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Ethnic maps drove Lithuanian, Polish and Belarusian Post-WWI Boundaries

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

The cover article of the Fall 2023 Portolan, journal of the Washington Map Society , and one of two major cartographic journals in the world (the other being the IMCoS Journal:, is my piece showing how falsified ethnic maps helped Lithuania lose the Vilnius region, and the Belarusian SSR lose land it should have gotten that went to inter-war eastern Poland. This issue is going to over 50 global institutions -- mostly libraries -- as well as to over 400 society members.

Let me know, at , if you'd like to read the full article. I can send you a pdf.

One of the architects of the successful falsification scheme was map publisher/politician/1919 Versailles Peace Conference delegate Roman Dmowski, considered one of the founding fathers of Polish independence. He, unlike his rival Józef Pilsudski, wanted a homogeneous, Polish-speaking/Roman Catholic-practicing reborn nation that would "civilize" Lithuanians: “Dmowski did not view Lithuanians as having a strong national identity, viewing their social organization as tribal. Those areas of Lithuania that had either Polish majorities or minorities were claimed by Dmowski on the grounds of self-determination. In the areas with Polish minorities, the Poles would act as a civilizing influence; only the northern part of Lithuania, which had a solid Lithuanian majority, was Dmowski willing to concede to the Lithuanians.” (Ignacy Chrzanowski, Władysław Konopczyński: “Życiorys Romana Dmowskiego”(Biography of Roman Dmowski), 1946)

While Dmowski considered Lithuanians barbarians in need of civilizing, he reserved his anger for Germans and Polish Jews: "For Dmowski, one of Poland's principal problems was that not enough Polish-speaking Catholics were middle-class, while too many ethnic Germans and Jews were. To remedy this perceived problem, he envisioned a policy of confiscating the wealth of Jews and ethnic Germans and redistributing it to Polish Catholics. Dmowski was never able to have this program passed into law by the Sejm [parliament], but the National Democrats did frequently organize "Buy Polish" boycott campaigns against German and Jewish shops. The first of Dmowski's anti-semitic boycotts occurred in 1912 when he attempted to organize a total boycott of Jewish businesses in Warsaw as "punishment" for the defeat of [his favored] candidates in the elections for the Duma, which Dmowski blamed on Warsaw's Jewish population. Throughout his life, Dmowski associated Jews with Germans as Poland's principal enemies." (Gunnar S. Paulsson (2002). Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940–1945. Yale University Press)

The first two maps illustrating my article, depicting the Grand Duchy of Lithuania before and after the 1569 Union of Lublin, which created the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, were done by Eligiusz Niewiadomski, Polish nationalist, intelligence operative during WWI, painter -- and assassin! He was executed January 31, 1923, after shooting new Polish president Gabriel Narutowicz five days into his term, at an art gallery opening. Afterwards, he asked to be executed, and said he originally wanted to kill Józef Piłsudski, Dmowski's political rival, instead. His actions and rabidly anti-Semitic speech during his trial were a political setback and embarrassment for the Polish radical right.

Such were the players -- the mapmakers -- who were instrumental in determining Lithuania's and Poland's eastern borders after World War I.


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