Republic of Poland
Anthem: " Mazurek Dąbrowskiego "
(English: "Poland Is Not Yet Lost")
Second Polish Republic in 1930
|Capital|| Warsaw |
64.8% Roman Catholicism
|Government|| Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic (1918-1935)|
Unitary presidential constitutional (1935-1939)
|Józef Piłsudski a|
• 1918–1919 (first)
• 1936–1939 (last)
|Felicjan S. Składkowski|
• Upper chamber
• Lower chamber
|Historical era||Interwar period|
• End of World War I
|11 November 1918|
|28 June 1919|
|18 March 1921|
|1 September 1939|
|17 September 1939|
|28 September 1939|
|6 October 1939|
|1921||387,000 km2 (149,000 sq mi)|
|1931||388,634 km2 (150,052 sq mi)|
|1938||389,720 km2 (150,470 sq mi)|
|Currency|| Marka (until 1924)|
Złoty (after 1924)
|ISO 3166 code||PL|
The Second Polish Republic, commonly known as interwar Poland, refers to the country of Poland in the period between the First and Second World Wars (1918–1939). Officially known as the Republic of Poland (Polish : Rzeczpospolita Polska), sometimes Commonwealth of Poland, the Polish state was re-established in 1918, in the aftermath of World War I. When, after several regional conflicts, the borders of the state were fixed in 1922, Poland's neighbours were Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Free City of Danzig, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and the Soviet Union. It had access to the Baltic Sea via a short strip of coastline either side of the city of Gdynia. Between March and August 1939, Poland also shared a border with the then-Hungarian governorate of Subcarpathia. The Second Republic ceased to exist in 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the Slovak Republic, marking the beginning of the European theatre of World War II.
In the context of the history of the 20th century, the interwar period was the period between the end of the First World War in November 1918 and the beginning of the Second World War in September 1939.
Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.
World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.
In 1938, the Second Republic was the sixth largest country in Europe. According to the 1921 census, the number of inhabitants was 27.2 million. By 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II, this had grown to an estimated 35.1 million. Almost a third of population came from minority groups: 13.9% Ruthenians; 10% Ashkenazi Jews; 3.1% Belarusians; 2.3% Germans and 3.4% Czechs and Lithuanians. At the same time, a significant number of ethnic Poles lived outside the country's borders.
The Polish census of 1921 or First General Census in Poland was the first census in the Second Polish Republic, performed on September 30, 1921 by the Main Bureau of Statistics. It was followed by the Polish census of 1931.
In sociology, a minority group refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group. Minority group membership is typically based on differences in observable characteristics or practices, such as: sex, ethnicity, race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. Utilizing the framework of intersectionality, it is important to recognize that an individual may simultaneously hold membership in multiple minority groups. Likewise, individuals may also be part of a minority group in regard to some characteristics, but part of a dominant group in regard to others.
Ruthenians and Ruthenes are Latin exonyms formerly used in Western Europe for the ancestors of modern East Slavic peoples, especially the Rus' people with a Ruthenian Greek Catholic religious background and Orthodox believers who lived outside the Rus'.
The political conditions of the Second Republic were heavily influenced by the aftermath of World War I and conflicts with neighbouring states (Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, the Soviet Union) and the emergence of Nazi Germany.
The aftermath of World War I saw drastic political, cultural, economic, and social change across Eurasia, Africa, and even in areas outside those that were directly involved. Four empires collapsed due to the war, old countries were abolished, new ones were formed, boundaries were redrawn, international organizations were established, and many new and old ideologies took a firm hold in people's minds.
The Polish–Ukrainian War of November 1918 and 1919 was a conflict between the Second Polish Republic and Ukrainian forces. The conflict had its roots in ethnic, cultural and political differences between the Polish and Ukrainian populations living in the region. The war started in Eastern Galicia after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and spilled over into Chełm Land and Volhynia (Wołyń) regions formerly belonging to the Russian Empire, which were both claimed by the Ukrainian State and the Ukrainian People's Republic.
The Poland–Czechoslovakia War, also known mostly in Czech sources as the Seven-day war was a military confrontation between Czechoslovakia and Poland over the territory of Cieszyn Silesia in 1919.
The Second Republic maintained moderate economic development. The cultural hubs of interwar Poland – Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Wilno and Lwów –became major European cities and the sites of internationally acclaimed universities and other institutions of higher education.
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland and its population is officially estimated at 1.765 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 3.1 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 8th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 516.9 square kilometres (199.6 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). Warsaw is an alpha global city, a major international tourist destination, and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Its historical Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kraków, also spelled Cracow or Krakow, is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków was the official capital of Poland until 1596 and has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, economic, cultural and artistic life. Cited as one of Europe's most beautiful cities, its Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Poznań is a city on the Warta River in west-central Poland, in the Greater Poland region and is the fifth-largest city in Poland. It is best known for its renaissance Old Town and Ostrów Tumski Cathedral. Today, Poznań is an important cultural and business centre and one of Poland's most populous regions with many regional customs such as Saint John's Fair, traditional Saint Martin's croissants and a local dialect.
