Thank you for the outstanding contribution “Documentation concerning the borders of the Polish Republic, 1943-1944” at
As you say, it is very comprehensive. The methodical, well-supported document is compelling confirmation that the “Curzon Line” was a sham propaganda tool used to sell the 4th partition of Poland.
The documents frequently refer to it as “the so-called Curzon Line”, demonstrating that informed Poles of the period weren't duped.
As is explained, the name “Curzon Line” originated with Lord Curzon's mysteriously untruthful telegram to the Russians July 11, 1920. From page 8 of the pdf:
"The disparity existing between the text of the declaration of the
Supreme Council ... and the telegram sent the next day by Lord Curzon to the Soviet Government ... remains unexplained. ... This discrepancy, however, originated a quite erroneus [sic] interpretation of the armistice conditions, thus creating an entirely false version of the Curzon line, which in fact did never pass through the territory of Galicia."
Text of the telegram is included, but there is no mention of maps that have been endless reproduced to the current day as “Variant A” and “Variant B” of the line. Perhaps, it being a telegram, no map was included? It would be interesting to know when and where the maps originated. Some commentators call A (which corresponds closely to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Line in the south), “the Soviet variant” but I have yet to see this interpretation least charitable to The Big Three verified. Perhaps the two lines were working documents considered by the allies in 1919-1920 but never accepted or
adopted even as suggested demarcation lines - less say, frontiers.
The telegram's text (pdf pages 12 and 13) says, “The terms of the armistice should provide on the one hand that the Polish army shall immediately withdraw to the line provisionally laid down last year by the Peace Conference as the eastern boundary within which Poland was entitled to establish a Polish administration. ... west of Ravaruska, east of Przemysl to Carpathians.”
But then it clarifies, “... in Eastern Galicia each army will stand on the line which they occupy at the date of the signature of the armistice.” At the time this was accepted by the Poles at Spa, this happened to be the Zbrucz River - which was the actual eastern border up to the time of the Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam conferences of The Big Three.
So, it appears that if the 1940s Allies had actually used the Curzon Line as adopted by the allies in 1919-20 and expressed in that
fateful Curzon telegram, it would have kept the eastern border in the south precisely where it was before the Hitler-Stalin partition.
This is explained on pdf page 149 from March 1943:
“The so-called “Curzon-Line” was never meant as a final frontier between Poland and Russia. It was born in a resolution of the Supreme Allied Council on December 8th,1919 as a temporary Eastern boundary of the area whose Polish character was considered absolutely unmistakable and it entitled the Polish Government to set up a permanent political administration within that area. This line demarcated only those territories which previously belonged to the Russian Empire, and it ended at the frontier of Galicia which before the war was a province of Austria. There is no justification for extending it further South on maps.
... Decisions on the final frontier were postponed, and the Allies fully realised that Poland was entitled to
own territories extending further to the East.
... In the first part of his telegram Lord Curzon added to the line drawn on December 8th, 1919 an additional line, the so-called “Botha Line” which partitioned Eastern Galicia between the towns of Przemysl and Lwow, thus changing decision of the Supreme Council of July 10th, 1920.”
When talking about the “legend” of the Curzon Line on pdf page 153: “The question arises - whence did Lord Curzon take the line dividing Eastern Galicia?”
pdf page 155: “The line which some would to-day like to call the Curzon Line is only the result of a technical discrepancy in the telegram of July 11th 1920.
The actual Curzon Line corresponds to the two resolutions passed by the Supreme Council on December 8th and June 25th 1919. According to this, the whole of Eastern Galicia was to remain on the Polish side of the frontier, and the demarcation of the central and
northern sectors was to run through Brzesc and Grodno.”
The Poles hit the nail squarely on the head on pdf page 158: “As a result of Soviet propaganda, the conviction that the Ribbentrop-Molotov line of 28th September, 1939 generally corresponds to the conception of the so-called Curzon Line of 1920, has been adopted by a section of British opinion. This conviction is based on a misunderstanding, as there is no territorial community between these two lines.”
At the time of writing in 1943, this applied to north as well as the south. As has been mentioned already, Stalin later agreed to leave Bialystok in Poland, accepting a border that roughly corresponded to the Curzon Line in the north. (That appears to be in exchange for taking a chunk of East Prussia, which Churchill and Roosevelt may have originally expected to go entirely to Poland as partial compensation for loss of the Kresy - but I am not clear on that
But Stalin insisted on the border in the south staying about where he had drawn it with Hitler. Molotov's suggestion that it be renamed to Curzon Line A was happily endorsed by Churchill and Roosevelt, who would otherwise have more explaining to do at home, but no evidence has come up to show that it was ever a Curzon Line. Hence, the Polish contention stands, that “there is no territorial community between these two lines.”
The documents also show that the Soviets were very eager to get international agreement for their territorial expansion, which was demonstrably contrary to international law. That gave the Western Allies a lever that they used only sparingly, such as on Bialystok, and strains the contention that “there was nothing they could do.”
But that is another topic for another time.
Something else that may merit further discussion based on these documents is
the status of the Kresy after 1939, particularly on June 22, 1941 when so many Western historians and others falsely assert that “Hitler invaded Russia” or words to that effect. These papers consistently and accurately maintain that the territories remained part of Poland notwithstanding the German-Soviet partition and respective annexations. The Soviets were merely occupiers from September 1939 to June 1941, just as the Germans were occupiers after June 1941.
Again, another topic for another time.
It is very helpful to have these documents verifying so many Polish perspectives on the Kresy, Mark. Thanks again for sharing them.
Sault Ste Marie, Canada