Curzon Line

Curzon Line

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The Curzon Line was put forward by the Allied Supreme Council after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 as a demarcation line
Demarcation line
A demarcation line means simply a boundary around a specific area, but is commonly used to denote a temporary geopolitical border, often agreed upon as part of an armistice or ceasefire.See the following examples:...

 between the Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

 and Bolshevik Russia and was supposed to serve as the basis for a future border. In the wake of World War I, which catalysed the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 disintegrated in the ensuing Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

. Several countries, including Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, used this occasion to declare their independence. Hostilities erupted when Polish and Bolshevik troops, approaching from opposing directions while taking over the territories of Ober Ost
Ober Ost
Ober Ost is short for Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten, which is a German term meaning "Supreme Commander of All German Forces in the East" during World War I. In practice it refers not only to said commander, but also to his governing military staff and the district...

 from the retreating German troops, met in the city of Masty
Masty, Belarus
Masty or Mosty is a city in Hrodna Voblast, Belarus, the administrative center of the Masty district....

.

The Allied Supreme Council tasked the Commission on Polish Affairs with recommending Polish eastern borders. The Allies forwarded it as an armistice line several times during the war, most notably in a note from the British government to the Soviets signed by Foreign Secretary George Curzon
George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, KG, GCSI, GCIE, PC , known as The Lord Curzon of Kedleston between 1898 and 1911 and as The Earl Curzon of Kedleston between 1911 and 1921, was a British Conservative statesman who was Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary...

. Both parties disregarded the line when the military situation lay in their favour and it did not play a role in establishing the Polish-Soviet border in 1921. Instead, the final Peace of Riga
Peace of Riga
The Peace of Riga, also known as the Treaty of Riga; was signed in Riga on 18 March 1921, between Poland, Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine. The treaty ended the Polish-Soviet War....

 (or Treaty of Riga) provided Poland with almost 135,000 km² (52,000 sq mi) of land that was, on average, about 250 km east of the Curzon line.

With minor variations, the Curzon line lay approximately along the border which was established between the Prussian Kingdom and the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 in 1797, after the third partition of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

, which was the last border recognised by the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. Along most of its length, the line followed an ethnic boundary - areas west of the line contained an overall Polish majority while areas to its east were inhabited by Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

, Belarusians
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

, Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

, Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

, and Lithuanians. Its 1920 northern extension into Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 divided the area disputed between Poland and Lithuania. There were two versions of the southern portion of the line: "A" and "B". Version "B" allocated Lviv
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

 to Poland.

The line was a geopolitical factor during World War II, when Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 successfully pressed for its use as a Polish-Russian border. Throughout the war until the Teheran Conference, the British
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 Government did not agree that Poland's future eastern border should be moved west to the Curzon Line; but Churchill's position changed after the Soviet victory at the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

. Following a private agreement at the Tehran Conference
Tehran Conference
The Tehran Conference was the meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill between November 28 and December 1, 1943, most of which was held at the Soviet Embassy in Tehran, Iran. It was the first World War II conference amongst the Big Three in which Stalin was present...

, confirmed at the 1945 Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

, the Allied leaders Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, and Stalin issued a statement affirming the use of the Curzon Line, with some five-to-eight kilometre variations, as the eastern border between Poland and the Soviet Union. When Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 proposed to add parts of East Galicia, including the city of Lviv
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

, to Poland's territory (following Line B), Stalin argued that the Soviet Union could not demand less territory for itself than the British Government had reconfirmed previously several times. The Allied arrangement involved compensation for this loss via the incorporation of formerly German-held areas (the Recovered Territories
Recovered Territories
Recovered or Regained Territories was an official term used by the People's Republic of Poland to describe those parts of pre-war Germany that became part of Poland after World War II...

) into Poland. As a result the current border between the countries of Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

, Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 is an approximation of the Curzon Line.

