Poland and Romania emerged victorious as countries and nations from the First
World War. The Polish state regained independence after 123 years under foreign
rule as a result of the unexpected defeat of all the three partitioners
(Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia). Having fought on the Entente side during
the war, Romania gained large territories from Hungary (Transylvania) on the one
side, and Russia (Bessarabia) on the other. Because of this, both countries
entered the interwar period under serious threat. Poland was threatened by
Germany and Soviet Russia, which did not accept the Versailles order, while
Romania by Hungary and Soviet Russia. Thus, both countries wanted the Versailles
order to be maintained; they both had at least one common enemy.
It should also be added that the tradition of cooperation between the two
nations had a long history. In the Jagiellonian times, Poland had a strong
tradition of interest in the Balkans, particularly Moldavia. All this was set in
the context of a centuries-long struggle with Turkey. Turkish invasions were the
biggest curse of the whole Balkan Peninsula for many centuries, and the First
Polish Republic considered itself a bulwark of Christendom, defending Europe
against the spread of Islam. In the 15th, 16th and
17th century, the Republic of Poland was engaged in a dynastic and
political struggle for influence over
whole Central Europe. It can be said that it was a consistent defence of Europe
against the influence of Asian civilisation. The mechanisms of Asian
civilisation were characteristic not only of Turkey, but also of Russia, which
was, to a large extent, under the cultural influence of Mongolia. The mission of
Poland was thus defined in terms of the defence of Latin civilisation against
the forces of barbarian Asia.
Polish foreign policy in the first years after the restoration of
In May 1919, the conflict between Poles and Ukrainians finally ended. The aim
of the fighting was to keep Eastern Galicia under the control of Poland, and was
also connected with a strong desire of the Polish authorities to establish a
border with Romania. This border gave
Poland the opportunity to get in contact with the West at a time when neither
the Germans nor Czechs offered Poland such an opportunity. It should be added
that the Romanian authorities aided the Poles in fighting against the forces of
the West Ukrainian People’s Republic. In May 1919, the Romanian army seized a
part of Eastern Galicia (Pokuttia), only to hand this territory over to Poland
in August 1919.
The cooperation of Poles and Romanians aimed at ensuring security against
Soviet Russia played an even greater role. In 1918, the Romanian army took
advantage of Russia’s weakness caused by the ongoing revolution, and seized
Bessarabia, thereby establishing the northeastern border on the Dniester. It was
all the more justified because the local population was closely related to the
Romanians. Although Western countries recognised Romania’s sovereignty over this
territory (1920), Russia did not want to relinquish control over this region by
any means. All this had great significance
for Poland, which was practically on the brink of war with the Bolsheviks, who
wanted to take control of Polish territories and certainly deprive Poland of the
Eastern borderlines. Identification of a common enemy obviously laid the
foundations for forging an alliance between Poland and Romania.
