Polish–Soviet War

The Polish–Soviet War[N 1] (14 February 1919 – 18 March 1921) was fought primarily between the Second Polish Republic and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in the aftermath of World War I, on territories formerly held by the Russian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Polish–Soviet War
Part of East European military campaigns that included the Southern Front of the Russian Civil War, the Polish–Ukrainian War and Lithuanian Wars of Independence

  • Top left: Renault FT tanks of the Polish 1st Tank Regiment during the Battle of Dyneburg, January 1920
  • Below top left: Polish and Ukrainian troops in Khreshchatyk during the Kiev Offensive, 7 May 1920
  • Top right: Polish Schwarzlose M.07/12 machine gun nest during the Battle of Radzymin, August 1920
  • Middle: Polish defences with a machine gun position near Miłosna, in the village of Janki, Battle of Warsaw, August 1920
  • Bottom left: Russian prisoners following the Battle of Warsaw
  • Bottom right: Polish defences in Belarus during the Battle of the Niemen River, September 1920
Date14 February 1919 – 18 March 1921 (2 years, 1 month and 4 days)
Result Polish victory; Peace of Riga
(See Aftermath)
 Russian SFSR
 Byelorussian SSR
 Ukrainian SSR
Logistical support:
Ukrainian PR[lower-alpha 1]
Belarusian PR
 Latvia[lower-alpha 2]
Commanders and leaders
Leon Trotsky
Sergey Kamenev
Joseph Stalin
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Semyon Budyonny
August Kork
Nikolai Sollogub
Alexander Yegorov
Aleksandr Vasilevsky
Józef Piłsudski
Józef Haller
Franciszek Latinik
T. Jordan-Rozwadowski
Władysław Sikorski
Leonard Skierski
Edward Rydz-Śmigły
Symon Petliura
Early 1919: ~50,000[1]
Summer 1920:
Early 1919: ~80,000[3]
Summer 1920:
Casualties and losses
Estimated 67,000–70,000 killed[5]
80,000–157,000 taken prisoner (including rear-area personnel)
About 47,000 killed[6][7]
113,518 wounded[7]
51,351 taken prisoner[7]

In newly independent (from November 1918) Poland, leading politicians of different orientations pursued the general expectation of restoring the pre-1772 (First Partition of Poland) borders. Motivated by that idea, Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski aimed to expand Poland's eastern frontiers (actual borders had yet to be determined) to the east and began moving troops in that direction.

On 13 November 1918, Vladimir Lenin's Russia annulled the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and soon started slowly moving forces in the western direction to recover and secure the lands vacated by the German forces that were lost by the Russian state under the treaty. The first Polish-Soviet skirmishes occurred in mid-February 1919. That year, while the Red Army was still preoccupied with the Russian Civil War, the Polish Army took most of Lithuania and Belarus. Lenin saw Poland as the bridge the Red Army had to cross to assist other communist movements and to bring about more European revolutions.

By July 1919, Polish forces had taken control of much of Western Ukraine and emerged victorious from the Polish–Ukrainian War. The West Ukrainian People's Republic, led by Yevhen Petrushevych, was an attempt to establish a Ukrainian state on territories to which both Poles and Ukrainians laid claim.

In the part of Ukraine bordering on Russia, Symon Petliura tried to defend the Ukrainian People's Republic, but as the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand in the civil war, they advanced westward towards the disputed Ukrainian lands and made Petliura's forces retreat. Reduced to a small amount of territory in the west, Petliura was compelled to seek an alliance with Piłsudski, which was officially formed in April 1920.

Piłsudski believed that the best way for Poland to secure favorable borders was by military action and that he could easily defeat the Red Army forces. His Kiev Offensive, considered to have begun the Polish–Soviet War sensu stricto, commenced in late April 1920 and resulted in the takeover of Kiev by the Polish and allied Ukrainian forces on 7 May. The Soviet armies in the area, which were weaker, had not been defeated, as they avoided major confrontations and withdrew.

The Polish offensive was met by successful counterattacks by the Red Army, from 5 June on the southern Ukrainian front and from 4 July on the northern front. The Soviet operation pushed the Polish forces back westward all the way to Warsaw, the Polish capital, while the Directorate of Ukraine fled to Western Europe. Fears of Soviet troops arriving at the German borders increased the interest and involvement of the Western powers in the war. In mid-summer the fall of Warsaw seemed certain, but in mid-August the tide had turned again after the Polish forces achieved an unexpected and decisive victory at the Battle of Warsaw. In the wake of the eastward Polish advance that followed, the Soviets sued for peace, and the war ended with a ceasefire on 18 October 1920.

The Peace of Riga, signed on 18 March 1921, divided the disputed territories between Poland and Soviet Russia. The war and the treaty negotiations determined the Soviet–Polish border for the rest of the interwar period. Poland's eastern border was established at about 200 km east of the Curzon Line, a British proposal for Poland's border, previously approved by the Entente leaders as the limit of Poland's expansion in the eastern direction. Ukraine and Belarus became divided between Poland and the Soviet Union, which established the respective Soviet republics in its parts.

The peace negotiations, on the Polish side conducted chiefly by Piłsudski's opponents and against his will, ended with the official recognition of the two Soviet republics, which became parties to the treaty. This outcome and the new border agreed on precluded any possibility of the formation of the Intermarium Polish-led federation of states that Piłsudski had planned for or of meeting his other eastern policy goals. The Soviet Union later used the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Republic to claim their unification with parts of the Kresy territories where East Slavic people outnumbered ethnic Poles and which had remained, after the Peace of Riga, on the Polish side of the border, lacking any form of autonomy.

Names and dates

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") and "Polish–Bolshevik War".[8] This last 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 2]

There is disagreement over the dates of the war. The Encyclopædia Britannica begins its "Russo-Polish War" 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 Piłsudski 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. The Polish encyclopaedia Internetowa encyklopedia PWN,[8] as well as some Western historians including Norman Davies, consider 1919 the starting year of the war.[9]

The ending date is given as either 1920 or 1921; this confusion stems from the fact that while the cease-fire was put into force on 18 October 1920, the official treaty ending the war was signed on 18 March 1921. While the events of 1919 can be described as a border conflict and only in spring 1920 did both sides engage in an all-out war, the warfare that took place in 1920 was an escalation of the fighting that began a year earlier.[9]


Partitions of Poland in 1795: the coloured territories show the extent of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth just before the First Partition. The land absorbed by the Kingdom of Prussia is in blue (north-west), by the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy in green (south) and by the Russian Empire in red (east).

The war's main territories of contention lie in what is now Ukraine and Belarus. Until the mid-13th century, they formed part of the medieval state of Kievan Rus'. After a period of internal wars and the 1240 Mongol invasion, the 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 Principality of Kiev and the land between the Dnieper, Pripyat, and Daugava (Western Dvina) rivers became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. 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, many of the East Slavic territories became part of the Russian Empire in the course of the Partitions of Poland. In 1795 (the Third Partition of Poland), Poland lost formal independence. After the Congress of Vienna of 1814–1815, much of the territory of the Duchy of Warsaw was transferred to Russian control and became the autonomous Congress Poland (officially the Kingdom of Poland).[10] After young Poles refused conscription to the Imperial Russian Army during the January Uprising of 1863, Tsar Alexander II stripped Congress Poland of its separate constitution, attempted to force general use of the Russian language and took away vast tracts of land from Poles. Congress Poland was incorporated more directly into imperial Russia by being divided into ten provinces, each with an appointed Russian military governor and all under complete control of the Russian Governor-General at Warsaw.[11][12]

In November 1918, Poland became a sovereign state. Among the several border wars fought by the Second Polish Republic was the successful Greater Poland uprising (1918–1919) against Germany. The historic Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth included vast territories in the east. They had been incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1772–1795 and had remained its parts, as the Northwest Territory, until World War I.[13] After the war they were contested by the Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, and Latvian interests.

After the end of World War I in 1918, the map of Central and Eastern Europe changed drastically. The German Empire's defeat rendered obsolete Berlin's plans for the creation of Eastern European German-dominated states (Mitteleuropa), which included another rendition of the Kingdom of Poland. The Russian Empire collapsed, which resulted in the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War. The Russian state lost territory due to the German offensive and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed by the emergent Soviet Russia. Several nations of the region saw a chance for independence and seized their opportunity to gain it. With the defeat of Germany in the west and the withdrawal of German forces in the east, Soviet Russia disavowed the treaty and proceeded to recover many of the former territories of the Russian Empire.[14] However, preoccupied with the civil war, it did not have the resources to react swiftly to the national rebellions.[14] The Paris Peace Conference (1919–1920) had not made a definitive ruling in regard to Poland's eastern border, but it issued a provisional boundary in December 1919, known as the Curzon Line. It was an attempt to define the areas that had an "indisputably Polish ethnic majority".[15] Piłsudski and his allies blamed Prime Minister Ignacy Paderewski for this outcome and caused his dismissal. Paderewski, embittered, withdrew from politics.[16]

Map of areas where Polish was used as a primary language in 1916
Territorial establishment of the Second Polish Republic as of March 1919

With the collapse of the Russian and German occupying authorities, virtually all of Poland's neighbours began fighting over borders and other issues. Finnish Civil War, Estonian War of Independence, Latvian War of Independence, and Lithuanian Wars of Independence had all been fought in the Baltic Sea region.[17] Russia was overwhelmed by domestic struggles. In early March 1919, the Communist International was established in Moscow. The Hungarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed in March and the Bavarian Soviet Republic in April.[18][19] Winston Churchill, in a conversation with Prime Minister David Lloyd George, commented sarcastically: "The war of giants has ended, the wars of the pygmies begin."[20][21] The Polish–Soviet War was the longest lasting of the international engagements.

