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Map indicating Litbel's intended borders (thick blue line) superimposed on state borders of 1920.
|Status||Puppet state of Soviet Russia|
|Common languages||Lithuanian · Belarusian|
Yiddish · Polish · Russian
|Government||Soviet socialist republic|
|Legislature||Council of People's Commissars|
|Historical era||World War I|
|February 17 1919|
|July 17 1919|
The Lithuanian–Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (LBSSR; Lithuanian: Lietuvos–Baltarusijos Tarybinė Socialistinė Respublika; Belarusian: Літоўска–Беларуская Савецкая Сацыялістычная Рэспубліка; Russian: Литовско–Белорусская ССР; Polish: Litewsko–Białoruska Republika Radziecka) or Litbel (Lit-Bel) was a Soviet socialist republic that existed within the territories of modern Belarus and eastern Lithuania for approximately five months during 1919. It was created after the merger of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia. The republic was dissolved after the Polish Army took over its claimed territory of eastern Lithuania during the Polish–Soviet War.
After the end of World War I in November 1918, Soviet Russia began a westward offensive following the retreating German Army. It attempted to spread the global proletarian revolution and sought to establish Soviet republics in Eastern Europe. By the end of December 1918, Bolshevik forces reached Lithuania. The Bolsheviks saw the Baltic states as a barrier or a bridge into Western Europe, where they could join the German and the Hungarian Revolutions.
The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed on 16 December 1918 and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia was established on 1 January 1919. The two republics were weak, championed by the newly created Communist Party of Lithuania and Communist Party of Byelorussia but not enjoying public support. Faced with military setbacks in the Polish–Soviet and Lithuanian–Soviet Wars, the Soviets decided to consolidate their efforts and the two republics were merged into Litbel on 27 February 1919. The communist parties were also merged into the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Lithuania and Belorussia.
The merger of the Lithuanian and Belarusian Soviet Republics was not welcomed in either Lithuania or Belarus. In particular, Belarusians perceived the merger as annexation by Lithuania and resented the exploitation of Belarusian nationalism for tactical reasons. Some Belarusian nationalists, like Zmicier Zhylunovich, resigned their posts. However, Moscow insisted and the merger was supervised by Adolph Joffe, who selected the members of the Litbel government. The new government was headed by Vincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas, Chairman of the Litbel Council of People's Commissars (corresponding to prime minister) and included no Belarusians. The government was financed by loans from Russian SFSR. Historians describe it as "artificial creation" or "fiction".
Litbel's capital was initially Vilnius. In April it was moved to Minsk, after Vilnius was seized by the Polish Army during the Vilna offensive. Soviet premier Vladimir Lenin hoped to start peace negotiations with Poland via Polish communist Julian Markhlevski and officially liquidated Litbel on 17 July 1919. Minsk was taken by the Polish Army on 8 August 1919 during Operation Minsk, thus the government of Litbel – which in fact no longer existed – evacuated to Smolensk in August 1919. By late July 1919, almost the entire territory of Litbel was occupied by foreign armies.
In September 1919, the Soviets had already recognized independent Lithuania and offered to negotiate a peace treaty. The Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty was concluded on July 12, 1920. When the Polish–Soviet War turned to Soviet favor, the Soviets recaptured Minsk and recreated the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic on 31 July 1920. Despite diplomatic recognition and the peace treaty, the Soviets planned a coup to overthrow the Lithuanian government and re-establish the Soviet republic. However, Soviets lost the Battle of Warsaw and were pushed back by the Poles. Some historians credit this victory for saving Lithuania's independence from the Soviet coup. The Polish–Russian border was determined by the Peace of Riga, which left just about half of Belarusian territory to Byelorussian SSR.
Members of the Council of the People's Commissars (equivalent to a cabinet of ministers) as of February 27, 1919 were: