The lessons of the Vistula Operation

Photo: SBU archives. Eviction of the Ukrainian population during the Vistula Operation in Poland.

Photo: SBU archives. Eviction of the Ukrainian population during the Vistula Operation in Poland. 

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Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov

Commemorations associated with the 70th anniversary of the Vistula Operation have begun in Ukraine and Poland. As a result of this operation to evict the Ukrainian population from the border areas of Poland under the pretext of “liquidating the nationalist underground,” thousands of people not only lost their homes and property, but an entire civilization was in fact destroyed.

Soviet security operatives and Polish communists were the crime’s organizers and participants. And for both of them it was important to destroy any pockets of resistance during the postwar years. It is important to understand that after the victory over Nazism an illusion of freedom prevailed among the populations in the countries liberated from Hitler. And it was this illusion that the true heirs of Hitler’s Reich– Stalin and his puppets in the “people’s democracies”– wanted to destroy as soon as possible. From this point of view, the Vistula Operation appears as absolutely logical and in line with the deportations of peoples on the territory of the Soviet Union itself. And the fate of Ukrainians in Poland did not differ from the fate of the Russian Germans, the Crimean Tatars and the peoples of the Caucasus.

The Russian regime is doing something similar now

But there was another aspect to the Vistula operation that is often overlooked. Polish communists were able to increase their legitimacy in the eyes of their compatriots with the help of ethnic cleansing. The Poles had no doubt that the communists were a foreign power imposed by the Kremlin. But after the Vistula Operation, the number of those who believed that the new government could carry out a “Polish program” increased significantly.   Stalin’s puppets succeeded in expertly manipulating xenophobic instincts and chauvinism. And this greatly simplified their repression of real Polish patriots in subsequent years and the transformation of a freedom-loving country into a Soviet colony. Nobody won from the eviction of the Ukrainians except the enemies of Poland and their allies.

Something similar is happening now, right in front of  our eyes. The Russian regime has deprived thousands  of residents of Crimea and the Donbas of housing and prospects and is carrying out ethnic repressions against the Crimean Tatars. But these actions have only increased the authority of the authoritarian government in the eyes of Russians, who are poisoned by chauvinism and militaristic illusions. As a result, the authorities can now disperse any protest demonstrations without particular problems or deprive thousands  of people in Moscow of housing under the program to demolish the cheap apartment buildings of the Khrushchev era. I have no doubt that there are many supporters of the annexation of Crimea among those who participate in social protests in Russia or who have been deprived of apartments. Do they understand that the reasons for their current problems are related to the war and to authoritarianism?

Repressions always lead exclusively to the triumph of the repressors and to the defeat not only of the victims but also of those who applaud the criminals.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
Source: Radio Svoboda

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