- March 15, 2013
The 90th anniversary of the granting of The Vilnius Region to Poland
No grand commemoration, both in Lithuania and Poland, accompanied the 90th anniversary of the international recognition of the annexation of the Vilnius Region (formally – the Middle Lithuania) to the territory of the Second Polish Republic. On 15th March 1923 in Paris, the additional protocol to the Treaty of Versailles was signed under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of France, Raymond Poincaré, which approved ultimately the eastern border of the Second Polish Republic and thereby, it recognized the belonging of Vilnius and Lviv to Poland.
The Conference of Ambassadors of the Entente (with representatives of Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan) decided to introduce the changes to the Treaty of Versailles. Regarding the Lviv Region (Eastern Galicia), apart from the official recognition of it as a part of the Second Polish Republic it was suggested that Poland should ‘recognize introducing autonomy there as necessary’ on the account of large Ukrainian minority. On the matter of the Vilnius Region (so-called Middle Lithuania), the Conference recognized the Polish-Lithuanian border demarcated in early February 1923 on the basis of a demarcation line.
The Middle Lithuania was incorporated into the Second Polish Republic on 18th April 1922 on the basis of the resolution of Vilnius Sejm, during which the majority of the Middle Lithuania dwellers determined the incorporation of its territory into Poland. Shortly afterwards, the Wilno Voivodeship came into existence on the territory of the Vilnius Region dominated by the Poles (60 per cent of total population).
The representatives of Lithuania and the USSR disagreed with the decision taken by the Conference of Ambassadors. The protest of the authorities of those countries that did not accept the decision of the Conference of Ambassadors was not avoided. Some of the Lithuanian historians find the decision of the representatives of the Entente illegal from a point of view of the international law to this day. However, it does not change the fact that the question of affiliation of Vilnius and Lviv stopped being considered on the international arena. The decision in Poland’s favour was influenced by good relations between the country and France counting on the support in the matter of the occupation of the Ruhr, and also with Benito Mussolini’s Italy with its representative in the Conference of Ambassadors in February 1923 who made a proposal to recognize the eastern border of the Second Polish Republic. The positive decision for Poland in the Vilnius dispute was also dictated by the Lithuanian occupation of Klaipėda (Memel) which was supposed to remain a free city (just like Gdańsk)
The recognition of the Vilnius Region and Eastern Galicia as a part of the Second Polish Republic territory by the Conference of Ambassadors of the Entente was treated in Poland as the success of Polish diplomacy and as the historical justice – Poland was granted with what she had deserved. ‘The resolution of the Conference of Ambassadors makes a crowning achievement in the act of the resurrection of independent Poland, (…) it states the facts well-known to all Poles and dear so much to a Polish heart, because they were paid with Polish blood; it states that Polish Vilnius, snatched from barbarity twice with the effort of our soldier, belongs forever to the Motherland, also from the international position; it states that the ancient Polish Lviv together with the eastern Lesser Poland, defended with our sons’ own bodies, will share with the Polish country in trials and heydays forever and ever’ – said General Władysław Sikorski, acting as the Prime Minister, during the special meeting of the Sejm on 16th March 1923.
Based on: dzieje.pl, wikipedia.pl, wiadomosci.gazeta.pl
Tłumaczenie Barbara Rożek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Barbara Rożek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.