Peace of Riga

Peace of Riga

The Peace of Riga, also known as the Treaty of Riga; ( _ru. Ри́жский ми́рный договóр --romanisation "Rízhsky Mírny dogovór"-- , _lv. Rīgas miera līgums and _pl. Traktat Ryski) was signed in Riga on 18 March, 1921, between Poland and the Soviet Union. The treaty ended the Polish-Bolshevik War.


Amidst the Russian Civil War the Poles were eager to regain all the territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from their historical enemy, Russia. Meanwhile, the Soviets tried to export their revolution to the West, by force if necessary. If the Bolsheviks had occupied Poland they would have been in a position to come to the aid of German Communists, and possibly ensure the success of a Soviet revolution in Germany. The historian J.F.C. Fuller described the Battle of Warsaw as one of the most significant battles ever. After that battle, when Poland turned a looming defeat into a great victory, Soviets were eager to begin a peace treaty negotiations. [ THE REBIRTH OF POLAND] . University of Kansas, lecture notes by professor Anna M. Cienciala, 2004. Last accessed on 2 June 2006.]

The treaty

The peace talks were started on August 17 1920, in Minsk, but as the Polish counter-offensive neared, the talks were moved to Riga, and resumed on September 21. In September in Riga the Soviets made two offers: on September 21st and 28th. The Polish delegation made a counteroffer on the 2nd of October. On the 5th the Soviets offered amendments to the Polish offer, which Poland accepted. Armistice was signed on October 12. [] and went into effect on October 18.

The chief negotiators were Jan Dąbski for Poland, and Adolph Joffe for the Soviets.

The Treaty of Riga was controversial from the very beginning. Many argued that much of what Poland had won during the Polish-Bolshevik War was lost in the peace negotiations, which were characterized by many as short-sighted and narrow-minded. By 1921, Piłsudski was no longer the head of state, and only participated as an observer during the Riga negotiations, which he called "an act of cowardice".en icon cite book | author =Norman Davies| title =White Eagle, Red Star: the Polish-Soviet War, 1919–20 | year =2003 | editor = | pages =399 | chapter = | chapterurl = | publisher =Pimlico | location = | id =ISBN 0-7126-0694-7| url = |format =|accessdate = (First edition: New York, St. Martin's Press, inc., 1972.)] Due to their military setbacks, the Bolsheviks offered the Polish peace delegation substantial territorial concessions in the contested border areas. However, to many observers it looked like the Polish side was conducting the Riga talks as if Poland had not won, but lost the war. In fact, a special parliamentary delegation consisting of six members of the Sejm held a vote on whether to accept the Soviets' far-reaching concessions, which would leave Minsk on the Polish side of the border. Pressured by the national democrat Stanisław Grabski, the 100 km of extra territory were rejected, a victory for the nationalist doctrine and a stark defeat for Piłsudksi's federalism, for the national democrats envisioned a unitary Polish state with no more than 1/3 minorities within its borders, a prequisite for any successful Polonization attempts in their eyes. The Poles were and their public opinion demanded an end to the hostilities; both sides were also under pressure from the League of Nations.

On the other hand, the negotiations for a peace treaty dragged on for months due to Soviet reluctance to sign. However, the Soviets faced increased unrest. Between February 23 and March 17 they faced a sailors’ revolt in Kronstadt which was suppressed; peasants were also rising up against Soviet authorities, who collected grains to feed the army and starving consumer regions. In view of this situation, Lenin ordered the Soviet plenipotentiaries to secure a peace treaty.

Eventually both sides decided to sign the Peace of Riga on March 18, 1921, splitting the disputed territories in Belarus and Ukraine, between Poland and Russia.

The Ukrainians led by Symon Petliura had been fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Poles (after the Treaty of Warsaw (1920)), but in Riga the Poles betrayed them — to the peril of both Poles and Ukrainians. Piłsudski felt the agreement was a shameless and short-sighted political calculation. Allegedly, having walked out of the room, he told the Ukrainians waiting there for the results of the Riga Conference: "Gentlemen, I deeply apologize to you".In fact Piłsudski did apologize the Ukrainian officers on a completely different occasion. His words, commonly associated with the Riga conference, were said on May 15, 1921, during Piłsudski's visit to the internment camp at Szczypiorno. The context however was clearly the same.Fact|date=March 2007] pl icon cite book | author =Jerzy Surdykowski | coauthors = | title =Duch Rzeczypospolitej | year =2001 | editor = | pages =335 | chapter =Ja was przepraszam panowie, czyli Polska a Ukraina i inni wpóltowarzysze niedoli | publisher =Wydawictwo Naukowe PWN | location =Warsaw | id =ISBN 83-01-13403-8 | url = ] pl icon cite journal | author =Jan Jacek Bruski | year =2002 | month =August | title =Sojusznik Petlura | journal =Wprost | volume = 1029| issue =2002-08-18 | pages = | id =ISSN 0209-1747|url =|accessdate =2006-09-28 ] The treaty violated Poland's military alliance with Ukraine, which had explicitly prohibited a separate peace. It also worsened relations between Poland and its Ukrainian minority, who felt Ukraine had been betrayed by its Polish ally, a feeling that would be exploited by Soviet propaganda and result in the growing tensions and eventual violence in the 1930s and 1940s. By the end of 1921, the majority of Ukrainian, Belarusian and White Russian forces had either crossed the Polish border and laid down their arms or had been annihilated by the Soviets.

However, Józef Piłsudski's dream of creating an Eastern Europe alliance (Międzymorze) of independent countries was thwarted by this treaty, as Poland was unable to fulfill the obligations of its alliance with Ukraine and support its independence, and Polish-Lithuanian relations deteriorated as well as a result of Poland's annexation of the city of Vilnius, which the Lithuanians claimed as their capital.

Lenin also considered the treaty unsatisfactory. He had to temporarily give up his plans for exporting the revolution West.

On the other hand, the Treaty of Riga led to the stabilization of the eastern border of Poland. The new Polish state surrendered most of land lost in 1st and 2nd partition to Russia by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during partitions of Poland, with a sizeable Polish minority (less than 1 million) especially around Słuck and Żytomierz. This would allow Soviets to carry out harsh reprisals against those Poles — begun with confiscation of immense property (land, forests), religious persecution (bishop Cieplak 1923) and eventually full scale deportation of Poles to Kazakhstan 1931-1934. Population living on the Polish side of the Riga border, including Poles and (approx. 6 million citizens) minorities of Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians and Jews were largely spared from communist rule, and guaranteed freedom of property and religious faith — for the next 17 years until 1938. However, this didn't protect them from ethnic conflicts, especially during the Great Depression from 1929 on.

Poland also was to receive monetary compensation (30 million rubles) for its economic input into the Russian Empire during the times of partitions of Poland. Russians were also to surrender arts and other Polish national treasures pillaged after 1772 (like the Załuski Library). Both sides renounced claims to war compensation.

Notes and references

* Davies, Norman, "White Eagle, Red Star: the Polish-Soviet War, 1919-20", Pimlico, 2003, ISBN 0-7126-0694-7. (First edition: New York, St. Martin's Press, inc., 1972.)

See also

* Aftermath of the Polish-Soviet War
* West Belarus

External links

* Photocopies of the treaty: [ pages 1-8] , [ pages 9-16] , [ pages 17-23] , [ appendices and additional protocol]

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