Polish population transfers (1944–1946)

Last updated
The Curzon Line and territorial changes of Poland, 1939 to 1945. The pink and yellow areas represent the pre-war Polish territory (Kresy) and pre-war German territory (Recovered Territories), respectively. Map of Poland (1945).png
The Curzon Line and territorial changes of Poland, 1939 to 1945. The pink and yellow areas represent the pre-war Polish territory (Kresy) and pre-war German territory (Recovered Territories), respectively.

The Polish population transfers in 1944–46 from the eastern half of prewar Poland (also known as the expulsions of Poles from the Kresy macroregion), [1] refer to the forced migrations of Poles toward the end – and in the aftermath – of World War II. These were the result of Soviet Union policy that was ratified by its Allies. Similarly the Soviet Union had enforced policy between 1939 and 1941, that targeted and expelled ethnic Poles residing in the Soviet zone of occupation following the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland. The second wave of expulsions resulted from the retaking of Poland by the Red Army during the Soviet counter-offensive. It took over territory for its republic of Ukraine, a shift that was ratified at the end of World War II by the Soviet Union's then Allies of the West.

Second Polish Republic 1918-1939 republic in Eastern Europe

The Second Polish Republic, commonly known as interwar Poland, refers to the country of Poland in the period between the First and Second World Wars (1918–1939). Officially known as the Republic of Poland, sometimes Commonwealth of Poland, the Polish state was re-established in 1918, in the aftermath of World War I. When, after several regional conflicts, the borders of the state were fixed in 1922, Poland's neighbours were Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Free City of Danzig, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and the Soviet Union. It had access to the Baltic Sea via a short strip of coastline either side of the city of Gdynia. Between March and August 1939, Poland also shared a border with the then-Hungarian governorate of Subcarpathia. The Second Republic ceased to exist in 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the Slovak Republic, marking the beginning of the European theatre of World War II.


Kresy Wschodnie or Kresy was the Eastern part of the Second Polish Republic during the interwar period amounting to nearly half of the territory of the state. The Polish plural term Kresy corresponds to the Russian Okrainy (Oкраины), the "lands beyond". It is also largely co-terminous with the "Russian Pale", a scheme devised by Catherine the Great to limit where Jews might settle so as to be rid of them from the homogenously Orthodox core of the Russian Empire, barring a few exceptions. Application of the pale intensified after the Second Partition of Poland-Lithuania and lasted until the 1917 revolution. The population of Kresy anyway already contained a considerable proportion of minority religious and ethnic communities, which together probably equalled the number of ethnic Poles and even exceeded their numbers in some districts, e.g. Jews in small towns. Administratively, the Kresy territory took in the voivodeships of Lwów, Nowogródek, Polesie, Stanisławów, Tarnopol, Wilno, Wołyń, and Białystok. Today, all these regions are divided between Western Ukraine, Western Belarus, and south-eastern Lithuania, with the major cities of Lviv, Vilnius, and Grodno no longer in Poland. During the Second Polish Republic Kresy denoted the lands beyond the so-called, Curzon Line, proposed after World War I by the British Foreign Office in December 1919 as the eastern border of the re-emerging sovereign Polish Republic after over a century of partitions. In September 1939, after the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany simultaneously attacked Poland under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, all the territories were incorporated into Soviet Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania enforced by terror.

A macroregion is a geopolitical subdivision that encompasses several traditionally or politically defined regions. The meaning may vary, with the common denominator being cultural, economical, historical or social similarity within a macroregion. The term is often used in the context of globalization.


The postwar population transfers, targeting Polish nationals, were part of an official Soviet policy that affected more than one million Polish citizens, who were removed in stages from the Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union. After the war, following Soviet demands laid out during the Tehran Conference of 1943, the Kresy macroregion was formally incorporated into the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Lithuanian Republics of the Soviet Union. This was agreed at the Potsdam Conference of Allies in 1945, to which the acting Government of the Republic of Poland in exile was not invited. [2]

Tehran Conference convention

The Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from 28 November to 1 December 1943, after the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran. It was held in the Soviet Union's embassy in Tehran, Iran. It was the first of the World War II conferences of the "Big Three" Allied leaders. It closely followed the Cairo Conference which had taken place on 22–26 November 1943, and preceded the 1945 Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Although the three leaders arrived with differing objectives, the main outcome of the Tehran Conference was the Western Allies' commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany. The conference also addressed the 'Big Three' Allies' relations with Turkey and Iran, operations in Yugoslavia and against Japan, and the envisaged post-war settlement. A separate protocol signed at the conference pledged the Big Three to recognize Iran's independence.

