Briefly:

  • The return of the Belarusian lands in 1924, which at that time had already been considered part of the territory of the RSFSR for five years, was not an easy or simple task for the authorities of the BSSR.

    We had to overcome great resistance from individual leaders of the RSFSR and local Russified elites.

  • The territorial changes of 1924 became decisive for the future of Belarus to a certain extent.

    If it were not for that "upheaval", the modern northern, eastern and southern borders of independent Belarus would look completely different.

  • Putin's history lecture, which he often gives to his interlocutors, could refer not to Crimea, Donbass and Odessa, but to Vitebsk, Mogilev and Goml.

    The histories of the formation of the territory of Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus are similar in many respects.

  • Against the background of Russian aggression and Moscow's claims to Ukrainian territories, the new redrawing of state borders in Europe no longer looks like something fantastic and incredible.

  • Agreeing in 1924 to the "insurgency" of the BSSR, the Kremlin counted that this annexation was the last point in the history of Belarusian claims, and there would be no need to return to this topic again.

    But the "upset" was not the last.

Perhaps someday this date will be celebrated in Belarus as one of the most important historical events in recent national history.

It is not every decade or even century that a nation manages to increase its territory by more than half, and without aggression and violence, only through negotiations with its neighbors.

It happened a hundred years ago, on March 3, 2024.

In national history, the "first uprising of the BSSR" was never particularly singled out or honored, even in the days of independence.

For example, the BSSR was not an independent state, which means that the change of its administrative borders is not such an epochal phenomenon, a regular one in the historical chronicle among the list of much more significant events of the stormy 20s.

Although, as it turned out later, those changes became decisive for the future of Belarus to a certain extent.

If it were not for that "upheaval", the modern northern, eastern and southern borders of independent Belarus would look completely different.

Belarus would not have Vitebsk, Mogilev and Gomel regions.

There would be no Belarusian-Latvian border.

And one more, by no means minor detail: the village of Aleksandriya in the Shklovsky District would not have been a part of the BSSR.

So, Alexander Lukashenko, who was born in the RSFSR, would have no chance to become a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR in 1990, and to lead the independent Republic of Belarus for many decades in 1994.

The history of the country would unfold in a completely different way.

They were ready to give central Belarus together with Minsk to the Poles.

How secret negotiations took place in 1920

Great partition of Belarus

At the beginning of 1924, Soviet Belarus was the smallest of the then union republics: 52.3 thousand square kilometers.

This is 6 times less than the BSSR declared in 1919 and four times less than the current territory of the Republic of Belarus.

Poland began near Dokshytsy and Niasvizh, Soviet Russia after Mazyr and Bobruisk.

"They gave us six counties - thank you for that,"

Janka Kupala

wrote with bitter irony about what was left of Belarus as a result of the shameful Treaty of Riga in 1921.

Nevertheless, the fact that it was preserved at least in this state and form, and did not finally disappear in the whirlwind of the civil and Soviet-Polish wars, left a chance that one day it will be possible to return what was lost.

And this chance was used for the first time a hundred years ago.

On March 3, 2024, after numerous persistent requests to the government of the BSSR, the All-Russian Central Committee issued a decree "On the transfer to Belarus of areas with a predominantly Belarusian population."

In a certain sense, the Belarusian National Bolsheviks "pressed" the Russians and they finally agreed to partially return what they took in 1919.

BSSR received 16 counties of Vitebsk, Gomel and Smolensk provinces.

Thus, the territory of the republic more than doubled, and the population almost tripled.

If it were not for the decisions made then, today's eastern border of Belarus would lie in a completely different place.

And today's three eastern regions of Belarus would most likely be border regions of Russia, finally Russified - the same as Smolensk or Bransk.

And without any chance of returning to Belarus.

Map of the BSSR in 1926

The return of the lands, which at that time had already been considered part of the RSFSR for five years, was by no means an easy and simple matter.

Moscow took them away in 1919 quickly and without any coordination with the Belarusian authorities, but they were in no hurry to return them.

The person without whom the uprising of Belarus would hardly have happened (and if it had happened, it would not have happened on such a scale) is the then head of the government of the BSSR,

Alexander Chervyakov

.

Alexander Chervyakov, Belarusian politician, head of the government of the BSSR

Perhaps this was the main business of his life.

Yes, he was a Bolshevik, but at the same time he remained a Belarusian patriot.

He tried to fight outside the Belarusian borders as early as the autumn of 1920, when he independently went to Riga as the chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee of Belarus for peace negotiations with Poland.

