Treaty of Riga (1921)

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This article is about the peace treaty between Poland, and the RFSR and USSR. See also Treaty of Riga (1920) – peace treaty between Latvia and the RFSSR.

Treaty of Riga Treaty of peace between Poland and Russia and Ukraine, signed in Riga on March 18, 1921

The last page of the treaty with the seals and signatures of the parties


March 18, 1921




The end of the Polish-Bolshevik war and the demarcation of the Polish-Soviet border

Parties to the treaty

Second Polish Republic

Russian FSR Ukrainian SSR

Multimedia in Wikimedia Commons

Polish delegation to the negotiations on the armistice and conclusion of peace with Soviet Russia 1920. From left, seated: Wladyslaw Kiernik, Gen. Mieczyslaw Kulinski, Jan Dabski, Stanislaw Grabski, Leon Wasilewski. Standing: Michał Wichlinski, Witold Kamieniecki, Norbert Barlicki, Adam Mieczkowski, Ludwik Waszkiewicz.

Delegation of the Polish Army to the Riga negotiations. In the center, Gen. Mieczyslaw Kuliński

Polish delegates to the peace negotiations in Riga 1921. from left: Edward Lechowicz, Leon Wasilewski, Jan Dabski, Henryk Strasburger, Stanislaw Kauzik.

First plenary session of the negotiations. Soviet delegation on the left, Polish delegation with Stanislaw Grabski on the right.

Right side – Polish delegation, left – Soviet delegation. Seated at the table are Karol Poznanski (third from right), Alexander Lados (fourth from right), Leon Vasilevski (sixth from right).

Signing of the treaty. On the left Leonid Obolensky and Adolf Joffe, on the right Jan Dabski

The detailed course of the Polish-Soviet border, established in the Riga Treaty after the 1923 delimitation

Treaty of Riga (or Riga Peace), Treaty of Peace between Poland and Russia and Ukraine, signed in Riga on March 18, 1921. (Journal of Laws No. 49, item 300)[1] – a peace treaty concluded between the Republic of Poland and the RFSR and the USSR, ratified[2] by the Head of State Marshal Jozef Pilsudski on April 16, 1921; it was effective from April 30, 1921, i.e. the exchange of ratification documents by the parties, which took place in Moscow[3]. The signing of the treaty took place on March 18, 1921 at 8:30 pm at the Blackhead Palace in Riga[4]. The treaty consisted of 26 articles. In it, both sides pledged not to interfere in the internal affairs of the other state.

The treaty ended the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1919-1920, established the course of the borders between the two countries and regulated other hitherto disputed issues. It was preceded by the Agreement on Preliminaries of Peace and Armistice between the Republic of Poland and the Russian Federative Socialist Republic of Councils and the Ukrainian Socialist Republic of Councils, signed in Riga on October 12, 1920[5]. Statutory ratification of the peace preliminaries and armistice by the Polish Sejm occurred unanimously on October 22, 1920,[6] and two days later Soviet Russia did the same. The armistice itself went into effect as early as October 18, 1920 at 24:00.

Table of Contents

1 Circumstances of the start of the negotiations 2 Attitude of the Polish delegation 3 Border 4 Other provisions 5 Epilogue 6 Executive apparatus 7 See also 8 Footnotes 9 Bibliography 10 External links

Circumstances of the beginning of the negotiations[edit | edit code].

See in Wikiresources the text of the Terms of Peace presented to Poland in Minsk by the Soviet delegation on 19.08.1920

See in Wikiresources the text of the Polish reply of 23.08.1920 to the Soviet peace terms

Polish-Soviet negotiations began in August 1920 in Minsk, in a situation where Polish independence was threatened by Soviet troops. The Polish delegation was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Dabski and the Soviet delegation by Karl Daniszewski[7]. On September 21, 1920, the negotiations were transferred to neutral ground in Riga, Latvia, and Daniszewski was replaced by Adolf Joffe. After the victory in the Battle of Warsaw and the Nieman campaign, the Polish delegation had much more favorable cards in its hands. Jan Dabski, Henryk Strasburger and Leon Wasilewski were sent to Riga as Polish representatives.

Most of the group’s members (except Wasilewski and Strasburger) belonged to right-wing parties opposed to the building of a Polish-Belarusian-Lithuanian federation and the independence of Ukraine. Already at the beginning of the talks proper, the Polish delegation recognized the USRR as a party to the negotiations (a Soviet Ukrainian state), while consequently withdrawing recognition of the URL, with which Poland was bound by an alliance agreement from the spring of 1920. Exhausted by the war, Poland could not conduct further struggles for Ukrainian independence, especially since the Ukrainians themselves did not support Petlura in 1920, and Western states were opposed to Ukrainian independence. The manner in which Ukraine was represented by the Soviet delegation is best demonstrated by the fact that the content of the treaty in Ukrainian had to be drafted by Leon Vasilevskiy.

