About Poland and the Poles

Zdzisław (Richard) Zakrzewski (1919 – 2013) was a Polish-American optical engineer, philanthropist, banker, a veteran of Poland’s defensive struggle in September 1939 and the Battle of Narvik, and a social and political activist – a true polymath and hero. Mr. Zakrzewski was also a great friend of The Institute of World Politics and a generous supporter of the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies. We are thus making available a PDF of his book, O Polsce i Polakach [About Poland and the Poles] (Warsaw: Ronin, 1996), in which Mr. Zakrzewski reflected on the past, present, and future of his homeland and the meaning of “Polishness” in an increasingly dynamic and constantly evolving world.

For short biographies of Mr. Zakrzewski please see Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz’s “In Memoriam” article and an English-language Wikipedia entry dedicated to him.

Please click here to download his book: O Polsce i Polakach – Zakrzewski

Paul Coyer discusses Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church

On June 9, Dr. Paul Coyer, a Forbes foreign policy columnist, delivered an Intermarium Series lecture at The Institute of World Politics entitled “Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church.” The lecture, which was sponsored by IWP’s Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies, focused on a recent article by the speaker, entitled “(Un)Holy Alliance: Vladimir Putin, The Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Exceptionalism.”

Dr. Coyer began by noting that it can be easy to sympathize with the Russian Orthodox Church, which claims to preserve tradition and uphold moral values. He then described the complexities and various dimensions of the Church’s involvement with the Russian state.

Orthodoxy is not viewed by Russians in the same way that religion is widely viewed in the West. For example, Dr. Coyer noted, 30 percent of respondents in Russia who self-identified as Orthodox simultaneously also identified as atheists. Dr. Coyer explained that Orthodoxy in post-Soviet Russia is a matter of culture and identity, not necessarily the belief in a Supreme Being.

In addition, the speaker described Vladimir Putin’s attempts to increase the strength of the Russian Orthodox Church, with over 20,000 churches being built from 2000 onwards. He argued that this resurgence in the Church’s strength added to Russian exceptionalism and nationalism. Russia has an advantage in its citizens’ mindsets, in that they are more fiercely dedicated to their homeland. By contrast, a 2015 Pew Research Center poll found that Europeans overwhelmingly would not be willing to fight for their countries.

Dr. Coyer maintained that, even without Putin, the conflict between Russia and the West will not fade away. One of the reasons is that culture, including that of Russian Orthodoxy, is at stake. He asserted that a serious confrontation of the West with Russia is increasingly likely.

Dr. Coyer covers international affairs, with a focus on Eurasia, in his Forbes column. He has spent time in academia, having graduate degrees from Yale University and the London School of Economics. His PhD, from the LSE, was on Sino-American relations and diplomatic history. From 2007-2013, he was a visiting scholar at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and he served as a visiting lecturer on Chinese foreign policy and Sino-American relations at the University of Florence, Italy, in 2011 and 2012. He has lived and worked in several locations around the world, including Shanghai, where he did macro-economic research on China’s development and edited a book on the Shanghai stock exchange that was jointly published by JPMorgan and the South China Morning Post, and in Hong Kong, where he did a brief stint in banking for Deutsche Bank.

Dr. Chodakiewicz’s letter to The New York Times on Poland’s presidential election

On Sunday, May 24, the second round of the presidential elections in Poland saw the victory of Andrzej Duda, the candidate of the largest opposition party (Law and Justice, or “PiS”) in the country, over the liberal post-communist incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski. This political shift in the Central European nation prompted The New York Times – which has a long record of biased and skewed coverage of events in Poland – to mislabel Mr. Duda’s party as “right-wing,” thereby implicitly accusing Law and Justice of extremism. To correct this distortion, Dr. Chodakiewicz wrote a letter to the daily’s editors. Since the paper chose not to publish his comments, we are posting the text of Dr. Chodakiewicz’s letter below.

Editor,

To call Poland’s Law and Justice party (PiS) “right-wing” is a stretch (as you did in your coverage of the recent presidential elections). It is a statist party, combining many traditions. Its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, himself is a pragmatic who sprang from the progressive, left-wing milieu of Warsaw’s radical intelligentsia with cosmopolitan Odessa roots. In addition to its mild anti-Communism, PiS has evolved to combine a strong “social justice” message, an appeal to patriotism, a pledge to strengthen the nation’s defense, a record of lower taxes, opposition to “unbridled capitalism,” and an avowed social and cultural conservatism. In many ways, PiS reflects the legacy of Solidarity’s grass roots, but not some of its globalist elites. The closest domestic analogy would be American blue collar trade unionism in the 1980s under Lane Kirkland, I guess, or “Reagan Democrats.”

