The Polish minority in the Soviet Union refers to former Polish citizens or Polish-speaking people who resided in the Soviet Union. Their history is broken into three periods.
Polish communities were inherited from Imperial Russia after the creation of the Soviet Union. After World War I, Poland became an independent country, and its secession was finalized by the Peace of Riga in 1921 at the end of the Polish-Soviet War, which left significant territories populated by Poles within the Soviet Union. Initially, the Poles were given 2 Polish Autonomous Districts, one in Belarus and one in Ukraine. The first one was named Dzierzynszczyzna, after Felix Dzierżyński; the second was named Marchlewszczyzna after Julian Marchlewski. Following the collectivization of agriculture under Joseph Stalin, both autonomies were abolished and their populations were subsequently deported to Kazakhstan in 1934-1938. Huge numbers of people some (400,000 by some estimates) perished during the deportation and after, since the deported were moved to sparsely populated areas, unprepared for migration, lacking basic facilities for survival (medical, housing, etc.), and left there on their own.
In addition, a significant population of Poles was present in Russia proper, exiled to Siberia after Polish uprisings. (See History of Poland.)
In addition to the deportation of the Poles (the first recorded deportation of a whole ethnic group in the USSR, see Polish operation of the NKVD), the Polish Communist Party was also decimated following the Great Purge and was eventually closed in 1938.
During World War II, the Soviet Union occupied vast areas of eastern Poland (so called Kresy), and another 5.2-6.5 million Poles (from the total population of about 13,5 million of these territories) were added. Some claim that as many as 1.7 million of Poles were later deported to far away territories of USSR, such as Siberia. Other historians give a much lower estimation, about half a million Poles murdered and deported.
On March 30, 2004, the head of the Archival Service of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, general Vasili Khristoforov gave final exact numbers of deported Poles. According to him, in 1940 exactly 297,280 Poles were deported, in June 1940 another 40,000.
The following are cases of direct murders of Poles during the 1939-1941 occupation:
After World War II most Poles from Kresy were expelled into Poland, but officially 1.3 million stayed in the USSR. Some of them were motivated by the traditional Polish belief that one day they would become again lawful owners of the land they lived on. Some of them were kept forcefully in. There are reasons to believe that those expelled were more happy than those who stayed.
The Polish minority was one of the few whose numbers decreased over time, according to official statistics. They also belonged to the least educated ethnic group, which allegedly was caused by ethnic persecutions.
After 1989, Poles who survived in Kazakhstan started to emigrate due to national tensions, mainly to Russia and, supported by immigration society, to Poland. The number remaining is between 50 000 and 100 000.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the following post-Soviet countries have significant Polish minorities:
- History of Poles in Kazakhstan (http://www.iss.uw.edu.pl/osrodki/cmr/wpapers/pdf/013.pdf)