As the First World War drew to a close in the west, hostilities were still raging hot in the east. The Polish leader Józef Pilsudski and the Ukranian Symon Petlyura combined their forces and began heading eastward to secure their border with Soviet Russia. Initially, their cooperation was seen as an alliance of two equal nations. A declaration was made by the Poles that they would withdraw from the East (occupied eastern areas) as soon as a peace treaty had been reached with the Bolsheviks. However, after they occupied much of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, the Polish began to persecute the other nationalities. Ukrainian intelligentsia was systematically followed and assassinated, the same fate was brought upon the Lithuanians and the few Belarusian nationalists. The Great Powers could only gaze upon what was happening with fear. France, on the one hand, supported a strong Poland so that Germany would be boxed in. The British on the other hand wanted a strong Germany on the continent as a countermeasure to the French.
The Poles enacted a referendum in 1922 for the formation of the Intermarium Union to legitimise their actions. It was to be held in ”all territories not part of Core Poland”. To inflate the amount of votes for the union, all Polish troops currently stationed in the territories were given the right to vote. The referendum was available in only two languages, Polish and Lithuanian and this further decreased the votes for independence as most Ukranians and Belarusians did not speak those languages. Harassment by the Polish military stationed outside the voting centres was commonplace. All ballots, after the voter had filled it in, were given to Polish officials at the voting centre which means the voting was not secret. Another reason why the referendum was not seen as fair was that many non-Poles (specifically Ukrainians) voted for Union instead of Independence out of fear for a Russian invasion.
The outcome of the referendum was widely seen as being manipulated. However, no one could supply evidence or commit troops for a new referendum to be held. Thus, the Intermarum Union was born and would come to last for most of the 20th century. A common question asked by many historians today is what would have happened if Pilsudski had failed? What would Europe look like if there was no strong Eastern European state in Poland’s place? Could communism have spread from Russia in the east and Germany in the west to link up in a Communist super state spanning most of Central and Eastern Europe?