History


At the end of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the Allies agreed that an independent Polish state should be recreated from territories previously part of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. The thirteenth of US President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

's Fourteen Points
Fourteen Points
The Fourteen Points was a speech given by United States President Woodrow Wilson to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. The address was intended to assure the country that the Great War was being fought for a moral cause and for postwar peace in Europe...

 included the statement "An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea..." Article 87 of the Versailles Treaty stipulated that "The boundaries of Poland not laid down in the present Treaty will be subsequently determined by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers." In accordance with these declarations, the Allied Supreme Council tasked the Commission on Polish Affairs with proposing Poland's eastern boundaries in lands that were inhabited by a mixed population of Poles, Lithuanians
Lithuanians
Lithuanians are the Baltic ethnic group native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,765,600 people. Another million or more make up the Lithuanian diaspora, largely found in countries such as the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Russia, United Kingdom and Ireland. Their native language...

, Ukrainians and Belarusians. The Commission issued its recommendation on April 22; its proposed Russo-Polish borders were close to those of the 19th-century Congress Poland
Congress Poland
The Kingdom of Poland , informally known as Congress Poland , created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna, was a personal union of the Russian parcel of Poland with the Russian Empire...

.

The Supreme Council continued to debate the issue for several months. On December 8 the Council published a map and description of the line along with an announcement that it recognized "Poland's right to organize a regular administration of the territories of the former Russian Empire situated to the West of the line described below." At the same time, the announcement stated the Council was not "...prejudging the provisions which must in the future define the eastern frontiers of Poland" and that "the rights that Poland may be able to establish over the territories situated to the East of the said line are expressly reserved." The announcement had no immediate impact, although the Allies recommended its consideration in an August 1919 proposal to Poland, which was ignored.

Polish forces pushed eastward, taking Kiev
Kiev Offensive
The 1920 Kiev Offensive , sometimes considered to have started the Soviet-Polish War, was an attempt by the newly re-emerged Poland, led by Józef Piłsudski, to seize central and eastern Ukraine, torn in the warring among various factions, both domestic and foreign, from Soviet control.The stated...

 in May 1920. Following a strong Soviet counteroffensive, Prime Minister Władysław Grabski sought Allied assistance in July. Under pressure, he agreed to a Polish withdrawal to the 1919 version of the line and, in Galicia, an armistice near the current line of battle. On July 11, 1920 Curzon signed a telegram sent to the Bolshevik government proposing that a ceasefire be established along the line, and his name was subsequently associated with it.

Curzon's July 1920 proposal differed from the December 19 announcement in two significant ways. The December note did not address the issue of Galicia, since it had been a part of the Austrian Empire rather than the Russian, nor did it address the Polish-Lithuanian dispute over the Vilnius Region
Vilnius region
Vilnius Region , refers to the territory in the present day Lithuania, that was originally inhabited by ethnic Baltic tribes and was a part of Lithuania proper, but came under East Slavic and Polish cultural influences over time,...

, since those borders were demarcated at the time by the Foch Line
Foch Line
The Foch Line was a temporary demarcation line between Poland and Lithuania proposed by the Entente in the aftermath of World War I. The line was proposed by Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch and was accepted by the Conference of Ambassadors in 1919. With small adjustments the line formed the basis...

. The July 1920 note specifically addressed the Polish-Lithuanian dispute by mentioning a line running from Grodno to Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

 (Wilno) and thence north to Daugavpils
Daugavpils
Daugavpils is a city in southeastern Latvia, located on the banks of the Daugava River, from which the city gets its name. Daugavpils literally means "Daugava Castle". With a population of over 100,000, it is the second largest city in the country after the capital Riga, which is located some...

, Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 (Dynaburg). It also mentioned Galicia, where earlier discussions had resulted in the alternatives of Line A and Line B. The note endorsed Line A, which included Lviv
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

 and its nearby oil fields within Russia. This portion of the line did not correspond to the current line of battle in Galicia, as per Grabski's agreement, and its inclusion in the July note has lent itself to disputation.

On July 17, the Soviets responded to the note with a refusal. Georgy Chicherin
Georgy Chicherin
Georgy Vasilyevich Chicherin was a Marxist revolutionary and a Soviet politician. He served as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs in the Soviet government from March 1918 to 1930.-Childhood and early career:...