The conception of a Polish policy towards Central Europe was based on the
desire to reach agreement with all its partners in Central Europe so as to
create a power in Central Europe which would counter the German and Bolshevik
threat. Naturally, Poland could find support in the countries of the Little
Entente, i.e. Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania. The Little Entente was
formed on the initiative of France and was intended as a Central European
counterpart of the big, West European Entente, that is, the countries of the
anti-German coalition. The greatest concern of the countries of the Little
Entente was related to the potential revisionist plans of Hungary, which had
given up large territories to Romania and Czechoslovakia after the First World
War. Warsaw, however, wanted to appease the conflict between Hungary and the
Little Entente by including Hungary in a broad Central European alliance. Later, in the 1930s, the Polish Minister of
Foreign Affairs Józef Beck said in his policy statement: “Countries on the
Danube are almost our neighbours, or in any case, they can be found within the
scope of our traditional and current relations. The proposal for all the
countries, without discriminating any one, to enter into a treaty aimed at a
kind cooperation and removal of local clashes has been well received by our
government.” However, such a
reconciliation was simply impossible at that time. The entry of Poland into the
Little Entente would not be approved of by Czechoslovakia. On the one hand,
Prague wanted to be the most important representative of the interests of Paris,
which might not be possible if Poland joined the coalition (Poland was a much
bigger country than Czechoslovakia). On the other hand, Poland and
Czechoslovakia were then involved in an unresolved border dispute over Cieszyn
Silesia. All this caused Poland not to enter into the Little Entente (which was
what Romania really wanted). Still, efforts were made to reach a bilateral
agreement between Poland and Romania. A
Polish historian, Wiesław Balcerak describes the situation in this way: “Good
relations of Poland with Hungary and Romania were to some extent deprecated by
antagonism between these countries. If we add to this the alarming state of the
relations between Poland and Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovakian-Hungarian
neighbourhood fraught with conflicts and the policy of Prague opposing the
Polish plans of integration, then it turns out that founding the security of the
Republic of Poland on an alliance with a group of countries situated to the
south of the Carpathians at the beginning of the interwar period encountered a
virtually inextricable tangle of conflicts, antagonisms and contradictory
At the end of 1920, the political talks between the diplomatic
representatives of Poland and Romania became very effective and gathered
momentum. The military talks ended shortly before Poland signed a peace treaty
with Soviet Russia in March 1921. Romania intended to reach an agreement after
the war definitely came to an end. On 3 March 1920, the Polish Minister of
Foreign Affairs Sapieha and the Romanian Minister Ionescu signed
“The Convention for the Defensive Alliance between the Republic of Poland and
the Kingdom of Romania.” Also the Chiefs of the Genral Staff of both countries,
Gen. Tadeusz Rozwadowski as well as Gen. Constantin Christescu signed a secret
military convention. Both states committed themselves to providing assistance in
the event that one of them was attacked. They also agreed not to become a party
to separate treaties with the former Central Powers without prior consultation.
The Poles were mainly concerned about the relations with Germany, while the
Romanians were interested in the relations with Hungary. What was also of special importance for Poland was the
provision about the possibility of transporting supplies via Romania if transit
through other countries was impossible. Such was the case during the
Polish-Soviet War in 1920 when the transit of French military supplies was
blocked by Czechoslovakia, and reached Poland via the Black Sea through the
agency of Romania. It is necessary to
add that the ratification of the treaty took place in 1921.
In 1922, Russia and Germany concluded the Treaty of Rapallo, clearly directed
against the Versailles order in Europe. Polish diplomacy tried to counterbalance
this treaty by a broad Central European alliance. Then, Soviet diplomacy made
attempts to prevent this plan by inviting particular Central European countries
to disarmament negotiations. Despite
these efforts, Polish-Romanian relations were improving. In September 1922,
Bucharest played host to the Chief of State Józef Piłsudski. On 16 September,
Piłsudski and the Chief of the Romanian General Staff Constantin Christescu
signed a new military convention, which specified the provisions of the
convention of 1921. It stipulated that one party must immediately go to war in
case of an invasion of the other party.
Thus, it can be said that Soviet efforts did not weaken in any way the
Romanian-Polish alliance; on the contrary, this alliance was becoming more
In 1923, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Roman Dmowski (the
representative of the right-wing national camp) tried to extend the
Polish-Romanian alliance not only over the question of the Soviet threat, but
also over the German question. In a special instruction Dmowski wrote: “It is
with good reason that I would like to receive from the Romanian government a
written statement that the alliance and military convention are also in effect
if the Eastern neighbour attacked Poland in collaboration with the Western
neighbour or in case of an invasion by the latter.” Poland did not receive any written assurance from the
Romanian partner. In 1924, the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs gave only a
verbal confirmation that in the event of a double attack by Germany and the
USSR, Romania would give assistance to Poland; however, if Poland was attacked
by Germany alone, Romania would remain neutral.
