Żeligowski's Mutiny (Polish: bunt Żeligowskiego also żeligiada, Lithuanian: Želigovskio maištas) was a Polish military operation led by General Lucjan Żeligowski in October 1920, which resulted in the creation of the Republic of Central Lithuania. Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski had surreptitiously ordered Żeligowski to carry out the operation, and revealed the truth several years later. The area was formally annexed by Poland in 1922 and internationally recognized as Polish territory in 1923. Nevertheless, Lithuania continued to claim the Vilnius region.
In late 1920, the Polish-Soviet War was ending with the Soviets defeated at the Battle of Warsaw and in full retreat. The disputed Vilnius region centered on the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius (Polish Wilno), which had been founded by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas in 1323 and had been the Lithuanian capital ever since. Vilnius had been retaken by the Soviets during their summer 1920 offensive. The Soviets returned the region to the Lithuanians because the latter had allowed Soviet troops to move through Lithuanian territory and engaged Polish forces in the disputed territories (see Soviet-Lithuanian Treaty of 1920, and Polish-Lithuanian War).
This move allowed the Soviets to retain tactical control of the region, deny it to the Poles, and increase the already high tensions between the Poles and Lithuanians, both of whom claimed the disputed territory as their own.
In early October 1920, under international pressure from the Spa and Suwałki Conferences, the Poles and Lithuanians signed a ceasefire in the Sudova region, but, with the issue of Vilnius remaining under Lithuanian control, the issue was unresolved. The Poles rested their claim on then current ethnographic considerations, as approximately 65% of the inhabitants of the city at the time were Poles, while Lithuanians constituted approximately 1-2% of the city's population. Lithuania pointed to Vilnius as its historical capital and denied Polish claims to it as baseless. The Poles did not wish to continue the war as the Polish army was tired, and Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski was still hoping to create a Międzymorze federation, to include a Lithuania friendly to Poland, but wanted to ensure that Vilnius would be part of a Polish sphere of influence. From the Lithuanian point of view, that was highly unlikely, as many Lithuanians saw Polish influence as pernicious and had wanted to be rid of Polish influence from as far back as the marriage of Grand Duke Jogaila to the then 11-year-old Queen Jadwiga of Poland in 1386. In particular, Lithuanian nationalists opposed any further connection to Poland, especially after the Polish invasion occupied Vilnius.
The negotiations on the future of the disputed area, held under the auspice of a Conference of Ambassadors in Brussels and Paris, reached a stalemate, and Piłsudski feared that the Entente might accept the fait accompli that had been created by the Soviets' transfer of territorial control to Lithuania.
Poland and Lithuania were to adhere to a mutually agreed upon ceasefire in Suwałki Region on October 10, but the Poles decided to circumvent the ceasefire by creating a "fait accompli" of their own. Piłsudski concluded that the best course of action would be one that supported the pro-Polish faction in Lithuania, but that could not be traced directly to Poland. However, his plans for a coup d'état in 1919 had been foiled by the premature and unplanned Sejny Uprising, which had led to the destruction of the Polish Military Organization (P.O.W.) intelligence network in Lithuania by the Lithuanian Army and State Security Department.
In October 1920, Polish General Lucjan Żeligowski, a native of the historic lands of Lithuania, was given command of the 1st Lithuanian-Belarusian Infantry Division (comprising mostly Poles from the Polish marches). Żeligowski had been contacted by Piłsudski as early as late September 1920 with suggestions to carry out a "mutiny." They prepared a plan by which Żeligowski and forces under his command were to pretend to desert from the Polish Army and then take control of the city of Vilnius and the Vilnius region. The Polish government would officially deny its involvement, thereby preserving its reputation on the international scene.
Żeligowski, like Piłsudski himself—may have been one of many who were torn between Lithuanian and Polish identities; possibly, in proclaiming a Central Lithuania, he honestly believed that he was creating a Lithuania even if it that was dominated by Polish culture rather than Lithuanian culture.
On October 6, 1920, Żeligowski informed his officers of the plans for mutiny; at that point, no one under his command knew that he was acting with Piłsudski's backing, and some refused to follow him. Support for Żeligowski wavered to such an extent that on October 7, he messaged Piłsudski that he could not carry out the operation due to lack of support among his troops. Eventually, however, most of the officers and men decided to follow him, and he proceeded with the operation.
Żeligowski's forces set out on the morning of October 8 (two days before the Suwałki Agreement ceasefire was to take hold). That day, he declared that he would "liberate Wilno from Lithuanian occupation" and "form a parliament which will decide the fate of the disputed territories."
