03 August 2010

Post-Smolensk Crash Tensions in Poland

Tensions surrounding the aftermath of the Smolensk plane crash hit a peak today in Poland as crowds gathered to prevent the government from relocating a crucifix erected outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw to commemorate the crash victims.

The government appears to have backed down and agreed to let the cross stay (details available here), rather than moving it to a nearby church as planned, after activists pledged to defend the cross 'to the death'.

The crucifix was erected in April by scout groups, as part of a campaign calling upon the government to build a monument to the crash victims on the site.

The cross has come to provide a point of focus for those who refuse to accept that the crash was accidental and who see it as somehow linked to Poland's past (though the details are often left vague). Activists defending the cross carried banners reading: ‘Wake Up Poland!’, ‘Katyń Isn’t Over’, ‘Did God Want it to be So?’, and ‘Are the Traitors and the NKVD So Powerful?’

Such groups were fuelled further by Jarosław Kaczyński's statement on 16 July calling for those who were ‘morally and politically responsible’ for the crash to be identified. Kaczyński also drew a connection to Polish history, asserting that: ‘If president Komorowski removes the cross, it will be clear who he is and which side he’s on in debates concerning Polish history and Polish relations’ (details

Kaczyński has controversially also used the term 'crime' with reference to the crash.

Polish activists defending the cross frequently describe the plane crash as a ‘political murder’. According to the Ukrainian site forUm the activists are calling on the US government to provide satellite imagery establishing whether or not the fog that caused the crash may have been created artificially by the Russians.

The campaign to prevent the crucifix's removal began on 20 July after the official decision was taken to relocate the cross, with one of the cross’s defenders describing the decision as an attempt to ‘sever our memory’ (details here).

The cross has also provided a setting for commemorative acts such as a symbolic renactment of the plane crash marking its three-month anniversary (details here).

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