Hiroaki Kuromiya, Patrick Manning
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. Department of History
world history, espionage, Kuklinski, lonely mission, Post-Cold War
The spy case of Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, a Polish Army officer who collaborated with the CIA between 1972 and 1981, has generated passionate debate in the post Cold War geopolitical transition in the world after the fall of Communism. Perceived as a traitor of his nation by his opponents and a hero of the Cold War era by his enthusiasts, Kuklinski accomplished his lonely mission by channeling some 35 thousand top secret documents in both Polish and Russian to the agency. Unlikely fully explored by the American strategists, the files nonetheless disclosed some important technical, operational, and strategic plans of the former Warsaw Pact and the plans for the imposition of the martial law in Poland in 1981. Though sentenced to death in absentia in 1984 in Warsaw, Kuklinski was formally vindicated by Poland's judicial system in 1997. Upon his triumphant return to Poland in 1998, Kuklinski witnessed Poland's joining NATO and other new democratic developments after the fall of Communism in 1990. Kuklinski's solitary efforts proved their validity in the eyes of the public opinion in a prophetic manner no one could ever dare to predict. Yet the significance of his act underwent a discombobulated scrutiny in the court of public opinion in Poland and elsewhere. Consequently, it resulted in a never ending hero-traitor debate.
Interestingly, even after Kuklinski's death in 2004, the hero-traitor discourse over his spying, which originated in the mid 1980's still continues. The chaotic voices of his critics, enthusiasts, and those who remain undecided perpetuate the debate and apparently distort the meaning of Kuklinski's accomplishments and his identity. In addition, the debate prevents viewing the meaning of his spying in a broad context of the social and political developments in the world after the fall of Communism. The fluctuation and dynamics of the individual and social memory of Kuklinski as expressed in the public pronouncements of Kuklinski himself, his opponents and enthusiasts in the time period of 1982 and 2004 and shortly after parallels the transformation of the world geopolitics in that period of time. As a result, Kuklinski and his commentators express their opinions in the context of the post Cold War reality which projects the old East-West divisions on their perceptions of Kuklinski and his act. Consequently, the Americans acknowledge Kuklinski's heroism a priori, the Russians consider him a traitor, and the Poles scrutinize Kuklinski in the ethical context of his spying and politicize the significance of his act. Amidst all diverse opinions of Kuklinski's critics and adherents and Kuklinski's own peculiar perception of his mission which aimed to free Poland from the Soviet oppression and prevent the atomic holocaust, the need to find another way to approach Kuklinski's affair is essential. The petty hero-traitor discourse limits the perception of Kuklinski in a complex way of some key historical issues related to his espionage, such as the fluctuation of the individual and social memory of Kuklinski, the nature of the former Polish People's Republic, the dynamics of the post Cold War set of mind of Kuklinski's commentators, and others.
Dariusz G. Jonczyk
Jonczyk, Dariusz G., "Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski and his unique mission: a juxtaposition of the Post-Cold War outlooks" (2010). History Dissertations. Paper 4. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20000667
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