You may not be a Pole
When General V. Ivashkevich, who had just headed the 3rd division, admitted to the commander of the 1st Corps of the Polish Army I. Dovbor-Musnitsky that he did not like the Poles very much, he, to his surprise, did not hear any objections. The leaders of the future Polish army were very weakly connected with Poland in general, especially since the country itself, formally gained independence from the hands of Russia, remained under Austro-German occupation.
Many generals and officers simply fled to the Polish units from the revolution and did not even have to know the Polish language. The formation of independent national units in the Russian army, which had gone rather sluggish before the February Revolution, was not immediately approved by the Provisional Government.
General I. Dovbor-Musnitsky with the headquarters of the 1st corps.
Many Polish officers considered the separation of a separate army in the midst of decisive battles “dangerous political fuss”, beneficial only to the Germans. The soldiers were much more interested in one way or another to return to their homeland than to continue to fight for Russia or "make a world revolution."
General Dovbor-Musnitsky, who fell to head the 1st Polish Corps, we remember mainly from the Soviet-Polish war of 1920. The future first red commander-in-chief I. Vacetis, who was the commander of the Latvian riflemen in 1917, believed that Dovbor's military talents were very average, and his character was ambitious and oppressive. Nevertheless, thanks in large part to the excellent characteristics of such colleagues as A. Denikin, it was he who was preferred to other Polish generals.
General Dovbor-Musnitsky at the parade
Dovbor-Musnitsky had every chance to become a Polish dictator or to be on the other side of the front even earlier, but relations with the Bolsheviks did not work out. Most likely because Pilsudsky was much prettier than Dzerzhinsky, but more on that below.
However, the “whites" didn’t work out either, and all the Polish commanders did, and in 1920 Wrangel did not get any real support from the Poles. And not because the “head” of the new state, Y. Pilsudski, had a very rich revolutionary past. What is more important is that both he and his comrades-in-arms were not at all pleased with the prospect of cooperation with those Russians who were ready to seriously take up the reconstruction of the "united and indivisible Russian empire." Let it be in the form of a republic, not the Romanov monarchy or any other dynasty.
The first attempt to drag the Poles to the side of the counter-revolution was made back in the days of the Kornilov rebellion, but no documentary evidence of negotiations between General Dovbor-Musnitsky and the Supreme Commander was found.
The matter was limited to moving to Mogilev, where the Russian Headquarters was located, two infantry regiments weakened to 700 people and the relocation of a lantern regiment at Korosten and Rogachev stations. And that was all that the duty officer from the Kornilov headquarters managed to achieve from the representative of the so-called Nachpol in the 1st Corps of Lieutenant Colonel Yasinsky.
The Nachpol, as the Supreme Polish Military Committee, which was created in the first days of the revolution, was abbreviated, is an informal structure very characteristic of that era. It was created after the 1st All-Russian Congress of Polish Servicemen under the chairmanship of the Minsk lawyer Vladislav Rachkevich, who during the Second World War will become the Polish president in exile.
Rachkevich’s lawyer from the chairmen of Nachpol “has grown” to the Polish president in exile
However, the spectacular name was not supported by real powers. Nachpol engaged in the formation of Polish units, but turned out to be nothing more than a representative body of Polish military personnel. The Russian headquarters quickly suppressed all claims of Nachpol functionaries for the role of the headquarters of the future Polish Army.
By the end of August, the Dovbor corps was not only “raw”, but also small in number, and this despite the fact that after a rather strict “sweeping”, the corps was based on personnel from the 1st Polish Rifle Division. Some Polish historians are ready to associate staff cleaning in the ranks of shooters with almost every tenth shootings, but in reality this practice became widespread later - not only among Trotsky, but also among whites.
By the summer of 1917, the shooters were in fact the only combat-ready Polish unit, although they nearly "got" the revolution from the Russian regiments. During the June offensive, the 1st Infantry proved to be so bad that Commander-in-Chief A. Brusilov ordered its disbandment, noting that
"The division consists of skins, hiding behind loud phrases about the need to protect the Polish forces as a frame of the future Polish army."
