Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz

Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz

Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz ( _be. Станіслаў Булак-Балаховіч, _ru. Станислав Булак-Балахович) (1883–1940) was a Polish-Belarusian general, veteran of World War I, Russian Civil War, Polish-Bolshevik War and the Invasion of Poland at the start of World War II.


Early life

Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz was born February 10, 1883 in Meyszty, a small village near Vilna (Vilnius, Lithuania, then Russian Empire), to an impoverished szlachta family of mixed Polish, Tatar and Belarusian descent. He graduated from an agricultural faculty and started working as a manager of farms in Horodziec and Łużki.

World War I

After the outbreak of the Great War and Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich Romanov's address to the Polish people, Bułak-Bałachowicz joined the Russian Imperial army. As a person of noble roots, he was drafted as an ensign to the 2nd Leyb-Courland Infantry Regiment. However, unlike many of his colleagues which were awarded the basic NCO grades for their noble ancestry only, Bułak-Bałachowicz proved himself as a skilled field commander and was quickly promoted. By December 1914, only four months after he entered the army, he was given command over a group of Cossack volunteers, of whom he formed a cavalry squadron. Together with the 2nd Cavalry Division he fought on the western front, most notably in the area of Sochaczew near Warsaw.

During the German summer offensive of 1915 Warsaw was taken by the Central Powers and Bułak-Bałachowicz's unit was forced to retreat towards Latvia. On September 5 he volunteered to lead a group of 72 officers who were ordered to create a partisan unit behind the enemy lines. The group joined a bigger partisan unit of colonel Punin, where Bułak-Bałachowicz quickly rose to the grade of a squadron commander. His unit was formed of four cavalry platoons: one of Cossack light cavalry, one of hussars, one of uhlans and one of dragoons. Thanks to the versatile and flexible structure of his unit, Bułak-Bałachowicz managed to continue the fight behind the enemy lines until 1918.

Russian Civil War

On March 5, 1918, unconscious of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed only two days before, the unit commanded by Bułak-Bałachowicz got engaged in a skirmish against a German unit near the village of Smolova. Although the enemy unit was severely defeated, forced to retreat and abandon its staff behind, Bułak-Bałachowicz was seriously wounded after being shot in the left lung. Transported to Saint Petersburg, Bułak-Bałachowicz quickly recovered and rejoined with his brother, Józef Bułak-Bałachowicz. The latter got involved in the creation of a Polish cavalry detachment commanded by ensign Przysiecki. The Bolsheviks disbanded the unit soon after its formation, executed its commander and started to persecute its members. However, with a help of French military mission a Polish cavalry detachment was finally created and Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz became its commander. The new unit received Leon Trotsky's recognition and was soon reinforced with non-Polish volunteers from all over Russia and was planned as a cavalry division of the Red Army.

Soon after its creation, Bułak-Bałachowicz was ordered to quell the so-called "Baron Korff Revolt" in the area of the city of Luga. With his regiment (the unit was still not completely formed) he reached the area and pacified the peasant unrest without the use of force. He was immediately called in to Saint Petersburg by his superiors, but was afraid of being arrested. Because of that, Bułak-Bałachowicz with his cavalry regiment deserted and moved across the Bolshevik lines to the area of Pskov, held by the joint forces of White Russian Northern Army and various German anti-Bolshevik units. Initially the unit fought against the Reds on the White side, but soon conflicts with the German officials arose and Bułak-Bałachowicz had to switch sides yet again. Together with his battle-hardened unit he disarmed the German units surrounding him and broke to the rear of the Red-held territory. From there he fought his way across the fronts to Estonia, where he finally joined the forces of General Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich's "North-Western Army". A skilled commander, Bułak-Bałachowicz added greatly to the Estonian victories in the battles of Werro, Neuhausen and Dorpat and was soon promoted to lieutenant colonel.

On May 10, 1919, Bałachowicz was given the command over an "assault group" and was ordered to drive it to the rear of the Bolshevik lines. Three days later his forces took the town of Gdov by surprise and on May 29 Bałachowicz entered Pskov. For this action he was promoted to colonel by General Yudenich himself. Because of his victories, his subordinates (mostly Belarusian, Cossack, and Polish volunteers) nick-named him ataman, though some preferred to use the term "Bat'ko" - father.