Żeligowski's forces—numbering some 14,000, centered on his 1st Lithuanian-Belarusian Infantry Division—defeated the Lithuanian 4th Infantry Regiment near the Rūdininkai Forest, and again in a skirmish near Jašiūnai. Polish forces reached the vicinity of Wilno, but were slowed enough to delay their taking the city until the next day. The death toll, as reported by contemporary sources, was low: "a few casualties" on both sides.
The Lithuanian forces in the region were heavily outnumbered: they not only faced Żeligowski's numerically superior regular forces, supported by Polish Army logistics, but also had to garrison Vilnius, whose Polish population was restless. On October 9, the Lithuanian forces were unable to defend Vilnius and evacuated the city, with only token attempts at defending it (the decision to evacuate was made in the afternoon of October 8, and the evacuation took place during the night of October 8–9). When Polish units assaulted the remaining Lithuanian defenses around Vilnius, the city's Polish population supported the Polish troops, with militia units staging an uprising and engaging Lithuanian units still in the city, and civilians welcoming the Polish troops as they entered Vilnius.
Lithuanian government representatives (led by Ignas Jonynas) passed control of the city to resident Entente officials (led by French colonel Constantin Reboul). Żeligowski, however, refused to recognize their authority, and they were forced to leave the city.
On October 12, Żeligowski proclaimed the independence of the area as the Republic of Central Lithuania, with Vilnius as its capital. Most historians agree that the state was dependent on Poland, but they disagree to what extent (Polish historian Jerzy J. Lerski calls it a puppet state).
Meanwhile, a uniformed Polish armed force of 20 airplanes and the 13th Cavalry Regiment under the command of Col. Butkiewicz joined the mutiny. The Polish Army, however, was officially bound by the Suwałki Agreement ceasefire and did not engage the Lithuanian units by the line. On October 20–21 there were further battles between Central and Lithuanian forces near the village of Pikeliškiai. On November 7, Żeligowski's army began to advance upon Giedraičiai, Širvintos and Kėdainiai. Żeligowski's proposals of a cease-fire were ignored by Lithuania. Żeligowski ignored League of Nations's Military Control Commission proposals to withdraw to October 20–21 lines and begin negotiations. On November 17, Soviet Russia offered military aid, which the Lithuanians declined. Polish cavalry broke Lithuanian defense lines and on November 18 reached Kavarskas and continued toward Kaunas. However, on November 19–21, the Lithuanian main forces pushed Żeligowski's main forces back near Giedraičiai and Širvintos. In Polish literature, it is considered a local skirmish of minor importance.
Both sides were now exhausted. With the help of the League of Nations, on November 20 a ceasefire was negotiated, to take effect on November 21, 1920, at 9 o'clock in the morning; until then, both sides agreed to take no offensive actions. The Lithuanian 7th Infantry Regiment broke the agreement, counterattacking at Giedraičiai on the night of November 20–21, just before the ceasefire was to go into effect, persisting even after the ceasefire (until 1400); this offensive gained Giedraičiai for the Lithuanians. The Lithuanian forces stopped after a request from the League of Nations, and a truce was finally signed on November 29.
It was at this time that the close ally of Piłsudski, Michał Pius Römer, a leader of the Krajowcy movement, broke with Pilsudski and made the decision to side with the re-established Lithuanian Republic, even though Piłsudski offered to appoint him Prime Minister of the Republic of Central Lithuania.
In 1922 Central Lithuania's parliament voted for their state's incorporation into Poland. In 1923, soon after the League of Nations had recognized the existing situation and accepted the Polish-Lithuanian border on March 15, Piłsudski on August 24, 1923 would publicly admit that Żeligowski's Mutiny had in fact been a pre-planned operation carried out with his knowledge and support.
Despite Poland's claim to Vilnius, the League of Nations asked Poland to withdraw. Poland declined. In principle, British and French troops could have been asked to enforce the League’s decision. France, however, did not wish to antagonize Poland, a possible ally in a future war against Germany, and Britain was not prepared to act alone. Thus, the Poles were able to keep Vilnius, where a provisional government (Komisja Rządząca Litwy Środkowej, the Central Lithuanian Governing Commission) was formed. Soon parliamentary elections were held and the Wilno Diet (Sejm wileński) voted on February 20, 1922, for incorporation into Poland as the capital of a Wilno Voivodship. The elections were not recognized by the League of Nations.