After more than a century of Partitions between the Austrian, the Prussian, and the Russian imperial powers, Poland re-emerged as a sovereign state at the end of the First World War in Europe in 1917-1918.The victorious Allies of World War I confirmed the rebirth of Poland in the Treaty of Versailles of June 1919. It was one of the great stories of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Poland solidified its independence in a series of border wars fought by the newly formed Polish Army from 1918 to 1921. The extent of the eastern half of the interwar territory of Poland was settled diplomatically in 1922 and internationally recognized by the League of Nations.
The Partitions of Poland were three partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that took place toward the end of the 18th century and ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland and Lithuania for 123 years. The partitions were conducted by Habsburg Austria, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Russian Empire, which divided up the Commonwealth lands among themselves progressively in the process of territorial seizures and annexations.
The Austrian Partition comprise the former territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth acquired by the Habsburg Monarchy during the Partitions of Poland in the late 18th century. The three partitions were conducted jointly by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and Habsburg Austria, resulting in the complete elimination of the Polish Crown. Austria acquired Polish lands during the First Partition of 1772, and Third Partition of Poland in 1795. In the end, the Austrian sector encompassed the second-largest share of the Commonwealth's population after Russia; over 2.65 million people living on 128,900 km2 of land constituting formerly south-central part of the Republic.
The Prussian Partition, or Prussian Poland, refers to the former territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth acquired during the Partitions of Poland, in the late 18th century by the Kingdom of Prussia. The Prussian acquisition amounted to 141,400 km2 of land constituting formerly western territory of the Commonwealth. The first partitioning led by imperial Russia with Prussian participation took place in 1772; the next one in 1793, and the final one in 1795, resulting in Poland's elimination as a state for the next 123 years.
In the course of World War I (1914-1918), Germany gradually gained overall dominance on the Eastern Front as the Imperial Russian Army fell back. German and Austro-Hungarian armies seized the Russian-ruled part of what became Poland. In a failed attempt to resolve the Polish question as quickly as possible, Berlin set up a German puppet state on 5 November 1916, with a governing Provisional Council of State and (from 15 October 1917) a Regency Council (Rada Regencyjna Królestwa Polskiego). The Council administered the country under German auspices (see also Mitteleuropa), pending the election of a king. A month before Germany surrendered on 11 November 1918 and the war ended, the Regency Council had dissolved the Council of State, and announced its intention to restore Polish independence (7 October 1918).[ citation needed ] With the notable exception of the Marxist-oriented Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), most Polish political parties supported this move. On 23 October the Regency Council appointed a new government under Józef Świeżyński and began conscription into the Polish Army.
The Eastern Front or Eastern Theater of World War I was a theatre of operations that encompassed at its greatest extent the entire frontier between the Russian Empire and Romania on one side and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire on the other. It stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, included most of Eastern Europe and stretched deep into Central Europe as well. The term contrasts with "Western Front", which was being fought in Belgium and France.
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of more than 900,000 regular soldiers and nearly 250,000 irregulars.
Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe from 1867 to 1918. It was formed by giving a new constitution to the Austrian Empire, which devolved powers on Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) and placed them on an equal footing. It broke apart into several states at the end of World War I.
In 1918–1919, over 100 workers' councils sprang up on Polish territories;on 5 November 1918, in Lublin, the first Soviet of Delegates was established. On 6 November socialists proclaimed the Republic of Tarnobrzeg at Tarnobrzeg in Austrian Galicia. The same day the Socialist, Ignacy Daszyński, set up a Provisional People's Government of the Republic of Poland (Tymczasowy Rząd Ludowy Republiki Polskiej) in Lublin. On Sunday, 10 November at 7 a.m., Józef Piłsudski, newly freed from 16 months in a German prison in Magdeburg, returned by train to Warsaw. Piłsudski, together with Colonel Kazimierz Sosnkowski, was greeted at Warsaw's railway station by Regent Zdzisław Lubomirski and by Colonel Adam Koc. Next day, due to his popularity and support from most political parties, the Regency Council appointed Piłsudski as Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces. On 14 November, the Council dissolved itself and transferred all its authority to Piłsudski as Chief of State ( Naczelnik Państwa ). After consultation with Piłsudski, Daszyński's government dissolved itself and a new government formed under Jędrzej Moraczewski. In 1918 Italy became the first country in Europe to recognise Poland's renewed sovereignty.
Centers of government that formed at that time in Galicia (formerly Austrian-ruled southern Poland) included the National Council of the Principality of Cieszyn (established in November 1918), the Republic of Zakopane and the Polish Liquidation Committee (28 October). Soon afterward, the Polish–Ukrainian War broke out in Lwów (1 November 1918) between forces of the Military Committee of Ukrainians and the Polish irregular units made up of students known as the Lwów Eaglets, who were later supported by the Polish Army (see Battle of Lwów (1918), Battle of Przemyśl (1918)). Meanwhile, in western Poland, another war of national liberation began under the banner of the Greater Poland Uprising (1918–19). In January 1919 Czechoslovakian forces attacked Polish units in the area of Zaolzie (see Polish–Czechoslovak War). Soon afterwards the Polish–Lithuanian War (ca 1919-1920) began, and in August 1919 Polish-speaking residents of Upper Silesia initiated a series of three Silesian Uprisings. The most critical military conflict of that period, however, the Polish–Soviet War (1919-1921), ended in a decisive Polish victory.In 1919 the Warsaw government suppressed the Republic of Tarnobrzeg and the workers' councils.
