Kresy


Kresy

The term "Kresy", meaning "Outskirts" or "Borderlands", was first used to define the Polish eastern frontier. The Borderlands referred to the eastern frontiers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During the period of the Second Polish Republic, The Borderlands were roughly equated with the lands to the east of Curzon line. In September 1939 the Borderlands were occupied by the Soviet Union and after World War II they were incorporated as a part of the Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. When the Soviet Union dissolved the Borderlands were included in the territories of countries which gained independence.

Etymology

According to the “Dictionary of the Polish Language” by Samuel Bogumil Linde from 1807, "Kresy" referred to the Polish eastern frontier. The Tatar Horde settled on the Lower Dnieper River in the Borderlands. For the first time in literature, this term was probably used by Wincenty Pol in his poems entitled “Mohort” from 1854 and in “Pieśń o ziemi naszej”. Pol claimed that it was the line from Dniester to Dnieper River so the land of Tatar borderland. At the beginning of the 20th century the meaning of the term Borderlands expanded to include the lands of the former eastern provinces of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, to the east of Lviv-Vilnius line, and in the period of the Second Polish Republic the Borderlands were equated with the land to the east of Curzon line. Currently the term Eastern Borderlands describes former, eastern lands of the Second Polish Republic.

History

The Republic of the Two Nations

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Eastern Borderlands was the area situated on the lower Dnieper River under so-called ‘porohy’ in the then Kijov province. After the union of Lublin of 1569 the Wild Fields were incorporated into the boundaries of the Republic of the Two Nations. At the beginning those areas were uninhabited.

Partitioned between Austria and Russia

The year 1772 is the beginning of the Russian and the Austrian territorial trophies at the cost of areas of the
Republic of the Two Nations which today are named Eastern Borderlands (areas situated to the east of today’s Polish border). This process was held in three stages (annexations). In the first partition (1772) Russia annexed Polish Inflanty, the northern part of Polotsk province, Vitebsk province, Mscislaw province and the southeast part of Minsk province (about 92 thousand km², 1,3 million people). Austria annexed Galicia, regions near Zamosc and northern Lesser Poland (about 83 thousand km² and 2,65 million people). During the second partition in 1793 Russia took Belarusian and Ukrainian lands to the east of Druja-Pinsk-Zbrucz line, i.e.: Kiev, Bratslav, part of Podolia, east part of Volhynia and Brest, Minsk and part of Vilnius (about 250 thousand km²) provinces. The third partition took place in 1795 and Lithuanian, Belarusian and Ukrainian areas to the east of the Bug River and Niemirow-Grodno line (about 120 thousand km²) were occupied.This period in the history of Poland, especially in its eastern part, was a time of national rebellions (November Uprising, January Uprising), persecutions, deportations to Siberia and denationalization of Poles. The eastern borderlands belonged to the last regions in Europe where serfdom was abolished: In 1848 it was eliminated in the Austrian partition and in 1864 in the Russian partition.

March 1919

March 1919 was especially turbulent for the Eastern Borderlands of Poland, as it was the time of the rebirth of the Polish state and the formation of the border. At that time, Poland was involved in three wars for its Eastern borders: with Ukraine, Soviet Russia, and Lithuania. As a result Poland incorporated a great part of the land that was under Russian rule situated to the east of the Curzon line. This terrain formed the Eastern provinces of the Second Republic of Poland: eastern part of Lwów Voivodeship, Nowogrodek Voivideship, Polesie Voivodeship, Stanis%C5%82aw%C3%B3w Voivodeship, Tarnopol Voivodeship, Wilno Voivideship, Volhynia Voivideship and eastern part of Białystok Voivideship.

Kresy and its population in the interbellum

The population was multi-ethnic with Poles, Ukrainian and Belarusian, ethnic Poles were the largest ethnic minority in these regions, and were the largest ethnic group in the region's cities. Other groups included Lithuanians (in the north), Jews (scattered in cities and towns across the area), Czechs (in Volhynia), also Russians.

