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Peace of Riga of 18 March 1921
Central and Eastern Europe after the Polish-Soviet Treaty of Riga
Signed18 March 1921
LocationRiga, Latvia
Expiration17 September 1939

The Peace of Riga, also known as the Treaty of Riga (Polish: Traktat Ryski), was signed in Riga on 18 March 1921, among Poland, Soviet Russia (acting also on behalf of Soviet Belarus) and Soviet Ukraine. The treaty ended the Polish–Soviet War.[2]

The Soviet-Polish borders established by the treaty remained in force until World War II. They were later redrawn during the Yalta Conference and Potsdam Conference.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The Fall of Riga - 11th Battle of the Isonzo River I THE GREAT WAR Week 163


The central powers had taken a few capital cities and major regional capitals, but not for quite a while. That changes this week though. Far to the north with the fall of Riga I'm Indy Nidel, Welcome to the Great War. There was action at Verdun, on the Banjšice Plateau and on the Black Sea last week But also a lot of action away from the field, as the counter revolutionary Moscow state conference was held Here is what followed. Well as I said the fall of Riga followed That city, at the mouth of the Daugav River, on the Baltic coast had long been an objective of the Germans but it had been a formidable obstacle. The Russian defenses were on the eastern bank of the river, but they had a strong bridgehead on the western one and the river itself was nearly half a kilometer wide here. German General Oskar von Hutier now launched his attack He had 750 big guns and 550 mortars but he also had the brilliant artillery officer Georg Bruchmüller Who was known as Durchbruchmüller the guy for breaking through anything guiding them Now he had come up with a system of quick intense bombardment that left defenses too stunned to respond when the main attack was launched The plan was to use 75% gas shells and 25% high explosive ones The region would be saturated with gas which meant the Russians would all have to put on masks which would reduce their ability to do anything else and communications centers would be destroyed by high explosives thus blinding Russian command and isolating it from events Hutier was also using stromtroop tactics with specialist assault squads They were mostly armed with light machine guns, hand grenades and flamethrowers and they were to bypass centers of resistance and breakthrough to attack gun batteries and headquarters heavy guns and follow up infantry would mop up what they had passed but with the river in the mix they were also trained in amphibious operations and could establish bridgeheads so that engineers could set up pontoon bridges at 4 A.M. September 1st the barrage began and it worked wonders Russian guns were silenced and much of the Russian infantry abandoned its post in terror The river crossing that followed begining at 8:30 didn't face much opposition The Russians fell back and their front line would stabilize around 30 km north east of Riga as the Germans took the 4th largest city in Russia with relative ease On the 6th the Kaiser himself came to Riga to review the troops Russia was still having alot of problems at home too There was the growing popularity and power of the Bolsheviks to deal with Reporter John Reed says many of the army officers prefer a defeat to Germany over Bolshevism Army commander Lavr Kornilov now summoned 4000 officers and promised to hang every last bolshevik. Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky visited the front and promised several generals that soon he will create a directory that will assume military control of the country Kornilov agrees with the idea of a military dictatorship just with one change leave out Kerensky. Kerensky thinking Kornilov is in agreement with him asks Kornilov to send a cavalry to Petrograd but Kornilov hestitates Kerensky realises in a couple of days that every thing is not exactly hunky dory between them and then Kornilov demands that Kerensky reassign his army to Petrograd Kerensky refuses and the week ends the usual complete chaos in the Russian government There was a bit of chaos in the French Government as well this week too Prime Minister Alexandre Ribot dismissed interior minister Louis Malvy and in response his whole government resigned He himself will not leave government but becomes foreign minister in new Prime Minister Paul Painlevé's government that is established next week There was fighting in France in the field this week The Canadians were still holding on at Lens surrounded by nests of Germans and pretty continuous fire they attacked the night of the 3rd taking 250 meters from the Germans on half a kilometer front also on the 6th British Colombian troops