Poland - Russia 1919 - 1920. In Search of an Alternative Scenario
Added: 2017-10-30
Added: 2017-10-30

Ah, if only the inner force of creation

Would resound through my mind!

 If only a shape filled with spirit would flow from my fingers!


J. W. Goethe ArtistsEvening Song





Alternative History and Counterfactual History

An alternative history, i.e. a tale about some episode from the past for which the starting point is the word if, is gradually gaining recognition among professionals, if only on account of itspromotional values. This type of a narrative makes a given vision of the past events more attractive and may arouse greater interest in the adjective-lesshistory. This also happens in Poland, yet on a limited scale. However, in this case it also seems that a certain methodological anathema weighing on, until recently, every such attempt on account of the guild of orthodox historians, is being slowly lifted. This is testified by at least two books of Janusz Osica and Andrzej Sowa, as well as publications of Elżbieta Olczak, Joanna Sabak and Paweł P. Wieczorkiewicz containing such discussions of well-known Polish historians with academic titles illustrating alternative versions of various fragments of the Polish history[1]. A slightly different example is an interesting volume written by a valued economist, Witold Orłowski, entitled Stulecie chaosu, portraying different variants of world history in the 20th century[2]. The starting point for such visions, disregarding the fact if we are dealing with an alternative or counterfactual history, is always a similar question: what would have happened if?Thus, let us try to think for a moment whether such question is justified and under which potential conditions it could be formulated in a historical narrative.

“The question of what would have happened if this and that did not happen is almost always unanimously rejected, yet it is a question of fundamental significance,” Nietzsche claimed in 1879[3]. Almost at the same time, an outstanding Polish historian, Michał Bobrzyński, formulated an idea which may be deemed approval of this approach, without depriving it of a scientific rank. In his Dzieje Polski w zarysie, he posed the following question: Can a historian use the following reasoning when recounting historical events: <If this or that person did it differently than it was done, if the nation had a different character or existed in different conditions, would the history of the nation have been different in such case?> And he answered immediately: ... It may be said that the historical <if> is possible and useful when: 1) the factual assumption on which it relies is true or possible at a given moment; 2) a conclusion derived from the assumption is justified in the skill; 3) making the assumption and the conclusion significantly clarifies certain directions and roads which a nation or a historical figure could have pursued at a given moment.Further, Bobrzyński notes that if historians have a right, in their studies, to praise and to condemn, i.e., in other words, to formulate evaluations, then in principle this very fact entails that a better or worse possibility of conduct at a given moment was noted. However, at the end he warns: It goes without doubt that the incorrect use of the historical <if> is detrimental for the historical work; nevertheless, the fact that some people use it incorrectly should not result in banning others who use well.[4]

Nowadays two directions of constructing historical alternatives may be distinguished. The environment where the first one develops and functions is the literary creativity. In Poland, we can find it in late novels of Teodor Parnicki, and nowadays in the books of Jacek Dukaj[5]. Furthermore, there are also scripts of films or TV series (recent HBO series Game of Thrones) or computer games. It focuses on the presentation of events which were the consequence of a certain turning point, a fact which had or, rather, could have had - according to the author of such narrative - a different course than it is unanimously agreed in the hitherto historiography. This fact becomes a starting point for creating a story about a different reality.This is alternative history. It constitutes a comprehensive vision of a different course of a sequence of events. Thus, it steps into the genre which is called historical fiction, in particular known from TV series and computer games, as well as belles lettres, and which tends to be categorised under artistic rather than scientific creativity.


However, there is also another type of alternative narrative, younger than the first one, which is frequently practised by professional historians in the course of academic seminars. This is counterfactual history (other terms are also used: non-existent history, virtual or irreal history). In this case, the attention of specialists practising it is primarily focused on searching for a turning point from which the events start to develop in a different direction and rhythm.  Thus, counterfactual history is trying to show the possibility of a different decision, a different context and, in effect, a different formula for an event that was confirmed by sources, and considered an irrefutable factin the traditional historical narrative. In this place - only for the record - we are going to touch upon another methodological thread related to the category of fact, a category that is subject to ardent criticism in the contemporary historical narrative[6].