Sincerely,

MJC

Dr. Chodakiewicz speaks at SAIS about “the political uses of WWII”

On the morning of Thursday, May 7, Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz participated in a panel discussion at a conference on “History’s War: The Political Uses of WWII.”  The event was organized by the “realist” Center on Global Interests and co-sponsored by JHU – SAIS and Georgetown University.

The panelists were tasked with answering two broad questions about the Second World War:  “As Europe celebrates the 70th anniversary of Allied victory, the Ukrainian crisis and the broader reemergence of nationalism have increasingly politicized the war’s narrative. What role has the war historically played in Russia and Eastern Europe, and how is it currently defining modern politics?”

The video of the entire conference can be found below. To read Dr. Chodakiewicz’s remarks, which focused on collective and individual memory, continue below.

There is no collective memory in the post-Soviet zone, and that includes Poland. There are individual recollections. Individual recollections can coalesce into collective memory only when there is freedom. Under communism, the state employed terror to force upon society a rigid straitjacket in the form of the official narrative. According to this narrative, Stalin liberated and saved Central and Eastern Europe from “Hitlerism.” Those who were not pro-communist and did not agree with the official version were automatically branded as “fascists.” The Reductio at Hitlerum was the rule in this game.

Thus, in most places, a collective memory began to commence to form only after 1989. This process occurred on several levels, including: family, local, national, and regional memories.

The Poles had the easiest job because – from the beginning to the end – they knew that they had two enemies: Hitler and Stalin. After the war, however, the communists did not allow them to remember the war this way. For example, in 1943, the seventeen-year-old Marian Bobolewski (Nom de guerre “Góral” [Mountain Man]) escaped from a German forced labor camp. He joined the National Armed Forces underground resistance outfit. The teenager then fought against the Germans and the communists in the Lublin region. He was arrested by the NKVD in October 1944. His Soviet interrogator crushed his eye with a swift, well-aimed kick in the head. This is how “Góral” recounted it to me: “After the liberation, the Soviets captured me and gouged my eye out.” I replied: “Sir, how can you speak of ‘liberation’? Liberation means the bringing of freedom, and the Red Army brought enslavement. Through the sheer force of inertia, the Red Army pushed the Germans out of Poland by attacking westward. They did not come here to liberate the Poles or the Jews or anybody else, but to enslave all and subordinate them to totalitarian communist domination. Only captive minds can call that a liberation!” Mr. Bobolewski could only weep in response.

The great tragedy is that the victorious communists imposed Stalinist phrases, concepts, symbols, and images on everyone else. A collective memory can emerge only when a society frees itself from such a paradigm. In Poland, this process is the most advanced. It is far less advanced in the Third Reich’s former satellite countries or nations that treated collaboration with the Germans as a lesser evil. In all those places, collective memory is going through a series of birth pangs because individual recollections dictate either that: a) it was righteous to fight in the ranks of the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Belarusyn, Ukrainian, Croatian, Hungarian, or another SS national formation, or b) that it was more prudent to bandwagon along with Hitler – like Budapest, Bucharest, or Sofia did – than to suffer Poland’s bloody fate.

It will take some time for collective memory to emerge. Patience is the word.

Between Russia and NATO: Security Challenges in Central and Eastern Europe

IWP holds Fifth Annual Kościuszko Chair Spring Symposium

On Saturday, April 25, the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies – currently held by Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz – hosted its Fifth Annual Spring Symposium: “Between Russia and NATO: Security Challenges in Central and Eastern Europe.” This year’s event was held at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City, just across the river from Washington, D.C. The conference was made possible through the generosity of Mr. Jan M. Małek and the Polish-American Foundation for Economic Education and Development (Polsko-Amerykańska Fundacja Edukacji i Rozwoju Ekonomicznego, PAFERE).

The symposium consisted of six panels and was moderated by Dr. Sebastian Gorka of IWP, who also delivered two presentations and the closing remarks.

