Suwałki Region

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Suwałki Region (Polish: Suwalszczyzna [suvalʂt͡ʂɨzna]; Lithuanian: Suvalkų kraštas, Suvalkija, Russian: cувалкщина, German: Sudauen) is a small region around the city of Suwałki (known in Lithuanian as Suvalkai) in northeastern Poland near the border with Lithuania. It encompasses the powiats of Augustów, Suwałki, and Sejny, and roughly corresponds to the southern part of the former Suwałki Governorate. The region was disputed between Poland and Lithuania after their re-emergence as independent states following World War I. This dispute along with the Vilnius question was the cause of the Polish-Lithuanian War and the Sejny Uprising. The area has been subsequently part of Poland until today, with the exception of the German and Soviet occupation during World War II. The Suwałki Region remains as the center of the Lithuanian minority in Poland.


The Neolithic era ushered in the first settled agricultural communities in the area of present-day Poland, whose founders had migrated from the Danube River area beginning about 5500 BC. Later, the native post-Mesolithic populations would also adopt and further develop the agricultural way of life (between 4400 and about 2000 BC). During the Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, the northeast corner of what is now Poland was populated by West Baltic tribes. They were at the outer limits of any substantial cultural influence from the Roman Empire.

Middle Ages

After the local Yotvingians were eradicated or Germanized by the Teutonic Order in the 14th century, their southern lands were repopulated by Poles, Belarusians, and Ukrainians, while their northern territories (Suvalkija) remained largely void of settlement until the 16th century when Lithuanians began to migrate into the area.

Early modern era

The region belonged (either fully or partially) to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (within the Polish–Lithuanian union) until 1569, and afterwards it was divided between the Grand Duchy and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, both forming the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

19th century

Following the Third Partition of Poland, the whole region belonged to the Kingdom of Prussia from 1795 to 1807, and then subsequently to the Duchy of Warsaw from 1808 to 1815.In 1815 the Suwałki Region became part of Congress Poland, a state which was tied by personal union to Russia and absorbed by the Russian Empire in the aftermath of the November Uprising. The Suwałki Governorate, according to a Russian census conducted during the 1880s, was majority (about 58%) Lithuanian. Most of its territory is now part of Lithuania, with only three uyezds (Augustów, Suwałki, and Sejny) partially located in Poland. The 1897 Russian Census recorded the linguistic composition of local towns: Augustów – Polish (46.2%), Jewish (28.5%), Russian (18.7%), Lithuanian (0.2%); Suwałki – Polish (38.7% ), Jewish (32.9%), Russian, (21.6%), Lithuanian (0.5%); Sejny – Jewish (50.8%), Polish (40.4%), Lithuanian (4.2%), Russian (2.5%).The three corresponding uyezds (counties) had the following population (by language): Augustów Uyezd – Polish (49.1%), Belarusian (32.5%), Jewish (11.6%), Russian (5.4%), Lithuanian (0.2%); Suwałki Uyezd – Polish (66.8%), Jewish (11.3%), Lithuanian (8.5%), Russian (7.9%), German (4.3%); Sejny Uyezd – Lithuanian (59.6%), Polish (22.9%), Jewish (11.8%), Russian (4.4%), German (1.2%).The town of Sejny was located on the Polish-Lithuanian ethno-linguistic boundary.

World War I

During World War I, the region was captured by the German army and incorporated into Ober Ost. According to the German census of 1916, Poles constituted 86.6% of the inhabitants in the Augustów Kreis (district) and 74.2% in the Suwałki Kreis; Lithuanians accounted for 0.3% and 9.6% respectively. The Sejny Kreis had a Lithuanian majority of 51%, while Poles made up 43.3% of the population.

Interwar period

Poland's sovereignty was restored in the wake of World War I, but its eastern borders were not settled. The Suwałki Region was claimed by re-established independent Lithuania based on cultural heritage and later 1920 peace treaty with Soviet Russia. In November 1918, the German forces allowed the establishment of Polish civilian administration in the form of the Provisional Citizens' Council (Polish: Tymczasowa Rada Obywatelska Okręgu Suwalskiego, TROOS). They also permitted elections to the Polish Legislative Sejm, which took place on 16 February 1919. Nevertheless, the German military saw further strengthening of Polish aspirations as disadvantageous and in March 1919 handed control over the area to the Lithuanian Taryba. In May 1919, units of the Lithuanian army joined German troops in Suwałki and Sejny.In July 1919, the Entente ordered the German army to leave the Suwałki Region, and adopted the Foch Line as a temporary demarcation line between Poland and Lithuania. The line left on the Polish side: the counties of Suwałki and Augustów, the town of Sejny, and four communes (gminas) of the Sejny county: Krasnopol, Krasnowo, Berżniki, and Giby.The Lithuanian army left the region in July–August 1919 (after the Entente's decision and the Sejny Uprising) and returned again, a year later, during the Polish Army's retreat from advancing Soviets. In September 1920, the Poles forced the Lithuanians to withdraw behind the Foch Line.The Foch line coincided approximately with the eastern ethnic boundary of Lithuania and evolved into the future Polish–Lithuanian border, which was internationally recognized in 1923 (while being rejected by the Lithuanian government). A small ethnically Lithuanian area (north of Sejny (Lithuanian: Seinai) and around Puńsk (Lithuanian: Punskas)) was left under Polish control. The Suwałki section of the Polish–Lithuanian border remained unchanged after World War II.During the Interwar period, the Lithuanian authorities claimed that the region consisted of three counties (see administrative divisions of Lithuania), that were illegally occupied by Poland. These included: Augustavo Apskritis based in the town of Augustów (Lithuanian: Augustavas); Suvalkų Apskritis formed around the city of Suwałki (Lithuanian: Suvalkai); Seinų Apskritis centered on the town of Sejny (Lithuanian: Seinai).The aforementioned units roughly correspondended to the actual administrative division of the area into powiats of Augustów, Suwałki and Sejny of the Białystok Voivodeship of Poland, respectively. The region was the least economically developed part of Poland in the interwar period.

World War II

Following the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland, which started World War II in September 1939, most of the Suwałki Region was annexed by Nazi Germany and adjoined to the province of East Prussia, while a small part with the town of Lipsk was occupied by the Soviet Union until 1941. Under German occupation, the Polish population was subjected to the genocidal Intelligenzaktion campaign, which included mass arrests, massacres, deportations to forced labour and concentration camps, and expulsions, while in the Soviet-occupied part the Russians carried out deportations of Poles into the USSR. In April 1940, the Germans carried out mass deportations of local Polish intelligentsia to concentration camps, including Soldau, Sachsenhausen and Dachau.

Modern period

After World War II, Poland regained control over the territory. The area was administratively part of the Białystok Voivodeship until 1975, then the Suwałki Voivodeship until 1998, and since 1999 it is located in the Podlaskie Voivodeship. The area is still inhabited by the Lithuanian minority. Lithuanians are concentrated in the Sejny County where they accounted for 20.2% of the population in 2011 and exceeded 10% of the inhabitants in two communes – Gmina Puńsk (73.4%) and Gmina Sejny (15.5%). There are Lithuanian schools and cultural societies present in the Suwałki region and the Lithuanian language is spoken in the offices in the commune of Puńsk.


The Suwałki Region has many lakes and forests and is considered a relatively undeveloped region in Poland. Towns: Suwałki Augustów Sejny LipskForests: Augustów Primeval Forest Romincka ForestLakes: Hańcza Wigry Lake KojleParks: Biebrza National Park Puszcza Romincka Landscape Park Suwałki Landscape Park Wigry National Park
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