In a counterfactual narrative, the further course of events, which is a consequence of a specific breakthrough moment and consists in a different reality, no longer attracts the historiansattention on account of awareness of too high number of possibilities, which grow like an avalanche with every subsequent event. What can be the source of validity for such historiography apart from the imagination of itsauthors? Here, we can refer to the opinions of the above-quoted Michał Bobrzyński. In his belief, which has found itsfollowers and continuators, this may be any evaluation of what has happened, as it assumes the existence of an alternative (better or worse, yet a different one), which forms a point of reference for the evaluations that are made. In this approach, the historical process is not determined with complete certainty. Another circumstance is similarity to the category of hypothesis, the formulation of which in a historical narrative is not subject to any serious reservations.

Irrespective of the differences that exist between both types of alternative narratives, they are united by the starting point. Namely, in the methodological procedure of constructing an alternative (counterfactual) history, the key issue is - let us say it once again - finding, in a sequence of actually happening events, a moment when they could have taken a different turn than it has actually happened. This is the primary focus of this article.

The events discussed here have not been so far, apart from one case, an object of discussions in this convention. This one case, yet in an approach of three different historians, is the Battle of Warsaw. Professors Andrzej Ajnenkiel, Andrzej Garlicki and Paweł Wieczorkiewicz who discussed it in the above-quoted books, were unanimous with respect to the fact that the success of the Polish side was determined by a certain event which did not necessarily have to take place. Subsequently, they created scenarios of the further course of the war and itsend, taking the defeat of Poles into account, which, in any case, did not require too much imagination. However, sole criticism of Piłsudskis eastern policy formulated by Roman Dmowski and his followers (in the course of itsimplementation) and later by people whose native lands were cut off by a cordon (as the Riga border was often called) from Poland, is something different. An example may be provided by a fragment of memoirs of Edward Woyniłłowicz, filled with bitterness and reluctance towards the Chief of State[7]. In the middle of the 1930s, outstanding intellectuals with anti-Communist (anti-Bolshevik) orientation joined this quite numerous group of voices. Adam Krzyżanowski, a Jagiellonian University professor, took a clear stance on this issue[8]. A more complex, yet equally critical, was the opinion of another prominent figure of the period, a scientist and a thinker, Marian Zdziechowski, professor at the Stefan Batory University in Vilnius[9]. After WWII, it was the literary statement of Józef Mackiewicz, full of raw passion, with which we are going to deal a bit more extensively here. This excellent writer used both his novels, namely Zwycięstwo prowokacjiand Lewa wolna, to criticise Piłsudski for avoiding a final confrontation with the Bolsheviks, thereby encumbering him with joint liability for all consequences of this decision, including the subjugation of a half of Europe by them after WWII, their terror and crimes, etc.[10] The literary formula released him from the necessity of deeper afterthought about the possibilities of pursuing this mission and the price that Poland would have to pay for it. However, it is also worth noting that the words of criticism penned by outstanding scientists and a great writer are not tantamount to corroborating the existence of an alternative scenario that we are looking for here.

The text below refers mainly to this very issue and is an attempt at looking at the justifiability of the allegations made. In line with the convention of counterfactual history, I focus on searching for the specific turning point that fulfils relevant criteria. A whole list of such criteria is given by Alexander Demandt in his treaty on counterfactual history[11]. It is worth mentioning, in the first place, his initial assumption that the word necessityis useless in the historical science. Thus, while recounting our history we have to look for such point and, depending on the results of the search, respond to the question from the tile about the possibility of a different course of the clash between Poland and Russia in these breakthrough years and itspotential consequences. Alternatively, we have to indicate the lack of such possibility.

