Suwałki Region

Coordinates: 54°06′00″N 22°56′00″E / 54.100000°N 22.933333°E / 54.100000; 22.933333
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Map of the Suwałki Region, with towns, roads and forest areas

Suwałki Region (Polish: Suwalszczyzna[a] [suvalʂt͡ʂɨzna]; Lithuanian: Suvalkų kraštas, Suvalkija, Russian: cувалкщина, German: Sudauen) is a small region around the city of Suwałki (known in Lithuanian as Suvalkai) in northeastern Poland near the border with Lithuania. It encompasses the powiats of Augustów, Suwałki, and Sejny,[1][2] and roughly corresponds to the southern part of the former Suwałki Governorate.[3] The region was disputed between Poland and Lithuania after their re-emergence as independent states following World War I. This dispute along with the Vilnius question was the cause of the Polish-Lithuanian War and the Sejny Uprising. The area has been subsequently part of Poland until today, with the exception of the German and Soviet occupation during World War II. The Suwałki Region remains as the center of the Lithuanian minority in Poland.[4][5]

Historical affiliations of the region (including occupations during world wars)

Yotvingians until 14th century
Grand Duchy of Lithuania 1400s–1569
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1569–1795
Kingdom of Prussia 1795–1807
Duchy of Warsaw 1807–1815
Congress Poland 1815–1867
Vistula Land 1867–1915
Ober Ost 1915–1919 (occupation)
Second Polish Republic and  Lithuania, contested during 1919–1920
Second Polish Republic 1920–1939
 Nazi Germany/ Soviet Union 1939–1941 (occupation)
 Nazi Germany 1941–1944 (occupation)
Polish People's Republic 1944–1989
 Poland 1989–


The Neolithic era ushered in the first settled agricultural communities in the area of present-day Poland, whose founders had migrated from the Danube River area beginning about 5500 BC. Later, the native post-Mesolithic populations would also adopt and further develop the agricultural way of life (between 4400 and about 2000 BC).[6] During the Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, the northeast corner of what is now Poland was populated by West Baltic tribes. They were at the outer limits of any substantial cultural influence from the Roman Empire.[7]

Middle Ages[edit]

After the local Yotvingians were eradicated or Germanized by the Teutonic Order in the 14th century, their southern lands were repopulated by Poles, Belarusians, and Ukrainians, while their northern territories (Suvalkija) remained largely void of settlement until the 16th century when Lithuanians began to migrate into the area.[8]

Early modern era[edit]

The region belonged (either fully or partially) to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (within the Polish–Lithuanian union) until 1569, and afterwards it was divided between the Grand Duchy and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, both forming the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.[b][9]

19th century[edit]

Modern Lithuanian borders superimposed on the Suwałki Governorate (in yellow)

Following the Third Partition of Poland, the whole region belonged to the Kingdom of Prussia from 1795 to 1807,[10] and then subsequently to the Duchy of Warsaw from 1808 to 1815.[11]

In 1815 the Suwałki Region became part of Congress Poland, a state which was tied by personal union to Russia and absorbed by the Russian Empire in the aftermath of the November Uprising. The Suwałki Governorate, according to a Russian census conducted during the 1880s, was majority (about 58%) Lithuanian.[12] Most of its territory is now part of Lithuania, with only three uyezds (Augustów, Suwałki, and Sejny) partially located in Poland.

The 1897 Russian Census recorded the linguistic composition of local towns:[13]

  • Augustów – Polish (46.2%), Jewish (28.5%), Russian (18.7%), Lithuanian (0.2%);
  • Suwałki – Polish (38.7% ), Jewish (32.9%), Russian, (21.6%), Lithuanian (0.5%);
  • Sejny – Jewish (50.8%), Polish (40.4%), Lithuanian (4.2%), Russian (2.5%).

