Treaty of Minsk
Treaty of Peace between the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia
Signed 18 March 1920
Location Minsk, Belarus
Signatories Flag of the Ukranian State.svg Ukraine
Flag of Belarus (1918, 1991-1995).svg Belarus
Flag of Poland (1919–1928).svg Poland
Flag of Russian SFSR (1918-1937).svg Russia

The Treaty of Riga (Russian:Минское соглашение; Ukrainian:Мінський договір; Belarusian:Minski dahavor), was signed in Minsk on 18 March 1920, among Soviet Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The treaty ended the Ukrainian–Soviet War, recognized Belarusian independence from Russia, and settled Poland's eastern borders with both Ukraine and Belarus.

The Soviet borders established by the treaty remained in force until 1939.

Background[edit | edit source]

The World War removed former borders across Europe. In 1918, after the Russian Revolution had renounced Tsarist claims to much of eastern Europe in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the war had ended with Germany's dominance of the region. The treaty however only recognized German influence in the region, it did not define national boundaries or governments.

The Russian Civil War presented opportunities for countries like Ukraine under the leadership of Symon Petliura to regain parts of the tsarist territories which had fell outside the boundaries set by the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Meanwhile, many in the Soviet leadership desired to respond to leaders like Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz in the newly declared Belarusian People's Republic by using military force against them, which was seen by the Soviets as a land bridge to Western Europe and thus to extend the revolution westwards. The Ukrainian–Soviet War ensued, culminating in German intervention during the 1919 Fall Campaign, which made both sides receptive to ending the conflict. Similar pledges with Belarus after their defeat in Ukraine made the Soviets eager to begin peace negotiations, and the Germans, pressured by the Entente, were also willing to negotiate rather than renew hostilities with the Bolshevik's plus the German Army was exhausted.

Negotiations[edit | edit source]

File:Caricature for Riga Peace 1921.png

Caricature: "Down with the infamous Riga partition! Long live a free peasant indivisible Belarus!"

Peace talks began in Minsk on 17 August 1919. The Soviets proposed two solutions, the first on 17 August and the second on 24 August. The Ukrainian delegation made a counter-offer on 28 August. Three days later the Soviets offered amendments to the Ukrainian offer, which Ukraine accepted. An armistice was signed on 7 September and went into effect on 13 September 1919. The chief negotiators were Andriy Nikovskyi for Ukraine and Adolph Joffe for the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. The Soviet side failed in excluding Belarusian representatives,lead by Pyotra Krecheuski, from the negotiations.

Due to their military setbacks, the Soviet delegation offered Ukraine substantial territorial concessions in the contested border areas. However, to many observers, it looked like the Ukrainian side was conducting the Minsk talks as if Ukraine had lost the war. The Ukrainian delegation was dominated by members of the National Union movement. The National Unionists did not want Russian minorities in the new Ukrainian state to constitute more than one third of the overall population, and were therefore prepared to accept a Ukrainian-Soviet border which would exclude regions like Crimea and the Kuban, even though this would leave hundreds of thousands of people who were ethnically Ukrainian on the Soviet side of the border.

This Belarusian's were motivated more by political objectives. The national identity among Belarusians was strongest in the region around Minsk. In the east of the country and in the disputed borderlands, support for the Council of the People's Republic was weak (and in the countryside outside of the cities, people who identified as Belarusians were outnumbered by Ukrainians or Russians in these areas). So a border too far to the east was not just against the Belarusians ideological objective of creating an independent Belarus, but would also be a political disadvantage to them. Public opinion in Belarus also favored an end to the negotiations and all sides remained under pressure from Berlin to reach a deal.

A special parliamentary delegation consisting of six members of the Polish Sejm arrived in Minsk to negotiate a border between Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. Hoping this concession would gain their support in rejecting German annexations of Polish territory in the west, the proposal was accepted, leaving the tsarist era borders of Poland intact.

Regardless, the peace negotiations dragged on for months due to Soviet reluctance to sign. However, the matter became more urgent for the Soviet leadership as it had to deal with increased internal unrest towards the end of 1920, which led to the Tambov Rebellion and later the Kronstadt rebellion against the Soviet authorities. As a result of this situation, Lenin ordered the Soviet plenipotentiaries to finalize the treaty. The Treaty of Minsk was signed on 18 March 1920, granting disputed territories to Belarus and Ukraine and the RSFSR retaining influence in the Black Sea, and defining Poland's eastern borders left unresolved by the Brest-Litovsk treaty.

Terms[edit | edit source]

The Treaty consisted of 26 articles. Under Article 14 Belarus was to receive railway materials (locomotives, rolling stock, etc.) with a value of 29 million gold rubles. Russia was to surrender works of art and other Polish national treasures acquired from Polish territories after 1772 (such as the Jagiellonian tapestries and the Załuski Library). Both Ukraine and Russia renounced claims to war compensation. Article 3 stipulated that border issues between Ukraine and Belarus would be settled by those states.

MINSK, March 18, 1920
Article 3. Russia abandons all rights and claims to the territories situated to the north and west of the frontier laid down by Article 2 of the present Treaty. The Ukraine and White Ruthenia, on the other hand, abandons in favor of Russia all rights and claims to the territory situated to the south and east of this frontier.

Article 4. Each of the Contracting Parties mutually undertakes to respect in every way the political sovereignty of the other Party, to abstain from interference in its internal affairs, and particularly to refrain from all agitation, propaganda or interference of any kind, and not to encourage any such movement.

Article 6 created citizenship options for persons on either side of the new borders. Article 7 consisted of a mutual guarantee that all nationalities would be permitted "free intellectual development, the use of their national language, and the exercise of their religion."

See also[edit | edit source]

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