The history of
Poland has its roots in the migrations of Slavs, who
established permanent settlements in the Polish lands during the Early
Middle Ages. The first ruling dynasty, the Piasts, emerged by the
10th century AD. Duke Mieszko I (d. 992) is considered the de facto
creator of the Polish state and is widely recognized for the adoption
Western Christianity that followed his baptism in 966. Mieszko's
Poland was formally reconstituted as a medieval kingdom in
1025 by his son Bolesław I the Brave, known for military expansion
under his rule. Perhaps the most successful of the Piast kings was the
last one, Casimir III the Great, who presided over a brilliant period
of economic prosperity and territorial aggrandizement before his death
in 1370 without male heirs. The period of the
Jagiellonian dynasty in
the 14th–16th centuries brought close ties with the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania, a cultural
Poland and continued territorial
expansion that culminated in the establishment of the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.
In its early phases, the Commonwealth was able to sustain the levels
of prosperity achieved during the Jagiellonian period, while its
political system matured as a unique noble democracy. From the
mid-17th century, however, the huge state entered a period of decline
caused by devastating wars and the deterioration of its political
system. Significant internal reforms were introduced during the later
part of the 18th century, especially in the Constitution of 3 May
1791, but neighboring powers did not allow the reform process to
advance. The independent existence of the Commonwealth ended in 1795
after a series of invasions and partitions of Polish territory carried
out by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Austrian
From 1795 until 1918, no truly independent Polish state existed,
although strong Polish resistance movements operated. After the
failure of the last military uprising against the Russian Empire, the
January Uprising of 1863, the nation preserved its identity through
educational initiatives and a program of "organic work" intended to
modernize the economy and society. The opportunity to regain
independence only materialized after World War I, when the three
partitioning imperial powers were fatally weakened in the wake of war
The Second Polish Republic, established in 1918, existed as an
independent state until 1939, when
Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union
destroyed it in their invasion of
Poland at the beginning of World War
II. Millions of Polish citizens perished in the course of the Nazi
Poland between 1939 and 1945 as
Poles and other Slavs,
Jews and Romani (Gypsies) as subhuman.
Nazi authorities targeted the last two groups for extermination in the
short term, deferring the extermination and/or enslavement of the
Slavs as part of the
Generalplan Ost ('General Plan for the East')
conceived by the Nazi régime. A Polish government-in-exile
nonetheless functioned throughout the war and the
Poles contributed to
the Allied victory through participation in military campaigns on both
the eastern and western fronts. The westward advances of the Soviet
Red Army in 1944 and 1945 compelled Nazi Germany's forces to retreat
from Poland, which led to the establishment of a communist satellite
state of the Soviet Union, known from 1952 as the Polish People's
As a result of territorial adjustments mandated by the victorious
Allies at the end of
World War II
World War II in 1945, Poland's geographic centre
of gravity shifted towards the west and the re-defined Polish lands
largely lost their traditional multi-ethnic character through the
extermination, expulsion and migration of various ethnic groups during
and after the war. By the late 1980s, the Polish reform movement
Solidarity became crucial in bringing about a peaceful transition from
a communist state to a capitalist economic system and a liberal
parliamentary democracy. This process resulted in the creation of the
modern Polish state: the Third Polish Republic, founded in 1989.
Prehistory and protohistory
2 Piast period (10th century–1385)
2.1 Mieszko I
2.2 Bolesław I the Brave
2.3 Piast monarchy under Casimir I, Bolesław II and Bolesław III
2.5 Late Piast monarchy under Władysław I and Casimir III
2.6 Angevin transition
Jagiellonian dynasty (1385–1572)
3.1 Dynastic union with Lithuania, Władysław II Jagiełło
3.2 Władysław III and Casimir IV Jagiellon
3.3 Early modern
Poland under Sigismund I and Sigismund II
4 Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
4.1 Establishment (1569–1648)
4.1.1 Union of Lublin
4.1.2 First elective kings
4.1.3 First kings of the Vasa dynasty
4.2 Decline (1648–1764)
4.2.1 Deluge of wars
John III Sobieski
John III Sobieski and last military victories
4.2.3 Saxon kings
4.3 Reforms and loss of statehood (1764–1795)
Czartoryski reforms and Stanisław August Poniatowski
Great Sejm of 1788–1791 and the Constitution of 3 May 1791
Kościuszko Uprising of 1794 and the end of
5.1 Armed resistance (1795–1864)
5.1.1 Napoleonic wars
5.1.2 The Congress of Vienna
5.1.3 The Uprising of November 1830
5.1.4 Revolts of the era of the Spring of Nations
5.1.5 The Uprising of January 1863
5.2 Formation of modern Polish society under foreign rule
5.2.1 Repression and organic work
5.2.2 Economic development and social change
5.2.3 Nationalism, socialism and other movements
5.2.4 The Revolution of 1905
World War I
World War I and the issue of Poland's independence
Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic (1918–1939)
6.1 Securing national borders, war with Soviet Russia
6.2 Democratic politics (1918–1926)
6.3 Piłsudski's coup and the
Sanation Era (1926–1935)
6.4 Social and economic trends of the interwar period
Sanation years (1935–1939)
7 World War II
7.1 Invasions and resistance
7.2 Soviet advance 1944–1945,
7.3 Allied conferences, Polish governments
7.4 War losses, extermination of Jews
7.5 Changing boundaries and population transfers
Polish People's Republic
Polish People's Republic (1945–1989)
8.1 Post-war struggle for power
8.3 Economic and social developments of the early communist era
8.4 The Thaw and Gomułka's
Polish October (1955–1958)
8.5 Stagnation and crackdown (1958–1970)
8.6 Worker revolts, reforms of Gierek, the Polish pope and Solidarity
8.7 The martial law, Jaruzelski's rule and the end of communism
9 Third Polish Republic (1989–today)
9.1 Systemic transition
9.2 Democratic constitution,
European Union memberships
10 See also
12.2 Works cited
14 External links
Prehistory and protohistory
Prehistory and protohistory of Poland
Prehistory and protohistory of Poland and Poland
in the Early Middle Ages
Biskupin fortified settlement of the Lusatian culture,
8th century BC
In prehistoric and protohistoric times, over a period of at least
500,000 years, the area of present-day
Poland was intermittently
inhabited by members of the
Homo genus. It went through the Stone Age,
Bronze Age and
Iron Age stages of development, along with the nearby
Neolithic period ushered in the Linear Pottery
culture, whose founders migrated from the
Danube River area beginning
about 5,500 BC. This culture was distinguished by the establishment of
the first settled agricultural communities in modern Polish territory.
Later, between about 4,400 and 2,000 BC, the native post-Mesolithic
populations would also adopt and further develop the agricultural way
Bronze Age began around 2300–2400 BC, whereas its
Iron Age commenced c. 700–750 BC. One of the many cultures that have
been uncovered, the Lusatian culture, spanned the Bronze and Iron Ages
and left notable settlement sites. Around 400 BC,
Celts of the La Tène culture. They were soon followed by
emerging cultures with a strong Germanic component, influenced first
Celts and then by the Roman Empire. The Germanic peoples
migrated out of the area by about 500 AD during the great Migration
Period of the European Dark Ages. Wooded regions to the north and east
were settled by Balts.
According to mainstream archaeological research,
Slavs have resided in
modern Polish territories for over 1500 years. Recent genetic
studies, however, determined that people who live in the current
Poland include the descendants of people who inhabited
the area for thousands of years, beginning in the early Neolithic
Slavs on the territory of
Poland were organized into tribal units, of
which the larger ones were later known as the Polish tribes; the names
of many tribes are found on the list compiled by the anonymous
Bavarian Geographer in the 9th century. In the 9th and 10th
centuries, these tribes gave rise to developed regions along the upper
Vistula, the coast of the
Baltic Sea and in Greater Poland. The latest
tribal undertaking, in Greater Poland, resulted in the formation of a
lasting political structure in the 10th century that became the state
of Poland, one of the West Slavic nations.[x]
Piast period (10th century–1385)
Further information: History of
Poland during the Piast dynasty
Poland expanded under its first two rulers. The dark pink area
Poland at end of rule of Mieszko I (992), whereas the light
pink area represents territories added during the reign of Bolesław I
(died 1025). The dark pink area in the northwest was lost during the
Poland was established as a state under the Piast dynasty, which ruled
the country between the 10th and 14th centuries. Historical records
referring to the Polish state begin with the rule of Duke Mieszko I.
Mieszko, whose reign commenced sometime before 963 and who continued
as the Polish monarch until his death in 992, chose to be baptized in
the Western Latin Rite, probably on 14 April 966, following his
marriage to Princess Doubravka of Bohemia, a fervent Christian.
This event has become known as the baptism of Poland, and its date is
often used to mark a symbolic beginning of Polish statehood.
Mieszko completed a unification of the West Slavic tribal lands that
was fundamental to the new country's existence. Following its
Poland was led by a series of rulers who converted the
population to Christianity, created a strong kingdom and fostered a
distinctive Polish culture that was integrated into the broader
Bolesław I the Brave
Mieszko's son, Duke
Bolesław I the Brave
Bolesław I the Brave (r. 992–1025), established
a Polish Church structure, pursued territorial conquests and was
officially crowned the first king of
Poland in 1025, near the end of
his life. Bolesław also sought to spread
Christianity to parts of
Europe that remained pagan, but suffered a setback when his
greatest missionary, Adalbert of Prague, was killed in Prussia in
997. During the
Congress of Gniezno
Congress of Gniezno in the year 1000, Holy Roman
Emperor Otto III recognized the Archbishopric of Gniezno, an
institution crucial for the continuing existence of the sovereign
Polish state. During the reign of Otto's successor, Holy Roman
Emperor Henry II, Bolesław fought prolonged wars with the Kingdom of
Germany between 1002 and 1018.
Piast monarchy under Casimir I, Bolesław II and Bolesław III
Bolesław I's expansive rule overstretched the resources of the early
Polish state, and it was followed by a collapse of the monarchy.
Recovery took place under
Casimir I the Restorer
Casimir I the Restorer (r. 1039–58).
Bolesław II the Generous
Bolesław II the Generous (r. 1058–79) became involved
in a conflict with Bishop
Stanislaus of Szczepanów
Stanislaus of Szczepanów that ultimately
caused his downfall. Bolesław had the bishop murdered in 1079 after
being excommunicated by the Polish church on charges of adultery. This
act sparked a revolt of Polish nobles that led to Bolesław's
deposition and expulsion from the country. Around 1116, Gallus
Anonymus wrote a seminal chronicle, the Gesta principum Polonorum,
intended as a glorification of his patron
Bolesław III Wrymouth
Bolesław III Wrymouth (r.
1107–38), a ruler who revived the tradition of military prowess of
Bolesław I's time. Gallus' work remains a paramount written source
for the early history of Poland.
After Bolesław III divided
Poland among his sons in his Testament of
1138, internal fragmentation eroded the Piast monarchical
structures in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1180, Casimir II the
Just, who sought papal confirmation of his status as a senior duke,
granted immunities and additional privileges to the Polish Church at
the Congress of Łęczyca. Around 1220,
Wincenty Kadłubek wrote
his Chronica seu originale regum et principum Poloniae, another major
source for early Polish history. In 1226, one of the regional Piast
dukes, Konrad I of Masovia, invited the Teutonic Knights to help him
fight the Baltic Prussian pagans. The
Teutonic Order destroyed the
Prussians but kept their lands, which resulted in centuries of warfare
Poland and the Teutonic Knights, and later between
the German Prussian state. The first Mongol invasion of
in 1240; it culminated in the defeat of Polish and allied Christian
forces and the death of the Silesian Piast Duke
Henry II the Pious
Henry II the Pious at
Battle of Legnica
Battle of Legnica in 1241. In 1242,
Wrocław became the first
Polish municipality to be incorporated, as the period of
fragmentation brought economic development and growth of towns. In
Bolesław the Pious
Bolesław the Pious granted Jewish liberties in the Statute of
Late Piast monarchy under Władysław I and Casimir III
Władysław I the Elbow-high
Attempts to reunite the Polish lands gained momentum in the 13th
century, and in 1295, Duke
Przemysł II of Greater
Poland managed to
become the first ruler since Bolesław II to be crowned king of
Poland. He ruled over a limited territory and was soon killed. In
Wenceslaus II of Bohemia
Wenceslaus II of Bohemia also reigned as king of
Poland. The Piast Kingdom was effectively restored under
Władysław I the Elbow-high
Władysław I the Elbow-high (r. 1306–33), who became king in
1320. In 1308, the Teutonic Knights seized
Gdańsk and the
surrounding region of Pomerelia.
Casimir III the Great
Casimir III the Great (r. 1333–70), Władysław's son and
the last of the Piast rulers, strengthened and expanded the restored
Kingdom of Poland, but the western provinces of
ceded by Casimir in 1339) and most of Polish
Pomerania were lost to
the Polish state for centuries to come. Progress was made in the
recovery of the separately governed central province of Mazovia,
however, and in 1340, the conquest of
Red Ruthenia began, marking
Poland's expansion to the east. The Congress of Kraków, a vast
convocation of central, eastern, and northern European rulers probably
assembled to plan an anti-Turkish crusade, took place in 1364, the
same year that the future Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest
European universities, was founded. On 9 October 1334, Casimir
III confirmed the privileges granted to
Jews in 1264 by Bolesław the
Pious and allowed them to settle in
Poland in great numbers.
After the Polish royal line and Piast junior branch died out in 1370,
Poland came under the rule of
Louis I of Hungary
Louis I of Hungary of the Capetian House
of Anjou, who presided over a union of
Poland that lasted
until 1382. In 1374, Louis granted the Polish nobility the
Privilege of Koszyce
Privilege of Koszyce to assure the succession of one of his daughters
in Poland. His youngest daughter Jadwiga (d. 1399) assumed the
Polish throne in 1384.