The three corresponding uyezds (counties) had the following population (by language):[14]

  • Augustów Uyezd – Polish (49.1%), Belarusian (32.5%), Jewish (11.6%), Russian (5.4%), Lithuanian (0.2%);
  • Suwałki Uyezd – Polish (66.8%), Jewish (11.3%), Lithuanian (8.5%), Russian (7.9%), German (4.3%);
  • Sejny Uyezd – Lithuanian (59.6%), Polish (22.9%), Jewish (11.8%), Russian (4.4%), German (1.2%).[c]

The town of Sejny was located on the Polish-Lithuanian ethno-linguistic boundary.[15]

World War I[edit]

During World War I, the region was captured by the German army and incorporated into Ober Ost. According to the German census of 1916, Poles constituted 86.6% of the inhabitants in the Augustów Kreis (district) and 74.2% in the Suwałki Kreis; Lithuanians accounted for 0.3% and 9.6% respectively. The Sejny Kreis had a Lithuanian majority of 51%, while Poles made up 43.3% of the population.[16]

Interwar period[edit]

Poland's sovereignty was restored in the wake of World War I, but its eastern borders were not settled. The Suwałki Region was claimed by re-established independent Lithuania based on cultural heritage and later 1920 peace treaty with Soviet Russia.

In November 1918, the German forces allowed the establishment of Polish civilian administration in the form of the Provisional Citizens' Council (Polish: Tymczasowa Rada Obywatelska Okręgu Suwalskiego, TROOS[d]). They also permitted elections to the Polish Legislative Sejm, which took place on 16 February 1919. Nevertheless, the German military saw further strengthening of Polish aspirations as disadvantageous and in March 1919 handed control over the area to the Lithuanian Taryba. In May 1919, units of the Lithuanian army joined German troops in Suwałki and Sejny.[17]

In July 1919, the Entente ordered the German army to leave the Suwałki Region, and adopted the Foch Line as a temporary demarcation line between Poland and Lithuania. The line left on the Polish side: the counties of Suwałki and Augustów, the town of Sejny, and four communes[e] (gminas) of the Sejny county: Krasnopol, Krasnowo, Berżniki, and Giby.[18]

The Lithuanian army left the region in July–August 1919 (after the Entente's decision and the Sejny Uprising)[19] and returned again, a year later, during the Polish Army's retreat from advancing Soviets. In September 1920, the Poles forced the Lithuanians to withdraw behind the Foch Line.[20]

The Foch line coincided approximately with the eastern ethnic boundary of Lithuania and evolved into the future Polish–Lithuanian border, which was internationally recognized in 1923 (while being rejected by the Lithuanian government).[21][22] A small ethnically Lithuanian area (north of Sejny (Lithuanian: Seinai) and around Puńsk[f] (Lithuanian: Punskas)) was left under Polish control. The Suwałki section of the Polish–Lithuanian border remained unchanged after World War II.[23]

During the Interwar period, the Lithuanian authorities claimed that the region consisted of three counties (see administrative divisions of Lithuania), that were illegally occupied by Poland. These included:

The aforementioned units roughly correspondended to the actual administrative division of the area into powiats of Augustów, Suwałki and Sejny of the Białystok Voivodeship of Poland, respectively. The region was the least economically developed part of Poland in the interwar period.[24]

World War II[edit]

World War II destructions in Suwałki

Following the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland, which started World War II in September 1939, most of the Suwałki Region was annexed by Nazi Germany and adjoined to the province of East Prussia, while a small part with the town of Lipsk was occupied by the Soviet Union until 1941. Under German occupation, the Polish population was subjected to the genocidal Intelligenzaktion campaign, which included mass arrests, massacres, deportations to forced labour and concentration camps, and expulsions, while in the Soviet-occupied part the Russians carried out deportations of Poles into the USSR. In April 1940, the Germans carried out mass deportations of local Polish intelligentsia to concentration camps, including Soldau, Sachsenhausen and Dachau.[25]

Modern period[edit]

After World War II, Poland regained control over the territory. The area was administratively part of the Białystok Voivodeship until 1975, then the Suwałki Voivodeship until 1998, and since 1999 it is located in the Podlaskie Voivodeship.

The area is still inhabited by the Lithuanian minority. Lithuanians are concentrated in the Sejny County[g] where they accounted for 20.2% of the population in 2011[26] and exceeded 10% of the inhabitants in two communes – Gmina Puńsk (73.4%) and Gmina Sejny (15.5%).[27] There are Lithuanian schools and cultural societies present in the Suwałki region and the Lithuanian language is spoken in the offices in the commune of Puńsk.


City Hall in Suwałki, the largest city and capital of the region

The Suwałki Region has many lakes and forests and is considered a relatively undeveloped region in Poland.





