In the aftermath of World War I, the map of Central and Eastern Europe had drastically changed. Germany's defeat rendered its plans for the creation of Eastern European puppet states (Mitteleuropa) obsolete, and the Russian Empire collapsed, resulting in a revolution and a civil war. Many small nations of the region saw a chance for real independence and seized the opportunity to gain it; Soviet Russia viewed these territories as rebellious Russian provinces, vital for Russian security, but was unable to react swiftly. While the Paris Peace Conference had not made a definitive ruling in regard to the Poland's eastern border, it issued a provisional boundary in December 1919 - the Curzon line - as an attempt to define the territories that had an "indisputably Polish ethnic majority"; the participants did not feel competent to make a certain judgment on the competing claims.

With the success of the Greater Poland Uprising in 1918, Poland had re-established its statehood for the first time since the 1795 partition and seen the end of a 123 years of rule by three imperial neighbors: Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. The country, reborn as a Second Polish Republic, proceeded to carve out its borders from the territories of its former partitioners.

Poland was not alone in its newfound opportunities and troubles. With the collapse of Russian and German occupying authorities, virtually all of the newly independent neighbours began fighting over borders: Romania fought with Hungary over Transylvania, Yugoslavia with Italy over Rijeka, Poland with Czechoslovakia over Cieszyn Silesia, with Germany over Poznań and with Ukrainians over Eastern Galicia. Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians fought against each other and against the Russians, who were just as divided. Spreading Communist influences resulted in Communist revolutions in Munich, Berlin, Budapest and Prešov. Winston Churchill commented: "The war of giants has ended, the wars of the pygmies began." All of these engagements – with the sole exception of the Polish-Soviet war – would be short-lived.

Vladimir Lenin, was inspired by the Red Army's civil-war victories over White Russian anti-communist forces and their Western allies, and began to see the future of the revolution with greater optimism. The Bolsheviks proclaimed the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, and agitated for a worldwide Communist community. Their avowed intent was to link the revolution in Russia with an expected revolution in Germany and to assist other Communist movements in Western Europe; Poland was the geographical bridge that the Red Army would have to cross in order to do so. Lenin’s aim was to regain control of the territories ceded by Russia in the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, to infiltrate the borderlands, set up Soviet governments there as well as in Poland, and reach Germany where he expected a Socialist revolution to break out. He believed that Soviet Russia could not survive without the support of a socialist Germany. By the end of summer 1919 the Soviets managed to take over most of Ukraine, driving the Ukrainian Directorate from Kiev. In early 1919, they also set up a Lithuanian-Belorussian Republic (Litbel). This government was very unpopular due to terror and the collection of food and goods for the army. It was not until after the Polish Kiev Offensive had been repelled, however, that some of the Soviet leaders would see the war as the real opportunity to spread the revolution westwards. Indeed, the Bolsheviks stated:

“ But our enemies and yours deceive you when they say that the Russian Soviet Government wishes to plant communism in Polish soil with the bayonets of Russian Red Army men. A communist order is possible only where the vast majority of the working people are penetrated with the idea of creating it by their own strength. Only then can it be solid; for only then can communist policy strike deep roots in a country. The communists of Russia are at present striving only to defend their own soil, their own constructive work; they are not striving, and cannot strive, to plant communism by force in other countries.”[23] ”

Before the start of the Polish-Soviet War, Polish politics were strongly influenced by Chief of State (naczelnik państwa) Józef Piłsudski. Piłsudski wanted to break up the Russian Empire and create a Polish-led "Międzymorze Federation" of independent states: Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and other Central and East European countries emerging out of crumbling empires after the First World War. This new union was to become a counterweight to any potential imperialist intentions on the part of Russia or Germany. Piłsudski argued that "There can be no independent Poland without an independent Ukraine", but he may have been more interested in Ukraine being split from Russia than in Ukrainians' welfare. He did not hesitate to use military force to expand the Polish borders to Galicia and Volhynia, crushing a Ukrainian attempt at self-determination in the disputed territories east of the Western Bug river, which contained a significant Polish minority, mainly in cities like Lviv, but a Ukrainian majority in the countryside. Speaking of Poland's future frontiers, Piłsudski said: "All that we can gain in the west depends on the Entente — on the extent to which it may wish to squeeze Germany," while in the east "there are doors that open and close, and it depends on who forces them open and how far."[34] In the chaos to the east the Polish forces set out to expand there as much as it was feasible. On the other hand, Poland had no intention of joining the western intervention in the Russian Civil War or of conquering Russia itself.