At the Edge of Europe: Between Peace and War

The beginnings of the story that is going to be recounted here may be successfully placed at the moment that was symbolic for Europe and for Poland (though due to different reasons), i.e. 11 November 1918. This day revealed the division of our continent into two parts not for the first time. Western Europe was celebrating the end of long and destructive military activities, calculating losses and thinking about wound healing. Eastern Europe, including Poland, was entering a new phase of military struggles, as well revolutionary tensions, inside individual countries. The military conflict between the reviving Republic of Poland and Russia, or, more precisely, Russias, was characterised by greatest intensity with respect to duration, space and finally numbers of soldiers. Two Russias! This conflict had huge, probably decisive significance for the future of the Polish state, for itsexistence even. It also exerted a great impact on the internal situation of Russia, itsterritorial shape and primarily itsideological format. Eventually, on account of this ideological aspect, it also had significance for the world and definitely for Europe, even though Europe was unwilling to acknowledge it. This was a derivative of revolutionary ideas voiced and pursued by one of the two Russias - the Red, Bolshevik Russia of Lenin and Trotsky. The final course of this duel is known and described, even though in truth itshistoriography is not really impressive, taking the scale of the events into account. However, evaluations and interpretations are quite diversified. On the Polish side, positive and optimistic ones are predominant. Usually, two aspects are often quite easily overlooked. The first one is the supra-regional nature of the struggle and thence itsresults. The second is slurring over the fact that in this case, both sides were pursuing offensive strategies. In August 1920, the Bolsheviks at Warsaw made the majority of Poles - including historians, even the ones who were writing Piłsudskis hagiographies - convinced that the nature of the Polish political and military activities at that time was exclusively defensive. Meanwhile, the situation was quite different.

Thus, the starting point for our discussion which is going to focus, per necessity, on the person of the contemporary Chief of State, Józef Piłsudski, is going to be the description of our part of the continent in the autumn of 1918. The vast areas of basins of the Neman, Pripyat and Dneper Rivers were stretched between the small (Congress Kingdom of Poland - not even all of it and Western Galicia) and weak Poland, just waking up to the independent life, and Russia, torn by inner conflict between the Whites and the Reds[12]. These were Lithuanian, Belarusian and Ukrainian lands, in the past forming a part of the First Republic of Poland, divided more or less in half by the extensive territory of Polesie, not fit for military activities[13].

In the past, they were the object of disputes and rivalry between the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania and Moscow. They had a diverse course; it is only necessary to remember the fact that there was a time when the border of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was located 50 versts west of tiny Moscow. But then everything changed and since the end of the 17th century the success had been on Russias side and itsadvantage over the weakening Republic of Poland continued to grow, until itscollapse at the end of the 18th century. Starting to build new Polish statehood in November 1918 in diametrically different conditions and circumstances, Piłsudski decided to avert this geo-political imbalance. At this historical moment, he spotted an exceptional and probably unique opportunity for Poland; failing to make use of it on account of the huge risk that it carried would be a mistake unforgiven by the future generations[14]. The restoration of balance was to take place by pushing Russia far to the east, whereas the area that was discussed above would be, in some way, once again related to the reviving Republic of Poland.

Here, it is necessary to make a very important remark of methodological nature: both then and later, the Marshal talked about his intentions very rarely, usually in a narrow circle of closest colleagues; his statements were usually fragmentary and he did not write about them at all. Thence historians, well-wishing him or - on the contrary - opposing him or even hostile to him (National Democrats, communists, in general Russians and their acolytes) are doomed to making attempts at reconstructing his vision with almost complete absence of reliable source information; in such situation, the threat of interpretation errors is quite significant. It is therefore not surprising that three attempts at explaining the sense of Marshals activities between 1918 and 1921 were made:

1.                 a class-motivated conquest, which was, at the same time, a part of the anti-Bolshevik intervention of the West (the Entente);

2.                an East-European federation partially backed by socialist ideology;

3.                the most far-reaching and the boldest interpretation of Professor Andrzej Nowak assumed that Piłsudskis proper goal was establishment of the Polish Empire of Dominions[15].

Therefore, let us take a look at the implementation of Piłsudskis plans, without determining their final shape. This is justified due to the fact that knowing Piłsudskis flexibility of thinking and acting, one may surmise that his plans would be modified along with changes in political and military reality in the east. He was a visionary but, at the same time, capable of acting in a very pragmatic manner. The best solution is to follow it in two options that correspond to two attempts of dealing with this challenge, differing by time, place and scale

Option One

The first and probably the most important attempt that is going to be discussed here took place between April and November 1919. Its’ author and, at the same time, the main executor was Piłsudski himself. It may be justified to note at the very beginning that (due to the fact that his person will recur in this story) the Chief of State, whilst implementing his own project was, in the first place, the heir of the tradition of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and this country was very close to him, not only geographically, but also ideologically and sentimentally. Secondly, he was an outstanding socialist who fought against the tsardom for years, and for whom the White Russia was a simple continuation.