The territory of what had become Poland had been a major battleground during World War I and the new country lacked political stability. It had won the hard-fought Polish–Ukrainian War against the West Ukrainian People's Republic by July 1919 but had already become embroiled in new conflicts with Germany (the 1919–1921 Silesian Uprisings) and the January 1919 border conflict with Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, Soviet Russia focused on thwarting the counterrevolution and the 1918–1925 intervention by the Allied powers. The first clashes between Polish and Soviet forces occurred in February 1919, but it took over a year for a full-scale war to develop.[9]

From late 1919, the leader of Russia's new Bolshevik government, Vladimir Lenin, encouraged by the Red Army's civil war victories over the White Russian anti-communist forces and their Western allies, began to envision the future of world revolution with greater optimism. The Bolsheviks proclaimed the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat and agitated for a worldwide communist community. They intended to link the revolution in Russia with a communist revolution in Germany they had hoped for and to assist other communist movements in Europe. To be able to provide direct physical support to revolutionaries in the West, the Red Army would have to cross the territory of Poland.[22][23][24][25]

Lenin aimed to regain control of the territories abandoned by Russia in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 and to set up Soviet governments in the emerging countries in the western parts of the former Russian Empire. The more ambitious goal was to also 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.[22] By the end of summer 1919, the Soviets had taken over most of eastern and central Ukraine (formerly parts of the Russian Empire) and driven the Directorate of Ukraine from Kiev. In February 1919, they set up the Socialist Soviet Republic of Lithuania and Belorussia (Litbel). The government there was very unpopular because of the terror it had imposed and the collection of food and goods for the army.[22] Officially, the Soviet government denied charges of trying to invade Europe.[26]

As the Polish–Soviet War progressed, particularly while Poland's Kiev Offensive was being repelled in June 1920, Soviet policymakers, including Lenin, increasingly saw the war as the opportunity to spread the revolution westward.[22][24][27] According to the historian Richard Pipes, the Soviets had prepared for their own strike against Galicia (the disputed eastern part of which had been acquired by Poland in the course of the Polish–Ukrainian War of 1918–1919) already before the Polish Kiev Offensive.[24]

In newly independent Poland politics were strongly influenced by Chief of State Józef Piłsudski.[28] He had wanted to break up the Russian Empire and set up a Polish-led Intermarium federation of nominally independent states: Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and other Central and East European countries that emerged from the crumbling empires after World War I.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35] He had hoped that the new union would become a counterweight to any potential imperialist intentions of Russia or Germany.[36] Piłsudski believed that there could be no independent Poland without an independent Ukraine, thus his main interest was in splitting Ukraine from Russia.[37][38] He did not hesitate to use military force to expand the Polish borders in Galicia and Volhynia and crush a Ukrainian attempt at self-determination in the disputed territories east of the Curzon Line, which contained a significant Polish minority.[22] On 7 February 1919, Piłsudski spoke on the subject of Poland's future frontiers: "At the moment Poland is essentially without borders and all that we can gain in this regard in the west depends on the Entente – on the extent to which it may wish to squeeze Germany. In the east, it's a different matter; there are doors here that open and close and it depends on who forces them open and how far".[39][40] Polish military forces had thus set out to expand far in the eastern direction. As Piłsudski imagined, "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 the new states, could easily establish a sphere of influence stretching from Finland to the Caucasus".[41]

Piłsudski's ideas appeared progressive and democratic in comparison with the rival National Democracy's idea of Polonization of the disputed eastern lands, but he used his "federation" idea instrumentally. As he wrote to his close associate Leon Wasilewski in April 1919, (for now) "I want to be neither an imperialist nor a federalist. ... Taking into account that, in this God's world, an empty talk of the brotherhood of people and nations as well as the American little doctrines seem to be winning, I gladly side with the federalists".[42]

Preliminary hostilities

From late 1917, Polish revolutionary military units were formed in Russia. They were combined into the Western Rifle Division in October 1918. In summer 1918, a short-lived Polish communist government, led by Stefan Heltman, was established in Moscow. Both the military and civilian structures were meant to facilitate the eventual introduction of communism into Poland in the form of a Polish Soviet Republic.[43]

Given the precarious situation resulting from the withdrawal of German forces from Belarus and Lithuania and the expected arrival of the Red Army there, Polish Self-Defence had been organized around major concentrations of Polish population, such as Minsk, Vilnius and Grodno. They were recognized as part of the Polish Armed Forces by the decree of Polish Chief of State Piłsudski, issued on 7 December 1918.[43]

The Polish Self-Defence forces were defeated by the Soviets at a number of locations. In Minsk, the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia was declared on 31 December 1918. After three days of heavy fighting with the Western Rifle Division, the Self-Defence units withdrew from Vilnius on 5 January 1919.[43]

The Polish armed forces were hurriedly formed to fight in several border wars. Two major formations manned the Russian front in February 1919: the northern, led by General Wacław Iwaszkiewicz-Rudoszański, and the southern, under General Antoni Listowski.[43]

Polish–Ukrainian War

To Polish politicians, the Polish claim to Lviv was indisputable. In April 1919, the Legislative Sejm unanimously declared that all of Galicia should be annexed by Poland.[44] However, Ukrainian activists in eastern Galicia (formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) intended to establish a Ukrainian republic there with a capital in Lviv. Because of Russia-related political considerations, their attempts failed to generate support of the Entente powers.[45]

Key buildings in Lviv were seized by Ukrainians on 31 October 1918. On 1 November, Polish residents of the city counterattacked and the Polish–Ukrainian War began.[45] Lviv was under Polish control from 22 November.[46] In April 1919, the Polish army of General Józef Haller arrived from France, helped drive the Ukrainian forces east past the Zbruch River and decisively contributed to the outcome of the war. The West Ukrainian People's Republic was defeated by mid-July and eastern Galicia had come under Polish administration.[45][46]

On 21 November 1919, after contentious deliberations, the Allied Supreme War Council mandated Polish control over eastern Galicia for 25 years, with guarantees of autonomy for the Ukrainian population.[46] The Entente powers recognized the Polish claim to eastern Galicia in 1923.[47]

From January 1919 fighting also took place in Volhynia, where the Poles faced the forces of the Ukrainian People's Republic led by Symon Petliura. The Polish offensive resulted in the takeover of the western part of the province and in early September an armistice was signed.[40]

Polish intelligence

Before the war, Jan Kowalewski, a polyglot and amateur cryptologist, had managed to break the codes and ciphers of the army of the West Ukrainian People's Republic and, during his service in the Polish–Ukrainian War, of General Anton Denikin's White Russian forces. 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 the University of Warsaw and the University of Lviv (most notably the founders of the Polish School of Mathematics Stanisław Leśniewski, Stefan Mazurkiewicz and Wacław Sierpiński), who succeeded in breaking the Soviet Russian ciphers as well. The decoded information presented to Piłsudski showed that the Soviet peace proposals made in 1919 were fake and that the Soviets had really prepared for a new offensive against Poland and concentrated military forces in Barysaw. Piłsudski decided to ignore the Soviet proposals, sign an alliance with Symon Petliura of the Ukrainian People's Republic and prepare the Kiev Offensive. During the Polish–Soviet War, the Polish decryption of Red Army radio messages made it possible to use Polish military forces efficiently against Soviet Russian forces and to win many individual battles, most importantly the 1920 Battle of Warsaw.[48][49][50]


Five stages in Polish–Soviet War

Beginnings of the Polish–Soviet conflict

On 5 January 1919 the Red Army took Vilnius, which led to the establishment of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Lithuania and Belorussia (Litbel) on 28 February.[13][17] In February, Polish troops marched east to face the Soviets; the new Polish parliament declared the need to liberate "the northeast provinces of Poland with their capital in Wilno".[13] The Battle of Bereza Kartuska, a Polish–Soviet armed confrontation, took place around 14 February near Byaroza, Belarus.[9][51][8][22] By late February, the Soviet westward offensive had come to a halt and in early March the Polish units crossed the Neman River, took Pinsk, and reached the outskirts of Lida.

Fighting the Polish–Ukrainian War, by July 1919 Polish armies eliminated the West Ukrainian People's Republic.[16] Secretly preparing an assault on Soviet-held Vilnius, in early April Piłsudski was able to shift some of the forces used in Ukraine to the northern front. The idea was to create a fait accompli and to prevent the Western powers from granting the territories claimed by Poland to White movement's Russia (the Whites were expected to prevail in the Russian Civil War).[52]

A major Polish offensive started on 16 April and was led by Piłsudski.[8][40][52] In April the Red Army captured Grodno, but was soon pushed out by the Poles. As the Polish forces continued a steady eastern advance, they took Lida on 17 April,[8] Nowogródek on 18 April, and captured Vilnius on 19 April,[40] which drove the Litbel government from its proclaimed capital.[13][22]

Polish propaganda poster showing Polish cavalry and a Bolshevik soldier with the caption: "Beat the Bolshevik"

Upon the taking of Vilnius, in pursuit of his federation objectives, Piłsudski issued a "Proclamation to the inhabitants of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania" on 22 April. It was sharply criticized by his rival National Democrats, who demanded direct incorporation of the former Grand Duchy lands by Poland and signaled their opposition to Piłsudski's territorial and political concepts. Piłsudski had thus proceeded to restore the historic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth by military means, leaving the necessary political determinations for later.[40][52]

On 24 April, Lenin ordered the Western Front commander to reclaim Vilnius as soon as possible. Three Red Army formations attacked the Polish forces but were defeated in turn by Edward Rydz-Śmigły's division. While the Poles further extended their holdings, the Red Army, unable to accomplish its objectives and facing intensified combat with the White forces elsewhere, withdrew from its positions.[52]

The Polish forces took Minsk on 8 August,[8] and on 28 August they deployed tanks for the first time. After heavy fighting, the town of Babruysk, near the Berezina River, was captured.[8] By 2 September, Polish units reached the Daugava River. By mid-September, they secured the region along the Daugava from the Dysna River to Daugavpils (Dyneburg).[8] The frontline had also extended south, cutting through Polesia and Volhynia; along the Zbruch River it reached the Romanian border.[52] A Red Army assault between the Daugava and Berezina Rivers was repelled in October and the front had become relatively inactive with sporadic encounters only, as the line designated by Piłsudski to be the goal of the Polish operation in the north was reached.[52] Preoccupied with fighting the Whites, the Red Army steadily retreated on its entire western front 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, marched on Moscow. Piłsuski had no intention of joining the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War,[22] because he considered the Whites' Russian imperial designs more threatening to Poland than those of the Bolsheviks.[40][53] Piłsudski was aware that the Soviets were not friends of independent Poland and considered war with Soviet Russia inevitable,[54] but he underestimated the strength of the Bolsheviks.[53] He thought he could get a better deal for Poland from the Bolsheviks than from the Whites,[55] who represented, in his opinion, the old Russian imperial policies, hostile to strong Poland and Ukraine independent from Russia, Piłsudski's main objectives.[56] The Bolsheviks had proclaimed the partitions of Poland to be invalid and declared their support for self-determination of the Polish nation.[57][58] Piłsudski thus speculated that Poland would be better off with the Bolsheviks, who were also alienated from the Western powers, than with the restored Russian Empire and its partnership with Western politics.[55][59] By his refusal to join the attack on Lenin's struggling government, he ignored strong pressure from the Triple Entente leaders and possibly saved the Bolshevik government in summer to fall 1919,[60] although a full-scale attack by the Poles to support Denikin would not have been possible.[61] Mikhail Tukhachevsky later commented on the likely disastrous consequences for the Bolsheviks if the Polish government undertook military cooperation with Denikin at the time of his advance on Moscow.[62]