Bułak-Bałachowicz became the military administrator of Pskov. He personally ceded most of his responsibilities to a democratically elected municipal duma and focused on both cultural and economical recovery of the war-impoverished city. He also put an end to censorship of press and allowed for creation of several socialist associations and newspapers, which enraged White generals towards him. Finally, Bułak-Bałachowicz entered in contact with Estonian officers and Poles who were trying to reach the renascent Polish Army, which was seen by Bałachowicz's superiors as a sign of lack of loyalty. After Pskov was yet again lost to the Bolsheviks in mid-July, general Yudenich ordered Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz to be arrested even though only a few days earlier he promoted him to major general (a move Yudenic undertook with hopes of appeasing Bułak-Bałachowicz and encouraging greater subordinance).

However, once again Bułak-Bałachowicz evaded being captured. He handed over his division to his brother Józef and, together with 20 of his friends, left for Estonian-controlled Ostrov. There he once again created a partisan unit. With 600 men he broke through the Red Army front and started to disrupt its supply lines. Despite Yudenich's hostility towards Bułak-Bałachowicz, the latter cooperated with White Russian units during their counter-offensive in the autumn of 1919. His unit captured the railway node in Porkhov and broke the Pskov-Polotsk rail road, which added greatly to the White Russian's initial success. On November 5, 1919 his unit yet again entered the area between Pskov and Ostrov and destroyed the three remaining railway lines linking Pskov with the rest of Russia. However, Yudenich's army could not link up with the areas controlled by Bułak-Bałachowicz and their assault was finally broken.

On January 22, 1920, general Yudenich signed an order of dissolution of his badly-beaten army. On January 28 general Bułak-Bałachowicz, together with several Russian officers and the Estonian police arrested him. A large amount of money was found with him (roughly 227.000 pounds, 250.000 Estonian marks and 110.000.000 Finnish marks) was given to the soldiers of the disbanded army as a last salary, which greatly added to Bałachowicz's popularity amongst them.

Polish-Bolshevik War

In February 1920 Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz contacted Józef Piłsudski through the Polish envoy to Riga and proposed to ally his unit with the Polish Army against the Bolshevist Russia. As the fame of the general preceded him, Piłsudski agreed and soon afterwards Bułak-Bałachowicz with some 800 cavalrymen set off for yet another of his great odysseys. After leaving Estonia, they outflanked the Red Russian lines and rode several hundred kilometres behind the enemy lines to Latvia, where they were allowed to pass the Latvian territory. Finally by mid-March they reached Dyneburg (now Daugavpils, then under Polish military administration), where they were greeted as heroes by Józef Piłsudski himself.

Transferred to Brześć Litewski, the Bułak-Bałachowicz's unit was reformed into a "Bułak-Bałachowicz Operational Group", sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Belarusian-Lithuanian Division". It was composed mostly of Belarusian volunteers, as well as veterans of the Green Army and former Red Army soldiers, and received the status of an allied army. Because of the composition of his troops, Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz is sometimes referred to as a BelarusianThe nationality of Bułak-Bałachowicz was a matter of dispute even during the war. Józef Piłsudski described him with the following words: "Today he's a Pole, tomorrow he'll be a Russian, the day after - a Belarusian and the following day perhaps an African."; as cited in: Cabanowski, op.cit.] .

Formally independent, the division was one of the most successful units fighting in the ranks of the Polish Army during the Polish-Bolshevik War. The unit entered combat in late June 1920 in the area of Polesie Marshes. On June 30 Bułak-Bałachowicz once again broke through the enemy lines and captured the village of Sławeczno in today's Belarus, where the tabors of the Soviet 2nd Rifle Brigade were stationed. The enemy unit was caught by surprise and suffered heavy losses. On July 3 the enemy unit was completely surrounded in the village of Wieledniki and was annihilated. After that action, the Operational Group was withdrawn to the main lines of the Polish 3rd Army and after July 10 it defended the line of the Styr river against Red Army actions.

On July 23, during the Bolshevik offensive towards central Poland, general Bałachowicz's group started an organised retreat as a rear guard of the Polish 3rd Army. During that operation, Bułak-Bałachowicz abandoned the withdrawing Polish troops and stayed with his forces for several days behind the enemy lines only to break through to the Polish forces shortly afterwards. During the Battle of Warsaw overnight of August 14 Bałachowicz's forces were ordered to start a counter-attack towards the town of Włodawa, one of the centres of concentration of the advancing Russian forces. On September 17 the area was secured and the Bułak-Bałachowicz's forces defended it successfully until September 7 against numerically superior enemy forces. Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz organised an active defence and managed to disrupt the concentration of all enemy attacks before they could be started. For instance on August 30 and September 2 his forces, supported by the Polish 7th Infantry Division, managed to attack the Soviet 58th Rifle Division from the rear, before it could attack the town of Włodawa.