Jagiellonian dynasty (1385–1572)
Further information: History of
Poland during the Jagiellonian dynasty
Dynastic union with Lithuania, Władysław II Jagiełło
An iconic representation of the Battle of Grunwald, a great military
contest of the Late Middle Ages
In 1386, Grand Duke Jogaila of
Lithuania married Queen Jadwiga of
Poland. This act enabled him to become a king of
and he ruled as
Władysław II Jagiełło
Władysław II Jagiełło until his death in 1434. The
marriage established a personal
Polish–Lithuanian union ruled by the
Jagiellonian dynasty. The first in a series of formal "unions" was the
Union of Krewo
Union of Krewo of 1385, whereby arrangements were made for the
marriage of Jogaila and Jadwiga. The Polish–Lithuanian
partnership brought vast areas of
Ruthenia controlled by the Grand
Lithuania into Poland's sphere of influence and proved
beneficial for the nationals of both countries, who coexisted and
cooperated in one of the largest political entities in
Europe for the
next four centuries. When Queen Jadwiga died in 1399, the Kingdom of
Poland fell to her husband's sole possession.
Baltic Sea region, Poland's struggle with the Teutonic Knights
continued and culminated in the
Battle of Grunwald
Battle of Grunwald (1410), a great
victory that the
Lithuanians were unable to follow up with a
decisive strike against the main seat of the
Teutonic Order at Malbork
Union of Horodło
Union of Horodło of 1413 further defined the evolving
relationship between the Kingdom of
Poland and the Grand Duchy of
The privileges of the szlachta (nobility) kept expanding and in 1425
the rule of Neminem captivabimus, which protected the noblemen from
arbitrary royal arrests, was formulated.
Władysław III and Casimir IV Jagiellon
Casimir IV Jagiellon
Casimir IV Jagiellon was the central figure of the Jagiellonian
The reign of the young Władysław III (1434–44), who succeeded
Władysław II Jagiełło
Władysław II Jagiełło and ruled as king of
Hungary, was cut short by his death at the
Battle of Varna
Battle of Varna against the
forces of the Ottoman Empire. This disaster led to an
interregnum of three years that ended with the accession of
Casimir IV Jagiellon
Casimir IV Jagiellon in 1447.
Critical developments of the Jagiellonian period were concentrated
during Casimir IV's long reign, which lasted until 1492. In 1454,
Royal Prussia was incorporated by
Poland and the Thirteen Years' War
of 1454–66 with the Teutonic state ensued. In 1466, the
milestone Peace of Thorn was concluded. This treaty divided Prussia to
create East Prussia, the future Duchy of Prussia, a separate entity
that functioned as a fief of
Poland under the administration of the
Poland also confronted the
Ottoman Empire and
the Crimean Tatars in the south, and in the east helped Lithuania
fight the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The country was developing as a
feudal state, with a predominantly agricultural economy and an
increasingly dominant landed nobility. Kraków, the royal capital, was
turning into a major academic and cultural center, and in 1473 the
first printing press began operating there. With the growing
importance of szlachta (middle and lower nobility), the king's council
evolved to become by 1493 a bicameral General
Sejm (parliament) that
no longer represented exclusively top dignitaries of the
Nihil novi act, adopted in 1505 by the Sejm, transferred most of
the legislative power from the monarch to the Sejm. This event
marked the beginning of the period known as "Golden Liberty", when the
state was ruled in principle by the "free and equal" Polish nobility.
In the 16th century, the massive development of folwark agribusinesses
operated by the nobility led to increasingly abusive conditions for
the peasant serfs who worked them. The political monopoly of the
nobles also stifled the development of cities, some of which were
thriving during the late Jagiellonian era, and limited the rights of
townspeople, effectively holding back the emergence of the middle
Poland under Sigismund I and Sigismund II
Renaissance courtyard of Wawel Castle
In the 16th century, Protestant
Reformation movements made deep
inroads into Polish
Christianity and the resulting
Poland involved a number of different denominations. The policies of
religious tolerance that developed in
Poland were nearly unique in
Europe at that time and many who fled regions torn by religious strife
found refuge in Poland. The reigns of King Sigismund I the Old
(1506–1548) and King
Sigismund II Augustus
Sigismund II Augustus (1548–1572) witnessed
an intense cultivation of culture and science (a Golden Age of the
Renaissance in Poland), of which the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus
(1473–1543) is the best known representative. Jan Kochanowski
(1530–1584) was a poet and the premier artistic personality of the
period. In 1525, during the reign of Sigismund I, the
Teutonic Order was secularized and Duke Albert performed an act of
homage before the Polish king (the Prussian Homage) for his fief, the
Duchy of Prussia.
Mazovia was finally fully incorporated into the
Polish Crown in 1529.
The reign of Sigismund II ended the Jagiellonian period, but gave rise
Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin (1569), an ultimate fulfillment of the union
with Lithuania. This agreement transferred
Ukraine from the Grand
Poland and transformed the Polish–Lithuanian
polity into a real union, preserving it beyond the death of the
childless Sigismund II, whose active involvement made the completion
of this process possible.
Livonia in the far northeast was incorporated by
Poland in 1561 and
Poland entered the
Livonian War against Russia. The executionist
movement, which attempted to check the progressing domination of the
state by the magnate families of
Poland and Lithuania, peaked at the
Sejm in Piotrków in 1562–63. On the religious front, the Polish
Brethren split from the Calvinists, and the Protestant
Brest Bible was
published in 1563. The Jesuits, who arrived in 1564, were
destined to make a major impact on Poland's history.
Further information: History of
Poland in the Early Modern era
(1569–1795) and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Further information: History of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Union of Lublin
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth at its greatest extent, after the
Truce of Deulino
Truce of Deulino of 1619
Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin of 1569 established the Polish–Lithuanian
Commonwealth, a federal state more closely unified than the earlier
political arrangement between
Poland and Lithuania. The union was run
largely by the nobility through the system of central parliament and
local assemblies, but was headed by elected kings. The formal rule of
the nobility, who were proportionally more numerous than in other
European countries, constituted an early democratic system ("a
sophisticated noble democracy"), in contrast to the absolute
monarchies prevalent at that time in the rest of Europe. The
beginning of the Commonwealth coincided with a period in Polish
history when great political power was attained and advancements in
civilization and prosperity took place. The Polish–Lithuanian Union
became an influential participant in European affairs and a vital
cultural entity that spread
Western culture (with Polish
characteristics) eastward. In the second half of the 16th century and
the first half of the 17th century, the Commonwealth was one of the
largest and most populous states in contemporary Europe, with an area
approaching one million square kilometres (0.39 million
square miles) and a population of about ten million. Its economy was
dominated by export-focused agriculture. Nationwide religious
toleration was guaranteed at the
Warsaw Confederation in 1573.
First elective kings
After the rule of the
Jagiellonian dynasty ended in 1572, Henry of
Valois (later King Henry III of France) was the winner of the first
"free election" by the Polish nobility, held in 1573. He had to agree
to the restrictive pacta conventa obligations and fled
Poland in 1574
when news arrived of the vacancy of the French throne, to which he was
the heir presumptive. From the start, the royal elections
increased foreign influence in the Commonwealth as foreign powers
sought to manipulate the Polish nobility to place candidates amicable
to their interests. The reign of
Stephen Báthory of Hungary
followed (r. 1576–1586). He was militarily and domestically
assertive and is revered in Polish historical tradition as a rare case
of successful elective king. The establishment of the legal Crown
Tribunal in 1578 meant a transfer of many appellate cases from the
royal to noble jurisdiction.
First kings of the Vasa dynasty
Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa at the Siege of Smolensk. The king enjoyed a long
reign, but was excessively involved in dynastic affairs of his native
A period of rule under the Swedish
House of Vasa
House of Vasa began in the
Commonwealth in the year 1587. The first two kings from this dynasty,
Sigismund III (r. 1587–1632) and Władysław IV (r. 1632–1648),
repeatedly attempted to intrigue for accession to the throne of
Sweden, which was a constant source of distraction for the affairs of
the Commonwealth. At that time, the
Catholic Church embarked on an
ideological counter-offensive and the Counter-
Reformation claimed many
converts from Polish and Lithuanian Protestant circles. In 1596, the
Union of Brest split the Eastern Christians of the Commonwealth to
create the Uniate Church of the Eastern Rite, but subject to the
authority of the pope. The
Zebrzydowski rebellion against
Sigismund III unfolded in 1606–1608.
Seeking supremacy in Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth fought wars with
Russia between 1605 and 1618 in the wake of Russia's Time of Troubles;
the series of conflicts is referred to as the Polish–Muscovite War
or the Dymitriads. The efforts resulted in expansion of the eastern
territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, but the goal of
taking over the Russian throne for the Polish ruling dynasty was not
achieved. Sweden sought supremacy in the Baltic during the
Polish–Swedish wars of 1617–1629, and the
Ottoman Empire pressed
from the south in the Battles at Cecora in 1620 and Khotyn in
1621. The agricultural expansion and serfdom policies in Polish
Ukraine resulted in a series of Cossack uprisings. Allied with the
Habsburg Monarchy, the Commonwealth did not directly participate in
the Thirty Years' War.[s] Władysław's IV reign was mostly peaceful,
with a Russian invasion in the form of the
Smolensk War of 1632–1634
successfully repelled. The Orthodox Church hierarchy, banned in
Poland after the Union of Brest, was re-established in 1635.
Further information: History of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Deluge of wars
John II Casimir Vasa
John II Casimir Vasa reigned during the Commonwealth's most difficult
period. Frustrated with his inability to reform the state, he
abdicated in 1668.
During the reign of
John II Casimir Vasa
John II Casimir Vasa (r. 1648–1668), the third
and last king of his dynasty, the nobles' democracy fell into decline
as a result of foreign invasions and domestic disorder. These
calamities multiplied rather suddenly and marked the end of the Polish
Golden Age. Their effect was to render the once powerful Commonwealth
increasingly vulnerable to foreign intervention.
Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648–1657 engulfed the
south-eastern regions of the Polish crown; its long-term effects
were disastrous for the Commonwealth. The first liberum veto (a
parliamentary device that allowed any member of the
Sejm to dissolve a
current session immediately) was exercised by a deputy in 1652.
This practice would eventually weaken Poland's central government
critically. In the Treaty of Pereyaslav (1654), the Ukrainian rebels
declared themselves subjects of the
Tsar of Russia. The Second
Northern War raged through the core Polish lands in 1655–1660; it
included a brutal and devastating invasion of
Poland referred to as
the Swedish Deluge. The war ended in 1660 with the Treaty of
Oliva, which resulted in the loss of some of Poland's northern
possessions. In 1657 the
Treaty of Bromberg
Treaty of Bromberg established the
independence of the Duchy of Prussia. The Commonwealth forces did
well in the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667), but the end result was the
permanent division of
Poland and Russia, as agreed to
Truce of Andrusovo
Truce of Andrusovo (1667). Towards the end of the war, the
Lubomirski's rebellion, a major magnate revolt against the king,
destabilized and weakened the country. The large-scale slave raids of
the Crimean Tatars also had highly deleterious effects on the Polish
economy. Merkuriusz Polski, the first Polish newspaper, was
published in 1661.
In 1668, grief-stricken at the recent death of his wife and frustrated
by the disastrous political setbacks of his reign, John II Casimir
abdicated the throne and fled to France.[z]
John III Sobieski
John III Sobieski and last military victories
John III Sobieski
John III Sobieski with his son Jakub, whom he tried to position
to be his successor. Sobieski led the Commonwealth to its last great
King Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki, a native Pole, was elected to
replace John II Casimir in 1669. The Polish–Ottoman War (1672–76)
broke out during his reign, which lasted until 1673, and continued
under his successor,
John III Sobieski
John III Sobieski (r. 1674–1696). Sobieski
intended to pursue Baltic area expansion (and to this end he signed
Treaty of Jaworów with
France in 1675), but was forced
instead to fight protracted wars with the Ottoman Empire. By doing so,
Sobieski briefly revived the Commonwealth's military might. He
defeated the expanding Muslims at the Battle of Khotyn in 1673 and
decisively helped deliver Vienna from a Turkish onslaught at the
Battle of Vienna
Battle of Vienna in 1683. Sobieski's reign marked the last high
point in the history of the Commonwealth: in the first half of the
Poland ceased to be an active player in international
Treaty of Perpetual Peace (1686)
Treaty of Perpetual Peace (1686) with Russia was the
final border settlement between the two countries before the First
Poland in 1772.
The Commonwealth, subjected to almost constant warfare until 1720,
suffered enormous population losses and massive damage to its economy
and social structure. The government became ineffective in the wake of
large-scale internal conflicts, corrupted legislative processes and
manipulation by foreign interests. The nobility fell under the control
of a handful of feuding magnate families with established territorial
domains. The urban population and infrastructure fell into ruin,
together with most peasant farms, whose inhabitants were subjected to
increasingly extreme forms of serfdom. The development of science,
culture and education came to a halt or regressed.
Augustus II the Strong
The royal election of 1697 brought a ruler of the Saxon House of
Wettin to the Polish throne:
Augustus II the Strong
Augustus II the Strong (r. 1697–1733),
who was able to assume the throne only by agreeing to convert to Roman
Catholicism. He was succeeded by his son Augustus III (r.
