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Author: Grzegorz Szymborski

Shifting empires. The Treaty of Nystad turns 300

Three hundred years on, the Treaty of Nystad, which ended the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia, still has a strong legacy today. The new reality, which formed after the signing of the treaty on September 10th 1721, saw Moscow emerge as a significant actor in Europe.

Russia’s road to power and significance in the world was long and ambiguous. Moscow’s imperial aspirations were sparked by the start of the Great Northern War in 1700 and were confirmed exactly 300 years ago. The famous battle of Poltava on June 28th 1709 paved that way. Yet, in spite of its military significance, it was the diplomatic and legal solutions that announced the rise of a new player, taking Sweden’s place, at the table of European powers. But it took 12 more years before Moscow broke the will of Stockholm entirely.

September 12, 2021 - Grzegorz Szymborski

The Baltic phoenix

The dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in defragmenting of the world map into fifteen pieces – most of which were new entities. However, three of them somehow seemed particularly familiar – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, jointly known as the Baltic states. Their re-emergence in Europe created many legal questions as they all began to claim renewal of their previous statehoods existing in 1918-1940.

Anti-Soviet tendencies on the Baltic coast exploded at the time of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika. The desire for independence and the struggle for historical truth in the Baltic republics spawned social movements which emphasised the statehoods of the Baltic states, deprived as the result of the USSR’s invasion in 1940.

April 11, 2021 - Grzegorz Szymborski

International law and the Soviet wild-goose chase

Soviet political proposals from before the war and the legacy of the United Nations established as a result of the Soviet victory over Nazism are often recalled in the Kremlin’s contemporary narratives. Yet, a look at the historical development of the Soviet understanding of international law reveals a chaotic and political, rather than legal, approach.

The 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the proclamation of the United Nations was a topic intensively exploited by Russian diplomacy which attempted to highlight the Soviet input into the triumph over the Nazis and the creation of an international organisation. The Kremlin’s rhetoric was expressed directly by Vladimir Putin twice last year – once thanks to an article published in The National Interest in June and then, via a speech delivered virtually during the annual summit of the United Nations, in September.

February 3, 2021 - Grzegorz Szymborski

Save us all from the liberty, Emperor!

A review of The Union of Salvation. A film directed by Andrei Kravchuk, Moscow, Russia, 2019.

September 3, 2020 - Grzegorz Szymborski

The brief alliance, short memory

For a brief moment in August Poland will celebrate the centenary of the victorious Battle of Warsaw when Józef Piłsudski’s army managed to stop and push back the advancing Bolsheviks. Earlier, the Soviets were faced with an unexpected alliance of Poles and Ukrainians, which liberated Kyiv under the leadership of Symon Petliura. In light of this surprising development, what is the history behind this military alliance?

At the end of 1919 the Ukrainian People’s Republic was almost defeated by the Tsarist forces of Anton Denikin. On November 4th, some detachments of the Ukrainian Galician Army (UHA) switched sides and joined the “White General”. This event severely weakened the position of the Ukrainian Directorate, whose representatives were simultaneously negotiating with the Polish authorities in Warsaw.

July 7, 2020 - Grzegorz Szymborski

An unappreciated effort

A Hollywood budget, important factual inspiration and a non-American director – all these features may be considered as providing the right opportunity for a high-quality movie. The latest film by Polish Oscar nominee Agnieszka Holland – Mr Jones – combines all of them. Yet, the Hollywood finances and the predictable filming style became too visible, distracting from a much-needed history lesson.

January 29, 2020 - Grzegorz Szymborski

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