Define and justify
the proposed research:
research of this project is the Battle of Warsaw 1920. This battle refers to
the decisive Polish victory in the Polish-Soviet War (1919-1921) over Soviet
Russia. During this, Poland which was on the brink of total defeat, repulsed
and defeated the invading Red Army. The Polish army, led by Józef Pi?sudski,
battled with the Red Army, commanded by Mikhail Tukhachevsky, in Poland’s
capital. As Poland aimed to preserve its newly regained independence that was
lost in the 1785 partitions of Poland and carve out the borders of a new
multinational federation, the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand in the Russian
Civil War. Vladimir Lenin saw Poland as a bridge to bring communism to Central
and Western Europe. A victory in Warsaw for the Soviets would lead to the
deliverance of communism into Western Europe by Vladimir Lenin but due to their
defeat the spread of communism was temporally halted.
Identify the aims of your research:
plan to research and learn about the main events of the battle such as the 1st
cavalry breakthrough of Polish lines in June 1920 and the Polish counterattack
from the south in Warsaw and the nearby Modlin Fortress.
To investigate the different types of
warfare (eg. weapons, tactics, etc.) used at the Battle, and the impact that
these had on the outcome of the battle for all.
To investigate the consequences of the
deliverance of communism into Western Europe by Vladimir Lenin and the
relationship between Soviet Russia and Poland prior to the Polish-Soviet war.
I also plan to improve on my analytical
skills throughout this project.
I plan on ordering a copy of Norman Davies’,
‘White Eagle, Red Star’, off Amazon.co.uk to use as my main source. Historians
claim this book to be one of the best English-language monographs on the
Polish-Soviet war. I also intend to order a copy of Isaac Babel’s, ‘Red
Cavalry’. This book focuses on the 1st Cavalry army of Soviet Russia
in the Polish-Soviet war in which I previously stated as one of my aims to
investigate in this project. I plan to take notes using these sources and through
these notes write a brief synopsis on the main events that transpired during
the Battle. I will also be using the
2011 film ‘The Battle of Warsaw 1920’, as my third source. I hope that this
source will make the battle itself easier to visualise, and thus provide me
with stronger grounds for writing my extended essay. I will then use these
notes to write up my essay. Once this is done I will consult with my history
teacher and re-draft if necessary.
Sources: ‘White Eagle, Red Star: the polish-soviet war, 1919-20’- Norman
Davies, published by Macdonald publishing, United States, 1972.
Cavalry’- Isaac Babel, published by W.W Norton Company, United States, 2003.
of Warsaw 1920′- directed by Jerzy Hoffman, Forum Film Poland, released 2011.
Source 1: White Eagle, Red Star
Davies’ novel is a secondary source as it was first published in 1972. I found
it to be an excellent source as the book disproves the widely-held belief that Poland
started the war by attacking Soviet Russia which, in my opinion, provides me to
trust that this book is fair and unbiased, while also being incredibly detailed.
It also revealed the Bolshevik’s plans for spreading their revolution to
Germany and beyond – which was one of my aims to investigate. The book presents
an extremely detailed description of the Polish invasion of Ukraine, the Soviet
military operations against Poland, the historical Battle of Warsaw and the
changing fortunes of war in Galicia. It contains brilliantly written sketches
of leading figures of the battle such as Tukhachevsky and Budyonny and humanises
the dreary story of the war by quotations from letters of simple participants. Conveniently,
this book contained a bibliography which allowed me to do further in-depth
research on this topic and related topics.
Source 2: 1st Cavalry
novel is a secondary source as it was first published in 2003. This book
included all the necessary facts about the battle, although ‘White eagle, red
star’, provided me with a broad visualisation of the whole battle whereas this
book dealt with a particular area of the battle. Nonetheless, the specificity of
this book provided me with an extremely detailed insight to Mikhail
Tukhachevsky’s plans to capture Warsaw and, also, the life of an exhausted
Russian Red Army soldier during the battle. I did, however, find it difficult to
understand the language at times. This book provided me with trust that it was
written fairly and unbiased as the author himself was part of the 1st
Cavalry army during the battle of Warsaw. However, the book did not contain a
bibliography which was one of its main inconveniences.