Republics of the Soviet Union top-level political division of the Soviet Union

The Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Union Republics were the ethnically based proto-states of the Soviet Union. For most of its history, the USSR was a highly centralized state; the decentralization reforms during the era of Perestroika ("Restructuring") and Glasnost ("Openness") conducted by Mikhail Gorbachev are cited as one of the factors which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm in Potsdam, occupied Germany, from 17 July to 2 August 1945. The participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, represented respectively by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and President Harry S. Truman.

The ethnic displacement of Poles (and also of ethnic Germans, covered in a separate article) was agreed to by the Allied leaders: Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom, Franklin D. Roosevelt of the U.S., and Joseph Stalin of the USSR, during the conferences at both Tehran and Yalta. The Polish transfers were among the largest of several post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe, which displaced a total of about twenty million people.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Winston Churchill Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during most of World War II

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was instead a member of the Liberal Party.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd president of the United States

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the Democratic party, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II. Roosevelt is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in American history, as well as among the most influential figures of the 20th century. Though he has been subject to substantial criticism, he is generally rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

According to official data, during the state-controlled expulsion between 1945 and 1946, roughly 1,167,000 Poles left the westernmost republics of the Soviet Union, less than 50% of those who registered for population transfer. Another major ethnic Polish transfer took place after Stalin's death, in 19551959. [3]

The process is variously known as expulsion, [1] deportation, [4] [5] depatriation, [6] [7] [8] or repatriation, [9] depending on the context and the source. The term repatriation, used officially in both communist-controlled Poland and the USSR, was a deliberate distortion, [10] [11] as deported peoples were leaving their homeland rather than returning to it. [6] It is also sometimes referred to as the 'first repatriation' action, in contrast with the 'second repatriation' of 19551959. In a wider context, it is sometimes described as a culmination of a process of "de-Polonization" of the areas during and after the world war. [12] The process was planned and carried out by the communist regimes of the USSR and of post-war Poland. Many of the repatriated Poles were settled in formerly German eastern provinces; after 1945, these were referred to as the "Recovered Territories" of the People's Republic of Poland.

Deportation expulsion of people from a place or country

Deportation is the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country. The term expulsion is often used as a synonym for deportation, though expulsion is more often used in the context of international law, while deportation is more used in national (municipal) law.

Repatriation process of returning assets to original owners

Repatriation is the process of returning an asset, an item of symbolic value or a person – voluntarily or forcibly – to its owner or their place of origin or citizenship. The term may refer to non-human entities, such as converting a foreign currency into the currency of one's own country, as well as to the process of returning military personnel to their place of origin following a war. It also applies to diplomatic envoys, international officials as well as expatriates and migrants in time of international crisis. For refugees, asylum seekers and illegal migrants, repatriation can mean either voluntary return or deportation.

History of Poland (1945–1989) Communist rule in Poland

The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of Soviet dominance and communist rule imposed after the end of World War II over Poland, as reestablished within new borders. These years, while featuring general industrialization and urbanization and many improvements in the standard of living, were marred by social unrest, political strife and severe economic difficulties.


The history of ethnic Polish settlement in what is now Ukraine and Belarus dates to 1030–31. More Poles migrated to this area after the Union of Lublin in 1569, when most of the territory became part of the newly established Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. From 1657 to 1793, some 80 Roman Catholic churches and monasteries were built in Volhynia alone. The expansion of Catholicism in Lemkivshchyna, Chełm Land, Podlaskie, Brześć land, Galicia, Volhynia and Right bank Ukraine was accompanied by the process of gradual Polonization of the eastern lands. Social and ethnic conflicts arose regarding the differences in religious practices between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox adherents during the Union of Brest in 1595-96, when the Metropolitan of Kiev-Halych broke relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church and accepted the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and Vatican. [13]

Union of Lublin political union agreement sixteenth century

The Union of Lublin was signed on 1 July 1569, in Lublin, Poland, and created a single state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It replaced the personal union of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a real union and an elective monarchy, since Sigismund II Augustus, the last of the Jagiellons, remained childless after three marriages. In addition, the autonomy of Royal Prussia was largely abandoned. The Duchy of Livonia, tied to Lithuania in real union since the Union of Grodno (1566), became a Polish–Lithuanian condominium.

Volhynia Historical Region

Volhynia, is a historic region in Central and Eastern Europe, situated between south-eastern Poland, south-western Belarus, and western Ukraine. While the borders of the region are not clearly defined, the territory that still carries the name is Volyn Oblast, located in western Ukraine. Volhynia has changed hands numerous times throughout history and been divided among competing powers. At one time all of Volhynia was part of the Pale of Settlement designated by Imperial Russia on its southwestern-most border.

Lemkivshchyna region in Europe that is traditionally inhabited by the Lemko people

Lemkivshchyna or Lemkovyna is a region in Europe that is traditionally inhabited by the Lemko people. While the Lemko are a distinct ethnic group, they consider themselves to be part of the broader Rusyn and/or Ukrainian communities. Lemkovyna mostly stretches along the border between Poland and Slovakia covering some western territories of Ukraine.