The League of Nations Conference of Ambassadors accepted the status quo in 1923, but the Wilno region remained in dispute between Poland and Lithuania (the latter still treated Vilnius as its constitutional capital and the capital of the Vilnius region).
The coup resulted in a serious rift between Pilsudski and Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who had played a major role in creating international support for the independence of Poland. According to historian Timothy Snyder, the annexation of Vilnius by Poles pushed Lithuanian politicians from political towards ethnic understanding of the nation and gave arguments to radical politicians in Lithuania and also in Poland.
Lithuania refused to recognize Central Lithuania. Polish-Lithuanian relations began to normalize after League of Nations negotiations in 1927, but it was not until the 1938 ultimatum issued by Poland that Lithuania was forced to establish diplomatic relations with Poland and thus de facto accept its neighbor's borders.
The Polish-Lithuanian conflict, however, left worsened relations between the two countries for decades to come.
Polish 1st Legions Infantry Division (1. Dywizja Piechoty Legionów) was a tactical unit of the Polish Army between the World Wars. Formed on February 20, 1919, partially of veterans of the I Brigade of the Polish Legions, the unit saw extensive action during the Polish-Bolshevik War and World War II. Regarded by the soldiers of the Wehrmacht as the Iron Division, it distinguished itself in the Invasion of Poland.
As one of the most experienced and best equipped Polish divisions, it fought in many of the most notable battles of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919 and 1920. Among them was the operation of liberation of Wilno and Battle of Dyneburg in Daugavpils, Latvia (as part of Rydz-Śmigły's Third Army and under his personal command, although the actual commanding officer was Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski). During the Kiev Offensive of spring of 1920, the division formed the core of Rydz-Śmigły Operational Group and took part in the battle of Zhytomyr (April 25), capturing the city of Kiev itself (May 7). After the Polish withdrawal, the unit took part in heavy retreat battles and shielded the retreat of the rest of the Polish forces. After several clashes with the 1st Cavalry Army, the division broke off and reached the area of the Wieprz River, from where it started the counter-offensive during the Battle of Warsaw (see Battle of Dęblin and Mińsk Mazowiecki). On the second day of the Polish offensive, August 16, the division managed to outflank the Bolshevik Mozyr Group by a forced march of over 56 kilometres. After that the division, commanded by Stefan Dąb-Biernacki, was attached to the Second Army and took part in the second biggest battle of the war, the Battle of the Niemen River. During the battle, the unit formed core of the Wilno Group and took part in a successful outflanking manoeuvre of the Bolshevik forces centered on the city of Grodno.
After that the division was moved to the rear and took part in shielding the border with Lithuania during Lucjan Żeligowski's forming of the Central Lithuanian Republic (see Żeligowski's Mutiny). After the war, the division was partially demobilized and stationed in Wilno as an en cadre divisional core. In the Second Polish Republic, the division consisted of three infantry regiments (1st, 5th and 6th, all garrisoned in Wilno), and other units, such as light and heavy artillery regiments, a company of cyclists, military engineers and a mounted squadron.
Before the outbreak of World War II, the division, commanded by General Wincenty Kowalski, was partially mobilized in March 1939. As a part of the Wyszków Operational Group it was to shield the northern approaches of Warsaw from the German assault from East Prussia. After the outbreak of the Polish Defensive War, the division became fully mobilized and on September 4, 1939, it made contact with enemy troops in the forests around Długosiodło. On September 7 it took part in heavy fighting near Pułtusk, but was outnumbered 3 to 1 and ordered to retreat southwards to defend the Bug River line between Kamieńczyk and Wyszków. Reinforced by 98th Heavy Artillery Detachment and 61st Light Artillery Detachment, the division successfully repelled a German assault near Brańszczyk, after which it began delaying actions while retreating towards Kałuszyn. On September 11 that town was seized by German units and had to be retaken by force during heavy street fighting in the dark.