However, the German counterattack quickly cured the Poles, and they fought heroically under Krekhovtsy. The Ulan regiment was even renamed the Cavalry Shock Krekhovetsky. Nevertheless, in August, almost four thousand officers and soldiers, either unreliable or simply not knowing the Polish language, were removed from the 7th division.
As part of the tsarist army, the Polish legions did not have their own special form. In the photo - Pulawski Legion
The remaining contingent poured into the Dovbor-Musnitsky corps, which by the time of Kornilov’s speech was unlikely to account for much more than 10 thousand people. And this is with a three-division composition (in contrast to the Russian army corps, consisting of two divisions) and a full staff of 68 thousand people. And, it seems, just because of the small number of corps, the main reason for the Poles' passivity in those days was the same desire to "save personnel."
But its role was played by the slurred position of Nachpol in relation to rebellion and rebels. The left-wing part of the participants in the congress of military personnel, united in the Polish Revolutionary Military Club, initiated a search in the premises of Nachpol in the capital. 300 carabiners and lists of soldiers and officers sympathizing with the "left" were found, but Nachpol was widely condemned only as a possible ally of Kornilov.
It is characteristic that even members of the same party who were in Pilsudski prisoner in the Magdeburg Prison from the teaching staff opposed Nachpol, both from the “leftist” and the “faction”. However, the wave of anger subsided as soon as September 13, Dovbor-Musnitsky made a public statement about the neutrality of the 1st Corps. Then 700 Polish soldiers left the neighborhood of Mogilev.
Divorce from the Bolsheviks
By the time Lenin and his comrades-in-arms planned to take power and create a new, Soviet, albeit also “interim” government, the Dovbor-Musnitsky corps managed to get stronger to the point where the formation could really fight. However, he was still very far from full staff, and the predominance of officers and old soldiers was clearly excessive.
Despite the fact that in the first days after the coup the Bolsheviks sent precisely the Polish patrols to guard foreign embassies, a real revolutionary alliance did not work out. The 1st Corps was too far from Petrograd, but the Poles did not intervene in the events around Stavka in Mogilev, where Commander-in-Chief General N. Dukhonin was killed, and his place was completely unexpectedly taken “only” by Ensign N. Krylenko.
General Dukhonin - the last commander of the "old" Russian army
And in the revolutionary Petrograd Soviet, Dovbor-Musnitsky was not forgotten enough of the strange "neutrality" in the days of the Kornilov rebellion, and any actions and orders of the general were immediately checked for "counter-revolutionism". However, with regard to Nachpol, the position of the Bolsheviks and their allies was similar, in which a significant role was played by Yu. Unshlikht and F. Dzerzhinsky, who from February to October were not included in at least some significant national authority.
And this despite the fact that the same Pilsudsky, who fought for two years on the side of a common enemy, it was enough to be in Magdeburg prison to become the most authoritative politician on this side of the front. He was even elected honorary chairman of the 1st All-Russian Congress of Polish Military in Petrograd. Mandatory greetings to “Comrade Pilsudski” were regularly delivered by the press loyal to Poland and any event related in any way to national issues.
Y. Pilsudsky with legionaries, photo of 1915
The divorce, it seems, is final, happened already in the October days. It all started with the order of Dovbor-Musnitsky on building 81, with which the general tried to take charge of the Headquarters in Mogilev. Declaring the non-interference of the Poles "in the affairs of the domestic policy of Russia", the general ordered the troops "to take vigorous measures, not stopping before using weapons».
And since at the same time the commander demanded the release of the commander of the Western Front, General Baluev, who was arrested by the Bolsheviks, he was immediately enrolled in the counter-revolutionaries. Direct confrontation has been postponed, but after that the Reds could hardly count on any serious Polish contingent in the created workers and peasants army.
Among the Polish units, only the Belgorod regiment took an active part in the coup on the “left” side, having managed to repel the attempts of the Kornilovites to settle in Kharkov, Belgorod and at several railway stations in those provinces. However, anarchy and disorder still reigned in the regiment; he refused to join the Ukrainian forces led by V. Antonov-Ovseenko.
After the Bolsheviks first concluded a truce with the Germans, which later led to the signing of the Brest Peace, the Dovbor-Musnitsky corps became very dangerous for them. Instead of collapse, he was rapidly gaining strength, reaching almost 30 thousand soldiers and officers. In addition, many began to consider the Poles as the only defense against commissars who had already embarked on the first repressions.
