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|President of the Belarusian Provisional Government|
12 November 1920 – 28 November 1920
|Preceded by||Piotra Krečeŭski (in exile)|
|Succeeded by||Piotra Krečeŭski (in exile)|
10 February 1883|
Meyshty, Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire
10 May 1940 (aged 57)|
Warsaw, General Government
Belarusian People's Republic
Imperial Russian Army|
Belarusian National Army
Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz (Belarusian: Станіслаў Булак-Балаховіч, Russian: Станисла́в Була́к-Балахо́вич; 12 November 1883 – 28 November 1940) was a notable general, military commander and veteran of World War I, Russian Civil War, Estonian War of Independence, Polish-Bolshevik War and the Invasion of Poland at the start of World War II.
Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz was born 10 February 1883 in Meyszty, a small village in the Kovno Governorate of the Russian Empire (now Braslaw Raion in Belarus). Stanisław had two brothers and six sisters. His parents were servants to a local landlord of Belarusian ethnicity.
Following Stanisław' birth, his father left the landlord's service and acquired a small estate in Stakavievo near Vilnius.
After attending an agricultural school for four years in Belmonty, Bułak-Bałachowicz worked as an accountant, and in 1904 became a manager at the Count Plater's estates in Horodziec and Łużki.
At the time, he had a reputation as a defender of the less fortunate and was often an arbitrator in disputes between the farmers and their landlord. As a result of these activities he acquired the nickname "Daddy" (Bat'ka). His other nickname—"Bulak"— became part of his surname. It means a man who is driven by the wind in the Belarusian language.
World War I
After the outbreak of World War I and Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich Romanov's address to the Polish people, Bułak-Bałachowicz joined the Russian Imperial army. As a person of noble roots, he was drafted as an ensign to the 2nd Leyb-Courland Infantry Regiment. However, unlike many of his colleagues who were awarded the basic NCO grades for their noble ancestry only, Bułak-Bałachowicz proved himself as a skilled field commander and was quickly promoted. By December 1914, only four months after he entered the army, he was given command over a group of Cossack volunteers, of whom he formed a cavalry squadron. Together with the 2nd Cavalry Division he fought on the western front, most notably in the area of Sochaczew near Warsaw.
On November 1915, Bułak-Bałachowicz was assigned to the special partisan regiment in Northern front headquarters as a squadron commander. His regiment under the command of colonel Punin L. was acting in the Riga area. For their audacious actions partisans were nicknamed "deathknights".
His unit was formed of four cavalry platoons: one of Cossack light cavalry, one of hussars, one of uhlans and one of dragoons. Thanks to the versatile and flexible structure of his unit, Bułak-Bałachowicz managed to continue the fight behind the enemy lines until 1918.
For the German campaign Bułak-Bałachowicz was decorated with six orders and three soldier's Georgiev medals (2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree).
Russian Civil War
On 5 March 1918, unaware of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed only two days before, the unit commanded by Bułak-Bałachowicz got engaged in a skirmish against a German unit near the village of Smolova. Although the enemy unit was severely defeated, forced to retreat and abandon its staff behind, Bułak-Bałachowicz was seriously wounded after being shot in the left lung. Transported to Saint Petersburg, Bułak-Bałachowicz quickly recovered and rejoined with his brother, Józef Bułak-Bałachowicz. The latter got involved in the creation of a Polish cavalry detachment commanded by ensign Przysiecki. The Bolsheviks disbanded the unit soon after its formation, executed its commander and started to persecute its members. However, with a help of French military mission a Polish cavalry detachment was finally created and Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz became its commander. The new unit received Leon Trotsky's recognition and was soon reinforced with non-Polish volunteers from all over Russia and was planned as a cavalry division of the Red Army.
