12:33 GMT13 August 2020
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    Earlier this week, Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky met with Polish counterpart Malgorzata Omilanowska in Moscow. Among other things, the ministers discussed how to end the so-called war of monuments the two countries have been embroiled in for over two years now.

    Five Years Since Tragic Smolensk Plane Crash
    © AP Photo / Sergey Ponomarev
    So far, the ministers have agreed to meet next month to discuss the construction of a monument outside Smolensk commemorating the 2010 air catastrophe which killed 96 people, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and several members of his staff, Polish Radio has explained.

    The conflict began in 2013, when the Russian Ministry of Culture told its Polish counterparts that the 2 meter tall, 115 meter-long monument proposal was too large, posing a danger to air traffic in the area of the Smolensk airport. The Polish side took this to be a non-reason, arguing that the monument would pose no danger to the surrounding area.

    Earlier this month, Russian Deputy Minister of Culture Alla Manilova told Russia's Lenta.ru that since 2013, the Russian size has "repeatedly informed our colleagues about the impossibility of installing a monument of this size, and the need to reduce it to 40 m in length." The deputy minister made clear that this request "was not just a whim of the ministry, but a necessary measure in order to account safety requirements and regulations…which impose certain restrictions on objects in the vicinity of aerodromes." Manilova noted that the rules governing the construction of objects in the area note that objects must not be larger than 40x10 meters.

    Exchange of Monuments?

    Earlier this month, Minister of Culture Medinsky caused a wave of indignation among Poland's political elite after proposing an exchange of monuments, with the Russians saying they would work to find a way to accommodate the Polish monument in exchange for a monument in a cemetery in Krakow, Poland commemorating the 16,000-20,000 Red Army POWs who died in Polish concentration camps between 1919 and 1924 during the Polish-Soviet War.

    The Polish Ministry of Culture instantly responded that Medinsky's proposal was "unfounded," adding that the two tragedies were "completely separate in character" and should "not be conflated." Krakow Mayor Jacek Mayhrovsky noted that his city's residents would not accept the idea of a monument in their city to the Red Army, with Soviet soldiers seen as invaders and conquerors. President Bronislaw Komorowski also rejected the idea, noting that "Poland would not trade in symbols" and adding that the "Bolsheviks in Polish concentration camps" were not murdered, but "died from sickness, wounds, etc."

    Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late President Lech Kaczynski, attends a ceremony outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw April 10, 2015
    © REUTERS / Agata Grzybowska/Agencja Gazeta
    Poland has long rejected the Russian proposal to install a monument to the Red Army soldiers in the Rakowicki Cemetary in Krakow, where over 1,200 of the Red Army soldiers who died between 1919 and 1921 lay buried. Only time will tell whether future meetings between Polish and Russian officials will result in an agreement on the size of the Smolensk monument, and whether the Russian side can successfully link agreement on a monument to the tragedy in Smolensk with the tragedy involving the Red Army in Poland.


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    Plane crash, catastrophe, monument, memory, crash, Red Army, Jacek Mayhrovsky, Malgorzata Omilanowska, Alla Manilova, Vladimir Medinsky, Lech Kaczynski, Bronislaw Komorowski, Krakow, Poland, Russia, Smolensk
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