Even without prompting from Petrograd, the new front commanders, who later turned into the so-called “Western Curtain”, began to convulsively form the Polish revolutionary units. One of the Minsk right-wing newspapers snapped about this: "Nothing new - Poles versus Poles." By order of N. Krylenko, an attempt was made to arrest 19 members of Nachpol who were in Minsk, but only six managed to be sent to prison, and they soon escaped.
Warrant Officer Krylenko took the post of commander almost on his own initiative
The Polish commander Dovbor-Musnitsky didn’t even think about following the order of the Bolshevik commander-in-chief, Ensign N. Krylenko, who demanded that he obey the decisions of the Lenin Sovnarkom on democratization of the army. The general understood that this would lead to the collapse of the corps, and decided to wait for the convocation of the 2nd All-Russian Congress of Polish troops in Minsk. The congress gathered and not only supported the command of the corps, but also recognized Nachpol as "the supreme organ of the Polish military public." The public, but not the army.
The new command of the Western Front issued an order to the corps to take up positions on the Russian-German front, but in the end, with the help of the Poles, it was only possible to disperse away from Mogilev. Already on January 20 (7), 1918, another order came from Stavka - on disarmament and disbandment of the corps, but it remained only on paper.
The response to the disarmament order was the actual declaration of war on January 25 (12) and the attack by two regiments on Mogilev. The Poles in the morning of the same day with a fight took Zhlobin, but by the evening they were knocked out by the Red Guards. But the next day Rogachev took the 1st Infantry Division for a long time, there they even introduced a siege and announced the mobilization of the Poles.
The attack on Minsk also began, which was accompanied by the dispersal of the Soviets, the arrest of the Bolsheviks, anarchists and left Social Revolutionaries. The headquarters of the 1st Polish Division in Rogachev gathered such courage that they even announced the revival of the Polish state within the borders of 1772. The first attempts to stop the Poles hastily assembled by the revolutionary units failed, although in Molodechno, after a series of negotiations and skirmishes of the Poles, and a whole train eventually forced to surrender.
Still, there was no question of a full-scale war; negotiations were ongoing without interruption in a variety of forms. Meanwhile, the Soviet government, counting on the support of the population, gave the go-ahead for the massive expropriation of land and property. The Bolsheviks also went to direct terror, shooting Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky as the main accomplice of the rebels, to which the Poles were not slow to respond with repressions against representatives of the new government.
The new "ally"
All this time, the active propaganda of the “Polish brothers” did not stop, many of which were not at all seduced by the prospect of a war with the Russians. The desertion from the corps, which was conceived as voluntary, was almost rampant, and many soldiers simply switched to red. In February 1918, a voluntary demobilization of soldiers of the Polish Corps was announced in Mogilev and Minsk, which was carried out by the Commission on Polish Affairs, which was created under the first Provisional Government.
In a matter of days, the Dovbor-Musnitsky corps lost almost half of the composition, and the Bolsheviks were already pulling up new forces, including the Latvian riflemen, led by the already mentioned I. Wacetis. A series of clashes without a real result ended with the signing of the Brest Peace, when Belarus tried to play independence, but the Germans became the real masters of the situation in the area of the former Russian Headquarters.
General Dovbor-Musnitsky, who until recently called the Germans “the main threat to the Polish cause”, immediately signed an agreement with them. The Germans did not even think of interning the Polish military, and the corps was simply declared neutral in the Russo-German war. Moreover, almost all territories north of Polesie in the south-east of Belarus were transferred under Polish control. Only the Germans left the Brest-Gomel railway, and the lands from Brest to Gomel under the agreement of February 9 “lost” to independent Ukraine.
As early as March 14, 1918, General I. Dovbor-Musnitsky submitted to the Regency Council of the Kingdom of Poland. This kingdom was hastily created in 1916 by Austria and Germany in the occupied Polish lands that were part of the Russian Empire. Demobilization of the corps took only 10 days. And the general himself, who had once not made it difficult to study the Polish language, returned to command posts after the end of the World War and the declaration of independence of Poland. But already in the Polish army J. Pilsudski.