It was not possible to get the recognition of the Belarusian Soviet delegation: Moscow and Warsaw then divided Belarus as they wanted.

But for the next six years, the young head of the government of the BSSR (he was barely thirty) persistently and consistently demanded from the Kremlin the fulfillment of the promises made to Belarusians in 1919-1920, when, referring to the war with Poland and foreign political interests, the Moscow Bolsheviks constantly occupied the territory of Belarus "cut off".

Judging by the documents of that time, he constantly raised this issue, sent letters and appeals, traveled between Minsk and Moscow, "pushing" this issue in the Kremlin offices.

Let's riot Belarus - to the detriment of Poland

These were the first years of the existence of the USSR, which was not at all totalitarian yet.

Lenin is still alive, although he is seriously ill and does not come to work in the Kremlin from his Goryka.

Anticipating his imminent death, other Bolshevik leaders - Trotsky, Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev - begin a fierce fight for leadership "under the carpet".

Against this background, when tough intra-party discussions are being held and the first outlines of the future dictatorial regime are being defined, the Kremlin is not too interested in Belarusian affairs and problems.

According to his position, such matters were within the competence of Stalin.

At that time, he was the People's Commissar for Nationalities Affairs.

But at the same time, he is the general secretary of the Central Committee of the RCP(b).

True, at that time this position did not mean leadership in the party, only leadership of the party apparatus.

Stalin was just beginning to gain power.

A sign on a shop in the early BSSR in 4 languages ​​- Belarusian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish

Chervyakov, by all accounts, knew well how to draw the attention of the Bolshevik leaders to Belarusian problems under such conditions.

Ironically, the key was playing on imperial complexes, which in the case of the Bolsheviks were whimsically transformed into dreams of a world proletarian revolution and utopian plans of a total Comintern.

During 1921–1923, Chervyakov constantly pressed on this painful point for Moscow.

They say, if we expand the BSSR, it will have "huge demonstrative and political significance.

Only in this way will reproaches against the Soviet government on the part of Poland for the forcible Russification of Belarus, as well as the intrigues of Belarusian nationalists and social patriots, be eliminated, the attachment of the Belarusian working masses to the Soviet government will be strengthened, and among the Belarusians who fell under the rule of bourgeois Poland, the existence of an exemplary Belarusian Soviet Republic will increase the desire for us and will further strengthen the hostility towards the bourgeois system of Poland".

(The above quote is from the report of a group of Belarusian communists to the Central Committee of the CPSU dated February 1, 1921).

But this same idea is consistently repeated in a number of other documents of that time.

For example, in a note of the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs dated September 15, 1922 (the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs in 1920-1923 was again Chervyakov - he combined positions):

"Since Belarus will be a state comparable in its geographical and political significance to such states as Lithuania, Latvia or Poland, it will become a powerful center of attraction for foreign Belarus.

That part of the Belarusian population, which does not even sympathize with the Soviet government for purely political reasons, seeing that the Belarusian Soviet Republic is getting stronger and that another Belarusian state cannot be created under the current state of affairs, will join the movement in favor of the annexation of the western outskirts of ethnographic Belarus, who went to Poland, to the already united BSSR according to the same principle..."

Which is true, that's what will happen in the end - but due to completely different historical circumstances and much later, in 1939.

And Chervyakov will not see it anymore.

"Jokes about "Great Belarus""

The special commission created in the Union Central Committee under the leadership of Avel Yenukidze, which dealt with the return of Belarusian territories, generally treated the wishes of the Belarusian side sympathetically and with understanding.

But there were also staunch opponents.

This is how Chervyakov and Bagutsky wrote about them in their letter (December 16, 1923):

"The Commission of the Central Central Committee is delaying the issue because its members include from the RSFSR tt.

Sopronov and Smirnov.

Smirnov, as a Russian communist, is generally against the separation of a part of the RSFSR, regardless of who this part joins.

But that's half the trouble.

Things are getting worse with Mr. Sopronov.

Sopronov is one of the leaders of the current opposition to the Central Committee.

The discussion in Moscow took unusually sharp forms.

Everything and everyone is used as a device for discussion.

And since Sopronov is accused of trying to emancipate Soviet power from party influence, he proves that the party too much absorbs the initiative and self-activity of Soviet bodies and gives examples at meetings in districts, cells, etc.

Belarusian question.

