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The Polish-Soviet War was the war (February 1919 – March 1921) that determined the borders between the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and Second Polish Republic. The war ended with the defeat of the Red Army.
An armed struggle between the Bolsheviks and Poland was a result of Polish attempts to secure territories lost in the late-18th-century partitions of Poland and the Soviet attempts to recover territory lost by Russia in World War I and expand the Communist revolution to the Eastern Europe. The frontiers between Poland and the Soviet Russia were not clearly defined in the Treaty of Versailles and were further rendered chaotic by the Russian revolutions, the Russian Civil War and German withdrawal from the east front. Poland's head of state Józef Pilsudski envisioned a Polish-led East European confederation as a bulwark against German and Russian imperialism. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks began to gain the upper hand in the Russian Civil War and advance west.
In 1919 the Poles gained control of most of the disputed territories. Border skirmishes then escalated into open warfare following Pilsudski's attempt to take advantage of Russia's weakness with a major incursion into Ukraine in early 1920 (the Kiev Operation). He was met by a Red Army counterattack in April 1920. This Soviet counter-offensive was very successful, throwing Polish forces back westward all the way to the Polish capital of Warsaw. Meanwhile, Western fears of Soviet troops arriving at the German frontiers increased Allied interest in the war. A French military mission, which had been operating in Poland since 1919, and was responsible for improvement of the organization and logistics of the Polish forces, was expanded up to about 600 advisors and was joined by General Maxime Weygand. For a time, in midsummer, the fall of Warsaw seemed certain. This generated great excitement among many communists in Moscow, who began to see Poland as the bridge over which communism would pass into Germany, bolstering the Communist Party of Germany. In mid-August the Polish forces achieved an unexpected and decisive victory at the Battle of Warsaw. The Polish forces advanced eastward, and the war ended with ceasefire in October 1920. A formal peace treaty, the Peace of Riga, was signed on March 18, 1921, dividing the disputed territory between Poland and Soviet Russia.
Names and dates of the war
The war is referred to by several names. "Polish-Soviet War" may be the most common, but is potentially confusing, since "Soviet" is usually thought of as relating to the Soviet Union, which did not officially come into being until December 1922. Alternative names include "Russo-Polish War [or Polish-Russian War] of 1919-21" (to distinguish it from earlier Polish-Russian wars), or "Polish-Bolshevik War". In some histories it has come down as the "War of 1920" (Wojna 1920 roku), while Soviet historians often either called it the "War against White Poland" or considered it a part of the "War against Foreign Intervention" or the Russian Civil War.
A second controversy revolves around the start date of the war. Some historians argue that the war started in April 1920 with the Polish thurst into Ukraine, the Operation Kiev. While it is true that the events of 1919 could be described as a border conflict and that only in early 1920 both sides realised that they are in fact engaged in an all-out war war, the conflicts that took place in 1919 are an essential part of the war that begun in earnest a year later. In the end, the events of 1920 were only a logical, if almost totaly unpredictable, consequence of the prelude of 1919.
Prelude to the war
In 1918, with the end of the First World War, the map of Central and Eastern Europe had drastically changed. As Germany's defeat rendered her plans for the creation of the Mitteleuropa puppet states obsolete, and as Russia sank into the depths of the Russian Civil War, the newly emergent countries of that region saw a chance for real independence and were not prepared to easily relinquish this rare gift of fate. At the same time, Russia saw these territories as rebellious Russian provinces but was unable to react swiftly, as it was weakened and in the process of transforming herself into the Soviet Union through the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War that had begun in 1917.
Meanwhile, with the success of the Greater Poland Uprising in 1918, Poland had regained her independence lost in 1795 with the Third Partition of Poland. After 123 years of Poland's rule by her three imperial neighbors, the Second Polish Republic was proclaimed and the reborn country proceeded to carve out its borders from the territories of her former partitioners, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Polish politics was under the strong influence of the statesman Józef Piłsudski and his vision of the "Federation of Międzymorze", a Polish-led confederation comprising Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and other Central and East European countries now emerging out of the crumbling empires after the First World War. The new union was to be a counterweight to any imperialist intentions of Russia or Germany. To this end, Polish forces set out to secure vast territories in the east. Poland had no intention of joining the Western intervention in the Russian Civil War or of conquering Russia itself.
The Polish-Soviet war, like the majority of the other conflicts in Eastern Europe of that time, was more of an accident then a planned design. In the chaos prevailing in the first months of 1919, it was unlikely that anyone in Bolshevik Russia or in the new Second Republic of Poland would have deliberately planned a major foreign war. Poland, its territory a major frontline of the First World War, was unstable politically and already engaged in border conflicts with Germany (Silesian Uprisings) and Czechoslovakia (border conflicts between Poland and Czechoslovakia), while the attention and policies of revolutionary Russia were predominantly directed at dealing with counter-revolution and with the intervention by the western powers.