Dr. Gorka’s first talk addressed “U.S. Interests in Central/Eastern Europe.”

The panel on “Foreign and Defense Policies of Central and Eastern Europe” consisted of lectures by Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz and Mr. Žygimantas Pavilionis, the Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania. Dr. Chodakiewicz emphasized that the Intermarium has suffered from a lack of unity and called for solidarity between the nations of Central and Eastern Europe. Ambassador Pavilionis spoke about what he sees as insufficient US engagement in the region, including the woefully inadequate nature of US public diplomacy and broadcasting in the region.

Dr. Ariel Cohen and Dr. Łucja Świątkowska-Cannon addressed the “Strategic Implications of Economic and Energy Conditions in Central/Eastern Europe,” both pointing out that such impediments as onerous regulations and heavy taxation (“gas tax Sepuku,” in the words of Dr. Cohen) constitute serious obstacles delaying the ability of such countries as Poland and Ukraine to exploit fully their large shale gas deposits, thereby gaining energy independence.

The panel on “Russian Foreign Policy and Military Developments in Central and Eastern Europe” consisted of four lectures. Prof. Andrzej Nowak from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, provided a historical survey of imperialist continuities in Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet thought. Dr. Jack Dziak spoke about Spetsnaz operations, active measures, and the “new hybrid warfare,” which — as he pointed out — was by no means “new.” The real problem was that the US government closed down the means we had at our disposal to counter these threats during the Cold War right after the Soviet implosion. Mr. Chris Zawitkowski focused on post-Soviet Russia’s military doctrine, which continues to view the US and NATO as its main “enemies.” Dr. Phillip Petersen of the Potomac Foundation, in turn, explained the nature of the post-Soviet “new hybrid warfare,” which the Russians call simply “new generation warfare.”  Dr. Petersen’s PowerPoint presentation can be found here: Download file Petersen, New Generation Warfare

During the “NATO and Central and Eastern Europe” Dr. Phillip Karber (Potomac Foundation) emphasized the highly intensive nature of Moscow’s proxy war in the Donbas and offered practical policy advice on how to most effectively help the Ukrainians defend themselves. Shifting towards first things, Prof. Joseph Wood’s presentation anchored our understanding of America’s role in NATO in natural law and transcendental moral values.

The final panel, “U.S. Foreign Policy Options,” featured the speeches of Dr. John Lenczowski and Dr. Sebastian Gorka.

Dr. Chodakiewicz speaks about Katyn and Smolensk at the Second Polonia Forum

On Saturday, April 18, Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz took part in the Second Polonia Forum, a Polish-American conference held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Doylestown, PA, and was sponsored by the Smolensk Disaster Commemoration Committee.

Dr. Chodakiewicz’s lecture, which was part of the panel on “the Katyn Crime 75 Years Later,” was entitled “the Legacy of Hopelessness: Katyn and Smolensk.” It addressed the historical and political contexts of the Katyn Forest Massacre (spring 1940), the genocidal Soviet extermination of 22,000 Polish officers (and other members of the national elite), and the suspicious Smolensk Crash (April 10, 2010), which saw the deaths of Poland’s president, the late Lech Kaczyński, and 95 additional members of his entourage, who constituted Poland’s patriotic pro-Western elite. More specifically, Dr. Chodakiewicz spoke about the feelings of helplessness that these two historical disasters engendered and the ways to remedy them. We are reproducing his speech below:


Ladies and Gentlemen:

In the case of Katyn and Smolensk, we have both good news and bad news. The good news is that, eventually, the truth always surfaces. As far as Katyn is concerned, no one today — except for liars and Stalinist fanatics — denies that the crime was committed by the Soviets. How is this possible? Well, in short, we eventually gained access to the documents. The longer answer is: memory. We remembered Katyn, regardless of the consequences and circumstances.

What is memory? It is whatever we chose from the present to salvage it from extermination by time. Thus, we preserve the crumbs of past experiences which are important for various reasons. There are two kinds of memory: a collective one that is public and group-centric; and an individual one that is private and family-based. Collective memory is often expressed through symbols. Characteristically, the Crucifix frequently functions as such a symbol, itself being a symbol of suffering and victory. The crying injustice of Katyn, which is commonly referred to in Poland as the “Golgotha of the East,” is often expressed through the Cross or the Virgin Mary. Smolensk — the symbol of post-communist and post-Soviet pathologies — was also commemorated by the Cross.