In 1921, Polish diplomacy made considerable steps to aid the formation of a
French-Romanian alliance. Such an alliance would entail France’s commitment to
support these two Central European countries (Poland and Romania) in the event
of war with the USSR. It was intended as an extension of the French obligations
taken on under the 1921 treaty with Poland, which was concluded as an
anti-German agreement. France, however, did not want to take on obligations with
regard to the potential invasion of the USSR, as a result of which the
diplomatic efforts of Poland concerning the French-Romanian alliance proved
Development of Polish-Romanian alliance
The greater the cooperation between Germany and the Soviet Union, aimed at
the negation of the Versailles order, was becoming, the closer to one another
Poland and Romania tried to be. On 24 March 1926, a five-year guarantee treaty
was signed in Bucharest, which replaced the treaty of 1921. The new document
detailed the obligations of both parties in the event of foreign aggression. The
Germans and Soviets disapproved of the strengthening of the alliance between the
two Central European states, and on 24 April 1924 signed a treaty of alliance
and neutrality in Berlin, whose provisions clearly referred to the Treaty of
Rapallo of 1922.
At the end of 1929 and the beginning of 1930, Poland and Romania strengthened
their relations even further by concluding sixteen different international
agreements concerning the economy, transit as well as the army. Military
agreements were extended by several years. Undoubtedly, Romania was becoming the most important
partner of Poland in Central Europe. The Czech-Polish relations suffered after
Zaolzie was taken over by the Czechs. Lithuania demanded that the Vilnius Region
be returned, Germany and the USSR strove for revision of the Versailles order,
while there were practically no disputes between Poland and Romania. Possibly
only danger was differently defined. The Romanians saw it coming from the east,
whereas the Poles recognised the danger of attack from both the east and the
west. Romania also became the main transit country for the transport of supplies
from Western Europe to Poland in the event of war.
In the 1930s, Poland and Romania increased their economic cooperation. The
transit between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea played a major role in this
process. Romanian goods and commodities coming for the Middle East were
transported to the seaport in Gdynia and to Gdańsk. In the opposite direction,
towards Romania, Polish seaports transferred Scandinavian and German goods. In
order to encourage freight traffic, transit duties on Polish commodities in
Romanian ports and on Romanian commodities in Polish ports were kept low. There were attempts to strengthen this
transit route by creating, e.g. plans for an inland water route linking the
Baltic with the Black Sea. It was mainly about linking the Vistula, San,
Dniester and Danube rivers by means of a system of canals. The realisation of
this project would certainly foster the development of the Romanian Black Sea
port of Gałącz, and protect the Polish interests by increasing the capacity of
the southbound arteries and routes to the Middle East. The aim of these efforts
was to face the competition from the German plans to build an Elbe-Oder-Danube
waterway. Poland was also involved in a
project to build a Romanian-Bulgarian bridge on the Danube, which would enable
the construction of a transit route from the Baltic to the Aegean Sea. Although these projects were not carried
out, they showed the extent of the planned investments, which would give a
chance to implement the Intermarum (Międzymorze) plan, consisting in forming a
coalition of states in Central Europe. The importance of these plans was best
reflected in the anxiety of Germany, which perceived the Balkans as its area of
influence, which was described during the First World War in the so-called
In 1932, Poland signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR, trying to take
advantage of the increasing anxiety in Moscow caused by the growing power of the
Nazis in Germany (it should be remembered that Hitler openly spoke about his
plan to clear living space for the Germans in the east). The Polish authorities
wanted Romania to conclude a similar pact so that the Polish-Romanian relations
would not suffer. As a result of an adverse reaction of the Minister of Foreign
Affairs Nicolae Titulescu to such propositions, the Romanian-Soviet
non-aggression pact was not formed. It does not mean, however, that the
Romanian-Polish relations suffered. At
that time, Poland tried to pursue a policy of equal distance towards Moscow and
Berlin, which is why it signed a similar non-aggression pact with Germany in
1934. The aim was to maximally delay the outbreak of a possible conflict with
both totalitarian states.
