Updated at 15:24,15-04-2021

Tomasz Blaschek: The issue of the “Russian world“ doesn’t apply to Poland


A Polish historian told how the decommunization process happens in Poland, Belarus’ western neighbor, and what was an impetus for its acceleration in recent years.

On April 29 Polish Senate adopted without amendment the law on changing the names of streets, squares and other objects associated with communism or other totalitarian regimes. Once the law comes into force, the local self-government will have a year to execute the law. The law provides that the name change won’t affect the authenticity of the documents that contain such names. This means that citizens won’t have to change their passport or other documents with an old address until the document expires.

- This is the Party's policy of "Law and Justice", which has been talking about decommunization from the end of 90s - early 2000s. And now, as they were able to come to power, they realize it. And the reason why the law was signed just now is that the "Law and Justice" came to power. Ukrainian events have strongly influenced it. I think that the issue of the "Russian world" has nothing to do with Poland at all, - said Tomasz Blaschek, Doctor of History at Vytautas Magnus University in a comment to the "EuroBelarus” Information Service.

During the 5th International Scientific Conference "Nation in the time of crisis", organized by the Institute of Political Studies “Political Sphere”, the scientist told about decommunization of public space in Poland from the perspective of the places’ names change.

After 1989, one of the challenges that Poland faced was the transformation of the public space and giving meaning to symbols associated with the previous communist regime. The first "victims" of the changes were the monuments to Lenin and Dzerzhinsky, and then renaming of streets began. In late 1989, the Polish People's Republic was renamed to the Republic of Poland. The time of mass change of urban place names started; before 1993 30% of the objects were renamed. After this the intensity of name changes started to decline.

Thomas Blaschek notes that the main initiators of change at that time were Polish citizens. However, it wasn’t that simple: the society was concerned that renaming might be very costly. It was this argument that the opponents of changes used most frequently. Some of them just got used to the old names, not paying attention to their contents, and didn’t want to change anything. However, sometimes it was possible to get some money from the process of decommunization. For example, the largest memorial to Lenin from Nowa Huta in Poland was sold to Sweden. It is for this reason, I think, that the practice of preserving old names is used, but they are given new meaning.

- According to the research, in the first decade the most often changed street name was Dzerzhinsky; second place is taken by Bierut; third place – by general Świerczewski, whose name is still preserved in 82 streets. There are also 12 streets of the Red Army, said Tomasz Blaschek.

The attempts to regulate decommunization at the state level started from "Law and Justice" party: they have been included in its program in 2005. Apart from lustration the program included the task of preserving historical memory. Three draft decommunization laws appeared. First about the removal of communist symbols from the Polish public life, which provided not only a name change, but also change of awards, orders, and other marks of honor. The work on the issue was scheduled for August 2007, but it was at this time that the parliament was dissolved.

- The lack of legislative debate caused aggravation in society, the right wing accused other parties in post-communism, - the historian said.

The same draft law was introduced to the parliament for the second time in 2011, but was frozen, and work on it only renewed in 2014. However, it wasn’t passed again. At the same time the Senate draft law on banning the propaganda of communism through the names of buildings, facilities, and places of public use appeared. On April 1 Polish Sejm adopted a law, according to which in 2017 names associated with communism will disappear from the Polish public space.