captured a 300 meter row of houses occupied by 4 companies of Germans So you can see that the micro fighting of the war continued day after day even without major offensives of course there were major offensives underway as well on the Italian front the 11th battle of the Isonzo River was still in progress with heavy fighting on the Banjšice Plateau and Mount Saint Gabriel The Italian storming of the mountian came September 3rd and the London Times described it so Reads quote on screen Another bonus for the Italians was on the Banjšice Plateau some Austrian positions had been abandoned with such haste that they had left behind whole wagons of arms and munitions which the Italians were happy to retrieve and one big offensive was coming to an end in Romania the battle of Merisheshki on the third a Romanian and Russian attack made little progress for heavy losses and both sides then adopted a defensive posture along the front though there were local clashes on September 5th Romanian volunteer and heroine Ecaterina Teodoroiu was killed leading her platoon and on the 8th German general Karl von Wenninger will be killed by artilery fire by virtually all accounts the battle of Merisheshki was a Romanian success yet Martin Gilbert claims kind of the reverse and that the Germans took 18 thousand prisoners which I can't find corroborated anywhere Teodoroiu was originally a nurse but began fighting on the front lines last October captured in November she escaped by killing her German guard in action again she was wounded by artilery and sent to hospital upon her release she was decorated and promoted and given her platoon command von Wenninger was a decorated Generalleutnant, Lieutenant General one of the highest German general ranks in the army who had commanded the defenses in Flanders, Arras and the Somme during the war until his death Those armies weren't the only ones working on defense through at sea the allied adoption of the convoy system as defense against German submarines had slowly been introduced and was a pretty complex operation to get going for example it required constant vigalence so ships either didn't collide with other ships or lose touch with the whole convoy and thats pretty tricky if your steaming along at night with no lights Reads quote on screen but the hard work was paying off by the end of this month 83 convoys had arrived in Britain totaling 1306 ships only 18 ships had been sunk and 8 of those had dropped out of their convoy only 2 ships had been sunk in 55 outward bound convoys German uboats suddenly found the ocean empty too since a tightly packed convoy was only a little more visible than a single ship so you now had one thing moving through the sea instead of a dozen or more seperate targets and even when they did find a convoy it was really risky to try to down a ship since it was protected by destroyers and depth charges so the rate at which allied shipping was being sunk was dropping sharply and the rate at which u boats were being sunk was rising it looked like Britain was not going to be starved out of the war after all though the Germans were trying from the skies as well on the 3rd 6 German planes bombed Sheerness 132 people were killed 96 injured on the 4th came a raid on London and the south east counties with 19 killed and 71 injured that same day 4 Americans were killed in an air raid on a British base hospital in France the first American army personnel to die in France during the war and on September 6th American General John Pershing moved the American headquarters from Paris to Chaumont French president Raymond Poincaré came to inspect the troops that day he was not impressed neither was Pershing it would take time especially when US Secretary of War Newton Baker said that no Americans would go anywhere near the front until they were fully trained and ready Georges Clemenceau pointed out that nobody was ever fully ready for this and france was exhausted and needed help and that was the week, fighting in Italy and Romania convoys at sea, a new French government, and the fall of Riga another notch in the German lipstick case would the Russians keep retreating, would the Germans march on Petrograd for all the chaos there at least Russia was still in the war and at least some of the army was still willing to fight if Petrograd falls, if Russia falls then what would that mean for the allies only time will tell if you want to learn more about the defense mechanisms against German uboats you can click right here to watch our totally under appreciated special episode about that our Patreon supporter of the week is Melanie Cook your support on Patreon means that we can make this show better and better so why don't you also consider supporting us at Don't forget to subscribe see you next time



