What do you think the ideal borders for the Russian Empire would have been?

I think it was quite impressive that so many people there still identify as Poles even after large-scale deportations that took place immediately following the end of WW2. Here is some statistical data about that (number of deported and remaining Poles):

Number of Poles deported by railway from Western Belarus after WW2:

1945 – 135,654
1946 – 136,419
1947 – 2,090
1955 – 10,067
1956 – 30,639
1957 – 46,634
1958 – 13,290

Number of Poles deported by railway from Lithuania after WW2:

1945 – 73,042
1946 – 123,443
1947 – 671
1955 – 5,849
1956 – 17,825
1957 – 16,044
1958 – 6,834

In total 274,163 from Western Belarus (areas which on 01.09.1939 belonged to Poland) and 197,156 from Lithuania in first repatriation (1944-1948) as well as 100,630 from Western Belarus and 46,552 from Lithuania in second repatriation (1955-1959).

However, as Polish geographer and historian - Piotr Eberhardt - noticed in article about ethnic Poles from Belarus:

"According to official data 274,2 thousand Poles came from Western Belarus to Poland [by railway]. But in fact a lot more came. Official data does not include all categories of Polish people who left former eastern Polish territories. During the German occupation many Poles from those Eastern territories were transported to Germany [as compulsory labour workers, prisoners of POW camps, concentration camp inmates, etc.]. They stayed in the West and after WW2 returned directly to Poland within its new borders, not to their former homes. Official data also did not include flights and groups of refugees, people recruited to the Polish Army [including Polish People's Army], as well as those who in 1942 left the Soviet Union with the Army of gen. Anders. After counting all these categories of people we can conclude, that the broadly understood first repatriation from Western Belarus affected over 400 thousand people of Polish nationality, who as the result abandoned forever the territory of Belarus. (…) In further years (1948-1959) remaining Polish population in Belarus experienced considerable natural growth. It was, however, entirely reduced by another repatriation conducted in years 1955-1959, which included around 250,000 [245,501] people permanently leaving the Soviet Union."

What can be added is that official data for first repatriation given above included deportations by railway, in addition to them also deportations by trucks took place – they transported in total 22,815 Poles from the Soviet Union to Poland, but no breakdown is given so we don't know how many of them were from Western Belarus and from Lithuania.

Numbers of Poles deported by railway from Eastern Belarus (pre-1939 Soviet Belarus) are also not included in those figures given above – they are included among Poles deported from „other parts of the Soviet Union”, who amounted to 266,833 in period 1944-1949 and 22,260 more in period 1955-1959 (these numbers also include Poles deported from pre-1939 Soviet Ukraine – while numbers of Poles deported from Western Ukraine were 787,674 in 1944-1948 and 76,059 more in 1955-1959).

The real number of Poles who left Western Belarus in 1944-1959 was therefore over 500,000 (including over 400,000 in 1944-1947) and the number of those who left Lithuania over 250,000 up to 300,000 (including over 200,000 up to 250,000 in 1944-1947).

We don't know how many left or were deported from Eastern Belarus – but according to pre-WW2 official Soviet census of 1926 Polish minority in Soviet Belarus numbered around 100 thousand people at that time (97,500). Add to this natural increase until WW2, and the number was much higher in the 1930s. Another question is how many of them survived Soviet pre-war persecutions (see the Polish Operation of the NKVD in 1937 - 1938) and then WW2. Anyway - according to 1959 census Eastern Belarus had a smaller number of Poles (see below).

Official data for number of Poles deported by railway and trucks – as already explained above - is not the full picture because apart from repatriation there were other ways how Poles from Kresy migrated to Poland after WW2. Already until 01.01.1947 almost 560,000 people who came through ways other than repatriation (including refugees, demobilized soldiers, those who before WW2 lived east of the Curzon Line but who after WW2 came from camps & forced labour in Germany and settled west of the CL, etc.). In total on 1 January 1947 there were 2,05 million „Soviet Poles” in new borders of Poland. And in December 1950 - 2,2 million „Soviet Poles”.

