The End Of The First World War The post-war situation in Europe was bad for both victorious and defeated countries. The WWI devastated Europe. The political, cultural, and social order was drastically changed in Europe. Four European Empires fall: the German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and the Russian. In a result, new countries appeared in Europe, such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Austria, Poland and other countries. Conflicts about borders of the new countries emerged all over the Europe. Poland not only had to fight with Bolshevik Russia, but also with Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania. Hall Europe Struggle with huge economic problems caused by warfare, diseases, losses in human population, and inflation. Allies, which were U.S.A, France, Great Britain, recognized Germany as a main cause of the war. In fact, Germany had to pay great compensation in cash to France. Also, Germany was not allowed to have regular army, and some of its territory was transferred to Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and Belgium, a larger amount to France and the greatest portion of all to Poland. Germany's overseas colonies were divided amongst a number of Allied countries (Wikipedia 2010). The democratic government of Germany was very weak and the results of war caused great dissatisfaction in German society. The situation in Germany was especially unstable. There was also social problem of after-war trauma. In the face of millions of casualties people lost faith in humanity. There was also problem of many war veterans who came back home and suffered shocks caused by experiences from the war. Bad economic, social and political situation caused great dissatisfaction all over the Europe. That led people to ideologies like pacifism, nationalism, fascism, and communism. In 1917, in Russian empire governed by Tsar, the Bolsheviks started revolution to overthrow Tsar and establish communistic state. The main goal of the Bolsheviks was to export revolution from Russia to the Europe and rest of the world. The situation in Europe was adequate for starting revolution, as Z. Sliwa writes “[a] favorable climate for revolutionary had been established in many countries of the postwar Europe with strong revolutionary movements, especially in Germany and Hungary, as the Soviet Russia was seen by a large part of the class as only political system that could give political power to that social class” (103-104). As we see, Bolshevik revolution had great chances of success in Europe. The after-war Europe was weak, and would not have strength to oppose to the Bolshevik revolution. In 1920, C.H. Charles writes that “Europe may be compelled to meet the peril for which she is mentally, economically and military unprepared” (2). The only country that stood between Bolsheviks and Western Europe was Poland. Defeating Poland was necessary to bring revolution to the rest of the Europe. The battle of Warsaw was the part of Polish-Soviet War in 1919-1921. In 1918 Poland regained its independence after 123 years. The independence of Poland was assured by the Allies, but Polish borders were not assured. The Bolshevik revolution in Russia started in 1917, and in 1919 Bolshevik army was still fighting in the civil war with counterrevolutionary White Army. Polish leader Marshal Jozef Pilsudski knew that both sides of civil war in Russia, after winning, will try to regain lands lost during the WWI and the revolution. Before WWI, hall eastern Poland was part of Russian Empire .Western Allies proposed to Poland that eastern border will be based on Curzon Line, which would leave millions of Poles inside Russia. To secure the Polish eastern border Polish Army had to strike first while Bolsheviks were involved in interior conflict. The war started in April 1919 with Polish successful offensive. At the beginning of 1920, Polish army occupied territories of Lithuania, Belarus and West Ukraine. Marshal J. Pilsudski expected that Bolsheviks led by Lenin will defeat counterrevolutionary forces and will try to export revolution to the west. To secure Polish Eastern border J. Pilsudski had plan to create federation between Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine that would separate Poland from Russia. According to this idea, Marshal Pilsudski created friendly Ukrainian government. The Ukrainian government had very small support from Ukrainian society and wasn’t very supportive for Poland. In early 1920, Bolsheviks defeated all counterrevolutionary forces. Lenin achieved internal stability in Russia and was prepared to concentrate all forces in the west and start counteroffensive to defeat Poland and spread revolution around the Europe. In June 1920, Soviets launched an offensive by attacking from south in Ukraine, and from west in Belarus. At the beginning of August Red army was 50 kilometers from Warsaw (Sliwa 105). In two months Soviet conquered all eastern Poland and they reached the line of the Vistula River. The decisive moment of the war was going to be the Battle of Warsaw. In August 1920, the army headquarters of both fighting countries realized that upcoming battle will decide about the final result of the Polish- Soviet War. The Russian attack plan was created by General Mikhail Tukhachewski who was the commander in chief of the Red Army’s West Front. The commander of the Southwest front was General Jegorov. The Russian plan assumed that conquering capitol of Poland, Warsaw, will break Polish resistance and the Red army will be able to bring communistic revolution to Germany and Hungary, and to the rest of the Europe. In July 1920, Gen. Tukchachevsky proclaimed to his soldiers: “on the corpse of White Poland lies the road to the worldwide conflagration. On out bayonets we will bring happiness and peace to the toiling masses of mankind.”