Forced Displacement of Residents Along the Lithuanian-Polish Border

  • Juozas Gibas
Keywords: cartographic analysis, Lithuanian-Polish border, border troops, border zone, national border


The article examines the establishing of prohibited border zones on the Lithuanian-Polish border and the forced displacement of residents by the Soviet border troops and Soviet authorities and aims to reconstruct this process. The objectives of this study are the following: (1) determining the chronology of displacement and actions taken by the occupying authorities, (2) identifying the boundaries of the border zone, the 800-metre border strip, and the territory from which residents were displaced and evaluating the spatial relationship between these areas, and (3) determining the scale of displacement, including the number of demolished homesteads and displaced residents. This topic belongs to the history of the struggles and sufferings of the Lithuanian nation, but unlike partisan warfare or deportations, it remains largely unexplored. Rare publications on this subject contain inaccuracies and biased facts. In 1940, shortly after occupying Lithuania, the USSR began strengthening its state border. Initially, the locations of border troops were established, border command posts were created, and barriers were installed. The scope of the project expanded further, with a decision to evacuate all residents from the 800-metre border strip. Following the directives received from Moscow, the Soviet authorities in Lithuania issued resolutions that defined the boundaries of the prohibited border zone. Residents were to be displaced from the 800-metre border strip, all structures belonging to them were to be removed, and the land was to come under the control of the Soviet border troops. The implementation of this plan began in the spring of 1941 but was disrupted by the war before all the residents could be fully displaced. In late 1946, the evacuation was carried out for the second time, with residents being relocated and their homesteads completely demolished. Geopolitically, the Soviet-Polish border was strictly isolating and barrier-like. It destroyed the existing landownership, the village system, and the network of roads, and severed social and economic ties. The previously densely populated border area turned into a deserted wasteland.
For this research, a segment of the state border adjoining the Sangrūda administrative district of the then Lazdijai County was selected. Based on archival and cartographic sources, as well as testimonies gathered through interviews, the article reveals the process, chronology, and the scale of the displacement of residents. Through a comparative analysis of cartographic materials, the locations of eliminated homesteads were determined and the identity and number of their inhabitants were established.