On 1 January 1947 out of those 2,05 million „Soviet Poles” – 1,7 million lived in former German territories (of them around 1,24 million deported by railway and trucks, 190 thousand who came from the west – for example from forced labour in Germany, POW camps, etc. - 200 thousand who were refugees from the Volhynian-Galician Genocide and similar events and around 70 thousand demobilized soldiers, mostly from the Polish People's Army) and 0,35 million in other parts of Poland (here we can estimate that no more than 0,25 million were officially deported and the rest of them were forced labourers returning from Germany, refugees, POWs, etc.).

In December 1950 out of 2,2 million „Soviet Poles” around 1,6 million lived in former German territories (Western Poland) and around 0,6 million in other parts of new Communist Poland (Central Poland). So proportion of those living in Central Poland increased).

Despite all those events – wartime deaths and post-war deportations, flights, emigration, evacuations, etc. of hundreds of thousands of Poles from former Polish territories, after WW2 belonging to the Soviet Union – the official Soviet census of 1959 still counted 1,380,282 Poles in the Soviet Union, with 768,988 of them (so over half of the total number) in Belarusian SSR and Lithuanian SSR.

Even if we go by this official Soviet 1959 census data, which – most probably – underestimated the number of remaining Polish minority in the Soviet Union, the following area had absolute Polish majority, and was still ethnically Polish in 1959, even though less so than before WW2:

Areas still inhabited by ethnic Polish majority as of 1959, after removal of most of ethnic Polish population:


According to official Soviet Union's 1959 census there were still 538,881 Poles in Belarus, of whom 454,348 (84,3%) were rural population – as flights and deportations of 1944-1959 as well as previous wartime mortality affected urban Poles more than rural Poles.

Number of Poles in Belarus by Oblast according to 1959 census:

In provinces located entirely in what used to be Polish part of Belarus before WW2:

Grodno Oblast – 332,300
Brest Oblast – 42,100

In provinces located mostly in former Polish territory, but partially in Soviet Belarus:

Vitebsk Oblast – 83,800
Minsk Oblast – 64,400

And in provinces located entirely in what was Soviet Belarus before WW2:

Gomel Oblast – 7,200
City Minsk – 5,600
Mogilev Oblast – 3,500

According to official Soviet Union's 1959 census there were still 230,107 Poles in Lithuania of whom 161,523 (70,2%) were rural population - as flights and deportations of 1944-1959 as well as previous wartime mortality affected urban Poles more than rural Poles.

Districts with highest percentages of Poles according to 1959 census:

City Vilnius – 47,226 Poles (20,0%) and 79,363 Lithuanians (33,6%)
Vilnius – 64,467 Poles (80,3%) and 5,546 Lithuanians (6,9%)
Salcininkai – 37,182 Poles (85,2%) and 2,918 Lithuanians (6,7%)
Trakai (+ Elektrenai) – 24,332 Poles (43,4%) and 5,103 Lithuanians (9,1%)
Svencionys – 18,158 Poles (45,7%) and 5,901 Lithuanians (14,9%)

In total according to 1959 census these 6 districts had over 455,000 inhabitants, including 191,365 Poles, 98,831 Lithuanians and about 165,000 other people (mostly Russian immigrants, as well as for example the Romani and others brought in to replace expelled Poles).

All of Belarus and Lithuania had 768,988 ethnic Poles according to official 1959 data - including 615,871 rural people (80,1% of the total) and 153,117 urban people (19,9% of the total) - even though before WW2 ethnic Poles in Belarus and Lithuania were more urbanized than all other ethnic groups living in these regions, with the only exception of Jews. That was because post-war deportations and wartime losses affected ethnic Poles in cities (such as for example Vilnius and Grodno) more heavily than ethnic Poles in the countryside. Due to that expulsion of Poles from cities (and from villages as well, only to a lesser extent) and replacement by other ethnic groups, in 1959 Poles were actually the least urbanized (only 19,9%) of all ethnic groups in Belarus and Lithuania (the opposite of the 1938 situation, when Poles were the 2nd most urbanized group after Jews).

