Polish-Bolshevik War 1920: Classic


1920 Polish-Bolshevik War: Extensive Military Details. Bogus Pinsk Pogrom. Davies

White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War, 1919-20, by Norman Davies. 1972. St. Martin’s Press, New York

How Poles Routed the Red Armies on the Outskirts of Warsaw

Author Norman Davies is a British historian. He wrote this book back at a time when Poland was Communist-ruled, and the 1920 Polish-Soviet war was an avoided, if not forbidden, topic.

POGROM MONGERING: THE SO-CALLED PINSK POGROM

This is how historian Norman Davies assesses one of the fake pogroms that had been much exploited for propaganda purposes, “In Pinsk, as in other towns held by the Poles, all public meetings had been banned for fear of civil disturbance. A guard of only thirty men was posted. On 5 April, the soldiers were called to a meeting taking place behind closed doors. They assumed it to be a Bolshevik meeting. When resistance was offered and a crowd formed, they feared a trap. They seized thirty-five people as hostages, whom Luzynski then ordered to be summarily shot to make an example. The town was pacified. But the incident was to have international repercussions. Pinsk was a Jewish town. 20,000 of its 24,000 inhabitants were Jews. Most of the victims were Jews. Almost instantaneously, reports appeared in the European press of a ‘Polish pogrom at Pinsk”. The phrase was nicely alliterative and well suited for sensational headlines. Although the first Allied investigators on the spot denied that the executions were motivated by antisemitism–the United States representative on the investigation, Lieutenant Foster, actually stated that Major Luzynski’s action was fully justified in the circumstances…the Pinsk incident confirmed the popular idea throughout the world that all Polish soldiers were anti-Semites and all Bolsheviks Jews.” (p. 47-48).

Davies adds that the nature of the meeting was never clarified. (p. 48). This confuses the issue, which (apart from hindsight thinking) was not the nature of the meeting. First of all, the meeting had been declared illegal in any case. The issue was whether Jews were singled out, not the nature of the meeting! So the real issue is this: Jews were not singled out. Therefore, it was not an anti-Semitic act.

For more on the mythical Pinsk pogrom, see:

THE SOVIETS, NOT THE POLES, STARTED THE 1920 POLISH-SOVIET WAR

Davies, a Briton, is candid about the pro-Soviet orientation of most British scholars. He writes, “With the Kiev operation, one reaches the stage at which the Polish-Soviet War is usually supposed to have ‘broken out”. On this point British writers carelessly follow the prejudices of Russians. Thus, in 1919, when the Polish-Soviet War was vital only to Poland, they pretend it did not really exist; in 1920, when it became vital to Russia also, they suddenly discover an ‘outbreak’.” (p. 105).

THE CATASTROPHIC SCALE OF THE POLISH DEFEAT OF THE RED ARMY AT THE BATTLE OF WARSAW

Davies assesses the decisiveness of the Polish victory as follows, Tukhachevsky’s armies were in full flight. Of his five armies which set out for the west on 4 July, one had ceased to exist, two were decimated, two were severely mutilated. If the Polish estimates of 66,000 Soviet prisoners in Poland and 44,000 interned in Germany were only half correct, and allowing for Soviet dead and wounded to be roughly equal to the 40,000 Polish casualties, one arrives at the conclusion that two-thirds of Tukhachevsky’s invading force was eliminated.” (p. 207).

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MIRACLE ON THE VISTULA

In analyzing the implications of the War, Davies exhibits a somewhat cynical slant. He frowns upon the notion of “The miracle on the Vistula” (e. g, p. 208), and portrays the War as a futile one that only postponed Soviet rule over this part of Europe by 24 years.

However, this misses the point. Communism was not new and not nearly as intoxicating in 1944 as it had been in 1920. In fact, Davies admits as much, “The Red Army of 1920 could hardly be sent to conquer Europe directly…Its purpose was to provoke a social revolution.” (p. 210).


Jan Peczkis
August 20, 2020.

Published with the author’s permission.

Source: Jews & Poles DATEBASE.


The title image: „White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920 and The Miracle on the Vistula” by Norman Davies, Nov. 2003 – part of the cover. / selected by wg.pco

– More reviews by Jan Peczkis on PCO  ….. .

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2020.08.20.