Public memory only appears to be abstract, theoretical, and symbolic. In reality, it coalesces with individual, personal, and family memory. For me, for instance, Katyn also means Second Lieutenant Symeon Kazimierz Chodakiewicz and Rotamaster Jan Fuhrman. The former was my grandfather’s cousin, the latter was the godfather of my uncle, Stasiu Wellisz. Smolensk, in turn, brings to mind Janusz Kurtyka and Andrzej Przewoźnik, both of whom were historians. I recall Janusz Kurtyka particularly warmly, for he was one of the few professional historians to help our efforts to debunk the false and malicious narratives surrounding the history of the National Armed Forces. We remember people and create symbols. In the short-term, that is very little, but in the long-term, it is the foundation.

And now, the bad news. In the short-term, memory is insufficient because remembering the victims does not translate into political compensation or atonement. After all, the victims weren’t strong enough to resist the aggression, and their heirs weren’t strong enough to obtain justice. Moreover, the mighty of this world did not want to hear complaints. This is an experience that is universal and does not apply solely to the Poles. For example, right after the Second World War, practically no one cared to hear about the Holocaust. The doyen of Holocaust studies in the US, Professor Raul Hilberg, was criticized sharply by his dissertation advisor and other professors. They warned him that delving into the extermination of the Jews would spell the end of his career. For almost ten years no one would publish his opus. The topic was eventually popularized only because of his strong will, meticulous research, discipline, and strategy. It also helped that a Jewish philanthropist not only financed the printing of the book but also purchased the entire print run. The breakthrough occurred only during the 1960s. It is unrealistic to expect immediate success without any effort or support. The same applies to Polish issues.

The geopolitics and geostrategy of foreign powers call for permanent Polish impotence. Why? Because the mighty prefer to cut deals among themselves. The Poles, however, irritate everybody with their importunity and constant search for truth and justice. After all, it is clear that both the US and Britain knew about Katyn, but the governments of the two countries did not want to know about it. Winston Churchill told his personal secretary: “For God’s sake, let’s not talk about it in public, but it is clear that the Bolsheviks murdered the Poles.” US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent his friend as a private emissary to Europe to deal with the Katyn issue. After returning home, he informed FDR that the Polish officers were shot by the Soviets. The president ordered him to keep his mouth shut, but when his friend threatened to expose the truth in the press, FDR had him impressed into the military and sent off to Samoa. The Poles were, quite simply, an inconvenience. Their interests did not matter; the alliance with Stalin did. The Red Army was fighting and, although Soviet troops were dying as well, they kept killing and pushing the Germans westward. Hence, the Western Allies did not have to pay a high price in blood. Furthermore, FDR hoped especially that Stalin would become his future partner in the postwar world government known as the United Nations Organization. Thus, it was convenient to consider the Katyn case closed and to agree with Stalin’s version: the Germans did it.

Given such an ideological and geopolitical atmosphere, Soviet agents of influence had a much easier job, particularly since it had its tentacles even at the highest level of the US government: in the White House. Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White, and Lauchlin Currie all worked for Stalin. The last named was FDR’s personal secretary. It was this trio that provided the NKVD with all the details the Chekists wanted to know. One example was the presidential approach to Katyn, or, in general, all other Polish issues. Since FDR generally couldn’t care less, the Soviet dictator knew how to negotiate with him. The only concern was for all of this not to surface prematurely, lest the Polonia not vote for the Democratic candidate.

In the lower tiers of the US federal government, including the Office of War Information and other agencies, communist agents launched attacks against anyone who wanted to amplify the Katyn case. For example, Polish-American radio programs were the victims of such attacks; their owners were either threatened or the programs were simply shut down. “Dirt-digging” and character assassination [Rufmord] campaigns were routinely waged against people wishing to expose the truth about Katyn. The anti-Polish campaign hit its lowest point when the main newspaper of the US military, Stars and Stripes, published a caricature of a Polish officer “supposedly” shot at Katyn. Nota bene, one of the communist moles in the OWI then engaged in combating the truth about Katyn later resurfaced in the communist-occupied Polish People’s Republic and did the very same thing in the capacity of the editor-in-chief of the red Trybuna Ludu [People’s Tribune]. This time, at least, he was officially on the communist payroll.