, representing the Soviets, commented on the delayed interest of the British for a peace treaty between Russia and Poland. He agreed to start negotiations as long as the Polish side asked for it. The Soviet side at that time offered more favourable border solutions to Poland than the ones offered by the Curzon line. In August the Soviets were defeated by the Poles just outside Warsaw and forced to retreat. During the ensuing Polish offensive, the Polish government repudiated Grabski's agreement with regard to the line on the grounds that the Allies had not delivered support or protection. At the March 1921 Treaty of Riga the Soviets conceded a frontier well to the east of the Curzon Line, where Poland had conquered a great part of the Vilna Governorate
Vilna Governorate
The Vilna Governorate or Government of Vilna was a governorate of the Russian Empire created after the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795...

 (1920/1922), including the town of Wilno
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

 (today Vilnius), and East Galicia (1919), including the city of Lviv
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

, as well as most of the region of Volhynia
Volhynia
Volhynia, Volynia, or Volyn is a historic region in western Ukraine located between the rivers Prypiat and Southern Bug River, to the north of Galicia and Podolia; the region is named for the former city of Volyn or Velyn, said to have been located on the Southern Bug River, whose name may come...

 (1921). The treaty provided Poland with almost 135,000 km² (52,000 sq mi) of land that was, on average, about 250 km east of the Curzon line. The Polish-Soviet border was recognised by the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 in 1923 and confirmed by various Polish-Soviet agreements. Within the annexed regions Poland founded several administrative districts, such as the Volhynian Voivodeship, the Polesie Voivodeship
Polesie Voivodeship
Polesie Voivodeship was an administrative unit of interwar Poland . It ceased to exist in September 1939, following German and Soviet aggression on Poland .-Population:...

, and the Wilno Voivodeship.

As concerns possible expansions of Polish territory, in history Polish politicians traditionally could be sub-divided into two opposite groups advocating contrary approaches: restoration of Poland based on its former western territories one side and, alternatively, restoration of Poland based on its previous holdings in the east on the other. During the first quarter of the 20th century a representative of the first political group was Roman Dmowski
Roman Dmowski
Roman Stanisław Dmowski was a Polish politician, statesman, and chief ideologue and co-founder of the National Democracy political movement, which was one of the strongest political camps of interwar Poland.Though a controversial personality throughout his life, Dmowski was instrumental in...

, an adherent of the pan-slavistic movement
Pan-Slavism
Pan-Slavism was a movement in the mid-19th century aimed at unity of all the Slavic peoples. The main focus was in the Balkans where the South Slavs had been ruled for centuries by other empires, Byzantine Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Venice...

 and author of several political books and publications of some importance, who suggested to define Poland's eastern border in accordance with the ethnographic principle
Ethnography
Ethnography is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group...

  and to concentrate on resisting a more dangerous enemy of Polish nation than Russia, which in his view was Germany. A representative of the second group was Jozef Pilsudski
Józef Pilsudski
Józef Klemens Piłsudski was a Polish statesman—Chief of State , "First Marshal" , and authoritarian leader of the Second Polish Republic. From mid-World War I he had a major influence in Poland's politics, and was an important figure on the European political scene...

, a socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 who was born in the Luthuanian Vilna Governorate
Vilna Governorate
The Vilna Governorate or Government of Vilna was a governorate of the Russian Empire created after the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795...

 annexed during the 1795 3rd partition of the Polish-Luthuanian Commonwealth
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

 by the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, whose political vision was essentially a far reaching restoration of the borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

.
Because the Russian Empire had collapsed into a state of civil war following the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

, and the Soviet Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...

 had been defeated and been weakened considerably at the end of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 by Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

's army, resulting in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

, Pilsudski took the chance and used military force in an attempt to realise his political vision by concentrating on the east and involved himself in Polish-Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

.

World War II


The terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 of August 1939 provided for the partition of Poland along the line of the San
San River
The San is a river in southeastern Poland and western Ukraine, a tributary of the Vistula River, with a length of 433 km and a basin area of 16,861 km2...

