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Territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union

Temporary borders created by advancing German and Soviet troops. The border was soon readjusted following diplomatic agreements.

Immediately after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union invaded the eastern regions of the Second Polish Republic, which Poles referred to as the "Kresy", and annexed territories totaling 201,015 square kilometres (77,612 sq mi) with a population of 13,299,000 inhabitants including Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, Czechs and others.

Most of these territories remained within the Soviet Union in 1945 as a consequence of European-wide territorial rearrangements configured during the Tehran Conference of 1943. Poland was compensated for this territorial loss with the prewar German eastern territories much of which had been devastated during the war, and had been looted and pillaged by the Red Army. Communist Poland described the territories as the "Recovered Territories". The number of Poles in the Kresy in the year 1939 was around 5.274 million, but after ethnic cleansing in 1939-1945 by the Nazi Germany, Soviet Union and Ukrainian nationalist forces consisted of approximately 1.8 million inhabitants.[1] The post-World War II territory of Poland was significantly smaller than the pre-1939 land areas, shrinking by some 77,000 square kilometres (30,000 sq mi)(roughly equaling that of the territories of Belgium and the Netherlands combined).


  • Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact 1
  • Soviet occupation of Poland, 1939–1941 2
  • German occupation 1941–1944 3
  • Soviet incorporation 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7

Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact

Planned and actual divisions of Europe, according to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, with later adjustments

Early in the morning of August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact. Most notably, the pact contained a secret protocol, revealed only after Germany's defeat in 1945, according to which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence".[2] In the North, Finland, Estonia and Latvia were assigned to the Soviet sphere.[2] Poland was to be partitioned in the event of its "political rearrangement"—the areas east of the Narev, Vistula and San Rivers going to the Soviet Union while Germany would occupy the west.[2][3] Initially annexed by Poland in a series of wars between 1918 and 1921 (primarily the Polish-Soviet War), these territories had mixed urban national populations with Poles and Ukrainians being the most numerous ethnic groups, with significant minorities of Belarusians and Jews.[4] Much of this rural territory had its own significant local non-Polish majority (Ukrainians in the south and Belarusians in the North).[5]

Lithuania, adjacent to East Prussia, would be in the German sphere of influence, although a second secret protocol agreed in September 1939 assigned majority of Lithuania to the USSR.[6] According to the secret protocol, Lithuania would retrieve its historical capital Vilnius, subjugated during the inter-war period by Poland.

Soviet occupation of Poland, 1939–1941

Soviet annexation of territory of eastern Poland ceded to Ukrainian SSR (yellow), 1940
Soviet map of the newly expanded Byelorussian SSR (yellow), 1940. Parts of prewar Poland invaded by the Nazis labeled area of state interests of Germany

The Polish–Soviet border, as of 1939, had been determined in 1921 at the Treaty of Riga peace talks, which followed the Polish–Soviet War.[7] Under the terms of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, two weeks after the German invasion of western Poland the Soviet Union invaded the portions of eastern Poland assigned to it by the Pact, followed by co-ordination with German forces in Poland.[8][9] (see map)

The "need to protect" the Ukrainian and Belarusian majority populations was used as a pretext for Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland (including Western Ukraine and Belarus) carried out in the wake of Poland's dismemberment under the Nazi invasion with Warsaw being besieged and Poland's government being in the process of evacuation.[10] The total area, including the area given to Lithuania, was 201,015 square kilometres (77,612 sq mi), with a population of 13.299 million, of which 5.274 million were ethnic Poles and 1.109 million were Jews.[11] An additional 138,000 ethnic Poles and 198,000 Jews fled the German occupied zone and became refugees in the Soviet occupied region.[12]

Soviet authorities immediately started a campaign of

  • Nekrich, Aleksandr Moiseevich; Ulam, Adam Bruno; Freeze, Gregory L. (1997), Pariahs, Partners, Predators: German–Soviet Relations, 1922–1941, Columbia University Press,  
  • Piotrowski, Tadeusz (2007), Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947, McFarland,  
  • Roberts, Geoffrey (2006), Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939–1953, Yale University Press,  
  • Wettig, Gerhard (2008), Stalin and the Cold War in Europe, Rowman & Littlefield,  