The Second Polish Republic was a parliamentary democracy from 1919 (see Small Constitution of 1919) to 1926, with the President having limited powers. The Parliament elected him, and he could appoint the Prime Minister as well as the government with the Sejm's (lower house's) approval, but he could only dissolve the Sejm with the Senate's consent. Moreover, his power to pass decrees was limited by the requirement that the Prime Minister and the appropriate other Minister had to verify his decrees with their signatures. Poland was one of the first countries in the world to recognize women's suffrage. Women in Poland were granted the right to vote on 28 November 1918 by a decree of Józef Piłsudski.
The major political parties at this time were the Polish Socialist Party, National Democrats, various Peasant Parties, Christian Democrats, and political groups of ethnic minorities (German: German Social Democratic Party of Poland, Jewish: General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland, United Jewish Socialist Workers Party, and Ukrainian: Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance). Frequently changing governments (see Polish legislative election, 1919, Polish legislative election, 1922) and other negative publicity the politicians received (such as accusations of corruption or 1919 Polish coup attempt), made them increasingly unpopular. Major politicians at this time, in addition to Piłsudski, included peasant activist Wincenty Witos (Prime Minister three times) and right-wing leader Roman Dmowski. Ethnic minorities were represented in the Sejm; e.g. in 1928 – 1930 there was the Ukrainian-Belarusian Club, with 26 Ukrainian and 4 Belarusian members.
After the Polish – Soviet war, Marshal Piłsudski led an intentionally modest life, writing historical books for a living. After he took power by a military coup in May 1926, he emphasized that he wanted to heal the Polish society and politics of excessive partisan politics. His regime, accordingly, was called Sanacja in Polish. The 1928 parliamentary elections were still considered free and fair, although the pro-Piłsudski Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government won them. The following three parliamentary elections (in 1930, 1935 and 1938) were manipulated, with opposition activists sent to Bereza Kartuska prison (see also Brest trials). As a result, pro-government party Camp of National Unity won huge majorities in them. Piłsudski died just after an authoritarian constitution was approved in the spring of 1935. During the last four years of the Second Polish Republic, the major politicians included President Ignacy Mościcki, Foreign Minister Józef Beck and the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army, Edward Rydz-Śmigły. The country was divided into 104 electoral districts, and those politicians who were forced to leave Poland, founded Front Morges in 1936. The government that ruled Second Polish Republic in its final years is frequently referred to as Piłsudski's colonels.
The interwar Poland had a considerably large army of 950,000 soldiers on active duty: in 37 infantry divisions, 11 cavalry brigades, and two armored brigades, plus artillery units. Another 700,000 men served in the reserves. At the outbreak of the war, the Polish army was able to put in the field almost one million soldiers, 4,300 guns, 1,280 tanks and 745 aircraft.
The training of the Polish army was thorough. The N.C.O.s were a competent body of men with expert knowledge and high ideals. The officers, both senior and junior, constantly refreshed their training in the field and in the lecture-hall, where modern technical achievement and the lessons of contemporary wars were demonstrated and discussed. The equipment of the Polish army was less developed technically than that of Nazi Germany and its rearmament was slowed down by confidence in Western European military support and by budget difficulties.
After regaining its independence, Poland was faced with major economic difficulties. In addition to the devastation wrought by World War I, the exploitation of the Polish economy by the German and Russian occupying powers, and the sabotage performed by retreating armies, the new republic was faced with the task of economically unifying disparate economic regions, which had previously been part of different countries.Within the borders of the Republic were the remnants of three different economic systems, with five different currencies (the German mark, the Russian ruble, the Austrian crown, the Polish marka and the Ostrubel) and with little or no direct infrastructural links. The situation was so bad that neighboring industrial centers as well as major cities lacked direct railroad links, because they had been parts of different nations. For example, there was no direct railroad connection between Warsaw and Kraków until 1934. This situation was described by Melchior Wańkowicz in his book Sztafeta.
On top of this was the massive destruction left after both World War I and the Polish–Soviet War. There was also a great economic disparity between the eastern (commonly called Poland B) and western (called Poland A) parts of the country, with the western half, especially areas that had belonged to the German Empire being much more developed and prosperous. Frequent border closures and a customs war with Germany also had negative economic impacts on Poland. In 1924 Prime Minister and Economic Minister Władysław Grabski introduced the złoty as a single common currency for Poland (it replaced the Polish marka), which remained a stable currency. The currency helped Poland to control the massive hyperinflation. It was the only country in Europe able to do this without foreign loans or aid.The average annual growth rate (GDP per capita) was 5.24% in 1920–29 and 0.34% in 1929–38.
Hostile relations with neighbours were a major problem for the economy of interbellum Poland. In the year 1937, foreign trade with all neighbours amounted to only 21% of Poland's total. Trade with Germany, Poland's most important neighbour, accounted for 14.3% of Polish exchange. Foreign trade with the Soviet Union (0.8%) was virtually nonexistent. Czechoslovakia accounted for 3.9%, Latvia for 0.3%, and Romania for 0.8%. By mid-1938, after the Anschluss of Austria, Greater Germany was responsible for as much as 23% of Polish foreign trade.