Source 3: The Battle of Warsaw
is also a secondary source as it was first released in 2011. I found the film very useful to watch after reading
my other two sources as it helped me to picture the battle more easily after
seeing an adaptation with my own eyes. This movie, in my opinion, is a well
structured and composed insight into how the Poles bravely stood before the
advancing Red Army and their plans to plans to deliver communism into Western
Europe. I found that the numerous musical scenes contributed greatly to the
atmosphere of war along with an in-depth visualisation of the battle itself. I also
felt that some scenes that are set in the halls of the Kremlin, which involve
conversations between Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin greatly add to the purity
and attention to detail of the movie in the eyes of the audience. The Polish general Józef Pi?sudski is portrayed as a real person,
rather than a heroic personification of his erstwhile legend, and in doing so,
allows us to reconstruct the legend for ourselves.
The Battle of Warsaw took place in Warsaw,
Poland, and the nearby Modlin Fortress from the 13th to the 25th
of August 1920. The battle was fought between the Polish army commanded by Józef
Pi?sudski and the Soviet Red Army commanded by
Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Earlier in 1919 and 1920, after World War 1, Poland
fought to preserve their newly regained independence, which were lost in the
1795 partitions of Poland. At the same time, Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin
had gained the upper hand in the Polish civil war. Communism was growing
rapidly, and Vladimir Lenin saw Poland as bridge to delivering communism to central
and western Europe. Lenin saw the Polish-Soviet war as the perfect opportunity
to fulfil his wish of communism in Europe. When the Polish army leader, Józef
Pi?sudski, formed an alliance with Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura,
and their combined forces pushed into Ukraine, liberating Kiev on May 7,
conflicts began to rise between Poland and Russia. As Lenin wished to deliver
communism to Europe, he saw Warsaw as the easiest route to central Europe,
especially Berlin. The Red Army called for a mass push towards the Polish
capital, Warsaw. Lenin saw the capture of Warsaw to have an extremely positive
effect on communist propaganda as it would not only undermine the morals of the
Poles, but it would ignite an international series of communist uprisings and
provide a clear path for the Soviets to join the German Revolution. In early
June 1920, the Russian 1st Cavalry army, under Seymon Budyonny broke
through Polish lines, resulting in a collapse of all Polish fronts. On July 4,
1920, Mikhail Tukhachevsky’s front began an all-out attack in Belarus from the
Berezina River, forcing Polish defences to retreat. On July 19, the Red Army
seized Grodno, and on July 28 they reached Bia?ystok, which is the largest city
in North-East Poland. On July 22, the Brze?? fortress was captured.
Mikhail Tukhachevsky had planned to
surround and encircle the capital city of Warsaw by crossing the Vistula.
Tukhachevsky aimed to attack from the northwest of Warsaw. Tukhachevsky wished
to imitate the classic manoeuvre of Ivan Paskevich who, in 1831, crossed the
Vistula and reached Warsaw unopposed, crushing the November uprising of 1831.
Tukhachevsky had 24 divisions in four armies immobilised and under his command.
The red army pushed forward as Gayk Bzhishkyan’s cavalry corps along with the 4th
army, crossed the Wkra river and advanced towards the town of W?oc?awek. The 3rd and 15th armies approached
Modlin Fortress and the 16th moved towards Warsaw. The final Russian
assault on Warsaw began on august 12th. The soviet 16th
army attacked the the town of Radzymin, which is 23 kilometres east of Warsaw.
The Red army were successful in capturing the town of Radzymin, which prompted Józef Pi?sudski to move up
his plans by 24 hours.
The first phase of the battle commenced on august
12th, with a red army frontal assault on the Praga Bridgehead. On
august 14th, Radzymin fell to the red army. Also, the lines of W?adys?aw Eugeniusz Sikorski’s polish 5th
army were broken. It was a tough, enduring battle for the 5th army
as they held off the 3rd, 4th and 15th soviet
armies until dawn of the 15th of August. The Modlin sector was
reinforced with the Siberian Brigade and General Franciszek Krajowski 18th
infantry. The situation was rectified when the 203rd Uhlan regiment
managed to break through the red army lines and attack a soviet command post,
which resulted in a destruction of a radio station of A.D Shuvayev’s Soviet
army. This attack was particularly significant and is sometimes referred to as
‘The miracle of Ciechanów. At the same time, the polish 1st Army
under General Franciszek Latinik resisted a direct Red Army assault on Warsaw
by six rifle divisions. The struggle for Radzymin forced Joseph Haller,
commander of the polish Northern Front, to start the 5th army’s
counterattack earlier than planned.