Denikin twice appealed to Piłsudski for help, in summer and in autumn 1919. According to Denikin, "The defeat of the south of Russia will make Poland face the power that will become a calamity for the Polish culture and will threaten the existence of the Polish state". According to Piłsudski, "The lesser evil is to facilitate a White Russia's defeat by Red Russia. ... with any Russia we fight for Poland. Let all that filthy West talk all they want; we're not going to be dragged into and used for the fight against the Russian revolution, quite to the contrary, in the name of permanent Polish interests we want to make it easier for the revolutionary army to act against the counter-revolutionary army."[62] On 12 December, the Red Army pushed Denikin out of Kiev.[62]

Central and Eastern Europe in December 1919

From the beginning of the conflict, many peace initiatives had been declared by the Polish and Russian sides, but they were intended as cover or stalling for time, as each side concentrated on military preparations and moves.[18] One series of Polish-Soviet negotiations commenced in early November 1919 in Mikashevichy, where Piłsudski's associate Ignacy Boerner met with Lenin's emissary Julian Marchlewski. Buoyed by their armies' successes in the Russian Civil War, the Soviet government rejected the tough Polish armistice conditions in December; Piłsudski broke off the Mikashevichy talks two days after the Soviet takeover of Kiev.[62]

Polish–Lithuanian relations had worsened, as Polish politicians found the Lithuanian demands for certain territories, especially the city of Vilnius, hard to accept. Polish negotiators made better progress with the Latvian Provisional Government: in late 1919 and early 1920, Polish and Latvian forces conducted joint operations against Soviet Russia. The Latvian government requested and obtained Polish help in capturing Daugavpils, which was accomplished primarily by the 3rd Legions Infantry Division under Edward Rydz-Śmigły.[40] The city's Soviet defenses fell after heavy fighting at the Battle of Daugavpils in early January and the town was handed over to the Latvians.[40][63][64] On 4 March 1920, General Władysław Sikorski initiated a new offensive in Polesia; the Polish forces had driven a wedge between Soviet forces to the north (Belarus) and south (Ukraine). The Soviet counter-offensive in Polesia and Volhynia was pushed back.[63]

The fighting in 1919 resulted in the formation of a very long frontline, which, according to the historian Eugeniusz Duraczyński, favored at this stage Poland.[53]

In late 1919 and early 1920, Piłsudski undertook his gargantuan task of breaking up Russia and creating the Intermarium bloc of countries.[65][66] Given the refusal of Lithuania and other eastern Baltic region countries to participate in the project, he set his sights on Ukraine.[63][65]

Piłsudski's alliance with Petliura

Polish General Antoni Listowski (left) and Ukrainian leader Symon Petliura, allied with Poland

Having resolved Poland's armed conflicts with the emerging Ukrainian states to Poland's satisfaction, Piłsudski was finally able to work on a Polish–Ukrainian alliance against Russia.[67] The Treaty of Warsaw, Piłsudski's agreement with the exiled Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petliura, was signed on 21 April 1920 and appeared to be Piłsudski's major success, potentially signifying the beginning of a successful implementation of his long-held designs. Petliura, who formally represented the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic, which had de facto been defeated by the Bolsheviks, fled with some Ukrainian troops to Poland, where he found political asylum. His control extended only to a sliver of land near the Polish-controlled areas.[68] Petliura had therefore little choice but to accept the Polish offer of alliance, largely on Polish terms, as determined by the outcome of the recent warfare between the two nations.[69]

By concluding an agreement with Piłsudski, Petliura 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 reinstating his government in Kiev.[22] Given the powerful opposition against Piłsudski's eastern policy in war-tired Poland, the negotiations with Petliura were conducted in secrecy and the text of the 21 April agreement remained secret. Poland recognized in it Ukraine's right to parts of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (before 1772) east of the Zbruch.[40] A military convention was added on 24 April; it placed Ukrainian units under Polish command.[70]

For Piłsudski, the alliance gave his campaign for the Intermarium federation an actual starting point and potentially the most important federation partner, satisfied his demands regarding parts of Polish eastern border relevant to the proposed Ukrainian state and laid a foundation for a Polish-dominated Ukrainian state between Russia and Poland.[69] According to Richard K. Debo, while Petliura could not contribute real strength to the Polish offensive, for Piłsudski the alliance provided some camouflage for the "naked aggression involved".[69] For Petliura, it was the final chance to preserve the Ukrainian statehood and at least a theoretical independence of the Ukrainian heartlands, despite his acceptance of the loss of West Ukrainian lands to Poland.

Regarding the deal they had concluded, both leaders encountered strong opposition in their respective countries. Piłsudski faced stiff opposition from Roman Dmowski's National Democrats, who opposed Ukrainian independence.[67] To protest the alliance, Stanisław Grabski resigned the chairmanship of the foreign affairs committee in Polish parliament, where the National Democrats were a dominant force (their approval would be needed to finalize any future political settlement).[67] Petliura was criticised by many Ukrainian politicians for entering a pact with the Poles and for abandoning Western Ukraine (after the destruction of the West Ukrainian People's Republic, Western Ukraine was – from their point of view – occupied by Poland).[27][71][67]

The alliance with Petlura gave Poland 15,000 allied Ukrainian troops at the beginning of the Kiev campaign,[72] which increased to 35,000 by recruitment and from Soviet deserters during the war.[72]

From Kiev Offensive to armistice

Polish forces

According to Norman Davies, estimating the strength of the opposing sides is difficult, and even generals often had incomplete reports of their own forces.[73]

The Polish Army was made up of soldiers who had served in the armies of the partitioning empires, as well as many new enlistees and volunteers. It was supported by some international volunteers, such as the Kościuszko's Squadron.[74] Russian anti-Bolshevik units fought on the Polish side. They were sponsored by the Russian Political Committee represented by Boris Savinkov and commanded by General Boris Permikin.[70]

The Polish forces grew from approximately 100,000 in 1918 to over 500,000 in early 1920.[75] In August 1920, the Polish Army had reached a total strength of about 740,000 soldiers, half of whom were on the frontline. Soviet losses and the spontaneous, large-scale enrollment of Polish volunteers allowed rough numerical parity between the two armies;[40] by the time of the Battle of Warsaw, the Poles may have had gained a slight advantage in numbers and logistics.[4] One of the major formations on the Polish side was the First Polish Army.

Red Army
Mikhail Kalinin and Leon Trotsky greet the Red Army troops

By early 1920, the Red Army had been very successful against the White movement.[34] They had defeated Anton Denikin and signed peace treaties with Latvia and Estonia. The Polish front had become their most important war theatre and had the most Soviet resources and forces diverted to it. In January 1920, the Red Army began concentrating forces along the Berezina River.[51]

When the Poles launched their Kiev offensive, the Russian Southwestern Front had about 83,000 Soviet soldiers, including 29,000 front-line troops. The Poles had some numerical superiority, which was estimated from 12,000 to 52,000 personnel.[73] During the Soviet counter-offensive in mid-1920, on all fronts, the Soviets numbered about 790,000, at least 50,000 more than the Poles. Mikhail Tukhachevsky estimated that he had 160,000 combat ready soldiers, while Piłsudski estimated Tukhachevsky's forces at 200,000–220,000.[76]

In 1920, the Red Army personnel numbered 402,000 on the Soviet Western Front and 355,000 on the Southwestern Front in Galicia, according to Davies.[2] Grigori F. Krivosheev gives 382,071 personnel for the Western Front and 282,507 personnel for the Southwestern Front between July and August.[77]

Davies shows the growth of the Red Army forces on the Polish fronts in early 1920:[78]

1 January 1920 – 4 infantry divisions, 1 cavalry brigade
1 February 1920 – 5 infantry divisions, 5 cavalry brigades
1 March 1920 – 8 infantry divisions, 4 cavalry brigades
1 April 1920 – 14 infantry divisions, 3 cavalry brigades
15 April 1920 – 16 infantry divisions, 3 cavalry brigades
25 April 1920 – 20 infantry divisions, 5 cavalry brigades

After the reorganization of the Western Rifle Division in mid-1919, there were no separate Polish units within the Red Army. On both the Western and the Southwestern Fronts, besides the Russian units, there had been separate Ukrainian, Latvian, and German–Hungarian units. In addition, many communists of various nationalities, for example the Chinese, fought in integrated units. The Lithuanian army supported the Soviet forces to some degree.[70]

Among the commanders leading the Red Army offensive were Semyon Budyonny, Leon Trotsky, Mikhail Tukhachevsky (the new commander of the Western Front), Alexander Yegorov (the new commander of the Southwestern Front) and Joseph Stalin.

