The Polish–Soviet War[N 1] (14 February 1919 – 18 March 1921) was fought by the Second Polish Republic, Ukrainian People's Republic and the proto-Soviet Union (Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine) over a region comparable to today's westernmost Ukraine and parts of modern Belarus.
Poland's Chief of State, Józef Piłsudski, felt the time was right to expand Polish borders as far east as feasible, to be followed by a Polish-led Intermarium federation of Central and Eastern European states, as a bulwark against the re-emergence of German and Russian imperialism. Vladimir Lenin saw Poland as the bridge the Red Army had to cross to assist other Communist movements and bring about more European revolutions. By 1919, Polish forces had taken control of much of Western Ukraine, emerging victorious from the Polish–Ukrainian War. The West Ukrainian People's Republic, led by Yevhen Petrushevych, had tried to create a Ukrainian state on territories to which both Poles and Ukrainians laid claim. In the Russian part of Ukraine Symon Petliura tried to defend and strengthen the Ukrainian People's Republic but as the Bolsheviks began to win the Russian Civil War, they started to advance westward towards the disputed Ukrainian territories, causing Petliura's forces to retreat to Podolia. By the end of 1919, a clear front had formed as Petliura decided to ally with Piłsudski. Border skirmishes escalated following Piłsudski's Kiev Offensive in April 1920.
The Polish offensive was met by a successful Red Army counter-attack. The Soviet operation pushed the Polish forces back westward all the way to the Polish capital, Warsaw, while the Directorate of Ukraine fled to Western Europe. Western fears of Soviet troops arriving at the German frontiers increased the interest of Western powers in the war. In mid-summer, the fall of Warsaw seemed certain but in mid-August, the tide had turned again, as the Polish forces achieved an unexpected and decisive victory at the Battle of Warsaw. In the wake of the Polish advance eastward, the Soviets sued for peace and the war ended with a cease-fire in October 1920.
The Peace of Riga was signed on 18 March 1921, dividing the disputed territories between Poland and Soviet Russia. The war largely determined the Soviet–Polish border for the Interbellum. Poland gained a territory of around 200 kilometers east of its former border, the Curzon Line, which had been defined by an international commission after World War I. Much of the territory allocated to Poland in the Treaty of Riga became part of the Soviet Union after World War II, when the common border was re-defined by the Allied Powers in close accordance with the Curzon Line.
|Part of the Aftermath of World War I|
PolrewkomLogistical support: Lithuania
(After 1920) Latvia
(Battle of Daugavpils)
Belarusian People's Republic
|Commanders and leaders|
(Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs)
(1st Cavalry Army)
Józef Piłsudski (Commander-in-Chief)|
|From ~50,000 in early 1919 to almost 800,000 in summer 1920||From ~50,000 in early 1919 to ~738,000 in August 1920|
|Casualties and losses|
About 47,000 killed |
51,351 taken prisoner
The war is known by several names. "Polish–Soviet War" is the most common but other names include "Russo–Polish War [or Polish–Russian War] of 1919–1921"[N 2] (to distinguish it from earlier Polish–Russian wars) and "Polish–Bolshevik War". This second term (or just "Bolshevik War" (Polish: Wojna bolszewicka)) is most common in Polish sources. In some Polish sources it is also referred as the "War of 1920" (Polish: Wojna 1920 roku).[N 3]
There is disagreement over the dates of the war. The Encyclopædia Britannica begins its article with the date range 1919–1920 but then states, "Although there had been hostilities between the two countries during 1919, the conflict began when the Polish head of state Józef Pilsudski formed an alliance with the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura (21 April 1920) and their combined forces began to overrun Ukraine, occupying Kiev on 7 May."[N 2] The Polish encyclopaedia Internetowa encyklopedia PWN, as well as Western historians such as Norman Davies, consider 1919 the starting year of the war.
The ending date is given as either 1920 or 1921; this confusion stems from the fact that while the cease-fire was put in force in the autumn of 1920, the official treaty ending the war was signed months later, in March 1921. While the events of 1919 can be described as a border conflict, and only in early 1920 did both sides engage in all-out war, the conflicts that took place in 1920 were an inevitable escalation of fighting that began in earnest a year earlier. In the end, the events of 1920 were a logical, though unforeseen, consequence of the 1919 prelude.
The war's main territories of contention lie in present-day Ukraine and Belarus; until the middle of the 14th century they formed part of the medieval state of Kievan Rus'. After a period of internecine wars and the Mongolian invasion of 1240, these lands became objects of expansion for the Kingdom of Poland and for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the first half of the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Kiev and land between the Dnieper, Pripyat, and Daugava (Western Dvina) rivers became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and in 1352 Poland and Lithuania divided the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia between themselves. In 1569, in accordance with the terms of the Union of Lublin between Poland and Lithuania, some of the Ukrainian lands passed to the Polish Crown. Between 1772 and 1795, much of the Eastern Slavic territories became part of the Russian Empire in the course of the Partitions of Poland. After the Congress of Vienna of 1814–1815, much of the territory of the Duchy of Warsaw (Poland) transferred into Russian control. After young Poles refused to be conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army during the uprising in Poland in 1863, Tsar Alexander II stripped Poland of its separate constitution, forced Russian to be the only language spoken, took away vast tracts of land from Poles, and incorporated Poland directly into Russia by dividing it into ten provinces, each with an appointed Russian military governor and all under complete control of the Russian Governor-General at Warsaw.
As World War I ended (1918), the map of Central and Eastern Europe changed drastically. Germany's defeat rendered Berlin's plans for the creation of Eastern European puppet states (Mitteleuropa), including one in Poland, obsolete. The Russian Empire collapsed, resulting in the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War of 1917–1922. Several small nations of the region saw a chance for real independence and seized the opportunity to gain it; Soviet Russia viewed its lost territories as rebellious provinces, vital for its security, but did not have the resources to react swiftly. While the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 had not made a definitive ruling in regard to Poland's eastern border, it issued a provisional boundary in December 1919 (the Curzon line) as an attempt to define the territories that had an "indisputably Polish ethnic majority"; the conference participants did not feel competent to make a certain judgment on the competing claims.
With the success of the Greater Poland Uprising (1918–1919), Poland had re-established its statehood for the first time since the 1795 partition. Forming the Second Polish Republic, it proceeded to carve out its borders from the territories of its former partitioners. Many of these territories had long been the object of conflict between Russia and Poland.
Poland was not alone in its new-found opportunities and troubles. With the collapse of Russian and German occupying authorities, virtually all of Poland's newly independent neighbours began fighting over borders: Romania fought with Hungary over Transylvania, Yugoslavia with Italy over Rijeka, Poland with Czechoslovakia over Cieszyn Silesia, with Germany over Poznań and with Ukrainians over Eastern Galicia. Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians fought against each other and against the Russians, who were just as divided. Spreading Communist influences resulted in Communist revolutions in Munich (April–May 1919), in Berlin (January 1919), in Budapest (March–August 1919) and in Prešov in Slovakia (June–July 1919). Winston Churchill commented sarcastically: "The war of giants has ended, the wars of the pygmies begin." All of these engagements–with the sole exception of the Polish–Soviet war–would prove short-lived.
The Polish–Soviet war likely happened more by accident than design, as it seems unlikely that anyone in Soviet Russia or in the new Second Republic of Poland would have deliberately planned a major foreign war. Poland, its territory a major battle-ground during World War I, lacked political stability; it had won the difficult conflict with the West Ukrainian National Republic by July 1919 but had already become embroiled in new conflicts with Germany (the Silesian Uprisings of 1919 to 1921) and with Czechoslovakia (January 1919). Revolutionary Russia, meanwhile, focused on thwarting counter-revolution and the intervention by the Allied powers (1918 to 1925). While the first clashes between Polish and Soviet forces occurred in February 1919, it would take almost a year before both sides realised that they had become engaged in a full-scale war.