Soon after its creation, Bułak-Bałachowicz was ordered to quell the so-called Baron Korff Revolt in the area of the city of Luga. With his regiment (the unit was still not completely formed) he reached the area and pacified the peasant unrest without the use of force. He was immediately called in to Saint Petersburg by his superiors, but was afraid of being arrested. Because of that, Bułak-Bałachowicz with his cavalry regiment deserted and moved across the Bolshevik lines to the area of Pskov, held by the joint forces of White Russian Northern Army and various German anti-Bolshevik units. Initially the unit fought against the Reds on the White side, but soon conflicts with the German officials arose and Bułak-Bałachowicz had to switch sides yet again. Together with his battle-hardened unit he disarmed the German units surrounding him and broke to the rear of the Red-held territory. From there he fought his way across the fronts to Estonia, where he finally joined the forces of General Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich's Northwestern Army. A skilled commander, Bułak-Bałachowicz added greatly to the Estonian victories in the battles of Tartu, Võru, and Vastseliina, and was soon promoted to lieutenant colonel.
On 10 May 1919, Bałachowicz was given the command over an assault group and was ordered to drive it to the rear of the Bolshevik lines. Three days later his forces took the town of Gdov by surprise and on 29 May Bałachowicz entered Pskov. For this action he was promoted to colonel by General Yudenich himself. Because of his victories, his subordinates (mostly Belarusian, Cossack, and Polish volunteers) nicknamed him ataman, though some preferred to use the term Bat'ko – father.
Bułak-Bałachowicz became the military administrator of Pskov. He personally ceded most of his responsibilities to a democratically elected municipal duma and focused on both cultural and economical recovery of the war-impoverished city. He also put an end to censorship of press and allowed for creation of several socialist associations and newspapers, which enraged White generals towards him. Finally, Bułak-Bałachowicz entered in contact with Estonian officers and Poles who were trying to reach the renascent Polish Army, which was seen by Bałachowicz's superiors as a sign of lack of loyalty. After Pskov was yet again lost to the Bolsheviks in mid-July, general Yudenich ordered Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz to be arrested even though only a few days earlier he promoted him to major general (a move Yudenich undertook with hopes of appeasing Bułak-Bałachowicz and encouraging greater subordinance).
However, once again Bułak-Bałachowicz evaded being captured. He handed over his division to his brother Józef and, together with 20 of his friends, left for Estonian-controlled Ostrov. There he once again created a partisan unit. With 600 men he broke through the Red Army front and started to disrupt its supply lines. Despite Yudenich's hostility towards Bułak-Bałachowicz, the latter cooperated with White Russian units during their counter-offensive in the autumn of 1919. His unit captured the railway node in Porkhov and broke the Pskov-Polotsk rail road, which added greatly to the White Russian's initial success. On 5 November 1919 his unit yet again entered the area between Pskov and Ostrov and destroyed the three remaining railway lines linking Pskov with the rest of Russia. However, Yudenich's army could not link up with the areas controlled by Bułak-Bałachowicz and their assault was finally broken.
On 22 January 1920, general Yudenich signed an order of dissolution of his badly-beaten army. On 28 January general Bułak-Bałachowicz, together with several Russian officers and the Estonian police arrested him. A large amount of money was found with him (roughly 227.000 pounds, 250.000 Estonian marks and 110.000.000 Finnish marks) was given to the soldiers of the disbanded army as a last salary, which greatly added to Bałachowicz's popularity amongst them.
Short service for the Belarusian Democratic Republic
Since 1918, Bałachowicz has been in contacts with the representatives of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in the Baltic states. On 7 November 1919, the government of the BDR agreed to finance Bałachowicz's unit and on 14 November, Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz confirmed his Belarusian citizenship and applied for official service for the Belarusian Democratic Republic. His unit was officially renamed to Special Unit of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in the Baltics (Belarusian: Асобны атрад БНР у Балтыі), received Belarusian uniforms and a seal. The unit issued its own field postal stamps and engaged in a few minor battles with the Bolsheviks.
In February 1920 Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz contacted Józef Piłsudski through the Polish envoy to Riga and proposed to ally his unit with the Polish Army against the Bolshevist Russia. As the fame of the general preceded him, Piłsudski agreed and soon afterwards Bułak-Bałachowicz with some 800 cavalrymen set off for yet another of his great odysseys. After leaving Estonia, they outflanked the Red Russian lines and rode several hundred kilometres behind the enemy lines to Latvia, where they were allowed to pass through Latvian territory. Finally by mid-March they reached Dyneburg (now Daugavpils, then under Polish military administration), where they were greeted as heroes by Józef Piłsudski himself.