First Polish-Soviet conflicts

The first serious armed conflict of the war took place around February 14 - February 16, near the towns of Maniewicze and Biaroza in Belarus. By late February the Soviet westward advance had come to a halt. Both Polish and Soviet forces had also been engaging the Ukrainian forces, and active fighting was going on in the territories of the Baltic countries (cf. Estonian War of Independence, Latvian War of Independence, Lithuanian Wars of Independence).

In early March 1919, Polish units started an offensive, crossing the Neman River, taking Pinsk, and reaching the outskirts of Lida. Both the Soviet and Polish advances began around the same time in April (Polish forces started a major offensive on April 16, resulting in increasing numbers of troops

Polish forces continued a steady eastern advance. They took Lida on April 17 and Nowogródek on April 18, and recaptured Vilnius on April 19, driving the Litbel government from their proclaimed capital. On August 8, Polish forces took Minsk and on the 28th of that month they deployed tanks for the first time. After heavy fighting, the town of Babruysk near the Berezina River was captured. By October 2, Polish forces reached the Daugava river and secured the region from Desna to Daugavpils

Polish success continued until early 1920. Sporadic battles erupted between Polish forces and the Red Army, but the latter was preoccupied with the White counter-revolutionary forces and was steadily retreating on the entire western frontline, from Latvia in the north to Ukraine in the south. In early summer 1919, the White movement had gained the initiative, and its forces under the command of Anton Denikin were marching on Moscow. Piłsudski was aware that the Soviets were not friends of independent Poland, and considered war with Soviet Russia inevitable. He viewed their westward advance as a major issue, but also thought that he could get a better deal for Poland from the Bolsheviks than their Russian civil war contenders,

Central and Eastern Europe in December 1919 as the White Russians - representatives of the old Russian Empire, partitioner of Poland - were willing to accept only limited independence of Poland, likely in the borders similar to that of Congress Poland, and clearly objected to Ukrainian independence, crucial for Piłsudski's Międzymorze, while the Bolsheviks did proclaim the partitions null and void.[ Piłsudski thus speculated that Poland would be better off with the Bolsheviks, alienated from the Western powers, than with the restored Russian Empire. By his refusal to join the attack on Lenin's struggling government, ignoring the strong pressure from the Entente, Piłsudski had likely saved the Bolshevik government in summer–fall 1919. He later wrote that in case of a White victory, in the east Poland could only gain the "ethnic border" at best (the Curzon line). At the same time, Lenin offered Poles the territories of Minsk, Zhytomyr, Khmelnytskyi, in what was described as mini "Brest"; Polish military leader Kazimierz Sosnkowski wrote that the territorial proposals of the Bolsheviks were much better than what the Poles had wanted to achieve.

Diplomatic Front, Part 1: The alliances

The Warsaw Treaty, an agreement with the exiled Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlura signed on April 21, 1920, was the main Polish diplomatic success. Petlura, who formally represented the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic (by then de facto defeated by Bolsheviks), along with some Ukrainian forces, fled to Poland, where he found asylum. His control extended only to a sliver of land near the Polish border. In such conditions, there was little difficulty convincing Petlura to join an alliance with Poland, despite recent conflict between the two nations that had been settled in favour of Poland. By concluding an agreement with Piłsudski, Petlura accepted the Polish territorial gains in Western Ukraine and the future Polish-Ukrainian border along the Zbruch River. In exchange, he was promised independence for Ukraine and Polish military assistance in reinstalling his government in Kiev.

For Piłsudski, this alliance gave his campaign for the Międzymorze federation the legitimacy of joint international effort, secured part of the Polish eastward border, and laid a foundation for a Polish-dominated Ukrainian state between Russia and Poland. For Petlura, this was the final chance to preserve the statehood and, at least, the theoretical independence of the Ukrainian heartlands, even while accepting the loss of western Ukrainian lands to Poland.[45]

Yet both of them were opposed at home. Piłsudski faced stiff opposition from Dmowski's National Democrats who opposed Ukrainian independence. Petlura, in turn, was criticized by many Ukrainian politicians for entering a pact with the Poles and giving up on Western Ukraine.