(Tukhachevski in Sliwa 105). Soviet plan was based on Russian military experience from 1831, when Russian soldiers crossed Vistula River in north and attacked Warsaw from the other side ,which resulted in capturing Warsaw and defeating anti-Russian uprising. Tukhachevski in 1920 had similar plan. Red army would cross the Vistula River from north, cut out troops in Warsaw from supplies coming from seaport in Danzig, and attacked the city simultaneously from north-west and east. In south of Warsaw, Russian attack would be covered by Mozyr Group, which was too weak to join the attack. In effect, Warsaw would be encircle and cut out from the supplies. The author of Polish defensive plan was Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, the commander in chief of Polish army and the temporal chief of Polish state. The Polish defensive concept was based on information, provided by the Polish intelligence, about Russian maneuvers. It was possible because of breaking the Russian codes. According to encrypted information, Polish headquarters decided that the best plan was to arrange counterattack as hardest as possible. Polish 5th army supposed to defend Warsaw in north- west, and if possible counterattack from north-west, and cut off Russian forces attacking the city from east. Polish 1st and 2nd army supposed to face soviet attack from east. The key-point of Polish defense plan lied in counterattack from south of Warsaw. The Russian Mozyr Group, protecting left flank of Russian offensive, was recognized as the weak point of the Russian plan. The Polish 4th and 3rd army, which was 25% of Polish troops (Sliwa 106), supposed to brake Mozyr Group, attack soviet troops, and cut them off from behind. The only risk for Polish counterattack was Soviet South Front, especially very mobile 1st cavalry army, which could attack right flank of counterattacking Polish troops. Fortunately, there was a great lack of cooperation between West Front and Southwest Front. It was result of political games between commanders of both fronts. Highly involved in those games was Joseph Stalin. Thanks to polish intelligence, Marshal Pilsudski knew about the lack of organization in Bolshevik’s army. Summarizing, four Polish armies supposed to defend Warsaw with 3rd army securing right flank from possible soviet attack from south. Tukhachevski deployed 4 armies to attack Warsaw, and weak Mozyr Group to secure left flank, where Marshall Pilsudzki was planning to start counterattack. The battle started on 13 August with Russian attack on Praga and Radzymin that was area located on eastern side of Vistula River, which divides the Warsaw. After heavy fights eastern parts of Warsaw were captured by Bolsheviks. According to the plan, Russian 3rd, 4th, and 15th armies were attacking Warsaw from north-west. They broke defense line of Polish 5th army and started marching to cross Vistula river, cut supplying lines, and attack the city from north-west. Fortunately, Polish reinforcements made of best Polish troops joined the 5th army and stopped Soviet offensive from northwest. In the center Russian armies captured eastern part of Warsaw but couldn’t move any further to cross the river and attack Warsaw from east. This was favorable situation for Polish army. When Russian attack was stopped, Marshal Pilsudski was able to begin counterattack from south. Also, 1st cavalry army wasn’t transferred from the Russian Southwest Front to join the operation. As it was mentioned before, lack of cooperation between fronts was a result of political games between Russian generals, including Stalin. There is popular ironic statement that Stalin saved Polish independence. On 16 August Marshal Pilsudski decide to launch the counterattack from south, which supposed to be made by the Assault Group led personally by Pilsudski. In 36 hours the Assault Group made 70 kilometers, broke defense lines of Mozyr group, and cut Russian 16th army ,which was attacking Warsaw from east (Sliwa 109). In this short period of time Mozyr Group was forced to retreat and soviet front was divided. Soon after launching counterattack, all Polish armies began a counteroffensive. During the fights, Polish soldiers captured one of the two Russian radio stations. General Tukchachevski lost communication with most of his troops. Russian forces were in total chaos. Some of Soviet troops were still attacking ,and some of them began