From there, General Wincenty Kowalski planned a counter-assault of his division. In what became known as the Battle of Kałuszyn, on September 13, the division started an all-out assault on German positions in nearby villages. After heavy fighting the division broke through the third line of German defences in the villages of Lipiny, Debowiec, Wola Wodyńska and Oleśnica. It finally broke through the German lines at Jagodno, but also suffered heavy casualties and lost most of its artillery and logistical support. Dispersed units crossed the German lines and joined several different Polish units, some of them formed ad hoc. The biggest group was rallied by the division commander, but now numbered only three infantry companies out of an original three regiments. These troops broke through the forests near Radzyń Podlaski to reach the units of Gen. Stefan Dąb-Biernacki and on September 22 took part in the successful Battle of Falków against parts of the German 8th Infantry Division. Shortly afterwards the division effectively ceased to exist.Ignas Jonynas
Ignas Jonynas (January 24, 1884 – July 14, 1954) was a Lithuanian diplomat, historian, and university professor. As a diplomat he is known for negotiations with the Second Polish Republic and League of Nations regarding Vilnius Region. As a historian he specialized in the history of Lithuania in the 13–16th centuries and lectured at the University of Lithuania and Vilnius University from 1924 until his death. He published little, but had a formative influence on subsequent generations of historians.Jakub Wygodzki
Jakub Wygodzki (1856–1941; Lithuanian: Jokūbas Vygodskis, Hebrew: יעקב ויגודסקי) was a Polish–Lithuanian Jewish politician, Zionist activist and a medical doctor. He was one of the most prominent Jewish activists in Vilnius (Vilna, Wilno).
Wygodzki was born to a family of Hasidic Jews. His family moved to Vilnius (Vilna, Wilno) in 1860 where his father was a merchant, supplying the local garrison of the Imperial Russian Army with clothes. He was the eldest of seven brothers and received traditional Jewish education at a cheder. He studied at Marijampolė Gymnasium and Imperial Military Medical Academy in Saint Petersburg. He was arrested for anti-Tsarist activities and involvement with a revolutionary group. Later he studied medicine in Vienna, Berlin, Paris. In 1884, he returned to Vilnius and established his practice as gynecologist and pediatrician. He published medical articles in Russian and German journals.He joined Jewish cultural and political life. He was one of the first Zionist activist in Vilnius and chaired their organization. In 1905, he was one of the founding members of the Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets) in Vilnius Region. In 1908, he established and chaired the Union of Jewish Doctors. During World War I, he was a member of a Jewish relief committee and established daily Yiddish newspaper Flugblat. For anti-German protests, he was arrested by the German police in March 1917 and imprisoned in the Czersk POW camp until April 1918.He supported Lithuanian independence, and together with Nachmanas Rachmilevičius and Simon Yakovlevich Rosenbaum was co-opted to the Council of Lithuania on December 11, 1918. The same day he became the first Lithuanian Minister for Jewish Affairs. He held the post briefly as he did not evacuate Vilnius with the rest of the government at the start of the Lithuanian–Soviet War. He was briefly imprisoned by the Bolsheviks.In 1919, when Poland captured Vilnius, Wygodzki was chairman of the Jewish community in the city. He opposed the Żeligowski's Mutiny and the Republic of Central Lithuania and urged people to boycott the elections in 1922. Nevertheless, he accepted the situation and became a member of the Bloc of National Minorities and was elected to the Polish parliament (Sejm) in 1922 and 1928. In the Sejm, Wygodzki worked to improve Jewish education in Hebrew and Yidish languages. He was also a member of the Vilnius Council from 1919 to 1929.Wygodzki contributed to the press, publishing his articles in Tsayt, Vilner Tog, Haynt, Nasz Przegląd, and others. He published three books of his memoirs: In shturm (In the Storm; 1921) on the German occupation during World War I; In gehenom (In Hell; 1927) on his imprisonment by the Germans; and In Sambatyon (1931) on his activities in the Sejm.After the invasion of Poland in September 1940, Wygodzki organized relief for the Jewish refugees. In June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied the city. Wygodzki joined the pre-ghetto Judenrat on July 24. He was arrested at the end of August and died in the Lukiškės Prison.Jonas Basanavičius
Jonas Basanavičius (pronunciation , Polish: Jan Basanowicz; 23 November 1851 – 16 February 1927) was an activist and proponent of the Lithuanian National Revival. He participated in every major event leading to the independent Lithuanian state and is often given the informal honorific title of the "Patriarch of the Nation" (Lithuanian: tautos patriarchas) for his contributions.