On September 15 the unit was yet again advancing in pursuit of the withdrawing Red Army. That day the unit captured Kamień Koszyrski, where it took more than 1000 prisoners of war and the war materiel depot of an entire division. During the Battle of the Niemen River Bałachowicz's unit prevented the enemy from forming a defensive line in Polesie. Overnight of September 21 his unit outflanked and then destroyed completely the Bolshevist 88th Rifle Regiment near the town of Lubieszów. Perhaps the most notable victory of the Bułak-Bałachowicz's Group took place on September 26, when its forces once again broke through enemy lines and captured Pinsk. The city was the most important rail road junction in the area and was planned as the last stand of the Bolshevik forces still fighting to the west of that city. After it was lost, the Red Army central front collapsed and the withdrawal turned into a panic retreat.

Failed uprising in Belarus

In October Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz was stationed with his forces in Pinsk, where they received supplies and a large amount of former Red Army soldiers who were taken prisoner of war after the Battle of Warsaw and volunteered for the service in anti-Bolshevik units. The unit was to re-enter combat in November, but on October 12 a cease fire was signed. On the insistence of both the Entente and Bolshevik Russia, the allied units were to leave Poland before November 2. General Bułak-Bałachowicz was given the choice of either being interned in Poland with his units and then sent home or to continue the fight against the Reds on his own. He chose the latter option, just like most other White Russian and Ukrainian units fighting on the Polish side in the Polish-Bolshevik War.

On November 2, 1920, his units were renamed the Russian People's Volunteer Army and transferred to the areas that were to be abandoned by the Polish Army and become a no-man's-land until the final Russo-Polish peace treaty was signed. Three days later his forces crossed into Russian-held Belarus and started an offensive towards Homel. General Bułak-Bałachowicz was hoping for a Belarusian all-national uprising against Bolshevik Russia. His forces initially achieved a limited success and captured Homel and Rechytsa. On November 10, 1920 Bułak-Bałachowicz entered Mozyr. There, two days later, he proclaimed the independence of Belarus and started forming a new Belarusian National Army. On November 16 he also created the Belarusian provisional government. However, the planned uprising gained little support in the Belarusian nation tired by six years of constant war and the Red Army finally gained an upper hand. On November 18 Bałachowicz abandoned Mozyr and started a withdrawal towards the Polish frontier. The Belarusian troops, hardened by the years spent behind the enemy lines, fought their way to Poland and managed to inflict heavy casualties on the advancing Russians while suffering negligible losses, but were too weak to turn the tide of war.

On November 28 the last organised unit under his command crossed the Polish border and was subsequently interned. The Russian government demanded that General Bułak-Bałachowicz be handed over to them and tried for high treason. The Riga Peace Conference was even halted by these demands for several days, but eventually these claims were refuted by the Polish government which argued that Bułak-Bałachowicz was a Polish citizen since 1918.


Shortly after the Riga Peace Treaty had been signed, Bułak-Bałachowicz and his men were set free from the internment camps. The general retired from the army and settled in Warsaw. There he became an active member of various veteran societies. Among other functions, he held the post of the head of Society of Former Fighters of the National Uprisings. He was also a political essayist and writer of two books on the possibilities of a future war with Germany: "Wojna będzie czy nie będzie" ("Will there be war or will there be not"; 1931) and "Precz z Hitlerem czy niech żyje Hitler" ("Down with Hitler or long live Hitler?", 1933). Between 1936 and 1939 he briefly served as an advisor to Franco's nationalists in the Spanish Civil War.

World War II

During the Polish Defensive War of 1939, Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz volunteered for the Polish army. He created a Volunteer Group that fought in the defence of Warsaw. The unit consisted of approximately 1750 ill-equipped infantrymen and 250 cavalrymen. It was used on the southern flank of the Polish forces defending the Polish capital and adopted the tactics its commander knew perfectly well: fast attacks on the rear of the enemy forces. On September 12, 1939, the unit entered combat for the first time. It took the German defenders by surprise and retook the southernmost borough of Służew and the Służewiec horse track. Soon afterwards the cavalry organised a disrupting attack on the German infantry stationed in Natolin. On September 23 the unit was transferred to northern Warsaw, where it was to organise an assault on the German positions in the Bielany forest. The assault had been prepared, but was thwarted by the cease-fire signed on September 27.

