Two important centenary anniversaries affecting the Anglo-Russian relationship occur this month. This week’s blog commemorates the end of the war between Poland and the Soviet Union.
The Peace of Riga, signed on 18th March took seven months to negotiate and benefited the Polish government more than the Congress of Soviets, which had to pay 30 million roubles compensation and abandon all rights and claims to territory west of the Ukraine.
Even though the Poles came out well, General Pilsudski the hero of the Battle for Warsaw, was highly critical of the loss of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Lenin was equally frustrated that his plans to export the Communist revolution to the West had been blunted.
The Allies were reluctant to recognize the treaty because the frontier was drawn 250 kilometres east of the Curzon Line that had been agreed at the Paris Peace Conference. Winston Churchill was a staunch supporter of the fight against Bolshevism and had tried to persuade the Government to send military support to Poland (see his secret memorandum below). However, Prime Minister David Lloyd George was more interested in a trade deal and said “When I mentioned the possibility of our going to war to support Poland, a shudder passed through the House of Commons…”. As a result, the government procrastinated and did not recognize the border until March 1923.
The peace treaty stabilized Polish-Soviet relations until Stalin invaded his neighbour on 17 September 1939 sixteen days after Hitler invaded from the West. It took another 50 years before Poland freed itself from Soviet shackles.