World War I removed former imperial borders across Europe. In 1918, after the Russian Revolution had renounced Tsarist claims to Poland in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the war had ended with Germany's surrender, Poland was able to re-establish its independence after a century of foreign rule.

The Russian Civil War presented an opportunity for Poland under the leadership of Józef Piłsudski to regain parts of the tsarist territories of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth which had been incorporated into the Russian Empire during the Partitions of Poland. Meanwhile, many in the Soviet leadership desired to respond to Piłsudski's moves into the Ukraine by using military force against Poland, which was seen by the Soviets as a land bridge to Western Europe and thus to extend the revolution westwards. The Polish–Soviet War ensued, culminating in the Polish victory in the Battle of Warsaw (1920), which made both sides receptive to ending the conflict. Further military setbacks after their defeat near Warsaw made the Soviets eager to begin peace treaty negotiations,[3] and the Poles, pressured by the League of Nations, were also willing to negotiate after the Polish army had annexed most of the disputed territories in the war but was nearing exhaustion.


Caricature: "Down with the infamous Riga partition! Long live a free peasant indivisible Belarus!"
Caricature: "Down with the infamous Riga partition! Long live a free peasant indivisible Belarus!"

Peace talks began in Minsk on 17 August 1920, but as the Polish counter-offensive drew near, the talks were moved to Riga, and resumed on 21 September.[4] The Soviets proposed two solutions, the first on 21 September and the second on 28 September. The Polish delegation made a counter-offer on 2 October. Three days later the Soviets offered amendments to the Polish offer, which Poland accepted. An armistice was signed on 12 October and went into effect on 18 October 1920.[5] The chief negotiators were Jan Dąbski for Poland[6] and Adolph Joffe for the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.[4] The Soviet side insisted, successfully, on excluding non-communist Ukrainian representatives from the negotiations.[4]

Due to their military setbacks, the Soviet delegation offered Poland 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 lost the war. The Polish delegation was dominated by members of the National Democrat movement, who were Piłsudski's political opponents.[6] The National Democrats did not want non-Polish minorities in the reborn Polish state to constitute more than one third of the overall population, and were therefore prepared to accept a Polish-Soviet border which was substantially to the west of what was being offered by the Soviet side, even though this would leave hundreds of thousands of people who were ethnically Polish on the Soviet side of the border.

This decision was also motivated by political objectives. The National Democrats' base of public support was among Poles in central and western Poland. In the east of the country and in the disputed borderlands, support for the National Democrats was greatly outweighed by support for Piłsudski (and in the countryside outside of the cities, Poles were outnumbered by Ukrainians or Belarusians in these areas). So a border too far to the east was not just against the National Democrats' ideological objective of minimising the minority population of Poland, but would also be an electoral disadvantage to them.[7] War-weary public opinion in Poland also favoured an end to the negotiations[4] and both sides remained under pressure from the League of Nations to reach a deal.

A special parliamentary delegation consisting of six members of the Polish 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 ideologue, Stanisław Grabski, the 100 km of extra territory was rejected, a victory for the nationalist doctrine and a stark defeat for Piłsudski's federalism.[4][6]

Regardless, the peace negotiations dragged on for months due to Soviet reluctance to sign. However, the matter became more urgent for the Soviet leadership as it had to deal with increased internal unrest towards the end of 1920, which led to the Tambov Rebellion and later the Kronstadt rebellion against the Soviet authorities. As a result of this situation, Lenin ordered the Soviet plenipotentiaries to finalise the peace treaty with Poland.[3] The Peace of Riga was signed on 18 March 1921, partitioning the disputed territories in Belarus and Ukraine between Poland and the RSFSR, and ending the conflict.


The Treaty consisted of 26 articles.[8] Poland was to receive monetary compensation (30 million rubles in gold) for its economic input into the Russian Empire during the Partitions of Poland. Under Article 14 Poland was also to receive railway materials (locomotives, rolling stock, etc.) with a value of 29 million gold roubles.[9] Russia was to surrender works of art and other Polish national treasures acquired from Polish territories after 1772 (such as the Jagiellonian tapestries and the Załuski Library). Both sides renounced claims to war compensation. Article 3 stipulated that border issues between Poland and Lithuania would be settled by those states.[8]

Riga, March 18, 1921
Article 3. Russia and the Ukraine abandon all rights and claims to the territories situated to the west of the frontier laid down by Article 2 of the present Treaty. Poland, on the other hand, abandons in favour of the Ukraine and of White Ruthenia all rights and claims to the territory situated to the east of this frontier.

Article 4. Each of the Contracting Parties mutually undertakes to respect in every way the political sovereignty of the other Party, to abstain from interference in its internal affairs, and particularly to refrain from all agitation, propaganda or interference of any kind, and not to encourage any such movement.[10]

Article 6 created citizenship options for persons on either side of the new border.[8] Article 7 consisted of a mutual guarantee that all nationalities would be permitted "free intellectual development, the use of their national language, and the exercise of their religion."[8]


The Allied Powers were initially reluctant to recognise the treaty, which had been concluded without their participation.[8] Their postwar conferences had supported the Curzon Line as the Polish-Russian border, and Poland's territorial gains in the treaty lay about 250 km east of that line.[11][12] French support led to its recognition in March 1923 by France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan, followed by the US in April.[8]

In Poland, the Peace of Riga was met with criticism from the very beginning. Some characterised the treaty as short-sighted and argued that much of what Poland had gained during the Polish-Soviet war was lost during the peace negotiations. Józef Piłsudski had participated in the Riga negotiations only as an observer, and called the resulting treaty "an act of cowardice".[13] Piłsudski felt the agreement was a shameless and short-sighted political calculation, with Poland abandoning its Ukrainian allies.[4] On 15 May 1921, he apologised to Ukrainian soldiers during his visit to the internment camp at Kalisz.[14][15][16] The treaty substantially contributed to the failure of his plan to create a Polish-led Intermarium federation of Eastern European countries, as portions of the territory proposed for the federation were ceded to the Soviets.[7]