Born to a family of farmers, Basanavičius was to become a priest but instead chose to study medicine at the Moscow Medical Academy. He worked as a doctor from 1880 to 1905 in the Principality of Bulgaria. Despite the long distance, he dedicated substantial effort to the Lithuanian cultural work. He founded the first Lithuanian-language newspaper Aušra (1883), contributed articles on Lithuania to the press, collected samples of Lithuanian folklore (songs, fairy-tales, legends, riddles, etc.) and published them. He was also involved with local Bulgarian politics. He returned to Lithuania in 1905 and immediately joined Lithuanian cultural life. He became chairman of the organizing committee of the 1905 Great Seimas of Vilnius. In 1907, he founded the Lithuanian Scientific Society, a learned society dedicated to Lithuanian history, ethnography, linguistics. Basanavičius became chairman of the society and dedicated the rest of his life to its affairs. In 1917, he was elected by the Vilnius Conference to the Council of Lithuania. He chaired the council's session that adopted the Act of Independence of Lithuania on 16 February 1918 and was the first to sign it. In the aftermath of World War I, Vilnius changed hands and regimes several times, but Basanavičius refused to leave safeguarding city's museums, libraries, archives and continuing his lifelong research of Lithuanian cultural matters. After Żeligowski's Mutiny in October 1920, Vilnius became part of Poland and Lithuanian activities were censored and limited. Basanavičius' continued presence in the city became a symbol of Lithuanian claims to the bitterly contested Vilnius Region. When he died in 1927, the Lithuanian government declared a five-day mourning period.Juozas Purickis
Juozas Purickis (sometimes Juozas Puryckis; often used pen name Vygandas; 1883–1934) was a prominent diplomat and journalist in interwar Lithuania and served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from June 1920 to December 1921.
Purickis studied at the Kaunas Priest Seminary and Saint Petersburg Roman Catholic Theological Academy. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest, but never practiced or performed pastoral work. He married in 1926 and was officially defrocked in 1929. He continued his studies at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and in 1916 earned his doctorate of theology with a thesis on the Reformation in Lithuania. During World War I, he joined the efforts to establish independent Lithuania – he worked at the Lithuanian Information Bureau established by Juozas Gabrys, raised money for the Lithuanian prisoners of war and war refugees, attended the Lithuanian conferences in Switzerland. Together with Konstantinas Olšauskas, Purickis attended Vilnius Conference and presented on the German proposal to establish Kingdom of Lithuania. In 1918–1920, Purickis worked as Lithuanian diplomatic representative in Berlin, first as a deputy of Jurgis Šaulys, and played a key role in the election of Wilhelm Karl, Duke of Urach, as King Mindaugas II of Lithuania, and was co-opted by the Council of Lithuania. Purickis as a delegate of the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party was elected to the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania which convened in May 1920. Next month, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government of Prime Minister Kazys Grinius. He had to deal with the issue that shaped the entire interwar foreign policy of Lithuania – the loss of Vilnius Region to the Second Polish Republic in the Żeligowski's Mutiny in October 1920 and the subsequent ineffectual mediation efforts of the League of Nations. During his tenure, Lithuania gained international recognition and became a full member of the League of Nations.
In December 1921, Purickis resigned due to a corruption scandal, the so-called saccharin case. Lithuanian counterintelligence seized three train cars worth of items heading to the Soviet Union under a diplomatic exemption. Two cars contained donated food (sugar and flour) for the victims of the Russian famine of 1921–22, but the third contained various black market items, including almost 10 tonnes (22,000 lb) of saccharin, to be sold for profit. Purickis and three other men were investigated, put on trial, and acquitted in February 1925. While the case was ongoing, Purickis lived mostly in Germany helping the Lithuanian government with the Klaipėda Revolt and trade negotiations with Germany and Sweden. He also started contributing articles, mostly on economic developments and current political affairs, to the Lithuanian press. After the acquittal, he returned to Lithuania and rejoined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as director of the Economic Department and later Law–Administrative Department, but resigned when his party withdrew from the government in May 1927. Purickis then devoted his life to journalism and other public work. He was editor of the official daily Lietuva (1925–1930) and magazine on economy Tautos ūkis (since 1930) and author of numerous articles in Lietuvos aidas, Trimitas, Vairas, Mūsų Vilnius. He was chairman of the Lithuanian Journalists' Union from its establishment in 1929 to his death. He was an active member of the Lithuanian Riflemen's Union and a board member of the League for the Liberation of Vilnius as well as of many different societies, often working on international integration and collaboration.Lithuanian Ministry for Belarusian Affairs
