Soviet occupation of Polish lands (1939-1941)

Soviet occupation of Polish lands 1939-1941

Zones of interest of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Third Reich on the territory of the Second Republic of Poland as established by the Treaty of Borders and Friendship of September 28, 1939

Time of the conflict

September 17, 1939-July 1941

Territory

Poland

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Zones of interest of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Third Reich on the territory of the Second Republic of Poland, as established in the Secret Additional Protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939 (point 2 of the Protocol)

Soviet occupation of Polish lands 1939-1941[1] – occupation by the Red Army after the USSR’s aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939, and the subsequent annexation of the occupied territory of the Second Republic by the USSR in the form of incorporation into the Soviet Union republics, in accordance with the arrangements of the Treaty on Borders and Friendship between the Third Reich and the USSR of September 28, 1939, a modification of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939.

Under international law, the territory of the Republic of Poland occupied and annexed by the USSR, like the territory of the Republic of Poland annexed by the Third Reich, continued to be an integral part of the Republic of Poland[2].

Table of contents

1 Provisional administration

1.1 Northeastern territories of the Second Polish Republic – Western Belarus 1.2 Southeastern territories of the Second Polish Republic – Western Ukraine

2 Under the USSR 3 Photographs 4 See also 5 Footnotes 6 Bibliography

Provisional administration[edit | edit code].

Following the German and Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, Polish territory was divided between Germany and the USSR. Both regimes were hostile to Polish culture and Polish society and aimed to destroy them. Prior to Operation Barbarossa, Germany and the USSR conducted coordinated activities related to their policies in Polish territory, most evident in the four Gestapo-NKVD conferences, where plans to fight Polish resistance and destroy Poland were discussed.

On September 28, 1939, the USSR and Germany amended the secret arrangements of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. According to these arrangements, often referred to as the Fourth Partition of Poland, the borders were established along the lines of the Pisa, Narew, Bug and San rivers, and the areas west of this line were transferred to the German sphere of influence, giving more territory to Germany. The USSR thus took over 52.1% of Poland’s territory (about 200,000 square kilometers), with more than 13.7 million people. Elżbieta Trela-Mazur reports the following figures: 38% of Poles (5.1 million), 37% of Ukrainians, 14.5% of Byelorussians, 8.4% of Jews, 0.9% of Russians, 0.6% of Germans, and 336,000 refugees (of various nationalities, mainly Poles and Jews) from areas that fell under German occupation.

In the period between the USSR’s aggression against Poland and the Red Army’s occupation of its eastern provinces and their formal annexation by the USSR (September 17-November 2, 1939), a temporary administration functioned in the occupied areas in the quasi-state territories of so-called Western Belarus and Western Ukraine.

Northeastern territories of the Second Republic – Western Belarus[edit | edit code].

Main article: Western Belarus.

Map of the Belarusian SSR and so-called Western Belarus from the occupation period

On October 22, 1939, elections were held to the People’s Assembly of Western Belarus created by the Soviet authorities. The election campaign and elections were held in an atmosphere of terror. Only predetermined candidates could be voted for, and uniformed NKVD officers sat on the committees. According to the falsified results, the turnout was 96.7%, and 90% of the votes were cast for candidates promoted by the Soviets. The People’s Assembly, which was thus elected, met on October 28-30 in Bialystok under the slogan death to the white eagle[3]. The People’s Assembly made a “request” to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR to incorporate Western Belarus into the Belarusian SSR. On November 2, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR passed a resolution accepting the request of the People’s Assembly of Western Belarus and annexed it to the Belarusian SSR and thus to the USSR.

At the same time, on October 26, 1939, the USSR handed over Vilnius and its district to Lithuania, but after Lithuania’s incorporation on August 3, 1940, this area too became part of the USSR.

Western Belarus included the Polish provinces of Bialystok, Novogrudok, Polesie, Vilnius without Vilnius and the northeastern sections of Warsaw. Bialystok became the temporary capital of Western Belarus.

Southeastern territories of the Second Republic – Western Ukraine[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Western Ukraine.

Soviet annexation of eastern Poland, annexed to the Ukrainian SSR in 1940

On October 22, 1939, elections to the National Assembly of Western Ukraine were held, and as early as October 26-28, 1939 – the National Assembly of Western Ukraine met in the Lviv building of the Grand Theater and voted on a resolution to annex Western Ukraine to the Ukrainian SSR, and thus to the USSR. The Supreme Soviet of the USSR also “accepted” this proposal on November 1, 1939.