The partitions of Poland, toward the end of the 18th century, resulted in the expulsions of ethnic Poles from their homes in the east for the first time in the history of the nation. Some 80,000 Poles were escorted to Siberia by the Russian imperial army in 1864 in the single largest deportation action undertaken within the Russian Partition. [14] "Books were burned; churches destroyed; priests murdered;" wrote Norman Davies. [15] Meanwhile, Ukrainians were officially considered "part of the Russian people". [16] [17]

The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War of 1917-1922 brought an end to the Russian Empire. [18] According to Ukrainian sources from the Cold War period, during the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 the Polish population of Kiev was 42,800. [19] In July 1917, when relations between the Ukrainian People's Republic (UNR) and Russia became strained, the Polish Democratic Council of Kiev supported the Ukrainian side in its conflict with Petrograd. Throughout the existence of UNR (1917–21), there was a separate ministry for Polish affairs, headed by Mieczysław Mickiewicz; it was set up by the Ukrainian side in November 1917. In that entire period, some 1,300 Polish-language schools were operating in Galicia, with 1,800 teachers and 84,000 students. In the region of Podolia in 1917, there were 290 Polish schools.

Beginning in 1920, the Bolshevik and nationalist terror campaigns of the new war triggered the flight of Poles and Jews from Soviet Russia to newly sovereign Poland. In 1922 Bolshevik Russian Red Army, with their Bolshevik allies in Ukraine overwhelmed the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic, including the annexed Ukrainian territories into the Soviet Union. In that year, 120,000 Poles stranded in the east were expelled to the west and the Second Polish Republic. [20] The Soviet census of 1926 recorded ethnic Poles as being of Russian or Ukrainian ethnicity, reducing their apparent numbers in Ukraine. [21]

In the autumn of 1935, Stalin ordered a new wave of mass deportations of Poles from the western republics of the Soviet Union. This was also the time of his purges of different classes of peoples, many of whom were killed. Poles were expelled from the border regions in order to resettle the area with ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, but Stalin had them deported to the far reaches of Siberia and Central Asia. In 1935 alone 1,500 families were deported to Siberia from the Soviet Ukraine. In 1936, 5,000 Polish families were deported to Kazakhstan. The deportations were accompanied by the gradual elimination of Polish cultural institutions. Polish-language newspapers were closed, as were Polish-language classes throughout Ukraine.

Soon after the wave of deportations, the Soviet NKVD orchestrated the Genocide of Poles in the Soviet Union. The Polish population in the USSR had officially dropped by 165,000 in that period according to official Soviet census of 1937–38; Polish losses in the Ukrainian SSR were about 30 percent. [22]

Second Polish Republic

Amidst several border conflicts, Poland re-emerged as a sovereign state following a century of foreign partitions. The Polish-Ukrainian alliance was unsuccessful, and the Polish-Soviet war continued until the Treaty of Riga was signed in 1921. The Soviet Union did not officially exist before 31 December 1922. [23] The disputed territories were split in Riga between the Second Polish Republic and the Soviet Union representing Ukrainian SSR (part of the Soviet Union after 1923). In the following few years in Kresy, the lands assigned to sovereign Poland, some 8,265 Polish farmers were resettled with help from the government. [24] The overall number of settlers in the east was negligible as compared to the region's long-term residents. For instance in the Volhynian Voivodeship (1,437,569 inhabitants in 1921), the number of settlers did not exceed 15,000 people (3,128 refugees from Bolshevist Russia, roughly 7,000 members of local administration, and 2,600 military settlers). [24] Approximately 4 percent of the newly arrived settlers lived on land granted to them. The majority either rented their land to local farmers, or moved to the cities. [24] [25]

Tensions between the Ukrainian minority in Poland and the Polish government escalated. On 12 July 1930, activists of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), helped by the UVO, began the so-called sabotage action, during which Polish estates were burned, and roads, rail lines and telephone connections were destroyed. The OUN used terrorism and sabotage in order to force the Polish government into actions that would cause a loss of support for the more moderate Ukrainian politicians ready to negotiate with the Polish state. [26] OUN directed its violence not only against the Poles, but also against Jews and other Ukrainians who wished for a peaceful resolution to the Polish–Ukrainian conflict. [27]

Invasion of Poland

The 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland during World War II was subsequently accompanied by the Soviets forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens to distant parts of the Soviet Union: Siberia and Central Asia. Five years later, for the first time, the Supreme Soviet formally acknowledged that the Polish nationals expelled after the Soviet invasion were not Soviet citizens, but foreign subjects. Two decrees were signed on 22 June and 16 August 1944 to facilitate the release of Polish nationals from captivity. [28]