The alliance with Petliura did result in 15,000 pro-Polish allied Ukrainian troops at the beginning of the campaign,[48] increasing to 35,000 through recruitment and desertion from the Soviet side during the war.[48] But in the end, this would prove too few to support Petlura's hopes for independent Ukraine, or Piłsudski's dreams of an Ukrainian ally in the Międzymorze federation.


Opposing forces

By early 1920, the Red Army had been very successful against the White armies. They defeated Denikin and signed peace treaties with Latvia and Estonia. The Polish front became their most important war theater and a plurality of Soviet resources and forces were diverted to it. In January 1920, the Red Army began concentrating a 700,000-strong force near the Berezina River and on Belarus.

By the time Poles launched their Kiev offensive, the Red Southwestern Front had about 82,847 soldiers including 28,568 front-line troops. The Poles had some numerical superiority, estimated from 12,000 to 52,000 personnel. By the time of the Soviet counter-offensive in mid 1920 the situation had been reversed: Soviets had about 790,000 people - at least 50,000 or more than the Poles; Tukhachevsky estimated that he had 160,000 "combat ready" soldiers; Piłsudski estimated his enemy's forces at 200,000–220,000.

In the course of 1920, almost 800,000 Red Army personnel were sent to fight in the Polish war, of whom 402,000 went to the Western front and 355,000 to the armies of the South-West front in Galicia. Grigoriy Krivosheev gives similar numbers, with 382,000 personnel for Western Front and 283,000 personnel for Southwestern Front.

The Polish Army was made up of soldiers who had formerly served in the various partitioning empires, supported by some international volunteers, such as the Kościuszko Squadron. Boris Savinkov was at the head of an army of 20,000 to 30,000 largely Russian POWs, and was accompanied by Dmitry Merezhkovsky and Zinaida Gippius. The Polish forces grew from approximately 100,000 in 1918 to over 500,000 in early 1920. In August, 1920, the Polish army had reached a total strength of 737,767 people; half of that was on the frontline. Given Soviet losses, there was rough numerical parity between the two armies; and by the time of the battle of Warsaw Poles might have even had a slight advantage in numbers and logistics.

Logistics, nonetheless, were very bad for both armies, supported by whatever equipment was left over from World War I or could be captured. The Polish Army, for example, employed guns made in five countries, and rifles manufactured in six, each using different ammunition. The Soviets had many military depots at their disposal, left by withdrawing German armies in 1918–19, and modern French armaments captured in great numbers from the White Russians and the Allied expeditionary forces in the Russian Civil War. Still, they suffered a shortage of arms; both the Red Army and the Polish forces were grossly underequipped by Western standards.

The Soviet High Command planned a new offensive in late April/May. Since March 1919, Polish intelligence was aware that the Soviets had prepared for a new offensive and the Polish High Command decided to launch their own offensive before their opponents. The plan for Operation Kiev was to beat the Red Army on Poland's southern flank and install a Polish-friendly Petlura government in Ukraine.

The tide turns: Operation Kiev

On April 24, Poland began its main offensive, Operation Kiev. Its stated goal was the creation of an independent Ukraine that would become part of Piłsudski's project of a "Międzymorze" Federation. Poland's forces were assisted by 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers under Symon Petlura, representing the Ukrainian People's Republic.[48]

On April 26, in his "Call to the People of Ukraine", Piłsudski told his audience that "the Polish army would only stay as long as necessary until a legal Ukrainian government took control over its own territory". Despite this, many Ukrainians were just as anti-Polish as anti-Bolshevik, and resented the Polish advance.

The Polish 3rd Army easily won border clashes with the Red Army in Ukraine but the Reds withdrew with minimal losses. The combined Polish-Ukrainian forces entered an abandoned Kiev on May 7, encountering only token resistance.

The Polish military thrust was met with Red Army counterattacks on 29 May. Polish forces in the area, preparing for an offensive towards Zhlobin, managed to hold their ground, but were unable to start their own planned offensive. In the north, Polish forces had fared much worse. The Polish 1st Army was defeated and forced to retreat, pursued by the Russian 15th Army which recaptured territories between the Western Dvina and Berezina rivers. Polish forces attempted to take advantage of the exposed flanks of the attackers but the enveloping forces failed to stop the Soviet advance. At the end of May, the front had stabilised near the small river Auta, and Soviet forces began preparing for the next push.

