Come hither, friends and countrymen! Join me, the Lord George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess of Kedleston, in a little trip down memory lane as I recall the creation of the Curzon Line dividing the East and the West!
I had many notable achievements in my distinguished career serving the British Crown. I served as His Majesty’s Viceroy to India. My books on Persia, Russia, Central Asia, and the Far East were widely read by the lords and statesmen of the Empire. I sent the good Sir Francis Younghusband to sign a Peace Treaty with Tibet, outwitting the Russians and their imperial designs on the independent mountain kingdom. And I served in the war cabinet of Lloyd George as the Leader of the House of Lords.
I finished my political career as the British Foreign Secretary after the conclusion of the Great War. In that role I negotiated the creation of modern Poland and the demarcation of the aforementioned Curzon Line.
At the end of the Great War, the Entente powers Britain, France, and America agreed that an independent Poland should be formed from the territories of the crumbling Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Germany Empires. This new state would grant independence to the noble people of that fine nation, and serve the interests of the West by cutting off Russia from civilized Europe. But alas, Ol’ Wooden Willy was too wrapped up with romantic notions of “national determination” to finalize the Polish border, and Versaille left us with no final answer.
Demarcation was a volatile endeavor. The region is populated by Poles, Lithuanians, Jews, Ukrainians and Russians, with no single group holding a majority. When the time came to properly demarcate the border in 1919, that task was left to me. After careful consideration I drew a border that followed historic, and coincidentally, ethnic lines, but my purpose wasn’t altruism: I wanted a permanent buffer between the land-hungry Russians and Europe Proper. My plan was so cunning you could have put a tail on it and called it a weasel!
The infernal Russians — my eternal nemeses — were determined to foil my plan. By the time I’d finished, they had formed a new government led by pagan Bolsheviks and refused to recognize the border, invading Poland later that same year. The brave citizens of the Polish nation valiantly fought the marauding Slavs for a year before they appealed to Britain and France to intervene on their behalf. I led negotiations to propose a ceasefire along the original Curzon Line, which the Soviets rejected. They shouldn’t have. The Soviet army was defeated shortly thereafter at the Battle of Warsaw, and the two countries signed the Treaty of Riga in March of 1921 in which Poland took a large expanse of Russia’s western territory including the cities of Lwow and Wilno (Vilnius). This took a far greater bite into Russian than the Curzon Line proposal could have hoped to achieve. This new border was recognized by the League of Nations in 1923, two years before my death.
DEPARTING FROM THE FIRST PERSON: Although the Curzon Line appeared defunct at the time of its author’s death, it remained an important demarcation through the 20th century. The line separating the German and Soviet zones of occupation following the defeat of Poland in 1939 followed the Curzon Line, and it was used again in 1945 as the basis for the permanent border between Poland and the Soviet Union, although there were substantial differences noted by the varying colored lines in the above graphic. Read more history here or here.
Gone for the weekend, posting to resume Sunday night…