, Vistula
Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

 and Narew
Narew
The Narew River , in western Belarus and north-eastern Poland, is a left tributary of the Vistula river...

 rivers which did not go along Curzon Line but reached far beyond it and awarded the Soviet Union with territories of Lublin and near Warsaw. In September, after the military defeat of Poland, the Soviet Union annexed all territories east of the Curzon Line plus Białystok and Eastern Galicia. The territories east of this line were incorporated into the Byelorussian SSR
Byelorussian SSR
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union. It was one of the four original founding members of the Soviet Union in 1922, together with the Ukrainian SSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic...

 and Ukrainian SSR
Ukrainian SSR
The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic or in short, the Ukrainian SSR was a sovereign Soviet Socialist state and one of the fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union lasting from its inception in 1922 to the breakup in 1991...

 after staged referendums and hundreds of thousands of Poles and a lesser number of Jews were deported eastwards into the Soviet Union. In July 1941 these territories were seized by Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 in the course of the invasion of the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

. During the German occupation most of the Jewish population was deported or killed by Germans.

In 1944 the Soviet armed forces recaptured eastern Poland from the Germans. The Soviets unilaterally declared a new frontier between the Soviet Union and Poland (approximately the same as the Curzon Line). The Polish government-in-exile in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 bitterly opposed this and at the Teheran and Yalta
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

 conferences between Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 and the western Allies, the allied leaders Roosevelt and Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 asked Stalin to reconsider, particularly over Lwów, but he refused. During the negotiations at Yalta, Stalin posed the question "Do you want me to tell the Russian people that I am less Russian than Lord Curzon?" The altered Curzon Line thus became the permanent eastern border of Poland and was recognised by the western Allies in July 1945.

When the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991, the Curzon line became Poland's eastern border with Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

.

Ethnography to the east of the Curzon Line



The ethnic composition of these areas proved difficult to measure, both during the interwar period and after World War II. A 1944 article in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

estimated that in 1931 there lived between 2.2 and 2.5 million Poles east of the Curzon Line. A similar contemporary estimate (under 2.5 million Poles) was given by historian E. H. Carr. According to historian Yohanan Cohen's estimate, in 1939 the population in the territories east of the Curzon Line gained via the Treaty of Riga totalled 12 million, consisting of over 5 million Ukrainians, between 3.5 and 4 million Poles, 1.5 million Belarusians, and 1.3 million Jews.
During World War II, politicians gave varying estimates of the Polish population east of the Curzon line that would be affected by population transfers. Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 mentioned "3 to 4 million Poles east of the Curzon Line". Stanisław Mikołajczyk, then Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile
Polish government in Exile
The Polish government-in-exile, formally known as the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile , was the government in exile of Poland formed in the aftermath of the Invasion of Poland of September 1939, and the subsequent occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which...

, counted this population as 5 million.

Ukrainians and Poles formed the largest ethnic groups. Ukrainians and Belarussians outnumbered Poles in the combined southern sections. Other Eastern Slav groups such as the Rusyns
Rusyns
Carpatho-Rusyns are a primarily diasporic ethnic group who speak an Eastern Slavic language, or Ukrainian dialect, known as Rusyn. Carpatho-Rusyns descend from a minority of Ruthenians who did not adopt the use of the ethnonym "Ukrainian" in the early twentieth century...

 and Belarusians were often included as Poles in the statistics. Encouraged by the Polish resettlement policies, much of the urban population were either ethnic Poles or Polish speaking Jews, while the rural population continued to speak Ukrainian or Belarusian. As a result, the countryside was Belarusian
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

 or Ukrainian
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

 in character, whereas the cities had a Polish flavour.

Around the beginning of the 20th century Ukrainian
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

s and Belorussians had formed the plurality populations in the rural regions of the Kresy
Kresy
The Polish term Kresy refers to a land considered by Poles as historical eastern provinces of their country. Today, it makes western Ukraine, western Belarus, as well as eastern Lithuania, with such major cities, as Lviv, Vilnius, and Hrodna. This territory belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian...

, where some towns, in particular Lviv
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

 and Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

 had Polish majority. After the deportation of Poles and Jews in 1939–1941 (see Polish minority in Soviet Union) and the Holocaust the Polish population in the territories had decreased considerably. The cities of Wilno
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, Lwów
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

, Grodno
Hrodna
Grodno or Hrodna , is a city in Belarus. It is located on the Neman River , close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania . It has 327,540 inhabitants...

 and some smaller towns still had significant Polish populations. After 1945, the Polish population of the area east of the new Soviet-Polish border was in general confronted with the alternative either to accept a different nationality or to emigrate. According to more recent research, about 3 million Poles lived east of the Curzon line, of which about 2.1 million to 2.2 million persons died, fled, emigrated or were expelled to the newly annexed German territories. The area today is almost entirely Belarusian (in the north) or Ukrainian (in the south). Despite the emigrations and expulsions, there were about 500,000 Poles in Belarus in 2000 (5% of the Belarus population).
The cities of Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, Grodno and some smaller towns still have significant Polish populations. Sapotskin remains almost entirely Polish to this day.