The basis of Poland's gradual recovery after the Great Depression was its mass economic development plans (see Four Year Plan), which oversaw the building of three key infrastructural elements. The first was the establishment of the Gdynia seaport, which allowed Poland to completely bypass Gdańsk (which was under heavy German pressure to boycott Polish coal exports). The second was construction of the 500-kilometer rail connection between Upper Silesia and Gdynia, called Polish Coal Trunk-Line, which served freight trains with coal. The third was the creation of a central industrial district, named COP – Central Industrial Region (Centralny Okręg Przemysłowy). Unfortunately, these developments were interrupted and largely destroyed by the German and Soviet invasion and the start of World War II.Other achievements of interbellum Poland included Stalowa Wola (a brand new city, built in a forest around a steel mill), Mościce (now a district of Tarnów, with a large nitrate factory), and the creation of a central bank. There were several trade fairs, with the most popular being Poznań International Fair, Lwów's Targi Wschodnie, and Wilno's Targi Północne. Polish Radio had ten stations (see Radio stations in interwar Poland), with the eleventh one planned to be opened in the autumn of 1939. Furthermore, in 1935 Polish engineers began working on the TV services. By early 1939, experts of the Polish Radio built four TV sets. The first movie broadcast by experimental Polish TV was Barbara Radziwiłłówna, and by 1940, regular TV service was scheduled to begin operation.
Interbellum Poland was also a country with numerous social problems. Unemployment was high, and poverty was widespread, which resulted in several cases of social unrest, such as the 1923 Kraków riot, and 1937 peasant strike in Poland. There were conflicts with national minorities, such as Pacification of Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia (1930), relations with Polish neighbors were sometimes complicated (see Soviet raid on Stołpce, Polish–Czechoslovak border conflicts, 1938 Polish ultimatum to Lithuania). On top of this, there were natural disasters, such as the 1934 flood in Poland.
Interbellum, Poland was unofficially divided into two parts – better developed "Poland A" in the west, and underdeveloped "Poland B" in the east. Polish industry was concentrated in the west, mostly in Polish Upper Silesia, and the adjacent Lesser Poland's province of Zagłębie Dąbrowskie, where the bulk of coal mines and steel plants was located. Furthermore, heavy industry plants were located in Częstochowa (Huta Częstochowa, founded in 1896), Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski (Huta Ostrowiec, founded in 1837–1839), Stalowa Wola (brand new industrial city, which was built from scratch in 1937 – 1938), Chrzanów ( Fablok , founded in 1919), Jaworzno, Trzebinia (oil refinery, opened in 1895), Łódź (the seat of Polish textile industry), Poznań (H. Cegielski – Poznań), Kraków and Warsaw (Ursus Factory). Further east, in Kresy, industrial centers included two major cities of the region – Lwów and Wilno (Elektrit).
Besides coal mining, Poland also had deposits of oil in Borysław, Drohobycz, Jasło and Gorlice (see Polmin), potassium salt (TESP), and basalt (Janowa Dolina). Apart from already-existing industrial areas, in the mid-1930s, an ambitious, state-sponsored project of Central Industrial Region was started under Minister Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski. One of characteristic features of Polish economy in the interbellum was gradual nationalization of major plants. This was the case of Ursus Factory (see Państwowe Zakłady Inżynieryjne), and several steelworks, such as Huta Pokój in Ruda Śląska – Nowy Bytom, Huta Królewska in Chorzów – Królewska Huta, Huta Laura in Siemianowice Śląskie, as well as Scheibler and Grohman Works in Łódź.
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According to the 1939 Statistical Yearbook of Poland, total length of railways of Poland (as for 31 December 1937) was 20,118 kilometres (12,501 miles). Rail density was 5.2 kilometres (3.2 miles) per 100 square kilometres (39 square miles). Railways were very dense in western part of the country, while in the east, especially Polesie, rail was non-existent in some counties. During the interbellum period, the Polish government constructed several new lines, mainly in the central part of the country (see also Polish State Railroads Summer 1939). Construction of extensive Warszawa Główna railway station was never finished due to the war, and Polish railroads were famous for their punctuality (see Luxtorpeda, Strzała Bałtyku, Latający Wilnianin).
In the interbellum, road network of Poland was dense, but the quality of the roads was very poor – only 7% of all roads was paved and ready for automobile use, and none of the major cities were connected with each other by a good-quality highway. Poles built in 1939 only one highway, 28 km of straight concrete road connecting villages Warlubie and Osiek (mid-northern Poland). It was designed by Italian engineer Piero Puricelli.
In the mid-1930s, Poland had 340,000 kilometres (211,266 miles) of roads, but only 58,000 had hard surface (gravel, cobblestone or sett), and 2,500 were modern, with asphalt or concrete surface. In different parts of the country, there were sections of paved roads, which suddenly ended, and were followed by dirt roads. The poor condition of the roads was the result of both long-lasting foreign dominance and inadequate funding. On 29 January 1931, the Polish Parliament created the State Road Fund, the purpose of which was to collect money for the construction and conservation of roads. The government drafted a 10-year plan, with road priorities: a highway from Wilno, through Warsaw and Cracow, to Zakopane (called Marshall Pilsudski Highway), asphalt highways from Warsaw to Poznań and Łódź, as well as a Warsaw ring road. However, the plan turned out to be too ambitious, with insufficient money in the national budget to pay for it. In January 1938, the Polish Road Congress estimated that Poland would need to spend three times as much money on roads to keep up with Western Europe.