Lenin also considered the treaty unsatisfactory, as it forced him to put aside his plans for exporting the Soviet revolution to the West.[3]

The Belarusian and Ukrainian independence movements saw the treaty as a setback.[17] Four million Ukrainians and over one million Belarusians lived within areas ceded to Poland; in one estimate, only 15% of the population was ethnically Polish.[18][19] The Ukrainian People's Republic led by Symon Petliura had been allied with Poland under the Treaty of Warsaw, which was abrogated by the Peace of Riga.[3] The new treaty violated Poland's military alliance with the UPR, which had explicitly prohibited a separate peace. In doing so, it worsened relations between Poland and those Ukrainians who had supported Petliura. These supporters felt Ukraine had been betrayed by its Polish ally, a feeling that would be exploited by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and contribute to the growing tensions and eventual anti-Polish massacres in the 1930s and the 1940s. By the end of 1921, the majority of Poland-allied Ukrainian, Belarusian and White Russian forces had either been annihilated by Soviet forces or crossed the border into Poland and laid down their arms.

According to Belarusian historian Andrew Savchenko, Poland's new eastern border was "military indefensible and economically unviable" and a source of growing ethnic tensions, as the resulting minorities in Poland were too large to be ignored or assimilated and too small to win their desired autonomy.[6]

Further consequences

Poland after the Peace of Riga with the pre-partition borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth also indicated
Poland after the Peace of Riga with the pre-partition borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth also indicated

While the Peace of Riga led to a two-decade stabilisation of Soviet-Polish relations, conflict was renewed with the Soviet invasion of Poland during World War II. The treaty was subsequently overridden after a decision by war's Allied powers to change Poland's borders once again and transfer the populations.

In the view of some foreign observers, the treaty's incorporation of significant minority populations into Poland led to seemingly insurmountable challenges, because the newly formed organizations such as OUN engaged in terror and sabotage actions across ethnically mixed areas to inflame conflict in the region.[8][11][20] Nevertheless, many groups representing national minorities welcomed Piłsudski's return to power in 1926 providing opportunities to play a role in the Polish government.[21]

Second page of the treaty, Polish version
Second page of the treaty, Polish version

The populations separated from Poland by the new Polish-Soviet border experienced different fate from their fellow citizens. Ethnic Poles left within Soviet borders were subjected to discrimination and property confiscation.[22] Most of them (at least 111,000) were summarily killed in the NKVD operation in 1937/38, genocide preceding ones perpetrated during WW2, or exiled to different regions of the Soviet Union.[23][24][25]

Belarusians and Ukrainians, having failed to create their own states, were subjects of extermination in the Soviet Union, e.g. during Holodomor[26][27] and Great Purge (of which Poles were also victims).[28][29] Belarusians and Ukrainians living on the Polish side of the border were subjected to Polonization; which contributed to the rise of Ukrainian nationalist organisations and the adoption of terrorist tactics by Ukrainian extremists.[30][31]

The Soviet Union, thwarted in 1921, would see its sphere of influence expand as a result of World War II. After establishing its control over the People's Republic of Poland, the Polish-Soviet border was moved westwards in 1945 to roughly coincide with the Curzon Line. This shift was accompanied by large population transfers which led to the expulsion of the Poles living east of the new border, and also moved most of the Ukrainian minority remaining in Poland to the former German territories that were ceded to Poland in compensation. The unified Belarusian and Ukrainian territories were fully incorporated into the USSR.

However, in 1989, Poland would regain its full sovereignty, and soon afterwards, with the fall of the Soviet Union, Belarus and Ukraine would go on to become independent nations.