The Ministry for Belarusian Affairs was a short-lived interwar Lithuanian ministry. It was established in December 1918 to gain support of Belarusians in international negotiations over the borders of the newly independent Lithuania. However, the Lithuanian government did not support Belarusian autonomy and the ministry effectively competed with the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic. Activities of the ministry were limited to publication of several books and two periodicals and other cultural work. The ministry was officially closed in January 1924.Lithuanian Wars of Independence
The Lithuanian Wars of Independence, also known as the Freedom Struggles (Lithuanian: Laisvės kovos), refer to three wars Lithuania fought defending its independence at the end of World War I: with Bolshevik forces (December 1918 – August 1919), Bermontians (June 1919 – December 1919), and Poland (August 1920 – November 1920). The wars delayed international recognition of independent Lithuania and the formation of civil institutions.Lucjan Żeligowski
Lucjan Żeligowski (Polish pronunciation: [ˈlut͡sjan ʐɛliˈɡɔfskʲi]; 1865–1947) was a Polish general, politician, military commander and veteran of World War I, the Polish-Soviet War and World War II. He is mostly remembered for his role in Żeligowski's Mutiny and as head of a short-lived Republic of Central Lithuania.Maišiagala
Maišiagala (Polish: Mejszagoła) is a historic town in Vilnius district municipality, Lithuania. It is located about 25 km (16 mi) northwest of Vilnius near the Vilnius–Panevėžys highway. According to the 2011 census, it had population of 1,636.Nikodem Sulik
Nikodem Sulik-Sarnowski, who used the noms de guerre "Jodko", "Jod", "Karol", and "Sarnowski" (August 15, 1893 - January 14, 1954), was an officer of the Russian Imperial Army, and Generał brygady of the Polish Army.Polish–Lithuanian War
The Polish–Lithuanian War was an armed conflict between newly independent Lithuania and Poland in the aftermath of World War I. The conflict primarily concerned territorial control of the Vilnius Region, including Vilnius, and the Suwałki Region, including the towns of Suwałki, Augustów, and Sejny. The conflict was largely shaped by the progress in the Polish–Soviet War and international efforts to mediate at the Conference of Ambassadors and later the League of Nations. There are major differences in Polish and Lithuanian historiography regarding treatment of the war. According to Lithuanian historians, the war was part of the Lithuanian Wars of Independence and spanned from spring 1919 to November 1920. According to Poland, the war included only fighting over the Suwałki Region in September–October 1920 and was part of the Polish–Soviet War.
In April 1919, Poland captured Vilnius and came in contact with the Lithuanian Army fighting in the Lithuanian–Soviet War. Faced with a common enemy, the Polish–Lithuanian relations were not immediately hostile. Poland hoped to persuade Lithuania to join some kind of Polish–Lithuanian union (see the Międzymorze federation), which Lithuania saw as loss of independence to Polish federalism. As bilateral relations worsened, the Entente drew two demarcation lines in hopes to stall further open hostilities. The lines did not please anyone and were ignored. When a Polish coup against the Lithuanian government failed in August 1919, the front stabilized until summer 1920.
In July 1920, Poland was losing the Polish–Soviet War and was in full retreat. The Lithuanians followed retreating Polish troops to secure the territory, assigned to Lithuania by the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty. The Soviets were the first to enter Vilnius. However, once Poland achieved a major victory in the Battle of Warsaw and forced the Soviets to retreat in August 1920, the Lithuanians were forced to defend their newly adjusted borders, which the Polish government did not recognize as valid. Fighting broke out in the Suwałki Region. During the Battle of the Niemen River, Poland attacked Lithuania on a wide front. The battle drastically altered the military situation and left Vilnius open to an attack. Under pressure from the League of Nations, Poland signed the Suwałki Agreement on October 7, 1920. The agreement drew a new demarcation line, which was incomplete and did not provide protection to Vilnius.
