Vilnius Captured Beginning the Victory of Lithuania Over Soviet Russia

Celebrating the Ninety Fourth Anniversary of the Liberation of Vilnius

Germany lost the First World War and signed the Armistice of Compiègne on November 11, 1918.  Lithuanians quickly formed their first government, led by Augustinas Voldemaras, adopted a provisional constitution, and started organizing basic administrative structures.  As the defeated German army was withdrawing from the Eastern Front, it was followed by the Soviet forces, whose intention was tospread the global proletarian revolution. They created a number of puppet states, including the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.

By the end of December the Red Army reached Lithuanian borders, starting the Lithuanian–Soviet War. The Lithuanian government evacuated from Vilnius to Kaunas, the temporary capital of Lithuania. Vilnius was captured on January 5, 1919. As the Lithuanian army was in its infant stages, the Soviet forces moved largely unopposed and by mid-January 1919 controlled about ⅔ of the Lithuanian territory. From April 1919 the Lithuanian war went parallel with the Polish–Soviet War. Poland had territorial claims over Lithuania, especially the Vilnius Region, and these tensions spilled over into the Polish–Lithuanian War.  In mid-May the Lithuanian army, commanded by General Silvestras Žukauskas, began an offensive against the Soviets in northeastern Lithuania.

By the end of August 1919, the Soviets were pushed out of the Lithuanian territory. When the Soviets were defeated, Lithuanian army was deployed against the paramilitary West Russian Volunteer Army, who invaded northern Lithuania.  They were rouse German and Russian soldiers who sought to retain German control over the former Ober Ost. West Russian Volunteers were defeated and pushed out by the end of 1919. Thus the first phase of the Lithuanian Wars of Independence was over and Lithuanians could direct attention to internal affairs.

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Californicated1 January 06, 2013 at 11:11 PM
The only reason that Žukauskas was able to mount that offensive was that he was safely protected by what General Pilsudski set up for Poland. And Lithuania could never get its capital back until Rokosovsky's units mopped up the remaining German units in Courland in 1945 and -46, when the Polish eastern border was re-adjusted yet again to its current boundaries, where the western Ukraine and eastern Lithuania were part of the Poland that Paderewski and Pilsudski put together after winning the battle of Warsaw against Trotsky's Red Armies. The Poles argued that they had just as much a right to Wilno as the Lithuanians, because of the merger of the Ancient Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which forever tied their fates until 1917, when the Germans decided to allow the Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians to set up their own autonomous territories under German suzerainity and even under Hohenzollern princes, but with the Germans taking the Ukraine from the Tsar and the burdens of holding that while Russia was falling apart from inside compelled the Germans to give the Letts, Lithuanians, Estonians and even the Poles the possibility and later on the reality of becoming independent--the strongest and most self-reliant of these being the Finns under Gustav von Mannerheim and the Poles under Paderewski and Pilsudski.
Californicated1 January 06, 2013 at 11:24 PM
The other factor that brought in an independent Lithuana minus Wilno/Vilnius in 1919 was what was happening in the Tver province east of Moscow, where the Bolsheviks were having problems trying to defeat the "White" armies of Kornilov and Wrangel, who could have easily taken Moscow. When Trotsky recognized that threat, he had to pull out a great deal of the forces in what would become Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland while Mannerheim's Finns pinned down the Red Army forces holding Petrograd. American and British forces held Murmansk and were using that port to supply Wrangel and Kornilov while British and French forces occupied Sebastopol in the Crimea to supply Deniken's forces against both the Red Army and the Ukrainian Red Army, intent on creating a Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic along the lines of what was being created in Petrograd and relocated to Moscow. This was the situation under which a Žukauskas could function, and when Pilsudski's troops repelled the red armies in Poland and drove them back beyond the Pripyet Marshes, it compelled the Soviets to seek peace here in order to divert those forces to take on Kornilov, Deniken, Wrangel and the other Tsarist/"White" factions out there who wanted to undo what the Bolsheviks put up. The Polish eastern border was futher secured through the Locarno Pact in 1922, where the Poles believed that they needed the Ukraine and Wilno as their buffer between the Soviets and themselves.


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