Polish Committee of National Liberation
The Polish Committee of National Liberation (Polish: Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN), also known as the Lublin Committee, was a puppet provisional government of Poland, officially proclaimed on 22 July 1944, allegedly in Chełm allegedly under the direction of State National Council (Krajowa Rada Narodowa, or KRN) in opposition to the Polish government in exile. It exercised control over Polish territory retaken from Nazi Germany and was fully sponsored and controlled by the Soviet Union.
The PKWN was formed in Moscow from the ranks of the KRN, Union of Polish Patriots (ZPP) and Polish Workers' Party (PPR) – the Polish Communist movement, which had been decimated during Soviet purges and revived under Joseph Stalin's auspices after 1941. It followed Red Army units as they moved into Polish territory, and expanded its authority within the Soviet occupied areas.
The PKWN manifesto was outlined in advance in Radio Moscow broadcast and published allegedly in Chełm on 21 July 1944, but the first members arrived there on 27 July. By the start of August, the PKWN moved its seat to Lublin and became known under the name "the Lublin Committee". The Soviet Union pretended to transfer the power to the PKWN, but the PKWN transferred it back to the Red Army and NKVD as war zone.
Among the members of the PKWN were politicians of various communist and leftist parties accepted by Stalin. Its chairman was Edward Osóbka-Morawski. His deputies were Soviet citizen Wanda Wasilewska (Union of Polish Patriots) and Andrzej Witos (Union of Polish Patriots), a younger brother of Wincenty Witos, a notable pre-war politician. Andrzej Witos was later replaced by Stanisław Janusz. Other members included those from KRN, ZPP, Worker's Party of Polish Socialists (RPPS), SL, Democratic Party (SD), Polish Workers' Party (PPR) and unaffiliated. Stanisław Radkiewicz was responsible for Security Department and Michał Rola-Żymierski for Defense Ministry. The Soviet side was represented by Nikolai Bulganin, whose role was to provide support for the PKWN's administration and security apparatus, and who was charged with destruction of political and military groupings representing the Polish London Government. The PKWN claimed to be leftist and broad democratic coalition, although it didn't include any of the major Polish political parties. Soviet employees outside the PPR occupied most of the key positions. Only three out of the sixteen ministries were held by declared communists – security, propaganda and military affairs.
The PKWN's program didn't contain typical Soviet policies i.e. collectivization or planned economy but obtained in October 1944 orders from Joseph Stalin to go beyond the program. Its manifesto proclaimed commitment to radical reforms, to expansion of Polish territory to the west, and to the 1921 constitution, called the legal Polish Government in Exile a usurper and the 1935 Constitution fascist. The new regime, particularly at the outset, was completely dependent on Moscow. Polish Communists and other leftists had marginal support among the Polish population. In Stalin's words to Rola-Żymierski: "When the Soviet Army has gone, they will shoot you like partridges". The Committee's early decrees authorized NKVD's control over the Red Army's 'rear areas' (in practice whole Poland) and announced the reconstitution of a Polish Army under Soviet leadership.
The PKWN used a combination of repressive and co-optive measures. It appealed to patriotic sentiment, sponsored cultural activities, and implemented a radical land reform (the Polish Underground state had been preparing similar law) to bind the rural poor to the regime. The new Polish army, largely staffed with Soviet officers, retained the appearance of a national army and participated in the Soviet offensive against Berlin.
At the end of December 1944, the PKWN proclaimed itself the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland (Polish: "Rząd Tymczasowy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej" or "RTRP") and was formally recognized by Moscow in January 1945. The RTRP was to govern the areas taken by the Red Army from Nazi Germany until the elections were held.
In summer 1944, Poland had two rival centers of authority: a non-Communist Underground State, supported by a majority of Poles and loyal to the Polish Government in Exile recognized in the West, and the unpopular Soviet-imposed PKWN, backed by the NKVD and the Red Army stationed on Polish territory.
The creation of the Polish Committee of National Liberation was part of Joseph Stalin's attempt to create a puppet regime under his control that could then be used to discredit and eventually remove from power the Polish Government in Exile in London. This development was among several reasons for the heightened the tension between the Soviet Union and the other members of the United Nations which would eventually lead to the Cold War.
The future Western Bloc allies saw these events with great distress, especially because Stalin had previously accepted the Atlantic Charter in principle, signed it at the Yalta Conference, and promised to hold democratic elections in the countries controlled by the Red Army.
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