In 1939, before the outbreak of the war, LOT Polish Airlines, which was established in 1929, had its hub at Warsaw Okęcie Airport. At that time, LOT maintained several services, both domestic and international. Warsaw had regular domestic connections with Gdynia-Rumia, Danzig-Langfuhr, Katowice-Muchowiec, Kraków-Rakowice-Czyżyny, Lwów-Skniłów, Poznań-Ławica, and Wilno-Porubanek. Furthermore, in cooperation with Air France, LARES, Lufthansa, and Malert, international connections were maintained with Athens, Beirut, Berlin, Bucharest, Budapest, Helsinki, Kaunas, London, Paris, Prague, Riga, Rome, Tallinn, and Zagreb.
Statistically, the majority of citizens lived in the countryside (75% in 1921). Farmers made up 65% of the population. In 1929, agricultural production made up 65% of Poland's GNP.After 123 years of partitions, regions of the country were very unevenly developed. Lands of former German Empire were most advanced; in Greater Poland and Pomerelia, crops were on Western European level. The situation was much worse in parts of Congress Poland, Eastern Borderlands, and former Galicia, where agriculture was most backward and primitive, with a large number of small farms, unable to succeed in either the domestic and international market. Another problem was the overpopulation of the countryside, which resulted in chronic unemployment. Living conditions were so bad that in several regions, such as counties inhabited by the Hutsuls, there was permanent starvation. Farmers rebelled against the government (see: 1937 peasant strike in Poland), and the situation began to change in the late 1930s, due to construction of several factories for the Central Industrial Region, which gave employment to thousands of countryside residents.
Beginning in June 1925 there was a customs' war with the revanchist Weimar Republic imposing trade embargo against Poland for nearly a decade; involving tariffs, and broad economic restrictions. After 1933 the trade war ended. The new agreements regulated and promoted trade. Germany became Poland's largest trading partner, followed by Britain. In October 1938 Germany granted a credit of Rm 60,000,000 to Poland (120,000,000 zloty, or £4,800,000) which was never realized, due to the outbreak of war. Germany would deliver factory equipment and machinery in return for Polish timber and agricultural produce. This new trade was to be in addition to the existing German-Polish trade agreements.
In 1919, the Polish government introduced compulsory education for all children aged 7 to 14, in an effort to limit illiteracy, which was widespread especially in the former Russian Partition and the Austrian Partition of eastern Poland. In 1921, one-third of citizens of Poland remained illiterate (38% in the countryside). The process was slow, but by 1931, the illiteracy level had dropped to 23% overall (27% in the countryside) and further down to 18% in 1937. By 1939, over 90% of children attended school.In 1932, Minister of Religion and Education Janusz Jędrzejewicz carried out a major reform which introduced two main levels of education: common school (szkoła powszechna), with three levels – 4 grades + 2 grades + 1 grade; and middle school (szkoła średnia), with two levels – 4 grades of comprehensive middle school and 2 grades of specified high school (classical, humanistic, natural and mathematical). A graduate of middle school received a small matura , while a graduate of high school received a big matura, which enabled them to seek university-level education.
Before 1918, Poland had three universities: Jagiellonian University, University of Warsaw and Lwów University. Catholic University of Lublin was established in 1918; Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, in 1919; and finally, in 1922, after the annexation of Republic of Central Lithuania, Wilno University became the Republic's sixth university. There were also three technical colleges: the Warsaw University of Technology, Lwów Polytechnic and the AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków, established in 1919. Warsaw University of Life Sciences was an agricultural institute. By 1939, there were around 50,000 students enrolled in further education. Women made up 28% of university students, the second highest proportion in Europe.
Polish science in the interbellum was renowned for its mathematicians gathered around the Lwów School of Mathematics, the Kraków School of Mathematics, as well as Warsaw School of Mathematics. There were world-class philosophers in the Lwów–Warsaw school of logic and philosophy.Florian Znaniecki founded Polish sociological studies. Rudolf Weigl invented a vaccine against typhus. Bronisław Malinowski counted among the most important anthropologists of the 20th century. In Polish literature, the 1920s were marked by the domination of poetry. Polish poets were divided into two groups – the Skamanderites (Jan Lechoń, Julian Tuwim, Antoni Słonimski and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz) and the Futurists (Anatol Stern, Bruno Jasieński, Aleksander Wat, Julian Przyboś). Apart from well-established novelists (Stefan Żeromski, Władysław Reymont), new names appeared in the interbellum – Zofia Nałkowska, Maria Dąbrowska, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Jan Parandowski, Bruno Schultz, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Witold Gombrowicz. Among other notable artists there were sculptor Xawery Dunikowski, painters Julian Fałat, Wojciech Kossak and Jacek Malczewski, composers Karol Szymanowski, Feliks Nowowiejski, and Artur Rubinstein, singer Jan Kiepura. Theatre was very popular in the interbellum, with three main centers in the cities of Warsaw, Wilno and Lwów. Altogether, there were 103 theaters in Poland and a number of other theatrical institutions (including 100 folk theaters). In 1936, different shows were seen by 5 million people, and main figures of Polish theatre of the time were Juliusz Osterwa, Stefan Jaracz, and Leon Schiller. Also, before the outbreak of the war, there were about a million radios (see Radio stations in interwar Poland).