On May 24 1920, the Polish forces in the south were engaged for the first time by Semyon Budyonny's famous 1st Cavalry Army (Konarmia). Repeated attacks by Budyonny's Cossack cavalry broke the Polish-Ukrainian front on June 5. The Soviets then deployed mobile cavalry units to disrupt the Polish rearguard, targeting communications and logistics. By June 10, Polish armies were in retreat along the entire front. On June 13, the Polish army, along with the Petlura's Ukrainian troops, abandoned Kiev to the Red Army.

String of Soviet victories

The commander of the Polish 3rd Army in Ukraine, General Edward Rydz-Śmigły, decided to break through the Soviet line toward the northwest. Polish forces in Ukraine managed to withdraw relatively unscathed, but were unable to support the northern front and reinforce the defenses at the Auta River for the decisive battle that was soon to take place there.[58]

Due to insufficient forces, Poland's 200-mile-long front was manned by a thin line of 120,000 troops backed by some 460 artillery pieces with no strategic reserves. This approach to holding ground harked back to the World War I practice of "establishing a fortified line of defense". It had shown some merit on the Western Front saturated with troops, machine guns, and artillery. Poland's eastern front, however, was weakly manned, supported with inadequate artillery, and had almost no fortifications.

Against the Polish line the Red Army gathered its Northwest Front led by the young General Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Their numbers exceeded 108,000 infantry and 11,000 cavalry, supported by 722 artillery pieces and 2,913 machine guns. The Soviets at some crucial places outnumbered the Poles four-to-one.

Tukhachevsky launched his offensive on July 4, along the Smolensk-Brest-Litovsk axis, crossing the Auta and Berezina rivers.The northern 3rd Cavalry Corps, led by Gayk Bzhishkyan (Gay Dmitrievich Gay, Gaj-Chan), were to envelop Polish forces from the north, moving near the Lithuanian and Prussian border (both of these belonging to nations hostile to Poland). The 4th, 15th, and 3rd Armies were to push west, supported from the south by the 16th Army and Grupa Mozyrska. For three days the outcome of the battle hung in the balance, but the Soviet' numerical superiority proved decisive and by July 7 Polish forces were in full retreat along the entire front. However, due to the stubborn defense by Polish units, Tukhachevsky's plan to break through the front and push the defenders southwest into the Pinsk Marshes failed.

Polish resistance was offered again on a line of "German trenches", a heavily fortified line of World War I field fortifications that presented an opportunity to stem the Red Army offensive. However, the Polish troops were insufficient in number. Soviet forces found a weakly defended part of the front and broke through. Gej-Chan and Lithuanian forces captured Vilnius on 14 July, forcing the Poles into retreat again. In Galicia to the south, General Semyon Budyonny's cavalry advanced far into the Polish rear, capturing Brodno and approaching Lwów and Zamość. In early July, it became clear to the Poles that the Soviets' objectives were not limited to pushing their borders westwards. Poland's very independence was at stake.

Soviet forces moved forward at the remarkable rate of 20 miles (32 km) a day. Grodno in Belarus fell on 19 July; Brest-Litovsk fell on 1 August. The Polish attempted to defend the Bug River line with 4th Army and Grupa Poleska units, but were able to delay the Red Army advance for only one week. After crossing the Narew River on 2 August, the Soviet Northwest Front was only 60 miles (97 km) from Warsaw.[10] The Brest-Litovsk fortress which was to be the headquarters of the planned Polish counteroffensive fell to the 16th Army in the first attack. The Soviet Southwest Front pushed the Polish forces out of Ukraine. Stalin <!- What forces did he command at that time? --> had then disobeyed his orders and ordered his forces to close on Zamość, as well as Lwów - the largest city in southeastern Poland and an important industrial center, garrisoned by the Polish 6th Army. The city was soon besieged. This created a hole in the lines of the Red Army, but at the same time opened the way to the Polish capital. Five Soviet armies approached Warsaw. Polish politicians tried to secure peace with Moscow on any conditions but the Bolsheviks refused.

Polish forces in Galicia near Lwów launched a successful counteroffensive to slow down the Red Army advance. This stopped the retreat of Polish forces on the southern front. However, the worsening situation near the Polish capital of Warsaw prevented the Poles from continuing that southern counteroffensive and pushing east. Forces were mustered to take part in the coming battle for Warsaw.