On October 8, 1920, Polish general Lucjan Żeligowski staged a mutiny among Polish troops and marched on Vilnius to "defend the right of self-determination of local Poles." The mutiny was planned and authorized by Polish chief of state Józef Piłsudski. Żeligowski's forces captured Vilnius, but further advances were stopped by the Lithuanian troops. Żeligowski proclaimed creation of the Republic of Central Lithuania with capital in Vilnius. On November 29, a ceasefire was signed. The prolonged mediation by the League of Nations did not change the situation and status quo was accepted in 1923. The Republic of Central Lithuania was incorporated into Poland as the Wilno Voivodeship in 1922. Lithuania did not recognize these developments and continued to claim Vilnius as its constitutional capital. There were no diplomatic relations between Poland and Lithuania until the Polish ultimatum of 1938.Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact
Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact (Lithuanian: Lietuvos–TSRS nepuolimo sutartis) was a non-aggression pact, signed between the Soviet Union and Lithuania on September 28, 1926. The pact confirmed all basic provisions of the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty of 1920. The Soviet Union continued to recognize Vilnius and Vilnius Region to Lithuania, despite the fact that the territories were under Polish control since the Żeligowski's Mutiny in 1920. It also recognized Lithuania's interests in the Klaipėda Region. In exchange Lithuania agreed not to join any alliances directed against the Soviet Union, which meant international isolation at the time when Soviet Union was not a member of the League of Nations. Ratifications were exchanged in Kaunas on November 9, 1926, and the pact became effective on the same day. The pact was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on March 4, 1927.The pact was initiated by Lithuanians who sought a new direction in the foreign policy after the Locarno Treaties. The negotiations started on December 25, 1925 when People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs Georgy Chicherin stopped in Kaunas on his way to Moscow. The negotiations were difficult as Latvia and Estonia disapproved the pact because it prevented creation of the Baltic Entente, Poland claimed that the agreement violated the Peace of Riga, and Germany was wary over strengthening Lithuanian claims to the Klaipėda Region.The pact was controversial in Lithuania and its ratification by the Third Seimas on November 5, 1926 caused student protests against "Bolshevization" of Lithuania. As one of the protests was dispersed by force, it is cited as one of the reasons for the military coup in December 1926. However, the diplomats believed that keeping the dispute over Vilnius Region relevant in the European politics was worth the cost. The original pact was set to expire in five years, but on May 6, 1931, it was extended for another five years. On April 4, 1934, it was further extended to December 31, 1944. A separate convention was signed to define "aggression" on July 5, 1933. The pact was broken when on June 15, 1940, the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania.Stasys Lozoraitis
See Stasys Lozoraitis (junior) for an article about a son of Stasys Lozoraitis.Stasys Lozoraitis (September 5, 1898 in Kaunas – December 24, 1983 in Rome) was a prominent Lithuanian diplomat. He served as the Foreign Minister of Lithuania from 1934 until 1938. After Lithuania lost its independence, Lozoraitis headed the Lithuanian diplomatic service from 1940 to his death in 1983. Most western countries did not recognize Soviet occupation and continued to recognize legations and envoys of independent Lithuania.
Lozoraitis was a son of Motiejus Lozoraitis, a lawyer, activist of the Lithuanian National Revival, and contributor to Varpas. In 1923 he was assigned to the Lithuanian legation in Berlin. While in Germany, Lozoraitis studied international law at the University of Berlin. In 1929, he was transferred to Rome, where he became chargé d'affaires in 1931. In 1932 he returned to Lithuania and worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, becoming the Minister in June 1934. He worked to establish the Baltic Entente and to normalize relations with Poland, with which there were no diplomatic relations since the Żeligowski's Mutiny in 1920. Lozoraitis resigned after Poland presented an ultimatum in 1938 to resume the diplomatic relations.In February 1939, Lozoraitis was appointed as minister plenipotentiary to Italy. After the Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940, Lozoraitis became the leader of all Lithuanian diplomatic service that remained abroad. As the highest de jure official of independent Lithuania, he represented Lithuania, advocated for non-recognition of the Soviet occupation, and popularized the Lithuanian cause. Lozoraitis continued to live in Rome and head the diplomatic service until his death on December 24, 1983. Upon his death, he was succeeded by Stasys Bačkis.Suwałki Agreement
The Suwałki Agreement, Treaty of Suvalkai, or Suwalki Treaty (Polish: Umowa suwalska, Lithuanian: Suvalkų sutartis) was an agreement signed in the town of Suwałki between Poland and Lithuania on October 7, 1920. It was registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on January 19, 1922. Both countries had re-established their independence in the aftermath of World War I and did not have well-defined borders. They waged the Polish–Lithuanian War over territorial disputes in the Suwałki and Vilnius Regions. At the end of September 1920, Polish forces defeated the Soviets at the Battle of the Niemen River, thus militarily securing the Suwałki Region and opening the possibility of an assault on the city of Vilnius (Wilno). Polish Chief of State, Józef Piłsudski, had planned to take over the city since mid-September in a false flag operation known as Żeligowski's Mutiny.