As early as late 1919 the leader of Russia's new Bolshevik Government, Vladimir Lenin, inspired by the Red Army's civil-war victories over White Russian anti-Communist forces and their Western allies, began to see the future of the revolution with greater optimism. The Bolsheviks proclaimed the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, and agitated for a worldwide Communist community. They had an avowed intent to link the revolution in Russia with an expected revolution in Germany and to assist other Communist movements in Western Europe; Poland was the geographical bridge that the Red Army would have to cross to provide direct physical support in the West. Lenin aimed to regain control of the territories abandoned by Russia in the Brest-Litovsk Treaty of March 1918, to infiltrate the borderlands, to set up Soviet governments there as well as in Poland, and to reach Germany – where he expected a Socialist revolution to break out. He believed that Soviet Russia could not survive without the support of a socialist Germany. By the end of the summer of 1919 the Soviets had taken over most of Ukraine, driving the Ukrainian Directorate from Kiev. In February 1919 they also set up a Lithuanian–Belorussian Republic (Litbel). This government was very unpopular due to terror and the collection of food and goods for the army.
Officially, however, the Soviet Government denied charges of trying to invade Europe.
As Polish-Soviet fighting progressed, particularly around the time Poland's Kiev Offensive had been repelled in June 1920, the Soviet policy-makers, including Lenin, increasingly saw the war as a real opportunity to spread the revolution westwards. Historian Richard Pipes noted that before the Kiev Offensive, the Soviets had prepared for their own strike against Poland.
Before the start of the Polish–Soviet War, Polish politics were strongly influenced by Chief of State (naczelnik państwa) Józef Piłsudski. Piłsudski wanted to break up the Russian Empire and to set up a Polish-led "Międzymorze Federation" of independent states: Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and other Central and East European countries emerging out of crumbling empires after the First World War. He hoped that this new union would become a counter-weight to any potential imperialist intentions on the part of Russia or of Germany. Piłsudski argued "There can be no independent Poland without an independent Ukraine", but he may have been more interested in Ukraine being split from Russia than in Ukrainians' welfare. He did not hesitate to use military force to expand the Polish borders to Galicia and Volhynia, crushing a Ukrainian attempt at self-determination in the disputed territories east of the Southern Bug River, which contained a significant Polish minority, who made up the majority of the population in cities like Lwów, in contrast to the Ukrainian majority in the countryside. Speaking of Poland's future frontiers, Piłsudski said: "All that we can gain in the west depends on the Entente—on the extent to which it may wish to squeeze Germany," while in the east, "There are doors that open and close, and it depends on who forces them open and how far." In the chaos to the east the Polish forces set out to expand there as much as feasible. On the other hand, Poland had no intention of joining the Western intervention in the Russian Civil War or of conquering Russia itself.
Piłsudski also said:
Closed within the boundaries of the 16th century, cut off from the Black Sea and Baltic Sea, deprived of land and mineral wealth of the South and South-east, Russia could easily move into the status of second-grade power. Poland as the largest and strongest of new states, could easily establish a sphere of influence stretching from Finland to the Caucasus.
Before the Polish–Soviet war, Jan Kowalewski, a polyglot and amateur cryptologist, managed to break the codes and ciphers of the army of the West Ukrainian People's Republic and of General Anton Denikin's White Russian forces during his service in the Polish–Ukrainian War. As a result, in July 1919 he was transferred to Warsaw, where he became chief of the Polish General Staff's radio-intelligence department. By early September he had gathered a group of mathematicians from Warsaw University and Lwów University (most notably, founders of the Polish School of Mathematics—Stanisław Leśniewski, Stefan Mazurkiewicz and Wacław Sierpiński), who succeeded in breaking Soviet Russian ciphers as well. Decoded information presented to Piłsudski showed that Soviet peace proposals with Poland in 1919 were false and that in reality the Soviets had prepared for a new offensive against Poland and had concentrated military forces in Barysaw near the Polish border. Piłsudski decided to ignore the Soviet proposals, to sign an alliance with Symon Petliura of the Ukrainian People's Republic, and to prepare the Kiev Offensive. During the war, Polish decryption of Red Army radio messages made it possible to use small Polish military forces efficiently against the Soviet Russian forces and to win many individual battles, most importantly the 1920 Battle of Warsaw.
The first serious armed conflict of the war took place around 14 February – 16 February, near the towns of Manevychi and Biaroza in Belarus. By late February the Soviet westward advance had come to a halt. Both Polish and Soviet forces had also been engaging the Ukrainian forces, and active fighting was going on in the territories of the Baltic countries (cf. Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Wars of Independence).
In early March 1919, Polish units started an offensive, crossing the Neman River, taking Pinsk, and reaching the outskirts of Lida. Both the Soviet and Polish advances began around the same time in April (Polish forces started a major offensive on 16 April), resulting in increasing numbers of troops arriving in the area. That month the Red Army had captured Grodno, but was soon pushed out by a Polish counter-offensive. Unable to accomplish its objectives and facing strengthening offensives from the White forces, the Red Army withdrew from its positions and reorganised. Soon the Polish–Soviet War would begin in earnest. Polish forces continued a steady eastern advance. They took Lida on 17 April and Nowogródek on 18 April, and recaptured Vilnius on 19 April, driving the Litbel Government from their proclaimed capital. On 8 August, Polish forces took Minsk and on 28 August they deployed tanks for the first time. After heavy fighting, the town of Babruysk near the Berezina River was captured. By 2 October, Polish forces reached the Daugava river and secured the region from Desna to Daugavpils (Dyneburg).
Polish success continued until early 1920. Sporadic battles erupted between Polish forces and the Red Army, but the latter was pre-occupied with the White counter-revolutionary forces and was steadily retreating on the entire western frontline, from Latvia in the north to Ukraine in the south. In early summer 1919, the White movement had gained the initiative, and its forces under the command of Anton Denikin were marching on Moscow. Piłsudski was aware that the Soviets were not friends of independent Poland, and considered war with Soviet Russia inevitable. He viewed their westward advance as a major issue, but also thought that he could get a better deal for Poland from the Bolsheviks than their Russian civil war contenders, as the White Russians – representatives of the old Russian Empire, partitioner of Poland – were willing to accept only limited independence of Poland, likely in the borders similar to that of Congress Poland, and clearly objected to Ukrainian independence, crucial for Piłsudski's Międzymorze, while the Bolsheviks did proclaim the partitions null and void. Piłsudski thus speculated that Poland would be better off with the Bolsheviks, alienated from the Western powers, than with the restored Russian Empire. By his refusal to join the attack on Lenin's struggling government, ignoring the strong pressure from the Entente, Piłsudski had possibly saved the Bolshevik Government in summer–fall 1919, although a full-scale attack by the Poles in support of Denikin was not possible. He later wrote that in case of a White victory, in the east Poland could only gain the "ethnic border" at best (the Curzon line). At the same time, Lenin offered Poles the territories of Minsk, Zhytomyr, Khmelnytskyi, in what was described as mini "Brest"; Polish military leader Kazimierz Sosnkowski wrote that the territorial proposals of the Bolsheviks were much better than what the Poles had wanted to achieve.
