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2007 | 42 | 95-135

Article title

The Organisation and Functioning of Bolshevik Propaganda during the Polish-Soviet War. 1919-1920


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The war waged by independent Poland and Bolshevik Russia from the beginning of 1919 to October 1920 was conducted on several levels - military, political, diplomatic, ideological and propaganda. The fact that the period under discussion witnessed a confrontation of two newly emergent and totally different states determined the nature of the war, entailing a clash of systems and world outlooks. The Bolsheviks, who had been ruling Russia from the end of 1917, wished to carry the 'flame of the revolution' to Western Europe and the whole world. Sovereign Poland was perceived as an obstacle for the 'march of the revolution' and thus had to be eliminated. Józef Pilsudski, Head of State and Commander in Chief, was well aware of the threat looming over Poland. His objective was to strengthen the young Polish state and to shift Bolshevism as far from its frontiers as possible. Soviet Russia deployed political means: propaganda aimed against the 'White Poles' and intent on promulgating 'Soviet Poland'. The propaganda apparatus supported the military and political-diplomatic campaign conducted by the RSFSR. Vehement anti-Polish propaganda (involving the fundamental thesis on 'Polish imperialism') was successfully conducted in the West. A decisive impact on the form and course of this campaign was exerted by high-ranking Soviet functionaries: Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Radek and Chicherin, the people's commissar for foreign affairs. The purpose of millions of posters, leaflets and brochures was to influence public opinion in Russia; they were also published for the needs of the army (both the Red Army and the forces of the opponent) and the civilian population of those territories which found themselves in the throes of hostilities. Numerous artists, such as Vladimir Mayakovsky or Demian Biedny, were employed by the propaganda apparatus. The outcome of the enormous campaign proved unsatisfactory, and the leaders of the RSFSR were forced to admit that the military defeat of Bolshevik Russia was accompanied by a propaganda failure.


  • A. J. Leinwand, Instytut Historii PAN, ul. Rynek Starego Miasta 29/31, 00-272 Warszawa, Poland


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