1734–1763). The reigns of the Saxon kings (who were both
simultaneously prince-electors of Saxony) were disrupted by competing
candidates for the throne and witnessed further disintegration of the
Great Northern War
Great Northern War of 1700–1721, a period seen
by the contemporaries as a temporary eclipse, may have been the fatal
blow that brought down the Polish political system. Stanisław
Leszczyński was installed as king in 1704 under Swedish protection,
but lasted only a few years. The
Silent Sejm of 1717 marked the
beginning of the Commonwealth's existence as a Russian
protectorate: the Tsardom would guarantee the reform-impeding
Golden Liberty of the nobility from that time on in order to cement
the Commonwealth's weak central authority and a state of perpetual
political impotence. In a resounding break with traditions of
religious tolerance, Protestants were executed during the Tumult of
Thorn in 1724. In 1732, Russia,
Austria and Prussia, Poland's
three increasingly powerful and scheming neighbors, entered into the
Treaty of the Three Black Eagles
Treaty of the Three Black Eagles with the intention of
controlling the future royal succession in the Commonwealth. The War
of the Polish Succession was fought in 1733–1735 to assist
Leszczyński in assuming the throne of
Poland for a second time.
Amidst considerable foreign involvement, his efforts were
Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia became a strong regional power
and succeeded in wresting the historically Polish province of Silesia
Habsburg Monarchy in the Silesian Wars; it thus constituted
an ever-greater threat to Poland's security. The personal union
between the Commonwealth and the Electorate of
Saxony did give rise to
the emergence of a reform movement in the Commonwealth and the
beginnings of the Polish Enlightenment culture, the major positive
developments of this era. The first Polish public library was the
Załuski Library in Warsaw, opened to the public in 1747.
Reforms and loss of statehood (1764–1795)
Further information: History of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Czartoryski reforms and Stanisław August Poniatowski
Stanisław August Poniatowski, the "enlightened" monarch
During the later part of the 18th century, fundamental internal
reforms were attempted in the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as it
slid into extinction. The reform activity, initially promoted by the
Czartoryski family faction known as the Familia, provoked a
hostile reaction and military response from neighboring powers, but it
did create conditions that fostered economic improvement. The most
populous urban center, the capital city of Warsaw, replaced Danzig
(Gdańsk) as the leading trade center, and the importance of the more
prosperous urban social classes increased. The last decades of the
independent Commonwealth's existence were characterized by aggressive
reform movements and far-reaching progress in the areas of education,
intellectual life, art and the evolution of the social and political
The royal election of 1764 resulted in the elevation of Stanisław
August Poniatowski, a refined and worldly aristocrat connected to
Czartoryski family, but hand-picked and imposed by Empress
Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great of Russia, who expected him to be her obedient
follower. Stanisław August ruled the Polish–Lithuanian state until
its dissolution in 1795. The king spent his reign torn between his
desire to implement reforms necessary to save the failing state and
the perceived necessity of remaining in a subordinate relationship to
his Russian sponsors.
Bar Confederation (1768–1772) was a rebellion of nobles
directed against Russia's influence in general and Stanisław August,
who was seen as its representative, in particular. It was fought to
preserve Poland's independence and the nobility's traditional
interests. After several years, it was brought under control by forces
loyal to the king and those of the Russian Empire.
Following the suppression of the Bar Confederation, parts of the
Commonwealth were divided up among Prussia,
Austria and Russia in 1772
at the instigation of
Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great of Prussia, an action that
became known as the First Partition of Poland: the outer provinces
of the Commonwealth were seized by agreement among the country's three
powerful neighbors and only a rump state remained. In 1773, the
"Partition Sejm" ratified the partition under duress as a fait
accompli. However, it also established the Commission of National
Education, a pioneering in
Europe education authority often called the
world's first ministry of education.
Great Sejm of 1788–1791 and the Constitution of 3 May 1791
Great Sejm adopted the
Constitution of 3 May 1791
Constitution of 3 May 1791 at the Royal
The long-lasting session of parliament convened by King Stanisław
August is known as the
Great Sejm or Four-Year Sejm; it first met in
1788. Its landmark achievement was the passing of the Constitution of
3 May 1791, the first singular pronouncement of a supreme law of
the state in modern Europe. A moderately reformist document condemned
by detractors as sympathetic to the ideals of the French Revolution,
it soon generated strong opposition from the conservative circles of
the Commonwealth's upper nobility and from Empress Catherine of
Russia, who was determined to prevent the rebirth of a strong
Commonwealth. The nobility's Targowica Confederation, formed in
Russian imperial capital of Saint Petersburg, appealed to Catherine
for help, and in May 1792, the Russian army entered the territory of
the Commonwealth. The Polish–Russian War of 1792, a defensive
war fought by the forces of the Commonwealth against Russian invaders,
ended when the Polish king, convinced of the futility of resistance,
capitulated by joining the Targowica Confederation. The Russian-allied
confederation took over the government, but Russia and Prussia in 1793
arranged for the Second Partition of
Poland anyway. The partition left
the country with a critically reduced territory that rendered it
essentially incapable of an independent existence. The Commonwealth's
Grodno Sejm of 1793, the last
Sejm of the state's existence, was
compelled to confirm the new partition.
Kościuszko Uprising of 1794 and the end of Polish–Lithuanian
Tadeusz Kościuszko's call for a national uprising,
Radicalized by recent events, Polish reformers (whether in exile or
still resident in the reduced area remaining to the Commonwealth) were
soon working on preparations for a national insurrection. Tadeusz
Kościuszko, a popular general and a veteran of the American
Revolution, was chosen as its leader. He returned from abroad and
Kościuszko's proclamation in
Kraków on March 24, 1794. It
called for a national uprising under his supreme command.
Kościuszko emancipated many peasants in order to enroll them as
kosynierzy in his army, but the hard-fought insurrection, despite
widespread national support, proved incapable of generating the
foreign assistance necessary for its success. In the end, it was
suppressed by the combined forces of Russia and Prussia, with Warsaw
captured in November 1794 in the aftermath of the Battle of Praga.
The three Partitions of the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1772,
1793, and 1795)
In 1795, a Third Partition of
Poland was undertaken by Russia, Prussia
Austria as a final division of territory that resulted in the
effective dissolution of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Stanisław August Poniatowski
Stanisław August Poniatowski was escorted to Grodno, forced to
abdicate, and retired to Saint Petersburg. Tadeusz
Kościuszko, initially imprisoned, was allowed to emigrate to the
United States in 1796.
The response of the Polish leadership to the last partition is a
matter of historical debate. Literary scholars found that the dominant
emotion of the first decade was despair that produced a moral desert
ruled by violence and treason. On the other hand, historians have
looked for signs of resistance to foreign rule. Apart from those who
went into exile, the nobility took oaths of loyalty to their new
rulers and served as officers in their armies.
Further information: History of
Poland (1795–1918), Partitions of
Poland, and Congress Poland
Armed resistance (1795–1864)
The death of Prince Józef Poniatowski, army chief of the Duchy of
Warsaw, at the Battle of Leipzig
Although no sovereign Polish state existed between 1795 and 1918, the
idea of Polish independence was kept alive throughout the 19th
century. There were a number of uprisings and other armed undertakings
waged against the partitioning powers. Military efforts after the
partitions were first based on the alliances of Polish émigrés with
post-revolutionary France. Jan Henryk Dąbrowski's Polish Legions
fought in French campaigns outside of
Poland between 1797 and 1802 in
hopes that their involvement and contribution would be rewarded with
the liberation of their Polish homeland. The Polish national
Poland Is Not Yet Lost", or "Dąbrowski's Mazurka", was
written in praise of his actions by
Józef Wybicki in 1797.
The Duchy of Warsaw, a small, semi-independent Polish state, was
created in 1807 by
Napoleon in the wake of his defeat of Prussia and
the signing of the
Treaties of Tilsit
Treaties of Tilsit with Emperor Alexander I of
Russia. The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw, led by Józef
Poniatowski, participated in numerous campaigns in alliance with
France, including the successful
Austro-Polish War of 1809, which,
combined with the outcomes of other theaters of the War of the Fifth
Coalition, resulted in an enlargement of the duchy's territory. The
French invasion of Russia
French invasion of Russia in 1812 and the
German Campaign of 1813
German Campaign of 1813 saw
the duchy's last military engagements. The Constitution of the Duchy
Warsaw abolished serfdom as a reflection of the ideals of the
French Revolution, but it did not promote land reform.
The Congress of Vienna
After Napoleon's defeat, a new European order was established at the
Congress of Vienna, which met in the years 1814 and 1815. Adam Jerzy
Czartoryski, a former close associate of Emperor Alexander I, became
the leading advocate for the Polish national cause. The Congress
implemented a new partition scheme, which took into account some of
the gains realized by the
Poles during the Napoleonic period. The
Warsaw was replaced in 1815 with a new Kingdom of Poland,
unofficially known as Congress Poland. The residual Polish kingdom
was joined to the
Russian Empire in a personal union under the Russian
tsar and it was allowed its own constitution and military. East of the
kingdom, large areas of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
remained directly incorporated into the
Russian Empire as the Western
Krai. These territories, along with Congress Poland, are generally
considered to form the Russian Partition. The Russian, Prussian, and
Austrian "partitions" are informal names for the lands of the former
Commonwealth, not actual units of administrative division of
Polish–Lithuanian territories after partitions. The Prussian
Partition included a portion separated as the Grand Duchy of
Posen. Peasants under the Prussian administration were gradually
enfranchised under the reforms of 1811 and 1823. The limited legal
reforms in the
Austrian Partition were overshadowed by its rural
Free City of Cracow
Free City of Cracow was a tiny republic created by the
Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna under the joint supervision of the three
partitioning powers. Despite the bleak from the standpoint of
Polish patriots political situation, economic progress was made in the
lands taken over by foreign powers because the period after the
Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna witnessed a significant development in the building
of early industry.
The Uprising of November 1830
The capture of the
Warsaw arsenal at the beginning of the November
Uprising of 1830
The increasingly repressive policies of the partitioning powers led to
resistance movements in partitioned Poland, and in 1830 Polish
patriots staged the November Uprising. This revolt developed into
a full-scale war with Russia, but the leadership was taken over by
Polish conservatives who were reluctant to challenge the empire and
hostile to broadening the independence movement's social base through
measures such as land reform. Despite the significant resources
mobilized, a series of errors by several successive chief commanders
appointed by the insurgent Polish National Government led to the
defeat of its forces by the Russian army in 1831. Congress Poland
lost its constitution and military, but formally remained a separate
administrative unit within the Russian Empire.
Chopin, a Romantic composer of piano works, including many inspired by
Polish traditional dance music
After the defeat of the November Uprising, thousands of former Polish
combatants and other activists emigrated to Western Europe. This
phenomenon, known as the Great Emigration, soon dominated Polish
political and intellectual life. Together with the leaders of the
independence movement, the Polish community abroad included the
greatest Polish literary and artistic minds, including the Romantic
poets Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Cyprian Norwid, and the
composer Frédéric Chopin. In occupied and repressed Poland, some
sought progress through nonviolent activism focused on education and
economy, known as organic work; others, in cooperation with the
emigrant circles, organized conspiracies and prepared for the next
Revolts of the era of the Spring of Nations
The planned national uprising failed to materialize because the
authorities in the partitions found out about secret preparations. The
Poland uprising ended in a fiasco in early 1846. In the
Kraków uprising of February 1846, patriotic action was combined
with revolutionary demands, but the result was the incorporation of
Free City of Cracow
Free City of Cracow into the Austrian Partition. The Austrian
officials took advantage of peasant discontent and incited villagers
against the noble-dominated insurgent units. This resulted in the
Galician slaughter of 1846, a large-scale rebellion of serfs
seeking relief from their post-feudal condition of mandatory labor as
practiced in folwarks. The uprising freed many from bondage and
hastened decisions that led to the abolition of Polish serfdom in the
Austrian Empire in 1848. A new wave of Polish involvement in
revolutionary movements soon took place in the partitions and in other
Europe in the context of the Spring of Nations revolutions of
1848 (e.g. Józef Bem's participation in the revolutions in Austria
and Hungary). The 1848 German revolutions precipitated the Greater
Poland uprising of 1848, in which peasants in the Prussian
Partition, who were by then largely enfranchised, played a prominent
The Uprising of January 1863
Romuald Traugutt, the last supreme commander of the 1863 Uprising
As a matter of continuous policy, the Russian autocracy kept assailing
Polish national core values of language, religion and culture. In
consequence, despite the limited liberalization measures allowed in
Poland under the rule of
Tsar Alexander II of Russia, a
renewal of popular liberation activities took place in 1860–1861.
During large-scale demonstrations in Warsaw, Russian forces inflicted
numerous casualties on the civilian participants. The "Red", or
left-wing faction of Polish activists, which promoted peasant
enfranchisement and cooperated with Russian revolutionaries, became
involved in immediate preparations for a national uprising. The
"White", or right-wing faction, was inclined to cooperate with the
Russian authorities and countered with partial reform proposals. In
order to cripple the manpower potential of the Reds, Aleksander
Wielopolski, the conservative leader of the government of Congress
Poland, arranged for a partial selective conscription of young Poles
for the Russian army in the years 1862 and 1863. This action
hastened the outbreak of hostilities. The January Uprising, joined and
led after the initial period by the Whites, was fought by partisan
units against an overwhelmingly advantaged enemy. The uprising lasted
from January 1863 to the spring of 1864, when Romuald Traugutt,
the last supreme commander of the insurgency, was captured by the
On 2 March 1864, the Russian authority, compelled by the uprising to
compete for the loyalty of Polish peasants, officially published an
enfranchisement decree in Congress
Poland along the lines of an
earlier land reform proclamation of the insurgents. The act created
the conditions necessary for the development of the capitalist system
on central Polish lands. At the time when most
Poles realized the
futility of armed resistance without external support, the various
sections of Polish society were undergoing deep and far-reaching
evolution in the areas of social, economic and cultural
Formation of modern Polish society under foreign rule
Repression and organic work
Bolesław Prus (1847–1912), a leading novelist, journalist and
philosopher of Poland's Positivism movement
The failure of the
January Uprising in
Poland caused a major
psychological trauma and became a historic watershed; indeed, it
sparked the development of modern Polish nationalism. The Poles,
subjected within the territories under the Russian and Prussian
administrations to still stricter controls and increased persecution,
sought to preserve their identity in non-violent ways. After the
Poland was downgraded in official usage from the
"Kingdom of Poland" to the "
Vistula Land" and was more fully
integrated into Russia proper, but not entirely obliterated. The
Russian and German languages were imposed in all public communication,
Catholic Church was not spared from severe repression. Public
education was increasingly subjected to
Germanisation measures. Illiteracy was reduced, most effectively in
the Prussian partition, but education in the
Polish language was
preserved mostly through unofficial efforts. The Prussian government
pursued German colonization, including the purchase of Polish-owned
land. On the other hand, the region of Galicia in western
southern Poland, experienced a gradual relaxation of authoritarian
policies and even a Polish cultural revival. Economically and socially
backward, it was under the milder rule of the Austro-Hungarian
Monarchy and from 1867 was increasingly allowed limited autonomy.