Mother language given in 1931 Polish census was following:

*Lwów Voivodeship;58% Polish, 34% Ukrainian language , 8% Yiddish

*Nowogrodek Voivideship; 53% Polish, 39% Belarussian, 7% Yiddish, 1% Russian

*Polesie Voivodeship; 63% "Other" or Tutejsi, 14% Polish, 10% Yiddish, 6% Belarussian, 5% Ukrainian

*Stanis%C5%82aw%C3%B3w Voivodeship; 69% Ukrainian, 23% Polish, 7% Yiddish, 1% German

*Tarnopol Voivodeship; 49% Polish, 46% Ukrainian, 5% Yiddish

*Wilno Voivideship; 60% Polish, 23% Belarussian, 8% Yiddish, 3% Russian, 8% Other (including Lithuanian)

* Volhynia Voivideship; 68% Ukrainian, 17% Polish, 10% Yiddish, 2% German, 1% Russian, 2% Other

*Białystok Voivideship; 67% Polish, 16% Belarussian, 12% Yiddish, 3% Russian, 2% Other [Historia 1871-1939 Anna Radziwiłł, Wojciech Roszkowski Warsaw 2000 page 278]

Main cities

In 1931, according to the National Census, the largest cities in Polish Eastern Borderlands Voivodeships were:
* Lwów - pop. 312 200,
* Wilno - pop. 195 100,
* Stanisławów - pop. 60 000,
* Brześć nad Bugiem - pop. 50 700,
* Grodno - pop. 49 700,
* Równe - pop. 41 900,
* Borysław - pop. 41 500,
* Łuck - pop. 35 600,
* Tarnopol - pop. 33 900.

As a consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, on September 17, 1939 the territory was annexed by Soviet Union, and a significant part of the Polish population was deported to other areas of the Soviet Union including Siberia and Kazakhstan. [Michael Hope, 'Polish Deportees in the Soviet Union', Veritas Foundation, London, 2000, ISBN 0 948202769]

The Nazi and the Soviet occupation

When Nazi Germany and Soviet Union signed the Non-aggression treaty on 23rd of August 1939 in Moscow, it included a secret protocol regulating the course of the demarcation line between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union invaded Poland on the 17th of September moving fast to the Western border. Already on the 22nd of September both aggressors celebrated the success of their armies in a joint parade of victory in Brest-Litovsk (today's Brest). In the end the course of the border was designated by the agreement on borders and friendship between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union signed on the 28th of September. Simultaneously Communist governments for Western Ukraine and Western Belarus were formed and announced their intention on joining the respective republics in the Soviet Union. Polish command and government were completely surprised by the Soviet attack and for three months, until the 18th of December, they could not announce that Poland was in a state of war with the USSR or even give clear orders to their soldiers.

After the German invasion of the USSR which took place the 22nd of June 1941, the Germans moved approximately a thousand kilometers eastwards in the first weeks, breaking apart or taking Soviet troops into capture. Afterwards part of the territory was included in the Greater Germany, whilst the rest was passed to the Reichskommisariats.

In January 1944, Soviet troops reached the former Polish-Soviet border (by September the 17th 1939), whereas till the end of July they again brought under control the whole territory that was granted to the USSR with the German-Soviet Boundary and Friendship Treaty of 28 September 1939, which are currently the terrains eastward from the Eastern Polish border.

The Post war period

Already during the Teheran Conference in 1943, a new Eastern Polish border was established, in effect sanctioning the Soviet territorial acquisitions from September 1939 and ignoring protests from the Polish emigre government in London.

The Potsdam conference gave consent to the deportation of the Polish people from the former eastern Polish borderlands, but the issue with the Polish western border was still unsolved. The Allies decided to hand to Poland the territories of the Third Reich situated east of the Oder and the Lusatian Neisse River (excluding northern part of former Eastern Prussia, which became part of Russia as Kaliningrad Oblast) during the period of the temporary Polish jurisdiction and up to the moment, where territorial borders were finally acknowledged by the peace treaty.

After the Second World War, the Polish eastern boundaries were incorporated into Soviet Union as part of the republics of Ukraine SSR, Belarus SSR and Lithuanian SSR. The annexation of these territories was celebrated in the former Soviet Union and is also currently celebrated in independent Belarus as the “unification of Belarus”.

The official name of the attack on Poland was "the Liberation Conquest of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia". After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these territories the union republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania retained their inter-republic and foreign borders.

ee also

*Curzon Line
*Zaporizhia (region) - also known as Dzikie Pola (Wild Fields)
*Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union
*Kresy Zachodnie
*Polish-Ukrainian War

References

* Mały rocznik statystyczny 1939, Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Warszawa 1939 (Concise Statistical Yearbook 1939, Central Statistical Office, Warsaw 1939).

External links

*http://www.kresy.co.uk/
* [http://maps.vlasenko.net/mapa-taktyczna-polski.html Polish maps of present-day Western Ukraine and Belarus (1930s)]
* [http://commonwealth.pl Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures: Poland's Heritage]


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