As you know, nothing else unites as quickly as a common enemy. Almost immediately after the attack of Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union, the Polish government in exile, at the suggestion of British diplomacy, decided to restore relations with the USSR. Already on July 30, 1941, the notorious Maisky-Sikorsky treaty was signed, according to which the Soviet side agreed to exchange ambassadors and recognized the treaties with the Germans on territorial changes in Poland as invalid.
Long road to freedom
However, the path from the abolition of the notorious “fourth partition” of Poland under the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact to real territorial increments for this country turned out to be very long. Nevertheless, the well-known decisions on the borders of Poland, adopted at the Yalta Conference in 1945, were prepared much earlier, and were prepared on the basis of the political and military realities of that time.
The border issue again became relevant only in the spring of 1943, after a number of Polish politicians actually joined the dirty propaganda campaign launched by the Goebbels department over the Katyn tragedy. This, by definition, could not but offend the Soviet leader I. Stalin, to whom many modern historians are ready to ascribe nothing more than fears that “the true authorship of this crime may come to light.”
We will not understand here how justified such speculations are, as well as why and why it was decided to “confess” in modern Russia. But the incentive itself turned out to be very strong. There is no doubt that the Soviet leadership was very sensitive to the appeal of the Polish ministers of defense and information from the London émigré cabinet, Sikorsky and Stronsky, to the International Red Cross.
The Kremlin’s response was not only the formation of a powerful propaganda Union of Polish Patriots (UPP), headed by the writer Wanda Wasilewska. In addition to the SPP, almost the entire left world press has unleashed its anger on the London Poles. But propaganda was by no means the main thing, although Stalin even decided to personally support this campaign, writing letters to Roosevelt and Churchill, written almost as a carbon copy.
The main thing, of course, was something else: the Soviet Union immediately sharply accelerated the formation of the Polish Army on its territory, which was actively presented not as an alternative to the Home Army, but as some kind of Polish replenishment on another front. Already on May 14, 1943, the legendary 1st Infantry Division of the Polish Army named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko began to form on Soviet territory.
All this was clearly explained to the American and British leaders by purely pragmatic reasons in the Stalinist way. The Soviet Union, which had already suffered colossal losses in the war, could no longer afford such a luxury as not to involve hundreds of thousands of Poles in the country in the liberation of Europe.
The fact that many of the Poles spent two years under German occupation, having a good idea of what the Nazis were doing in their homeland, was especially emphasized. Naturally, they were literally eager to take revenge and fight for a free Poland. Someone, of course, would like to fight along with other allies, but from Russia the path to Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk was much shorter than from North Africa and even Italy.
And what will Comrade Churchill say?
The reaction of the Western allies was also quite pragmatic, although Churchill did not hide his surprise at Stalin’s unexpectedly tough stance. However, to begin with, he hastened to condemn the very idea of investigating the events in Katyn under the auspices of the Red Cross, calling it in a conversation with the Soviet Ambassador Maisky “harmful and ridiculous”, endangering the unity of the anti-Hitler coalition.
In a letter to Stalin, the British Prime Minister acknowledged that “such an investigation” (by the Red Cross. – AP), especially in the occupied territory by the Germans, “would be a deception, and his conclusions would have been obtained by means of intimidation.” Following W. Churchill, the position of the Russians was unambiguously recognized as justified by the President of the United States, F.D. Roosevelt.
True, he made a reservation that he could not believe in the cooperation of the Prime Minister of the Polish “London” cabinet, Vladislav Sikorsky, with the “Hitlerite gangsters”, but admitted that he “made a mistake in raising this very question before the International Red Cross.” Roosevelt immediately expressed the hope that the “London Poles” would be slightly put on their brains by none other than Prime Minister Churchill.
Vladislav Sikorsky unsuccessfully demanded that Great Britain break off relations with the USSR
Nevertheless, the extraordinary aggravation of Soviet-Polish relations immediately became an occasion to recall the question of borders, which Churchill did not hesitate to pull off. And again the old idea surfaced to draw a new Soviet-Polish border along the “Curzon Line” (Let’s find an answer to the British ultimatum!).
The British politician prudently wanted to simply blame the Poles themselves for further discussions about the return of the eastern territories to Poland. He seemed to have forgotten how England and France in 1939 literally flooded Poland with promises to return from the Germans the original Polish lands, primarily the Duchy of Poznan. However, Poland fell, a “strange war” dragged on on the western front, and promises, as you know, remained promises until 1945.