Stańczycy, a conservative Polish pro-Austrian faction led by great
land owners, dominated the Galician government. The Polish Academy of
Learning (an academy of sciences) was founded in
Kraków in 1872.
Positivism replaced Romanticism as the leading intellectual, social
and literary trend.
Social activities termed "organic work" consisted of self-help
organizations that promoted economic advancement and work on improving
the competitiveness of Polish-owned businesses, industrial,
agricultural or other. New commercial methods of generating higher
productivity were discussed and implemented through trade associations
and special interest groups, while Polish banking and cooperative
financial institutions made the necessary business loans available.
The other major area of effort in organic work was educational and
intellectual development of the common people. Many libraries and
reading rooms were established in small towns and villages, and
numerous printed periodicals reflected the growing interest in popular
education. Scientific and educational societies were active in a
number of cities. Such activities were most pronounced in the Prussian
Economic development and social change
Jews emigrated from the Polish–Lithuanian lands in the late
19th and early 20th centuries, but most remained to form a large
Under the partitioning powers, economic diversification and progress,
including large-scale industrialisation, were introduced in the
traditionally agrarian Polish lands, but this development turned out
to be very uneven. Advanced agriculture was practiced in the Prussian
Partition, except for Upper Silesia, where the coal-mining industry
created a large labor force. The densest network of railroads was
built in German-ruled western Poland. In Russian Congress Poland, a
striking growth of industry, railways and towns took place, all
against the background of an extensive, but less productive
Warsaw (a metallurgical center) and
Łódź (a textiles
center) grew rapidly, as did the total proportion of urban population,
making the region the most economically advanced in the Russian Empire
(industrial production exceeded agricultural production there by
1909). The coming of the railways spurred some industrial growth even
in the vast
Russian Partition territories outside of Congress Poland.
Austrian Partition was rural and poor, except for the
Silesia area. Galician economic expansion after
1890 included oil extraction and resulted in the growth of Lemberg
(Lwów, Lviv) and Kraków.
Economic and social changes involving land reform and
industrialization, combined with the effects of foreign domination,
altered the centuries-old social structure of Polish society. Among
the newly emergent strata were wealthy industrialists and financiers,
distinct from the traditional, but still critically important landed
aristocracy. The intelligentsia, an educated, professional or business
middle class, often originated from lower gentry, landless or
alienated from their rural possessions, and from urban people. Many
smaller agricultural enterprises based on serfdom did not survive the
land reforms. The industrial proletariat, a new underprivileged
class, was composed mainly of poor peasants or townspeople forced by
deteriorating conditions to migrate and search for work in urban
centers in their countries of origin or abroad. Millions of residents
of the former Commonwealth of various ethnic groups worked or settled
Europe and in North and South America.
Social and economic changes were partial and gradual. The degree of
industrialisation, relatively fast-paced in some areas, lagged behind
the advanced regions of Western Europe. The three partitions developed
different economies and were more economically integrated with their
mother states than with each other. In the Prussian Partition, for
example, agricultural production depended heavily on the German
market, whereas the industrial sector of Congress
Poland relied more
on the Russian market.
Nationalism, socialism and other movements
Marie Curie, discoverer of radioactive elements
In the 1870s–1890s, large-scale socialist, nationalist, agrarian and
other political movements of great ideological fervor became
established in partitioned
Poland and Lithuania, along with
corresponding political parties to promote them. Of the major parties,
the socialist First
Proletariat was founded in 1882, the Polish League
(precursor of National Democracy) in 1887, the Polish Social
Democratic Party of Galicia and
Silesia in 1890, the Polish Socialist
Party in 1892, the Marxist SDKPiL in 1893, the agrarian People's Party
of Galicia in 1895 and the Jewish socialist Bund in 1897. Christian
democracy regional associations allied with the
Catholic Church were
also active; they united into the
Polish Christian Democratic Party in
1919. The main minority ethnic groups of the former Commonwealth,
including Ukrainians, Lithuanians,
Belarusians and Jews, were getting
involved in their own national movements and plans, which met with
disapproval on the part of those Polish independence activists who
counted on an eventual rebirth of the Commonwealth or the rise of a
Commonwealth-inspired federal structure (a political movement referred
to as Prometheism).
Around the start of the 20th century, the Young
movement, centered in Austrian Galicia, took advantage of a milieu
conducive to liberal expression in that region and was the source of
Poland's finest artistic and literary productions. In this same
era, Marie Skłodowska Curie, a pioneer radiation scientist, performed
her groundbreaking research in Paris.
The Revolution of 1905
Demonstrators attacked during the Revolution of 1905 in Poland
National Democracy ideology proved highly influential
in Polish politics. He favored the dominance of Polish-speaking
Catholics in civic life without concern for the rights of ethnic
minorities, in particular the Jews, whose emigration he advocated.
The Revolution of 1905–1907 in Russian Poland, the result of
many years of pent-up political frustrations and stifled national
ambitions, was marked by political maneuvering, strikes and rebellion.
The revolt was part of much broader disturbances throughout the
Russian Empire associated with the general Revolution of 1905. In
Poland, the principal revolutionary figures were
Roman Dmowski and
Józef Piłsudski. Dmowski was associated with the right-wing
nationalist movement National Democracy, whereas Piłsudski was
associated with the Polish Socialist Party. As the authorities
re-established control within the Russian Empire, the revolt in
Congress Poland, placed under martial law, withered as well, partially
as a result of tsarist concessions in the areas of national and
workers' rights, including Polish representation in the newly created
Russian Duma. The collapse of the revolt in the Russian Partition,
coupled with intensified Germanization in the Prussian Partition, left
Austrian Galicia as the territory most amenable to patriotic
In the Austrian Partition, Polish culture was openly cultivated, and
in the Prussian Partition, there were high levels of education and
living standards, but the
Russian Partition remained of primary
importance for the Polish nation and its aspirations. About 15.5
million Polish-speakers lived in the territories most densely
populated by Poles: western part of the Russian Partition, the
Prussian Partition and western Austrian Partition. Ethnically Polish
settlement spread over a large area further to the east, including its
greatest concentration in the
Vilnius Region, amounted to only over
20% of that number.
Polish paramilitary organizations oriented toward independence, such
as the Union of Active Struggle, were formed in 1908–1914, mainly in
Poles were divided and their political parties fragmented
on the eve of World War I, with Dmowski's National Democracy
(pro-Entente) and Piłsudski's faction assuming opposing
World War I
World War I and the issue of Poland's independence
Further information: History of
Poland during World War I
Józef Piłsudski with his legionaries in 1915
The outbreak of
World War I
World War I in the Polish lands offered Poles
unexpected hopes for achieving independence as a result of the
turbulence that engulfed the empires of the partitioning powers. All
three of the monarchies that had benefited from the partition of
Polish territories (Germany,
Austria and Russia) were dissolved by the
end of the war, and many of their territories were dispersed into new
political units. At the start of the war, the
Poles found themselves
conscripted into the armies of the partitioning powers in a war that
was not theirs. Furthermore, they were frequently forced to fight each
other, since the armies of
Austria were allied against
Russia. Piłsudski's paramilitary units stationed in Galicia were
turned into the Polish Legions in 1914, and as a part of the
Austro-Hungarian Army, they fought on the Russian front until 1917,
when the formation was disbanded. Piłsudski, who refused demands
that his men fight under German command, was arrested and imprisoned
Germans and became a heroic symbol of Polish
Ignacy Paderewski was a pianist and a statesman
Due to a series of German victories on the Eastern Front, the area of
Poland became occupied by the
Central Powers of
Warsaw was captured by the
Germans on 5 August 1915. In
Act of 5th November
Act of 5th November 1916, a fresh incarnation of the Kingdom of
Poland (Królestwo Regencyjne) was created by
formerly Russian-controlled territories, within the German
Mitteleuropa scheme. The sponsor states were never able to agree on a
candidate to assume the throne, however; rather, it was governed in
turn by German and Austrian governor-generals, a Provisional Council
of State, and a Regency Council. This increasingly autonomous puppet
state existed until November 1918, when it was replaced by the newly
established Republic of Poland. The existence of this "kingdom" and
its planned Polish army had a positive effect on the Polish national
efforts on the Allied side. But the
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March
Germany and defeated Russia ignored Polish
The Regency Council of the Kingdom of
Poland in 1918. The "Kingdom"
was established to entice
Poles to cooperate with the Central Powers.
The independence of
Poland had been campaigned for in Russia and in
the West by Dmowski and in the West by Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Tsar
Nicholas II of Russia, and then the leaders of the February Revolution
October Revolution of 1917, installed governments who declared
in turn their support for Polish independence. In 1917, France
formed the Blue Army (placed under Józef Haller) that comprised about
Poles by the end of the war, including men captured from German
and Austrian units and 20,000 volunteers from the United States. There
was also a 30,000-men strong Polish anti-German army in Russia.
Dmowski, operating from
Paris as head of the Polish National Committee
(KNP), became the spokesman for
Polish nationalism in the Allied camp.
On the initiative of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, Polish
independence was officially endorsed by the Allies in June
In all, about two million
Poles served in the war, counting both
sides, and about 400–450,000 died. Much of the fighting on the
Eastern Front took place in Poland, and civilian casualties and
devastation were high. Total
World War I
World War I casualties from 1914
to 1918 within the 1919–1939 borders of Poland, military and
civilian, were estimated at 1,128,000.
The final upsurge of the push for independence of
Poland took place on
the ground in October–November 1918. Near the end of the war,
Austro-Hungarian and German units were being disarmed, and the
Austrian army's collapse freed
Kraków at the end of
Lviv was then contested in the
Polish–Ukrainian War of
Ignacy Daszyński headed the first short-lived
independent Polish government in
Lublin from 7 November, the leftist
Provisional People's Government of the Republic of Poland, which was
proclaimed as a democracy. Germany, now defeated, was forced by the
Allies to stand down its large military forces in Poland. Overtaken by
the German Revolution of 1918–1919 at home, the
Piłsudski from prison. He arrived in
Warsaw on November 10 and was
granted extensive authority by the Polish kingdom's Regency Council,
which was also recognized by the
Lublin government. On November 22
Piłsudski became the temporary head of state. He was held by many in
high regard, but was resented by the right-wing National Democrats.
The emerging Polish state was internally divided, heavily war-damaged
and economically dysfunctional.
Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic (1918–1939)
History of Poland (1918–1939)
History of Poland (1918–1939) and Second Polish
Securing national borders, war with Soviet Russia
Poland Uprising, a war with Germany, erupted in December
After more than a century of foreign rule,
Poland regained its
independence at the end of
World War I
World War I as one of the outcomes of the
negotiations that took place at the
Paris Peace Conference of
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles that emerged from the conference
set up an independent Polish nation with an outlet to the sea, but
left some of its boundaries to be decided by plebiscites. The largely
Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig was granted a separate status
that guaranteed its use as a port by Poland. In the end, the
settlement of the German-Polish border turned out to be a prolonged
and convoluted process. The dispute helped engender the Greater Poland
Uprising of 1918–1919, the three Silesian uprisings of 1919–1921,
the East Prussian plebiscite of 1920, the Upper
Silesia plebiscite of
1921 and the 1922 Silesian Convention in Geneva.
Other boundaries were settled by war and subsequent treaties. A total
of six border wars were fought in 1918–1921, including the
Polish–Czechoslovak border conflicts
Polish–Czechoslovak border conflicts over
Silesia in January
Polish–Soviet War, defenses near Warsaw, August 1920
As distressing as these border conflicts were, the Polish–Soviet War
of 1919–1921 was the most important series of military actions of
the era. Piłsudski had entertained far-reaching anti-Russian
cooperative designs in Eastern Europe, and in 1919 the Polish forces
pushed eastward into Lithuania, Belarus and
Ukraine by taking
advantage of the Russian preoccupation with a civil war, but they were
soon confronted with the Soviet westward offensive of 1918–1919.
Ukraine was already a theater of the Polish–Ukrainian War,
which eliminated the proclaimed
West Ukrainian People's Republic
West Ukrainian People's Republic in
July 1919. In the autumn of 1919, Piłsudski rejected urgent pleas
from the former Entente powers to support Anton Denikin's White
movement in its advance on Moscow. The
Polish–Soviet War proper
began with the Polish Kiev Offensive in April 1920. Allied with
the Directorate of
Ukraine of the Ukrainian People's Republic, the
Polish armies had advanced past Vilnius,
Minsk and Kiev by June.