chaotic retreat. On August 20 Soviet 15th army, which was responsible for the key attack from northwest, was defeated. Russian forces were in disorganized retreat, the reinforcements from Southwest Front did not come, and by 21 August all Bolshevik troops were in retreat. On 25 August Battle of Warsaw was over. After 23 days of bloody fights, Polish army won the battle and forced Bolsheviks to general retreat. The outcome of the battle was caused by many different circumstances. Numerical force of Soviet Army was greater than Polish. Also, Russians were better equipped and had advantage of being in offensive. As we see in the example of the battle, those aspects, which are usually recognized as most decisive, did not decide about the battle’s outcome. According to Z. Sliwa “ the most important factor was the human factor, competent and effective leaderships backed up by the full dedication of the whole nation.”(110). It is true that human factor was very important in this Battle. First, the leadership of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski had great influence on soldiers’ morale. He was commander in chief and leader of the state. He was very popular in Poland, because with his coming to Warsaw in 1918 Poland regained its independence. Pilsudski used his popularity to hearten Polish soldiers. Before the battle, Pilsudski was traveling along the front, and he was personally encouraging soldiers, even the regular privates. Also, very important was the fact that Pilsudski personally led the counterattack of the Assault Group. Is spite of great leadership, Poland would not win the battle if Polish nation wasn’t united. Polish society was divided between three foreign countries for over 120 years, and all three parts differed politically, culturally, and economically. Despite the fact, Polish people haven’t lost the national identity, and they were able to unite against cultural and social boundaries. Polish soldiers had full support of society. The support of local people is very important in military conflict, we can see this in an example of American War in Vietnam, when Vietcong was supported by local civilians. Bolsheviks had very small support in Poland. There were groups of Polish communists supporting the revolution. They even created the Polish Bolshevik Government, but the government had insignificant support in Polish society. Bolsheviks tried to gain some popularity through communist propaganda saying about capitalistic exploitation and need for the revolution in Poland. The soviet propaganda wasn’t successful. Russian attack wasn’t recognized as the revolution saving Polish society from exploitation of capitalists. For Polish people that was another threat from the east. Poland had to struggle with Russia for hundreds of years, no matter if it was Tsar’s White Russian or Lenin’s Red Russia. The battle of Warsaw showed that human factor might be the decisive one. The Polish-Soviet War wasn’t over, but victory in Warsaw determined the end of the war. In the last phase of war Soviet troops were in constant retreat. The delayed offensive of Soviet 1st cavalry army was stopped, and defeated. In March 1921, Polish and Soviet delegations agreed to ceased fire and signed peace treaty. The treaty ended the Polish-Soviet War, and regulated the eastern border. Belarus and Ukraine had been divided between Poland. The Polish plan to create federation of independent eastern countries failed, but the Lenin’s plan of international revolution in Europe also failed. Also, the end of the war caused establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922 as a communist country which was against the Marxist ideas of international revolution. Now, we can see the importance of the battle. Lord D’Abernon said about the battle: “There are few incidents in the recent history of civilization of greater importance than the Battle of Warsaw in 1920; there are none which have been less understood. The European World passed through a moment of dire peril; the peril was averted and forgotten and the whole episode was forgotten. Had the Battle of Warsaw resulted in a Bolshevist victory it would have been a turning point in history; there can be no doubt that the whole of Eastern and Central Europe would have been open to tide of communistic propaganda and Soviet invasion;” (28) The fall of Warsaw would bring the defeated of Poland in the war with Bolsheviks. The fall of Poland would bring proclamation of revolutions in Germany and Hungary. Weak and unpopular governments in Germany and Hungary would not have enough strength to resist against revolutionaries supported by Russian Bolsheviks. Revolution in Central Europe could work like domino effect causing revolutions in France in England. These are just predictions, because Bolsheviks had been stopped in Warsaw, but situation in central Europe was in favor for revolutionary movements. The heroic victory of Polish troops in 1920 saved Poland and Europe from Bolshevik revolution. Thus, the battle should be well known event not only in Poland but in all Europe.
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