Polish–Soviet War

Polish–Soviet War
Part of the Aftermath of World War I
Polish-soviet war montage.jpg
  • Top left: Polish Renault FT tanks of the Polish 1st Tank Regiment during the Battle of Dyneburg, January 1920
  • Below 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 on the road between Radzymin and Warsaw after the attack by the Red Army on Warsaw
  • Bottom right: Polish defensive fighting positions in Belarus during the Battle of Niemen, September 1920
Date14 February 1919 – 18 March 1921 (2 years, 1 month and 4 days)
LocationCentral and Eastern Europe
See Aftermath
 Russian SFSR
 Ukrainian SSR
 Byelorussian SSR
Logistical support:
(After 1920)
(Battle of Daugavpils)
Belarusian People's Republic
 Ukrainian SSR
(Selected Detachments)
United Kingdom
United States United States
Russia White Russia
Commanders and leaders
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Leon Trotsky
(Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs)
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Sergey Kamenev
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Mikhail Tukhachevsky
(Western Front)
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Joseph Stalin
(Lviv Front)
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Alexander Yegorov
(Southwestern Front)
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Semyon Budyonny
(1st Cavalry Army)
Flag of Poland.svg Józef Piłsudski (Commander-in-Chief)
Flag of Poland.svg Józef Haller
Flag of Poland.svg Tadeusz Jordan-Rozwadowski
Flag of Poland.svg Edward Rydz-Śmigły
Flag of Poland.svg Władysław Sikorski
Flag of the Ukranian State.svg Symon Petlyura
From ~50,000 in early 1919[1] to almost 800,000 in summer 1920[2]From ~50,000 in early 1919[3] to ~738,000 in August 1920[4]
Casualties and losses

Estimated 60,000 killed[5]
80,000–157,000 taken prisoner[6][7]

(including rear-area personnel)
About 47,000 killed[8][9][10]
113,518 wounded[9]
51,351 taken prisoner[9]

The Polish–Soviet War[N 1] (February 1919 – March 1921) was fought by the Second Polish Republic, Ukrainian People's Republic and the protoSoviet Union (Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine) for control of a region comparable to today's westernmost Ukraine and parts of modern Belarus.

Poland's Chief of State, Józef Piłsudski, felt the time was right to expand Polish borders as far east as feasible, to be followed by a Polish-led Intermarium federation of Central and Eastern European states, as a bulwark against the re-emergence of German and Russian imperialism. Lenin saw Poland as the bridge the Red Army had to cross to assist other communist movements and bring about more European revolutions. By 1919, Polish forces had taken control of much of Western Ukraine, emerging victorious from the Polish–Ukrainian War. The West Ukrainian People's Republic, led by Yevhen Petrushevych, had tried to create a Ukrainian state on territories to which both Poles and Ukrainians laid claim. In the Russian part of Ukraine Symon Petliura tried to defend and strengthen the Ukrainian People's Republic but as the Bolsheviks began to win the Russian Civil War, they started to advance westward towards the disputed Ukrainian territories, causing Petliura's forces to retreat to Podolia. By the end of 1919, a clear front had formed as Petliura decided to ally with Piłsudski. Border skirmishes escalated following Piłsudski's Kiev Offensive in April 1920.

The Polish offensive was met by a successful Red Army counterattack. The Soviet operation pushed the Polish forces back westward all the way to the Polish capital, Warsaw, while the Directorate of Ukraine fled to Western Europe. Western fears of Soviet troops arriving at the German frontiers increased the interest of Western powers in the war. In midsummer, the fall of Warsaw seemed certain but in mid-August, the tide had turned again, as the Polish forces achieved an unexpected and decisive victory at the Battle of Warsaw. In the wake of the Polish advance eastward, the Soviets sued for peace and the war ended with a ceasefire in October 1920.

The Peace of Riga was signed on 18 March 1921, dividing the disputed territories between Poland and Soviet Russia. The war largely determined the Soviet–Polish border for the interbellum. Poland gained a territory of around 200 kilometers east of its former border, the Curzon Line, which had been defined by an international commission after World War I.[11] Much of the territory allocated to Poland in the Treaty of Riga became part of the Soviet Union after World War II, when the common border was re-defined by the Allied Powers in close accordance with the Curzon Line.

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] of 1919–1921"[N 2] (to distinguish it from earlier Polish–Russian wars) and "Polish–Bolshevik War".[12] This second term (or just "Bolshevik War" (Polish: Wojna bolszewicka)) is most common in Polish sources. In some Polish sources it is also referred as the "War of 1920" (Polish: Wojna 1920 roku).[N 3]

There is disagreement over the dates of the war. The Encyclopædia Britannica begins its article with the date range 1919–1920 but then states, "Although there had been hostilities between the two countries during 1919, the conflict began when the Polish head of state Józef Pilsudski formed an alliance with the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura (21 April 1920) and their combined forces began to overrun Ukraine, occupying Kiev on 7 May."[N 2] The Polish Internetowa encyklopedia PWN,[12] as well as Western historians such as Norman Davies, consider 1919 the starting year of the war.[13]

The ending date is given as either 1920 or 1921; this confusion stems from the fact that while the ceasefire was put in force in the autumn of 1920, the official treaty ending the war was signed months later, in March 1921. While the events of 1919 can be described as a border conflict, and only in early 1920 did both sides engage in all-out war, the conflicts that took place in 1920 were an inevitable escalation of fighting that began in earnest a year earlier. In the end, the events of 1920 were a logical, though unforeseen, consequence of the 1919 prelude.[13]

Other Languages
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Польска-савецкая вайна
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Polandia-Soviet
Simple English: Polish–Soviet War
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Poljsko-sovjetski rat
中文: 波苏战争