It is motivated approximately as follows: the Belarusian question has been decided by the Politburo both in principle and practically (borders), and he, Sopronov, the secretary of the Central Committee of the RSFSR and the chairman of the Planning Commission of the RSFSR, does not know anything about it and has not heard anything about it, and if he has heard random conversations in this question, I thought that these were just jokes about "Great Belarus".

Minsk, High Market (1928)

...Sopronov obviously wants the Politburo to once again confirm its decision, because it will give him another trump card in his hands against the Central Committee, and especially against the Politburo."

Yes, according to Soviet standards, it was a time of extreme party democracy: Commissar of Agriculture of the RSFSR, Aleksandar Smirnov, openly opposes the decision of the Politburo on the rebellion of Belarus;

the secretary of the Central Committee of the RSFSR Timofey Sopronov was generally against the party interfering in the competence of "Soviet bodies"... Unfortunately, none of them - neither Smirnov, nor Sopronov, nor Yenukidze (who headed the commission), nor Chervyakov himself left memories of that time

This was the generation of those first honored Bolsheviks who were not destined to live to old age.

Sopronov and Yenukidze were shot in 1937, Smirnov in 1938.

Aleksandar Chervyakov shot himself in his office on June 16, 1937, during the break of the party congress, at which he was sharply criticized from all sides for "insufficient work in destroying the enemies of the people."

He was only 45 years old.

"Leave Vitebsk region in Russia"

The expansion of the territory of the BSSR at the expense of the eastern regions of the RSFSR was resisted not only by high-ranking Moscow bosses.

Many local nomenklaturaniki, especially from non-Belarusians, were not impressed either.

The Bolshevik authorities in Vitebsk were the most stubbornly opposed to the annexation of the province to Belarus.

At the beginning of December 1923, the local leaders of the RCP(b) gubkam, who mainly did not have Belarusian roots, demanded that the decision already taken by the Politburo be canceled at the plenum of the Central Committee.

The argument was, among other things, the following:

From the resolution of the plenum of the Vitsebsk regional committee of the RCP(b) dated December 8, 2023:

"The accession of Vitebsk province to Belarus is not caused by the correctness of the definition of the population in terms of language and household relations, because the census of the People's Committee of the People's Commissariat revealed that the population of Vitebsk province has lost everyday Belarusian features and the Belarusian language is unknown to the majority of the population of the province, with the exception of single old people.

Thus, the annexation of the province to Belarus, which inevitably requires a policy towards Belarusianization, will lead to a painful break in the peasant population, which has a negative attitude to the issue of annexation."

It was a big blow for Chervyakov.

There was a risk that the whole thing would be in jeopardy and at best would be delayed indefinitely.

In Moscow, they could not ignore the decision of the entire provincial party organization: consideration of the issue at the Politburo was being prepared.

Chervyakov sent a group of his like-minded members of the office to Vitebsk: to explain, to persuade, to convince.

A special emphasis is placed on the language issue: "Both the people of Gomel and the people of Vitebsk are intimidated by the "monster" called the Belarusian language.

We need to explain our approach to this issue" (from the letter of Chervyakov and Bagutski to seconded employees).

How Chervyakov's emissaries persuaded the Vitebsk Bolsheviks, what they reconciled and what arguments they presented in favor of joining the BSSR, one can only guess.

But the mission, it seems, was successful.

In the end, the case ended in a scandalous situation: the representatives of the Vitebsk regional party of the RCP(b), summoned to the meeting of the Politburo on December 29, 1923, did not show up.

General Secretary of the Central Committee Stalin twice sent a cipher telegram on this occasion to the Secretary of Vitebsk Gubka Medne on December 18 and 28.

To no avail.

Alexander Chervyakov speaks before the Soviet leadership

Finally, in the resolution of the Politburo "On the borders of Belarus" dated December 29, 1923, signed by Stalin, it was noted:

"Taking into account that the representatives of Vitgubkamu, who were invited twice, did not appear at the Politburo meeting, as well as the fact that the majority of the Commission of the Central Committee considered Vitgubkamu's protest unfounded, it will be left without consequences."

Vitebsk Oblast will eventually become part of the BSSR, but without the three counties of Vyalisky, Nevelsky and Sebesky, which were decided to remain in the RSFSR.

A remarkable fact: the leader of the Vitebsk Bolsheviks, Eduard Medne, who ignored the meeting of the Politburo and Stalin's two telegrams, as was appropriate for the Belarusian delegation, soon after joining the Central Committee of the RCP(b) received a position as a representative of the temporary Belarusian Bureau.

And it is unlikely that this appointment took place without the participation of Chervyakov.