The Soviet commander-in-chief, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, felt certain that all was going according to his plan. However, Polish military intelligence had decrypted the Red Army's radio messages, and Tukhachevsky was actually falling into a trap set by Piłsudski and his Chief of Staff, Tadeusz Rozwadowski. The Soviet advance across the Vistula River in the north was moving into an operational vacuum, as there were no sizable Polish forces in the area. On the other hand, south of Warsaw, where the fate of the war was about to be decided, Tukhachevsky smelling a rat left large forces to guard the vital link between the Soviet northwest and southwest fronts. Another factor that influenced the outcome of the war was the effective polish failure to stop Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army, much feared by Piłsudski and other Polish commanders, in the battles around Lwów. The Soviet High Command, at Tukhachevsky's insistence, had ordered the 1st Cavalry Army to march north toward Warsaw and Lublin, but Budyonny disobeyed the order due to a grudge between Tukhachevsky and Yegorov, commander of the southwest front. Additionally, the political games of Joseph Stalin, chief political commissar of the Southwest Front, decisively influenced the disobedience of Yegorov and Budyonny. Stalin, seeking a personal triumph, was focused on capturing Lwów—far to the southeast of Warsaw—which was besieged by Bolshevik forces and finally fell soon after.

The Polish 5th Army under General Władysław Sikorski counterattacked on August 14 from the area of the Modlin fortress, crossing the Wkra River. It faced the combined forces of the numerically and materially superior Soviet 3rd and 15th Armies. In one day the Polish counter attack had been halted and soon turned into retreat. Sikorski's 5th Army retreated with the remnants of his battered army from Soviet formations away from Warsaw . Soviet forces advanced at a speed of thirty km a day, soon destroying any Polish hopes for completing their counter offensive. By August 16, the Polish counteroffensive had been fully crushed practically encircling Marshal Piłsudski's "Reserve Army." Precisely executing Tukhachevsky's plan, the Polish force, advancing from the south, found it was trapped between the Soviet fronts and encircled.The Soviets continued their northward offensive with two armies following and destroying the surprised enemy. They reached the rear of Pidulskis forces, the majority of which were encircled by August 18. Only that same day did Tukhachevsky, at his Minsk headquarters 300 mi (480 km) east of Warsaw, become fully aware of the proportions of the Soviet victory and ordered his forces to continue to advance. He hoped to straighten his front line, and finish the Polish resistance.

The Polish armies in the center of the front fell into chaos. A general retreat was ordered toward the south, but by then Skulski had lost contact with most of his forces near the front lines, and all the Poles plans had been thrown into disarray by communication failures.

The Polish armies retreated in a disorganised fashion; entire divisions panicking and disintegrating. The Polish Army's defeat was so great and unexpected that, at the instigation of Tukhachevskys detractors, the Battle of Warsaw is often referred to in Poland as the "Disaster of the Vistula".

The advance of Budyonny's 1st Cavalry Army continued, first crushing the polish force at the battle of Brody (July 29–August 2), and then on August 17 at the Battle of Zadwórze, where a small Polish force sacrificed itself in a desperate rearguard action to help the retreat after Soviet cavalry seizied Lwów and had stopped vital Polish reinforcements from moving toward Warsaw. Moving through weakly defended areas, Budyonny's cavalry reached the city of Zamość on 29 August and took it in the battle of Zamość.

Listoski, now in command of Polish forces after Pidulskis disappearence and presumed killed in action , managed to reorganize the westward-retreating forces and in September established a new defensive line running from the Polish-German border to the north to the area of Nowy, with the central point in the city of Sosnowiec. The Soviet Army broke this line in the Battle of Krakow where they practically surrounded the city. Soviets forces outflanked the Polish forces, which were forced to retreat again. Soviet forces continued to advance west on all fronts, repeating their successes from previous battles. After the early October Battle of the Elbe River, the Soviet Army had reached the Polish-German border.

In the south, Petliura's Ukrainian forces retreated and on September 18th surrendered to Bolshevik forces.

November, 1920

The people of Warsaw stared sullenly at the men of the Red Army as they advanced through the streets of their city. Yet while they were frowning, General Tukhachevsky of the Red Army smiled. “And you thought we could lose,” he said to Trotsky, who sat in the car next to him.

Trotsky scowled. “I did not think we would lose,” he replied. “History assures our triumph. What I said that the Revolution would come from within, as the Polish workers and peasants rose up.”