The administrative division of the Republic was based on a three-tier system. On the lowest rung were the gminy , local town and village governments akin to districts or parishes. These were then grouped together into powiaty (akin to counties), which, in turn, were grouped as województwa (voivodeships, akin to provinces).
|Polish voivodeships (1 April 1937)|
| Car plates |
in 1,000s km2
|00–19||City of Warsaw||Warsaw||0.14||1,179.5|
|55–59||poleskie (Polesia)||Brześć nad Bugiem||36.7||1,132.2|
|The borders of several western and central voivodeships were revised on 1 April 1938|
Historically, Poland was a nation of many nationalities. This was especially true after independence was regained in the wake of World War I and the subsequent Polish–Soviet War ending at Peace of Riga. The census of 1921 shows 30.8% of the population consisted of ethnic minorities,compared with a share of 1.6% (solely identifying with a non-Polish ethnic group) or 3.8% (including those identifying with both the Polish ethnicity and with another ethnic group) in 2011. The first spontaneous flight of about 500,000 Poles from the Soviet Union occurred during the reconstitution of sovereign Poland. In the second wave, between November 1919 and June 1924 some 1,200,000 people left the territory of the USSR for Poland. It is estimated that some 460,000 of them spoke Polish as the first language. According to the 1931 Polish Census: 68.9% of the population was Polish, 13.9% were Ukrainian, around 10% Jewish, 3.1% Belarusian, 2.3% German and 2.8% other, including Lithuanian, Czech, Armenian, Russian, and Romani. The situation of minorities was a complex subject and changed during the period.
Poland was also a nation of many religions. In 1921, 16,057,229 Poles (approx. 62.5%) were Roman (Latin) Catholics, 3,031,057 citizens of Poland (approx. 11.8%) were Eastern Rite Catholics (mostly Ukrainian Greek Catholics and Armenian Rite Catholics), 2,815,817 (approx. 10.95%) were Greek Orthodox, 2,771,949 (approx. 10.8%) were Jewish, and 940,232 (approx. 3.7%) were Protestants (mostly Lutheran).
By 1931, Poland had the second largest Jewish population in the world, with one-fifth of all the world's Jews residing within its borders (approx. 3,136,000).The urban population of interbellum Poland was rising steadily; in 1921, only 24% of Poles lived in the cities, in the late 1930s, that proportion grew to 30%. In more than a decade, the population of Warsaw grew by 200,000, Łódź by 150,000, and Poznań – by 100,000. This was due not only to internal migration, but also to an extremely high birth rate.
|7||141,000|| Poznań Voivodeship |
later Pomeranian Voivodeship
|Ethnic minorities (total)|
|30 September 1921 (census)||27,177,000||75.4%||69.9||30,77%|
|9 December 1931 (census)||32,348,000||72.6%||82.6||31.09%|
|31 December 1938 (estimate)||34,849,000||70.0%||89.7||Upward trend in immigration|
The Second Polish Republic was mainly flat with average elevation of 233 metres (764 ft) above sea level, except for the southernmost Carpathian Mountains (after World War II and its border changes, the average elevation of Poland decreased to 173 metres (568 ft)). Only 13% of territory, along the southern border, was higher than 300 metres (980 ft). The highest elevation in the country was Mount Rysy, which rises 2,499 metres (8,199 ft) in the Tatra Range of the Carpathians, approximately 95 kilometres (59 miles) south of Kraków. Between October 1938 and September 1939, the highest elevation was Lodowy Szczyt (known in the Slovak language as Ľadový štít), which rises 2,627 metres (8,619 ft) above sea level. The largest lake was Lake Narach.
The country's total area, after the annexation of Zaolzie, was 389,720 square kilometres (150,470 sq mi). It extended 903 kilometres (561 miles) from north to south and 894 kilometres (556 miles) from east to west. On 1 January 1938, total length of boundaries was 5,529 kilometres (3,436 miles), including: 140 kilometres (87 miles) of coastline (out of which 71 kilometres (44 miles) were made by the Hel Peninsula), the 1,412 kilometres (877 miles) with Soviet Union, 948 kilometers with Czechoslovakia (until 1938), 1,912 kilometres (1,188 miles) with Germany (together with East Prussia), and 1,081 kilometres (672 miles) with other countries (Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Danzig). The warmest yearly average temperature was in Kraków among major cities of the Second Polish Republic, at 9.1 °C (48.4 °F) in 1938; and the coldest in Wilno (7.6 °C or 45.7 °F in 1938). Extreme geographical points of Poland included Przeświata River in Somino to the north (located in the Braslaw county of the Wilno Voivodeship); Manczin River to the south (located in the Kosów county of the Stanisławów Voivodeship); Spasibiorki near railway to Połock to the east (located in the Dzisna county of the Wilno Voivodeship); and Mukocinek near Warta River and Meszyn Lake to the west (located in the Międzychód county of the Poznań Voivodeship).