Soviet authorities left a larger % of rural Poles, hoping that Polish peasants were easier to De-Polonize (Lithuanize/Russify/Belarusify).

On the other hand a larger % of urban Poles - with a higher level of national consciousness (sense of Polishness) - got deported.


Ad Honoris
May 2014
What do you think the ideal borders for the Russian Empire would have been?

As for me, here is what I think:

1. First of all, Russia should be allowed to keep all of the territories which it currently controls in real life. This includes Russia within its 1991 borders as well as Crimea. This is the ethnic Russian core of Russia and thus the Russian Empire should certainly keep control of this territory. Personally, I don't care much for Chechnya, but I need to hold it in order to secure a land connection to oil-rich Baku.

2. Russia should keep Azerbaijan (including Baku, of course) due to its massive oil reserves. As for Armenia and Georgia, I'll let them decide whether or not they want to remain under Russian rule. If they do want to remain under Russian rule, though, then it would make sense for Russia to keep them and also to expand into the Armenian vilayets--as well as the Trabzon Vilayet (which had a lot of ethnic Greeks)--of the Ottoman Empire:

Six vilayets - Wikipedia

3. Russia should avoid attempting to expand into either Iran or Afghanistan. It's just not worth it--there are too many Muslims there for little gain.

4. Russia should withdraw from what is now Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and southern Kyrgyzstan since there are a lot of Muslims there and little gain for Russia. However, Russia should keep Turkmenistan (due to its massive amount of natural gas reserves), Kazakhstan, and northern Kyrgyzstan--the last two for living space.

5. At an opportune moment, Russia should expand into Mongolia and eastern Xinjiang. This would be a golden opportunity for Russia to acquire additional living space at relatively little cost. Also, the Mongols can probably be assimilated pretty well into Russia while most of Xinjiang's Uyghurs live in western Xinjiang--which Russia is not going to want to annex.

6. Expansion into Manchuria and Korea should be out of the question since there are simply too many Chinese and Korean people there for Russia to assimilate. However, Russia should reacquire southern Sakhalin for its living space once the opportunity arises. Indeed, Russia can even let the Japanese and Korean residents of south Sakhalin remain where they are; after all, there is plenty of living space there to go around.

7. Under no circumstances should Russia try to reacquire Alaska (not that it would even be feasible, that is). After all, the U.S. is destined for greatness and Russia should certainly not stand in its way.

8. Russia should let go of Poland and western Ukraine. Those territories are full of nationalists and would probably be too much of a problem for Russia to handle in the long(er)-run.

9. Russia should keep Bessarabia if that is what its inhabitants want. However, if Bessarabia's inhabitants want to unite with Romania, Russia should certainly let them do this.

10. Russia should keep eastern Ukraine, southern Ukraine, and Belarus. Nationalism there has not become widespread yet and thus all of these territories can probably be kept by Russia.

11. Russia should keep the Baltic states for their living space. As for Finland, it would depend on how much ethnic Russians would want to move there. If few ethnic Russians will want to move to Finland, Russia should let Finland go. Else, Russia should keep Finland.

12. In the event of a future war with Germany, Russia should acquire northern East Prussia and try to encourage a lot of ethnic Russians to move there. Meanwhile, Poland (from which Russia should have withdrawn by now) should acquire the southern, Polish-majority part of East Prussia (known as Masuria).

Anyway, any thoughts on my list here?

Indeed, what exactly would you do if you had a carte blanche to redraw the Russian Empire's borders in, say, 1913?
@Gvelion: What are your thoughts on this list of mine?

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