Suwałki Agreement - Background

Background

In the aftermath of World War I both Poland and Lithuania gained independence, but borders in the region were not established. The most contentious issue was Vilnius (Wilno), historical capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a population, according to the 1916 German census, divided about evenly between Jews and Poles, but with only a 2–3% Lithuanian minority. The Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty, signed in July 1920 between Lithuania and the Russian SFSR, drew the eastern border of Lithuania. Russia recognized large territories, including the Vilnius and Suwałki Regions, as belonging to Lithuania. That month, during the Polish–Soviet War, the Red Army pushed Polish forces from the contested territories, including Vilnius. In the meantime, Lithuanians secured some other areas abandonened by the Polish army, such as the town of Suwałki. On August 6, Lithuania and Soviet Russia signed a convention regarding withdrawal of Russian troops from the recognized Lithuanian territory. However there were indications that the Soviets planned a coup against the Lithuanian government in hopes of re-establishing the Lithuanian SSR. The Soviet troops began to retreat only after the Red Army suffered a heavy defeat in Poland at the Battle of Warsaw in mid-August.

The Polish Army pushed back and came in contact with the Lithuanians in the contested Suwałki Region. The diplomatic negotiations broke down. The Lithuanians claimed to be defending their borders, while Poland did not recognize the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty and claimed that the Lithuanians had no rights to these territories. Poland also accused the Lithuanians of collaborating with the Soviets and thus violating the declared neutrality in the Polish–Soviet War. In the ensuing hostilities, the towns of Suwałki, Sejny, and Augustów changed hands frequently. The diplomatic struggle, both directly between the two states and in the League of Nations, intensified.

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