Almost 75% of the territory of interbellum Poland was drained northward into the Baltic Sea by the Vistula (total area of drainage basin of the Vistula within boundaries of the Second Polish Republic was 180,300 square kilometres (69,600 square miles), the Niemen (51,600 square kilometres or 19,900 square miles), the Odra (46,700 square kilometres or 18,000 square miles) and the Daugava (10,400 square kilometres or 4,000 square miles). The remaining part of the country was drained southward, into the Black Sea, by the rivers that drain into the Dnieper (Pripyat, Horyn and Styr, all together 61,500 square kilometres or 23,700 square miles) as well as Dniester (41,400 square kilometres or 16,000 square miles)
The Second World War in 1939 ended the sovereign Second Polish Republic. The German invasion of Poland began on 1 September 1939, one week after Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. On that day, Germany and Slovakia attacked Poland, and on 17 September the Soviets attacked eastern Poland. Warsaw fell to the Nazis on 28 September after a twenty-day siege. Open organized Polish resistance ended on 6 October 1939 after the Battle of Kock, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying most of the country. Lithuania annexed the area of Wilno, and Slovakia seized areas along Poland's southern border - including Górna Orawa and Tatranská Javorina - which Poland had annexed from Czechoslovakia in October 1938. Poland did not surrender to the invaders, but continued fighting under the auspices of the Polish government-in-exile and of the Polish Underground State. After the signing of the German–Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Demarcation on 28 September 1939, Polish areas occupied by Nazi Germany either became directly annexed to the Third Reich, or became part of the so-called General Government. The Soviet Union, following Elections to the People's Assemblies of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus (22 October 1939), annexed eastern Poland partly to the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, and partly to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (November 1939).
Polish war plans (Plan West and Plan East) failed as soon as Germany invaded in 1939. The Polish losses in combat against Germans (killed and missing in action) amounted to ca. 70,000 men. Some 420,000 of them were taken prisoners. Losses against the Red Army (which invaded Poland on 17 September) added up to 6,000 to 7,000 of casualties and MIA, 250,000 were taken prisoners. Although the Polish army – considering the inactivity of the Allies – was in an unfavorable position – it managed to inflict serious losses to the enemies: 14,000 German soldiers were killed or MIA, 674 tanks and 319 armored vehicles destroyed or badly damaged, 230 aircraft shot down; the Red Army lost (killed and MIA) about 2,500 soldiers, 150 combat vehicles and 20 aircraft. The Soviet invasion of Poland, and lack of promised aid from the Western Allies, contributed to the Polish forces defeat by 6 October 1939.
A popular myth is that Polish cavalry armed with lances charged German tanks during the September 1939 campaign. This often repeated account, first reported by Italian journalists as German propaganda, concerned an action by the Polish 18th Lancer Regiment near Chojnice. This arose from misreporting of a single clash on 1 September 1939 near Krojanty, when two squadrons of the Polish 18th Lancers armed with sabers surprised and wiped out a German infantry formation with a mounted sabre charge. Shortly after midnight the 2nd (Motorized) Division was compelled to withdraw by Polish cavalry, before the Poles were caught in the open by German armored cars. The story arose because some German armored cars appeared and gunned down 20 troopers as the cavalry escaped. Even this failed to persuade everyone to reexamine their beliefs—there were some who thought Polish cavalry had been improperly employed in 1939.
Between 1939 and 1990, the Polish government-in-exile operated in Paris and later in London, presenting itself as the only legal and legitimate representative of the Polish nation. In 1990 the last president in exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski handed the presidential insignia to the newly elected President, Lech Wałęsa, signifying continuity between the Second and Third republics.
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Józef Klemens Piłsudski, was a Polish statesman who served as the Chief of State (1918–22) and First Marshal of Poland. He was considered the de facto leader (1926–35) of the Second Polish Republic as the Minister of Military Affairs. From World War I he had great power in Polish politics and was a distinguished figure on the international scene. He is viewed as a father of the Second Polish Republic re-established in 1918, 123 years after the 1795 Partitions of Poland by Austria, Prussia and Russia.
The history of interwar Poland comprises the period from the re-recreation of the independent Polish state in 1918, until the joint Invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 at the onset of World War II. The two decades of Poland's sovereignty between the world wars are known as the Interbellum.
The Polish–Soviet War was fought by the Second Polish Republic, Ukrainian People's Republic and the proto-Soviet Union over a region comparable to today's westernmost Ukraine and parts of modern Belarus.
The Republic of Central Lithuania or Middle Lithuania, or Central Lithuania, was a short-lived political entity, which did not gain international recognition. The republic was created in 1920 following the staged rebellion of soldiers of the 1st Lithuanian–Belarusian Infantry Division of the Polish Army under Lucjan Żeligowski, supported by the Polish air force, cavalry and artillery. Centered on the historical capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Vilna, for eighteen months the entity served as a buffer state between Poland, upon which it depended, and Lithuania, which claimed the area. After a variety of delays, a disputed election took place on January 8, 1922, and the territory was annexed to Poland.
Kresy Wschodnie or Kresy was the Eastern part of the Second Polish Republic during the interwar period constituting nearly half of the territory of the state. As a concept the Polish notion of Kresy corresponds with the Russian one of Okrainy (Oкраины).. The population in Kresy had a considerable proportion of national minorities, which in total were roughly equal in their number to ethnic Poles and even exceeded the numbers of Poles in some areas. Administratively, the territory of Kresy was composed of voivodeships of Lwów, Nowogródek, Polesie, Stanisławów, Tarnopol, Wilno, Wołyń, and the Białystok. Today, these territories are divided between Western Ukraine, Western Belarus, and south-eastern Lithuania, with such major cities as Lviv, Vilnius, and Grodno no longer in Poland. In the Second Polish Republic the term Kresy roughly equated with the lands beyond the so-called Curzon Line, which was suggested after World War I in December 1919 by the British Foreign Office as the eastern border of the re-emerging sovereign Republic following the century of partitions. In September 1939, after the Soviet Union joined Nazi Germany in their attack on Poland in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the territories were incorporated into Soviet Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania in the atmosphere of terror.
Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły(
The Polish–Soviet war erupted in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I. The root causes were twofold: a territorial dispute dating back to Polish–Russian wars in the 17–18th centuries; and a clash of ideology due to RSFSR's goal of spreading communist rule further west, to Europe. At that time both countries had just undergone transition: in 1918 Poland reclaimed independence after 123 years of partitions. In 1917 the October Revolution replaced the liberal, democratic Provisional Government, that had previously displaced the Tsar in Russia, with Soviet rule. The war ended with the Treaty of Riga in 1921, which settled the border issue and regulated Polish-Soviet relations until the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939.
Aleksander Błażej Prystor was a Polish politician, freemason, soldier and activist who served as 23rd Prime Minister of Poland from 1931 to 1933. He was a member of the Combat Organization of the Polish Socialist Party and in 1908 took part in the Bezdany raid. Between 1912 and 1917 he spent in Russian prisons before being released in 1917. In March 1917 he joined Polish Military Organisation. After independce he became secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. He fought as a volunteer in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1920. He worked for few ministries. Between 1931 and 1933 he served as Prime Minister of Poland. After that he became the Marshal of the Polish Senate 1935-1938.
Vilnius Region is the territory in the present-day Lithuania and Belarus that was originally inhabited by ethnic Baltic tribes and was a part of Lithuania proper, but came under East Slavic and Polish cultural influences over time.
The 36th Infantry Regiment of the Academic Legion was a Polish military unit. Initially made up of students from the University of Warsaw and the Warsaw University of Technology, it fought with distinction in the Polish-Bolshevik War, the Polish Defensive War and in the Warsaw Uprising.
Stanisław "Cat" Mackiewicz was a conservative Polish writer, journalist and monarchist.
The pioneers of radio in Poland were army officers. These were Poles who served in the German, Austrian and Russian armies in the World War I. In the fall of 1918, shortly after the war, these experts started organizing Polish radio. On November 4, 1918 in Kraków, a field station, previously used by the Austrian army, sent the first Polish radio signals. Soon, more field stations – this time German — were captured by the Poles in Warsaw and Poznań. Obviously, at first radio was used for military purposes only. Knowledge of Polish experts in this field was used to a great effect during the 1920 Polish-Soviet War.
The Polish–Romanian Alliance was a series of treaties signed in the interwar period by the Second Polish Republic and the Kingdom of Romania. The first of them was signed in 1921 and, together, the treaties formed a basis for good foreign relations between the two countries that lasted until World War II began in 1939.
The Vilna offensive was a campaign of the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1921. The Polish army launched an offensive on April 16, 1919, to take Vilnius from the Red Army. After three days of street fighting from April 19–21, the city was captured by Polish forces, causing the Red Army to retreat. During the offensive, the Poles also succeeded in securing the nearby cities of Lida, Pinsk, Navahrudak, and Baranovichi.
Plan East was a Polish defensive military plan, created in the 1920s and 1930s in case of war with the Soviet Union. Unlike Plan Zachód, it was being prepared during the whole Interwar period, as the government of the Second Polish Republic treated the Soviet Union as the greatest potential military threat, capable of initiating a full-scale war. However, a handful of loose historical documents are all that remains of the original Plan East today.
Żeligowski's Mutiny was a Polish military operation led by General Lucjan Żeligowski in October 1920, which resulted in the creation of the Republic of Central Lithuania. Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski had surreptitiously ordered Żeligowski to carry out the operation, and revealed the truth several years later. The area was formally annexed by Poland in 1922 and internationally recognized as Polish territory in 1923. Nevertheless, Lithuania continued to claim the Vilnius region.
The Suwałki Agreement, Treaty of Suvalkai, or Suwalki Treaty was an agreement signed in the town of Suwałki between Poland and Lithuania on October 7, 1920. It was registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on January 19, 1922. Both countries had re-established their independence in the aftermath of World War I and did not have well-defined borders. They waged the Polish–Lithuanian War over territorial disputes in the Suwałki and Vilnius Regions. At the end of September 1920, Polish forces defeated the Soviets at the Battle of the Niemen River, thus militarily securing the Suwałki Region and opening the possibility of an assault on the city of Vilnius (Wilno). Polish Chief of State, Józef Piłsudski, had planned to take over the city since mid-September in a false flag operation known as Żeligowski's Mutiny.
Polish culture in the interwar period witnessed the rebirth of Polish sovereignty. The nationhood along with its cultural heritage was no longer suppressed by the three foreign partitioners. The cultural development saw the retreat of the 19th century elite cultures of nobility as well as the traditional folk culture, and the rise of a new mass culture integrating Polish society closer to the new intelligentsia educated in the practice of democracy.
5th Legions Infantry Regiment of Józef Piłsudski was an infantry regiment of the Polish Army in 1918–1939. Garrisoned in the city of Wilno, it was part of the 1st Legions Infantry Division.
The rebirth of Poland was one of the great stories of the Paris Peace Conference.