“They did,” replied Tukhachevsky. “There were plenty of Poles serving in the Red Army.” He left unspoken the fact that he was one such. “And so the Red Army helped the Revolution along.”

Trotsky leaned back in the car and sighed. “Well enough,” he said. He thought for a moment, and said, “What do you think of Lithuania?” he asked.

Tukhachevsky shrugged. “Why bother?” he asked. “They gave us passage through Vilnus to attack Poland. Estonia’s already signed a treaty with us, and Latvia is,” he shrugged, “Latvia. They’ll fold in time.” [1]

Trotsky frowned. “The Soviet Union needs an ice free port,” he pointed out.

Tukhachevsky began laughing. “What for, Comrade? We don’t have a navy. We won’t have one any time soon. The Soviet Union is a peaceful nation, after all.”

Tukhachevsky paused, frowning as he saw the looks on the faces of his countrymen. “Besides,” he said, “We will need our army here.”

The Birth of the Polish Soviet Republic

While Warsaw fell by August 17, Poland still had numerous forces in the field. It is therefore worth asking why Poland’s forces were not able to rally in Poznan and defeat the Soviets, or at least secure their independence.

For one thing, while Soviet forces under Stalin did not take Lvow until the end of August, they were still capable of tying up Polish forces in the region. More important, perhaps, was disunity in the ranks of Poland’s government. The Polish National Democrats had withdrawn to Posen under the leadership of Roman Dmowski, who spent his time predicting the imminent fall of Warsaw and urging the formation of a separatist regime. The Polish army in Posen was commanded by General Dowbor-Musnicki, an enemy of General Pilsdski. When Warsaw’s government fell, it was forced to flee to the western Polish province, and appointed General Dowbor-Musnicki as the head of the Polish army. This was of course refused by Pilsudski, whose troops ignored its orders. Thus Poland’s military forces were divided and incapable of coordinating, dooming their efforts to resist the Soviets.

Diplomatic Front, Part 2: The Fall of Poland and the Failure of the Allies

The fall of Warsaw came as a rude and unwelcome surprise to the Allied leadership, and it was up to Britain’s Prime Minister, Lloyd George, to establish the Allied response. It soon became clear, however, that that response would not entail war with Russia.

It is true that there was the uncomfortable fact that the Allies had promised to defend Poland from Russian aggression. But this promise had never been made in general terms, and the Polish-Soviet border had never been established before the Polish-Soviet War began. This meant that, technically, it was unclear when Poland itself had been invaded and the Allies’ guarantees came into effect. Moreover, a Soviet delegation had arrived in London at the end of May, and hostile action might kill Lloyd George’s attempt to revive trade with Russia.

It was also clear that Britain could not count on French help in defending Poland. When Lloyd George raised the possibility of sending troops to Poland with his French counterpart, Prime Minister Millerand, he had been rebuffed. Yet on July 20, Lloyd George had sent a note to the Soviet Union reiterating Britain’s promise to defend Poland’s independence, and a few military advisors had been sent to Poland to advise its military at the end of July. Once again, there was a quandary.

Winston Churchill, of course, came up with an ingenious solution that would be entirely impractical. He proposes that RAF squadrons stationed in Germany could be flown to Poland to support the Polish army; a sentiment backed by the British ambassador in Posen. Yet Lloyd George is unwilling to listen to harebrained ideas from the man responsible for Gallipoli. The French Ministry even refused to loan the Polish government anymore money until November, which point it was too late. And while the French did try to ship arms across France, German railway workers caused a series of delays, hindering shipments while blaming them on reparations.

Meanwhile, Poland’s neighbors did little to help. Lithuania joined in the conquest of Poland, and was rewarded with the territory of Vilnus. Czechoslovakia was studiously neutral, but took advantage of Poland’s fall to secure the steelworks at Teschen. Warsaw’s fall caused Upper Silesia to vote to remain with Germany; even the Germans, it was believed, were better than the Bolsheviks. Even the Free City of Danzig took advantage of the chaos, expanding its territory into the surrounding countryside.

Meanwhile, Poland’s neighbors did little to help. Lithuania joined in the conquest of Poland, and was rewarded with the territory of Vilnus. Czechoslovakia was studiously neutral, but took advantage of Poland’s fall to secure the steelworks at Teschen. Warsaw’s fall caused Upper Silesia to vote to remain with Germany; even the Germans, it was believed, were better than the Bolsheviks. Even the Free City of Danzig took advantage of the chaos, expanding its territory into the surrounding countryside.