At that time, a massive Soviet counter-offensive pushed the
of most of Ukraine. On the northern front, the Soviet army reached the
Warsaw in early August. A Soviet triumph and the quick
Poland seemed inevitable. However, the
Poles scored a stunning
victory at the Battle of
Warsaw (1920). Afterwards, more Polish
military successes followed, and the Soviets had to pull back. They
left swathes of territory populated largely by
Ukrainians to Polish rule. The new eastern boundary was finalized by
Peace of Riga
Peace of Riga in March 1921.
Wincenty Witos (right) and
Ignacy Daszyński headed a wartime cabinet
in 1920. Witos was an agrarian party leader and a centrist politician,
later persecuted under the
The defeat of the Russian armies forced
Vladimir Lenin and the Soviet
leadership to postpone their strategic objective of linking up with
the German and other European revolutionary leftist collaborators to
spread communist revolution. Lenin also hoped for generating support
Red Army in Poland, which failed to materialize.
Wojciech Korfanty fought for a Polish
Silesia and was the leader of
the Polish Christian Democratic Party
Piłsudski's seizure of
Vilnius in October 1920 (known as
Żeligowski's Mutiny) was a nail in the coffin of the already poor
Poland relations that had been strained by the
Polish–Lithuanian War of 1919–1920; both states would remain
hostile to one another for the remainder of the interwar period.
Piłsudski's concept of
Intermarium (an East European federation of
states inspired by the tradition of the multiethnic
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that would include a hypothetical
multinational successor state to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) had
the fatal flaw of being incompatible with his assumption of Polish
domination, which would amount to an encroachment on the neighboring
peoples' lands and aspirations. At the time of rising national
movements, the plan thus ceased being a feature of Poland's
politics.[a] A larger federated structure was also opposed
by Dmowski's National Democrats. Their representative at the Peace of
Riga talks, Stanisław Grabski, opted for leaving Minsk, Berdychiv,
Kamianets-Podilskyi and the surrounding areas on the Soviet side of
the border. The National Democrats did not want to assume the lands
they considered politically undesirable, as such territorial
enlargement would result in a reduced proportion of citizens who were
Peace of Riga
Peace of Riga settled the eastern border by preserving for Poland
a substantial portion of the old Commonwealth's eastern territories at
the cost of partitioning the lands of the former Grand Duchy of
Lithuania and Belarus) and Ukraine. The
Ukrainians ended up with no state of their own and felt betrayed by
the Riga arrangements; their resentment gave rise to extreme
nationalism and anti-Polish hostility. The
Kresy (or borderland)
territories in the east won by 1921 would form the basis for a swap
arranged and carried out by the Soviets in 1943–1945, who at that
time compensated the re-emerging Polish state for the eastern lands
lost to the
Soviet Union with conquered areas of eastern Germany.
The successful outcome of the
Polish–Soviet War gave
Poland a false
sense of its prowess as a self-sufficient military power and
encouraged the government to try to resolve international problems
through imposed unilateral solutions. The territorial and
ethnic policies of the interwar period contributed to bad relations
with most of Poland's neighbors and uneasy cooperation with more
distant centers of power, especially
France and Great
Democratic politics (1918–1926)
Funeral of President Gabriel Narutowicz
Among the chief difficulties faced by the government of the new Polish
republic was the lack of an integrated infrastructure among the
formerly separate partitions, a deficiency that disrupted industry,
transportation, trade, and other areas.
The first Polish legislative election for the re-established Sejm
(national parliament) took place in January 1919. A temporary Small
Constitution was passed by the body the following month.
The rapidly growing population of
Poland within its new boundaries was
¾ agricultural and ¼ urban; Polish was the primary language of only
⅔ of the inhabitants of the new country. The minorities had very
little voice in the government. The permanent March Constitution of
Poland was adopted in March 1921. At the insistence of the National
Democrats, who were concerned about how aggressively Józef Piłsudski
might exercise presidential powers if he were elected to office, the
constitution mandated limited prerogatives for the presidency.
Władysław Grabski reformed the currency
The proclamation of the March Constitution was followed by a short and
turbulent period of constitutional order and parliamentary democracy
that lasted until 1926. The legislature remained fragmented, without
stable majorities, and governments changed frequently. The open-minded
Gabriel Narutowicz was elected president constitutionally (without a
popular vote) by the National Assembly in 1922. However, members of
the nationalist right-wing faction did not regard his elevation as
legitimate. They viewed Narutowicz rather as a traitor whose election
was pushed through by the votes of alien minorities. Narutowicz and
his supporters were subjected to an intense harassment campaign, and
the president was assassinated on 16 December 1922, after serving only
five days in office.
Corruption was held to be commonplace in the political culture of the
early Polish Republic. However, the investigations conducted by the
new regime after the 1926 May Coup failed to uncover any major affair
or corruption scheme within the state apparatus of its
Land reform measures were passed in 1919 and 1925 under pressure from
an impoverished peasantry. They were partially implemented, but
resulted in the parcellation of only 20% of the great agricultural
Poland endured numerous economic calamities and
disruptions in the early 1920s, including waves of workers' strikes
such as the 1923
Kraków riot. The German–Polish customs war,
Germany in 1925, was one of the most damaging external
factors that put a strain on Poland's economy. On the other
hand, there were also signs of progress and stabilization, for example
a critical reform of finances carried out by the competent government
of Władysław Grabski, which lasted almost two years. Certain other
achievements of the democratic period having to do with the management
of governmental and civic institutions necessary to the functioning of
the reunited state and nation were too easily overlooked. Lurking on
the sidelines was a disgusted army officer corps unwilling to subject
itself to civilian control, but ready to follow the retired
Piłsudski, who was highly popular with
Poles and just as dissatisfied
with the Polish system of government as his former colleagues in the
Piłsudski's coup and the
Sanation Era (1926–1935)
Piłsudski's May Coup of 1926 defined Poland's political reality in
the years leading to World War II
On 12 May 1926, Piłsudski staged the May Coup, a military overthrow
of the civilian government mounted against President Stanisław
Wojciechowski and the troops loyal to the legitimate government.
Hundreds died in fratricidal fighting. Piłsudski was supported by
several leftist factions who ensured the success of his coup by
blocking the railway transportation of government forces. He also
had the support of the conservative great landowners, a move that left
the right-wing National Democrats as the only major social force
opposed to the takeover.[l]
Following the coup, the new regime initially respected many
parliamentary formalities, but gradually tightened its control and
abandoned pretenses. The Centrolew, a coalition of center-left
parties, was formed in 1929, and in 1930 called for the "abolition of
dictatorship". In 1930, the
Sejm was dissolved and a number of
opposition deputies were imprisoned at the Brest Fortress. Five
thousand political opponents were arrested ahead of the Polish
legislative election of 1930, which was rigged to award a
majority of seats to the pro-regime Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation
with the Government (BBWR).
Ignacy Mościcki and Marshal
Edward Rydz-Śmigły were among
top leaders of
The authoritarian "Sanation" regime (meant to denote a "healing"
regime) that Piłsudski led until his death in 1935 (and would remain
in place until 1939) reflected the dictator's evolution from his
center-left past to conservative alliances. Political institutions
and parties were allowed to function, but the electoral process was
manipulated and those not willing to cooperate submissively were
subjected to repression. From 1930, persistent opponents of the
regime, many of the leftist persuasion, were imprisoned and subjected
to staged legal processes with harsh sentences, such as the Brest
trials, or else detained in the
Bereza Kartuska prison
Bereza Kartuska prison and similar
camps for political prisoners. About three thousand were detained
without trial at different times at the Bereza internment camp between
1934 and 1939. In 1936 for example, 369 activists were taken there,
including 342 Polish communists. Rebellious peasants staged riots
in 1932, 1933 and the 1937 peasant strike in Poland. Other civil
disturbances were caused by striking industrial workers (e.g. events
of the "Bloody Spring" of 1936), nationalist Ukrainians[p] and the
activists of the incipient Belarusian movement. All became targets of
ruthless police-military pacification.[y] Besides
sponsoring political repression, the regime fostered Józef
Piłsudski's cult of personality that had already existed long before
he assumed dictatorial powers.
Piłsudski signed the
Soviet–Polish Non-Aggression Pact
Soviet–Polish Non-Aggression Pact in 1932 and
German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact
German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact in 1934, but in 1933 he
insisted that there was no threat from the East or West and said that
Poland's politics were focused on becoming fully independent without
serving foreign interests. He initiated the policy of maintaining
an equal distance and an adjustable middle course regarding the two
great neighbors, later continued by Józef Beck. Piłsudski kept
personal control of the army, but it was poorly equipped, poorly
trained and had poor preparations in place for possible future
conflicts. His only war plan was a defensive war against a Soviet
invasion.[r] The slow modernization after Piłsudski's death fell
far behind the progress made by Poland's neighbors and measures to
protect the western border, discontinued by Piłsudski from 1926, were
not undertaken until March 1939.
Sanation deputies in the
Sejm used a parliamentary maneuver to abolish
the democratic March Constitution and push through a more
authoritarian April Constitution in 1935; it reduced the powers of the
Sejm, which Piłsudski despised. The process and the resulting
document were seen as illegitimate by the anti-
but during World War II, the
Polish government-in-exile recognized the
April Constitution in order to uphold the legal continuity of the
When Marshal Piłsudski died in 1935, he retained the support of
dominant sections of Polish society even though he never risked
testing his popularity in an honest election. His regime was
dictatorial, but at that time only
Czechoslovakia remained democratic
in all of the regions neighboring Poland. Historians have taken widely
divergent views of the meaning and consequences of the coup Piłsudski
perpetrated and his personal rule that followed.
Social and economic trends of the interwar period
Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski promoted Poland's Central Industrial Region
Independence stimulated the development of Polish culture in the
Interbellum and intellectual achievement was high. Warsaw, whose
population almost doubled between
World War I
World War I and World War II, was a
restless, burgeoning metropolis. It outpaced Kraków, Lwów and Wilno,
the other major population centers of the country.
Mainstream Polish society was not affected by the repressions of the
Sanation authorities overall; many
Poles enjoyed relative
stability, and the economy improved markedly between 1926 and 1929,
only to become caught up in the global Great Depression. After
1929, the country's industrial production and gross national income
slumped by about 50%.
Great Depression brought low prices for farmers and unemployment
for workers. Social tensions increased, including rising antisemitism.
A major economic transformation and multi-year state plan to achieve
national industrial development, as embodied in the Central Industrial
Region initiative launched in 1936, was led by Minister Eugeniusz
Kwiatkowski. Motivated primarily by the need for a native arms
industry, the initiative was in progress at the time of the outbreak
of World War II. Kwiatkowski was also the main architect of the
Gdynia seaport project.
Portraits of poets by Witkacy
The prevalent in political circles nationalism was fueled by the large
size of Poland's minority populations and their separate agendas.
According to the language criterion of the Polish census of 1931, the
Poles constituted 69% of the population,
as speakers of the
Yiddish language) 8.5%,
Belarusians 4.7%, Germans
Lithuanians 0.25%, Russians 0.25% and Czechs 0.09%, with some
geographical areas dominated by a particular minority. In time, the
ethnic conflicts intensified, and the Polish state grew less tolerant
of the interests of its national minorities. In interwar Poland,
compulsory free general education substantially reduced illiteracy
rates, but discrimination was practiced in a way that resulted in a
dramatic decrease in the number of
Ukrainian language schools and
official restrictions on Jewish attendance at selected schools in the
The population grew steadily, reaching 35 million in 1939. However,
the overall economic situation in the interwar period was one of
stagnation. There was little money for investment inside Poland, and
few foreigners were interested in investing there. Total
industrial production barely increased between 1913 and 1939 (within
the area delimited by the 1939 borders), but because of population
growth (from 26.3 millions in 1919 to 34.8 millions in 1939), the
per capita output actually decreased by 18%.
Conditions in the predominant agricultural sector kept deteriorating
between 1929 and 1939, which resulted in rural unrest and a
progressive radicalization of the Polish peasant movement that became
increasingly inclined toward militant anti-state activities. It was
firmly repressed by the authorities. According to Norman Davies, the
failures of the
Sanation regime (combined with the objective economic
realities) caused a radicalization of the Polish masses by the end of
the 1930s, but he warns against drawing parallels with the
incomparably more repressive regimes of
Nazi Germany or the Stalinist
Sanation years (1935–1939)
A year after Piłsudski's death, his former personal assistant General
Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski
Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski became the Second Polish Republic's last
After Piłsudski's death in 1935,
Poland was governed until (and
initially during) the German invasion of 1939 by old allies and
subordinates known as "Piłsudski's colonels". They had neither the
vision nor the resources to cope with the perilous situation facing
Poland in the late 1930s. The colonels had gradually assumed greater
powers during Piłsudski's life by manipulating the ailing marshal
behind the scenes. Eventually they achieved an overt
politicization of the army that did nothing to help prepare the
country for war.
Józef Beck rejected the proposed risky alliances
Nazi Germany and with the Soviet Union
Foreign policy was the responsibility of Józef Beck, under whom
Polish diplomacy attempted balanced approaches toward
Germany and the
Soviet Union, unfortunately without success, on the basis of a flawed
understanding of the European geopolitics of his day. Beck had
numerous foreign policy schemes and harbored illusions of Poland's
status as a great power. He alienated most of Poland's neighbors, but
is not blamed by historians for the ultimate failure of relations with
Germany. The principal events of his tenure were concentrated in its
last two years. In the case of the 1938 Polish ultimatum to Lithuania,
the Polish action nearly resulted in a German takeover of southwest
Lithuania. Also in 1938, the Polish government opportunistically
undertook a hostile action against the Czechoslovak state as weakened
Munich Agreement and annexed a small piece of territory on its
borders. In this case, Beck's understanding of the consequences
of the Polish military move turned out to be completely
mistaken, because in the end the German occupation of
Czechoslovakia markedly weakened Poland's own position.