After the signing of the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in 1939 between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Germany invaded Western Poland. Two weeks later, the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland. As a result, Poland was divided between the Germans and the Soviets (see Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union). With the annexation of the Kresy in 1939, modern-day Western Ukraine was annexed to Soviet Ukraine, and Western Belarus to Soviet Belorussia, respectively. Spreading terror throughout the region, the Soviet secret police (NKVD) accompanying the Red Army murdered Polish prisoners of war. [29] [30] From 1939 to 1941 the Soviets also forcibly deported specific social groups deemed "untrustworthy" to forced labor facilities in Kazakhstan and Siberia. Many children, elderly and sick died during the journeys in cargo trains which lasted weeks. [31] Whereas the Polish government-in-exile put the number of deported Polish citizens at 1,500,000 [32] and some Polish estimates reached 1,600,000 to 1,800,000 persons, historians consider these evaluations as exaggerated. [33] Alexander Guryanov calculated that 309,000 up to 312,000 Poles were deported from February 1940 to June 1941. [34] According to N.S. Lebedeva the deportations involved about 250,000 persons. [35] The most conservative Polish counts based on Soviet documents and published by the Main Commission to Investigate Crimes Against the Polish Nation in 1997 amounted to a grand total of 320,000 persons deported. [36] Sociologist Tadeusz Piotrowski argues that various other smaller deportations, prisoners of war and political prisoners should be added for a grand total of 400,000 to 500,000 deported. [36]

By 1944, the population of ethnic Poles in Western Ukraine was 1,182,100. The Polish government in exile in London affirmed its position of retaining the 1939 borders. Nikita Khrushchev, however, approached Stalin personally to keep the territories gained through the illegal and secret Molotov-Ribbentrop pact under continued Soviet occupation.

The residents of the Western Ukraine and Byelorussia, as well as those of the Wilno district, which had been annexed to the Soviet Union under the Ribentrop-Molotov pact of 23 August and 28 September 1939, had all been under German occupation for between two and half to three years, and were finally annexed to the Soviet Union in 1944. The speedy exodus of Poles from these regions was meant to erase their Polish past and to confirm the fact that the regions were indeed part of the Soviet Union. [28]

The document regarding the resettlement of Poles from the Ukrainian and Belorussian SSRs to Poland was signed 9 September 1944 in Lublin by Khrushchev and the head of the Polish Committee of National Liberation Edward Osóbka-Morawski (the corresponding document with the Lithuanian SSR was signed on 22 September). The document specified who was eligible for the resettlement (it primarily applied to all Poles and Jews who were citizens of the Second Polish Republic before 17 September 1939, and their families), what property they could take with them, and what aid they would receive from the corresponding governments. The resettlement was divided into two phases: first, the eligible citizens were registered as wishing to be resettled; second, their request was to be reviewed and approved by the corresponding governments. About 750,000 Poles and Jews from the western regions of Ukraine were deported, as well as about 200,000 each from western Belarus and from Lithuanian SSR each. The deportations continued until August 1, 1946.

Postwar transfers from Ukraine

Toward the end of World War II, tensions between the Polish AK and Ukrainians escalated into the Massacres of Poles in Volhynia, led by the nationalist Ukrainian groups including the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Although the Soviet government was trying to eradicate these organizations, it did little to support the Polish minority; and instead encouraged population transfer. The haste at which repatriation was done was such that the Polish leader Bolesław Bierut was forced to intercede and approach Stalin to slow down the deportation, as the post-war Polish government was overwhelmed by the sudden great number of refugees needing aid.[ citation needed ]

The Soviet "population exchanges" of 1944-1946 ostensibly concerned [in the legal sense, nominal] citizens of prewar Poland, but in fact Poles and Jews were sent west, whereas Ukrainians had to stay in Soviet Ukraine. The real criterion was one of ethnicity, not citizenship. The [exclusively] ethnic criterion was applied to everyone in Volhynia, Ukrainians forced to stay despite their prewar Polish citizenship, Poles and Jews forced to leave despite their ancient traditions in the region. Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and Polish survivors of the ethnic cleansing were generally willing to depart. The history of Volhynia, as an ancient multi-confessional society, had come to an end.

The Poles in southern Kresy (now Western Ukraine) were given the option of resettlement in Siberia or Poland, and most chose Poland. [38]

The Polish government-in-exile in London directed their organizations (see Polish Secret State) in Lwów and other major centers in Eastern Poland to sit fast and not evacuate, promising that during peaceful discussions they would be able to keep Lwów within Poland. In response, Khrushchev introduced a different approach to dealing with this Polish problem. Until this time, Polish children could be educated in Polish, according to the curriculum of pre-war Poland. Overnight this allowance was discontinued, and all Polish schools were required to teach the Soviet Ukrainian curriculum, with classes to be held only in Ukrainian and Russian. All males were told to prepare for mobilization into labor brigades within the Red Army. These actions were introduced specifically to encourage Polish emigration from Ukraine to Poland.[ citation needed ]