In 1919, several unsuccessful attempts at peace negotiations were made by various Polish and Russian factions. In the meantime, Polish–Lithuanian relations worsened as Polish politicians found it hard to accept the Lithuanians' demands for certain territories, especially the city of Vilnius which had a Polish ethnic majority but was regarded by Lithuanians as their historical capital. Polish negotiators made better progress with the Latvian Provisional Government, and in late 1919 and early 1920 Polish and Latvian forces were conducting joint operations including the Battle of Daugavpils, against Soviet Russia.
The Warsaw Treaty, an agreement with the exiled Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlura signed on 21 April 1920, was the main Polish diplomatic success. Petlura, who formally represented the Government of the Ukrainian People's Republic (by then de facto defeated by Bolsheviks), along with some Ukrainian forces, fled to Poland, where he found asylum. His control extended only to a sliver of land near the Polish border. In such conditions, there was little difficulty convincing Petlura to join an alliance with Poland, despite recent conflict between the two nations that had been settled in favour of Poland. By concluding an agreement with Piłsudski, Petlura accepted the Polish territorial gains in Western Ukraine and the future Polish–Ukrainian border along the Zbruch River. In exchange, he was promised independence for Ukraine and Polish military assistance in reinstalling his government in Kiev.
For Piłsudski, this alliance gave his campaign for the Międzymorze federation the legitimacy of joint international effort, secured part of the Polish eastward border, and laid a foundation for a Polish-dominated Ukrainian state between Russia and Poland. For Petlura, this was the final chance to preserve the statehood and, at least, the theoretical independence of the Ukrainian heartlands, even while accepting the loss of West Ukrainian lands to Poland. Yet both of them were opposed at home. Piłsudski faced stiff opposition from Dmowski's National Democrats who opposed Ukrainian independence. Petlura, in turn, was criticised by many Ukrainian politicians for entering a pact with the Poles and giving up on Western Ukraine.
The alliance with Petlura did result in 15,000 pro-Polish allied Ukrainian troops at the beginning of the campaign, increasing to 35,000 through recruitment and desertion from the Soviet side during the war. This would, in the end, provide insufficient support for the alliance's aspirations.
By early 1920, the Red Army had been very successful against the White armies. They defeated Denikin and signed peace treaties with Latvia and Estonia. The Polish front became their most important war theater and a plurality of Soviet resources and forces were diverted to it. In January 1920, the Red Army began concentrating a 700,000-strong force near the Berezina River and in Belarus.
By the time the Poles launched their Kiev offensive, the Red South-western Front had about 82,847 soldiers, including 28,568 front-line troops. The Poles had some numerical superiority, estimated from 12,000 to 52,000 personnel. By the time of the Soviet counter-offensive in mid-1920 the situation had been reversed: the Soviets numbered about 790,000 – at least 50,000 more than the Poles; Tukhachevsky estimated that he had 160,000 "combat ready" soldiers; Piłsudski estimated his enemy's forces at 200,000–220,000.
During 1920, Red Army personnel numbered 402,000 at the Western front and 355,000 for the South-west Front in Galicia. Grigoriy Krivosheev gives similar numbers, with 382,071 personnel for the Western Front and 282,507 personnel for the South-western Front between July and August.
Among the commanders leading the Red Army in the coming offensive were Leon Trotsky, Tukhachevsky (new commander of the Western Front), Alexander Yegorov (new commander of the South-western Front) and the future Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin.
The Polish Army was made up of soldiers who had formerly served in the various partitioning empires, supported by some international volunteers, such as the Kościuszko Squadron. Boris Savinkov was at the head of an army of 20,000 to 30,000 largely Russian POWs, and was accompanied by Dmitry Merezhkovsky and Zinaida Gippius. The Polish forces grew from approximately 100,000 in 1918 to over 500,000 in early 1920. In August 1920, the Polish Army had reached a total strength of 737,767 soldiers; half of that was on the frontline. Given Soviet losses, there was rough numerical parity between the two armies; and by the time of the battle of Warsaw, the Poles might have even had a slight advantage in numbers and logistics. Among the major formations on the Polish side was the First Polish Army.
Logistics, nonetheless, were very bad for both armies, supported by whatever equipment was left over from World War I or could be captured. The Polish Army, for example, employed guns made in five countries, and rifles manufactured in six, each using different ammunition. The Soviets had many military depots at their disposal, left by withdrawing German armies in 1918–1919, and modern French armaments captured in great numbers from the White Russians and the Allied expeditionary forces in the Russian Civil War. Still, they suffered a shortage of arms; both the Red Army and the Polish forces were grossly underequipped by Western standards.
The Soviet High Command planned a new offensive in late April/May. Since March 1919, Polish intelligence was aware that the Soviets had prepared for a new offensive and the Polish High Command decided to launch their own offensive before their opponents. The plan for Operation Kiev was to beat the Red Army on Poland's southern flank and install a Polish-friendly Petlura Government in Ukraine.
Until April, the Polish forces had been slowly but steadily advancing eastward. The new Latvian Government requested and obtained Polish help in capturing Daugavpils. The city fell after heavy fighting at the Battle of Daugavpils in January and was handed over to the Latvians. By March, Polish forces had driven a wedge between Soviet forces to the north (Belorussia) and south (Ukraine).
On 24 April, Poland began its main offensive, Operation Kiev. Its stated goal was the creation of an independent Ukraine that would become part of Piłsudski's project of a "Międzymorze" Federation. Poland's forces were assisted by 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers under Symon Petlura, representing the Ukrainian People's Republic.
On 26 April, in his "Call to the People of Ukraine", Piłsudski told his audience that "the Polish Army would only stay as long as necessary until a legal Ukrainian government took control over its own territory". Despite this, many Ukrainians were just as anti-Polish as anti-Bolshevik, and resented the Polish advance.
The Polish 3rd Army easily won border clashes with the Red Army in Ukraine but the Reds withdrew with minimal losses. Subsequently, the combined Polish–Ukrainian forces entered an abandoned Kiev on 7 May, encountering only token resistance.
This Polish military thrust was met with Red Army counter-attacks on 29 May. Polish forces in the area, preparing for an offensive towards Zhlobin, managed to hold their ground, but were unable to start their own planned offensive. In the north, Polish forces had fared much worse. The Polish 1st Army was defeated and forced to retreat, pursued by the Russian 15th Army, which recaptured territories between the Western Dvina and Berezina rivers. Polish forces attempted to take advantage of the exposed flanks of the attackers but the enveloping forces failed to stop the Soviet advance. At the end of May, the front had stabilised near the small river Auta River, and Soviet forces began preparing for the next push.
On 24 May 1920, the Polish forces in the south were engaged for the first time by Semyon Budyonny's famous 1st Cavalry Army (Konarmia). Repeated attacks by Budyonny's Cossack cavalry broke the Polish–Ukrainian front on the 5th of June. The Soviets then deployed mobile cavalry units to disrupt the Polish rearguard, targeting communications and logistics. By 10 June, Polish armies were in retreat along the entire front. On 13 June, the Polish Army, along with Petlura's Ukrainian troops, abandoned Kiev to the Red Army.
On 30 May 1920 General Aleksei Brusilov, the last Tsarist Commander-in-Chief, published in Pravda an appeal entitled "To All Former Officers, Wherever They Might Be", encouraging them to forgive past grievances and to join the Red Army. Brusilov considered it as a patriotic duty of all Russian officers to join hands with the Bolshevik Government, that in his opinion was defending Russia against foreign invaders. Lenin also spotted the use of Russian patriotism. Thus, the Central Committee appealed to the "respected citizens of Russia" to defend the Soviet republic against a Polish usurpation. The historians recalled the Polish invasions of the early 17th century. Russia's counter-offensive was indeed boosted by Brusilov's engagement; 14,000 officers and over 100,000 deserters enlisted in or returned to the Red Army, and thousands of civilian volunteers contributed to the effort. The commander of the Polish 3rd Army in Ukraine, General Edward Rydz-Śmigły, decided to break through the Soviet line toward the north-west. Polish forces in Ukraine managed to withdraw relatively unscathed, but were unable to support the northern front and reinforce the defences at the Auta River for the decisive battle that was soon to take place there.