Transferred to Brześć Litewski, the Bułak-Bałachowicz's unit was reformed into a Bułak-Bałachowicz Operational Group, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Belarusian-Lithuanian Division. It was composed mostly of Belarusian volunteers, as well as veterans of the Green Army and former Red Army soldiers, and received the status of an allied army. Because of the composition of his troops, Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz is sometimes referred to as a Belarusian.
Formally independent, the division was one of the most successful units fighting in the ranks of the Polish Army during the Polish-Bolshevik War. The unit entered combat in late June 1920 in the area of Polesie Marshes. On 30 June Bułak-Bałachowicz once again broke through the enemy lines and captured the village of Sławeczno in today's Belarus, where the tabors of the Soviet 2nd Rifle Brigade were stationed. The enemy unit was caught by surprise and suffered heavy losses. On 3 July the enemy unit was completely surrounded in the village of Wieledniki and was annihilated. After that action, the Operational Group was withdrawn to the main lines of the Polish 3rd Army and after 10 July it defended the line of the Styr river against Red Army actions.
On 23 July, during the Bolshevik offensive towards central Poland, general Bałachowicz's group started an organised retreat as a rear guard of the Polish 3rd Army. During that operation, Bułak-Bałachowicz abandoned the withdrawing Polish troops and stayed with his forces for several days behind the enemy lines only to break through to the Polish forces shortly afterwards. During the Battle of Warsaw overnight of 14 August Bałachowicz's forces were ordered to start a counter-attack towards the town of Włodawa, one of the centres of concentration of the advancing Russian forces. On 17 August the area was secured and the Bułak-Bałachowicz's forces defended it successfully until 7 September against numerically superior enemy forces. Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz organised an active defence and managed to disrupt the concentration of all enemy attacks before they could be started. For instance on 30 August and 2 September his forces, supported by the Polish 7th Infantry Division, managed to attack the Soviet 58th Rifle Division from the rear, before it could attack the town of Włodawa.
On 15 September the unit was yet again advancing in pursuit of the withdrawing Red Army. That day the unit captured Kamień Koszyrski, where it took more than 1000 prisoners of war and the matériel depot of an entire division. During the Battle of the Niemen River Bałachowicz's unit prevented the enemy from forming a defensive line in Polesie. Overnight of 21 September his unit outflanked and then destroyed completely the Bolshevik 88th Rifle Regiment near the town of Lubieszów. Perhaps the most notable victory of the Bułak-Bałachowicz's Group took place on 26 September, when his forces took Pinsk in the rear. The city was the most important rail road junction in the area and was planned as the last stand of the Bolshevik forces still fighting to the west of that city. According to a book published in 1943, after Bułak-Bałachowicz's troops entered Pinsk, they may have committed a series of pogroms on the Jewish population. There were hundreds of victims of rape and murder in Pinsk and in the vicinity around that time, although none specifically linked to Bułak-Bałachowicz.
Failed uprising in Belarus
In October Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz was stationed with his forces in Pinsk, where they received supplies and a large amount of former Red Army soldiers who were taken prisoner of war after the Battle of Warsaw and volunteered for the service in anti-Bolshevik units. The unit was to re-enter combat in November, but on 12 October a cease fire was signed. On the insistence of both the Entente and Bolshevik Russia, the allied units were to leave Poland before 2 November. General Bułak-Bałachowicz was given the choice of either being interned in Poland with his units and then sent home or to continue the fight against the Reds on his own. He chose the latter option, just like most other White Russian and Ukrainian units fighting on the Polish side in the Polish-Bolshevik War.
On 2 November 1920, his units were renamed the Russian People's Volunteer Army and transferred to the areas that were to be abandoned by the Polish Army and become a no-man's-land until the final Russo-Polish peace treaty was signed. Three days later his forces crossed into Russian-held Belarus and started an offensive towards Homel. General Bułak-Bałachowicz was hoping for a Belarusian all-national uprising against Bolshevik Russia. His forces initially achieved a limited success and captured Homel and Rechytsa.
