Talk:Soviet westward offensive of 1918–1919

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Start date[edit]

On November 18, 1918, he issued orders to the Red Army to start an operation code-named Target-Vistula.

Wrong date. Main problems of Russia at these times were Southern fronts of Civil War: Kolchak, etc. Also, I've never seen this "code name". Mikkalai

That's the date I encountered in some of my sources. I'll have to cross-check it with Piłsudski, Przybylski, Pruszyński or some other historian of the war. Probably the place to search would be the Direktivy Komandirovanya Krassnoy Armii (1917-1920) and Direktivy Komandirovanya Frontov Krassnoy Armii (1917-1920), though I don't know if those could be found in Warsaw. I'd have to check at the Central Military Library.
However, the date seems credible. After November 11 the Germans started a retreat from the east. The chaos that started could be seen as quite a good opportunity to try to seize the areas formerly occupied by Germany in the effect of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Halibutt 10:32, Jan 13, 2005 (UTC)


At these times, Western front was called "Western Screen" (Западная завеса), against germans. I.e., its activity was mostly passive. What is more, some regiments were moved from West to South and East. Mikkalai 08:37, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)

No wonder why: there was no war between Germany and the Reds back then. I've read some sources that report some minor clashes between the Reds and the German garrisons, but the Russo-German border was mostly peaceful. Both Russia and Germany had too many own problems prior to November 11 to start a full-scale war once again. However, the situation changed completely after the end of WWI, re-establishment of Poland and the German disorganised withdrawal eastwards. Halibutt 10:32, Jan 13, 2005 (UTC)

In particular, Czech Legion was pain in the ass. Mikkalai 08:37, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Poles also put their 5 kopeks there - see the article on Polish 5th Rifle Division :) Halibutt

Red's commander?[edit]

"Vladimir Lenin" as "commander" in the table is dubious. Military was Leon Trotsky Mikkalai 08:42, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I put him as a place-holder for an actual leader. Perhaps Trotsky could be better, but as a matter of fact from what I read it seems that there was no local front commander nor there was any front involved. It was more of a centrally-directed order to "go west and grab what you can" carried over by local commanders. I'll have to check that. Halibutt 10:32, Jan 13, 2005 (UTC)
Taking my words back. On November 30, VTsIK (All-Russian Central Executive Committee) created Council of Workers' and Peasants' Defense, headed by Lenin. Mikkalai 03:57, 14 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Ńo problem. As I said, both of them seem equally good (or equally bad, for that matter) since (as described in the article) apparently it was not an offensive in the modern sense of the word. No staffs working on it for months, no sophisticated logistics, no front commanders, not even fronts themselves in the strict meaning. All of these were still forming, both for the Red Army under reorganisation from a loose federation of armed bands, partisan units, deserteurs from white armies and other such units and the Polish army - also under construction and in similar shape. Perhaps I'll have some time tomorow to cross-check the data posted here with some PBW monography. Unfortunately I lent my Rok 1920 and White Eagle, Red Star to one of my friends and I don't have them at hand. Halibutt 19:25, Jan 14, 2005 (UTC)

Best choice is probably Jukums Vācietis who was commander-in-chief soviet military during that time.--Staberinde 11:12, 6 November 2006 (UTC)[reply]


Unfortunately, I am not a historian, but the above and other details make me to believe that the article is based on sources of dubious credibility. I am falling asleep right now, so I will not add any more. Mikkalai 08:45, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Do you have any sources at hand that could prove it right or wrong? Halibutt 10:32, Jan 13, 2005 (UTC)
I am merely raising my doubts. If I had sources, I'd do some edits. The problem is that the word "Visla" in Soviet titles and slogans I've seed was either Operation Visla, or tukhachevski's "Za Vislu!" (and his book "Pohod za Vislu"). I wil try to search more. But nowhere I see something like "Цель - Висла". Mikkalai