At the time of the Polish-Soviet negotiations for an armistice and peace treaty, Soviet Russia was recognized de jure only by: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia and Turkey.

Attitude of the Polish delegation[edit | edit code].

See also category: Members of the Polish delegation to the peace negotiations in Riga 1920-1921.

Polish territorial demands at the Paris Peace Conference (Dmowski Line) against the background of the ethnographic map of the region and the borders of the Republic 1772

Comparison of the Polish-Soviet border from the Riga Treaty with the Polish-Russian border after the Second Partition

The Endecia, which dominated the composition of the delegation, opposed Jozef Pilsudski’s federation concept, preferring direct incorporation (incorporation) of the ethnically mixed territories of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth into the reborn Polish state, in accordance with the principles formulated by Roman Dmowski at the Paris Peace Conference (→ Dmowski line). National Democracy politicians were convinced of the temporariness of Bolshevik rule in Russia and the possibility of bilateral, anti-German cooperation with the soon-to-be restored government of post-communist Russia, based on the division of the lands of Belarus and Ukraine between Poland and non-communist Russia. This was coupled with a belief in the possibility of national assimilation (Polonization and Russification) by Poland and Russia of Byelorussians and Ukrainians (treated by National Democracy as “non-historical peoples”) within the state border thus demarcated and mutual cooperation between the two countries in this regard. The consequence was, for example, the unilateral resignation of the Polish delegation from the inclusion of Minsk within the borders of the Republic of Poland,[8] pushed through by Stanislaw Grabski to prevent the creation of a Belarusian canton federated with Poland. The border was drawn about 30 kilometers west and northwest of the city, leaving it to the Bolsheviks. Pilsudski’s last attempt to implement the federation program by way of accomplished facts was the so-called Zeligowski Rebellion, carried out on October 8, 1920, and the creation of Central Lithuania.

The Endecia claimed that the creation of an independent Ukraine east of the Zbruch River would sooner or later lead to its alliance with Germany and a revision of the borders with Poland by detaching from it the territories of eastern Galicia and western Volhynia. After all, for Ukrainians, Lviv meant more than Kiev. Proponents of the incorporation concept also believed that the incorporation of all of eastern Orthodox Belarus would nullify (which they considered real) plans for the Polonization of the lands of western Belarus. They also did not want to agree to building a federation with Lithuania and Belarus, fearing that Poland would be forced to cede Vilnius and Grodno to the other two states – members of the federation. Some National Socialist politicians (e.g., Jędrzej Giertych) went even further in their accusations, accusing Jozef Pilsudski of spying for Germany and implementing the German Mitteleuropa plan through his federation concept[9]. The Chief of State’s delegates were outvoted by a majority of the delegation appointed overwhelmingly by the Sejm. The most important decisions were made in October 1920, exceeding the negotiating mandate of the Foreign Ministry, by the head of the delegation, Jan Dabski, in a personal conversation with the head of the Soviet delegation, Adolf Joffe, on the issue of recognizing the USSR as a party to the negotiations, without securing a parallel place in the negotiations for the URL, as well as the timing and line of the armistice[10] (this line was approved by Joffe on October 4, and a communiqué on the matter was issued a day later; it caused an international sensation)[11]. The findings of the Dabski-Joffe conversation actually settled the course of the Polish-Soviet border line and the manner of political organization of the Baltic-Black Sea (Belarus and Ukraine) areas.

Border[edit | edit code].

Belarusian caricature of the Peace of Riga: “Down with the shameful partition of Riga! Long live a free, undivided, peasant Belarus!”

Poland obtained the lands that had belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth before the third and partially to the second partition, and in 1795-1916 had been part of the Russian partition, and since the spring of 1919 had been occupied by the Polish Army: the Grodno and Vilnius gubernias, as well as the western parts of the Volyn gubernia with Lutsk, Rivne and Krzemieniec, and the Minsk gubernia with Nesvizh, Dokshytsy and Stolptsy. Russia and Ukraine relinquished their claims to East Galicia, before 1914 part of the Habsburg monarchy. The Polish-Soviet border basically ran along the line of the Second Partition of 1793 (with a correction in favor of Poland in the form of parts of Volhynia and Polesia, with the city of Pinsk).

In general, in terms of territorial settlement, Poland gave up the lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth located east of the Riga-determined border, and Russia and Ukraine gave up their claims to lands west of the demarcated border line. Poland, by recognizing the puppet USSR and simultaneously withdrawing recognition of the URL (its only ally in the Polish-Bolshevik war), was effectively giving up on its federation program, while Russia approved the fact that all of Galicia, as well as the territories of the former Russian Empire, largely inhabited by non-Polish people, would be found within Poland’s borders.