See also[edit]


a^ The Polish term Suwalszczyzna was formed in the second half of the 19th century to describe the territory of the Suwałki Governorate. In its narrowest sense, it may also refer to the area of the Suwałki powiat.[28]

b^ Parts of the Augustów powiat (including the area of modern town of Augustów) belonged, with some breaks, to Mazovia (from the mid-13th c. to 1409). After 1569, Augustów was transferred to the Crown and absorbed by the Augustów starostwo (Polish: starostwo augustowskie).[29]

c^ Buchowski gives the following data: Lithuanians – 60%, Poles – 20%, Jews – 16%, Germans – 3%, Russians – 1%.[15]

d^ TROOS encompassed the counties of Augustów, Suwałki, and Sejny.[30]

e^ Most of the Sejny county (10 out of 14 communes) remained on the Lithuanian side of the line.[18]

f^ Puńsk had a Jewish majority in the late 19th century[31] and was inhabited mainly by Jews in the interwar period.[11] Today both Puńsk[11] and Gmina Puńsk have Lithuanian majorities.[27][32]

g^ According to the Polish census of 2002, 90% of Lithuanians lived in the areas close to the Polish-Lithuanian border and nearly 60% of them resided in Gmina Puńsk.[33] The 2011 census, which allowed respondents to declare double national and ethnic identity, found that 49% of the people who declared Lithuanian nationality (either as their first or second identity) lived in Gmina Puńsk and Gmina Sejny (3,846 out of 7,863).[27][33]