The German Eastern Front Army (Ober-Ost) started to gradually withdraw from the above-mentioned areas slightly earlier. Thus, a certain void was created; from the east, Bolshevik units started entering it in order to build the foundations of the Soviet republics of Belarus and Lithuania; from the west, small units of the Polish army were progressing slowly. The unavoidable clash took place in the middle of February (the exact time and place are determined differently) and this was the beginning of the next stage of the old Polish and Russian conflict with respect to the rule over this area[16]. Ideological and, in particular, propaganda justifications voiced by both sides are not of major importance here. Itsoutcome was to be decided by the determination and strength of the fighting parties. Initially, they was meagre and more or less equal on both sides. The majority of units of the freshly-formed Red Army were engaged on the internal front; Poles also had to conduct military activities in Eastern Małopolska and temporarily also at the Czechoslovakian front, as well as think about capturing Pomerania and support the Wielkopolska insurgents.

The military activities on the forming Lithuanian and Belarusian front entered a more decisive stage in April 1919, together with the Vilnius offensive, continued further in the north-eastern (Belarusian) direction. The military goals of the Polish offensive were met at a relatively low cost. In the summer, Polish units reached Minsk without any greater obstacles and moved further, expelling Bolsheviks from the area of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but that was it. Lithuania and the majority of Belarus was under the control of the Polish Army, but the situation was much worse with the political aspect of the operation, which turned out to be more important. These areas could be further occupied at best; however, there was nobody to build the new geo-political order with, which formed the proper content of this military enterprise. The Marshals beautiful appeal addressed to his compatriots, residents of the lands of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, uttered a day after the capture of Vilnius, was barely heard[17]. Meanwhile, in line with Piłsudskis concept, these residents were meant to actively join the building of the state structures having a favourable attitude towards Poland, filled with gratitude for the liberty brought by the Polish soldiers from Russian shackles. However, things took a different turn. This is the actual first point in the project implemented with great impetus in the case of which it is worth asking: could the things have happened differently?


The only nation in this region that was fully determined to build itsown state was, apart from the Fins, the Lithuanian nation, in the past the residents of the Commonwealth of Both Nations. The problem consisted in the fact that for half a century, they had been building their modern national identity not on the hostility towards Russia and Russians, but towards Poland and Poles. Meanwhile, without the cooperation with Lithuania (which could not be tamed in any manner, even for the price of resigning from Vilnius), the original concept of rebuilding - in some form - the First Republic of Poland - if, obviously, this concept has been correctly interpreted - has lost itsvalidity.

The final nail in the coffin of this idea was failure of both uncoordinated activities undertaken by Poles at the end of August 1919: Sejny uprising that lasted for a few days and the political revolt in Kaunas, prepared by the Polish Military Organisation, which was not even possible to initiate. After these incidents, there was not a mention about any Polish and Lithuanian cooperation. The potential success of the coup as a result of which a pro-Polish government would have been installed in the capital of the Lithuanian Republic, which still fits within our searches of alternative solutions, could definitely not have transformed the Lithuanian people into Polands allies and could not have created a basis for durable cooperation[18].

In spite of lack of success in this area, Poland, quickly growing in power, had, in Piłsudskis evaluation, a potential enabling further activities in the east (including military). This is my interpretation of the most important declaration which he made on 31 July in the Belvedere, during a talk with Count Michał Kossakowski, who also wrote it down in so far unpublished part of his extremely engaging diary. Piłsudskis words were some sort of an instruction in relation to the special mission entrusted to Kossakowski to establish contact with the Bolsheviks. They referred to the military, but primarily the political situation after the spring and summer campaign at the Lithuanian and Belarusian front, when the Polish uhlans were watering their horses in the Berezine[19]. This statement was, in my opinion, closest to any key to Piłsudskis vision of eastern policy, at least at the moment when it was formulated. On account of the significance of this statement, I will quote the most important fragment in whole, in order not to warp the authors thoughts by any abbreviations.