"Operation Visla" is a missing article about the deportation of thousands of Ukrainians from Poland in 1947. Mikkalai 16:31, 13 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Mikkalai, why did you instert the 'disputed' POV notice into the article? Raising one's doubt is good but without any hard sources to the contraty it does not really constitue a basis for a 'disputed POV' tag, I would think. And it would help if you would actually present your objections - what *exactly* do you find 'disputed' here?--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus 11:28, 14 Jan 2005 (UTC)
According to Davies (and I tend to agree with him) it was less of Soviet attack then a gigantic free-for-all. The Soviets just moved first and were more organised. I hope I clarified this in the text. Can we remove the POV tag now? --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 21:55, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
The dispute is about the very term. I still don't see confirmation that the term was in use. I still stand that this is a later invention, an interference with Tukhachevski's book title. Mikkalai 00:57, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
The term is used by N.Davies in his 'White eagle, red star' book. In the relevant paragraph he gives source: Direktiwy Glawnego Komandowanija Krasnoj Armii 1917-1920, Zbiór dokumentów, Moskawa 1969, nr 133. Perhaps you could get a hold of them? Davies writes that this was the contemporary codename of the operation, although he doubts the Vistula goal was realistic, it was more of a propaganda name. The actuall military orders don't mention Vistula - first from 16.11.1918 gave Połock, Borysow and Homl, second from 10.12.1918 Wilno, Lida and Mozyrz, I believe I wrote about laters (to Bug) in the article text. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 11:35, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I've already reported (see #Rename section below) that I laid my hands on the "directives". Nothing even close. No any name whatsoever for what was happening at this time. They were just moving outwards along an enormously wide front stretched from Baltics to Black Sea (and at the same time fighting on the "eastern" front, i.e., on the east side of bolshevist russia) Tomorrow I will look into the Davies' book to see what exactly he says. Mikkalai 03:19, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC)
He mentions it in the begining, and as a sidenote - you wrote that you looked into Directives (1917-1922) while Davies gives (1917-1920). Perhaps they are two separate documents? --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 10:04, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Others "Vistula"[edit]

Indeed the article on Action Vistula (Akcja Wisła) is missing, I'll try to fix that in my free time. Note that the difference in naming was actually on purpose. Since the commies officially stated that the infamous action against the civilians and UPA soldiers in the Beskides was not a military operation but a police action. Hence the name Akcja (reserved for administrative actions) was used and not the word Operacja that belongs to military vocabulary. But this obviously OT here. Halibutt 16:43, Jan 13, 2005 (UTC)

Actually, please keep in mind that there are already several redlinks to Wisla Action. Mikkalai

civil war was nearing an end. False. Nowhere near. E.g., by the end of November British (in Novorossiysk) and French (in Odessa, Sevastopol) intervention started. Siberia was in flames, &c., &c. Mikkalai 04:23, 14 Jan 2005 (UTC)

German revoluton[edit]

I think that this phrase is wrong 'Upon the news about the German Revolution, on 13 November 1918' - not the date, but the first part. From German Revolution: The German Revolution describes a series of events that occurred in 1918-1919... no single political party led the rebellion.... The GR was made of several separate events and not all sides were pro-Bolshevik, but the current sentence makes it look like it was a single pro-Bolshevik event. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus 11:28, 14 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I may be wrong here. I am not a historian and don't keep the timeline in my head. Still, I don't see how one an arrive to a conclusion about "Pro-Bolshevik". Revolutions are usually "against" something, not "pro". Lenin would gladly embrace news about any revolution against "capitalists". I delberately made the phrasing cautious: "news about...", in the hope that someone later will fill the factual data (or delete the piece). Mikkalai 16:53, 14 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I guess this was but what I call a mental shortcut. We all understood the true meaning and the wording seems fine to me. If it can be changed for something better - no problem either. Halibutt 18:24, Jan 14, 2005 (UTC)


I tried hard. I'm afraid the name is the result of some confusion, coming from the title of the book by tukhachevski "Поход за Вислу" about his adventure.

  • М. Тухачевский. Поход за Вислу (printed in 1923)
  • "Michail Tuchaczewski. Pochod za Wisle. Wydawnictwo Lodzk. 1989"

There are no traces of the term "Target Vistula" used by Russians. The article must be renamed until any confirmation will be found. I suggest into something like Initial Red Army offensives westwards. Like I already said, it was just move on German backs West, North-West & South-West. Any other name suggestions? Mikkalai 07:46, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Sorry, I had an exam yesterday and had no time to check with Piłsudski's Rok 1920 (nor with Tukhachevski's book, which I haven't read). Have you got any of those books at hand? And as I said, the name is mentioned by Davies, and the guy didn't seem confused to me... Any ideas? Anyway, I'd wait with the article move until confirmation of either version appears. Halibutt 09:06, Jan 21, 2005 (UTC)
Tuchaczewski's book is useless in the discussion of the term (only its name is a hint to a possible confusion). It is available online in Russian. It starts from 1920, Polish Kiev offensive. Before that date he was at other fronts. In fact, the whole works of tukhachevski are online. Mikkalai 09:33, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I see. I'll try to get to the Central Military Library tomorrow to check with Piłsudski and perhaps the Rytm monographies (they published all Polish documents related to the Russo-Polish War, in a series of some 1000 pages long collections of orders, reports, intelligence news, leaflets and almost any other document they saw as relevant. Sadly, there's no such collection of documents from the Russian side available. They published similar collection shortly after the war and, what's quite surprising, they made it available to historians back in the late 1920's, but AFAICT it's only available through some major libraries in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
Anyway, could you post a link to Tukhachevski's memoirs? I speak Russian and it would be quite funny to read his book as bed-time story :)

--Halibutt 09:54, Jan 21, 2005 (UTC) Beware, the connection is unstable.