Under pressure from the League of Nations, Poland agreed to negotiate, hoping to buy time and divert attention from the upcoming Żeligowski's Mutiny. The Lithuanians sought to achieve as much protection for Vilnius as possible. The agreement resulted in a ceasefire and established a demarcation line running through the disputed Suwałki Region up to the Bastuny railway station. The line was incomplete and did not provide adequate protection to Vilnius. Neither Vilnius or the surrounding region was explicitly addressed in the agreement.
Shortly after the agreement was signed, the clauses calling for territorial negotiation and an end to military actions were unilaterally broken by Poland. Polish general Lucjan Żeligowski, acting under secret orders from Piłsudski, pretended to disobey stand-down orders from the Polish military command and marched on Vilnius. The city was occupied on October 9. The Suwałki Agreement was to take effect at noon on October 10. Żeligowski established the Republic of Central Lithuania which, despite intense protests by Lithuania, was incorporated into the Second Polish Republic in 1923. The Vilnius Region remained under Polish administration until 1939.Temporary capital of Lithuania
The temporary capital of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Laikinoji sostinė) was the official designation of the city of Kaunas in Lithuania during the interwar period. It was in contrast to the declared capital in Vilnius, which was part of Poland from 1920 until 1939. Currently, the term temporary capital, despite having lost its meaning, is still frequently used as a nickname for Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania.Tverečius
Tverečius (Polish: Twerecz) is a town in Ignalina district municipality, in Utena County, eastern Lithuania. According to the 2011 census, the town has a population of 231 people.Union for the Liberation of Vilnius
The Union for the Liberation of Vilnius (Lithuanian: Vilniaus vadavimo sąjunga or Vilniui vaduoti sąjunga) was an organization established in 1925 to support Lithuanian territorial claims to Vilnius Region then controlled by the Second Polish Republic. With 27,000 members and 600,000 supporters in 1937, it was one of the most popular organizations in interwar Lithuania. Its main goal was to mobilize the entire Lithuanian nation for cultural and educational work. It established an unofficial but highly popular national mourning day on 9 October (the anniversary of the Żeligowski's Mutiny of 1920). It organized numerous events, such as lectures and concerts, to promote the idea of Vilnius (Wilno, Vilna) as an integral part of the Lithuanian national identity – the historical capital of Lithuania that was unjustly occupied by Poland, though the city itself had a minuscule Lithuanian population. It also developed a coherent narrative of suffering brothers Lithuanians under the oppressive Polish regime, giving Lithuanians a common enemy. The union promoted emotional, almost cult-like, national attachment to Vilnius. The union was disestablished after the Polish ultimatum in March 1938.Vilna Ghetto
The Vilna Ghetto was a World War II Jewish ghetto established and operated by Nazi Germany in the city of Vilnius in the territory of Nazi-administered Reichskommissariat Ostland. During the approximately two years of its existence, starvation, disease, street executions, maltreatment, and deportations to concentrations and extermination camps reduced the ghetto's population from an estimated 40,000 to zero. Only several hundred people managed to survive, mostly by hiding in the forests surrounding the city, joining Soviet partisans, or sheltering with sympathetic locals.Vilnius Region
Vilnius Region (Lithuanian: Vilniaus kraštas, Polish: Wileńszczyzna, Belarusian: Віленшчына, also formerly known in English: as Wilno Region or Vilna Region) is the territory in the present-day Lithuania and Belarus that was originally inhabited by ethnic Baltic tribes and was a part of Lithuania proper, but came under East Slavic and Polish cultural influences over time.
The territory included Vilnius, the historical capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Lithuania, after declaring independence from the Russian Empire, claimed the Vilnius Region based on this historical legacy. Poland argued for the right of self-determination of the local Poles. As a result, throughout the interwar period the control over the area was disputed between Poland and Lithuania. The Soviet Union recognized it as part of Lithuania in the Soviet-Lithuanian Treaty of 1920, but in 1920 it was seized by Poland and became part of short lived puppet state of Central Lithuania, and was subsequently incorporated into the Second Polish Republic.
Direct military conflicts (Polish-Lithuanian War and Żeligowski's Mutiny) were followed up by fruitless negotiations in the League of Nations. After the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, as part of the Soviet fulfillment of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the entire region came under Soviet control. About one fifth of the region, including Vilnius, was ceded to Lithuania by the Soviet Union on October 10, 1939 in exchange for Soviet military bases within the territory of Lithuania. The conflict over Vilnius Region was settled after World War II when both Poland and Lithuania came under Soviet and Communist domination and some Poles were repatriated to Poland. Since then, the region became part of the Lithuanian SSR, and since 1990 of modern-day independent Lithuania.