Logistics and plans

Logistics were very bad for both armies and were supported by whatever equipment was left over from World War I or could be captured. The Polish Army, for example, used guns made in five countries and rifles manufactured in six, each of which used different ammunition.[79] The Soviets had at their disposal many military depots that were left by the German armies after their withdrawal in 1918–1919, and modern French armaments that were captured in great numbers from the White Russians and the Allied expeditionary forces during the Russian Civil War. Still, they suffered a shortage of arms, as both the Red Army and the Polish forces were grossly underequipped by Western standards.[79]

From early 1920, both the Polish and Soviet sides had prepared for decisive confrontations. However, Lenin and Trotsky had not yet been able to dispose of all the White forces, including especially the army of Pyotr Wrangel, threatening them from the south. Piłsudski, unconstrained by such limitations, was able to attack first.[53] The plan for the Kiev Expedition was to beat the Red Army on Poland's southern flank and to install the pro-Polish Petliura government in Ukraine.[22]

Victor Sebestyen, author of a 2017 biography of Lenin, wrote: "The newly independent Poles started the war. With England and France's backing, they invaded Ukraine in spring 1920." Some Allied leaders had not supported Poland, including former British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who called the Kiev Expedition "a purely aggressive adventure, a wanton enterprise". Sebestyen characterized Piłsudski as a "Polish nationalist, not a socialist".[80]

Kiev Offensive
Polish Kiev Offensive at its height, June 1920

On 17 April 1920, the Polish General Staff ordered the armed forces to assume attack positions. The Red Army, which had been regrouping since 10 March, was not fully ready for combat.[81]

On 25 April, Poland commenced its main undertaking, the Kiev Offensive.[81] Its stated goal was the creation of a formally independent Ukraine,[22] which would separate Poland from Russia.[81] Polish forces were assisted by 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers under Petliura, who represented the Ukrainian People's Republic.[72]

On 26 April, in his "Call to the People of Ukraine", Piłsudski told his intended audience that "the Polish Army would only stay as long as necessary until a legal Ukrainian government took control over its own territory".[82] However, although many Ukrainians were anti-communist, many were anti-Polish and resented the Polish advance.[22][27]

Vladimir Lenin, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of Soviet Russia, delivers a speech to motivate troops to fight in the Polish–Soviet War on 5 May 1920

The Polish 3rd Army quickly overpowered the Red Army in Ukraine; the Soviets suffered limited losses but were pushed past the Dnieper River.[81] On 7 May, the combined Polish–Ukrainian forces, led by Edward Rydz-Śmigły, encountered only token resistance as they entered Kiev, largely abandoned by the Soviet military.[22][81]

This Polish thrust was met with Red Army counterattacks from 29 May.[8] Alexander Yegorov, commander of the Russian Southwestern Front, received considerable reinforcements and initiated an assault maneuver in the Kiev area.[81]

In the north, Mikhail Tukhachevsky resolved to launch an assault on the Belarusian front before Polish troops arrive (according to Polish plans) from the Ukrainian front. On 14 May, his forces attacked the weaker Polish armies there and penetrated the Polish-held areas (territories between the Daugava and the Berezina Rivers) to the depth of 180 kilometers. Because of the energetic counter-offensive by the Polish armies led by Kazimierz Sosnkowski and Leonard Skierski, the Poles recovered the bulk of the lost territory, after which the front had stabilised near the Avuta River and remained inactive until July.[81]

Polish troops in Kiev

Semyon Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army (Konarmia) conducted repeated attacks and broke the Polish–Ukrainian front on 5 June.[8] The Soviets deployed mobile cavalry units to disrupt the Polish rearguard and target communications and logistics.[81] By 10 June, the Polish armies were in retreat along the entire front. General Rydz-Śmigły with the Polish and Ukrainian troops under his command abandoned Kiev (the city was not being attacked) to the Red Army.[81]

Soviet victories

On 9 May 1920, the Soviet newspaper Pravda printed an article "Go West!" (Russian: На Запад!): "Through the corpse of White Poland lies the way to the World Inferno. On bayonets, we will carry happiness and peace to working humanity".[83] On 30 May 1920 General Aleksei Brusilov, the last tsarist commander-in-chief, published in Pravda an appeal "To all former officers, wherever they may be", encouraging them to forgive past grievances and join the Red Army.[84] Brusilov considered it a patriotic duty of all Russian officers to enlist with the Bolshevik government, which he thought to be defending Russia against foreign invaders. Lenin understood the importance of the appeal to Russian nationalism. The Central Committee had thus called on the "respected citizens of Russia" to defend the Soviet republic against a Polish usurpation. The Soviet Russia's counteroffensive was indeed boosted by Brusilov's involvement: 14,000 officers and over 100,000 soldiers of lower ranks enlisted in or returned to the Red Army; thousands of civilian volunteers contributed to the war effort as well.[85]

Polish Bréguet 14 operating from Kiev airfield

Edward Rydz-Śmigły, commander of the Polish 3rd Army in Ukraine, wanted to break through the Soviet lines and move in the northwestern direction. However, although the Polish forces in Ukraine managed to withdraw relatively unscathed, they remained tied down in the western part of it. They could not support the Polish northern front and reinforce, as planned by Piłsudski, the defences at the Avuta River for the decisive battle there.[86]

Poland's 320 km (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. Poland's eastern front, however, bore little resemblance to that war's conditions, as it was weakly manned, supported with inadequate artillery, and had almost no fortifications. Such arrangement allowed the Soviets to attain numerical superiority at strategically crucial locations.[86]

Soviet offensive successes, early August 1920

Against the Polish line, the Red Army gathered its Western Front led by the young General Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Its numbers exceeded 108,000 infantry and 11,000 cavalry, supported by 722 artillery pieces and 2,913 machine guns.[86]

The Soviets launched their offensive on 4 July along the SmolenskBrest axis and crossed the Avuta and the Berezina Rivers.[8] The northern 3rd Cavalry Corps, led by Hayk Bzhishkyan, enveloped the Polish forces from the north and moved near the Lithuanian and Prussian border. The 4th, 15th and 3rd Armies pushed to the west, supported from the south by the 16th Army and the Mozyr Group. For three days the outcome of the battle hung in the balance, but by 7 July the Polish forces were in full retreat along the entire front.[86]

American volunteer pilots, Merian C. Cooper and Cedric Fauntleroy, fought in Kościuszko's Squadron of the Polish Air Force

Polish resistance was offered again on the line of old German trenches and fortifications from World War I; it presented an opportunity to stem the Red Army offensive, but there were too few Polish troops. The Soviet forces found a weakly defended part of the front and broke through. Polish troops withdrew from Minsk on 11 July.[81] Bzhishkyan's units together with Lithuanian forces captured Vilnius on 14 July and the Poles had to retreat again.[81][86] To the south, in eastern Galicia, Budyonny's cavalry advanced far into the Polish rear, captured Brody and approached Lviv and Zamość. It had become clear to the Poles that the Soviet objectives were not limited to pushing their borders westward but that Poland's very independence was at stake.[87]

The Soviet armies moved toward the west at a remarkable speed. Grodno fell on 19 July, Białystok on 28 July, and Brest on 1 August.[81] A Polish counteroffensive Piłsudski aimed for was thwarted by the unexpected fall of Brest.[81] The Polish forces attempted to defend the Bug River line with the 4th Army and Grupa Poleska units but they delayed the Red Army's advance for only one week. The Brest Fortress, headquarters of the planned Polish counteroffensive, fell to the 16th Army in the first attack.[86] After crossing the Narew River on 2 August, the Western Front was only 97 kilometres (60 mi) from Warsaw.[86]

Polish fighters of the Kościuszko Squadron

The Southwestern Front pushed the Polish forces out of most of Ukraine. Stalin thwarted Sergey Kamenev's orders and directed the formations under Budyonny's command to close on Zamość and Lviv, the largest city in eastern Galicia and garrison of the Polish 6th Army.[88][89] The protracted Battle of Lviv began in July 1920. Stalin's action was detrimental to the situation of the forces of Tukhachevsky in the north, since Tukhachevsky needed relief from Budyonny near Warsaw, where in August decisive battles were fought. Instead, the two Soviet fronts were getting further apart.[89]

Fighting the Battle of Brody in the second half of July, the Polish forces attempted to stop Budyonny's advance on Lviv, but the effort was terminated by Piłsudski, who mustered two divisions to take part in the approaching Battle of Warsaw.[81]

On 1 August 1920, Polish and Soviet delegations met at Baranavichy and exchanged notes, but their armistice talks produced no results.[90]

Diplomatic front
General Józef Haller (touching the flag) and his Blue Army

The initial success of the Kiev Expedition caused enormous euphoria in Poland and Piłsudski's leading role was recognized by most politicians.[40] However, with the tide turning against Poland, Piłsudski's political power weakened, and that of his opponents, including Roman Dmowski, rose. The government of Leopold Skulski, Piłsudski's ally, resigned in early June. After prolonged bickering, an extra-parliamentary government of Władysław Grabski was appointed on 23 June 1920.[91]

As the Soviet armies advanced, 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".[92] The Soviet communist theorist Nikolai Bukharin, writing for the newspaper Pravda, wished for the resources to carry the campaign beyond Warsaw, "right up to London and Paris".[93] In General Tukhachevsky's words, "The path to the world conflagration passes over the corpse of Poland. On Vilnius-Minsk-Warsaw march" and "onward to Berlin over the corpse of Poland!".[22][86] As the victory seemed more certain to them, the Soviet commanders engaged in political intrigues.[94]

At the height of the Polish–Soviet conflict, Jews were subjected to antisemitic violence by Polish forces, who considered them a potential threat and often accused of supporting the Bolsheviks.[95][96] The perpetrators of the pogroms that took place were motivated by Żydokomuna accusations.[97] During the Battle of Warsaw, the Polish authorities interned Jewish soldiers and volunteers and sent them to an internment camp.[98][99]

To counter the immediate Soviet threat, national resources were urgently mobilized in Poland and competing political factions declared unity. On 1 July, the Council of Defense of the State was appointed.[40][91] On 6 July Piłsudski was outvoted in the council, which resulted in the trip of Prime Minister Grabski to the Spa Conference in Belgium made to request Allied assistance for Poland and their mediation in setting up peace negotiations with Soviet Russia.[100][101] The Allied representatives were largely unresponsive to Polish demands.[101] On 10 July,[100] Grabski signed an agreement containing several terms as required by the Allies: Polish forces would withdraw to the Curzon Line, which delineated Poland's eastern ethnographic frontier and was published by the Allies in December 1919; Poland would participate in a subsequent peace conference; and the questions of sovereignty over Vilnius, Eastern Galicia, Cieszyn Silesia and Danzig would be left up to the Allies.[101] Vague promises of Allied support were made in exchange.[101]

Bolshevik propaganda poster of the Polish–Soviet War

On 11 July 1920, the British government sent a telegram to the Soviets that was signed by George Curzon and has been described as a de facto ultimatum.[102] It requested the Soviets to halt their offensive at the Curzon Line and to accept it as a temporary border with Poland until a permanent border could be established in negotiations.[22] In case of a Soviet refusal, the British threatened to assist Poland with all means available.[103] The 17 July Soviet response rejected all British mediation and declared willingness to negotiate only directly with Poland.[22][100]

The Second Congress of the Communist International deliberated in Moscow between 19 July and 7 August 1920. Lenin spoke of the increasingly favorable odds for the accomplishment of the World Proletarian Revolution which would lead to an establishment of the World Soviet Republic and the delegates eagerly followed daily reports from the front.[100] The congress issued an appeal to workers in all countries, asking them to forestall their governments' efforts to aid "White" Poland.[104]

Piłsudski lost another vote at the Defense Council and on 22 July the government dispatched a delegation to Moscow to ask for armistice talks. The Soviets claimed interest in peace negotiations only, the subject the Polish delegation was not authorized to discuss.[100]

