The Long History of Polish-Russian Animosity

Nina Khrushcheva, who has been interviewed here on this blog, has a great new article on Project Syndicate / The Moscow Times, which casts some doubt with regard to the sudden healing power of mutual morning over the Smolensk airplane crash:

Suspicions and disagreements between Poland and Russia date back to the 16th century, when Poland was the far greater power. Indeed, the Grand Duchy of Moscow was a backwater. Across the centuries, there have been wars, started by both sides, and partitions of Poland executed by the Russians, followed by attempts at “Russification,” with the Russian Christian Orthodox Empire trying to control the “deceptive,” West European-oriented Catholic Poland. (…)

But Poland never stopped striding — and striking — for independence.The rise of the Solidarity independence movement in the 1980s was theearliest and most severe blow to the stagnating Soviet system. ThePolish-born Pope John Paul II crystallized the anti-Communist “threat”that Poland now posed to the Soviet Union. The pope’s call for religiousfreedom around the world, including in socialist countries, rubbed theatheistic Soviets — and Orthodox Russians — the wrong way.

Indeed, throughout the 20th century, animosity between Poland andRussia remained at fever pitch, manifested not only in politics but alsoculturally. This, of course, continued an old pattern, too. AlexanderPushkin, Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoyevsky were all suspicious of thePoles, calling them “cold,” “distant” and “manipulative.” They sawPoland as always on the side of the West, rather than standing with itsSlavic brothers. Indeed, Pushkin’s friendship with Polish poet AdamMickiewicz ended in acrimony over the 1830 Polish insurrection againsttsarist rule.