In January 1945, the NKVD arrested 772 Poles in Lviv (where, according to Soviet sources, on October 1, 1944, Poles represented 66.75% of population), [39] among them 14 professors, 6 doctors, 2 engineers, 3 artists, and 5 Catholic priests. The Polish community was outraged about the arrests. The Polish underground press in Lviv characterized these acts as attempts to hasten the deportation of Poles from their city. Those arrested were released after they signed papers agreeing to emigrate to Poland. It is difficult to establish the exact number of Poles expelled from Lviv, but it was estimated as between 100,000 and 140,000.[ citation needed ]

Transfers from Belarus

In contrast to actions in the Ukrainian SSR, the communist officials in Belorussian SSR did not actively support deportation of Poles. Belorussian officials made it difficult for Polish activists to communicate with tuteishians – people who were undecided as to whether they considered themselves Polish or Belarusian. [40] Much of the rural population, who usually had no official documents of identity, were denied the "right" of repatriation on the basis that they did not have documents stating they were Polish citizens. [40] In what was described as the "fight for the people", Polish officials attempted to get as many people repatriated as possible, while the Belorussian officials tried to retain them, particularly the peasants, while deporting most of the Polish intelligentsia. It is estimated that about 150,000 to 250,000 people were deported from Belarus. Similar numbers were registered as Poles but forced by the Belorussian officials to remain in Belarus. A similar number were denied registration as Poles in the Belorussian SSR.

In response, Poland followed a similar process in regards to the Belarusian population of the territory of the Białystok Voivodeship, which was partially retained by Poland after World War II. It sought to retain some of the Belarusian people. [40]

Part of the difference in treatment between the two areas arose from religious identity. In Ukraine, most Ukrainian Catholics were members of the powerful Ukrainian Uniate church, which was often in conflict with the Polish Roman Catholics. But in Belarus, most Belarusian Catholics were members of the Latin rite and were not in religious conflict with Poles. Some educated Belarusian Catholics who could speak Polish identified as "Poles", and they were deported from Stalin's regime to Poland, where religious freedom was somewhat more open. But Belarusian authorities did not want a mass exodus of their population to Poland and tried to retain practicing Catholics. Latin Rite Catholicism has retained a significant presence in Belarus, where about 10% of the people identify as Catholic in the early 21st century.[ citation needed ]

From Lithuania

The expulsion of ethnic Poles from Lithuania saw numerous delays. Local Polish clergy were active in agitating against leaving, and the underground press called those who had registered for repatriation traitors. Many ethnic Poles hoped that postwar Peace Conference would assign Vilnius region to Poland. After these hopes vanished, the number of people wanting to leave gradually increased, and they signed papers for the People's Republic of Poland State Repatriation Office representatives.

Official attitudes in the Lithuanian SSR were similar to those of the Belarusian officials. The Lithuanian communist party was dominated by a nationalist faction [ citation needed ] which supported the removal of the Polish intelligentsia, particularly from the highly disputed Vilnius region. [41] The city of Vilnius was considered a historical capital of Lithuania; however, in the early 20th century its population was around 40% Polish, 30% Jewish and 20% Russian and Belarusian, with only about 2–3% self-declared Lithuanians. The government considered the rural Polish population important to the agricultural economy, and believed those people would be relatively amenable to assimilation policies (Lithuanization). [40] [41]

But the government encouraged expulsion of Poles from Vilnius, and facilitated it. The result was a rapid depolonization and Lithuanization of the city [41] (80% of the Polish population was removed). [42] Furthermore, Lithuanian ideology declared that many of the persons who identified as Polish were in fact "polonized Lithuanians". The rural population was denied the right to leave Lithuania, due to their lack of official pre-war documentation of Polish citizenship. [40] [41] Contrary to the government's agreement with Poland, many individuals were threatened with having to settle outstanding debts or with arrest if they chose repatriation. Soviet authorities persecuted individuals connected to the Polish resistance (Armia Krajowa and Polish Underground State). In the end, about 50% of the 400,000 people registered for relocation were allowed to leave. Political scientist Dovilė Budrytė estimated that about 150,000 people left for Poland. [43]

See also

Related Research Articles

This article describes the history of Belarus. The Belarusian ethnos is traced at least as far in time as other East Slavs.

Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic one of fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union (USSR); founding member of the United Nations Organization in 1945; now Belarus

The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, also commonly referred to in English as Byelorussia, was a federal unit of the Soviet Union (USSR). It existed between 1920 and 1922, and from 1922 to 1991 as one of fifteen constituent republics of the USSR, with its own legislation from 1990 to 1991. The republic was ruled by the Communist Party of Byelorussia and was also referred to as Soviet Byelorussia by a number of historians.