Furthermore, Beck erroneously believed that Nazi-Soviet ideological
contradictions would preclude their cooperation.
At home, increasingly alienated minorities threatened unrest and
violence and were suppressed. Extreme nationalist circles such as the
National Radical Camp grew more outspoken. One of the groups, the Camp
of National Unity, combined many nationalists with
and was connected to the new strongman, Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły,
whose faction of the
Sanation ruling movement was increasingly
In the late 1930s, the exile bloc
Front Morges united several major
Sanation figures, including Ignacy Paderewski, Władysław
Sikorski, Wincenty Witos,
Wojciech Korfanty and Józef Haller. It
gained little influence inside Poland, but its spirit soon reappeared
during World War II, within the Polish government-in-exile.
Krakowskie Przedmieście Street in prewar
In October 1938,
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop first proposed German-Polish
territorial adjustments and Poland's participation in the
Anti-Comintern Pact against the Soviet Union. The status of the
Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig was one of the key bones of contention. Approached
by Ribbentrop again in March 1939, the Polish government expressed
willingness to address issues causing German concern, but effectively
rejected Germany's stated demands and thus refused to allow
be turned by
Adolf Hitler into a German puppet state. Hitler,
incensed by the British and French declarations of support for
Poland, abrogated the
German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact
German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact in late
To protect itself from an increasingly aggressive Nazi Germany,
already responsible for the annexations of
Austria (in the Anschluss
Czechoslovakia (in 1939) and a part of
Lithuania after the
1939 German ultimatum to Lithuania,
Poland entered into a military
alliance with Britain and
France (the 1939 Anglo-Polish military
alliance and the Franco-Polish alliance (1921), as updated in
1939). However, the two Western powers were defense-oriented and
not in a strong position, either geographically or in terms of
resources, to assist Poland. Attempts were therefore made by them to
induce Soviet-Polish cooperation, which they viewed as the only
militarily viable arrangement.
Diplomatic manoeuvers continued in the spring and summer of 1939, but
in their final attempts, the Franco-British talks with the Soviets in
Moscow on forming an anti-Nazi defensive military alliance failed.
Warsaw's refusal to allow the
Red Army to operate on Polish territory
doomed the Western efforts. The final contentious Allied-Soviet
exchanges took place on 21 and 23 August 1939.[b]
Stalin's regime was the target of an intense German counter-initiative
and was concurrently involved in increasingly effective negotiations
with Hitler's agents. On 23 August, an outcome contrary to the
exertions of the Allies became a reality: in Moscow,
Germany and the
Soviet Union hurriedly signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which
secretly provided for the dismemberment of
Poland into Nazi- and
World War II
Further information: History of
Invasions and resistance
German battleship Schleswig-Holstein shells Westerplatte, 1 September
On 1 September 1939, Hitler ordered an invasion of Poland, the opening
event of World War II.
Poland had signed an Anglo-Polish military
alliance as recently as 25 August, and had long been in alliance with
France. The two Western powers soon declared war on Germany, but they
remained largely inactive (the period early in the conflict became
known as the Phoney War) and extended no aid to the attacked country.
The technically and numerically superior
Wehrmacht formations rapidly
advanced eastwards and engaged massively in the murder of Polish
civilians over the entire occupied territory. On 17 September, a
Soviet invasion of
Poland began. The
Soviet Union quickly occupied
most of the areas of eastern
Poland that contained large populations
Ukrainians and Belarusians.[h] The two invading powers divided up
the country as they had agreed in the secret provisions of the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Poland's top government officials and
military high command fled the war zone and arrived at the Romanian
Bridgehead in mid-September. After the Soviet entry they sought refuge
Among the military operations in which
Poles held out the longest
(until late September or early October) were the Siege of Warsaw, the
Battle of Hel
Battle of Hel and the resistance of the Independent Operational Group
Warsaw fell on 27 September after a heavy German bombardment
that killed tens of thousands civilians and soldiers.
ultimately partitioned between
Germany and the
Soviet Union according
to the terms of the
German–Soviet Frontier Treaty
German–Soviet Frontier Treaty signed by the two
powers in Moscow on 29 September.
Poland following the German and Soviet invasions (1939)
Gerhard Weinberg has argued that the most significant Polish
World War II
World War II was sharing its code-breaking
results. This allowed the British to perform the cryptanalysis of
the Enigma and decipher the main German military code, which gave the
Allies a major advantage in the conflict. As regards actual
military campaigns, some Polish historians have argued that simply
resisting the initial invasion of
Poland was the country's greatest
contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany, despite its defeat. The
Polish Army of nearly one million men significantly delayed the start
of the Battle of France, planned by the
Germans for 1939. When the
Nazi offensive in the West did happen, the delay caused it to be less
effective, a possibly crucial factor in the victory of the Battle of
Germany invaded the
Soviet Union as part of its Operation
Barbarossa in June 1941, the whole of pre-war
Poland was overrun and
occupied by German troops.
No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron
No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron won fame in the Battle of
Poland was divided from 1939 into two regions: Polish
areas annexed by
Nazi Germany directly into the
German Reich and areas
ruled under a so-called
General Government of occupation. The
Poles formed an underground resistance movement and a Polish
government-in-exile that operated first in Paris, then, from July
1940, in London. Polish-Soviet diplomatic relations, broken since
September 1939, were resumed in July 1941 under the Sikorski–Mayski
agreement, which facilitated the formation of a Polish army (the
Anders' Army) in the Soviet Union. In November 1941, Prime
Minister Sikorski flew to the
Soviet Union to negotiate with Stalin on
its role on the Soviet-German front, but the British wanted the Polish
soldiers in the Middle East. Stalin agreed, and the army was evacuated
The organizations forming the
Polish Underground State
Polish Underground State that functioned
Poland throughout the war were loyal to and formally under the
Polish government-in-exile, acting through its Government Delegation
for Poland. During World War II, hundreds of thousands of Poles
joined the underground Polish
Home Army (Armia Krajowa), a part
Polish Armed Forces
Polish Armed Forces of the government-in-exile. About
Poles fought on the Western Front in the Polish Armed Forces
in the West loyal to the government-in-exile, and about 300,000 in the
Polish Armed Forces
Polish Armed Forces in the East under the Soviet command on the
Eastern Front. The pro-Soviet resistance movement in Poland, led
by the Polish Workers' Party, was active from 1941. It was opposed by
the gradually forming extreme nationalistic National Armed
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Beginning in late 1939, hundreds of thousands of
Poles from the
Soviet-occupied areas were deported and taken east. Of the
upper-ranking military personnel and others deemed uncooperative or
potentially harmful by the Soviets, about 22,000 were secretly
executed by them at the Katyn massacre. In April 1943, the Soviet
Union broke off deteriorating relations with the Polish
government-in-exile after the German military announced the discovery
of mass graves containing murdered Polish army officers. The Soviets
claimed that the
Poles committed a hostile act by requesting that the
Red Cross investigate these reports.
From 1941, the implementation of the Nazi
Final Solution began, and
the Holocaust in
Poland proceeded with force.
Warsaw was the
scene of the
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April–May 1943, triggered by
the liquidation of the
Warsaw Ghetto by German SS units. The
elimination of Jewish ghettos in German-occupied
Poland took place in
many cities. As the Jewish people were being removed to be
exterminated, uprisings were waged against impossible odds by the
Jewish Combat Organization
Jewish Combat Organization and other desperate Jewish insurgents.
Soviet advance 1944–1945,
Gen. Władysław Sikorski, prime minister of the Polish
government-in-exile and commander-in-chief of Polish armed forces,
shortly before his death in 1943
At a time of increasing cooperation between the Western Allies and the
Soviet Union in the wake of the Nazi invasion of 1941, the influence
Polish government-in-exile was seriously diminished by the
death of Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski, its most capable leader,
in a plane crash on 4 July 1943. His successors lacked the
ability or willingness to negotiate effectively with the Soviets and
proved equally ineffective in pressing for the interests of the Polish
people with the Western Allies.
In July 1944, the Soviet
Red Army and Soviet-controlled Polish
People's Army entered the territory of future postwar Poland. In
protracted fighting in 1944 and 1945, the Soviets and their Polish
allies defeated and expelled the German army from
Poland at a cost of
over 600,000 Soviet and over 60,000 Polish soldiers lost.
Surrender of the
The greatest single undertaking of the Polish resistance movement in
World War II
World War II and a major political event was the
Warsaw Uprising that
began on 1 August 1944. The uprising, in which most of the city's
population participated, was instigated by the underground Home Army
and approved by the
Polish government-in-exile in an attempt to
establish a non-communist Polish administration ahead of the arrival
of the Red Army. The uprising was originally planned as a short-lived
armed demonstration in expectation that the Soviet forces approaching
Warsaw would assist in any battle to take the city. The Soviets
had never agreed to an intervention, however, and they halted their
advance at the
Vistula River. The
Germans used the opportunity to
carry out a brutal suppression of the forces of the pro-Western Polish
The bitterly fought uprising lasted for two months and resulted in the
death or expulsion from the city of hundreds of thousands of
civilians. After the defeated
Poles surrendered on 2 October, the
Germans carried out a planned destruction of
Warsaw on Hitler's orders
that obliterated the remaining infrastructure of the city. The Polish
First Army, fighting alongside the Soviet Red Army, entered a
Warsaw on 17 January 1945.[n]
Allied conferences, Polish governments
Polish generals on the Eastern Front
From the time of the
Tehran Conference in late 1943, there was broad
agreement among the three Great Powers (the United States, the United
Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) that the locations of the borders
Poland and between
Poland and the Soviet Union
would be fundamentally changed after the conclusion of World War
II. Stalin's proposal that
Poland should be moved far to the
west was readily accepted by the Polish communists, who were at that
time in the early stages of forming a post-war government: the State
National Council, a quasi-parliamentary body, was created. In
July 1944, a communist-controlled Polish Committee of National
Liberation was established in
Lublin nominally to govern the areas
liberated from German control, a move that prompted protests from
Stanisław Mikołajczyk and his Polish
By the time of the
Yalta Conference in February 1945, the communists
had already established a Provisional Government of the Republic of
Poland. The Soviet position at the conference was strong because of
their decisive contribution to the war effort and as a result of their
occupation of immense amounts of land in central and eastern Europe.
The Great Powers gave assurances that the communist provisional
government would be converted into an entity that would include
democratic forces from within the country and active abroad, but the
London-based government-in-exile was not mentioned. A Provisional
Government of National Unity and subsequent democratic elections were
the agreed stated goals. The disappointing results of these
plans and the failure of the Western powers to ensure a strong
participation of non-communists in the immediate post-war Polish
government were seen by many
Poles as a manifestation of Western
War losses, extermination of Jews
Samuel Willenberg showing his drawings of the Treblinka extermination
A lack of accurate data makes it difficult to document numerically the
extent of the human losses suffered by Polish citizens during World
War II. Additionally, many assertions made in the past must be
considered suspect due to flawed methodology and a desire to promote
certain political agendas. The last available enumeration of ethnic
Poles and the large ethnic minorities is the Polish census of 1931.
Exact population figures for 1939 are therefore not known.
According to the
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, at least 3
Jews and at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish
civilians were killed. According to the historians Brzoza and
Sowa, about 2 million ethnic
Poles were killed, but it is not known,
even approximately, how many Polish citizens of other ethnicities
perished, including Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Germans.
Millions of Polish citizens were deported to
Germany for forced labor
or to German extermination camps such as Treblinka, Auschwitz and
Nazi Germany intended to exterminate the
Jews completely, in
actions that have come to be described collectively as the
Poles were to be expelled from areas controlled by
Nazi Germany through a process of resettlement that started in 1939.
Such Nazi operations matured into a plan known as the Generalplan Ost
that amounted to displacement, enslavement and partial extermination
of the Slavic people and was expected to be completed within 15
Warsaw destroyed, photo taken January 1945
In an attempt to incapacitate Polish society, the Nazis and the
Soviets executed tens of thousands of members of the intelligentsia
and community leadership during events such as the German AB-Aktion in
Operation Tannenberg and the Katyn massacre.[j] Over 95%
of the Jewish losses and 90% of the ethnic Polish losses were caused
directly by Nazi Germany,[d] whereas 5% of the ethnic Polish losses
were caused by the Soviets and 5% by Ukrainian nationalists. The
large-scale Jewish presence in
Poland that had endured for centuries
was rather quickly put to an end by the policies of extermination
implemented by the Nazis during the war. Waves of displacement and
emigration that took place both during and after the war removed from
Poland a majority of the
Jews who survived. Further significant Jewish
emigration followed events such as the
Polish October political thaw
of 1956 and the 1968 Polish political crisis.
In 1940–1941, some 325,000 Polish citizens were deported by the
Soviet regime. The number of Polish citizens who died at the
hands of the Soviets is estimated at less than 100,000.
In 1943–1944, Ukrainian nationalists associated with the
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian
Insurgent Army perpetrated the Massacres of
Eastern Galicia. Estimates of the number of Polish civilian
victims vary greatly, from tens to hundreds of thousands.
Approximately 90% of Poland's war casualties were the victims of
prisons, death camps, raids, executions, the annihilation of ghettos,
epidemics, starvation, excessive work and ill treatment. The war left
one million children orphaned and 590,000 persons disabled. The
country lost 38% of its national assets (whereas Britain lost only
France only 1.5%). Nearly half of pre-war
expropriated by the Soviet Union, including the two great cultural
centers of Lwów and Wilno.