See also


  1. ^ a b Text of the document. Германо-советско-польская война 1939 года website.
  2. ^ K. Marek. Identity and Continuity of States in Public International Law. Librairie Droz 1968. pp. 419-420.
  3. ^ a b c d THE REBIRTH OF POLAND. University of Kansas, lecture notes by Professor Anna M. Cienciala, 2004. Last accessed on 2 June 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Piotr Stefan Wandycz (1 January 1962). France and Her Eastern Allies, 1919–1925: French-Czechoslovak-Polish Relations from the Paris Peace Conference to Locarno. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 178–180. ISBN 978-0-8166-5886-2.
  5. ^ Soviet foreign policy: 1917-1980, in two volumes, Volume 1. Progress Publishers. p. 181.
  6. ^ a b c d Andrew Savchenko (2009). Belarus: A Perpetual Borderland. BRILL. pp. 98–100. ISBN 978-90-04-17448-1.
  7. ^ a b Timothy Snyder (2004). The reconstruction of nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999. Yale University Press. pp. 68–. ISBN 978-0-300-10586-5. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Michael Palij (1995). The Ukrainian-Polish defensive alliance, 1919–1921: an aspect of the Ukrainian revolution. CIUS Press. pp. 165–168. ISBN 978-1-895571-05-9.
  9. ^ J.C. Johari (2000). Soviet Diplomacy 1925–41. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. p. 42. ISBN 978-81-7488-491-6.
  10. ^ Full text. "Treaty of Peace Between Poland, Russia and the Ukraine" (PDF). Riga, March 18, 1921. Resource: Appendix C.
  11. ^ a b Dennis P. Hupchick (1995). Conflict and chaos in Eastern Europe. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-312-12116-7.
  12. ^ Michael Graham Fry; Erik Goldstein; Richard Langhorne (2004). Guide to International Relations and Diplomacy. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-8264-7301-1.
  13. ^ Norman Davies (2003). White Eagle, Red Star: the Polish-Soviet War, 1919–20. Pimlico. p. 399. ISBN 978-0-7126-0694-3. (First edition: New York, St. Martin's Press, inc., 1972.)
  14. ^ Jan Jacek Bruski (August 2002). "Sojusznik Petlura". Wprost (in Polish). 1029 (2002–08–18). ISSN 0209-1747. Retrieved 28 September 2006.
  15. ^ Jerzy Borzęcki (2008). The Soviet-Polish Peace of 1921 and the Creation of Interwar Europe. Yale University Press. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-300-12121-6.
  16. ^ Polityka. Wydawn. Wspólczesne RSW "Prasa-Książka-Ruch". 2001. p. 74. Ja was przepraszam, panowie, ja was przepraszam – to miało być zupełnie inaczej
  17. ^ Jan Zaprudnik (1993). Belarus: at a crossroads in history. Westview Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-8133-1794-6.
  18. ^ Antony Evelyn Alcock (2000). A history of the protection of regional cultural minorities in Europe: from the Edict of Nantes to the present day. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-312-23556-7.
  19. ^ Raymond Leslie Buell (2007). Poland – Key to Europe. READ BOOKS. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-4067-4564-1.
  20. ^ Richard J. Crampton, University of Oxford (1994). Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 978-0415106917 – via Google Books.
  21. ^ Peter D. Stachura (2004). Poland, 1918–1945: An Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic. Psychology Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0415343589.
  22. ^ J. M. Kupczak "Stosunek władz bolszewickich do polskiej ludności na Ukrainie (1921–1939)Wrocławskie Studia Wschodnie 1 (1997) Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego , 1997 page 47–62" IPN Bulletin 11(34) 2003
  23. ^ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz (15 January 2011). "Nieopłakane ludobójstwo (Genocide Not Mourned)". Rzeczpospolita. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  24. ^ Goldman, Wendy Z. (2011). Inventing the Enemy: Denunciation and Terror in Stalin's Russia. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-19196-8. p. 217.
  25. ^ Snyder, Timothy (27 January 2011). "Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse?". The New York Review of Books. p. 1, paragraph #7. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  26. ^ Jones, Adam (2010). Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. Taylor & Francis. p. 194. ISBN 9780415486187.
  27. ^ Andrea Graziosi, "Les Famines Soviétiques de 1931–1933 et le Holodomor Ukrainien.", Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique, 46/3, p. 457
  28. ^ Gellately 2007
  29. ^ Figes 2007, pp. 227–315
  30. ^ Jan S. Prybyla (2010). When Angels Wept: The Rebirth and Dismemberment of Poland and Her People in the Early Decades of the Twentieth Century. Wheatmark, Inc. pp. 46–. ISBN 978-1-60494-325-2. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  31. ^ Aviel Roshwald (2001). Ethnic nationalism and the fall of empires: central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, 1914-1923. Routledge. pp. 168–. ISBN 978-0-415-17893-8. Retrieved 16 February 2011.

Further reading

  • Dąbrowski, Stanisław. "The Peace Treaty of Riga." The Polish Review (1960) 5#1: 3-34. Online
  • 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.)
  • Materski, Wojciech. "The Second Polish Republic in Soviet Foreign Policy (1918-1939)." Polish Review 45.3 (2000): 331-345. online
  • Traktat ryski 1921 roku po 75 latach, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń 1998, ISBN 83-231-0974-5 (Chapter summaries in English)
  • Photocopies of the Polish version of the Treaty.
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