The second phase of the battle
commenced when the 27th Russian infantry had surprisingly reached
the village of Izabe?in, 13 kilometres northwest of Warsaw. However, this was
the closest that Russian forces would come to the capital. Tukhachevsky, who
was certain that he would be victorious, was falling into Pilsudski’s trap. For
the Red Army, there were only token Polish resistance in the path of the main Russian
advance north and across the Vistula, on the right flank of the battle. At the
same time, south of Warsaw, on the battle’s left front, the vital link between
the North-Western and Southwestern Fronts was much more vulnerable, protected
by the Mozyr Group, a small Soviet force. Meanwhile, Seymon Budyonny, leader of
the 1st Cavalry Army, a unit much feared by Pilsudski and other
Polish commanders, had disobeyed orders by the Soviet High Command, which at
Tukhachevsky’s insistence, ordered him to attack Warsaw from the south.
Budyonny blatantly disobeyed this order. Influenced by a grudge between
Tukhachevsky and another commanding general, Alexander Ilyich Yegorov. The
political games of Josef Stalin who, at the time, was the Chief Political
Commissar of the south-western front, also influenced the decisions of Budyonny
to disobey his orders. Stalin, in the hope of achieving personal glory, aimed
to capture the besieged Lwów, which was an area of industrial importance.
Ultimately, Budyonny’s forces marched to Lwów, instead of Warsaw, and thus
missed the battle.
The Polish 5th army then
counterattacked on August 14th, crossing the Wkra. They were faced
with the combined forces of the Soviet 3rd and 15th
armies who were both numerically and technically superior, providing them with
a daunting task of battling the Red Army. The struggle at Nasie?k lasted until
August 15th and resulted in near complete destruction of the town.
However, Soviet forces were halted as they proceeded to advance towards Modlin
and Warsaw on the same day that they had captured Nasie?sk. The Polish forces
recaptured Radzymin, which greatly boosted Polish Morale.
From this moment on, Sikorski’s 5th
army pushed exhausted Soviet units away from Warsaw, in a Blitzkrieg-like
operation. Sikorski’s units were given the support of almost all of the small
number of mechanised units – armoured cars and tanks – that the Polish army
had, as well as that of the two Polish armoured trains. The trains were able to
advance rapidly at a speed of 30 kilometres a day, disrupting the Soviet
‘enveloping’ northern manoeuvre.
The battle’s 3rd and final phase of
the battle commenced with the Polish assault group, commanded by Pilsudski
marching north towards the Wieprz river on August 16th. The small soviet group,
The Mozyr, stood in Pilsudski’s way. During the battle, the Mozyr had lost many
of its troops and had been reduced to only one or two divisions covering a 150
kilometres front line on the left flank of the soviet 16th army. On
the first day of the counteroffensive, only one of the five Polish divisions
reported any type of opposition, while the remaining four, supported by the
cavalry brigade, managed to advance 45 kilometres without any Russian troop
engagement. By the evening of the 16th of August, the town of W?odawa had been liberated and Soviet Union
communication and supply lines had been cut. Pilsudski was extremely surprised
by the extent of these early successes. Pilsudski’s assault groups had managed
to cover 70km unopposed in 36 hours. The Mozyr Soviet group had been defeated
within the first day of the Polish counterattack. The Polish army realised that
they had found a huge opening between the Soviet fronts. They proceeded to
exploit it ruthlessly, continuing their northward offensive with two armies
following and falling on the confused enemy.
On the 18th of August, in his
headquarters in Minsk, Tukhachevsky, about 300 miles east of Warsaw realised
the extent of his defeat and ordered his soldiers to regroup and retreat. He
wished to straighten the front line and improve his logistics in order to
regain initiative and push the Poles back, but the situation was well beyond
salvaging. The Polish 1st Legions Infantry Division, in order to cut
the enemy’s retreat, carried out a forced march, going on the move for up to 21
hours a day, from Lubartów to Bialystok – covering 262 kilometres in just six
days. Throughout the march, the Polish army encountered the Russian forces
twice. The Polish forces’ rapid advance allowed them to cut off the Soviet’s 16th
army, forcing most of its troops to surrender.
The Soviet forces in the centre of the front fell
into complete chaos. Although some Russian forces continued to fight their way
towards Warsaw, most troops retreated, lost their cohesion and panicked. The
Soviet troops has lost contact with Mikhail Tukhachevsky and Soviet plans were
thrown into disorder. Only the 15th Russian army remained an
organised force as they attempted to obey Tukhachevsky’s orders. However, it
was defeated twice on the 19th and 20th of August.
Tukhachevsky had no choice but to order a full retreat towards the western Bug
river. By August 21st, all organised resistance ceased to exist and
by August 31st, the Soviet southwestern front was entirely routed.