The Soviet-Polish Peace of 1921 and the Creation of Interwar Europe


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Jerzy Borzecki

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The Soviet-Polish peace treaty of 1921, also known as the "Riga peace," ended the war of 1919–1920 and may be considered the most important Eastern European treaty of the interwar period. This deeply researched book offers the first post-Soviet account of how Bolshevik Russia and Poland came to sign the treaty—a pact that established the central part of the Soviet western border and provided Eastern Europe with a measure of stability that lasted until 1939.
Jerzy Borzecki draws on a wealth of untapped materials in Russian and Polish archives to recreate the negotiations and behind-the-scenes maneuvers leading to and surrounding the treaty. He examines the significance of the agreement not only to its signatories but also to Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Latvia. The Riga peace represented an authentic compromise between Poland and Bolshevik Russia, Borzecki shows, and he offers new interpretations of other crucial aspects of the negotiations as well.

Jerzy Borzecki has recently completed his postdoctoral studies in the History Department at Yale University. He is a sessional lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto at Mississauga.

“Borzecki brings tremendous new archival materials to bear on the treaty reached at Riga—an important moment in the history of European diplomacy and state-making following World War I. ”—Mark L. von Hagen, Arizona State University; author of Soldiers in the Proletarian Dictatorship: The Red Army and the Soviet Socialist State

"Jerzy Borzecki delves expertly into the Polish-Russian Borderlands in the immediate post-World War I years—perhaps the most fascinatingly complex place and moment in 20th century Europe. The research is new and the amount of detail is stunning."—Marci Shore, author of Caviar and Ashes 

“This book is a major contribution to the scholarly literature on the Soviet Union. Despite a range of publications in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and English, there has heretofore been no single work that exploited all of the available sources, including newly-available Russian archival sources. It is a scholarly work with an original and important subject, treated with exemplary research and balanced and convincing narrative analysis.”—Timothy Snyder, author of The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999

"With subtlety, Borzecki conveys the ambivalence of the period and foreshadows the diplomatic wrangling between the Communist and non-Communist worlds that defined the Cold War. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Reading Jerzy Borzecki's excellent book made this reviewer realize that he, probably like many other European historians, has always misunderstood the Polish-Soviet War and the resulting peace treaty of 1921. . . . In a book filled with archival detail and interpretive insight, Borzecki shows that the two emerging powers in Eastern Europe were forcibly dividing the multiethnic lands of the former Russian Empire. . . . Yale University Press is to be commended on publishing this fine book."—Serhy Yekelchyk,American Historical Review

"The Treaty of Riga constituted a major landmark in the reconstruction of Eastern Europe after World War I. . . Jerzy Borzecki's book offers a fascinating account of the tortuous negotiations between the Soviet and Polish governments between 1919 and 1921, which attempted to settle on terms of peace. More than once the work brought back memories of reading C. V. Woodward's classic study of the Peace of Westphalia. . . The real strength of the study lies in its description of the exchanges on the Soviet side between the Soviet negotiator Adolf Ioffe and the Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Georgii Chicherin. . . Borzecki's account of Soviet thought about awarding Vilnius to Lithuania is fascinating; Lithuanian historians should read it carefully and consider its significance. . . I must conclude by declaring that the work constitutes a major contribution to the history of Polish-Soviet relations."—Alfred Erich Senn, Canadian Slavonic Papers

"Borzecki has done for the Treaty of Riga what Wheeler-Bennet did for Brest Litovsk - this is the definitive history of the negotiations which brought an end to the Russo-Polish War. In great, but fascinating detail, he explores the major issues of controversy in these negotiations: the exchange of prisoners of war; the exchange of populations; and the economic settlement. . . One of the great strengths of the book is the detail Borzecki gives. . . Borzecki strives to be neutral. He is quite ready to demolish some of the myths current in Polish historiography. . . Borzecki bends over backwards to be even-handed."—Geoffrey Swain, Europe-Asia Studies

‘Well-researched…[deserves] a secure place in the historiography of a war and a treaty that should be

better known and understood in the English-speaking world.’

"In a book filled with archival detail and interpretive insight, Borzecki shows that both . . . traditional interpretations [of the Polish-Soviet War] get some aspects of the conflict right but miss the main reason for the war: namely, that the two emerging powers in Eastern Europe were forcibly dividing the multiethnic lands of the former Russian Empire. . . . Yale University Press is to be commended on publishing this fine book . . ."—Serhy Yekelchyk, American Historical Review

"Jerzy Borzecki's book on the 1921 Treaty of Riga is an even-handed and exhaustive study of the peace settlement following the Russo-Polish War. . . . He traces diplomatic intrigues in formidable detail, including full documentation of intent and strategy on both sides. Even more impressive, given the subject, Borzecki is scrupulously fair to both sides. . . . [His] accomplishment in mastering the complex diplomacy of the Treaty of Riga remains impressive."—David R. Stone, Journal of Modern History

"…a valuable contribution to the academic study of Soviet diplomacy… Particularly valuable."—Andrzej Nowak, Slavonic and East European Review Vol. 89, No. 1

"The detail and wealth of information provided, based on use of Polish and Russian archives, as well as the use of documentary collections published in English, Russian, or Polish, ensure the academic value of this book."—Vasilis Vourkoutiotis, European History Quarterly

ISBN: 9780300121216
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
418 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 b/w illus. + 6 maps

Sales Restrictions: World Polish language rights sold to The Polish Institute of International Affairs, for sale in Poland and the Polish language market throughout the world.