Bug River land

The Bug River land (Polish: Mienie zabużańskie, "Trans-Bug land") is land which was within the territory of interbellum Poland (Second Polish Republic) and was forcibly vacated by Polish landowners after 1945 when the territory ceased to be inside Poland. The name refers to the Bug River because the Bug forms a major part of the new eastern boundary of Poland largely based on the Curzon Line, separating the so-called Eastern Borderlands from the rest of current Polish territory. The Bug River land is today distributed between the states of Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine.[1] The claims for compensation for this sequestered land are known as the Bug River claims.

Bug River property lies to the east of the Curzon Line-based part of the modern Polish border

Agreements made between the USSR and the interim Polish government, Government of National Unity mostly concerned the evacuation of the population, and did not set out any detailed rules for compensating owners of vacated property. The laws of Communist Poland had a limited number of provisions concerning issues related to ownership of agricultural land and estates.[1]

In modern Poland, legislative provision was made on December 12, 2003, to form the basis of state compensation for Polish citizens against the value of their vacated property abroad, by offsetting the value of that vacated property, against an assessed sale price or rent arising from perpetual use. As of February 29, 2003, 82,000 applications for compensation were submitted, with a total estimated value of over 10,500 million PLN.[1]

Due to the unsatisfactory handling of matter it was raised before the Polish Constitutional Court in 2002. [2]

In 2004 the matter wcame before the European Court for Human Rights in the test case: Broniowski v. Poland.[3]) The Court found

A systemic problem connected with the malfunctioning of domestic legislation and practice caused by the failure to set up an effective mechanism to implement the "right to credit" of Bug River claimants ... with the consequence that not only the applicant in this particular case but also a whole class of individuals had been or were still denied the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.

The Court noted that the matter was not satisfactorily resolved for some 80,000 claimants.[4]

Further decrees on the implementation of the right to compensation include:

  • Decree of July 8, 2005 - "O realizacji prawa do rekompensaty z tytułu pozostawienia nieruchomości poza obecnymi granicami Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej" (Dz. U. z 2005r. Nr 169 poz. 1418).
  • Decree of September 8, 2006 - "O zmianie ustawy o realizacji prawa do rekompensaty z tytułu pozostawienia nieruchomości poza obecnymi granicami Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej oraz niektórych innych ustaw" (Dz. U. 2006r.Nr 195 poz. 1437).

In February 2014 President Bronisław Komorowski signed a decree to update further the regulations relating to compensation for Bug River landowners. In particular, the decree removed a number of restrictions on the right to compensation.[5] In so doing, it addressed the issues raised before the Constitutional Court and the ECHR on the subject.[5][6]

Due to the recent aspiration of Ukraine to join the European Union, a discussion has arisen in Poland about whether Ukraine would be willing to share the burden of compensation.[7] Reportedly, Lithuania has only reluctantly addressed the claims of Poles for compensation/restitution.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Bug River claims" Archived April 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Ministry of Treasury of the Republic of Poland (retrieved April 19, 2015)
  2. ^ Regional Protection of Human Rights, Volume 1, 2013, ISBN 0199941521, p.862
  3. ^ Case Broniowski v. Poland, HUDOC database
  4. ^ The Individual in the International Legal System: Continuity and Change in International Law, 2011, ISBN 1139499971, p. 333
  5. ^ a b "Prezydent podpisał ustawę ws. rekompensat za mienie zabużańskie"
  6. ^ International Law and Domestic Legal Systems: Incorporation, Transformation, and Persuasion, 2011, ISBN 0191029769, Chapter "Poland" by Anna Wyrozumska, p. 479
  7. ^ "Zwrot Kresów: Czy Ukraina zapłaci wystawione rachunki?"
  8. ^ "Nic co polskie Polakom na Litwie" ("Nothing Polish to be Returned to Poles in Lithuania"), Kurier Wilenski