No definitive armed clash marked the beginning of the Russo-Polish War. Rather, the forward probings of opposing forces resulted in repeated skirmishes that led to a full-blown conflict. The underlying causes of this struggle, however, were the new social forces and political configurations of Eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War I. The successive collapses of the Russian and then the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires made possible the resurrection of a Polish state. Absent from the map of Europe for 123 years, a reconstructed Poland was immediately set on a collision course with Soviet Russia. Both countries laid claim to a broad swath of territory extending from the lands around Vilnius (Lithuania) in the north through the Pripet Marshes (southern Belarus/northwest Ukraine) to the Romanian border in the south. Russia maintained direct political control over this territory throughout the nineteenth century, and since it made up a portion of the lands of ninth to thirteenth century Kievan Rus, the Russian tsars considered it to be an integral part of their patrimony. On the other hand, this same territory was under Polish control for the intervening centuries, and only fell into Russian hands after the partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by Russia, Prussia, and Austria between 1772 and 1795.
KeywordsPolish Force Peace Talk Forward Probings Western Front Polish Historian
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