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Nobody will be able to separate Russia and Poland: interview with Anatoly Kibysh

Associate professor Anatoly Kibysh was born in the village of Kidry, Vladimirets district, Rivne Oblast, Western Ukraine. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he moved to Kaliningrad (Russia), where he lectures at a number of universities. Kibysh is the head of the International Cooperation Department of the Kaliningrad branch of St. Petersburg State Agrarian University. He is a military historian. One of his studies was about the activities of Dmitry Medvedev’s partisan group in the Sarny woods.

Did Russia have grounds to complain of Poland’s decision to demolish Soviet-time monuments, particularly, the monuments to General Chernyakhovsky?

Profanation of monuments to Soviet warriors, to those who have destroyed Fascism – especially in the country that has suffered the most from the Nazis’ anti-human crimes - is an inadmissible act, which, in my opinion, is aimed against Russian-Polish relations. This is one more attempt to split the Russians and the Poles. But nobody will be able to do this as there are lots of things that connect us: mentality, lifestyle, morals, family traditions. We can always come to terms as we think likewise, we eat and drink the same things. We have the same Christian morals. All the Kaliningrad-based universities have close contacts with their Polish colleagues due primarily to similarity in approaches towards education. We get along perfectly well despite certain contradictions between our politicians. I think we should try to find compromises.

I am glad to see that some of my Polish colleagues also condemn the decision to destroy the monuments. One of them told me recently that five of his relatives were killed in WWII. They fought shoulder to shoulder with Soviet soldiers. And today each year his family lays flowers at monuments to Soviet warriors. I was impressed. His story has convinced me that nobody will be able to deceive the Poles, to wipe off their memory no matter what lies he or she will tell.

But now we are in the resort of Gyzycko near the Great Masurian Lakes. Here we see a monument to 175 Russian and 235 German soldiers killed in WWI and WWII. And nobody has ever touched this monument – even more, the Polish Government cares for it! Nor has anybody in Poland ever profaned the monuments to Marshal Rokossovsky. Perhaps, the Poles just don’t like General Chernyakhovsky, who is said to cruelly repress Polish soldiers from Armia Krajowa?

By the way, this is not the only thing the present-day Polish authorities incriminate to Chernyakhovsky. The only reason they don’t like him is that he was a Soviet general. And they don’t care that he liberated their country from the Nazis.

The key goal of the pro-American forces today is to make the Poles forget the great exploit of the Soviet people. They even dare to compare Soviet soldiers with Nazis. But historical memory is something that is deep in blood. So, I don’t think that any wise Pole – and there are lots of such people in Poland - will ever believe this. Only barbarians fight monuments. Some Polish politicians are not wise enough but this is their personal tragedy. Sooner or later, history will give each one his fairing.

Your parents and relatives still live in Volyn, in Western Ukraine. How are things there?

I keep in touch with them and I am surprised to see how anti-Russian campaigners are washing their brains. They admit that after Maidan life has become worse but they blame Russia for this. So, the moment of truth has not come yet.

Besides collapse and new bloody clashes, Ukraine will also face diplomatic isolation from all of its neighbors: Eastern and Western Slavs, Hungarians, Romanians. The EU will never admit it the way it is now. The referendum in the Netherlands has shown what the Europeans think about the Maidan “revolutionaries.” A country with a population of 40,000,000 people, a destroyed economy, a civil war, a Nazi ideology, millions of beggars and heaps of debts is an even bigger burden for Europe than Greece or the Baltics. So, hardly anybody in Brussels will admit such a state into the European Union.

The ancestors of the current Ukrainian leaders committed atrocities that make hair curl. My grandmothers and grandfathers witnessed those crimes and told me that at those times the authorities kept coming at night and killing people and each time their argument was different: loyalty to the Soviet regime, ethnic identity, reluctance to kill others. Poles suffered the most. The authorities had no mercy on them. They killed their women and children, the river was red with blood, the wells were full of dead bodies, babies were nailed to walls, with heads of adults hanged on fences. With all this in mind, how can we now accept the national ideology of present-day Ukraine?

In Ukraine, once the Soviet Union collapsed, I saw the revival of an ideology I could not accept. Born and raised in the Soviet Union, I always regarded the whole of the Union as my home. But Russia was the closest to my heart. So, I decided to move to Kaliningrad and now this is my home for ever.

Throughout your life you have lived in Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. Can you compare these countries? What are their strong and weak points? Which is better to live in?

Unlike the Poles and the Ukrainians, the Belorussians have confirmed their status of a wise and amicable Slavonic people. They are not ruining their state, they are not organizing Maidans. Instead they are trying to preserve the best they had in the Soviets and to create something new. I often visit Belarus and I know how hardworking and talented the Belorussians are. They have no untended villages, unrepaired roads or uncultivated lands. They do not have the resources the Poles or the Russians have but they are proud of what they have and do and they have proved that even in isolation you can create a self-sufficient strong state. But the biggest value of Belarus is its people. Despite all political ups and downs, the Belorussians remain our closest allies.

In Belarus nobody will ever think of destroying monuments, be they Soviet, Russian or Polish. Monuments are a big resource for culture and tourism. Belarus has lots of historical contradictions with its neighbors, but this has never been a ground for them to erase or edit history.

Some of our colleagues are concerned that Polish moguls are now restoring old Polish castles and palaces in the territory of Belarus. Those castles and palaces were homes to the great sons of the Polish and Belorussian peoples, like Tadeusz Kościuszko and Adam Mickiewicz and to preserve the memory about them is our common duty. The Belorussians’ attitude towards cultural and historical monuments can serve as an example for their neighbors.

As far as I understand, you are a Slavophil, aren’t you?

Yes, I am. I think that without unity and cooperation the Slavonic people will degrade. We have been close to this a lot of times throughout history and each time it took us huge efforts and losses to restore the truth. And we won only when we were united.

The Anglo-Saxons’ interests will never coincide with the interests of the Slavs. History has shown that they in the West prefer solving their problems at the expense of other nations. The Slavs have faced lots of disasters just because they trusted or idolized the West. The Western world is agonizing. It can no longer be an example for others. I am sorry for the old good European civilization but it is no longer the way it was.

Today the West is trying to fuel the contradictions existing among Slavonic peoples. But the Eastern Europeans are sobering up and are regaining their self-consciousness and self-identity. The new Slavonic age has not yet come but the next historical epoch will be ours.

Interviewed by Georgy Kolarov

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