Lenin’s Valentine’s Day: Piłsudski Stops Communism

by Julia Owerko

No matter how lonely you feel on Valentine’s Day, remember that 100 years ago, on the very land that you now call home, soldiers were being conscripted into one of the most significant wars of Europe’s history. 

A Love Triangle with Ukraine

The war originally erupted over the territory for Ukraine. The Polish, led by the famous military leader Józef Piłsudski, fought the Soviets in a classic battle of expansionists. The war was bound to happen, as Piłsudski was expanding east and the Soviet Union had long had its eyes set on spreading its communist ideology. In 1919 Poland successfully took control over much of West Ukraine. Vladimir Lenin saw Poland as a gateway to Western Europe and a great starting point to expand communism and dominate all of Europe. 

Lenin’s Summer Love

This war is most famous for its Battle of Warsaw often referred to in Polish as “The Miracle of the Vistula” – “Cud nad Wisłą”. By August, the Red Army were clearly winning. On August 13 the Battle of Warsaw began. Having little to no chances to win, the Polish army defied all odds on August 16 and pushed the Soviet army east in panic. Vladimir Lenin himself called the failure “an enormous defeat”. The Soviets celebrated too soon. 

Communists’ Broken Hearts

The Battle of Warsaw is regarded as a pivotal moment in stopping the spread of communism. If the Soviets had defeated the Poles, a communist state would have been formed out of Poland. This meant that the Communist Soviet Union would have direct access to Germany, which at the time was ruled by socialist uprisings and a disarray of political parties – heaven for a rising authoritarian ideology. Thus, defending Poland was a key event that created a border between communism and the rest of Europe. With Lenin’s declining health, the Soviet Communist Party was moving towards maintaining socialism in one country – a policy introduced by a newcomer to the Politburo, Joseph Stalin.

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