Sponsored by the Soviets, the Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee (Polrewkom) was formed on 23 July in Białystok to organise the administration of Polish territories captured by the Red Army.[22][40][100] The committee was led by Julian Marchlewski; Feliks Dzierżyński and Józef Unszlicht were among its members.[100] They found little support in Soviet-controlled Poland.[27] On 30 July, the Polrewkom decreed the end of the Polish "gentrybourgeoisie" government. At Polrewkom's Białystok rally on 2 August, its representatives were greeted on behalf of Soviet Russia, the Bolshevik party and the Red Army by Mikhail Tukhachevsky.[104]

On 24 July, the Polish Government of National Defense under Wincenty Witos and Ignacy Daszyński was established.[40][104] It attempted to conduct peace negotiations with Soviet Russia; a new Polish delegation tried to cross the front and establish contact with the Soviets from 5 August.[104]

The Soviets presented their armistice conditions to the Allies on 8 August in Britain. Sergey Kamenev issued assurances of Soviet recognition of Poland's independence and right to self-determination, but the conditions he presented amounted to a surrender of the Polish state. Prime Minister David Lloyd George and the British House of Commons approved the Soviet demands as just and reasonable and the British ambassador in Warsaw presented Britain's categorical advice on that matter to Foreign Minister Eustachy Sapieha. On 14 August, the Polish delegation finally went to Tukhachevsky's headquarters in Minsk for the official peace talks. Decisive battles were already taking place on the outskirts of Warsaw.[104] Most foreign deputations and Allied missions had left the Polish capital and went to Poznań.[89]

On 6 August, the British Labour Party printed in a pamphlet that British workers would not take part in the war as Poland's allies. The labour unions blocked supplies to the expeditionary force assisting the Russian Whites in Arkhangelsk. The French Section of the Workers' International declared in its newspaper L'Humanité: "Not a man, not a sou, not a shell for the reactionary and capitalist Poland. Long live the Russian Revolution! Long live the Workers' International!".[86] Poland also suffered from sabotage and delays in deliveries of war supplies when Czechoslovak and German workers refused to transit such materials to Poland.[22] Germany, Austria and Belgium banned transit of materials destined for Poland through their territories. In Gdańsk, given the Germany-instigated strike of seaport workers, the British commander, having consulted the British mission in Warsaw, used his soldiers to unload commodities heading for Poland.[104] On 6 August the Polish government issued an "Appeal to the World", which disputed the charges of Polish imperialism and stressed Poland's belief in self-determination and the dangers of a Bolshevik invasion of Europe.[105]

Hungary offered to send a 30,000 cavalry corps to Poland's aid, but President Tomáš Masaryk and Foreign Minister Edvard Beneš of Czechoslovakia were opposed to assisting Poland and the Czechoslovak government refused to allow them through.[104]

In summer 1919, Lithuania had been engaged in territorial disputes and armed skirmishes with Poland over the city of Vilnius and the areas around Sejny and Suwałki.[13] An August 1919 Piłsudski's attempt to take control of Lithuania by engineering a coup contributed to worsening of the relations.[13][106] The Soviet and Lithuanian governments signed on 12 July 1920 the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty; it recognised Vilnius as part of Lithuania.[107] The treaty contained a secret clause that allowed Soviet forces unrestricted movement in Lithuania during any Soviet war with Poland, which led to questions regarding Lithuanian neutrality during the ongoing Polish–Soviet War.[108][109] The Lithuanians also provided the Soviets with logistic support.[109] Following the treaty, the Red Army occupied Vilnius; the Soviets returned the city to Lithuanian control just before it was recaptured by Polish forces in late August.[13] Until then, the Soviets had encouraged their own communist government, the Litbel, and planned a communist coup in Lithuania.[110][111]

Soviet delegates arrive for armistice negotiations before the Battle of Warsaw, August 1920

France sent to Poland an advisory group of four hundred members in 1919. It consisted mostly of French officers but included also a few British advisers led by Adrian Carton de Wiart. The French officers included Charles de Gaulle. During the Polish–Soviet War he won the Virtuti Militari, Poland's highest military decoration. In France de Gaulle had enlisted in General Józef Haller's "Blue Army". The army's transit to Poland in 1919 was facilitated by France.[40] Blue Army troops were mostly of Polish origin but included also international volunteers, who had been under French command during World War I. In 1920, France was reluctant to aid Poland in Poland's war with Soviet Russia. Only after the Soviet armistice conditions were presented on 8 August, France declared through its representative in Warsaw the intention to morally, politically and materially support Poland in its fight for independence.[104]

In mid-1920, the Allied missions were expanded and became the Interallied Mission to Poland. They included the French diplomat Jean Jules Jusserand; Maxime Weygand, chief of staff to Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the supreme commander of the victorious Entente; and the British diplomat Edgar Vincent. The new members of the mission made little impact on the war, but the crucial Battle of Warsaw had been fought and won by the Poles before the mission returned and made its report. Many in the West erroneously believed that it was the timely arrival of Allied forces that had saved Poland; Weygand occupied the central role in the myth that was created.[22][112]

The Polish-French co-operation continued, and French weaponry, including infantry armament, artillery and Renault FT tanks, were shipped to Poland to reinforce its military. On 21 February 1921, France and Poland agreed to a formal military alliance,[113] which became an important factor during the Soviet–Polish negotiations.[citation needed]

The Soviet emphasis had gradually shifted from promoting world revolution to dismantling the Treaty of Versailles system, which, in Lenin's words, was the treaty of the "triumphant world imperialism".[114] Lenin made remarks to that effect during the 9th Conference of the Russian Communist Party RKP(b), convened on 22–25 September 1920.[22][114] He repeatedly referred to the Soviet military defeat, for which he indirectly held himself largely responsible. Trotsky and Stalin, in turn, blamed each other for the war's outcome. Stalin sharply rebutted Lenin's accusations regarding Stalin's judgement ahead of the Battle of Warsaw.[114]

Before the battle
Polish propaganda poster. The text reads: "To arms! Save the fatherland! Remember well our future fate."

According to the plan of the commander-in-chief of the Red Army Sergey Kamenev as of 20 July 1920, two Soviet fronts, Western and Southwestern, were going to execute a concentric attack on Warsaw. However, after consulting Tukhachevsky, the Western Front commander, Kamenev concluded that the Western Front alone could manage the occupation of Warsaw.[88]

Tukhachevsky's intention was to destroy the Polish armies in the region of Warsaw. His plan was to have one of his armies attack the Polish capital from the east, while three other were to force their way across the Vistula further north, between Modlin and Toruń. Parts of this formation were going to be used to outflank Warsaw from the west. It had soon become apparent to Tukhachevsky that his designs were not working.[89]

The Southwestern Front was given the task of attacking Lviv. Accordingly (and in agreement with his own previously expressed views) Stalin, member of the Revolutionary Council of the Southwestern Front, directed Budyonny to unleash an assault on Lviv, aimed at taking the city (Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army was originally supposed to head north in the direction of Brest, to assist Tukhachevsky). Budyonny's forces fought in the vicinity of Lviv until August 19. In the meantime, already on August 11, Kamenev ordered the 1st Cavalry Army and the 12th Army of the Southwestern Front to proceed in the northwestern direction toward the Western Front area to fight there under Tukhachevsky's command. Kamenev repeated his order on 13 August, but Budyonny, following Stalin's directives, refused to obey. On 13 August, Tukhachevsky in vain pleaded with Kamenev to expedite the redirecting of both Southwestern armies to his area of combat. Such circumstances led to a Soviet disadvantage as the crucial Battle of Warsaw was about to unfold.[88]

Leon Trotsky interpreted Stalin's actions as insubordination, but the historian Richard Pipes asserts that Stalin "almost certainly acted on Lenin's orders" in not moving the forces to Warsaw.[115] According to Stalin's biographer Duraczyński, Stalin, despite his devotion to Lenin, displayed a great deal of initiative and boldness; unlike other Soviet officials, including Lenin, he had not become euphoric about the Soviet victories. However, he insisted on the exceptional importance of the activities of the Southwestern Front, which turned out to be costly for the Soviets.[88]

Piłsudski had his counteroffensive plan figured by 6 August. He resolved to reinforce the Warsaw and Modlin region, tie-up the Soviet assault forces there, and then use the divisions taken from the front and others in a risky maneuver of attacking the rear of Tukhachevsky's forces from the Wieprz River area. The Soviets found a copy of Piłsudski's order, but Tukhachevsky thought it to be a hoax. In the final parade Piłsudski received before the attack, about half of his worn out and undersupplied soldiers marched barefoot.[89]

Battle of Warsaw
Polish soldiers display captured Soviet standards after the Battle of Warsaw

From the spring of 1920, Polish military intelligence had decrypted the Red Army's radio messages.[116][117][118] The Polish high command had been aware of current Soviet moves and plans, which may have had decisively influenced the outcome of the war.[117]

On 10 August 1920 Soviet Cossack units, commanded by Hayk Bzhishkyan, crossed the Vistula River. They planned to take Warsaw from the west, while the main attack came from the east. The Soviet advance across the Vistula in the north moved into 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 Western and Southwestern Fronts.

On 12 August, Tukhachevsky's 16th and 3rd Armies commenced their assault on Warsaw from the east.[119] The Polish 1st Army under General Franciszek Latinik stopped the enemy at the Battle of Radzymin and on 15 August initiated offensive actions of its own.[86][119]

The Polish 5th Army, under General Władysław Sikorski, counterattacked on 14 August from the area of the Modlin Fortress and crossed the Wkra River. It faced the combined forces of the Soviet 3rd and 15th Armies, which were numerically and materially superior. The attack split the Soviet front into two parts.[119] The Soviet advance toward Warsaw and Modlin was halted in one day and had soon turned into a retreat, which contributed to the success of the drive by the main Polish formation coming from the Wieprz River area under Piłsudski's command.[40] Sikorski's 5th Army pushed the exhausted Soviet formations away from Warsaw in a lightning operation and destroyed any Soviet hope of completing the enveloping manoeuvre in the north.