Between the signing of the armistice and the peace treaty, Poland claimed 12,000 square kilometers of territory east of the armistice line. In the end, both sides agreed to border amendments covering 3,000 square kilometers in favor of Poland[12].

The Western powers took an unfavorable view of the negotiated border line, which aroused considerable dissatisfaction among the Polish public. After Mussolini took the reigns of Italy, on January 30, 1923, the Italian government requested the definitive recognition of the Polish eastern border. On February 21, the French delegate made a similar request at the Council of Ambassadors. On March 14, 1923, the Council of Ambassadors decided on the matter[13].

On March 15, 1923, the decision was sanctioned by an additional protocol implementing Article 87 of the Treaty of Versailles[14][15]. The government of Soviet Russia did not recognize the decision of the Council of Ambassadors or the Additional Protocol, denying the Western powers any right to settle the issue and considering only the Riga Treaty as authoritative, the Polish government was informed[16].

Other provisions[edit | edit code].

The treaty also stipulated the payment to Poland as compensation for the contribution of Polish lands to the building of the Russian economy during the period of partition, the amount of 30 million rubles in gold at 1913 prices (however, this arrangement was never carried out under various pretexts by the Soviet side). It also obliged the Soviet side to return works of art and monuments seized during the partitions (however, few were returned – on a reciprocal basis),[17] including the Wawel tapestries (15 works from the “Deluge” series), the only surviving Polish coronation insignia (Szczerbiec) and the statue of Prince Joseph Poniatowski (chiseled by Thorvaldsen), until 1924 an ornament of Ivan Paskevich’s residence[18] in Gomel. Also returned to Poland were the furnishings of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Jan Matejko’s painting “The Battle of Grunwald,” the Crown Archives, 7193 manuscripts of, among others, the Załuski Library, original Sejm diaries, letters and notes of the Radziwill, Chodkiewicz, Kadłubek, Długosz, Naruszewicz, Kościuszko and Lelewel families, and partially the archives of the gubernial offices of the Congress Kingdom. After Polish rights were documented, collections of prints, manuscripts and books that had been in Russian libraries and state archives returned to Poland. Outside Poland remained 70 thousand numismatic items, a significant number of tapestries, banners of the Dabrowski Legions, 10 thousand engravings. The Archives of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were also not given back as “belonging to Soviet science.”[19][20]

The treaty also determined the fate of the Polish population located in Bolshevik-controlled territory. Persons who had reached the age of 18 and were registered in the former Kingdom of Poland on August 1, 1919, could apply for Polish citizenship. Descendants of insurgents exiled in 1830-1865 and anyone who could prove that they were no more than third-generation descendants of people who had permanently resided in the territory of the former Republic could also immigrate to Poland. Those interested had one year to submit a statement on their choice of citizenship.

The action of exchanging prisoners of war was carried out fairly smoothly; by May 1921, more than 24,000 had been sent from Poland, but the Russian side, which sabotaged the provisions of the treaty, released only 12,500. Only Poland’s suspension of the release of Russian prisoners of war caused Russia to stop obstructing the evacuation of Polish soldiers[21].

Article VI of the treaty actually limited Polish citizenship options (e.g., in the depths of Russia) and allowed the Soviet authorities to block departures to Poland. Even descendants of participants in the struggle for independence in 1830-1865 had to prove to Soviet officials, among other activities, the use of the Polish language as colloquial speech, indicating attachment to Polishness. No appeal procedure was provided. Most suffered the tragic consequences of the treaty provisions. The Russians obstructed the departure of civilians to Poland and, under the pretext of lack of applications, announced in January 1923 the end of the repatriation action. After several months of negotiations, the action was resumed, finally ending in June 1924. A total of about 1.1 million people in the Russian territories benefited from the resettlement, of whom 65% were Ukrainians and Belarusians, and only 20% were Poles[21].

As a result, between 1.2[22] and 2 million[23] Poles remained in the territories east of the border defined in the Riga Treaty, despite attempts to help make repatriation possible, such as by Cina Orlikowska in Kiev; the Polish authorities themselves estimated the number of remaining Poles at 1.5 million[21]. By contrast, the understated official Soviet census of 1926 showed 771,760 Poles, with nearly 0.5 million Poles in the Ukrainian SSR alone, mostly concentrated in Zhytomyrshchyna. In 1930, more than 10 refugees a day crossed the border[24].

Polish financial claims originally included the sum of 85 million rubles in gold, while the Russians were willing to give 30 million rubles. Russia was to carry out the re-evacuation to Poland of state railroad, river and road assets worth 29 million rubles in gold. The treaty did not provide for any sanctions in the event of non-fulfillment, and in the end the Soviets failed to meet the financial issues.