Politics cannot be pursued in this manner any more. How so? There is such unexpected moment, such outstanding opportunity to perform great deeds in the east and to take Russias place, yet with different slogans, and we are still hesitating. We are afraid of great deeds, even if they were to be performed against the coalition, whereas if we proceeded this way, the Marshal continued, we could defy such enemies as Germans or the Jewish Mafia in the Soviet Republic. [...] I am not afraid of Russia's power. If I wanted to, I could go as far as Moscow and nobody would be able to oppose me. However, one has to know clearly what one wants and what one is striving for. Taking other peoples mood into account, we will accomplish nothing. I'd rather die than despair later that I lacked the courage to use probably the only opportunity to resurrect the entire great and powerful Poland [...]. In spite of a thousand arguments in the recent years - in the course of which Poland as a state did not exist - we are afraid to give it too great tasks now, when the power of culture is supported by statehood. And so what that our generation has rotten and has been debased in the cradle of captivity; new generations will come and will ask for conditions of existence that are better than the ones which seem to suffice some of our cowards.[20]

Thus, Piłsudski clearly believed that the hitherto offensive strategy (in the eyes of his opponents and in the evaluation of later critics even considered expansionist) should be continued. However, it has to be added right away that such optimistic evaluation of the Polish military potential in the east was not shared by the commander of the Lithuanian and Belarusian front, General Stanisław Szeptycki. What was going to be itsfinal, political objective? The military activities at the Polish and Bolshevik front were still going on, yet since the capture of Minsk, they had a local character and one may wonder if they were not faked. It seems that their only objective was to keep the Bolsheviks at bay, whilst waiting for the final internal decisions in Russia. The prolonged civil war, irrespective of itscourse, was weakening the former empire; this was beneficial for Poland in the perspective of an approaching frontal battle. During the next conversation with Kossakowski on 13 November, referring to the civil war in Russia, Piłsudski said: Get stifled, beat each other up. It does not concern me as long as Poland's interests are not interfered with.[21]

However, the final result of a battle between the Whites and Reds was not an indifferent matter for the fate and for the interests of Poland and Piłsudski took it seriously into account. In the early autumn of 1919 there were still chances that the Moscow offensive of General Anton Denikins Volunteer Army would be a success. Were these chances significant enough to become involved on their side? And, first of all, would crushing the Bolsheviks offer Poland any measurable benefits, in the name of which the entire operation was going to be undertaken? These were the two questions that Piłsudski had to answer. In both cases, his conclusion was negative. The Whiteschances of victory were, in his opinion, slight due to the same errors that they kept making (lack of coordinated activities and reactionary political programme). Yet the answer to the second question was even more definite. After the victory of the Whites who were continually aiming to rebuild a single and indivisible Russia, Piłsudski estimated that Poland could count on a status similar to the Congress Kingdom at most, potentially slightly enlarged by Western Galicia, yet without lands in the east and in the west. It would definitely not play any independent political role in the east of Europe, where it had itsplace. This role would be taken up by Russia, to the general contentment of France, England, but also Germany. The Curzon Line, designated at the end of the year as a temporary division of Poland and Russia, fully confirmed such evaluation. Thus, was it worth, in the name of such prospect, to continue spilling the blood of the Polish soldiers? Would the actual interest of Poland, which was the overriding directive of Piłsudski's concept and activities, benefit from it in any manner, apart from the worthless gratitude of the West?

The practical effect of these considerations was cessation of all activities at the Lithuanian and Belarusian front by the Polish Army, about which Julian Marchlewski, representative of the Bolsheviks, was informed at the beginning of November during confidential negotiations in Mikashevichy. This allowed for withdrawing approx. 40,000 - 50,000 Red Army soldiers from the front line and using them to fight against Denikin, which probably accelerated his ultimate defeat.

Another possibility, also entirely theoretical, which nevertheless should be mentioned here, is fighting against the Whites together with the Bolsheviks. But what would happen next after the inevitable crushing of the forces of tsarist generals? What would be the value of the Bolshevikstempting declarations about the possibility of setting out a border compliant with the Polish wishes, encompassing the Berezine residentsdescribed by Florian Czarnyszkiewicz, yet with one exception, namely Ukraine?[22] Russia, also the Bolshevik Russia, could not, in any case, agree to the loss of itsgranary. Without Ukraine, the entire structure of the PolishEast lost itssense. In consequence, Piłsudski, in spite of pressure on the side of anti-Bolshevik Entente, decided to suspend further military operations against the Red Army. The price of the decision about temporary neutrality was high. Any potential further activities in the east could not even count upon feigned support from the West.

