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February 21, 2024
Poland's History

Miracle on the Vistula – a battle that saved Poland and Europe from Bolshevism

On August 13-15, 1920, a decisive battle of the Polish-Bolshevik war took place in the outskirts of Warsaw. It is considered the 18th decisive battle in world history. It decided that Poland would remain independent and saved Europe from Communism.

In the aftermath of WWI, Poland fought to preserve its newly gained independence after many years of being partitioned, and to carve out the borders of the newly forming country from the territories of its former partitioners, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary. 

At the same time in 1919, the Bolshevics had gained the upper hand in the Russian civil war. Vladimir Lenin view Poland as a bridge to bring communism to central and western Europe, and the Polish Soviet war seemed the perfect way to test the Red Army’s strength. The Bolshevics’ speeches asserted that the communist revolution was supposed to be carried to western Europe on the bayonets of Russian soldiers and that the shortest route to Berlin and Paris was through Warsaw. 

The Russian strategy called for a massive push toward Warsaw, Its capture would have had a major propaganda effect for the Russian Bolshevics, who expected the fall of the Poland’s capital not only to undermine the morale of the Poles but to spark a series of international communist uprisings and clear the way for the Red Army to join the German revolution. 

On August 12, Red Army forces, commanded by Mikhail Tukhachevsky, approached the Polish capital. On August 16, Polish forces commanded by Josef Pilsudsky counterattacked from the south, disrupting the enemy’s offensive, forcing the Russian forces into a disorganized withdrawal eastward.  Estimated Russian losses were 10,000 killed, 500 missing, 30,000 wounded and 66,000 taken prisoner, compared with Polish losses of 4,500 killed, 10,000 missing, and 22,000 wounded. 

In the following months, several more Polish victories saved Poland’s independence and led to the peace treaty with Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine later that year securing Poland’s eastern frontiers until 1939 and averting the spread of communism to western Europe. 

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