Murmansk Threatens to Suspend Relations With Polish Town of Szczecin Over Soviet Memorial Dispute

Murmansk doesn't want to be the sister city of the Polish town Szczecin, whose administration decided to demolish the monument of Gratitude to the Soviet Army Soldiers. The City Council deputies have already prepared a corresponding letter to their foreign colleagues.

Natalia Solovyova reports.


Murmansk and Szczecin have been sister cities for almost 25 years now. The northern city established friendly relations with Poland in 1993. Culture, sport, and tourism were areas of collaborative development. There were joint exhibitions and exchange programs between school and university students. 25 years later and relations have started souring.

The reason was the demolition of the monument of Gratitude to the Soviet Army Soldiers. It had been standing on the main square since 1950, until the Polish government adopted a law on decommunization in June this year. That's how Warsaw decided to deal with the communist past of the country. The local officials agreed, and 23 deputies of Szczecin voted for removing the memorial.

Only 3 deputies voted against. The residents, however, didn't welcome the decision.

The citizens:

- This is a monument to Soviet soldiers that fought in the war, so we, the Polish people, could have this land. This is where they died. If we had been asked by the local government, we would have said to leave the memorial.

- It hurts to see such ingratitude. And it's history, you can't run away from it. 10, 20, 50 years will pass, and we will remember this and somebody will probably feel ashamed.

In the sister city of Murmansk, the demolition of the monument was considered an insult to the memory of the fallen soldiers. The deputies of the City Council addressed their Polish colleagues asking them not to remove the memorial. They were too late, however, the monument was demolished.

Alexander Kapinosov, a local deputy: "Something awful is happening in Poland, and it touches the heart of every person".

Nikolai Vakulchik, a local deputy: "Looking at the world today, there are attempts to rewrite history, but we are going to fight that".

What Russia remembers, Poland is trying to forget. Over 600,000 Soviet soldiers gave their lives for Poland's freedom. And in 1945, the Soviet Union supported Poland, which had been devastated by the fascists.

Russia's Defense Ministry disclosed the documents about the unprecedented support of Poland during World War II. Provision, clothes, seeds and even equipment was delivered to Warsaw and other cities. Cars, combines, and tractors were supplied. The Soviet military repaired roads and bridges. Over 5,000 km of railway lines were restored by the 1st Belorussian Front alone.

Statues commemorating Soviet soldiers are being removed across all of Poland. In Szczecin, during the last 1,5 years, there have been 30 cases of desecration of memorials.

In Murmansk, cooperation with a city that commits acts of barbarism against the memory of soldiers was considered unacceptable.

Alexey Veller, State Duma deputy: "The colleagues from Szczecin were advised to rethink their attitude. If that doesn't happen, it's a good reason for the Murmansk City Council to consider suspending friendly relations".

If the Szczecin deputies don't change their decision, they will no longer have a sister city in Murmansk.

Natalia Solovyova, Vesti