Whether it was a reward for refusing to protest, history is silent.

"New Shameful Division of the Fatherland"

Among Belarusian political emigrants at the time, the news about the expansion of the BSSR caused mostly skeptical responses.

Vaclav Lastovsky

in the émigré magazine "Krivich" (March 1924) sharply criticized this uprising, but for the fact that many ethnically Belarusian territories never returned to Belarus.

According to his calculations, 90-100 thousand square versts of territory and about 4 million Belarusians remained on the Russian side:

Vaclav Lastovsky

"The division was made like no other until now, because under the guise of extraordinary "benevolence", under the cry of the Communist Party's concern for unprecedented, unprecedented "justice" to the Belarusian working people!... Muscovite divided the Belarusian lands with Minsk in half: from half of the lands under it occupied, "independent" Belarus was formed, and the other half was wrapped up for Russification... The servile Minsk press is silent about this grievance, on the contrary, they smoke incense there and sing hymns of lordly kindness of the Third International... However, we cannot add our voice to these eulogists, because pity squeezes our soul and words of indignation press on our lips.

This shameful, new division of our dear Motherland, along with the division in Riga, causes us to protest, especially since it is presented to us in the form of some higher red justice."

Ukraine named after Lenin, Belarus named after Stalin

On February 21, 2022, a day before the start of the war, while giving a historical justification for his armed aggression against Ukraine,

Putin

referred to the period when the borders of the new union republics that made up the USSR were determined in the first post-revolutionary and post-war years:

"This process (of the expansion of Ukraine. - V.B.) began almost immediately after the revolution of 1917, and Lenin and his associates did it in a very rude way in relation to Russia itself - at the expense of separation, separation from it of a part of its own historical territories." .

Putin even proposed to name Ukraine after Lenin - as its author and architect.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation Valery Zorkin (left to right) examine a map of Ukraine during a meeting in the Kremlin

It is noteworthy that exactly the same Putin's history lecture (and with almost the same quotes) could be given not about Crimea, Donbass and Odessa, but about Vitebsk, Mogilev and Gomel.

And not about Ukraine named after Lenin, but about Belarus named after Stalin: the Bolsheviks took up the formation of the territory of the BSSR later, when Lenin was already hopelessly ill and all decisions about border changes were mainly approved by Stalin.

It is interesting that

Lukashenka

has recently also often indulged in historical discussions about the redistribution of state borders.

The last time is February 16, 2024.

Speaking at the general meeting of Belkaapsayus, he said that the opposition is allegedly negotiating with the West:

"Poland has the right to the western lands of Belarus.

And in case of Russia's defeat, Belarus will grow at the expense of Russia's western lands.

Read: we will get something from the Smolensk, Bransk, maybe Pskov regions.

And we must give Western Belarus (before Minsk, as you know, the border was) to Poland.

It is the new "democratic authorities" who are conducting negotiations in the West."

Who conducts such negotiations?

With whom?

When was it and was it at all?

These details were left behind.

But it is hardly worth considering what was voiced only as baseless and unfounded fantasies.

As practice shows, Lukashenka often puts his own ideas, reasoning and thoughts into other people's mouths.

State borders rarely remain unchanged for centuries.

The Belarusian state border was last significantly changed almost 80 years ago, in August 1945, and not in favor of Belarus, although the BSSR was considered one of the winners in the Second World War.

Then, according to the treaty between Warsaw and Moscow, the Bialystok region of the BSSR went to Poland.

As usual at that time, no one asked for Belarusians' consent to this.

Observing the current bloody redistribution of the territory of Ukraine, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that humanity seems to be going back a century.

And the new redrawing of state borders no longer looks like something fantastic and incredible.

Echo of 1924

In 1924, the Kremlin obviously believed that this annexation was the last point in the history of Belarusian claims, and there will be no need to return to this topic.

This was emphasized even in the title of the relevant resolution of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the USSR dated March 7, 1924: "On the unification of all territories of the Soviet Union with a majority of Belarusian population into the Belarusian SSR."

It is noteworthy that in the resolution, the return of the territories is not without reason called "a historical moment for the life of Soviet Belarus."

True, in the following decades of the existence of the BSSR, they did not dare to focus attention on the historicity of that moment.

They tried not to mention him at all.

Meanwhile, after 1924, Gomel and Rechytsa still remained part of the Russian Federation.

But this was the next round of Chervyakov's struggle for the return of Belarusian lands, which unfolded over the next two years.

And in the end, Alexander Chervyakov also won.

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