In the 1930s, Polish diplomacy persistently developed the so-called
Intermarum plan, i.e. a plan to form a coalition of states in Central Europe,
which were capable of defending themselves against the German and the Soviet
threat. This plan involved countries from the Baltic (Finland) down to the Black
Sea and the Aegean Sea (Romania, Greece). In 1934, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs drew up
a very interesting document, i.e. a memorandum entitled “The Principles of the
Polish Policy in Central Europe and the Balkans.” This document alluded to the
tradition of the Jagiellonian Poland from the 15th and
16th centuries when the Republic of Poland gained space for
independent development in Central Europe. At that time, both Moscow and the
German Reich had no authority over this area. The author of this document
described the situation in the following way: “It is not only our country that
is in a special situation because of the location of Poland between two large
states: Germany and Russia (...). In this part of Europe, we find a great number
of medium-sized and smaller countries in a similar situation (...). In that
case, whether we like it or not, we have to become a kind of signpost for these
states and show them how important it is to create such conditions which would
neutralise as much as possible the influence of superpowers, and would enable
these states to gain freedom of development (...).” In the 1930s, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs
Józef Beck was deeply preoccupied with the idea of Intermarum, to which he
devoted a lot of attention and effort. This project had solid historical
foundations, but also looked to the future. A famous Polish historian
specialising in the international politics of the interwar period, Piotr
Łossowski writes: “In reality, the stance of the states that Minister Beck had
in mind was varied, and at best not so determined as to support his proposal and
bind with Poland to develop closer but uncertain relations. On the one hand,
Poland was too little of a political, military, and particularly economic power
to gain respect and trust, and to attract as distant countries as Yugoslavia at
one end of Europe and Finland at the other. On the other hand, these states were
afraid that joining Intermarum, affiliating themselves in some way with Poland
may bring them into unexpected, dangerous conflicts, and dangers which, it was
thought, in the case of Poland came most clearly from the neighbouring
countries.” In the interwar period
Poland indeed seemed most obviously threatened by Germany as well as the USSR.
Practically no other Central European state was under such serious threat.
Łossowski continues: “Apart from the fact that Poland did not have enough power
to back it, the idea of Intermarum was characterised by a lack of a clear common
interest. The states of East-Central Europe which were created or fundamentally
reformed after the war were beset with a host of their own problems. They were a
real mosaic of various interests, in which it was difficult or simply impossible
to find a common denominator, which might form the core of an ‘inter-sea’
agreement.” It is thus evident that the
vision of Intermarum in the interwar period was a long-range project, whose
realisation would take years. Poland in the interwar period was not a power that
could influence so many states, bringing them effectively together around
itself. On the other hand, there is no doubt that it was probably the only
project at that time which give the countries situated between Germany and
Russia a chance to defend their independence. It was to be seen very soon,
during the German and Soviet invasion of the Central European countries during
the Second World War. It is necessary to add that in the interwar period Poland
an Romania laid the foundations for the Intermarum coalition (between the Baltic
Sea and the Black Sea). It took place in the political, military as well as the
The view of the Polish authorities on the agreement between Czechoslovakia,
Yugoslavia and Romania, called the Little Entente, which was still in effect in
the 1930s, was highly sceptical. The Poles thought that the signing of such an
agreement because of an alleged threat from Hungarian revisionism was not
adequate to the real threats faced by particular states. Yugoslavia was aware of
the great danger coming from fascist Italy, Czechoslovakia perceived Germany as
a threat, while Romania feared the Soviets. These states did not intend to help
one another in these matters. In comparison, the Polish-Romanian alliance had a
firm basis and seemed perfectly rational.
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, against a background of the
division of Czechoslovakia, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Józef Beck
went to Romania on 18 October 1938 to convince Romanian politicians to forge an
alliance between Poland, Romania and Hungary, aiming at the creation of a power
in Central Europe which would counter the imminent threat. However, due to the
past conflicts between Romania and Hungary as well as some reluctance on the
part of Romania and Hungary to become involved in a conflict with Germany, the
alliance was not formed.
