Some time ago I published a post Reparations to Poland from Russia? And how much does Poland itself in fact owe Russia? that contained, among other points, some examples of what the USSR spent on Poland. Those examples were very superficial, so here is another article that taks a closer look at the financial aspect of the “fraternal love” of the USSR’ western neighbour.
As an asditional reading, in 2015 I translated an article by Georgij Zotov The Sorrow of a Warsaw Woman.Why Poland is not happy to be liberated from fascism?. In the introduction I layed out some thoughts as to why Russia did not reminded the «brotherly nation» of the help tvat it had got. But every good reason has a limit to it, often hastened by impunity.
It is difficult to calculate the exact amount that our country poured into the restoration of Poland after World War II, especially since the USSR began to provide assistance to Poland long before the victorious May 1945. Thus, the cost of maintaining the Polish Army, formed in the USSR, amounted by January 1945 to 723 million roubles. At the same time, 60 thousand tons of bread, 100 tons of sugar and 50 tons of dried fruits were sent to the liberated Warsaw as a gift. In addition, the USSR took upon itself 50% of the costs of the Warsaw reconstruction plan.
“Poles bickered for every penny”
In 1971, the leader of the USSR Leonid Brezhnev in a private conversation remarked: “We are a party, not merchants. But it seems that the Poles were fighting with us for every penny, like shopkeepers. As an older brother, we didn’t want to offend the younger one, so we endured…”
They not only endured, but also tried not to be like them and did not stoop to petty calculations. Otherwise, Poland could have been billed a lot — for example, for 16 thousand decontaminated Polish wells that were poisoned by the retreating Wehrmacht. Or the restoration by engineering units of the Red Army of 10 thousand km of railway tracks and 20 km of bridges. Or 465 thousand cubic meters of earthworks carried out in order to restore highways. Then, in 1944-1945, the USSR did not even consider it as help — rather, as an allied contribution to the cause of a common victory over Nazi Germany. No one even remembers of the fact that the Polish peasants were given equipment and inventory free of charge during the war, and the Red Army soldiers assisted them in agricultural work — it seemed to be implied, because how else could it be? Similarly, no one remembers the 150 million boxes of matches donated to Poland at that time. But there, even in the years of peace, the shortage of matches was such that some peasants split the matches into parts…
They did not think about such “little things” in the USSR and did not consider it as “real help”. Big deal — matches! Only in the first half of the victorious 1945, Poland received 45 thousand tons of coal and 280 thousand tons of oil, 150 thousand heads of cattle, 130 thousand tons of food and 20 thousand tons of cotton.
Shared the last scraps
Let us note — it all went to Poland during the war. That is, the USSR helped the fraternal, as it was then believed, people not from a good life. They literally shared the last — they didn’t always have enough themselves, they lived half-starved. However, the same can be said about the first post-war years. The famine of 1946-1947 in the USSR, caused by a shortage of labour and droughts, claimed several hundred thousand lives. However, 700 thousand tons of grain were sent to Poland at that time, and by 1948 the volume of grain supplies had grown to 1 million 400 thousand tons.
And this is only “in kind” help. The USSR provided Poland with loans on fantastic terms — 2% per year. It was at such a ridiculous percentage that, in 1945 alone, 50 million roubles were provided for restoration and 10 million dollars for the needs of foreign trade. But Polish appetites grew from year to year. So, in 1947, Poland was given a loan of $27 million…
A typical example shows how the “fraternal people” repaid their debts. In 1956, it was discovered that Poland, with all the injections into its economy, still owed the USSR 2.3 billion roubles. The USSR, responding to the requests of Poland, simply wrote off this debt. And “as a dessert”, allocated an additional loan of 800 million roubles.
They also forgave the debts
The total amount of Soviet aid to Poland from 1944 to 1960 is about 600 billion dollars. And these are only the direct spendings. There were also indirect ones. Thus, the USSR voluntarily transferred to Poland 15% of the reparations paid by Germany. In total, this amounted to $2.3 billion. Against the background of direct spendings, it seems like a drop in the bucket. But it depends on what one compares it with. For example, France’s share in the US economic aid under the Marshall Plan was $2.5 billion.
Well, the fact that since 1963 Poland has received Soviet oil through the Druzhba oil pipeline at a price 30% below the market value, as well as the fact that more than 800 industrial and energy facilities were built there with the participation of the USSR is not worth talking about, according to Poles. This is not help, but cooperation! Maybe it is. But such cooperation is too reminiscent of the well-known fable about a bull who worked all day in the field, and a fly that, sitting on his neck, proudly declares: “How we ploughed!” And this is not a figure of speech. The Polish People’s Republic showed impressive economic growth — in the late 1970s. Poland was among the top 20 most developed and socially secure countries in the world. But at whose expense was this banquet? Here, as they say, do not go to a fortune teller — the last debt to the “fraternal people” of the USSR, which itself was already breathing its last, was forgiven in 1990 — it amounted to 5.5 billion foreign currency roubles.