Due to insufficient forces, Poland's 320-kilometre-long (200 mi) front was manned by a thin line of 120,000 troops backed by some 460 artillery pieces with no strategic reserves. This approach to holding ground harked back to the World War I practice of "establishing a fortified line of defense". It had shown some merit on the Western Front saturated with troops, machine guns, and artillery. Poland's eastern front, however, was weakly manned, supported with inadequate artillery, and had almost no fortifications.
Against the Polish line the Red Army gathered its Northwest Front led by the young General Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Their numbers exceeded 108,000 infantry and 11,000 cavalry, supported by 722 artillery pieces and 2,913 machine guns. The Soviets at some crucial places outnumbered the Poles four-to-one.
Tukhachevsky launched his offensive on 4 July, along the Smolensk–Brest-Litovsk axis, crossing the Auta and Berezina rivers. The northern 3rd Cavalry Corps, led by Gayk Bzhishkyan (Gay Dmitrievich Gay, Gaj-Chan), were to envelop Polish forces from the north, moving near the Lithuanian and Prussian border (both of these belonging to nations hostile to Poland). The 4th, 15th, and 3rd Armies were to push west, supported from the south by the 16th Army and Mozyr Group. For three days the outcome of the battle hung in the balance, but Soviet numerical superiority proved decisive and by 7 July Polish forces were in full retreat along the entire front. However, due to the stubborn defence by Polish units, Tukhachevsky's plan to break through the front and push the defenders south-west into the Pinsk Marshes failed.
Polish resistance was offered again on a line of "German trenches", a line of heavy World War I field fortifications that presented an opportunity to stem the Red Army offensive. However, the Polish troops were insufficient in number. Soviet forces found a weakly defended part of the front and broke through. Gaj-Chan and Lithuanian forces captured Vilnius on 14 July, forcing the Poles into retreat again. In Galicia to the south, General Semyon Budyonny's cavalry advanced far into the Polish rear, capturing Brody and approaching Lwów and Zamość. In early July, it became clear to the Poles that the Soviets' objectives were not limited to pushing their borders westwards. Poland's very independence was at stake.
Soviet forces moved forward at the remarkable rate of 32 kilometres (20 mi) a day. Grodno in Belarus fell on 19 July; Brest-Litovsk fell on 1 August. The Polish attempted to defend the Bug River line with 4th Army and Grupa Poleska units, but were able to delay the Red Army advance for only one week. After crossing the Narew River on 2 August, the Soviet Northwest Front was only 97 kilometres (60 mi) from Warsaw. The Brest-Litovsk fortress, which became the headquarters of the planned Polish counter-offensive, fell to the 16th Army in the first attack. The Soviet South-west Front pushed the Polish forces out of Ukraine. Stalin had then disobeyed his orders and ordered his forces to close on Zamość, as well as Lwów – the largest city in southeastern Poland and an important industrial center, garrisoned by the Polish 6th Army. The city was soon besieged. This created a hole in the lines of the Red Army, but at the same time opened the way to the Polish capital. Five Soviet armies approached Warsaw.
Polish forces in Galicia near Lwów launched a successful counter-offensive to slow down the Red Army advance. This stopped the retreat of Polish forces on the southern front. However, the worsening situation near the Polish capital of Warsaw prevented the Poles from continuing that southern counter-offensive and pushing east. Forces were mustered to take part in the coming battle for Warsaw.
With the tide turning against Poland, Piłsudski's political power weakened, while his opponents', including Roman Dmowski's, rose. Piłsudski did manage to regain his influence, especially over the military, almost at the last moment—as the Soviet forces were approaching Warsaw. The Polish political scene had begun to unravel in panic, with the government of Leopold Skulski resigning in early June.
Meanwhile, the Soviet leadership's confidence soared. In a telegram, Lenin exclaimed: "We must direct all our attention to preparing and strengthening the Western Front. A new slogan must be announced: 'Prepare for war against Poland'." Soviet Communist theorist Nikolay Bukharin, writer for the newspaper Pravda, wished for the resources to carry the campaign beyond Warsaw "right up to London and Paris". General Tukhachevsky's order of the day, 2 July 1920, read: "To the West! Over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to worldwide conflagration. March on Vilno, Minsk, Warsaw!" and "onward to Berlin over the corpse of Poland!" The increasing hope of certain victory, however, gave rise to political intrigues between Soviet commanders.
By order of the Soviet Communist Party, a Polish puppet government, the Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee (Polish: Tymczasowy Komitet Rewolucyjny Polski, TKRP), had been formed on 28 July in Białystok to organise administration of the Polish territories captured by the Red Army. The TKRP had very little support from the ethnic Polish population and recruited its supporters mostly from the ranks of minorities, primarily Jews. At the height of the Polish–Soviet conflict, Jews had been subject to anti-semitic violence by Polish forces, who considered Jews a potential threat, and who often accused Jews as being the masterminds of Russian Bolshevism; during the Battle of Warsaw, the Polish Government interned all Jewish volunteers and sent Jewish volunteer officers to an internment camp.
Britain's Prime Minister, David Lloyd George pressed Poland to make peace on Soviet terms and refused any assistance to Poland that would alienate the Whites in the Russian Civil War. In July 1920, Britain announced it would send huge quantities of World War I surplus military supplies to Poland, but a threatened general strike by the Trades Union Congress, who objected to British support of "White Poland", ensured that none of the weapons destined for Poland left British ports. David Lloyd George had never been enthusiastic about supporting the Poles, and had been pressured by his more right-wing Cabinet members such as Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill into offering the supplies.
In early July 1920, Prime Minister Władysław Grabski travelled to the Spa Conference in Belgium to request assistance. The Allied representatives were largely unsympathetic. Grabski signed an agreement containing several terms: that Polish forces withdraw to the Curzon Line, which the Allies had published in December 1919, delineating Poland's ethnographic frontier; that it participate in a subsequent peace conference; and that the questions of sovereignty over Vilnius, Eastern Galicia, Cieszyn Silesia, and Danzig be remanded to the Allies. Ambiguous promises of Allied support were made in exchange.
On 11 July 1920, the Government of Great Britain sent a telegram to the Soviets, signed by Curzon, which has been described as a de facto ultimatum. It requested that the Soviets halt their offensive at the Curzon line and accept it as a temporary border with Poland, until a permanent border could be established in negotiations. In case of Soviet refusal, the British threatened to assist Poland with all the means available, which, in reality, were limited by the internal political situation in the United Kingdom. On 17 July, the Bolsheviks refused and made a counter-offer to negotiate a peace treaty directly with Poland. The British responded by threatening to cut off the ongoing trade negotiations if the Soviets conducted further offensives against Poland. These threats were ignored.
On 6 August 1920, the British Labour Party published a pamphlet stating that British workers would never take part in the war as Poland's allies, and labour unions blocked supplies to the British expeditionary force assisting Russian Whites in Arkhangelsk. French Socialists, in their newspaper L'Humanité, declared: "Not a man, not a sou, not a shell for reactionary and Capitalist Poland. Long live the Russian Revolution! Long live the Workmen's International!" Poland also suffered setbacks due to sabotage and delays in deliveries of war supplies, when workers in Czechoslovakia and Germany refused to transit such materials to Poland. On 6 August the Polish Government issued an "Appeal to the World", disputing charges of imperialism, stressing Poland's determination for self-determination and the dangers of Bolshevik invasion of Europe.
