Poland started the Second World War? Huh?

Russia's campaign to protect itself from historical "lies and falsifications" gets off to a rocky start

An article by one of Russia’s military historians has caused fury in Poland by claiming that eastern European country was responsible for starting the Second World War. “Everyone who has studied the history of World War II without bias knows that the war began because of Poland’s refusal to satisfy Germany’s claims,” said the piece, which was written by Col. Sergei Kovalyov, historian with Russia’s defence department, and published on a defence department website. If only the recalcitrant Poles had handed over Gdansk and the Kaliningrad territories for Hitler to build railways on, Kovalyov went on, the war might never have started. This dubious reading of history was an early salvo in Russia’s recently announced campaign to recast parts of 20th century history that reflect unfavourably on the Motherland. It contradicts, for starters, the common understanding that Hitler was encouraged to invade Poland in 1939 after signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop
pact, an accord between Berlin and Moscow which secretly divided eastern and western Europe into spheres of influence. Suffice to say, Warsaw is displeased, and the Kremlin has been forced to back down over the article. The piece has since been pulled from the Internet while Moscow has officially disavowed Kovalyov’s version of events.

Associated Press

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.