  1. ^ Stanisław Ciesielski, Włodzimierz Borodziej (2000) (in German), Przesiedlenie ludności polskiej z kresów wschodnich do Polski 1944–1947, Warschau: Wydawnictwo Neriton,  
  2. ^ a b c Text of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, executed August 23, 1939
  3. ^ Wilson Center, Secret Texts of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact, 1939 Point 1 of the secret supplementary protocol signed on August 23, 1939, is changed so that the territory of the Lithuanian state is included in the sphere of interest of the USSR because, on the other side, Lublin voivodeship and parts of Warsaw voivodeship are included in the sphere of interest of Germany
  4. ^ a b (Polish)"Among the population of Eastern territories were circa 38% Poles, 37 % Ukrainians, 14,5 % Belarusians, 8,4 % Jewish, 0,9 % Russians and 0,6 % Germans"
    Elżbieta Trela-Mazur (1997). Włodzimierz Bonusiak, Stanisław Jan Ciesielski, Zygmunt Mańkowski, Mikołaj Iwanow, ed. Sowietyzacja oświaty w Małopolsce Wschodniej pod radziecką okupacją 1939–1941 (Sovietization of education in eastern Lesser Poland during the Soviet occupation 1939–1941). Kielce: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna im. Jana Kochanowskiego. p. 294.  
    , also in Wrocławskie Studia Wschodnie, Wrocław, 1997
  5. ^ Jan Tomasz Gross, Revolution from Abroad, pp. 4, 5, Princeton, 2005, ISBN 0-691-09603-1 (Google books link)
  6. ^ Christie, Kenneth, Historical Injustice and Democratic Transition in Eastern Asia and Northern Europe: Ghosts at the Table of Democracy, RoutledgeCurzon, 2002, ISBN 0-7007-1599-1
  7. ^ Heart of Europe. A Short History of Poland by Norman Davies. Oxford: Oxford University Press paperback 1986. ISBN 0-19-285152-7 (pbk.), pp. 115-121
  8. ^ Roberts 2006, p. 43
  9. ^  
  10. ^ Telegram of the German Ambassador in the Soviet Union, (Schulenburg) to the German Foreign Office Moscow, Moscow, September 16 [4]: ...the Soviet Union had thus far not concerned itself about the plight of its minorities in Poland and had to justify abroad, in some way or other, its present intervention.
  11. ^ Concise statistical year-book of Poland, Polish Ministry of Information. London June 1941 P.9 & 10
  12. ^ a b Poland's Holocaust, Tadeusz Piotrowski, 1998 ISBN 0-7864-0371-3 P.14
  13. ^ various authors (1998). Adam Sudoł, ed. Sowietyzacja Kresów Wschodnich II Rzeczypospolitej po 17 września 1939 (in Polski). Bydgoszcz: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna. p. 441.  
  14. ^ various authors (2001). "Stalinist Forced Relocation Policies". In  
  15. ^ Bartłomiej Kozłowski (2005). Wybory" do Zgromadzeń Ludowych Zachodniej Ukrainy i Zachodniej Białorusi""". (in Polski).  
  16. ^   [5]
  17. ^  
  18. ^ (Polish) Encyklopedia PWN, "OKUPACJA SOWIECKA W POLSCE 1939–41", last accessed on 1 March 2006, online, Polish language
  19. ^ Piotrowski 2007, p. 11
  20. ^  
  21. ^  
  22. ^ a b Fischer, Benjamin B., "The Katyn Controversy: Stalin's Killing Field", Studies in Intelligence, Winter 1999-2000.
  23. ^ Excerpt from the minutes No. 13 of the Politburo of the Central Committee meeting, shooting order of March 5, 1940 online, last accessed on 19 December 2005, original in Russian with English translation
  24. ^ Sanford, Google Books, p. 20-24.
  25. ^ "Stalin's Killing Field" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  26. ^ Franciszek Proch, Poland's Way of the Cross, New York 1987. P.146
  27. ^ Project In Posterum [6] (go to note on Polish Casualties by Tadeusz Piotrowski)
  28. ^ Krystyna Kersten, Szacunek strat osobowych w Polsce Wschodniej. Dzieje Najnowsze Rocznik XXI– 1994, p. 46 & 47
  29. ^ Rossiiskaia Akademiia nauk. Liudskie poteri SSSR v period vtoroi mirovoi voiny:sbornik statei. Sankt-Peterburg 1995 ISBN 5-86789-023-6 p. 84
  30. ^ " U.S. Bureau of the Census The Population of Poland Ed. W. Parker Mauldin, Washington, 1954 p. 140
  31. ^ a b c d Wettig 2008, p. 47
  32. ^ " U.S. Bureau of the Census The Population of Poland Ed. W. Parker Mauldin, Washington, 1954 pp. 148–149
  33. ^ Vadim Erlikman. Poteri narodonaseleniia v XX veke : spravochnik. Moscow 2004. ISBN 5-93165-107-1 pp. 22 & 34


See also

From 1944 until 1952 the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) were engaged in an armed struggle against the communists (in the early 1940s, the UIA, supported by local Ukrainian peasants, participated in the ethnic cleansing operations). As a result of the skirmishes between the UIA and Soviet units, the Soviets deported 600,000 people from these territories and in the process 170,000 of the local population were killed in the fighting (See also Operation Vistula).[33]