Option Two

On account of failure of the original concept at the turn of 1919 and 1920, another plan was maturing, already having a limited range in a spatial and political dimension. From the Neman and the Berezine River areas, activities were going to be shifted to the Dnieper. The aim was to use, on one hand, the smouldering civil war and, on the other, the hastily constructed alliance with Petlura, to capture the area from the Zbruch River up to the Dnieper, including Kiev, together with Ukrainian forces, and subsequently to continue the Ukrainian offensive to the east, based on hastily built structures of own independent state[23]. Simultaneously, this operation was meant to forestall the march to the west, already planned by the Bolsheviks. Itsstarting point was going to be, as always, the Smolensk Gate. And this is what happened. The crowning of the first part of the operation was capture of Kiev at the beginning of May 1920 and a beautiful procession of the Polish and Ukrainian armies on the Khreshchatyk Street[24]. But this is not the end. The further part of the plan became outdated in the course of less than a month. Our task is not to hail the Polish Army or to attempt itsdemythologisation; thus, it is enough to say that bloody and often brutal military skirmishes of both armies, now one million-strong each, lasted from June to October. Their final result is well-known. Pursuance of the second, already limited concept had, in spite of military success, much reduced final results. The ambitious plan of a general overhaul of the geo-political layout of forces in the east of Europe did not succeed. It was replaced by semblance of victory over the Bolsheviks and renewed division of disputable areas between two competing states.

Let us now consider: was there any other, better scenario? First of all, a peace treaty with the Bolsheviks in the autumn of 1919 would offer much better, at least as far as the course is concerned, border in the east, which we would have been able to enjoy more or less until July next year. In this situation, the actual advantage consisted in the necessity of waging the Soviet aggression from a base located much further to the east and, possibly, increase of mobilisation resources for the Polish army. The Whites were almost defeated and, at the same time, they did not change their basic objective - restitution of the empire. Cooperating with them could not offer Poland any direct profits. Thus, two illusory possibilities are left, taking into account the element of accident. The first one, of military nature, consisted in the fact that the march of Budyonnys Cavalry Army from the Caucasus would have lasted longer, which in a war of this type was possible and in this situation Rydz Śmigły would decide to defend Kiev. Would it have made the Ukrainians more determined and, in consequence, would it have brought a more durable result? It is hard to say. The beginning of Tuchaczewskis offensive was close at hand.

The second possibility, also of military nature - surely, the war was still going on - yet not only, would be a return to the discussed concept of cooperation with the Whites. The starting point for itspractical implementation would be the conduct of more energetic activities as part of the Polish counter-offensive in September, and fighting the Neman Battle, which was decisive in the war of 1920, two weeks earlier and, subsequently, continuing further offensive in the east. Yet the road to Moscow was far and already impassable. More energetic activities could however offer a positive result in the form of setting out a border further in the east, encompassing large clusters of Poles in Belarus (Minsk region) and Ukraine (Zhytomyr region). It could also, and here we revert to the key issue, support the last Crimean bastion of the Whites and allow the Leader of the South of Russia, General Wrangel, to create and to maintain a state there, which would be an ideological alternative for the Bolshevik Russia.

The commander of the Armed Forces of the South of Russia, General Pyotr Wrangel was the only leader of the Whites who understood the necessity of abandoning the hitherto imperial course and was trying to put it into practice. However, his vision of relations with Poland did not differ much from the visions of his predecessors[25]. He remained silent about the future relations of both states and only admitted the possibility of cooperation of Polish and Russian armies under a joint French command. The main partner in his game was France. The information coming from Sevastopol did not encourage Poles to get involved on his side. It is hard to guess whether such small state would be able to survive for long in the south of Russia, relying on Polish support. On the other hand, it is known that Lenin and his comrades were much afraid of such scenario. Crimea in the hands of Whites would be a bomb ticking at their side.[26] Piłsudski was also familiar with the fears of Bolsheviks from the report of the chief of branch of the Polish intelligence in Berne, Major Zygmunt Ołdakowski. Such white Taiwandid not threaten Polish interests, but was a great problem for the Reds. Several years later, this vision was portrayed by a well-known Soviet/ Russian writer Vasily Aksyonov in The Island of Crimea.[27]