On 10 November 1920 Bułak-Bałachowicz entered Mozyr. There, two days later, he again proclaimed the independence of the Belarusian Democratic Republic with himself as the head of state. Bułak-Bałachowicz declared the exiled Rada BNR as dismissed and started forming a new Belarusian National Army. On 16 November 1920 he also created the Belarusian provisional government. However, the planned uprising gained little support in the Belarusian nation tired by six years of constant war and the Red Army finally gained an upper hand. On 18 November 1920 Bałachowicz abandoned Mozyr and started a withdrawal towards the Polish frontier. The Belarusian troops, hardened by the years spent behind the enemy lines, fought their way to Poland and managed to inflict heavy casualties on the advancing Russians while suffering negligible losses, but were too weak to turn the tide of war.
On 28 November the last organised unit under his command crossed the Polish border and was subsequently interned. The Russian government demanded that General Bułak-Bałachowicz be handed over to them and tried for high treason. The Riga Peace Conference was even halted by these demands for several days, but eventually these claims were refuted by the Polish government which argued that Bułak-Bałachowicz was a Polish citizen since 1918.
Shortly after the Riga Peace Treaty had been signed, Bułak-Bałachowicz and his men were set free from the internment camps. The general retired from the army and settled in Warsaw. There he became an active member of various veteran societies. Among other functions, he held the post of the head of Society of Former Fighters of the National Uprisings. He was also a political essayist and writer of two books on the possibilities of a future war with Germany: "Wojna będzie czy nie będzie" (Will there be war or will there be not; 1931) and "Precz z Hitlerem czy niech żyje Hitler" (Down with Hitler or long live Hitler?, 1933). Between 1936 and 1939 he served as an advisor to Franco's nationalists in the Spanish Civil War.
World War II
During the Polish Defensive War of 1939, Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz volunteered for the Polish army. He created a Volunteer Group that fought in the defence of Warsaw. The unit consisted of approximately 1750 ill-equipped infantrymen and 250 cavalrymen. It was used on the southern flank of the Polish forces defending the Polish capital and adopted the tactics its commander knew perfectly well: fast attacks on the rear of the enemy forces. On 12 September 1939, the unit entered combat for the first time. It took the German defenders by surprise and retook the southernmost borough of Służew and the Służewiec horse track. Soon afterwards the cavalry organised a disrupting attack on the German infantry stationed in Natolin. On 23 September the unit was transferred to northern Warsaw, where it was to organise an assault on the German positions in the Bielany forest. The assault had been prepared, but was thwarted by the cease-fire signed on 27 September.
After the capitulation of Warsaw, general Bułak-Bałachowicz (formally retired) evaded being captured by the Germans and returned to civilian life. At the same time he was the main organiser of Konfedracja Wojskowa (Military Confederation), one of the first underground resistance groups in German and Soviet-occupied Poland. In early 1940 the Gestapo found out his whereabouts. He was surrounded with a group of young conspirators in a house in Warsaw's borough of Saska Kępa and arrested by the Germans. According to the most common version, Bułak-Bałachowicz, was shot by Gestapo agents on 10 May 1940, in the Warsaw centre, on the intersection between Francuska and Trzeciego Maja streets.
For his resistance against Bolshevik forces that killed local Belarusian peasantry, members of Belarusian minority in Poland regard him as their national hero. Historians have often seen him to be an adventurer.
Bałachowicz is honoured by a number of influential historians and politicians in Belarus and among the Belarusian diaspora as a fighter for the country's independence. Members of the Belarusian diaspora in Poland have been organizing bike rallies to commemorate Balachowicz.
Honours and awards
- Cross of St. George, 4th class
- Medal of St. George, 4th class
- Cross of Valour (Poland)
- Cross of Valour of the Bułak-Bałachowicza Army
Notes and references
- Bułak-Bałachowicz S.N. "General Bułak-Bałachowicz on his deeds: how it was in reality? // Civil war archive. Berlin, 1923
- New Historical Herald, 2002, # 2
- The nationality of Bułak-Bałachowicz was a matter of dispute even during the war. Józef Piłsudski described him with the following words: Today he's a Pole, tomorrow he'll be a Russian, the day after – a Belarusian and the following day perhaps an African.; as cited in: Cabanowski, op.cit.