Ethnicity west of the Curzon Line


West of the Curzon line the Polish population was generally predominant in urban centres, especially the cities but not in the rural districts. A significant Belarusian rural population was incorporated into modern Poland around Białystok. A similar situation existed with the Ukrainian population around Chełm. The extreme south had a large rural Ukrainian population also. Much of the Ukrainian population was forcibly resettled scattered in the new Polish "recovered territories"
Recovered Territories
Recovered or Regained Territories was an official term used by the People's Republic of Poland to describe those parts of pre-war Germany that became part of Poland after World War II...

 of Silesia
Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

, Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

, Lubusz Land
Lubusz Land
Lubusz Land is a historical region and cultural landscape in Poland and Germany, on both sides of the Oder river.Originally the settlement area of the West Slavic Leubuzzi, a Veleti tribe, the swampy area was located east of Mark Brandenburg and west of Greater Poland, south of Pomerania and north...

, Warmia
Warmia
Warmia or Ermland is a region between Pomerelia and Masuria in northeastern Poland. Together with Masuria, it forms the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship....

 and Masuria
Masuria
Masuria is an area in northeastern Poland famous for its 2,000 lakes. Geographically, Masuria is part of two adjacent lakeland districts, the Masurian Lake District and the Iława Lake District...

 after World War II in a military operation called Operation Vistula.

See also

  • Oder-Neisse line
    Oder-Neisse line
    The Oder–Neisse line is the border between Germany and Poland which was drawn in the aftermath of World War II. The line is formed primarily by the Oder and Lusatian Neisse rivers, and meets the Baltic Sea west of the seaport cities of Szczecin and Świnoujście...

  • Molotov Line
    Molotov Line
    The so-called Molotov Line was a system of border fortifications built by the Soviet Union in the years 1940–1941 along its new western borders. These borders where the result of the Occupation of the Baltic States, Eastern Poland and Bessarabia in 1940....

  • Spa Conference
    Spa Conference
    The Spa Conference was a meeting between the Supreme War Council and Weimar Republic in Spa, Belgium on 5–16 July 1920. It was the first post-war conference to include German representatives. The attendees included British and French Prime Ministers Lloyd George and Alexandre Millerand, German...

  • I Saw Poland Betrayed
    I Saw Poland Betrayed
    I saw Poland betrayed: An American ambassador reports to the American people is a book written by Arthur Bliss Lane, former U.S. ambassador to Poland, who observed what he considered to be the betrayal of Poland by the Western Allies at the end of World War II...

    by Arthur Bliss Lane
    Arthur Bliss Lane
    Arthur Bliss Lane was the United States Ambassador to Poland .- Biography :Lane was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. He was appointed U.S. Minister to Nicaragua ; Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania ; Kingdom of Yugoslavia, ; and Costa Rica . He was then appointed U.S...

  • Revision of borders of Poland (1945)
  • 1893 Afghanistan
    Afghanistan
    Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

    ’s Durand Line
    Durand Line
    The Durand Line refers to the porous international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which has divided the ethnic Pashtuns . This poorly marked line is approximately long...

  • 1914 India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    -China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

     McMahon Line
    McMahon Line
    The McMahon Line is a line agreed to by Great Britain and Tibet as part of Simla Accord, a treaty signed in 1914. Although its legal status is disputed by China, it is the effective boundary between China and India....

  • 1947 India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    -Pakistan
    Pakistan
    Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

     Radcliffe Line
    Radcliffe Line
    The Radcliffe Line was announced on 17 August 1947 as a boundary demarcation line between India and Pakistan upon the Partition of India. The Radcliffe Line was named after its architect, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who as chair of the Border Commissions was tasked with equitably dividing of territory...