Also, I've looked thru all "Директивы командования фронтов Кр. Армии (1917-22)", and there is no slightest hint about plans westwards beyond liberation of belarus and ukraine before 1919. Mikkalai 10:18, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Except the name, are there any other factual errors you see in the article, based on the sources you have? And while I have *no* sources about the name - and thus I abstan from the discussion - I'd just like to point out that lack of sources one can find does not equal sources that disprove given facts. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus 12:00, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)

You got it upside down buddy. Remember a say about finding a black cat in a dark room, especially if it is not there? BTW, I am not disputing facts now (I've already fixed some wrong facts it the text). I am disputing the very "code name", which is mysteriously disappeared from all Russian sources (and English, too). So, I am giving you 10 days of doubt and then move the page, it order not to propagate possible misinformation, as have already happened several times, due to high visibility of wikipedia on net. (And this is also reason to be careful with facts).

I spent quite a bit of time researching, and I see that in 1918 Bolsheviks had over the head of their own troubles to think about helping World Revolution. Its own Red Army was barely created and very unstable. Bolshevik Russia was but a tiny patch within the former Russian Empire. Foreign intervention from North (Murmansk), South (Odessa, Sevastopol) and East (Japanese), Czech Legion right in the middle,...etc. Economic disaster, lack of food. 1919 was narrow recovery, not without the help of White Movement (not kidding). Everyone likes to shout about how these Bolsheviks were robbing poor peasants, while forgetting that White armies robbed for good as well: they have to feed themselves, big surprise. Oh, yeah, they paid. With paper money. That was a serious reason of the defeat of whites: lack of local support. Mikkalai 19:23, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Mikkalai is right. I added the information on the Western Army strenght - or weakness, rather :) - to its article. Over 90% of Soviet forces fought in the Civil War, and the Polish front was, well, non-existent - nobody planned for a war with Poland in the first place. But there is one point to remember: while it looks weak compared to anything that came later, it was better then anything Ukrainians and Bielorusians had - and anything Poland had until several months later... Thus the relatively weak and unimportant 16th Army advanced west, on Kresy and took Wilno, which Poles (remember Pilsudski was born in Wilno...) couldn't take. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 11:40, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)


Piotrus added recently the following: It was only a matter of luck that Soviet begun organised advance to secure the chaotic territories left in the wake of the German retreat before the Polish forces were able to organise and start a move of their own.. Seems fine with me, but there's an interesting question here. Several of the areas were handed over to the Polish Army by the local commanders of the German Ober-Ost Armee, most notably the city of Grodno and several other areas to the south of it. From other areas the Germans simply withdrew and left them to their fate. Did the Germans sign any aggreements with the Reds as well? Were there any territories handed over to the Bolsheviks, or were they simply capturing the abandoned lands? Halibutt 15:51, Apr 5, 2005 (UTC)

According to Davies there have been almost no cooperation between Germans and Poles or Bolshevicks until Bolshevicks took Wilno and local German garrisons run away, which annoyed German commander, who on 5th February finally signed some agreements with Poles. On the other hand, I believe there must have been some other agreements between Germans and Poles, but likely nothing of significance to the Ober-Ost area. And I have no information on any German-Soviet treaties after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (and it was more German-still Russian anyway, I think - and wasn't it eventually discarded by Bolsheviks entirely?). So I get impression that yes, Bolsheviks (and Poles, for that matter) were capturing abandoned lands - or rather anarchy lands, as there have been various tiny Polish/Ukrainian/Blelorsian/Soviet/White Russian/Cossack/Lithuanian/others militias and governments squabbling over the power vaccum left by the Germans. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 16:34, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Well, this is mostly true, but the example of Grodno (after all the second/third biggest city in the area) made me think that the Ober-Ost commanders perhaps tried to find some modus vivendi with the Russians as well (just like they did with the Belarusians, Ukrainians and Poles). Halibutt 21:37, Apr 5, 2005 (UTC)

Page move[edit]

I renamed it to "Russian westward offensive of 1918-1919", since I finally laid my hand at the book of Norman Davies and checked the references. His references are correctly described in the text in terms of dates and events, with one exception: not even a hint what could have ben (mis)interpreted as "Target Wistula". In general, I find the book well balanced, bearing in mind it was written duriong the Cold War. However it has some minor errors in some details, understandable for a non-Russian person. (E.g., in one place he ascrbies Pskov to Baltic states; I know why.)