By 16 August, the Polish counteroffensive had been joined by Piłsudski's group coming from the Wieprz River.[119] The weak Mozyr Group, which was supposed to protect the link between the Soviet fronts, was destroyed. The Poles continued their northward offensive and reached the rear of Tukhachevsky's forces. A rapid pursuit of the Russians followed and continued to the Prussian border and to the Niemen River.[119] Of the four armies of the Western Front two disintegrated; the 4th Army with a cavalry corps crossed into East Prussia, where they were interned.[119]

Tukhachevsky, at his headquarters in Minsk, had become fully aware of the magnitude of the Soviet defeat and ordered the remnants of his armies to retreat and regroup. He hoped to straighten the front line, halt the Polish attack and regain the initiative, but his orders arrived too late or not at all.[86] The Soviet armies in the centre of the front fell into chaos. Tukhachevsky ordered a general retreat toward the Bug River but had lost contact with most of his forces near Warsaw. The Bolshevik plans had been thrown into further disarray by communication failures.[86]

The Battle of Warsaw lasted ten days.[119] A large portion of the defeated Soviet troops had been taken prisoner or interned in Prussia.[40] Edward Rydz-Śmigły's formation manned the new frontline, which ran from Brest to Grodno.[119] The victory allowed the Poles to regain the initiative and undertake further military offensive.[40]

To diminish Piłsudski's military achievement and his role in the saving of Warsaw, at the instigation of his Polish detractors, the Battle of Warsaw had been referred to as the "Miracle on the Vistula", and the phrase has since remained in popular use in Poland. The "miracle" was attributed to the Virgin Mary.[120]

Conclusion of military campaigns
Austin-Putilov "Poznańczyk" near Babruysk, Polish–Soviet War 1920

Semyon Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army's advance toward Lviv was halted on 17 August at the Battle of Zadwórze.[8] At Zadwórze, a small Polish force sacrificed itself to prevent the Soviet army from seizing Lviv and stopping vital Polish reinforcements from moving toward Warsaw. Budyonny's cavalry belatedly broke off its siege of Lviv to come to the aid of Soviet forces retreating from Warsaw. His units moved on Zamość on 29 August, but became engaged in heavy fighting with Polish troops diverted from the successful Warsaw counteroffensive.[8] The 1st Cavalry Army was surrounded and defeated by Polish cavalry at the Battle of Komarów near Zamość,[119] one of the largest cavalry battles since 1813. The remains of Budyonny's army retreated towards Volodymyr-Volynskyi on 6 September and were eventually withdrawn from the Polish front.[8][119]

Tukhachevsky reorganised the retreating forces and established in September a new defensive line running from the Polish–Lithuanian border area in the north to Polesia, with a central point in the city of Grodno. The Polish Army broke the line at the Battle of the Niemen River. The Polish forces crossed the Neman (Niemen) and outflanked the Bolshevik forces, which had to retreat again.[8] Following the battle, the Poles continued to advance eastward on all fronts.[8] After the early October battle at the Shchara River, the Polish Army had reached the TernopilDubnoMinskVerkhnyadzvinsk line.[citation needed] The Polish units entered Minsk in mid-October.[40]

In the south, Petliura's Ukrainian forces defeated the Bolshevik 14th Army and took control of the left bank of the Zbruch River on 18 September. In October, they moved east to the YaruhaSharhorodBarLityn line.[121] They now numbered 23,000 soldiers and controlled territories immediately to the east of the Polish-controlled areas. They had 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.[121]

Peace negotiations and outcome of the war

The image of Leon Trotsky on Polish propaganda poster from July 1920. The large caption reads "Bolshevik freedom". The small caption on the right-hand side reads: "The Bolsheviks promised: We'll give you peace. We'll give you freedom. We'll give you land, work and bread. Despicably they cheated: They started a war with Poland. Instead of freedom, they brought the fist. Instead of land, confiscation. Instead of work, misery. Instead of bread, famine". (Issued by) "Ministry of Military Affairs, Propaganda Department".

Peace negotiations commenced in Minsk in mid-August 1920. Initially, the Soviets made harsh demands on Poland; their implementation would turn Poland into a Soviet-dependent state. After the Battle of Warsaw defeat, such condition were withdrawn and the negotiations were moved to Riga in September.[40][122] As winter approached and there had not been a military resolution to the conflict (the Red Army, despite many defeats, had not been destroyed), both sides decided to stop fighting.[122]

The Preliminary Treaty of Peace and Armistice Conditions was signed on 12 October and the armistice went into effect on 18 October.[8][123] Ratifications were exchanged at Liepāja on 2 November. The peace treaty negotiations ensued and were concluded, between Poland on one side and Soviet Ukraine, Soviet Russia, and Soviet Belarus on the other, on 18 March 1921.[122] The Peace of Riga, signed on that day, determined the Polish-Soviet border and divided the disputed territories in Belarus and Ukraine between Poland and the Soviet Union.[8][124][125]


Their losses during and after the Battle of Warsaw made the Soviets offer the Polish peace delegation substantial territorial concessions, including Minsk and other areas occupied by Polish forces.[13] Polish resources were also exhausted and Polish public opinion wanted a settlement.[22][124] The Polish government was pressured to settle by the League of Nations.

The negotiations were controlled by Roman Dmowski's National Democrats. The National Democrats cared little for Piłsudski's vision of the Intermarium coalition. Polish parliament (Sejm) was controlled by Dmowski's allies, whose ideas of the nature of the Polish state and of the arrangement of its borders had since permanently prevailed.[13]

The National Democrats, led at the Riga talks by Stanisław Grabski,[13] wanted only the territory they viewed as "ethnically or historically Polish" (had Polish-dominated cities) or, in their opinion, could be Polonised.[124][126] Despite the Red Army's defeat and the willingness of the chief Soviet negotiator, Adolph Joffe, to concede most the areas occupied by Polish troops,[124][127] the National Democratic politics allowed the Soviets to regain some of the territories acquired by the Polish armies during the campaign.[127] The National Democrats worried that Poland would not be able to control overly extended territories, dominated by national minorities; Grabski wanted lands where Poles could predominate.[13] The failed federalist orientation was represented at Riga by Piłsudski's associate, Leon Wasilewski.[13] In the long run, the National Democrats' scheme had not quite worked, because "the Riga settlement created a Poland which was too westerly to be a federation, but not westerly enough to remain a national state".[128] Poland ended up with the largest total percentage of ethnic minorities of any unitary state in interwar Europe (only about two thirds of Polish citizens considered themselves ethnically Polish or of Polish nationality).[129] Still, the refusal of the easternmost areas considered was beneficial to the National Democrats' electoral prospects.[128] The resolution of the war had thus dealt a death blow to the Intermarium project.[22]

The Peace of Riga was approved by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on 14 April 1921, by Polish Sejm on April 15, and by the Central Executive Committee of Soviet Ukraine on April 17. Until late summer 1939, the Soviet Union refrained from officially questioning the Riga treaty settlement, but it had been understood that the Soviet policy objective was to have it overturned.[130]


The Peace of Riga partitioned Ukraine and gave a portion of its territory to Poland (eastern Galicia and most of Volhynia) and the other portion to the Soviet Union.[124] The Ukrainian Soviet Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Republic were recognized by Poland.[124] "That the Soviet Union established in 1922 included a Ukrainian SSR was the most important consequence of the attempts to establish an independent Ukrainian state in 1918–1920."[124]

The Treaty of Warsaw between Poland and the Directorate of Ukraine had been invalidated. The Riga treaty violated the spirit of Poland's prior alliance with the Directorate of Ukraine.[69][124] Members of the Ukrainian faction that accepted the alliance with Poland and fought within that alliance, were now interned by the Polish authorities.[124] The internment worsened relations between the Polish state and its Ukrainian minority. As Polish democracy was "alien, unrepresentative, and eventually curtailed",[47] great resentment had been generated in the remaining interwar years because of repressive policies of Polish governments towards Ukrainians living in post-Riga Poland.[131]

In the 1920s, the Soviet policy was to help create a modern Ukrainian culture. Ukrainian intellectuals, co-opted by the communist party, were encouraged to create in the Ukrainian language and the result was cultural revival and a period of great productivity. Children were educated and most books and newspapers were published in the native language. The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was established. The liberal policies ended under Joseph Stalin's rule, when the new church was banned and the Ukrainian intelligentsia destroyed in massive purges.[47]

Given the circumstances, in the 1930s Poland's eastern Galicia had become the center of Ukrainian political and cultural activity. Despite the atrocities that took place in Soviet Ukraine, Poland was regarded by Ukrainian activists as the principal enemy. They felt disappointed by the failed alliance and the Riga betrayal, and were annoyed by daily domination of the Polish authorities and local Polish elites. Many perceived the Soviet Union primarily as the creator of a Ukrainian state, the Ukrainian SSR.[47]


Volunteers from Lviv serving in the Polish Army's 2nd Death's Squadron

On 11 July 1920 Soviet forces entered Minsk and on 1 August the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was officially established. Belarus, like Ukraine, was partitioned between Poland and the Soviet Union after the Peace of Riga. The policies of the Byelorussian Soviet Republic were determined by Moscow.[132]

Belarusian activists regarded the Peace of Riga results as a tragic betrayal. Without Minsk, Polish Belarusians were reduced to being a mostly rural, marginalized group. To many of them, the Soviet republic to the east seemed an attractive alternative. In 1922, the Soviet Union was established as a formal federation of republics. Its policy called for an eventual extension of the Byelorussian SSR, to include the Belarusian lands under Polish administration. The Communist Party of Western Belorussia, established in Poland, was under Soviet control. The territory of the Byelorussian SSR was extended to the east in 1923, 1924 and 1926 by lands taken from the Russian Republic. In contrast to the repressive Polish policies, in the 1920s the Soviet Union supported Belarusian culture; several major national institutions and thousands of Belarusian schools had been established. However, the official Belarusian progress was mostly destroyed under Stalin in the 1930s.[133]

Belarusian activists held a Congress of Representatives in Prague in the fall of 1921, to discuss the peace treaty and its consequences for Belarus. Vera Maslovskaya was sent there as the delegate of the Białystok area, and she proposed a resolution to fight for the unification of Belarus. She sought independence of all Belarusian lands and denounced the partition. Though the convention did not adopt a proposal instituting armed conflict, it passed Maslovskaya's proposal, which led to immediate retaliation from the Polish authorities. They infiltrated the underground network fighting for Belarusian unification and arrested the participants. Maslovskaya was arrested in 1922 and tried in 1923, along with 45 other participants, mostly peasants.[134][135] Among the arrested were also a sister and brother of Maslovskaya and several teachers and professionals. 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 to six years in prison.[136]