Curzon Line historical demarcation line between territories kept by post-WW2 Poland and territories given to the Soviet Union

The history of the Curzon Line, with minor variations, goes back to the period following World War I. It was drawn for the first time by the Supreme War Council as the demarcation line between the newly emerging states, the Second Polish Republic and the Soviet Union. The proposal was put forward by British Foreign Secretary George Curzon, to serve as a diplomatic basis for the future border agreement, and in that form, it never materialized because the war went on.

The Poles come from different West Slavic tribes living on territories belonging later to Poland in the early Middle Ages.

Territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union after the German invasion of Poland in 1939 the Soviet Union invaded the eastern regions of the Second Polish Republic

Seventeen days after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of the Second World War, the Soviet Union invaded the eastern regions of Poland, which Poland re-established during the Polish–Soviet War, and annexed territories totaling 201,015 square kilometres (77,612 sq mi) with a population of 13,299,000. Inhabitants besides ethnic Poles included Czech, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Jewish, and other minority groups.

The Polish minority in the Soviet Union are people of Polish descent who used to reside in the Soviet Union before its 1991 Dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many of them continued to live in post-Soviet, sovereign countries of Europe and Asia as their significant minorities at present time, notably in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, the areas historically associated with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as well as in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan among others.

Mass evacuation, forced displacement, expulsion, and deportation of millions of people took place across most countries involved in World War II. A number of these phenomena were categorised as violations of fundamental human values and norms by the Nuremberg Tribunal after the war ended. The mass movement of people – most of them refugees – had either been caused by the hostilities, or enforced by the former Axis and the Allied powers based on ideologies of race and ethnicity, culminating in the postwar border changes enacted by international settlements. The refugee crisis created across formerly occupied territories in World War II provided the context for much of the new international refugee and global human rights architecture existing today.

Population transfer in the Soviet Union

Population transfer in the Soviet Union refers to forced transfer of various groups from the 1930s up to the 1950s ordered by Joseph Stalin and may be classified into the following broad categories: deportations of "anti-Soviet" categories of population, deportations of entire nationalities, labor force transfer, and organized migrations in opposite directions to fill the ethnically cleansed territories.

Vilnius Region

Vilnius Region is the territory in the present-day Lithuania and Belarus 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.

Western Belorussia Place in Historical region

Western Belorussia or Western Belarus is a historical region of modern-day Belarus comprising the territory which belonged to the Second Polish Republic during the interwar period in accordance with the international peace treaties. Before the 1939 Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland it used to form the northern part of the Polish Kresy macroregion. Following the end of World War II in Europe the territory of Western Belorussia was ceded to the Soviet Union by the Allied Powers, while the city of Białystok with surroundings was returned to Poland. Until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 Western Belorussia formed a significant part of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR). Today, it constitutes the western part of the sovereign Republic of Belarus.

German occupation of Byelorussia during World War II

The occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany started with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and ended in August 1944 with the Soviet Operation Bagration. The western parts of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic became part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland in 1941, but in 1943 the German authorities allowed local collaborators to set up a client state, the Belarusian Central Rada, that lasted until the Soviets liberated the region.

The Belarusian minority in Poland is composed of 47,000 people according to the Polish census of 2011. This number decreased in the last decades from over 300,000 due to an active process of assimilation. Most of them live in the Podlaskie Voivodeship.

Poles in Belarus

The Polish minority in Belarus numbers officially about 0.3 million according to 2009 census. It forms the second largest ethnic minority in the country after the Russians, at 3.1% of the total population. An estimated 180,905 Belarusian Poles live in large agglomerations and 113,644 in smaller settlements, with the number of women exceeding the number of men by about 33,000. Some estimates by Polish non-governmental sources in the U.S. are higher, citing the previous poll held in 1989 under the Soviet authorities with 413,000 Poles recorded.

Population exchange between Poland and Soviet Ukraine

The population exchange between Poland and the Soviet Ukraine at the end of World War II was based on a treaty signed on 9 September 1944 by the Ukrainian SSR with the newly formed Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN). It affected an estimated 1.6 million people.

Repatriation of Polish population in the years of 1955–1959 was the second wave of forced repatriation of the Poles living in the territories annexed by the Soviet Union. It should be stressed that the widely used term repatriation, promoted by decades of Polish communist propaganda, is a kind of manipulation and refers to an act of illegal expatriation.

Soviet repressions of Polish citizens (1939–1946)

In the aftermath of the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, which took place in September 1939, the territory of Poland was divided in half between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets had ceased to recognise the Polish state at the start of the invasion. Both regimes were hostile to the Second Polish Republic as much as to the Polish people and their culture, thus aiming at their destruction. Since 1939 German and Soviet officials coordinated their Poland-related policies and repressive actions. For nearly two years following the invasion, the two occupiers continued to discuss bilateral plans for dealing with the Polish resistance during Gestapo-NKVD Conferences until Germany's Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union, in June 1941.