After the capitulation of Warsaw, general Bułak-Bałachowicz (formally retired) evaded being captured by the Germans and returned to civilian life. At the same time he was the main organiser of Konfederacja Wojskowa ("Military Confederation"), one of the first underground resistance groups in German and Soviet-occupied Poland. In early 1940 the Gestapo found out his whereabouts. He was surrounded with a group of young conspirators in a house in Warsaw's borough of Saska Kępa and arrested by the Germans. He managed to kill one of them with a knife hidden in his walking stick and was subsequently shot to death by the remaining Gestapo agents. Neither the exact date of his death nor the place of his burial are known.

For his resistance against Bolshevik forces that killed local Belarusian peasantry, members of Belarusian minority in Poland regard him as their national heropl icon cite journal | author =Aleksy Moroz | year =2004 | month =December
title =Dzień Bohaterów na Białostocczyźnie | journal =Niwa | volume = | issue =2004-12-09 | pages = | doi = | id = | url =
format = | accessdate =
] . White historians have often seen him to be an adventurer.

Notes and references

# cite web | author=Rafał Berger | title=Generał Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz | publisher= | year=2001 | work=Koło tradycji wojskowej generała Stanisława Bułak-Bałachowicza | url= | accessdate=2006-06-24
# cite book | author =Marek Cabanowski | coauthors = | title =Generał Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz: zapomniany bohater (Bułak-Bałachowicz, a Forgotten Hero) | year = | editor = | pages = | chapter = | chapterurl = | publisher =Ośrodek Kultury | location =Grodzisk Mazowiecki | id =ISBN 83-904339-5-8 | url = | format = | accessdate = ( [ review] )
# cite journal | author =Oleg Łatyszonek | year =1990 | month = | title =Generał Bułak-Bałachowicz w wojnie 1920 r | journal =Sybirak | volume =2 | issue =5 | pages =7–12 | doi = | id = | url = | format = | accessdate =
# cite journal | author =Jarosław Tomasiewicz | year = | month = | title =Ostatnia wojna pierwszej Rzeczypospolitej | journal =Zakorzenienie | issue =Wszystkie dzieci Rzeczpospolitej | url = | accessdate =2006-06-24
# Tomasz Paluszyński, "Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz w estońskiej wojnie narodowo-wyzwoleńczej w latach 1918-1919", w: Poznańskie Zeszyty Humanistyczne, t. VI, Poznań 2006, s. 81-99.
# Tomasz Paluszyński, "Przejście oddziału generała Stanisława Bułak-Bałachowicza z Estonii do Polski (marzec 1920 roku)", w: Polska i Europa w XIX-XX wieku. Studia historyczno-politologiczne, red. J. Kiwerska, B. Koszek, D. Matelski, Poznań 1992, s. 109-124.
# Janusz Cisek, "Białoruskie oddziały gen. Stanisława Bułak-Bałachowicza w polityce Józefa Piłsudskiego w okresie wojny polsko-nolszewickiej (marzec-grudzień 1920)". Rozprawa doktorska napisana w 1993 r. w Instytucie Historii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego pod kierunkiem prof. Wojciecha Wrzesińskiego.
# Pantalejmon Simanskij, "Kampania białoruska Rosyjskiej Armii Ludowo-Ochotniczej gen. S. Bułak-Bałachowicza w 1920 r.", w: "Bellona", t. XXXVII, 1931, s. 196-232.
# Marek Cabanowski, "Generał Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz. Zapomniany bohater", Warszawa 1993, s. 204.
# Oleg Łatyszonek, "Białoruskie formacje wojskowe 1917-1923", Białystok 1995.
# Oleg Łatyszonek "Spod czerwonej gwiazdy pod biały krzyż", w: Zeszyty Naukowe Muzeum Wojska", nr 6, Białystok 1992.
# Zbigniew Karpus, Oleg Łatyszonek, "Życiorys gen. Stanisława Bułak-Bałachowicza", w: Białoruskie Zeszyty Historyczne (Białystok), 1995, nr 2 (4), s. 160-169.
# Zbigniew Karpus, "Wschodni Sojusznicy Polski w wojnie 1920 roku. Oddziały wojskowe ukraińskie, rosyjskie, kozackie i białoruskie w Polsce w latach 1919-1920", Toruń 1999.

ee also

* Polish Defensive War

External links

* [ Pictures of Gen. Bułak-Bałachowicz]

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