On August 16, 1945 the Communist-dominated Polish government signed a treaty with the USSR to formally cede these territories. The total population of the territories annexed by the USSR, not including the portion returned to Poland in 1945, had an estimated population of 10,653,000 according to the 1931 Polish census. In 1939 this had increased to about 11.6 million. The composition by language group was Ukrainian 37.1%, Polish 36.5%, Belarusian 15.1%, Yiddish 8.3%, Other 3%. Religious affiliation: Eastern Orthodox 31.6%, Roman Catholic 30.1%, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church 26.7%, Jewish 9.9%, Other 1.7%.[32]

Soon after the Soviet re-invasion of Poland in July 1944 in pursuit of the German army, the Polish prime minister from London flew to Moscow along with Churchill in an attempt to prevent the Soviet annexation of Poland in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed by the Soviet Union.[31] He offered a smaller section of land, but Stalin declined, telling him that he would allow the exiled government to participate in the Polish Committee of National Liberation.[31] An agreement between the Allies was reluctantly reached at the Yalta Conference where the Soviets would annex the entirety of their Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact portion of Eastern Poland, but would grant Poland part of Eastern Germany in return.[31] Thereafter, eastern Poland was annexed into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.[31]

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union annexed most of the territories it had occupied in 1939, although eastern territories earlier occupied by the Nazis with an area of 21,275 square kilometres (8,214 sq mi) with 1.5 million inhabitants were returned to Poland, notably the areas near Białystok and Przemyśl.[30]

Curzon-Namier Line's variants. Tehran, 1943

Soviet incorporation

The Polish and Jewish language population of the regions in 1939 totaled about 6.7 million. During the war, an estimated 2 million persons perished (including 1.2 million Jews). These numbers are included with Polish war losses. 2 million (including 250,000 Jews) became refugees to Poland or the West, 1.5 million were in the territories returned to Poland in 1945 and 1.2 million remained in the USSR.[28] Contemporary Russian historians also include the war losses of Poles and Jews from this region with Soviet war dead.[29]

During 1943–1944 ethnic cleansing operations took place in Ukraine (commonly known as the Massacres of Poles in Volhynia) which brought about an estimated 100,000 deaths and an exodus of ethnic Poles from this territory.

These areas were conquered by Nazi Germany in 1941 during Operation Barbarossa. The Nazis divided them up as follows:

Sectors of prewar Poland under the Nazi German occupational authority

German occupation 1941–1944

Territories around Wilno (now Vilnius) annexed by Poland in 1920, were transferred to Lithuania on the basis of Lithuania-Soviet Union agreement (however Lithuania was soon annexed by Soviet Union to become the Lithuanian SSR). Other northern territories were attached to Belastok Voblast, Hrodna Voblast, Navahrudak Voblast (soon renamed to Baranavichy Voblast), Pinsk Voblast and Vileyka (later Maladzyechna) Voblast in Byelorussian SSR. The territories to the south were transferred to the Ukrainian SSR : Drohobych Oblast, Lviv Oblast, Rivne Oblast, Stanislav (later known as Ivano-Frankivsk) Oblast, Tarnopil Oblast and Volyn Oblast.

During 1939–1941 1.450 million.of the people inhabiting the region were deported by the Soviet regime, of whom 63.1% were Poles, and 7.4% were Jews.[12] Previously it was believed that about 1.0 million Polish citizens died at the hands of the Soviets,[26] however recently Polish historians, based mostly on queries in Soviet archives, estimate the number of deaths at about 350,000 people deported in 1939–1945.[27]

[25][24][22].Katyn massacre This became known as the [23].Belarus and Ukraine (including Stalin) signed an order to execute 25,700 Polish POWs, labeled "nationalists and counterrevolutionaries", kept at camps and prisons in occupied western Politburo, the members of the Soviet Lavrenty Beria On March 5, 1940, pursuant to a note to Stalin from [22] officers conducted lengthy interrogations of the prisoners in camps that were, in effect, a selection process to determine who would be killed.NKVD 230,000 to 450,000 Poles were taken as prisoner, some of whom were executed. and subsequently started arresting large numbers of Polish citizens. During the initial Soviet invasion of Poland, between [21] and "counter-revolutionary activity",[20] Soviet authorities regarded service for the pre-war Polish state as a "crime against revolution"[19] and redistributed private and state-owned Polish property.nationalized and [18] agriculture,collectivized [17],ruble without exchanging Polish currency withdrew the [4] Soviet authorities attempted to erase Polish history and culture,[16] the result of which was to become a legitimization of Soviet annexation of eastern Poland.[15]

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