Pressured by the Entente powers, Poland and Lithuania signed the Suwałki Agreement on 7 October 1920; the armistice line left Vilnius on the Lithuanian side of the border. However, Polish military activities, especially the so-called Żeligowski's Mutiny launched two days after the Suwałki Agreement, allowed Poland to capture the Vilnius Region, where a Polish-dominated Governance Committee of Central Lithuania was formed.[13][17] A plebiscite was conducted; the Vilnius assembly voted for the city's incorporation into Poland on 20 February 1921 and Polish Sejm approved the annexation in March.[17] On 8 January 1922, the Polish military enforced local legislative elections, but they were boycotted by Jews, Belarusians and Lithuanians.[128] The Western powers condemned the Polish actions but on 15 March 1923 the Conference of Ambassadors, convinced of the desirability of geographical separation of Lithuania from the Soviet Union, approved Poland's eastern borders, as already determined by the League of Nations in early February (the Soviet Union rejected the granting of Vilnius to Poland).[17][130] Lithuania refused to comply; the events and the incorporation worsened Polish–Lithuanian relations for decades to come.[17] According to Alfred E. Senn, even though Lithuania lost territory to Poland, it was only the Polish victory against the Soviets in the Polish–Soviet War that derailed the Soviet plans for westward expansion and gave Lithuania the period of interwar independence.[137]


Latvia's fighting with the Bolsheviks ended with the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty on 11 August 1920. The Peace of Riga negotiations followed; it established a Polish-Latvian border in the area of Daugavpils. That same year Latvia passed a comprehensive land reform and in 1922 introduced a democratic constitution. The Warsaw Accord was signed by foreign ministers of Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Poland on 17 March 1922. However, the Treaty of Rapallo effectively placed the Baltic states in the German and Soviet spheres of influence.[17]

War crimes and other controversies

The war and its aftermath resulted in controversies, such as the situation of prisoners of war in Poland and in Soviet Russia and Lithuania,[7][138] treatment of the civilian population,[139] or the behaviour of some commanders, including Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz[140] and Vadim Yakovlev.[141] The alleged pogroms of Jews caused the United States to send a commission, led by Henry Morgenthau, to investigate the matter.[142]

Developments in military strategy

Graves of Polish soldiers killed during the Battle of Warsaw, Powązki Military Cemetery

The Polish–Soviet War influenced the Polish military doctrine; under Piłsudski's leadership it emphasised the mobility of elite cavalry units.[22] It also influenced Charles de Gaulle, who was an instructor in the Polish Army with a rank of major and fought in several of the battles, including the Battle of Warsaw.[40] He and Władysław Sikorski were the only notable military officers who, based on their experiences during the war, correctly predicted the importance of maneuver and mechanization in the next war. Although they had failed during the interwar period to convince their respective military establishments to heed those lessons, during World War II they rose to command of their respective armed forces in exile.[143]

Aftermath and legacy

Despite the final retreat of Soviet forces and the annihilation of three Soviet field armies, historians do not universally agree on the question of victory. Lenin spoke of a great military defeat suffered by Soviet Russia.[114] Sebestyen wrote: "The Poles heavily defeated and embarrassed the Soviet state – one of Lenin's biggest setbacks."[144] The conflict, however, is also viewed as a military victory for Poland coupled with political defeat. The countries envisioned by Piłsudski as members of Poland-led Intermarium federation had instead, under Lenin and Stalin, become incorporated into the Soviet Union. In the autumn of 1920, both combatants had realized that they could not win a decisive military victory. Internally, the newly reestablished Polish state had proved its viability, as an overwhelming majority of its people contributed to the defense of the country and turned out insensitive to Bolshevik appeals to join the revolution. As for the main protagonists, neither one was able to accomplish his principal objective. For Piłsudski it was to recreate in some form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth,[120][145] and for Lenin to cause the downfall of the capitalist edifice in Europe by facilitating revolutionary processes in key states of the West.[120]

Russian and Polish historians tend to assign victory to their respective countries. Outside assessments vary mostly between calling the result a Polish victory or inconclusive. The Poles claimed a successful defence of their state, but the Soviets claimed a repulse of the Polish 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 ended Soviet ambitions for international revolution.[27][146][147]

With the end of the Polish–Soviet War and the 1920 defeat of Pyotr Wrangel, the White Army commander, the Red Army was able to divert its troops into the Tambov region of central Russia to crush the anti-Bolshevik peasant uprising there.[148]

In 1926, the Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact was signed. The Soviets renewed their recognition of the Lithuanian claim to the Vilnius area.[107] In 1939, after the Soviet invasion of Poland, Stalin gave Vilnius to Lithuania. In 1940, Lithuania was incorporated into the Soviet Union as a Soviet republic. This arrangement, interrupted by the German occupation of Lithuania in 1941–44, had lasted until the restoration of Lithuanian independent state in 1990.[149] Under the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, Vilnius became a city dominated by ethnic Lithuanians.[150]

After the Soviet invasion of Poland of September 1939, the partition of Belarus and Ukraine ended on Soviet terms. After Operation Barbarossa and occupation by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union returned in 1944 and the two Soviet republics permanently reclaimed what had been Polish "Kresy" from 1920 to 1939. Since the post-World War II adjustments the republics' borders had remained stable, except for the 1954 transfer of Crimea from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR. The Soviet republics' borders had been preserved as borders of independent Belarus and Ukraine following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In 1943, during the course of World War II, the subject of Poland's eastern borders was reopened and was discussed at the Tehran Conference. Winston Churchill argued in favour of the 1920 Curzon Line rather than the Peace of Riga borders, and an agreement among the Allies to that effect was reached at the Yalta Conference in 1945.[151] The Western Allies, despite having alliance treaties with Poland and despite the Polish contribution to the war, left Poland within the Soviet sphere of influence. The Allies allowed Poland to be compensated for the territorial losses in the east with the bulk of the former eastern territories of Germany. The post-war arrangement imposed had become known to many Poles as the Western betrayal.[152]

From the end of World War II until 1989, the communists held power in Poland, and 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.[153]

Polish Lieutenant Józef Kowalski was the last living veteran of the war. He was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta on his 110th birthday by President Lech Kaczyński of Poland.[154] He died on 7 December 2013 at the age of 113.

List of battles

See also


  1. Other names:
    • Polish: Wojna polsko-bolszewicka, wojna polsko-sowiecka, wojna polsko-rosyjska 1919–1921, wojna polsko-radziecka (Polish–Bolshevik War, Polish–Soviet War, Polish–Russian War 1919–1921)
    • Russian: Советско-польская война (Sovetsko-polskaya voyna, Soviet-Polish War), Польский фронт (Polsky front, Polish Front)
  2. For example: 1) Cisek 1990 Sąsiedzi wobec wojny 1920 roku. Wybór dokumentów.
    2) Szczepański 1995 Wojna 1920 roku na Mazowszu i Podlasiu
    3) Sikorski 1991 Nad Wisłą i Wkrą. Studium do polsko–radzieckiej wojny 1920 roku