  1. ^ Kozłowska, Dorota; Ryszkowski, Wojciech; Kulikowska, Ewa; Fiłonowicz, Tomasz (2014). "Kultywowanie i popularność warsztatów rękodzielniczych na Suwalszczyźnie (Promotion and popularity of handicrafts workshops in the Suwałki region)". In Kozłowska, Dorota (ed.). Rekreacja, turystyka i tradycje na obszarach wiejskich (in Polish). WSWFIT. p. 63. ISBN 978-83-929836-8-2.
  2. ^ Madras, Tomasz (2011). "Geografia wyborcza województwa podlaskiego (Electoral geography in the Podlaskie Voivodship in the context of local elections)" (PDF). Samorząd Terytorialny (in Polish). Wolters Kluwer Polska (12): 256. ISSN 0867-4973.
  3. ^ Eberhardt, Piotr (2015). Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth Century Eastern Europe: History, Data and Analysis. Routledge. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-1-317-47096-0. The northern part of what was then Suwałki province, which belonged until World War I to the so-called Polish Kingdom, a part of the Russian Empire, was an ethnically Lithuanian area, and it now belongs to the Lithuanian state.
  4. ^ Glanville, Price (1998). Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-22039-9.
  5. ^ "Zilvinas Norkunas "A Destiny Called Lithuania", Lithuania in the World (Interview with Valdas Adamkus)". President of the Republic of Lithuania. 1998-08-30. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2008-04-23. The stops on my way to Warsaw at Seinai and Suvalkai, where the majority of Poland's Lithuanians live, were also important.
  6. ^ Derwich, Marek; Żurek, Adam, eds. (2002). U źródeł Polski (do roku 1038) (in Polish). Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie. pp. 8–53. ISBN 83-7023-954-4.
  7. ^ Derwich & Żurek 2002, pp. 116–119.
  8. ^ Sužiedėlis, Saulius (2011). Historical Dictionary of Lithuania (2nd ed.). Scarecrow Press. p. 334. ISBN 978-0810849143.
  9. ^ Filipowicz, Sławomir (2003). "Archiwalia Suwalszczyzny. Zasób rozproszony (Archive materials of the Suwałki Region–dispersed holdings)". Archeion (in Polish and English). NDAP. 106: 158. ISSN 0066-6041. The Suwałki region is a peculiar territory established in the 19th c. and combining the areas once belonging to the Great Duchy of Lithuania and to the Crown.
  10. ^ Davies, Norman (2005). God's Playground A History of Poland: Volume II: 1795 to the Present. Oxford University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0231128193.
  11. ^ a b c "Puńsk. Historia miejscowości". (in Polish). POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  12. ^ Šenavičienė, Ieva (1999). "Tautos budimas ir blaivybės sąjūdis". Istorija. 40: 3.
  13. ^ Russian Empire Census of 1897. (in Russian). Augustów, Suwałki, Sejny
  14. ^ Russian Empire Census of 1897. (in Russian). Augustów uyezd, Suwałki uyezd, Sejny uyezd
  15. ^ a b Buchowski, Krzysztof (2003). "Stosunki polsko litewskie na sejneńszczyźnie na przełomie XIX i XX wieku" (PDF). Lietuvių Katalikų Mokslo Akademijos Metraštis (in Polish). Lithuanian Catholic Academy of Science. 23: 172. ISSN 1392-0502.
  16. ^ Srebrakowski, Aleksander (2001). Polacy w Litewskiej SSR (in Polish). Adam Marszałek. p. 30. ISBN 83-7174-857-4.
  17. ^ Buchowski 2003, pp. 178–179.
  18. ^ a b Buchowski 2003, p. 180.
  19. ^ Buchowski 2003, pp. 180–181.
  20. ^ Buchowski 2003, pp. 183–184.
  21. ^ "Lithuania". The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. XIV (15th ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 1992. p. 590U. ISBN 0-85229-553-7.
  22. ^ Gross, Jan. T. (2002). Evolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. Princeton University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0691096032.
  23. ^ Łossowski, Piotr (1996). Konflikt polsko-litewski 1918-1920 (in Polish). Książka i Wiedza. p. 51. ISBN 978-8305127691.
  24. ^ Vitalija Stravinskienė. Lenkijos Lietuvių bandruomenė 1944-2000 metais. 2004, p.32
  25. ^ Guzewicz, Wojciech (2008). "Eksterminacja duchowieństwa katolickiego na Suwalszczyźnie w okresie okupacji niemieckiej". Studia Ełckie (in Polish) (10): 143.
  26. ^ "Mniejszości narodowe i etniczne oraz społeczność posługująca się językiem kaszubskim wg powiatów w 2011 r. (2011 Census data)". (in Polish). Ministry of Interior and Administration. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  27. ^ a b c "Gminy, w których udział mniejszości narodowych, etnicznych lub społeczności posługującej się językiem kaszubskim wsród ogółu mieszkańców stanowił w 2011 roku co najmniej 10% (2011 Census data)". (in Polish). Ministry of Interior and Administration. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  28. ^ Filipowicz 2003, p. 139.
  29. ^ Wiśniewski, Jerzy (1967). "Dzieje osadnictwa w powiecie augustowskim od XV do końca XVIII wieku (The history of the colonization of the district of Augustow in the period covering the 15th and 18th centuries)". In Antoniewicz, Jerzy (ed.). Studia i materiały do dziejów Pojezierza Augustowskiego (in Polish and English). Białostockie Towarzystwo Naukowe. pp. 14, 39, 139, 167, 292.
  30. ^ Buchowski 2003, p. 178.
  31. ^ Naruszewicz, Tomasz (2003). "Dzieje społeczności żydowskiej w Bakałarzewie w latach 1800–1914". In Markowski, Artur; Śleszyński, Wojciech (eds.). Sztetł - Wspólne Dziedzictwo: szkice z dziejów ludności żydowskiej Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej (in Polish). University of Białystok. p. 99. ISBN 8387881260.
  32. ^ Lithuanian Embassy in Poland Najwięcej Litwinów zamieszkuje w gminie Puńsk, gdzie stanowią oni około 80 proc. mieszkańców.
  33. ^ a b Barwiński, Marek; Leśniewska, Katarzyna (2014). "The contemporary situation of Polish minority in Lithuania and Lithuanian minority in Poland from the institutional perspective" (PDF). Geographia Polonica. Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization. Polish Academy of Sciences. 87 (1): 28–29. doi:10.7163/GPol.2014.2. hdl:11089/4078. ISSN 2300-7362.


  • Simas Sužiedēlis, Encyclopedia Lituanica, J. Kapočius 1978
  • Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999, Yale University Press 2003, page 33
  • United States Congress Select Committee on Communist Aggression, Baltic States: A Study of Their Origin and National Development, WS Hein 1972, page 71

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

54°06′00″N 22°56′00″E / 54.100000°N 22.933333°E / 54.100000; 22.933333