Belarusian diaspora

Belarusian diaspora refers to emigrants from the territory of Belarus as well for people of Belarusian descent.

On the basis of a secret clause of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union invaded Poland on September 17, 1939, capturing the eastern provinces of the Second Polish Republic. The eastern provinces of interwar Poland were inhabited by an ethnically mixed population, with ethnic Poles as well as Polish Jews dominant in the cities. These lands now form the backbone of modern Western Ukraine and Western Belarus.


  1. 1 2 Jerzy Kochanowski (2001). "Gathering Poles into Poland. Forced Migration from Poland's Former Eastern Territories". In Philipp Ther, Ana Siljak (ed.). Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN   978-0-7425-1094-4.
  2. John A.S. Grenville (2005). A History of the World from the 20th to the 21st Century. Psychology Press. pp. 285, 301. ISBN   0415289556 via Google Books.
  3. Włodzimierz Borodziej; Ingo Eser; Stanisław Jankowiak; Jerzy Kochanowski; Claudia Kraft; Witold Stankowski; Katrin Steffen (1999). Stanisław Ciesielski (ed.). Przesiedlenie ludności polskiej z Kresów Wschodnich do Polski 1944–1947 [Resettlement of Poles from Kresy 1944–1947] (in Polish). Warsaw: Neriton. pp. 29, 50, 468. ISBN   83-86842-56-3.
  4. Z. R. Rudzikas (2002). Antonino Zichichi, Richard C. Ragaini (ed.). "Democracy and Mathematics in Lithuania". International Seminar on Nuclear War and Planetary Emergencies, 34th session. World Scientific: 190. ISBN   978-0-300-12599-3 . Retrieved 2009-07-10.
  5. Timothy D. Snyder (2007). "The Local World War". Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist's Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. pp. 190–193. ISBN   0-300-12599-2 via Google Books.
  6. 1 2 Józef Poklewski (1994). Polskie życie artystyczne w międzywojennym Wilnie (in Polish). Toruń: Toruń University Press. p. 321. ISBN   83-231-0542-1.
  7. Krystyna Kersten (1991). The establishment of Communist rule in Poland, 1943–1948. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 535. ISBN   0-520-06219-1.
  8. Krystyna Kersten (1974). Repatriacja ludności polskiej po II wojnie światowej: studium historyczne. Wrocław: Polish Academy of Sciences, Ossolineum. p. 277.
  9. Bogumiła Lisocka-Jaegermann (2006). "Post-War Migrations in Poland". In Mirosława Czerny (ed.). Poland in the geographical centre of Europe. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers. pp. 71–87. ISBN   1-59454-603-7 via Google Books.
  10. Norman Davies, God's Playground, Chapters XX-XXI, ISBN   83-240-0654-0, ZNAK 2006
  11. Sławomir Cenckiewicz (2005). "SB a propaganda polonijna: Między sowiecką agenturą a koncepcją "budowania mostów"" (in Polish). Retrieved 2009-07-10. Takie postrzeganie "zagranicznych Polaków" potwierdza chociażby tzw. pierwsza kampania powrotowa (zwana niesłusznie repatriacją), którą komuniści zainicjowali niemal od razu po zakończeniu II wojny światowej.
  12. Jan Czerniakiewicz (1992). Stalinowska depolonizacja Kresów Wschodnich II Rzeczpospolitej (Stalinist de-Polonization of the Eastern Borderlands of the 2nd Republic) (in Polish). Warsaw: Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw University. p. 20.
  13. Dvornik, Francis (1962). The Slavs in European history and civilization (3 ed.). New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. 347. ISBN   9780813507996.
  14. Norman Davies (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford University Press. pp. 828–. ISBN   978-0-19-820171-7.
  15. Norman Davies (2005). Rossiya. God's Playground/ A History of Poland: Volume II: 1795 to the Present. Oxford University Press. p. 64. ISBN   0199253404 via Google Books preview.
  16. Aleksei Miller (2003). The Ukrainian Question: The Russian Empire and Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century. Central European University Press. p. 26. ISBN   9639241601.
  17. Jonathan Steele (1988). Eternal Russia: Yeltsin, Gorbachev, and the Mirage of Democracy. Harvard University Press. p. 217. ISBN   978-0-674-26837-1.
  18. Goldstein, Erik (1992). Second World War 1939–1945. Wars and Peace Treaties. London: Routledge. ISBN   0-415-07822-9.
  19. ‹See Tfd› (in Ukrainian)Entsyklopedia Ukrainoznavstva (Encyclopedia of Ukraine, 10 vols, 1955-84), Paris, New York: Shevchenko Society, 1970. Vol 6, p. 2224.
  20. Karpus, Zbigniew, Alexandrowicz Stanisław, Waldemar Rezmer (1995). Zwycięzcy za drutami. Jeńcy polscy w niewoli (1919–1922). Dokumenty i materiały[Victors Behind Barbed Wire: Polish Prisoners of War, 1919–1922: Documents and materials]. Toruń: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika w Toruniu. ISBN   978-83-231-0627-2.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  21. Serhiychuk p. 7