Poland's neighbour Lithuania had been engaged in serious disputes with Poland over the city of Vilnius and the borderlands surrounding Sejny and Suwałki. A 1919 Polish attempt to take control over the entire nation by a coup had additionally disrupted their relationship. The Soviet and Lithuanian governments signed the Soviet-Lithuanian Treaty of 1920 on 12 July; this treaty recognised Vilnius as part of Lithuania. The treaty contained a secret clause allowing Soviet forces unrestricted movement within Soviet-recognised Lithuanian territory during any Soviet war with Poland; this clause would lead to questions regarding the issue of Lithuanian neutrality in the ongoing Polish–Soviet War. The Lithuanians also provided the Soviets with logistical support. Despite Lithuanian support, the Soviets did not transfer Vilnius to the Lithuanians till just before the city was recaptured by the Polish forces (in late August), instead up till that time the Soviets encouraged their own, pro-Communist Lithuanian Government, Litbel, and were planning a pro-Communist coup in Lithuania. The simmering conflict between Poland and Lithuania culminated in the Polish–Lithuanian War in August 1920.
Polish allies were few. France, continuing its policy of countering Bolshevism now that the Whites in Russia proper had been almost completely defeated, sent a 400-strong advisory group to Poland's aid in 1919. It consisted mostly of French officers, although it also included a few British advisers led by Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton De Wiart. The French officers included a future President of France, Charles de Gaulle; during the war he won Poland's highest military decoration, the Virtuti Militari. In addition to the Allied advisors, France also facilitated the transit to Poland from France of the "Blue Army" in 1919: troops mostly of Polish origin, plus some international volunteers, formerly under French command in World War I. The army was commanded by the Polish general, Józef Haller. Hungary offered to send a 30,000 cavalry corps to Poland's aid, but the Czechoslovakian Government refused to allow them through, as there was a demilitarised zone on the borders after the Czechoslovak–Hungarian war that had ended only a few months before. Some trains with weapon supplies from Hungary did, however, arrive in Poland.
In mid-1920, the Allied Mission was expanded by some advisers (becoming the Inter-allied Mission to Poland). They included: French diplomat, Jean Jules Jusserand; Maxime Weygand, chief of staff to Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Commander of the victorious Entente; and British diplomat, Lord Edgar Vincent D'Abernon. The newest members of the mission achieved little; indeed, the crucial Battle of Warsaw was fought and won by the Poles before the mission could return and make its report. Nonetheless for many years, a myth persisted that it was the timely arrival of Allied forces that had saved Poland, a myth in which Weygand occupied the central role. Nonetheless Polish-French co-operation would continue and French weaponry including infantry armament, artillery and Renault FT tanks were shipped to Poland to reinforce its military. Eventually, on 21 February 1921, France and Poland entered into a formal military alliance, which became an important factor during the subsequent Soviet–Polish negotiations.
On 10 August 1920, Soviet Cossack units under the command of Gayk Bzhishkyan crossed the Vistula River, planning to take Warsaw from the west while the main attack came from the east. On 13 August, an initial Soviet attack was repelled. The Polish 1st Army resisted a direct assault on Warsaw as well as stopping the assault at Radzymin.
The Soviet Western Front commander, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, felt certain that all was going according to his plan. However, Polish military intelligence had decrypted the Red Army's radio messages, and Tukhachevsky was actually falling into a trap set by Piłsudski and his Chief of Staff, Tadeusz Rozwadowski. The Soviet advance across the Vistula River in the north was moving into an operational vacuum, as there were no sizable Polish forces in the area. On the other hand, south of Warsaw, where the fate of the war was about to be decided, Tukhachevsky had left only token forces to guard the vital link between the Soviet north-west and south-west fronts. Another factor that influenced the outcome of the war was the effective neutralisation of Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army, much feared by Piłsudski and other Polish commanders, in the battles around Lwów. At Tukhachevsky's insistence the Soviet High Command had ordered the 1st Cavalry Army to march north toward Warsaw and Lublin. However, Budyonny disobeyed the order due to a grudge between Tukhachevsky and Yegorov, commander of the south-west front.
Joseph Stalin, then chief political commissar of the South-western Front, was engaged at Lwów, about 320 kilometres from Warsaw. The absence of his forces at the battle has been the subject of dispute. A perception arose that his absence was due to his desire to achieve 'military glory' at Lwów. Telegrams concerning the transfer of forces were exchanged. Leon Trotsky interpreted Stalin's actions as insubordination; Richard Pipes asserts that Stalin '...almost certainly acted on Lenin's orders' in not moving the forces to Warsaw. That the commander-in-chief Sergey Kamenev allowed such insubordination, issued conflicting and confusing orders and did not act with the decisiveness of a commander-in-chief contributed greatly to the problems and defeat the Red forces suffered at this critical junction of the war.
The Polish 5th Army under General Władysław Sikorski counter-attacked on 14 August from the area of the Modlin fortress, crossing the Wkra River. It faced the combined forces of the numerically and materially superior Soviet 3rd and 15th Armies. In one day the Soviet advance toward Warsaw and Modlin had been halted and soon turned into retreat. Sikorski's 5th Army pushed the exhausted Soviet formations away from Warsaw in a lightning operation. Polish forces advanced at a speed of thirty kilometers a day, soon destroying any Soviet hopes for completing their enveloping manoeuvre in the north. By 16 August, the Polish counter-offensive had been fully joined by Marshal Piłsudski's "Reserve Army." Precisely executing his plan, the Polish force, advancing from Warsaw (Colonel Wrzaliński's group) and the south (Polish 3rd and 4 Army), found a huge gap between the Soviet fronts and exploited the weakness of the Soviet "Mozyr Group" that was supposed to protect the weak link between the Soviet fronts. The Poles continued their northward offensive with two armies following and destroying the surprised enemy. They reached the rear of Tukhachevsky's forces, the majority of which were encircled by 18 August. Only that same day did Tukhachevsky, at his Minsk headquarters 480 kilometres (300 mi) east of Warsaw, become fully aware of the proportions of the Soviet defeat and ordered the remnants of his forces to retreat and regroup. He hoped to straighten his front line, halt the Polish attack, and regain the initiative, but the orders either arrived too late or failed to arrive at all.
Soviet armies in the centre of the front fell into chaos. Tukhachevsky ordered a general retreat toward the Bug River, but by then he had lost contact with most of his forces near Warsaw, and all the Bolshevik plans had been thrown into disarray by communication failures.
Bolshevik armies retreated in a disorganised fashion; entire divisions panicking and disintegrating. The Red Army's defeat was so great and unexpected that, at the instigation of Piłsudski's detractors, the Battle of Warsaw is often referred to in Poland as the "Miracle at the Vistula". Previously unknown documents from Polish Central Military Archive found in 2004 proved that the successful breaking of Red Army radio communications ciphers by Polish cryptographers played a great role in the victory (see Jan Kowalewski).
Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army's advance toward Lwów was halted, first at the battle of Brody (29 July – 2 August), and then on 17 August at the Battle of Zadwórze, where a small Polish force sacrificed itself to prevent Soviet cavalry from seizing Lwów and stopping vital Polish reinforcements from moving toward Warsaw. Moving through weakly defended areas, Budyonny's cavalry reached the city of Zamość on 29 August and attempted to take it in the Battle of Zamość; however, he soon faced an increasing number of Polish units diverted from the successful Warsaw counteroffensive. On 31 August, Budyonny's cavalry finally broke off its siege of Lwów and attempted to come to the aid of Soviet forces retreating from Warsaw. The Soviet forces were intercepted and defeated by Polish cavalry at the Battle of Komarów near Zamość, one of the largest cavalry battles since 1813 (Brandy Station in 1863, during the American Civil War, was larger) and one of the last cavalry battles in history. Although Budyonny's army managed to avoid encirclement, it suffered heavy losses and its morale plummeted. The remains of Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army retreated towards Volodymyr-Volynskyi on 6 September and were defeated shortly thereafter at the Battle of Hrubieszów.
Tukhachevsky managed to reorganise the eastward-retreating forces and in September established a new defensive line running from the Polish–Lithuanian border to the north to the area of Polesie, with the central point in the city of Grodno in Belarus. The Polish Army broke this line in the Battle of the Niemen River. Polish forces crossed the Niemen River and outflanked the Bolshevik forces, which were forced to retreat again. Polish forces continued to advance east on all fronts, repeating their successes from the previous year. After the early October Battle of the Szczara River, the Polish Army had reached the Ternopil–Dubno–Minsk–Drissa line.
In the south, Petliura's Ukrainian forces defeated the Bolshevik 14th Army and on 18 September took control of the left bank of the Zbruch river. During the next month they moved east to the line Yaruha on the Dniester–Sharhorod–Bar–Lityn.
Soon after the Battle of Warsaw the Bolsheviks sued for peace. The Poles, exhausted, constantly pressured by the Western governments and the League of Nations, and with its army controlling the majority of the disputed territories, were willing to negotiate. The Soviets made two offers: one on 21 September and the other on 28 September. The Polish delegation made a counter-offer on 2 October. On 5 October, the Soviets offered amendments to the Polish offer, which Poland accepted. The Preliminary Treaty of Peace and Armistice Conditions between Poland on one side and Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Russia on the other was signed on 12 October, and the armistice went into effect on 18 October. Ratifications were exchanged at Liepāja on 2 November. Long negotiations of the final peace treaty ensued.
Meanwhile, Petliura's Ukrainian forces, which now numbered 23,000 soldiers and controlled territories immediately to the east of Poland, planned an offensive in Ukraine for 11 November but were attacked by the Bolsheviks on 10 November. By 21 November, after several battles, they were driven into Polish-controlled territory.
Despite the final retreat of Soviet forces and annihilation of their three field armies, historians do not universally agree on the question of victory.[N 4] The Poles claimed a successful defence of their state, while the Soviets claimed a repulse of the Polish eastward invasion of Ukraine and Belarus, which they viewed as a part of the foreign intervention in the Russian Civil War. Some British and American military historians argue that the Soviet failure to destroy the Polish Army decisively ended Soviet ambitions for international revolution.
With the end of the Polish–Soviet War and the defeat of General Wrangel in 1920, the Red Army could divert its regular troops into the Tambov region of central Russia to crush the anti-Bolshevik peasant uprising.
Due to their losses in and after the Battle of Warsaw, the Soviets offered the Polish peace delegation substantial territorial concessions in the contested borderland areas, closely resembling the border between the Russian Empire and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth before the first partition of Poland in 1772. Polish resources were exhausted, however, and Polish public opinion was opposed to a prolongation of the war. The Polish Government was also pressured by the League of Nations, and the negotiations were controlled by Dmowski's National Democrats.
National Democrats cared little for Piłsudski's vision of reviving Międzymorze, the multi-cultural Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Piłsudski might have controlled the military, but parliament (Sejm) was controlled by Dmowski: Piłsudski's support lay in the territories in the East, which were controlled by the Bolsheviks at the time of the elections, while the National Democrats' electoral support lay in central and western Poland.
The National Democrats wanted only the territory that they viewed as 'ethnically or historically Polish' or possible to polonise. Despite the Red Army's crushing defeat at Warsaw and the willingness of Soviet chief negotiator Adolf Joffe to concede almost all disputed territory, the National Democrats' ideology allowed the Soviets to regain certain territories. This post-war situation proved a death blow to the Międzymorze project. The National Democrats also had few concerns about the fate of their Ukrainian ally, Petliura, and cared little that their political opponent, Piłsudski, felt honour-bound by his treaty obligations. Thus, they did not hesitate to scrap the Warsaw Treaty between Poland and the Directorate of Ukraine.
The peace treaty, which Piłsudski called an "act of cowardice", violated the terms of Poland's military alliance with the Directorate of Ukraine, which had explicitly prohibited a separate peace. Ukrainian allies of Poland were interned by the Polish authorities. This internment worsened relations between Poland and its Ukrainian minority: those who supported Petliura were angered by the betrayal of their Polish ally, anger that grew stronger because of the assimilationist policies of nationalist inter-war Poland towards its minorities. To a large degree, this inspired the growing tensions and eventual violence against Poles in the 1930s and 1940s.
The treaty partitioned Belarus, giving a portion of its territory to Poland and the other portion to the Soviets. Though the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was not dissolved, its policies were determined by Moscow. In response, Belarusian activists held a Congress of Representatives in Prague in the fall of 1921 to discuss the treaty. Vera Maslovskaya was sent as the delegate of the Białystok area and at the congress, she proposed a resolution to fight for unification. She sought independence of all Belarusian lands and denounced the partition. Though the convention did not adopt a proposal instituting armed conflict, they did pass Maslovskaya's proposal, which led to immediate retaliation from the Polish authorities. They infiltrated the underground network fighting for unification and arrest participants. Maslovskaya was arrested in 1922, and tried in 1923, along with 45 other participants, including a sister and brother of Maslovskaya and several teachers and professionals, but most were peasants. Maslovskaya accepted all responsibility for the underground organisation, but specifically stated that she was guilty of no crime, having acted only to protect the interests of Belarus against foreign occupiers in a political and not military action. Unable to prove that the leaders had participated in armed rebellion, the court found them guilty of political crimes and sentenced the participants to six years in prison.
The Polish military successes in the autumn of 1920 allowed Poland to capture the Vilnius region, where a Polish-dominated Governance Committee of Central Lithuania (Komisja Rządząca Litwy Środkowej) was formed. A plebiscite was conducted, and the Vilnius Sejm voted in favour of incorporation into Poland on 20 February 1922. This worsened Polish–Lithuanian relations for decades to come. Despite this loss of territory for Lithuania, Alfred E. Senn argues that it was only the Polish victory against the Soviets in the Polish–Soviet War that derailed Soviet plans for westward expansion and gave Lithuania a period of interwar independence.
The war and its aftermath also resulted in other controversies, such as the situation of prisoners of war of both sides, treatment of the civilian population and behavior of some commanders like Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz or Vadim Yakovlev. Another controversy concerned the pogroms of Jews, which caused the United States to send a commission led by Henry Morgenthau to investigate the matter. More than one million Poles, living mostly in the disputed territories, remained in the Soviet Union, systematically persecuted by Soviet authorities because of political, economic and religious reasons (see the Polish operation of the NKVD).
The Polish–Soviet War influenced Polish military doctrine, which for the next 20 years would place emphasis on the mobility of elite cavalry units. It also influenced Charles de Gaulle, then an instructor with the Polish Army who fought in several of the battles. He and Władysław Sikorski were the only military officers who, based on their experiences of this war, correctly predicted how the next one would be fought. Although they failed in the interbellum to convince their respective militaries to heed those lessons, early in World War II they rose to command of their armed forces in exile.
