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1956 1.6: Polish Hammers

When Diplomacy Fails Podcast

30-01-2024 • 31 minutos

1956 Episode 1.6 examines the tumultuous fallout of Khrushchev’s February speech in the context of Poland.


What was the Polish experience of living in the Soviet orbit? Here we set the scene and trace a bit of the background. It’s a tragic kind of story if you happen to be a Pole, or care about the sovereignty of independent states, but it also makes for fascinating listening. Here we look at a specific example of a revolutionary study, which tore the lid off of Soviet occupied Poland and which exposed its worst excesses to the world. The release of 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘬, adopted in 2010 as the film 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘢𝘺 𝘉𝘢𝘤𝘬, proved to be an indication of things to come in 1956.


The Soviet-Polish relationship both before, during and after the Second World War was a difficult one, fraught with historical grievances, mutual distrust and grand ambitions. After all that had occurred in this portion of the world over the centuries, it was perhaps inevitable that the two peoples could never live peacefully side by side, yet the policies enacted by Stalin immediately following the victories of the Red Army in Poland from late 1944 nonetheless make for startling listening.


Stalin’s approach to Poland was to treat it as the troublesome if necessary little brother of Moscow – to be dominated by its larger neighbour, and always to be suspected and feared. Poles suffered terribly under Soviet rule from 1944-1989, and in the episode we’ll provide the background details for one of the most notable chapters in this 45 year history, as we explain how the Poles responded to news of Khrushchev’s speech.


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