  22. Prof. Bogdan Musial (January 25–26, 2011). "The 'Polish operation' of the NKVD" (PDF). The Baltic and Arctic Areas under Stalin. Ethnic Minorities in the Great Soviet Terror of 1937-38. University of Stefan Wyszyński in Warsaw: 17. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-23. UMEA International Research Group. Abstracts of Presentations.
  23. See for instance Russo-Polish War in Encyclopædia Britannica
    "The conflict began when the Polish head of state Józef Piłsudski formed an alliance with the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura (21 April 1920) and their combined forces began to overrun Ukraine, occupying Kiev on 7 May."
  24. 1 2 3 Andrzej Gawryszewski (2005). "XI: Przemieszczenia ludności". Ludność Polski w XX wieku (in Polish). Warsaw: Polish Academy of Sciences. pp. 381–383. ISBN   83-87954-66-7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-01.
  25. Władysław Pobóg-Malinowski (1990). Najnowsza historia polityczna Polski 1864–1945 (in Polish). II. Warsaw: Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza. pp. 623–624. ISBN   83-03-03162-7.
  26. Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century, By R. J. Crampton, page 50
  27. Galicia, By C. M. Hann and Paul R. Magocsi, page 148
  28. 1 2 Yosef Litvak (1991). Norman Davies, Antony Polonsky (eds.). Polish-Jewish Refugees Repatriated from the Soviet Union at the End of the Second World War and Afterwards. Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939-46. Springer. pp. 9, 227. ISBN   1349217891 via Google Books.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  29. Joshua D. Zimmerman. Contested Memories. Rutgers University Press. pp. 67–68. Archived from the original on 2014-03-03. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  30. "Śledztwo w sprawie zabójstwa w dniu 22 września 1939 r. w okolicach miejscowości Sopoćkinie generała brygady Wojska Polskiego Józefa Olszyny-Wilczyńskiego i jego adiutanta kapitana Mieczysława Strzemskiego przez żołnierzy b. Związku Radzieckiego. (S 6/02/Zk)". Archived from the original on January 7, 2005. Retrieved 2005-01-07. Polish Institute of National Remembrance. Internet Archive, 16.10.03. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
  31. Hugo Service (2013). Germans to Poles: Communism, Nationalism and Ethnic Cleansing After the Second World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN   978-1-107-67148-5.
  32. Jaff Schatz (1991). The Generation: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Communists of Poland. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 359. ISBN   978-0-520-07136-0.
  33. Polian, Pavel (2004). Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR. Budapest: Central European University Press. p. 119. ISBN   978-963-9241-68-8.
  34. Polian, Pavel (2004). Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR. Budapest: Central European University Press. p. 118. ISBN   978-963-9241-68-8.
  35. N.S. Lebedeva (2000). "The Deportation of the Polish Population to the USSR, 1939-41". In Alfred J. Rieber (ed.). Forced Migration in Central and Eastern Europe, 1939-1950. London: Frank Cass. p. 28. ISBN   978-0-7146-5132-3.
  36. 1 2 Piotrowski, Tadeusz (2004). "Introduction". In Tadeusz Piotrowski (ed.). The Polish Deportees of World War II: Recollections of Removal to the Soviet Union and Dispersal Throughout the World. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 4. ISBN   978-0-7864-5536-2.
  37. Timothy D. Snyder (2008). Ray Brandon, Wendy Lower (eds.). The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization. Indiana University Press. p. 102. ISBN   0253001595 via Google Books.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  38. Serhiychuk, p. 24
  39. Hryciuk, Grzegorz (2005). "Sprawa Lwowa właściwie wciąż otwarta". Między nadzieją a zwątpieniem — Polacy we Lwowie w 1945" (PDF). Dzieje Najnowsze (in Polish). PAN. 36 (4): 116, 119. ISSN   0419-8824.
  40. 1 2 3 4 5 Philipp Ther, Ana Siljak, Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948, Rowman & Littlefield, 2001, ISBN   0-7425-1094-8, Google Print, p.141
  41. 1 2 3 4 Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, Yale University Press, 2004, ISBN   0-300-10586-X, Google Print, p.91-93
  42. Michael McQueen. "Collaboration as an Element in the Polish-Lithuanian struggle over Vilnius." Joachim Tauber. "Kollaboration" in Nordosteuropa. Harrassowitz Verlag. 2006. p. 172.
  43. Dovile Budryte, Taming Nationalism?: Political Community bBilding in the Post-Soviet Baltic States, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2005, ISBN   0-7546-4281-X, Google Print, p.147

Further reading