In 1943, during the course of World War II, the subject of Poland's eastern borders was re-opened, and they were discussed at the Tehran Conference. Winston Churchill argued in favour of the 1920 Curzon Line rather than the Treaty of Riga's borders, and an agreement among the Allies to that effect was reached at the Yalta Conference in 1945. The Western Allies, despite having alliance treaties with Poland and despite Polish contribution, also left Poland within the Soviet sphere of influence. This became known as the Western betrayal.
Until 1989, while Communists held power in the People's Republic of Poland, the Polish–Soviet War was omitted or minimised in Polish and other Soviet bloc countries' history books, or was presented as a foreign intervention during the Russian Civil War.
Lieutenant Józef Kowalski, of Poland, was believed to be the last living veteran from this war. He was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta on his 110th birthday by the president of Poland. He died on 7 December 2013 at the age of 113. However, his age is not verified, and in any case, Alexander Imich, the world's verified oldest man when he died on 8 June 2014, aged 111, was a veteran from the same war, and therefore the real last living veteran.
Numerical strength [Commanders/NCOs and men/Total]: 7th Independent Army: 13,583/141,070/154,653; Western Front: 26,272/355,799/382,071; South-Western Front: 17,231/265,276/282,507; Southern Front (against Wrangel): 26,576/395,731/422,307; Caucasian Front: 32,336/307,862/340,198; Turkestan Front: 10,688/150,167/160,855; 5th Independent Army: 9,432/104,778/114,210. // All numbers for the months July-August, except for Southern Front (against Wrangel), which is for the month of October.
Within weeks of Brusilov's appointment, 14,000 officers had joined the army to fight the Poles, thousands of civilians had volunteered for war-work, and well over 100,000 deserters had returned to the Red Army on the Western Front.
Notwithstanding the hostility of the Zionists, and of extreme Polish nationalists (who succeeded at the height of the Battle of Warsaw in persuading the authorities to intern all Jewish volunteers as potential sub-versionists), the majority of established Jewish leaders decided to co-operate with the government.
Lithuanian nationalism was fundamentally anti-Polish in character and Polish–Lithuanian relations deteriorated still further in August 1919 as a result of an attempted coup by the Polish Military Organization (POW) aimed at placing a pro-Polish government in power at Kaunas (Kovno).
Alexander Imich (February 4, 1903 – June 8, 2014) was a Polish-American chemist, parapsychologist, and writer, who was the president of the Anomalous Phenomena Research Center in New York City. He was born in 1903 in Częstochowa, Poland (then a part of Russian Empire) to a Jewish family.Imich, a supercentenarian, became the oldest living man after the death of Arturo Licata, of Italy, on April 24, 2014. Until his own death a little more than a month later, at the age of 111 years, 124 days, Imich was certified by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living man.
Imich was also the last surviving veteran of the Polish-Soviet War.Battle of Bereza Kartuska
The Battle of Bereza Kartuska was fought between the combined forces of the Second Polish Republic and Soviet Russia around the village Bereza Kartuska (now Byaroza, Belarus) first on 14 February 1919, and again, between July 21 and July 26, 1920. Polish units crossing the border, invasion of Belarus. They attacked into the township of Bereza, and crossing the Neman river, taking Pinsk, and reaching the outskirts of Lida.
The first skirmish of Bereza is considered to be the initial engagement of the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1921, by some historians.Battle of Lwów (1920)
During the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 the city of Lwów (modern Lviv, Ukraine) was attacked by the forces of Alexander Ilyich Yegorov. Since mid-June 1920 the 1st Cavalry Army of Semyon Budyonny was trying to reach the city from the north and east. At the same time Lwów was preparing its defenses. The inhabitants raised and fully equipped three regiments of infantry and two regiments of cavalry as well as constructed defensive lines. The city was defended by an equivalent of three Polish divisions aided by one Ukrainian infantry division. Finally after almost a month of heavy fighting on August 16 the Red Army crossed the Southern Bug River and, reinforced by additional 8 divisions of the Red Cossacks, started an assault on the city. The fighting occurred with heavy casualties on both sides, but after three days the assault was halted and the Red Army retreated. With the crushing defeat of the main forces of the Red Army in the battle of Warsaw, and the Polish victories at Komarów at Zadwórze, Russian forces were forced to retreat from Lwów.
For the heroic defense with large units of locally raised volunteers the city was awarded with the Virtuti Militari medal on 11 November 1920.Battle of Wołodarka
The Battle of Wołodarka was a clash between the Polish Army and Siemion Budionnyi's First Cavalry Army. It took place May 29–31, 1920, near the Ukrainian village of Volodarka, in the course of the Polish Offensive on Kiev during the Polish-Soviet War.Controversies of the Polish–Soviet War
Controversies of the Polish-Soviet War, fought in 1919–20, concern the behaviour of the military forces and crimes they committed. Each side charged the other with violations of international law in an effort to sway public opinion in the West, which was felt to be important for both sides.Cross of Valour (Poland)
The Cross of Valor (Polish: Krzyż Walecznych) is a Polish military decoration. It was first introduced by the Council of National Defense on 11 August 1920. It is awarded to an individual who "has demonstrated deeds of valor and courage on the field of battle." It may be awarded to the same person up to four times. The medal is given only in wartime or shortly after.Galician Soviet Socialist Republic
The Galician Soviet Socialist Republic (Russian: Галицкая Социалистическая Советская Республика, Г.С.С.Р.) was a self-declared and short-lived political entity that existed from 15 July to 21 September 1920. The communist state was established during a successful counter-offensive of the Red Army in the summer of 1920 as part of the Polish-Soviet War and in the course of which the Polish-Ukrainian joint military force (Polish Ukrainian Front) was forced to retreat from its positions along the Dnieper that it secured earlier in 1920 all the way to the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.Henryk Reyman
Henryk Tomasz Reyman (28 July 1897 in Kraków – 11 April 1963 in Kraków) was a Polish footballer, sports official and military officer. He fought in World War I in the Austrian Army, then in the Polish Army in the Polish-Soviet War, and also participated in the Silesian Uprisings.Joseph Stalin in the Russian Revolution, Russian Civil War, and Polish–Soviet War
Joseph Stalin was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953. In the years following Lenin's death in 1924, he rose to become the authoritarian leader of the Soviet Union.
After growing up in Georgia, Stalin conducted activities for the Bolshevik party for twelve years before the Russian Revolution of 1917. After being elected to the Bolshevik Central Committee in April 1917, Stalin helped Lenin to evade capture by authorities and ordered the besieged Bolsheviks to surrender to avoid a bloodbath. The Bolsheviks then seized Petrograd and Stalin was appointed People's Commissar for Nationalities' Affairs.