  1. Davies 2003, p. 39
  2. Davies 2003, p. 142
  3. Davies 2003, p. 41
  4. Davies, White Eagle..., Polish edition, pp. 162, 202.
  5. Rudolph J. Rummel (1990). Lethal politics: Soviet genocide and mass murder since 1917. Transaction Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-56000-887-3. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  6. Norman Davies (1972). White eagle, red star: the Polish-Soviet war, 1919–20. Macdonald and Co. p. 247. ISBN 978-0356040134. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  7. (in Polish) Karpus, Zbigniew, Alexandrowicz Stanisław, Waldemar Rezmer, Zwycięzcy za drutami. Jeńcy polscy w niewoli (1919–1922). Dokumenty i materiały (Victors Behind Barbed Wire: Polish Prisoners of War, 1919–1922: Documents and materials), Toruń, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika w Toruniu, 1995, ISBN 978-83-231-0627-2.
  8. (in Polish) Wojna polsko-bolszewicka Archived 11 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Entry at Internetowa encyklopedia PWN. Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  9. Davies 2003, p. 22
  10. (in Russian)"Соединение последовало явно в ущерб Литве, которая должна была уступить Польше Подляхию, Волынь и княжество Киевское", Соловьев С. "История России с древнейших времен", ISBN 978-5-17-002142-0, т.6, сс. 814–815
  11. Wandycz, Piotr S. (1974). "Part Two: The Age of Insurrections, 1830–64". The lands of partitioned Poland, 1795–1918. University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0295953588.
  12. Историк: 'В 1863 году белорусы поддержали не Польшу и Калиновского, а Россию и государя' [Historian: 'In 1863, Belarusians did not support Poland and Kalinowski, but Russia and its sovereign']. regnum.by (in Russian). 23 January 2013. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013.
  13. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, pp. 60–65, Yale University Press, New Haven @ London 2003, ISBN 978-0-300-10586-5.
  14. Eugeniusz Duraczyński, "Stalin. Twórca i dyktator supermocarstwa" [Stalin: the creator and dictator of a superpower], p. 111. Akademia Humanistyczna im. Aleksandra Gieysztora, Pułtusk-Warszawa 2012, ISBN 978-83-7549-150-0.
  15. Edward Mandell House; Charles Seymour (1921). What Really Happened at Paris. Scribner. p. 84. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 1919 curzon december ethnographic.
  16. Antoni Czubiński, "Historia Polski XX wieku" [The history of 20th Century Poland], p. 113. Wydawnictwo Nauka i Innowacje, Poznań 2012, ISBN 978-83-63795-01-6.
  17. Zgórniak, Marian; Łaptos, Józef; Solarz, Jacek (2006). Wielka historia świata, tom 11, wielkie wojny XX wieku (1914–1945) [The Great History of the World, vol. 11: Great Wars of the 20th century (1914–1945)], pp. 180–187. Kraków: Fogra. ISBN 83-60657-00-9.
  18. Andrzej Leszek Szcześniak, Wojna polsko-radziecka 1918-1920 [Polish-Soviet War 1918–1920], pp. 16–18.
  19. Davies 2003, p. 21
  20. Andrzej Leszek Szcześniak, Wojna polsko-radziecka 1918-1920 [Polish-Soviet War 1918–1920], pp. 5–6. Wydawnictwo ODISS, Warszawa 1989, ISBN 83-7012-045-8.
  21. Adrian Hyde-Price (2001). Germany and European Order: Enlarging NATO and the EU. Manchester University Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7190-5428-0. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  22. The Rebirth of Poland. University of Kansas, lecture notes by professor Anna M. Cienciala, 2004. Retrieved 2 June 2006.
  23. Davies 2003, p. 29
  24. Richard Pipes, David Brandenberger, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, The unknown Lenin: from the secret archive, Yale University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0-300-07662-2, Google Print, pp. 6–7
  25. Peter J. Boettke (1990). The Political Economy of Soviet Socialism: the Formative Years, 1918–1928. Springer. pp. 92–93. ISBN 978-0-7923-9100-5. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  26. E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution; Volume 3, p. 165, London: Macmillan ISBN 0333060040
  27. Ronald Grigor Suny, The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-508105-3, Google Print, p. 106
  28. Józef Pilsudski, Polish revolutionary and statesman, the first chief of state (1918–22) of the newly independent Poland established in November 1918. (Józef Pilsudski in Encyclopædia Britannica)
    Released in Nov. 1918, [Pilsudski] returned to Warsaw, assumed command of the Polish armies, and proclaimed an independent Polish republic, which he headed. (Piłsudski, Joseph Archived 20 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine in Columbia Encyclopedia)
  29. Timothy Snyder, Covert Polish missions across the Soviet Ukrainian border, 1928–1933 (p. 55, p. 56, p. 57, p. 58, p. 59, in Cofini, Silvia Salvatici (a cura di), Rubbettino, 2005).
    Timothy Snyder, Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist's Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine, Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0-300-10670-1, (p. 41, p. 42, p. 43)
  30. "[Pilsudski] hoped to incorporate most of the territories of the defunct Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth into the future Polish state by structuring it as the Polish-led, multinational federation."
    Aviel Roshwald, "Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires: Central Europe, the Middle East and Russia, 1914–1923", p. 37, Routledge (UK), 2001, ISBN 978-0-415-17893-8
  31. "Although the Polish premier and many of his associates sincerely wanted peace, other important Polish leaders did not. Josef Pilsudski, chief of state and creator of Polish army, was foremost among the latter. Pilsudski hoped to build not merely a Polish nation state but a greater federation of peoples under the aegis of Poland, which would replace Russia as the great power of Eastern Europe. Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine were all to be included. His plan called for a truncated and vastly reduced Russia, a plan that excluded negotiations prior to military victory."
    Richard K Debo, Survival and Consolidation: The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, 1918–192, Google Print, p. 59, McGill-Queen's Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-7735-0828-6.
  32. "Pilsudski's program for a federation of independent states centered on Poland; in opposing the imperial power of both Russia and Germany it was in many ways a throwback to the romantic Mazzinian nationalism of Young Poland in the early nineteenth century. But his slow consolidation of dictatorial power betrayed the democratic substance of those earlier visions of national revolution as the path to human liberation"
    James H. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men, p. 432, Transaction Publishers, ISBN 978-0-7658-0471-6
  33. "Pilsudski dreamed of drawing all the nations situated between Germany and Russia into an enormous federation in which Poland, by virtue of its size, would be the leader, while Dmowski wanted to see a unitary Polish state, in which other Slav peoples would become assimilated."
    Andrzej Paczkowski, The Spring Will Be Ours: Poland and the Poles from Occupation to Freedom, p. 10, Penn State Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-271-02308-3
  34. John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, W.W. Norton & Company, 2001, ISBN 978-0-393-02025-0, Google Print, p. 194
  35. Zbigniew Brzezinski in his introduction to Wacław Jędrzejewicz's "Pilsudski A Life For Poland" wrote: "Pilsudski's vision of Poland, paradoxically, was never attained. He contributed immensely to the creation of a modern Polish state, to the preservation of Poland from the Soviet invasion, yet he failed to create the kind of multinational commonwealth, based on principles of social justice and ethnic tolerance, to which he aspired in his youth. One may wonder how relevant was his image of such a Poland in the age of nationalism..."
  36. "Testament Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego". 13 May 2009.
  37. Zerkalo Nedeli, "A Belated Idealist." (Mirror Weekly), 22–28 May 2004."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 January 2006. Retrieved 13 November 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  38. One month before his death, Pilsudski told his aide: "My life is lost. I failed to create a Ukraine free from the Russians"
    Oleksa Pidlutskyi, Postati XX stolittia, (Figures of the 20th century), Kiev, 2004, ISBN 978-966-8290-01-5, LCCN 2004-440333. Chapter "Józef Piłsudski: The Chief who Created Himself a State" reprinted in Zerkalo Nedeli (the Mirror Weekly), Kiev, 3–9 February 2001.
  39. MacMillan, Margaret, Paris 1919 : Six Months That Changed the World, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003, ISBN 978-0-375-76052-5, p. 212"
  40. Przemysław Hauser, "Walka o granice" [The fight over the borders], in "Polska XX wieku 1914–2003" [20th Century Poland: 1914–2003], pp. 27–29. Horyzont/Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, Warszawa-Wrocław 2004, ISBN 83-7311-797-0.
  41. Pipes, Richard (1997). Russia under the Bolshevik Regime 1919–1924. Harvill. ISBN 978-1-86046-338-9.
  42. Antoni Czubiński, "Historia Polski XX wieku" [The history of 20th Century Poland], p. 112.
  43. Andrzej Leszek Szcześniak, Wojna polsko-radziecka 1918-1920 [Polish-Soviet War 1918–1920], pp. 12–16.
  44. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, p. 136.
  45. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, pp. 137–138.
  46. Józef Buszko, "Historia Polski 1864-1948" [History of Poland: 1864–1948], pp. 229–230. Polish Scientific Publishers PWN, Warszawa 1986, ISBN 83-01-03732-6.
  47. Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, pp. 141–142.
  48. Richard Woytak, "Colonel Kowalewski and the Origins of Polish Code Breaking and Communication Interception", East European Quarterly, vol. XXI, no. 4 (January 1988), pp. 497–500.
  49. Robert J. Hanyok (2004). "Appendix B: Before Enigma: Jan Kowalewski and the Early Days of the Polish Cipher Bureau (1919–22)". Enigma: How the Poles Broke the Nazi Code. Hyppocrene Books. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-7818-0941-2.
  50. Grzegorz Nowik (2004). Zanim złamano Enigmę: Polski radiowywiad podczas wojny z bolszewicką Rosją 1918–1920 [Before Enigma was Broken: Polish radio-intelligence during the war against Bolshevik Russia 1918–1920]. Warsaw, RYTM Oficyna Wydawnicza. ISBN 978-83-7399-099-9.
  51. Norman Davies, God's Playground. Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present. Columbia University Press, 2005 [1982]. ISBN 978-0-231-12819-3. Google Print, p. 292
  52. Andrzej Leszek Szcześniak, Wojna polsko-radziecka 1918-1920 [Polish-Soviet War 1918–1920], pp. 18–20.
  53. Eugeniusz Duraczyński, "Stalin. Twórca i dyktator supermocarstwa" [Stalin: the creator and dictator of a superpower], p. 112.
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  56. Urbankowski, op.cit., p. 83.
  57. Urbankowski, op.cit., p. 291.
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  59. Urbankowski, op.cit., Volume 2, p. 45.
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  76. Davies, White Eagle..., Polish edition, pp. 142–143
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  79. Davies 2003, p. 85
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Further reading


  • Cisek, Janusz (1990). Sąsiedzi wobec wojny 1920 roku. Wybór dokumentów. (transl. Neighbors Attitude Towards the War of 1920. A collection of documents.). London: Polish Cultural Foundation Ltd. ISBN 978-0-85065-212-3.
  • Czubiński, Antoni, Walka o granice wschodnie Polski w latach 1918–1921 (Fighting for eastern borders of Poland in 1918–1921), Instytut Śląski w Opolu, Opole, 1993
  • Drozdzowski, Marian Marek (ed.), Międzynarodowe aspekty wojny polsko-bolszewickiej, 1919–1920. Antologia tekstów historycznych (International aspects of the Polish-Bolshevik War, 1919–1920. Anthology of historical texts.), Instytut Historii PAN, 1996, ISBN 978-83-86417-21-6
  • Golegiewski, Grzegorz, Obrona Płocka przed bolszewikami, 18–19 sierpnia 1920 r. (Defence of Płock from the Bolsheviks, 18–19 August 1920), NOVUM, 2004, ISBN 978-83-89416-43-8
  • Kawalec Tadeusz, Historia IV-ej Dywizji Strzelców Generała Żeligowskiego w zarysie (History of 4th Rifleman Division of General Żeligowki in brief), Gryf, 1993, OCLC 32178695.
  • Konieczny, Bronisław, Moje życie w mundurze. Czasy narodzin i upadku II RP (My life in the uniform. Times of the birth and fall of the Second Polish Republic), Księgarnia Akademicka, 2005 ISBN 978-83-7188-693-5
  • Kopański, Tomasz Jan, 16 (39-a) Eskadra Wywiadowcza 1919–1920 (16th (39th) Scouting Escadrille 1919–1920), Wojskowy Instytut Historyczny, 1994, ISBN 978-83-901733-5-1
  • Kukiel, Marian, Moja wojaczka na Ukrainie. Wiosna 1920 (My fighting in Ukraine. Spring 1920), Wojskowy Instytut Historyczny, 1995, ISBN 978-83-85621-74-4
  • Łukowski, Grzegorz, Walka Rzeczpospolitej o kresy północno-wschodnie, 1918–1920. Polityka i dzialania militarne. (Rzeczpospolita's fight for the northeastern borderlands, 1918–1920. Politics and military actions.), Wydawnictwo Naukowe Universytetu Adama Mickiewicza, Poznań, 1994, ISBN 978-83-232-0614-9
  • Pruszyński, Mieczysław, Dramat Piłsudskiego: Wojna 1920 (The drama of Piłsudski: War of 1920), Polska Oficyna Wydawnicza BGW, 1995, ISBN 978-83-7066-560-9
  • Odziemkowski, Janusz, Leksykon Wojny Polsko-Rosyjskiej 1919–1920 (Lexicon of Polish-Russian War 1919–1920), Rytm, 2004, ISBN 978-83-7399-096-8
  • Rozstworowski, Stanisław (ed.), Listy z wojny polsko-bolszewickiej (Letters from the Polish-Bolshevik War), Adiutor, 1995, ISBN 978-83-86100-11-8
  • Sikorski, Władysław (1991) [1928]. Nad Wisłą i Wkrą. Studium do polsko–radzieckiej wojny 1920 roku (transl. At Vistula and Wkra: Study of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920) (latest ed.). Warsaw: Agencja Omnipress. ISBN 978-83-85028-15-4.
  • Szczepański, Janusz (1995). Wojna 1920 na Mazowszu i Podlasiu (transl. War of 1920 in Mazovia and Podolia). Wyższa Szkoła Humanistyczna / Gryf. ISBN 978-83-86643-30-1.