This began to change in late 1919, however, when Vladimir Lenin, leader of Russia's new communist government, succumbed to a buoyant optimism, inspired by the Red Army's civil-war victories over White Russian anticommunist forces and their western allies on Russian territory. The Bolsheviks acted on a conviction that historical processes would soon lead to rule of the proletariat in all nations, and that the withering away of national states would eventually bring about a worldwide communist community. The main impetus to the coming war with Poland lay in the Bolsheviks’ avowed intent to link their Revolution in Russia with an expected revolution in Germany. Lenin saw Poland as the bridge that the Red Army would have to cross in order to link the two revolutions and to assist other communist movements in Western Europe. As Lenin himself remarked, "That was the time when everyone in Germany, including the blackest reactionaries and monarchists, declared that the Bolsheviks would be their salvation."
The Soviet offensive into Poland would be an opportunity "to probe Europe with the bayonets of the Red Army." It would be the Soviet Union's first penetration into Europe proper, the first attempt to export the Bolshevik Revolution by force. 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.". The political purpose of the Red Army's advance was not to conquer Europe directly. Its purpose was to provoke social change and revolution. In the words of General Tukhachevsky: "To the West! Over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to world-wide conflagration. March on Vilno, Minsk, Warsaw!"Electronic Museum of the Polish-Soviet War
- Maps of the Polish-Bolshevik War: Campaign Maps by Robert Tarwacki, 
- The Polish-Russian War and the Fight for Polish Independence
- Józef Haller and the Blue Army
- Russo-Polish War bibliography in English
- Lincoln, Red Victory: a History of the Russian Civil War.
- ^ Mikhail Tukhachevski, order of the day, July 2, 1920.
- ^ Jeńcy i internowani rosyjscy... and Zwycięzcy za drutami...
- ^ Ścieżyński, Radjotelegrafja...
- ^ Kozaczuk, Enigma.
- Davies, Norman, White Eagle, Red Star: the Polish-Soviet War, 1919-20, Pimlico, 2003, ISBN 0712606947. (First edition: St. Martin's Press, inc., New York, 1972)
- Keenan, Jeremy , The Pole: the Heroic Life of Jozef Pilsudski, Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd, 2004, ISBN 0715632108.
- Watt, Richard M. , Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918-1939, Hippocrene Books, 1998, ISBN 0781806739.
- D'Abernon, Edgar Vincent, The Eighteenth Decisive Battle of the World: Warsaw, 1920, Hyperion Press, 1977, ISBN 0883554291.
- Lincoln, W. Bruce , Red Victory: a History of the Russian Civil War, Da Capo Press, 1999, ISBN 0306809095.
- Ścieżyński, Mieczysław , [Colonel of the (Polish) General Staff], Radjotelegrafja jako źrodło wiadomości o nieprzyjacielu (Radiotelegraphy as a Source of Intelligence on the Enemy), Przemyśl, [Printing and Binding Establishment of (Military) Corps District No. X HQ], 1928, 49 pp.
- Kahn, David, The Code-Breakers, New York, Macmillan, 1967.
- Karpus, Zbigniew , Jeńcy i internowani rosyjscy i ukraińscy na terenie Polski w latach 1918-1924, Toruń 1997, ISBN 8371740204. Polish table of contents online. English translation: Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war and internees kept in Poland in 1918-1924, Wydawn. Adam Marszałek, 2001, ISBN 8371749562.
- Karpus, Zbigniew, Alexandrowicz Stanisław, Zwycięzcy za drutami. Jeńcy polscy w niewoli (1919-1922). Dokumenty i materiały (Victors behind the fences. Polish POWs (1919-1922). Documents and materials). Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika w Toruniu, Toruń, 1995, ISBN 8323106274.
- Kozaczuk, Władysław , Enigma: How the German Machine Cipher Was Broken, and How It Was Read by the Allies in World War Two, edited and translated by Christopher Kasparek, Frederick, Maryland, University Publications of America, 1984, ISBN 0890935475.
- Wandycz, Piotr , General Weygand and the Battle of Warsaw, Journal of Central European Affairs, 1960
- Polish Politics, and the Battle of Warsaw, 1920 Slavic Review, Vol. 46, No. 3/4. (Autumn - Winter, 1987), p. 503
- Himmer, Robert , Soviet Policy Toward Germany during the Russo-Polish War, 1920 Slavic Review, Vol. 35, No. 4. (Dec., 1976), p. 667
- Fiddick, Thomas , The "Miracle of the Vistula": Soviet Policy versus Red Army Strategy, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 45, No. 4. (Dec., 1973), pp. 626-643
- Biskupski, M.B. , Paderewski, Polish Politics, and the Battle of Warsaw, 1920, Slavic Review, Vol. 46, No. 3/4, Autumn - Winter, 1987 pp. 503-512
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