In the civil war that followed between Lenin's Red Army against the White Army, Stalin formed alliances with Kliment Voroshilov and Semyon Budyonny while leading troops in the Caucasus. There, he ordered the killings of former Tsarist officers and counter-revolutionaries and burned villages to intimidate the peasantry into submission and discourage food bandit raids. After their Civil War victory, the Bolsheviks moved to expand the revolution into Europe, starting with Poland, which was fighting the Red Army in Ukraine. As joint commander of an army in Ukraine, Stalin's actions in the war were later criticized, including by Leon Trotsky.List of battles of the Polish–Soviet War
List of battles of the Polish-Soviet War by chronology:
Soviet "Target Vistula" offensive (January–February 1919)
Battle of Bereza Kartuska (February 9, 1919: the first battle of the conflict)
Vilna offensive: Polish offensive to Vilna (April 1919)
First Battle of Lida (April 1919)
Operation Minsk: Polish offensive to Minsk (July–August 1919)
Battles of Chorupań and Dubno (19 July 1919)
Battle of Daugavpils: joint Polish-Latvian operation (3 January 1920)
Kiev Offensive (May–June 1920)
Battle of Wołodarka (29 May 1920)
Battle of Brody (29 July – 2 August 1920)
Battle of Lwów (July–September 1920)
Battle of Tarnopol (31 July - 6 August 1920)
Battle of Warsaw (15 August 1920)
Battle of Nasielsk, Battle of Radzymin (14–15 August 1920)
Battle of Dęblin and Mińsk Mazowiecki (16–18 August 1920)
Battle of Zadwórze: the "Polish Thermopylæ" (17 August 1920)
Battle of Sarnowa Góra (21–22 August 1920)
battle of Zamość (29 August 1920) - Budyonny's attempt to take Zamość
Battle of Komarów: great cavalry battle, ending in Budyonny's defeat (31 August 1920)
Battle of Hrubieszów (1 September 1920)
Battle of Kobryń (1920) (14–15 September 1920)
Battle of Dytiatyn (16 September 1920)
Battle of Brzostowica (20 September 1920)
Battle of the Niemen River (September 26–28, 1920)
Battles of Obuchowe and Krwawy Bór (27–28 September 1920)
Battle of Zboiska
Battle of Minsk (1920) (18 October 1920)Merian C. Cooper
Merian Caldwell Cooper (October 24, 1893 – April 21, 1973) was an American aviator, United States Air Force and Polish Air Force officer, adventurer, screenwriter, film director, and producer. Cooper was the founder of the Kościuszko Squadron during the Polish–Soviet War and was a Soviet prisoner of war for a time. He was a notable movie producer, and got his start with film as part of the Explorers Club, traveling the world and documenting adventures. He was a member of the board of directors of Pan American Airways, but his love of film always took priority. During his film career, he worked for companies such as Pioneer Pictures, RKO Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He is also credited as co-inventor of the Cinerama film projection process. Cooper's most famous film was the 1933 movie King Kong. He was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1952 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (Russian: Михаи́л Никола́евич Тухаче́вский, IPA: [tʊxɐˈtɕefskʲɪj]; 16 February [O.S. 4 February] 1893 – 12 June 1937) was a leading Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. He commanded the Soviet Western Front in the Polish–Soviet War of 1920–1921 and served as chief of staff of the Red Army from 1925 through 1928, as assistant in the People's Commissariat of Defense after 1934 and as commander of the Volga Military District in 1937. He contributed to the modernization of Soviet armament and army force structure in the 1920s and 1930s and became instrumental in the development of aviation, mechanized, and airborne forces. As a theoretician, he was a driving force behind Soviet development of the theory of deep operations. The Soviet authorities accused him of treason and had him shot during the military purges of 1937–1938, but rehabilitated his reputation in the late 1950s.Peace of Riga
The Peace of Riga, also known as the Treaty of Riga (Polish: Traktat Ryski), was signed in Riga on 18 March 1921, between Poland, Soviet Russia (acting also on behalf of Soviet Belarus) and Soviet Ukraine. The treaty ended the Polish–Soviet War.The Soviet-Polish borders established by the treaty remained in force until World War II. They were later redrawn during the Yalta Conference and Potsdam Conference.Pinsk massacre
The Pinsk massacre was the mass execution of thirty-five Jewish residents of Pinsk on April 5, 1919 by the Polish Army. The Polish commander "sought to terrorize the Jewish population" after claiming to being warned by two Jewish soldiers about a possible bolshevik
uprising.. The event occurred during the opening stages of the Polish-Soviet War, after the Polish Army had captured Pinsk. The Jews who were executed had been arrested were meeting in a Zionist center to discuss the distribution of American relief aid in what was termed by the Poles as an "illegal gathering". The Polish officer-in-charge ordered the summary execution of the meeting participants without trial in fear of a trap, and based on the information about the gathering's purpose that was founded on hearsay. The officer's decision was defended by high-ranking Polish military officers, but was widely criticized by international public opinion.Polish Red Cross
Polish Red Cross (Polish: Polski Czerwony Krzyż, abbr. PCK) is the Polish member of International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It was founded in 1919 by Dr. Benjamin Reschovsky of Warsaw City Hospital and recognized by the Red Cross on July 24, 1919. Its first President was Paweł Sapieha.Polish–Soviet War in 1920
The Polish–Soviet war erupted in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I. The root causes were twofold: a territorial dispute dating back to Polish–Russian wars in the 17–18th centuries; and a clash of ideology due to RSFSR's goal of spreading communist rule further west, to Europe (Soviet westward offensive of 1918–19). At that time both countries had just undergone transition: in 1918 Poland reclaimed independence after 123 years of partitions. In 1917 the October Revolution replaced the liberal, democratic Provisional Government, that had previously displaced the Tsar in Russia, with Soviet rule. The war ended with the Treaty of Riga in 1921, which settled the border issue and regulated Polish-Soviet relations until the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939.Soviet westward offensive of 1918–19
The Soviet westward offensive of 1918–1919 was part of the campaign by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic into areas abandoned by the Ober Ost garrisons that were being withdrawn to Germany following that country's defeat in World War I. The initially successful offensive against the Republic of Estonia ignited the Estonian War of Independence which ended with the Soviet recognition of Estonia. The war against Republics of Latvia and Lithuania was more successful for the Soviets, and resulted in the Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics being established. In Belarus, the Belarusian People's Republic was conquered and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia proclaimed.
The campaign eventually bogged down and led to the Estonian Pskov Offensive, the White Russian Petrograd Offensives, the Lithuanian–Soviet War, the Latvian War of Independence, continuation of the Ukrainian–Soviet War and the start of the Polish-Soviet War.Witold Pilecki
Witold Pilecki (13 May 1901 – 25 May 1948; Polish pronunciation: [ˈvitɔlt piˈlɛt͡skʲi]; codenames Roman Jezierski, Tomasz Serafiński, Druh, Witold) was a Polish cavalry officer, intelligence agent, and resistance leader. He served as a Rotmistrz (captain) with the Polish Army in the Polish–Soviet War, Second Polish Republic, and World War II. He was also a co-founder of the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska), a resistance group in German-occupied Poland, and later a member of the underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa). He was the author of Witold's Report, the first comprehensive Allied intelligence report on Auschwitz concentration camp and the Holocaust. He was a Roman Catholic.During World War II, Pilecki volunteered for a Polish resistance operation that involved being imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp in order to gather intelligence and later escape. While in the camp, he organized a resistance movement and informed the Western Allies of Nazi Germany's Auschwitz atrocities as early as 1941. He escaped from the camp in 1943 after nearly 2½ years of imprisonment. He took part as a combatant in the Warsaw Uprising in August–October 1944. He remained loyal to the London-based Polish government-in-exile after the Communist takeover of Poland, and he was arrested for espionage in 1947 by the Stalinist secret police (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa) on charges of working for "foreign imperialism", a euphemism for British Intelligence. He was executed after a show trial in 1948. Information was suppressed about his exploits and fate until 1989 by the Communist regime in Poland.Pilecki is considered as "one of the greatest wartime heroes" because of his efforts. Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich writes in The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery: "When God created the human being, God had in mind that we should all be like Captain Witold Pilecki, of blessed memory." British historian Norman Davies writes: "If there was an Allied hero who deserved to be remembered and celebrated, this was a person with few peers." Polish ambassador Ryszard Schnepf described Pilecki as a "diamond among Poland's heroes" and "the highest example of Polish patriotism" at the commemoration event of International Holocaust Remembrance Day held in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum on 27 January 2013.
Establishment of the Second Polish Republic
Theaters of the Russian Civil War
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