Perhaps the best example of the German attitude towards the Soviet conquest of Poland comes from the town of Gleiwitz, in Silesia. The town was one of many that anxiously awaited the results of the plebiscite, and so its inhabitants were hoping for a Polish defeat. Indeed, the German inhabitants paraded through the city with images of Trotsky and Lenin, and similar occurrences broke out throughout the province. As the German general von Seeckt put it in January of 1920, “I refuse to support Poland, even in the face of the danger that she may be swallowed up. On the contrary I count on that.”

Nor were members of the Bolshevik government unsympathetic to the idea of ties with Germany. Trotsky, for instance, wanted to buy arms from Germany, while Bolshevik agents in Berlin, with Trotsky’s support, stated that Russia would restore the 1914 border if it was victorious.

On August 7, Trotsky made his position very clear before the Second Congress of the Internationale. The Entente, he argued, had “crucified and suppressed Germany” and wanted to make the workers of Russia and Germany their slaves. Only a prosperous and allied Germany and Russia could rebuild Europe.

It is unclear what happened, but it is clear that by the beginning of August an informal agreement existed between Russia and Germany, whereby Germany promised to resume diplomatic and economic ties to the Russia, and be neutral in the Polish-Soviet War, in return for a restoration of the Polish Soviet border. By August 17 , the German Secretary of State in the Foreign Ministry wrote a memorandum arguing that once Poland had fallen, Posen and Silesia would declare independence and seek to join Germany based on the principle of national determination.

Yet at this point the Soviets, scenting victory, changed their mind. By the end of July Lenin, who opposed an alliance with Germany , caught wind of the negotiations in Berlin and opposed them, and by the middle of August the Soviets had decided that the Poland’s postwar borders would be based on “ethnographic factors”.Of course none in Germany could have then seen the Civil War.

The Second Spartacist uprising and the birth of the German civil war.

The Second Spartacist uprising, also known as the December uprising, was a series of armed battles in Germany from December 13 to February 14, 1921. Its is considered to mark the beginning of the German Civil War .

The uprising began after several thousand volunteers on their way to Poland from France and Germany were hijacked by communists trying to stop the brigades.These volunteers were armed and a series of gunfights ensued with the Spartacists.A freikorp group under the command of Ernst Rohm which were operating in the area soon began fighting not only the communists but also the villagers who had joined the spartacists.

The news of the gunfight spread quickly and soon communists everywhere began attacking the still active Freikorps.Several communists declared that the revolution had now begun.All over Germany violence erupted not just from Spartacists and Freikorps but people who'd lost all patience with Weimar.

Several workers then spontaneously seized the editorial office of a newspaper in the Kochstraße in Berlin and erected barricades on the streets. They were soon joined by more workers and blocked several streets in the newspaper quarter, including the office of the SPD organ Vorwärts. The newspaper had printed articles hostile to the Spartacists since the beginning of September 1919.

The German people soon decided to support the actions of the communists. They appealed for a general strike in Berlin on December 21st , which was followed by about 2,000,000 people, who surged into downtown Berlin on that weekend. In the following two days,Berlin was effectively in the hands of the Spartacists.

At the same time several KPD leaders tried to pull the regiments stationed in Berlin, especially the Volksmarinedivision, onto their side. Their armed presence was supposed to prevent fighting. This was successful, because most of the soldiers were convinced that communism could provide a better deal than weimar.

On January 8, the Revolution Committee invited Friedrich Ebert for talks. While these took place, the workers found about a flyer of the Vorwärts titled "Die Stunde der Abrechnung naht!" (The hour of vengeance is coming soon!) and about the Freikorps (anti-Republican paramilitary organizations, who fought the Weimar Republic and the November Revolution), whom the SPD administration had hired to suppress the workers. Eibert had ordered defense minister Gustav Noske, also a member of the SPD, to do so on January 6. Then the Revolution Committee stopped talks with the SPD. The Spartacist League then called for its members to take part in the revolution.

On the same day, the Freikorps declared themselves independent. The former soldiers still had weapons and military equipment from World War I, which gave them a formidable advantage. They quickly conquered the eastern part of Germany and declared an Elbe Republic.

Trotsky was a very happy man.Not only was Poland practically finished but Germany was in anarchy but things in Britain had also begun to erupt.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.