Volume 4, Fascile 1/2 (6/7) December 1997

War of 1920 and Belarus: liberation or occupation?

Kiryl Mal

The Polish-Soviet War of 1920 was a very important event which determined the future of the relations between the USSR and Poland. However, there was one more aspect of that war. In fact, the outcome of that conflict highly infuenced the historical fate of the Belarusian people. According to the conditions of Riga Peace of 1921 Belarus was devided into two parts. One of them was incorporated into Poland and the other became Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic which was a part of the USSR. All hopes for sovereignty of Belarus were buried by the war for more than 70 years. The decision in Riga was taken disregading the desire and opinion of the Belarusian people. Even members of Belarusian government did not participate in the negotiations.

Soviet historians considered the war to be a campaign for liberation of Belarus and Ukraine from Polish occupation. Was it realy so? The main author's purpose is to answer this question. He tried to analyze the problem proceeding from the documents and memories of both Polish and Soviet participants. The facts brought to the following answer. Soviet "liberation" was a real invasion into Belarus. The Red Army's behaviour on the territory of Belarus showed that clearly. Plunders and violence here were taking place during the whole war. They were the basis of bolsheviks' policy which had the aim to subdue Belarus by force with the help of executions and concentration camps.

The reaction of the population was adequate. Belarusian peasants used every possibility to make harm to the Soviet troops. Struggle in arms (in Polish regular troops and guerilla war) was not also uncommon during the campaign and long after it.

All these facts bring to the conclusion that the Belarusian people fought for their liberty and sovereignty in that war. In fact, Belarus was the third side in the conflict. The Belarusians didn't dream to become Polish citizens but the alternative was even worse. Possibly, there had been some illusions about the bolshevism before the war but later the beginning of the campaign showed its real nature. Many of the Belarusians volantary joined the Polish army in other ways. The others did their best to stop bolsheviks' agression. Unfortunately, that heroic and desparate struggle was bound to fail. Being placed between the hammer and the anvil Belarus was finaly subdued and shared by two main enemies.

So, the Polish-Soviet War appeared to be a national tragedy for the Belarusians. In the consequence of it Belarus was incorporated into the new Russian Empire under the name of the Soviet Union.

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