Thus, it may be assumed that the military support for Wrangel in the autumn of 1920 would not have harmed the Polish national interest, which Piłsudski was hitherto guided by. In contrast, by weakening the Bolshevik Russia, it would have been to itsadvantage. Then why did things happen differently? In the first days of September, the Chief of State informed Wrangel’s special envoy, General Pyotr Machrov, about lack of interest in military cooperation. Earlier, i.e. at the end of July and at beginning of August 1920, Wrangel undertook an offensive, obviously not to save Warsaw, but to weaken the pressure of Bolshevik forces on Crimea. The causes of the Marshals decision may be searched for in several circumstances, which do not contradict one another. First of all, it would be necessary to decide whether it was still feasible at that time. Was it weariness with the war, the material and psychical exhaustion that came to play and induced itsquick end, without looking at the costs? Maybe the base of the Marshals decision was lack of faith in sufficient Polish power after almost two years of war? Eventually, maybe it was the deeply rooted hostility to the Whites, ascribed to him, an emotion that temporarily got the better of him? Finally, it might have been the willingness, in the face of a clear defeat of his own idea and the necessity of implementing the national concepts of democrats, to perform it with their hands and in the worst version possible, in order to have the option of easily attacking it in the future.

Finally, we return to the passionate criticism of Piłsudskis eastern policy penned by his compatriot and namesake, Józef Mackiewicz. The starting point of the criticism is primarily the moral and historiosophic aspect, yet it also includes, at least up to a certain degree, the weight of real premises which the Marshal was guided by and the entire complex context in which these events were taking place. Thus, his criticism has many more addressees. Nevertheless, the outstanding writer who, as a young uhlan, took part in this war, was deeply convinced about the necessity, but also the possibility of itscontinuation by Poland in the autumn of 1920. But was it really the case?

The final conclusion is not very tempting. It was not possible to create a clear, consistent scenario of an alternative course of events, based on something more than clear speculations, disregarding the hard reality. This may result from the limitations of our imagination, which is a very important factor in such case. It may also be due to the fact that, according to Alexander Demandt, the methodology of alternative history does not really work in case of large phenomena of mass character and social processes where the accident or the individuals will plays a relatively slight role (and we were dealing with such phenomena here)[28]. Too many various circumstances (e.g. mutual relations of Piłsudski and Wrangel and their followers, as well the Ententes decision to defend Crimea) would have to take on a different form to offer an alternative scenario of this clash.

[1] J. Osica, A. Sowa (ed.) Co by było gdybyHistoria alternatywna, Warsaw 1998, idem, Historia alternatywna: co by było gdyby, Warsaw 2009, J. Sabak (ed.), Gdyby. Całkiem inna historia. Historia kontrfaktyczna, Warsaw 2008 , P. Wieczorkiewicz et al., Dylematy historii: nos Kleopatry czyli co by było gdyby, Warsaw 2004.

[2] W. Orłowski, Stulecie chaosu: alternatywne dzieje XX wieku. Warsaw 2006.

[3]  F. Nietzsche, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, [in:] The Untimely Meditations, vol. XIII, Warsaw 1910.

[4] Quoted after: Osica, Sowa, Co by było, p. 6 8.

[5] For example: T. Parnicki, Opowieść o trzech Metysach, vol. 1-2, Warsaw 1992, J. Dukaj, Lód, Kraków 2007. More about this differentiation cf.: Osica, Sowa, Historia, p. 8 et seq.

[6] Cf. K. Zamorski, Dziwna rzeczywistość: wprowadzenie do ontologii historii, Kraków 2009, p. 225 et seq.

[7]  E. Woyniłłowicz, Wspomnienia 1847 -1928, Vilnius 1931, p. 318 -319.