The cooperation between Poland and Romania in the interwar period was very
intense. On the one hand, it was an attempt to defend Central Europe against the
expansion of Russia and Germany, but on the other, in a broader sense,
particularly in the 1930s, it was also the defence of European civilisation
against the spread of two totalitarian systems, Hitler’s National Socialism and
Bolshevik Communism. Despite the fact that these systems reached the height of
their power, none of the Central European countries, neither Poland nor Romania,
adopted the criminal practices coming from the east and west. In September 1939,
the alliance between the Polish and the Romanian state did not translate into a
common, defensive military action. It was mainly due to the fact that the two
allied countries were too weak to defend themselves from both the German
invasion (attack on Poland on 1 September 1939) and the Soviet invasion (attack
on 17 September 1939). The two countries also faced different threats (the
Romanians feared the Soviets more than anybody else, the Poles were threatened
both by Germany and the Soviets). It should however be highlighted that in
September 1939, Polish refugees, military men as well as civilians, received
enormous help from the Romanians. With such aid the Polish army could quickly be
formed in the west to continue fighting the invader.
Finally, it is worthwhile to discuss briefly these two totalitarian systems
looming over Central Europe. In the article entitled “Socialism as a religion”,
published in the 1920s in Przegląd Powszechny, a Polish Jesuit, Jan Urban wrote:
“The deep meaning of the struggle between Christianity, or more precisely
Catholicism, and the red flag lies in the fact that socialism attempts to become
a religion, that it lays claim to becoming the only religion of the future.
(...) This is not a paradox: socialism is a religion despite countless
statements that religious matters are alien to it; it is, so to say, an
‘inverted’ religion, a religion like a frock coat turned inside out, a
materialistic religion without God; after all, it is a kind of religion.” This socialist quasi-religion manifested
itself not only in the attempts to eliminate all disloyalty or dissent by means
of terror, but also in the whole culture, as this ideology laid claim to
controlling all spheres of human life. This could best be seen in the
educational system where the Communists had a ideal opportunity to form a ‘New
Man’. The salvation of humankind in a
communist state was a Utopian task undertaken by Soviet ideologists and
politicians. The programme of the ‘salvation’ of Europe had a high priority.
However, Poland and Romania were a major obstacle to conducting revolution on
the whole European continent.
This communist salvation was attained through terror. Huge, socialist social
engineering gave rise to a vast number of concentration camps, which provided
ideal conditions for the creation of a New Man. Richard Pipes writes: “Thus, a
modern concentration camp emerged, an enclave in which human beings lost all
their rights and became the slaves of the state. This raises the question about
the difference between the status of the prisoner of a concentration camp and an
average Soviet citizen.” The lack of a
noticeable difference between an average citizen and a prisoner of a
concentration camp points to an unambiguous thesis: the whole communist state is
one big concentration camp. This is the practical effect of realising a
socialist Utopia: instead of a heaven on earth, millions of people were given
It should be pointed out that at that time there was a marked resemblance
between National Socialism and Bolshevik Communism. The Communists espoused the
class struggle, while the Nazi advocated the race struggle. Both systems were
extremely mechanistic, they both reduced the role of an individual,
subordinating it to the mass (the state). Both the Communists and the National
Socialists strove to create a heaven on earth through the victory of Utopia they
propagated. The method to ensure the
victory of a racist Utopia was to use terror similar to the Soviet terror. Hitler’s ideology also had a
quasi-religious character and was characterised by great hostility towards
Christianity. Another essential
characteristic was the cult of personality (Führer), also present in other
socialisms. From a Polish perspective,
the crimes of both systems are symbolised by the massacre of the Polish officers
by the Soviets in Katyn and the concentration camp in Auschwitz built by the
Germans (the Nazis).
It seems that a brief discussion of the Nazi and the Communist threat we
faced in the interwar period serves as a good illustration of the importance of
the alliance forged by Poland and Romania.
The author is an Associate Professor
at the Catholic
University of Lublin
Head of Department of
Political Systems KUL
Translated by Marta Kubat
 M. K. Kamiński, M. J. Zacharias,
Polityka zagraniczna II Rzeczypospolitej 1918 – 1939 (Warsaw: Młodzieżowa
Agencja Wydawnicza, 1987), p. 36.