Changing boundaries and population transfers
The PKWN Manifesto, officially issued on 22 July 1944 in
Soviet-liberated Poland. It heralded the arrival of a communist,
Soviet-dominated government of Poland.
By the terms of the 1945
Potsdam Agreement signed by the three
victorious Great Powers, the
Soviet Union retained most of the
territories captured as a result of the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of
1939, including western
Ukraine and western Belarus, and gained
Lithuania and the Königsberg area of
East Prussia were
officially incorporated into the Soviet Union, in the case of the
former without the recognition of the Western powers.
compensated with the bulk of Silesia, including Breslau (Wrocław) and
Grünberg (Zielona Góra), the bulk of Pomerania, including Stettin
(Szczecin), and the greater southern portion of the former East
Prussia, along with Danzig (Gdańsk). Collectively referred to by the
Polish authorities as the "Recovered Territories", they were included
in the reconstituted Polish state. With Germany's defeat
thus shifted west in relation to its prewar location, to the area
between the Oder–Neisse and Curzon lines.[c] The
Poles lost 70% of
their pre-war oil capacity to the Soviets, but gained from the Germans
a highly developed industrial base and infrastructure that made a
diversified industrial economy possible for the first time in Polish
Territorial changes of
Poland immediately after World War II: the gray
territories were transferred from
Poland to the Soviet Union, whereas
the pink territories were transferred from
Germany to Poland. Poland's
new eastern border was adjusted in the following years.
The flight and expulsion of
Germans from what was eastern Germany
prior to the war began before and during the Soviet conquest of those
regions from the Nazis, and the process continued in the years
immediately after the war. 8,030,000
Germans were evacuated,
expelled, or migrated by 1950. Early expulsions in
undertaken by the Polish communist authorities even before the Potsdam
Conference (the "wild expulsions" from June to mid July 1945, when the
Polish military and militia expelled nearly all people from the
districts immediately east of the Oder–Neisse line), to ensure
the establishment of ethnically homogeneous Poland. About 1%
(100,000) of the German civilian population east of the Oder–Neisse
line perished in the fighting prior to the surrender in May 1945,
and afterwards some 200,000
Poland were employed as forced
labor prior to being expelled. Of those
Germans who remained,
many later chose to emigrate to post-war Germany. On the other hand,
1.5–2 million ethnic
Poles moved or were expelled from Polish areas
annexed by the Soviet Union. The vast majority were resettled in the
former German territories. At least one million
Poles remained in
what had become the Soviet Union, and at least half a million ended up
in the West or elsewhere outside of Poland.
German Refugees from East Prussia, 1945
Poles could not return to the country for which they had
fought because they belonged to political groups incompatible with the
new communist regimes, or because they originated from areas of
Poland that were incorporated into the Soviet Union
(see Polish population transfers (1944–1946)). Some were deterred
from returning simply on the strength of warnings that anyone who had
served in military units in the West would be endangered. Many Poles
were pursued, arrested, tortured and imprisoned by the Soviet
authorities for belonging to the
Home Army or other formations (see
Anti-communist resistance in
Poland (1944–1946)), or were
persecuted because they had fought on the Western front.
Territories on both sides of the new Polish-Ukrainian border were also
"ethnically cleansed". Of the
Lemkos living in Poland
within the new borders (about 700,000), close to 95% were forcibly
moved to the Soviet Ukraine, or (in 1947) to the new territories in
northern and western
Poland under Operation Vistula. In Volhynia, 98%
of the Polish pre-war population was either killed or expelled; in
Eastern Galicia, the Polish population was reduced by 92%.
According to Timothy D. Snyder, about 70,000
Poles and about 20,000
Ukrainians were killed in the ethnic violence that occurred in the
1940s, both during and after the war.
According to an estimate by historian Jan Grabowski, about 50,000 of
the 250,000 Polish
Jews who escaped the Nazis during the liquidation
of ghettos survived without leaving
Poland (the remainder
perished). More were repatriated from the
Soviet Union and
elsewhere, and the February 1946 population census showed about
Jews within Poland's new borders.[e] Of the surviving
Jews, many chose to emigrate or felt compelled to because of the
anti-Jewish violence in Poland.
Because of changing borders and the mass movements of people of
various nationalities, the emerging communist
Poland ended up with a
mainly homogeneous, ethnically Polish population (97.6% according to
the December 1950 census). The remaining members of ethnic
minorities were not encouraged, by the authorities or by their
neighbors, to emphasize their ethnic identities.[i][a1]
Polish People's Republic
Polish People's Republic (1945–1989)
History of Poland (1945–1989)
History of Poland (1945–1989) and Polish
Post-war struggle for power
Stanisław Mikołajczyk's Polish People's Party tried to outvote the
communists in 1947, but the election process was rigged. Mikołajczyk
had to flee to the West.
In response to the February 1945
Yalta Conference directives, a
Provisional Government of National Unity
Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in June
1945 under Soviet auspices; it was soon recognized by the United
States and many other countries. The Soviet domination was
apparent from the beginning, as prominent leaders of the Polish
Underground State were brought to trial in Moscow (the "Trial of the
Sixteen" of June 1945). In the immediate post-war years, the
emerging communist rule was challenged by opposition groups, including
militarily by the so-called "cursed soldiers", of whom thousands
perished in the fight or were pursued by the Ministry of Public
Security and executed. Such insurgents often pinned their hopes
on expectations of the imminent outbreak of a
World War III
World War III and the
defeat of the Soviet Union. The Polish right-wing insurgency
faded after the amnesty of February 1947.
The Polish people's referendum of June 1946 was arranged by the
Polish Workers' Party
Polish Workers' Party to legitimize its dominance in Polish
politics and claim widespread support for the party's
policies. Although the Yalta agreement called for free
elections, the Polish legislative election of January 1947 was
controlled by the communists. Some democratic and pro-Western
elements, led by Stanisław Mikołajczyk, former prime
minister-in-exile, participated in the Provisional Government and the
1947 elections, but were ultimately eliminated through electoral
fraud, intimidation and violence. In times of severe political
confrontation and radical economic change, members of Mikołajczyk's
agrarian movement (the Polish People's Party) attempted to preserve
the existing aspects of mixed economy and protect property and other
rights. However, after the 1947 elections, the Government of
National Unity ceased to exist and the communists moved towards
abolishing the post-war partially pluralistic "people's democracy" and
replacing it with a state socialist system. The
communist-dominated front Democratic Bloc of the 1947 elections,
turned into the
Front of National Unity
Front of National Unity in 1952, became officially the
source of governmental authority. The Polish government-in-exile,
lacking international recognition, remained in continuous existence
President Bolesław Bierut, leader of Stalinist Poland
Polish People's Republic
Polish People's Republic (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa) was
established under the rule of the communist Polish United Workers'
Party (PZPR). The name change from the Polish Republic was not
officially adopted, however, until the proclamation of the
Constitution of the
Polish People's Republic
Polish People's Republic in 1952.
PZPR was formed by the forced amalgamation in December 1948
of the communist
Polish Workers' Party
Polish Workers' Party (PPR) and the historically
Polish Socialist Party
Polish Socialist Party (PPS). The PPR chief had been its
wartime leader Władysław Gomułka, who in 1947 declared a "Polish
road to socialism" as intended to curb, rather than eradicate,
capitalist elements. In 1948 he was overruled, removed and imprisoned
by Stalinist authorities.The PPS, re-established in 1944 by
its left wing, had since been allied with the
communists. The ruling communists, who in post-war
Poland preferred to use the term "socialism" instead of "communism" to
identify their ideological basis,[f] needed to include the
socialist junior partner to broaden their appeal, claim greater
legitimacy and eliminate competition on the political Left. The
socialists, who were losing their organization, were subjected to
political pressure, ideological cleansing and purges in order to
become suitable for unification on the terms of the PPR. The leading
pro-communist leaders of the socialists were the prime ministers
Edward Osóbka-Morawski and Józef Cyrankiewicz.
During the most oppressive phase of the Stalinist period
(1948–1953), terror was justified in
Poland as necessary to
eliminate reactionary subversion. Many thousands of perceived
opponents of the regime were arbitrarily tried and large numbers were
executed.[u] The People's Republic was led by discredited Soviet
operatives such as Bolesław Bierut,
Jakub Berman and Konstantin
Rokossovsky. The independent
Catholic Church in
subjected to property confiscations and other curtailments from 1949,
and in 1950 was pressured into signing an accord with the
government. In 1953 and later, despite a partial thaw after
the death of
Joseph Stalin that year, the persecution of the Church
intensified and its head, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, was
detained. A key event in the persecution of the Polish Church was
the Stalinist show trial of the
Kraków Curia in January
Warsaw Pact, formed in 1955, the army of the Polish People's
Republic was the second largest, after the Soviet Army.
Economic and social developments of the early communist era
Primate Stefan Wyszyński's leadership led to the exceptional strength
of the Polish Catholic Church
In 1944, large agricultural holdings and former German property in
Poland started to be redistributed through land reform, and industry
started to be nationalized. Communist restructuring and the
imposition of work-space rules encountered active worker opposition
already in the years 1945–1947. The moderate
Three-Year Plan of
1947–1949 continued with the rebuilding, socialization and socialist
restructuring of the economy. It was followed by the
Six-Year Plan of
1950–1955 for heavy industry. The rejection of the Marshall
Plan in 1947 made aspirations for catching up with West European
standards of living unrealistic.
Communist aspirations were symbolized by the Palace of Culture and
Science in Warsaw
The government's highest economic priority was the development of
heavy industry useful to the military. State-run or controlled
institutions common in all the socialist countries of eastern Europe
were imposed on Poland, including collective farms and worker
cooperatives. The latter were dismantled in the late 1940s as not
socialist enough, although they were later re-established; even
small-scale private enterprises were eradicated. Stalinism
introduced heavy political and ideological propaganda and
indoctrination in social life, culture and education.
Great strides were made, however, in the areas of employment (which
became nearly full), universal public education (which nearly
eradicated adult illiteracy), health care and recreational
amenities. Many historic sites, including the central
Warsaw and Gdańsk, both devastated during the war, were
rebuilt at great cost.
The communist industrialization program led to increased urbanization
and educational and career opportunities for the intended
beneficiaries of the social transformation, along the lines of the
peasants-workers-working intelligentsia paradigm. The most significant
improvement was accomplished in the lives of Polish peasants, many of
whom were able to leave their impoverished and overcrowded village
communities for better conditions in urban centers. Those who stayed
behind took advantage of the implementation of the 1944 land reform
decree of the Polish Committee of National Liberation, which
terminated the antiquated but widespread parafeudal socioeconomic
relations in Poland. The Stalinist attempts at establishing collective
farms generally failed. Due to urbanization, the national percentage
of the rural population decreased in communist
Poland by about 50%. A
majority of Poland's residents of cities and towns still live in
apartment blocks built during the communist era, in part to
accommodate migrants from rural areas.
The Thaw and Gomułka's
Polish October (1955–1958)
Władysław Gomułka addressing the crowd in
Warsaw in October 1956
In March 1956, after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union in Moscow ushered in de-Stalinization,
Edward Ochab was
chosen to replace the deceased
Bolesław Bierut as first secretary of
the Polish United Workers' Party. As a result,
Poland was rapidly
overtaken by social restlessness and reformist undertakings; thousands
of political prisoners were released and many people previously
persecuted were officially rehabilitated. Worker riots in Poznań
in June 1956 were violently suppressed, but they gave rise to the
formation of a reformist current within the communist party.
Amidst the continuing social and national upheaval, a further shakeup
took place in the party leadership as part of what is known as the
Polish October of 1956.[k] While retaining most traditional
communist economic and social aims, the regime led by Władysław
Gomułka, the new first secretary of the PZPR, liberalized internal
life in Poland. The dependence on the
Soviet Union was somewhat
mollified, and the state's relationships with the Church and Catholic
lay activists were put on a new footing. A repatriation agreement
Soviet Union allowed the repatriation of hundreds of
Poles who were still in Soviet hands, including many
former political prisoners. Collectivization efforts were
abandoned—agricultural land, unlike in other
remained for the most part in the private ownership of farming
families. State-mandated provisions of agricultural products
at fixed, artificially low prices were reduced, and from 1972
The legislative election of 1957 was followed by several years of
political stability that was accompanied by economic stagnation and
curtailment of reforms and reformists. One of the last initiatives of
the brief reform era was a nuclear weapons–free zone in Central
Europe proposed in 1957 by Adam Rapacki, Poland's foreign
Culture in the Polish People's Republic, to varying degrees linked to
the intelligentsia's opposition to the authoritarian system, developed
to a sophisticated level under Gomułka and his successors. The
creative process was often compromised by state censorship, but
significant works were created in fields such as literature, theater,
cinema and music, among others. Journalism of veiled understanding and
varieties of native and Western popular culture were well represented.
Uncensored information and works generated by émigré circles were
conveyed through a variety of channels. The Paris-based Kultura
magazine developed a conceptual framework for dealing with the issues
of borders and the neighbors of a future free Poland, but for ordinary
Poles Radio Free
Europe was of foremost importance.
Stagnation and crackdown (1958–1970)
Apartment blocks built in communist
Poland (these located in Nowa
One of the confirmations of the end of an era of greater tolerance was
the expulsion from the communist party of several prominent "Marxist
revisionists" in the 1960s.
In 1965, the Conference of Polish Bishops issued the Letter of
Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops, a gesture
intended to heal bad mutual feelings left over from World War II.
In 1966, the celebrations of the 1,000th anniversary of the
Christianization of Poland
Christianization of Poland led by Cardinal
Stefan Wyszyński and other
bishops turned into a huge demonstration of the power and popularity
Catholic Church in Poland.