Discrediting alternative narratives about Katyn and supporting Moscow’s propaganda line were routine in the US during the war. It is important to keep in mind these mechanisms and to verify if and how they apply to the Smolensk Crash. It will be a very interesting endeavor to test the validity of theories arguing that similar mechanisms of deception are behind both Katyn and Smolensk.

Let us look at the case of Smolensk in the West. The Poles are once again inconvenient. And yet again the Western powers fail to support Poland as a matter of official policy. Smolensk is considered a closed case, yesterday’s news. The White House has practically buried the issue: it was an accident, pilot error, and now let’s move on. It doesn’t matter that there was no serious, thorough investigation and that Russia is dictating the discourse. Without the President’s permission, or a presidential order, the intelligence community cannot conduct its own separate investigation.

Naturally, there are a few individual exceptions in the US. A handful of conservative Congressmen and Senators is interested in Smolensk. The intelligence community is unofficially gathering materials and hoping for a better political climate. Some of our professors from the Institute of World Politics have been helping for a long time as well.

What can we do to overcome helplessness? Napoleon used to say: money, money, and more money. But money is only a means to an end. We have to also know how to grease the wheels to get to the desired destination. Above all, we need three things: ideas, strategy, and cadres. The idée is “national,” and therefore the continuation of tradition in the new conditions of post-modernity. Strategy is required to ensure that our ideas win and to prevent our children from becoming victims. In other words, it is about might and power, i.e. “peace through strength.” The cadres devise the tactics, i.e. immediate maneuvers leading to the main objective. The cadres will take care of the logistics and will establish organizations, in addition to fundraising and communications.

Where would the financial backing come from? Everyone has $10 that could be donated monthly to a cause close to their heart. On the other hand, like my Californian Foster Mother likes to say: the Polonia has long tongues, which it wags constantly while chattering about Poland and other causes; but it also has short arms, which makes it incapable of writing checks to support vital initiatives. Thus, the Polonia has to be told bluntly: “Put your money where your mouth is. Put up, or shut up.”

Kosciuszko Chair researcher reviews “The Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941

A review of The Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941 by IWP student and researcher for the Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies Pawel Styrna was published by the Selous Foundatino for Public Policy Research.  A portion of his review appears below, and the full version can be found here

image00Recalling the Disaster of the Nazi-Soviet Pact – Part of a Long Geopolitical History
-Pawel Styrna

On the night of August 22-23, 1939, in Moscow, leaders of two of the most evil totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century — the Third German Reich and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics — signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact, also known as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. Officially a “non-aggression” pact, the Hitler-Stalin agreement was a Machiavellian partition of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe (i.e. the Intermarium) between the Germans and the Soviets, the former claiming western-central Poland and Lithuania, and the latter seizing eastern Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and a slice of eastern Romania (Bessarabia). The two sides swapped central Poland for Lithuania a month later, after destroying Poland. Stalin thus gave Hitler — who was uneasy about the prospect of a two-front war — the “green light” to invade Poland and thereby launch the Second World War.

What resulted was a de facto alliance of almost two-years that helped both the Nazis and the Bolsheviks achieve many of their aggressive and blood-thirsty aims. Of course, this Machiavellian arrangement collapsed when one party (the Germans) attacked the other (the Soviets) on June 22, 1941, but — as British historian Roger Moorhouse emphasizes in his most-aptly-titled Devils’ Alliance — the destructive effects of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact were by no means voided and reversed: the extermination of the Polish and Baltic elites and the defeat of France remained faits accomplis, and the Soviets continued to claim the lands they had gobbled up under the “devils’ alliance.” Unfortunately, few in the West appreciate the pact’s significance.

It was precisely to correct this gaping discrepancy that Moorhouse wrote The Devils’ Alliance, publishing his monograph during the 75th anniversary of the German-Soviet partition of the Intermarium. As the author points out: “Except in Poland and the Baltic states, the pact is simply not part of our collective narrative of World War II. (…) Our ignorance of the subject is surprising. (…) the pact remains largely unknown-passed over often in a single paragraph, dismissed as a dubious anomaly, a footnote to a wider history. It is instructive, for example, that almost all of the recent popular histories of World War II published in Britain give it scant attention.”

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