 Ibid., p. 70.
 Ibid., p. 70.
 W. Balcerak, Strategiczne
uwarunkowania polityki zagranicznej II Rzeczpospolitej (1918 – 1925), in: Polska
i kraje Europy środkowo-wschodniej XIX – XX wiek. Studia ofiarowane Piotrowi
Łossowskiemu w siedemdziesiątą rocznicę urodzin (Warsaw: Instytut Historii PAN,
1995), p. 166.
 A. Garlicka, Polska a pakt dunajski,
w: Polska i kraje Europy środkowo-wschodniej XIX – XX wiek. Studia ofiarowane
Piotrowi Łossowskiemu w siedemdziesiątą rocznicę urodzin (Warsaw: Instytut
Historii PAN), 1995, p. 366.
 J. Beck, Przemówienia, deklaracje,
wywiady 1931 – 1939 (Warsaw 1939), p. 149; cf.: A. Garlicka, Polska…, p.
 M. K. Kamiński, M. J. Zacharias,
Polityka zagraniczna…, p. 71.
 W. Balcerak, Strategiczne
uwarunkowania… , p. 166.
 M. K. Kamiński, M. J. Zacharias,
Polityka zagraniczna…, pp. 71 – 72.
 Ibid., p. 72.
 Ibid., p. 85.
 Ibid., p. 86.
 As cited in: ibid., p. 89.
 Ibid., p. 90.
 Ibid., pp. 100 – 101.
 Ibid., pp. 140 – 141.
 P. Łossowski, Polska w Europie i
świecie 1918 – 1939. Szkice z dziejów polityki zagranicznej i położenia
międzynarodowego II Rzeczpospolitej (Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza, 1990), pp. 72 –
 E. Znamierowska-Rakk, Sprawa
połączenia Bałtyku z Morzem Czarnym i Morzem Egejskim w polityce II
Rzeczpospolitej, in: Polska i kraje Europy środkowo-wschodniej XIX – XX wiek.
Studia ofiarowane Piotrowi Łossowskiemu w siedemdziesiątą rocznicę urodzin
(Warsaw: Instytut Historii PAN, 1995), pp. 288 – 290.
 E. Znamierowska-Rakk, Sprawa
połączenia Bałtyku…, pp. 296 – 297.
 M. K. Kamiński, M. J. Zacharias,
Polityka zagraniczna…, pp. 143 – 144.
 J. Faryś, Koncepcje polskiej
polityki zagranicznej 1918 – 1939 (Warsaw 1981), p. 129.
 P. Łossowski, Polska…, pp. 204 –
 Ibid., p. 206.
 M. K. Kamiński, M. J. Zacharias,
Polityka zagraniczna…, pp. 222 – 223.
 Ibid., pp. 250 – 251.
 J. Urban, Socjalizm jako religia,
in: W obronie niepodległości. Antykomunizm w II Rzeczpospolitej (Kraków 2009),
p. 91; cf.: M. Ryba, Naród a polityka. Myśl społeczno-polityczna twórców ruchu
narodowego w okresie międzywojennym (Lublin 1999), pp. 132 – 134.
 M. Ryba, Szkoła w okowach ideologii
(Lublin 2007), p. 87.
 R. Pipes, Rewolucja rosyjska
(Warsaw 1994), trans. T. Szafar, p. 663.
 In the case of Hitler, it was about
the victory of National Socialism, after which there will be “harmony between
the multilingual elements of one, great ruling race.” A. Bullock, Hitler –
studium tyranii, trans. T. Evert, (Warsaw 1997), p. 343.
 On 18 September 1922 Hitler said:
“The Marxists teach: if you are not a brother to me, I will smash your head. Our
motto must be: if you are not a German, I will smash your head; since we are
convinced that we will not win without fight. We have to fight with our ideas,
and if need be, also with our fists.” ibid., p. 72.
 R. Grunberger, Historia społeczna
Trzeciej Rzeszy, trans. W. Kalinowski, (Warsaw 1994), pp. 519 – 540.
 Ibid., pp. 92 -