Monday, 13 August 2012

The Polish-Soviet War 1919 - 1921

Despite having left left the Great War in 1917 so it could complete it's Soviet Revolution, Soviet Russia was back at war within two years against its neighbour, Poland, a neighbour that it has been to war with on numerous occasions.

With the support of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Russia went to war against the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian Peoples Republic over territorial controls of what is modern Ukraine and parts of Belarus.

When the Great War ended in 1918, the Treaty of Versailles only vaguely defined the international borders between Poland and Bolshevik Russia.

Jozef Pilsudki
Poland's Chief of State, Jozef Pilsudki believed that 1919 was the perfect time for Poland to expand it's borders as far East as possible, then lead a Polish Intermarum federation against the Russian Imperialists.

Yavhen Petrushevych
Vladimir Lenin, saw Poland as a strategic gap that had to be filled for the Red Army to assist other Communist movements in Eastern Europe. By 1919, polish forces had successfully taken control the majority of Western Ukraine, having emerged victorious from the Polish-Ukrainian War. The West Ukraine People Republic led by Yavhen Petrushevych tried to create a Ukrainian state on territory claimed by the Poles, the Ukrainians, and the Russians.

With the Russian civil war turning in favour of the Bolsheviks, the Poles and Ukrainians set aside their differences to defend themselves against the advancing Red Army.
File:PBW June 1920.png
Polish Offensive Early 1920

The Red Army had initial success in early 1920, but was quickly met by swift Polish counter attacks, resulting in heavy losses on both sides. With a quick sweep, the Red Army pushed its way into the Polish capital of Warsaw, causing fear among Western nations, as the German's and Russians did not get along, and their were getting close to one another.
File:PBW August 1920.png
Russian Offensive Summer 1920


By midsummer 1920, the total fall of Warsaw seemed inevitable, but by late August,  Polish forced achieved a decisive victory and began to advance eastward until the Soviets sued for peace and the war ended in October 1920 with a ceasefire agreement.

A Formal treaty, the Peace of Riga was signed on March 18, 1921 dividing the disputed territories between Poland and Russia. Much of the territory ceded to Poland would become part of the Soviet Union following World War Two.

The war left nearly a hundred thousand dead and nearly three hundred thousand wounded. At it's peak during the Battle of Warsaw, there were nearly 1.6 million troops in combat.

To learn more about the Polish-Soviet War, please see:

White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War, 1919-20 (1972) by Norman Davies

Remembering History - The Polish-Soviet War 1919-1921