- Mashko VV. Bułak-Bałachowicz Stanislaw Nikodimovicz (1883–1940). Nonyi Istoricheskii Vestnik, 2002, No. 2 (7)
- Raphael Mahler. Review: A Thousand Years of Pinsk. The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Jul. 1943), pp. 109–115. Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
- Aleksy Moroz (December 2004). "Dzień Bohaterów na Białostocczyźnie". Niwa (in Polish) (2004–12–09). Archived from the original on 9 October 2006.
- "Anti-Semitism, Volume 12", Israel pocket library, Publisher: Keter Books, 1974 ISBN 978-0-7065-1327-1, p. 133-4.
- Anatol Hrytskievich (2012). "Станислав Булак-Балахович – наш национальный герой" [Stanislau Bulak-Balakhovich is our national hero]. Dedy Almanac inbelhist.org. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- Zianon Pazniak. "Слава слуцкім героям!" [Glory to the Heroes of Sluck!]. pazniak.info. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- Aleh Dziarnovich. "Генэрал Булак‑Балаховіч: беларускі герой альбо..." tut.by. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- "Велапрабег памяці генэрала Станіслава Булак-Балаховіча". Radio Svaboda. 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- Rafał Berger (2001). "Generał Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz". Koło tradycji wojskowej generała Stanisława Bułak-Bałachowicza (in Polish). Retrieved 2006-06-24.
- Marek Cabanowski (2000). Generał Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz: zapomniany bohater (Bułak-Bałachowicz, a Forgotten Hero) (in Polish). Grodzisk Mazowiecki: Ośrodek Kultury. ISBN 83-904339-5-8. (review)
- Oleg Łatyszonek (1990). "Generał Bułak-Bałachowicz w wojnie 1920 r". Sybirak (in Polish). 2 (5): 7–12.
- Jarosław Tomasiewicz. "Ostatnia wojna pierwszej Rzeczypospolitej". Zakorzenienie (in Polish) (Wszystkie dzieci Rzeczpospolitej). Retrieved 2006-06-24.
- Tomasz Paluszyński, Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz w estońskiej wojnie narodowo-wyzwoleńczej w latach 1918–1919, w: Poznańskie Zeszyty Humanistyczne, t. VI, Poznań 2006, s. 81–99.
- Tomasz Paluszyński, Przejście oddziału generała Stanisława Bułak-Bałachowicza z Estonii do Polski (marzec 1920 roku), w: Polska i Europa w XIX-XX wieku. Studia historyczno-politologiczne, red. J. Kiwerska, B. Koszek, D. Matelski, Poznań 1992, s. 109–124.
- Janusz Cisek, Białoruskie oddziały gen. Stanisława Bułak-Bałachowicza w polityce Józefa Piłsudskiego w okresie wojny polsko-nolszewickiej (marzec-grudzień 1920). Rozprawa doktorska napisana w 1993 r. w Instytucie Historii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego pod kierunkiem prof. Wojciecha Wrzesińskiego.
- Pantalejmon Simanskij, Kampania białoruska Rosyjskiej Armii Ludowo-Ochotniczej gen. S. Bułak-Bałachowicza w 1920 r., w: "Bellona", t. XXXVII, 1931, s. 196–232.
- Marek Cabanowski, Generał Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz. Zapomniany bohater, Warszawa 1993, s. 204.
- Oleg Łatyszonek, Białoruskie formacje wojskowe 1917–1923, Białystok 1995.
- Oleg Łatyszonek Spod czerwonej gwiazdy pod biały krzyż, w: Zeszyty Naukowe Muzeum Wojska", nr 6, Białystok 1992.
- Zbigniew Karpus, Oleg Łatyszonek, Życiorys gen. Stanisława Bułak-Bałachowicza, w: Białoruskie Zeszyty Historyczne (Białystok), 1995, nr 2 (4), s. 160–169.
- Zbigniew Karpus, Wschodni Sojusznicy Polski w wojnie 1920 roku. Oddziały wojskowe ukraińskie, rosyjskie, kozackie i białoruskie w Polsce w latach 1919–1920, Toruń 1999.