of public officials. Later, similar solutions were introduced in the Baltic States, Hungary, and Romania . Attempts to come to terms with the legacy of the totalitarian state were abandoned in Poland and the post-Soviet space in the early 1990s. This move stemmed from the dominant conviction of the political elite, best reflected by Aleksander Kwaśniewski’s 1995 election slogan: “Let us choose the future.” That vision was underpinned both by the fears of certain politicians that they might be brought to account for participation in the totalitarian system and by the belief that it was of utmost importance for Poland to muster its forces for fast social and economic modernization, whereas the past would always be divisive. A comprehensive proposal for the utilization of records assembled in the archives of the Polish security agencies was only put forward in the act on the Institute of National Remembrance (INR). It was intended to give citizens access to the files on them that had been compiled in the past by the security organs of the communist state. The act, prepared by Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union, was vetoed by President Kwaśniewski. He prepared his own draft law, which envisaged the establishment of a civic archive , accessible to a select group of scholars. The Sejm overturned the veto, but it took another year (i.e., until 2000) to elect Prof. Leon Kieres as the first president of the INR; in 2006, Kieres was replaced by Dr. Janusz Kurtyka. The Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation is a key part of the INR; it is tasked with prosecuting perpetrators of Nazi and communist crimes. Importantly, the act on the INR introduced a definition of communist crimes into Polish jurisprudence. It covers all crimes committed between July 1944...


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