It is unlikely that Churchill, firmly convinced of the strength of the positions of the “London Poles”, could then guess which politicians would eventually come to power in Poland after the war. And he hardly believed that Stalin would not think much to break away from this longed-for line, but would initiate increments to Poland in almost all other directions.
Unlike the British Prime Minister, United Kingdom Foreign Minister Anthony Eden was, on the contrary, convinced that it was Stalin who “needed the Curzon Line, as well as the Baltic states,” which he spoke about in an interview with Maisky on April 29. This, incidentally, was after the break in relations between Moscow and the Polish government in exile.
It seems that Eden, and by no means Churchill, understood quite well that the Russians were unlikely to put up with the presence of an openly hostile state on their western border. He wondered: “Maybe Stalin fears that Poland is capable of becoming a spear against Russia in the future?”
Obviously, a similar question arose in Churchill’s head as well, but he stubbornly continued to operate with momentary categories. And it is quite obvious that the unexpectedly resulting “Red Poland” was one of the main irritants that made him break out soon after the war with the famous speech in Fulton.
Play with spikes
It is very characteristic that the question of the Polish border, and clearly in the English version, both before and after the spring of 1943, was regularly discussed at all meetings of the Allies, but only those where there were no Soviet representatives. The Polish question was one of the key ones at the conferences in Moscow and Tehran, which took place shortly after the Russian divorce from the “London Poles”.
The Moscow meeting of foreign ministers in October 1943 did not touch upon the question of Poland’s borders. The matter was limited only to the wish expressed by the People’s Commissar Molotov that Poland had a government loyal to the USSR. But a month later in Tehran, all three allied leaders, and Stalin alone with Churchill, repeatedly spoke about Poland, but the famous episode with matches became the key to the solution, albeit a preliminary one.
Tehran-43. These were not only meetings and visits, but also a spy hunt.
At the second meeting of the heads of government on November 29, the British prime minister, taking three matches representing Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union, elegantly moved them to the left – to the west, showing how the borders of the three countries should change. Churchill had no doubt that this would ensure the security of the western borders of the USSR. He always viewed Poland as a buffer, albeit rather strong, state between two potential adversaries.
A year later, in Dumbarton Oaks, or, in the English style, Dumberton Oaks, a not very luxurious, but roomy estate in Washington, turned into a library, American, English, Soviet, and also Chinese experts surprisingly together prepared the creation of the UN instead of the dysfunctional League Nations. There, no one even remembered about Poland, although, like in Moscow, the topic of the possible creation of a confederation in Eastern Europe, and even a federation of small states, actually surfaced.
And only in Yalta were practically all the dots on the “i”. With the light hand of Stalin, the Poles got, in addition to Poznan, not only most of East Prussia – this “wasp nest of German militarism”, but also Silesia and Pomerania. Danzig regained the Polish name Gdansk, Breslau with 700 years of German history became Wroclaw and even the crown Stettin, the birthplace of two Russian empresses at once, turned into Szczecin, which is difficult to pronounce.
Then there was the story of Lemberg’s return under the wing of Russia, that is, Lvov, who, in Churchill’s opinion, was never part of Russia. There was, albeit not Russia, but also Kievan Rus. But Warsaw was definitely a part of the Russian Empire, to which Comrade Stalin drew the attention of Mr. Churchill. And the Russian emperor bore the title of tsar of Poland with the full consent of all the great European powers.
However, even starting with Alexander I, Russian monarchs were not too eager to leave behind a “Polish bone in the Russian throat.” Even Nicholas I wrote to Field Marshal Paskevich about the strategic problems associated with the need and obligation to “own” the Polish crown. It fell to Alexander II the Liberator to suppress another Polish “uprising”.
His son with number III, much less inclined to reform and democracy, was ready for order, counting on the future independence of his western neighbor, for more drastic measures. For the accession to the throne of Nicholas II, a project was prepared, which proposed cutting off all lands with a predominantly Ukrainian and Belarusian population from the Polish provinces. The project took place only after the first Russian revolution.
Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov himself got involved in a world massacre, not only for the freedom of Serbia and the capture of the straits, but also for the restoration of “integral Poland.” This was even said in a special “Appeal to the Poles”, which had to be signed by the commander-in-chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich.