Polish heroes of Russian revolutions

Internationalists, not by blood, but by spirit

It is unlikely that anyone would argue that representatives of national minorities made a contribution to the three Russian revolutions that was absolutely inadequate to the role that was assigned to them in the Russian Empire. And this, in general, can be understood, and besides, one should not forget that every revolutionary party in their political struggle relied on the nationals.

For the majority, this was recorded in the programs, many directly promised the Poles, Finns and even the politically backward Baltic states independence or at least autonomy. By the way, the Ukrainians in this regard were generally in a special position, but the Belarusians managed to seriously declare themselves only with the support of the Bolsheviks.

However, if the first in the national top-list of Russian revolutionaries are undoubtedly Jews, then the second place is definitely staked out by the Poles. At the same time, it must be admitted, they really showed themselves vividly only in October 1917 and after it. Together with the extreme left, such as the Bolsheviks, part of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, they declared their commitment to the world revolution and internationalism, but they invariably preferred narrow national tasks to solve before all others.

The main issue on the agenda of any more or less significant national association has always been the question of independence. For a hundred years, the Poles did not expect favors from Russian tsarism, just like Michurin from nature, and raised uprisings at every moment, as soon as the empire experienced difficulties. This was the case even under Catherine the Great in 1794, and in 1830, and in 1863.

One has only to wonder that Poland did not really flare up in 1848-49, when the well-known ghost “roamed Europe”. Most likely, in Warsaw and Lodz, without receiving any support from the Austrian Krakow and German Poznan and Danzig, they were simply afraid that the Nicholas army would go through Russian Poland with the same skating rink as through the rebellious Hungary.

The revolution that broke out in Russia in 1905 was perceived by Polish politicians, regardless of their views, as a unique opportunity. Your Polish chance. The Polish lands of the empire, which were rather backward compared to the rest of Europe, were far ahead of almost all Russian provinces, with the exception of only two capital ones.

In the early 1890s, industrial production outstripped agriculture in terms of the value of its output. Accordingly, the number of the proletariat, which is quite revolutionary, has grown greatly. However, fifteen years later, in the battles with the Red Army, the Polish working class showed that, in their hearts, each of its representatives is more of a failed master than a proletarian who has nothing to lose but chains.

There were few real violent

Nevertheless, it was in 1905 that Warsaw and Lodz were at times as hot as in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the Polish revolutionaries clearly lacked truly outstanding leaders. One of them could be the Social Democrat Martin Kaspshak, who knew Plekhanov well, but he ended up in prison in the spring of 1904 at the height of anti-war demonstrations, when he defended one of the underground printing houses. On September 8, 1905, Kaspshak was executed in the Warsaw Fortress.


There are always fresh flowers at the monument to Martin Kaspshak in his native village Cholovo near Poznan

Another potential leader, Józef Pilsudski, who headed the militant organization of the socialist party – the PPS, by that time still had neither the authority nor the experience of revolutionary struggle. From what the comrades-in-arms could credit the future “commandant”, “marshal” and “head of state”, a link to Siberian Kirensk, as well as an escape from the St. Petersburg madhouse, would be typed.

Piłsudski’s militants began shooting at the end of 1904, before Bloody Sunday. By winter, antiwar rallies and demonstrations in Polish cities had subsided a little, but after the fall of Port Arthur and especially after the execution of the peaceful procession in St. Petersburg on January 9, they flared up with renewed vigor. Many Polish parties demanded not only independence, but also the overthrow of the monarchy.


It’s hard enough to recognize Józef Pilsudski in this 1899 photograph

However, the leaders were mostly moderate politicians, primarily from the “endeia” – the National Democratic Party. For a long time this party held a tough anti-Russian position, considering even aggressive Germanization as a lesser evil in comparison with the “tsarist oppression.” However, in the days of the first Russian revolution, the leader of the Endeia Roman Dmowski made an unexpected turn, believing that the unification of the Slavic Polish lands could only be carried out by Russia. The politician hoped that she would immediately make concessions to the Poles and even autonomy.

Later, Dmovsky became a deputy of the State Duma of the second and third convocations, and outlined his ideas in the program book “Germany, Russia and the Polish Question”, where he wrote the following:

“Given such an international situation, it is clear for Polish society that if it is threatened in the future by the loss of national existence, it will not come from Russia, but from Germany.”

Emperor Nicholas II liked this so much that he subsequently declared the “re-creation of an integral Poland” one of the main goals of Russia in the world war. “Whole”, of course, under the scepter of the Romanovs.


Roman Dmovsky: either Russophobe or Russophile

Meanwhile, it was Dmovsky who was originally one of the ideologues of the fight against Russification by all possible means. According to him:

“Russian domination has already shown what it can do with the greatest oppression and far-reaching means of Russification. These means could not, even to a small extent, reduce the separateness and national independence of the Poles, did not even partially introduce the Polish element into the Russian organism, and if they caused enormous damage to Polish society, then only in the sense of delaying cultural progress by destroying Polish age-old work, weakening the bonds of social organization and the resulting moral savagery of entire strata of the population. “

Another thing is that the leadership qualities of such a politician were quite in demand in the Russian decorative parliament – the Duma, but not in revolutionary battles. The Polish workers and peasants still picked up the strike movement in the autumn of 1905, but, unlike the Moscow proletariat, after the manifesto of October 17 (30), their activity quickly faded away.

A characteristic sign that the revolution “in Polish” ended in 1905 with virtually nothing is the fact that almost all active politicians of the western provinces of Russia were successfully elected to the State Duma of the first convocation. Except for the irreconcilable Pilsudski, who simply boycotted the Russian elections and … the leader of the NDP Dmowski. The emperor himself had not yet had time to “evaluate” the first of the endeks, but, most likely, later he did, and nothing stopped the election of a rather popular politician.


They are called the fathers of Polish independence. Jozef Pilsudski and Roman Dmowski

Meanwhile, the “elected” from the western provinces formed a special Polish colo in the Duma, in which at first there were 33 deputies, in the second convocation – already 45. Only then, after the dispersal of the second Duma, the tsarist government, at the cost of colossal bureaucratic efforts, managed to “cut” the Polish colo Dumas of the III and IV convocations of up to 11 and even 9 deputies.

Interestingly, the State Council of Russia also had a small Polish colo, but among its members, no one was able to compete with the same Jozef Pilsudski. However, until World War II and Pilsudski, by and large, only the shooters themselves, his future legionnaires, knew well.

“Fierce” revolutionaries

(Luty is Polish for February.)

The February 1917 “call” of the Polish revolutionaries can hardly be seriously compared with the heroes of the October Revolution and the Civil War, led by Iron Felix – Dzerzhinsky. However, unlike the 1905 revolution, when the activity of the Poles was mainly limited to Poland, many “heroes” of this nationality managed to prove themselves in the Petrograd events.

And although today their names are known only to specialists, it is simply necessary to recall some of their deeds. Already because, if only because it is often too obvious both in deeds and in words, a very special Polish specificity. To begin with, we note that the members of the Polish colo entered the notorious Provisional Committee of the State Duma, which, even before the abdication of Nicholas II, showed its readiness to assume full power in Russia.

From the composition of the Provisional Duma Committee was the nominated Polish leader, who can hardly be called informal – 50-year-old Alexander Lednitsky. This gentleman, a nobleman from near Minsk, a brilliant orator, but a rather modest lawyer, could hardly compete in popularity with Pilsudski or Dmowski in those days. But first of all, on the night of March 1, the chairman of the Duma, Mikhail Rodzianko, personally sent the Pole Lednitsky to the capital – to report on the revolutionary events in Petrograd.


Mr. lawyer Alexander Lednitsky

When it became clear that things were steadily moving towards the fact that the Provisional Government would give Poland even autonomy, and independence, Lednitsky headed the Duma commission – a liquidation commission for the affairs of the Kingdom of Poland. As you can see, feeling himself omnipotent, Lednitsky even refuses to recognize the Polish National Committee, which has settled in Paris, headed by the same Dmowsky.

The affairs of the “liquidators” were moving forward slowly – the independence of the occupied territories is easy to declare, but difficult to implement. The Bolsheviks, having come to power, took for granted the appointment of Lednicki as a representative of the Regency Council of the bastard Polish kingdom. Let us recall that in 1916 it was hastily concocted on the Polish lands of the Russian Empire by the Austro-German occupation authorities.

And soon the Leninist Council of People’s Commissars decided to expel Lednitsky from Russia, putting an end to his political career. It’s a paradox, but he was not accepted as one of the leaders both in Warsaw and in Paris – they considered him too “Russian”. Lednicki ended up badly in general – during the reign of Pilsudski, he became involved in financial scams and committed suicide in 1934.

In addition to Lednicki, it was mainly Poles who were able to distinguish themselves in the February days with a smaller caliber. So, a group of soldiers of the Volyn regiment, which arrested the Germanophile Prime Minister Sturmer, was assigned to lead a Pole – Lieutenant Szymansky, which can hardly be considered an accident. Another officer of the same regiment, Yablonski, became the commander of a detachment that cleared the printing house of the newspaper Kopeyka for the publication of Izvestia of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers ‘and Soldiers’ Deputies.

Among the military columns marching with red bows in front of the Tauride Palace, where the Duma sat, one of the first was the column of the Life Guards Jäger Regiment, and it was commanded by a member of the PPS (Jozef Pilsudski, on the other side of the front) Ensign V. Matushevsky. The Tavrichesky Palace itself was guarded by detachments under the command of Lieutenant A. Skobeiko, again a Pole.

Surprisingly, in those days, many Russian politicians seriously believed that revolutionary Poles would not even think about stuttering about independence now. Thus, a subordinate of Milyukov from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, head of the legal department, Baron Nolde, said directly: “Poland does not need independence. Better give them lancers, uniforms and other tinsel. ” But perhaps the first statement Miliukov made as minister was the promise of at least autonomy for Finland and … Poland.

However, almost all Poles, one way or another involved in military affairs, counted on the operational formation of an independent Polish army. Even as part of the Russian, no longer imperial, army. Negotiations will be held on this with the next interim Prime Minister Kerensky, and the participants of the congress of Poles-servicemen in Petrograd will also discuss this.

“The creation of a Polish army can help your freedom and ours.” So in May 1917, the indefatigable B. Matushevsky, the namesake of a warrant officer from the Life Jägers, who, back in 1915, literally pushed the idea of ​​Polish legions into the Russian army, convinced his Russian listeners. As you know, the matter with the legions had stalled, and by 1920 in the new Poland they had completely forgotten both “our” and “your” freedom.

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