The treaty settled the issue of property previously belonging to the Russian Empire, which remained on Polish territory, which was important from the point of view of civil relations. According to Article XII of the treaty, “State property of any kind, either located on the territory of one of the contracting states or subject to re-evacuation to that state on the basis of this treaty, shall be its non-contentious property. State property is considered to be property of all kinds and property rights of the state itself, as well as of all state institutions, property and property rights, appanage property, cabinet property, palace property, property and property rights of all kinds of the former Russian tsar and members of the former tsar’s house, and finally property and property rights of all kinds granted by the former Russian tsars.” In this regard, the treaty provided a self-consistent basis for making changes to entries in the land records. By way of example, it can be pointed out that on this very basis the Polish state became the property of the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army, which had previously been used as the Orthodox cathedral of the Warsaw and Novgorod eparchies.

The final text of the treaty was signed in Riga on March 18, 1921:

on the side of the Republic of Poland: Jan Dabski, Stanislaw Kauzik, Edward Lechowicz, Henryk Strasburger and Leon Wasilewski, on the side of the Russian Socialist Federal Republic of Radium (with the authorization of the governments of the Belorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR): Adolf Joffe, Jakub Hanecki, Emanuel Kwiring, Yur Kociubinsky and Leonid Oboleński.

The treaty, in accordance with the requirements established by the Treaty of Versailles in Article 18, was registered with the Secretariat of the League of Nations on August 12, 1921 under No. 149[25].

Epilogue[edit | edit code].

On the Soviet side, the Treaty of Riga was treated from the beginning (as was the Treaty of Brest) as an ephemeral ceasefire in the Soviet state’s foreign expansion to the West, forced by the military and political situation. National Democracy’s predictions about the transitory nature of the communist regime in Russia proved illusory. The USSR, after signing the Rapallo Agreement in 1922 through a political agreement with Germany (the Weimar Republic), evaded the repayment of the international obligations of the Russian Empire[26] and broke its diplomatic isolation. The consequence was the official recognition of the Soviet state successively through Great Britain (1922), France (1923) and finally the United States (1934).

From the provisions of the Riga Treaty, regulations on the demarcation of the border and (to the extent limited by the Soviet side) repatriation were executed. Property obligations of the Soviet side were not fulfilled. Obligations to return archives and seized cultural property were fulfilled to a limited extent. The USSR deliberately pursued a policy of sabotaging its obligations in this regard[27]. Until the USSR’s aggression against Poland on 17.09.1939, the treaty regulated relations between the Second Republic and the RFSR and later the USSR.

See Wikiresources for the text of the USSR government’s note of 17.09.1939, not accepted by the Polish ambassador in Moscow

Both Pilsudski (for whom it meant the end of the federation concept) and the National Democracy, fearing criticism from the Western powers over Poland’s independent decision, were dissatisfied with the signing of the treaty. Among the dissatisfied must also be included some of the ruling circles in Russia (Lev Trotsky, Karol Radek), for whom it meant a halt to the world revolution; as well as the delegation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic to the Riga deliberations, which considered the preliminaries of 12.10.1920 as a breach of the alliance. The signing of the peace, however, was welcomed by Polish society, exhausted by the costs of the war and the accompanying economic crisis[28].

On September 17, 1939 at. 3: 00 a.m. (when Soviet aggression against Poland began), Deputy People’s Commissar (Minister) of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Potemkin handed over to Polish Ambassador Waclaw Grzybowski a diplomatic note containing a statement by the USSR government, inconsistent with the facts and international law, about the “disintegration” of the Polish state, “flight” of the Polish government, the need to “protect the property and lives” of the Ukrainians and Belarusians living in “Western Belarus” and “Western Ukraine,” and the “liberation” of the Polish people from the war. As a result, the USSR recognized all the treaties previously concluded with Poland (including the Treaty of Riga, the 1932 Poland-U.S.S.R. Non-Aggression Pact, extended in 1934 to 1945, the Conciliation Convention of Nov. 23, 1932, the so-called “Litvinov Protocol” of Feb. 9. Litvinov Protocol of February 9, 1929, extending to relations between these countries the provisions of the Briand-Kellogg Pact of August 27, 1928 even before its formal ratification, and the Convention on the Determination of Assault signed in London on July 3, 1933) as “non-binding” – concluded with a “non-existent state.”

Implementation apparatus[edit | edit code].

To implement the provisions of the treaty, 5 commissions were established:

Mixed Border Commission Special Mixed Commission Mixed Re-evacuation Commission Mixed Repatriation Commission Mixed Settlement Commission

to which the Delegations of the states-parties to the treaty and their expatriates also functioned.

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