[8] A. Krzyżanowski, Z historii stosunków polsko sowieckich nazajutrz po wojnie światowej, Przegląd Współczesny, 1936, vol. LVIII, No. 73.

[9]  Cf. Z. Opacki, Między uniwersalizmem a partykularyzmem. Myśl i działalność społeczno polityczna Mariana Zdziechowskiego 1914 1938, Gdańsk 2006, p. 369 et seq.

[10] J. Mackiewicz, Zwycięstwo prowokacji, Munich 1962, idem, Lewa wolna: powieść, London 1965. About the author, cf.: W. Bolecki, Ptasznik z Wilna: o Józefie Mackiewiczu (zarys monograficzny), Kraków 2007, whereas about various aspects of his works cf. Zmagania z historią: Życie i twórczość Józefa Mackiewicza i Barbary Toporskiej. Materials from a conference in Polish Museum in Rapperswill, prepared by N. Kozłowska, M. Ptasińska, Warsaw 2011.

[11] A. Demandt, History That Never Happened. What would happen if...? Warsaw 1999, p. 50 et seq.

[12] Apart from white and red, there was also a third, democratic Russia, too weak to become an independent entity of a political game, cf. A. Nowak, Polska i trzy Rosje. Studium polityki wschodniej Józefa Piłsudskiego (do kwietnia 1920 roku), Kraków 2001, passim.

[13] About the fate of these lands and their residents, cf. T. Snyder, Rekonstrukcja narodów: Polska, Ukraina, Litwa i Białoruś 1569 1999, Sejny 2006, passim.

[14] Cf. e.g. the statement of the Chief of State during a talk with W. J. Rose, a British expert on Eastern Europe on the evening of 4 March 1919 in the Belvedere, W. Jędrzejewicz, J. Cisek, Kalendarium życia Józefa Piłsudskiego 1867 1935, Kraków Łomianki 2006, vol. 2. p. 185.

[15] The first two interpretations are supported by extensive literature; they can also be found on pages of school and academic textbooks from various periods. The third one is contained in the study of A. Nowak entitled Wizja polityczna Józefa Piłsudskiego [in:] Józef Piłsudski: wyobraźnia i dzieło polityczne, ed. J. Machnik, A. Nowak, Kraków 2006, p. 23.

[16]  T. Gąsowski Wojna polsko-bolszewicka: 1919 1920, Kraków 1990, p. 9 et seq.

[17] J. Piłsudski, Pisma, mowy, rozkazy, Warsaw 1937, vol. 5, p. 7576. The appeal, announced on 22 April 1919 in Vilnius in Polish and in Lithuanian was, in the first place, addressed to Lithuanian people. Almost a year later, a similar appeal of the Commander of the Polish Armed Forces To All Residents of Ukrainewas made in a similar spirit, ibidem, p. 155 - 156. However, itsimpact was equally meagre.

[18] More about it, cf.: P. Łossowski, Konflikt polsko-litewski 1918 1920, Warsaw 1996, passim.

[19] It was the 15th Poznań Uhlan Regiment commanded by Colonel Władysław Anders.

[20] Secret Polish and Russian negotiations in 1919. Archival materials and documents prepared by W. Gostyńska, Warsaw 1986, p. 177.

[21]  Ibidem p. 338.

[22] F. Czarnyszewicz, Nadberezyńcy. Powieść w trzech tomach osnuta na tle prawdziwych wydarzeń, Kraków 2010, p. 367 et seq.

[23] More about this issue: J. J. Bruski, Petlurowcy, Kraków 2004, cf. also A. Serednicki, Symon Petlura Życie i działalność, Łowicz 1997.

[24] T. Kutrzeba, Wyprawa kijowska 1920 roku, Warsaw 1937.

[25] D. Wierzchoś, Generał Piotr Wrangel. Działalność polityczna i wojskowa w latach rewolucji i wojny domowej w Rosji, Kraków 2008, p. 133 and 229.

[26] Quoted after: A Nowak, Lewa wolnaalbo o spiskach Piłsudskiego z Leninem, Arcana2007, No. 2 3, p. 184 et seq.

[27] V. Aksyonov, The Island of Crimea, Warsaw 2001.

[28] Demandt, op. cit., p. 131 et seq.

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