Western Ukraine included the Polish provinces of Ternopil, Stanislawow, Volyn and the eastern part of Lviv with Lviv itself – which also became the temporary capital of Western Ukraine.

As part of the USSR[edit | edit code].

Anti-Polish propaganda poster – Soviet soldier pierces White Eagle with bayonet

Separate article: Katyn crime.

The NKVD’s methods of fighting our underground movement were the subject of clear admiration by the Gestapo, which wanted to adopt them for the German occupation as well. In fact, there was no doubt that the NKVD’s methods were superior to those of the Gestapo. They were a hundred times more dangerous and effective. Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski[4]

In the territory of the Soviet occupation, work is much more difficult than in the General Government. This is primarily due to the fact that the Bolsheviks dispose of a much more numerous police apparatus, understand the Polish language and have a lot of help from the local element: Ukrainians, Byelorussians and, above all, Jews – they also have a lot of supporters among the youth, whom they favor and give positions to. report of the ZWZ Commander-in-Chief Stefan Rowecki in November 1940[5].

The incorporation of the eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic was a unilateral act of annexation and was not internationally recognized until 1945. Initially, the Soviet occupation gained support among some national minorities who considered the policies of the Second Polish Republic to be nationalist. A significant part of the Ukrainian population initially welcomed attempts at reunification with the rest of Ukraine.

The first task carried out by the Soviet authorities was the depolonization of the occupied territory. It was accomplished through the extermination of the leading groups of Polish society: the landed gentry and intelligentsia, and mass deportations deep into the USSR, involving hundreds of thousands of intelligentsia families, the military, the police and wealthier farmers. Thus, during the 21 months of occupation, social, cultural, economic and national changes were initiated and often accomplished. A huge proportion of the deportees – estimated to be about one-third – never returned[6].

Between 1939 and 1941, the Soviets arrested and imprisoned some 500,000 Poles, including former officials, officers and other “enemies of the people”-the clergy. This was about 10% of all adult males. The Soviets also murdered some 65,000 Poles.

In total, the territories incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR lost 2.321 million people (31.8%) during World War II[7].

In one planned massacre, the NKVD carried out death sentences on 21,768 Poles, among them politicians, government officials, intellectuals and 14,471 Polish officers. The 4254 victims of this murder were discovered in the Katyn forest in 1943 by the Germans, who then reported the case to the International Red Cross for neutral examination of the bodies and confirmation of Soviet guilt.

After the invasion of Poland, the Soviet Union stopped recognizing the Polish state and did not treat the Polish military prisoners as prisoners of war, but as rebels against the new government of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus.

In December 1939, an emissary, Tomasz Jan Strowski, arrived in Lvov from Paris for Generals Marian Januszajtis, Mieczyslaw Boruta-Spiechowicz and Wladyslaw Anders, sent with instructions from General Kazimierz Sosnkowski on the establishment of the ZWZ. However, the first two had already been arrested, and Anders refused to accept the Instruction[8].

Elements of the legitimization of annexation, in addition to the above-mentioned (pseudo)elections of October 22, 1939, were two further elections – on March 24, 1940 (to the Supreme Councils of the USSR and the union republics of Ukraine and Belarus) and on December 12 (or according to other data, 15[9]), 1940 (to councils at the field level), with an official turnout of over 90%[10].

An element of the occupier’s policy were measures concerning Polish education. All private schools, including church schools, were nationalized. All educational institutions became areas of communist indoctrination. The university in Lviv continued its activities, but was given a Ukrainian character[11].

Photographs[edit | edit code].

Soviet infantry columns entering Poland on 17.09.1939

Red Army’s entry into Vilnius on September 19, 1939

Heinz Guderian and Semyon Krivoshein receive the parade of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in Brest-on-the-Bug, September 22, 1939

Soldiers of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in Lublin, September 22, 1939

Soldiers of the Red Army and Wehrmacht in Brest-Litovsk, September 22, 1939

Meeting of Wehrmacht and Red Army soldiers on September 20, 1939, east of Brest

Talks between Wehrmacht and Red Army officers on the delineation of the current line of demarcation of troops in the invaded Polish territory. Brest, September 1939; in the foreground, General Heinz Guderian (inverted from rear half-profile).

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