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1919-1920 - Russo-Polish War

The Versailles map-makers, in reconstituting Poland, had despoiled her of nearly one-third of her ancient patrimony, the principal beneficiary under the Treaty being Soviet Russia. In 1919, when it pleased the Allied Powers to wage war by proxy against the Bolsheviki, and the armies of Kolchak, Denekine and Yudenitch had gone forth confident of an early victory over the common enemy of mankind, the Poles had improved the opportunity to cross the tentative boundary lines fixed by the Versailles Treaty and reconquer their "Lost Provinces." After the collapse of the anti-Bolshevik war, both England and America warned the Poles that they were violating the terms of the Treaty and must retire within their boundaries as fixed at Versailles. The Poles demurred against yielding up the reconquered provinces to the Bolsheviki and they were upheld by the government of France.

Before the new Soviet army could be mobilized the Poles struck hard at the Bolsheviki and for months thereafter the Poles were masters of the situation. But later, when the Bolsheviki had mustered their full strength on the Polish front, the Poles were driven back in headlong retreat to the gates of Warsaw.

All Europe was now filled with alarm, fearing the Bolshevik conquest of the Continent. It was at this critical juncture that France came to Poland's rescue. Though England held aloof, and her Commissioner attempted to prevent the delivery of French ammunition to the Poles at the port of Danzig, still the Alliance of France and Poland was sufficient to overcome the Bolshevik peril. The Red hordes were first stopped at the gates of Warsaw and then driven back in wild retreat across their frontier. Later on, the famous retreat began, during which the Russians within a few weeks were hurled back by General Maxime Weygand almost to the 'Curzon Line.'

The phenomenal recovery of Poland from the heavy blows inflicted by the invading Red forces proved not to be short-lived, and the Polish triple offensive continued during the month under review, demoralizing the whole organization of the Red offensive, driving the Soviet forces steadily back to the east and north, netting thousands of ragged prisoners and forcing thousands of others, equally miserable, across the East Prussian frontier, where they were disarmed and interned by the German Government.

A peace treaty was signed at Riga in October, 1920. This treaty established the frontier that was recognized until recently. It accorded to Poland all of Eastern Galicia, which since 1919 had been occupied by Polish troops, and which ethnically forms a part of the Ukraine. This incorporation of Eastern Galicia-which the 'Curzon Line' had put within Poland-was confirmed by the Ambassadors' Conference. Meanwhile Poland had further enlarged her territory by wresting Vilna from Lithuania, while eastern Upper Silesia had been relinquished by Germany in consequence of a plebiscite.

In the north the 'Curzon Line' started at the Lithuanian border, at the river Niemen, north of the fortified city of Grodno. The line then extended almost due south and reached the river Bug after a westward rum. Thereafter the frontier followed this river until it reached the former Austro-Russian border, which it followed along the rest of its course.

At the gates of Warsaw, the Red armies were defeated in August 1920, and in the ensuing peace treaty signed at Riga, Russia had to accept a frontier which left large Ukrainian and White Ruthenian minorities in Poland, a grave danger to the Russification campaign conducted by Stalin in the Ukraine and Byelorussia. Although it was not regarded as a Polish Diktat and was praised in the Soviet Encyclopedia as late as 1940, the Treaty of Riga dramatically exposed the weakness of the new regime. The redressing of the balance of power remained a long-range aim of Moscow's foreign policy.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:29:27 ZULU