I thoroughly checked two main sources discussed here:


I understand that my article title is not the best possible, but at least it is correct. If you have any other suggestions, please let us discuss them here first. Mikkalai 02:48, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Well, it would be interesting to find out more about Davies sources for this. IIRC he bases his analysis on the title, so it doesn't look like he invented it. But as long as we can't find a better source, I don't mind the current title (with Target Vistula redirect). Although I think we should add a note in article body that such and such codename was used by Davies. Ah, I see you thought of everything. Great. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 08:18, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I checked with Piłsudski's Rok 1920, but he starts his book with the first battle of Berezyna and does not mention the earlier stages. On the other hand, in the last issue of the Mówią wieki, one of Poland's most respected history journals, there is a set of essays and articles on various topics related to the P-BW and several authors mention the offensive. However, the name they used is - tadaaa! - Tarcza Wisła, which could be roughly translated as Vistula Shield or Shield Vistula. Any ideas? Halibutt 19:54, 23 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Well, for startes, we can add bibliographical information from that journal to that article :) --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 20:16, 23 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Estonia and Latvia forgotten?[edit]

Article seems to be dealing mainly only with fighting south from Lithuania but red army also attacked countries like Estonia and Latvia at that time (Estonian Liberation War). Estonia started counter-offensive aganist red army already in january 1919 before first clashes between soviets and poles even started.--Staberinde 11:22, 6 November 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Wisla again[edit]

Piotrus, we have already wasted huge amount of time on this. I personally checked Red Army documents and Lenin words for this period. There was no "Operacia Visla" or something similar in Soviet documents. Polish Encyclopedia you quote gives invalid date. Polish guy gives no references at all where he gor this word. He just as well may have heard about Operation Vistula, only had no idea which one. You cannot write encyclopedia on such shaky grounds. `'Míkka 20:53, 14 August 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Per my reply at User_talk:Mikkalai#Lenin_on_November_1918: our goal is not to determine which publications and scholars have made errors and which hadn't. We have agreed that only a few publications use the "Target/Operation Vistula" codename and moved the article. The fact that one Polish encyclopedia gives the name and mentions "Lenin's order from Nov 18 1918" in connection is reliable, although the formulation of that article doesn't necessarily mean that his order mentioned such a codename: it simply states that on that day, Lenin gave an order that resulted in the Bolshevik troops moving eastward. Of course it would be not suprising if some were moving earlier, the times were quite chaotic. What do you find so controversial?-- Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus | talk  00:29, 15 August 2007 (UTC)[reply]
Our goal is to provide correct information in the first place. In the second place it must be base in reliable sources. If the source does not give any reference to the document, this information cannot be reliable. YOu even don't knoww who wrote this article. "on that day, Lenin gave an order that resulted in the Bolshevik troops moving eastward." is plain false statement. I already wrote, but you seem to hear only yourself and I have to repeat several times: On 18th they were already walking fast. They were slowly moving forward soon after November 5, whe Germany denounced the treaty and started packing their bags. Some text was already in the VTsIK Decree of November 13th about Soviet denouncing of the Brest Treaty. It definitely has some paragraph about establishing Soviet power in German-occupied areas. I remember something about German Soldier Councils (Soviets) of Deputies cooperating with local Worker's and Peasants' Councils of Deputies, but I cannot get hold on the original text now. `'Míkka 00:40, 15 August 2007 (UTC)[reply]


I am somewhat unsure that the outcome may be descrived as "defeat", which word is associated with total failure which was certainly not: Bolsheviks did expand for significant amount beyont they were squeezed. In any case, any judgement of the outcome must be based on solid refences. Marting, please provide them. - 7-bubёn >t 16:20, 25 February 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Until we have a solid source for the scope of the offensive, we won't have a representation of defeat or victory here. --Erikupoeg (talk) 22:17, 25 February 2009 (UTC)[reply]

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Which names of towns should be used?[edit]

Vilna, Lida, Baranowicze and Luninets is a mixture.Xx236 (talk) 10:36, 26 May 2017 (UTC)[reply]