The post-1956 liberalizing trend, in decline for a number of years,
was reversed in March 1968, when student demonstrations were
suppressed during the 1968 Polish political crisis. Motivated in part
Prague Spring movement, the Polish opposition leaders,
intellectuals, academics and students used a historical-patriotic
Dziady theater spectacle series in
Warsaw (and its termination forced
by the authorities) as a springboard for protests, which soon spread
to other centers of higher education and turned nationwide. The
authorities responded with a major crackdown on opposition activity,
including the firing of faculty and the dismissal of students at
universities and other institutions of learning. At the center of the
controversy was also the small number of Catholic deputies in the Sejm
(the Znak Association members) who attempted to defend the
In an official speech, Gomułka drew attention to the role of Jewish
activists in the events taking place. This provided ammunition to a
nationalistic and antisemitic communist party faction headed by
Mieczysław Moczar that was opposed to Gomułka's leadership. Using
the context of the military victory of
Israel in the
Six-Day War of
1967, some in the Polish communist leadership waged an antisemitic
campaign against the remnants of the Jewish community in Poland. The
targets of this campaign were accused of disloyalty and active
sympathy with Israeli aggression. Branded "Zionists", they were
scapegoated and blamed for the unrest in March 1968, which eventually
led to the emigration of much of Poland's remaining Jewish population
(about 15,000 Polish citizens left the country).
With the active support of the Gomułka regime, the Polish People's
Army took part in the infamous
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
in August 1968, after the
Brezhnev Doctrine was informally
In the final major achievement of Gomułka diplomacy, the governments
West Germany signed in December 1970 the Treaty of
Warsaw, which normalized their relations and made possible meaningful
cooperation in a number of areas of bilateral interest. In particular,
West Germany recognized the post-
World War II
World War II de facto border between
Poland and East Germany.
Worker revolts, reforms of Gierek, the Polish pope and Solidarity
One of the fatalities of the 1970 protests on the Baltic Coast
Price increases for essential consumer goods triggered the Polish
protests of 1970. In December, there were disturbances and strikes in
Baltic Sea port cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia, and
reflected deep dissatisfaction with living and working conditions in
the country. The activity was centered in the industrial shipyard
areas of the three coastal cities. Dozens of protesting workers and
bystanders were killed in police and military actions, generally under
the authority of Gomułka and Minister of Defense Wojciech Jaruzelski.
In the aftermath,
Edward Gierek replaced Gomułka as first secretary
of the communist party. The new regime was seen as more modern,
friendly and pragmatic, and at first it enjoyed a degree of popular
and foreign support.[g][o]
Edward Gierek (second from left) was unable to reverse
Poland's economic decline
To revitalize the economy, from 1971 the Gierek regime introduced
wide-ranging reforms that involved large-scale foreign borrowing.
These actions initially caused improved conditions for consumers, but
in a few years the strategy backfired and the economy deteriorated.
Another attempt to raise food prices resulted in the June 1976
Workers' Defence Committee (KOR), established in
response to the crackdown that followed, consisted of dissident
intellectuals determined to support industrial workers, farmers and
students persecuted by the authorities. The opposition
circles active in the late 1970s were emboldened by the Helsinki
In October 1978, the Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Karol Józef
Pope John Paul II, head of the Catholic Church.
Catholics and others rejoiced at the elevation of a Pole to the papacy
and greeted his June 1979 visit to
Poland with an outpouring of
Fueled by large infusions of Western credit, Poland's economic growth
rate was one of the world's highest during the first half of the
1970s, but much of the borrowed capital was misspent, and the
centrally planned economy was unable to use the new resources
1973 oil crisis
1973 oil crisis caused recession and high interest
rates in the West, to which the Polish government had to respond with
sharp domestic consumer price increases. The growing debt burden
became insupportable in the late 1970s, and negative economic growth
set in by 1979.
Lech Wałęsa in 1980
Around 1 July 1980, with the Polish foreign debt standing at more than
$20 billion, the government made yet another attempt to increase meat
prices. Workers responded with escalating work stoppages that
culminated in the 1980 general strikes in Lublin. In mid-August,
labor protests at the
Gdańsk Shipyard gave rise to a chain reaction
of strikes that virtually paralyzed the Baltic coast by the end of the
month and, for the first time, closed most coal mines in Silesia. The
Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee
Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee coordinated the strike action across
hundreds of workplaces and formulated the 21 demands as the basis for
negotiations with the authorities. The Strike Committee was sovereign
in its decision-making, but was aided by a team of "expert" advisers
that included the well-known dissidents Jacek Kuroń, Karol
Bronisław Geremek and Tadeusz Mazowiecki.
The signing of an agreement between leaders of striking workers and
government representatives in
Szczecin in August 1980
On 31 August 1980, representatives of workers at the
led by an electrician and activist Lech Wałęsa, signed the Gdańsk
Agreement with the government that ended their strike. Similar
agreements were concluded in
Szczecin Agreement) and in
Silesia. The key provision of these agreements was the guarantee of
the workers' right to form independent trade unions and the right to
strike. Following the successful resolution of the largest labor
confrontation in communist Poland's history, nationwide union
organizing movements swept the country.
Edward Gierek was blamed by the Soviets for not following their
"fraternal" advice, not shoring up the communist party and the
official trade unions and allowing "anti-socialist" forces to emerge.
On 5 September 1980, Gierek was replaced by
Stanisław Kania as first
secretary of the PZPR.
Delegates of the emergent worker committees from all over Poland
Gdańsk on 17 September and decided to form a single
national union organization named "Solidarity".
While party–controlled courts took up the contentious issues of
Solidarity's legal registration as a trade union (finalized by
November 10), planning had already begun for the imposition of martial
law. A parallel farmers' union was organized and strongly opposed by
the regime, but
Rural Solidarity was eventually registered (12 May
1981). In the meantime, a rapid deterioration of the authority of
the communist party, disintegration of state power and escalation of
demands and threats by the various Solidarity–affiliated groups were
occurring. According to Kuroń, a "tremendous social
democratization movement in all spheres" was taking place and could
not be contained. Wałęsa had meetings with Kania, which brought no
resolution to the impasse.
Wojciech Jaruzelski meeting Soviet security chief Yuri
Andropov during the 1980 crisis. Jaruzelski was about to become the
(last) leader of communist Poland.
Warsaw Pact summit in Moscow, the
Soviet Union proceeded
with a massive military build-up along Poland's border in December
1980, but during the summit Kania forcefully argued with Leonid
Brezhnev and other allied communists leaders against the feasibility
of an external military intervention, and no action was taken.
The United States, under presidents
Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan,
repeatedly warned the Soviets about the consequences of a direct
intervention, while discouraging an open insurrection in
signaling to the Polish opposition that there would be no rescue by
In February 1981, Defense Minister General
Wojciech Jaruzelski assumed
the position of prime minister. The Solidarity social revolt had thus
far been free of any major use of force, but in March 1981 in
Bydgoszcz three activists were beaten up by the secret police. In a
nationwide "warning strike" the 9.5-million-strong Solidarity union
was supported by the population at large, but a general strike was
called off by Wałęsa after the 30 March settlement with the
government. Both Solidarity and the communist party were badly split
and the Soviets were losing patience. Kania was re-elected at the
Party Congress in July, but the collapse of the economy continued and
so did the general disorder.
At the first Solidarity National Congress in September–October 1981
Lech Wałęsa was elected national chairman of the union
with 55% of the vote. An appeal was issued to the workers of the other
East European countries, urging them to follow in the footsteps of
Solidarity. To the Soviets, the gathering was an "anti-socialist
and anti-Soviet orgy" and the Polish communist leaders, increasingly
led by Jaruzelski and General Czesław Kiszczak, were ready to apply
In October 1981, Jaruzelski was named first secretary of the PZPR. The
Plenum's vote was 180 to 4, and he kept his government posts.
Jaruzelski asked parliament to ban strikes and allow him to exercise
extraordinary powers, but when neither request was granted, he decided
to proceed with his plans anyway.
The martial law, Jaruzelski's rule and the end of communism
Martial law enforced in December 1981
On 12–13 December 1981, the regime declared martial law in Poland,
under which the army and
ZOMO riot police were used to crush
Solidarity. The Soviet leaders insisted that Jaruzelski pacify the
opposition with the forces at his disposal, without direct Soviet
involvement. Virtually all Solidarity leaders and many affiliated
intellectuals were arrested or detained. Nine workers were killed in
the Pacification of Wujek. The
United States and other Western
countries responded by imposing economic sanctions against
the Soviet Union. Unrest in the country was subdued, but
During martial law,
Poland was ruled by the so-called Military Council
of National Salvation. The open or semi-open opposition
communications, as recently practiced, were replaced by underground
publishing (known in the eastern bloc as Samizdat), and Solidarity was
reduced to a few thousand underground activists.
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II in
Poland in 1987
Having achieved some semblance of stability, the Polish regime relaxed
and then rescinded martial law over several stages. By December 1982
martial law was suspended and a small number of political prisoners,
including Wałęsa, were released. Although martial law formally ended
in July 1983 and a partial amnesty was enacted, several hundred
political prisoners remained in jail. Jerzy Popiełuszko, a
popular pro-Solidarity priest, was abducted and murdered by security
functionaries in October 1984.
Czesław Miłosz ranks among the great Polish poets
Further developments in
Poland occurred concurrently with and were
influenced by the reformist leadership of
Mikhail Gorbachev in the
Soviet Union (processes known as
Glasnost and Perestroika). In
September 1986, a general amnesty was declared and the government
released nearly all political prisoners. However, the country lacked
basic stability, as the regime's efforts to organize society from the
top down had failed, while the opposition's attempts at creating an
"alternate society" were also unsuccessful. With the economic
crisis unresolved and societal institutions dysfunctional, both the
ruling establishment and the opposition began looking for ways out of
the stalemate. Facilitated by the indispensable mediation of the
Catholic Church, exploratory contacts were established.
Student protests resumed in February 1988. Continuing economic decline
led to strikes across the country in April, May and August. The Soviet
Union, increasingly destabilized, was unwilling to apply military or
other pressure to prop up allied regimes in trouble. The
Polish government felt compelled to negotiate with the opposition and
in September 1988 preliminary talks with Solidarity leaders ensued in
Magdalenka. Numerous meetings that took place involved Wałęsa and
General Kiszczak, among others. In November, the regime made a major
public relations mistake by allowing a televised debate between
Wałęsa and Alfred Miodowicz, chief of the All-
Poland Alliance of
Trade Unions, the official trade union organization. The fitful
bargaining and intra-party squabbling led to the official Round Table
Negotiations in 1989, followed by the Polish legislative election in
June of that year, a watershed event marking the fall of communism in
Third Polish Republic (1989–today)
History of Poland (1989–present)
History of Poland (1989–present) and Politics
Tadeusz Mazowiecki, one of the leaders of the Solidarity opposition,
became prime minister in 1989
Polish Round Table Agreement
Polish Round Table Agreement of April 1989 called for local
self-government, policies of job guarantees, legalization of
independent trade unions and many wide-ranging reforms. The
Sejm promptly implemented the deal and agreed to National
Assembly elections that were set for 4 June and 18 June. Only 35%
of the seats in the
Sejm (national legislature's lower house) and all
of the Senate seats were freely contested; the remaining
(65%) were guaranteed for the communists and their allies.
The failure of the communists at the polls (almost all of the
contested seats were won by the opposition) resulted in a political
crisis. The new
April Novelization to the constitution called for
re-establishment of the Polish presidency and on 19 July the National
Assembly elected the communist leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, to
that office. His election, seen at the time as politically necessary,
was barely accomplished with tacit support from some Solidarity
deputies, and the new president's position was not strong. Moreover,
the unexpected definitiveness of the parliamentary election results
created new political dynamics and attempts by the communists to form
a government failed.
Aleksander Kwaśniewski with
Lech Wałęsa in 2005.
Kwaśniewski defeated Wałęsa in the presidential election of 1995;
he was one of the several "post-communist" politicians elected to
On 19 August, President Jaruzelski asked journalist and Solidarity
Tadeusz Mazowiecki to form a government; on 12 September, the
Sejm voted approval of Prime Minister Mazowiecki and his cabinet.
Mazowiecki decided to leave the economic reform entirely in the hands
of economic liberals led by the new Deputy Prime Minister Leszek
Balcerowicz, who proceeded with the design and implementation of
his "shock therapy" policy. For the first time in post-war history,
Poland had a government led by non-communists, setting a precedent
soon to be followed by other
Eastern Bloc nations in a phenomenon
known as the Revolutions of 1989. Mazowiecki's acceptance of the
"thick line" formula meant that there would be no "witch-hunt", i.e.,
an absence of revenge seeking or exclusion from politics in regard to
former communist officials.
In part because of the attempted indexation of wages, inflation
reached 900% by the end of 1989, but was soon dealt with by means of
radical methods. In December 1989, the
Sejm approved the Balcerowicz
Plan to transform the Polish economy rapidly from a centrally planned
one to a free market economy.[v] The Constitution of the Polish
People's Republic was amended to eliminate references to the "leading
role" of the communist party and the country was renamed the "Republic
of Poland". The communist
Polish United Workers' Party
Polish United Workers' Party dissolved
itself in January 1990. In its place, a new party, Social Democracy of
the Republic of Poland, was created. "Territorial
self-government", abolished in 1950, was legislated back in March
1990, to be led by locally elected officials; its fundamental unit was
the administratively independent gmina.[q]
In October 1990, the constitution was amended to curtail the term of
President Jaruzelski. In November 1990, the German–Polish Border
Treaty, with unified Germany, was signed.
In November 1990,
Lech Wałęsa was elected president for a five-year
term; in December, he became the first popularly elected president of
Poland. Poland's first free parliamentary election was held in October
1991. 18 parties entered the new Sejm, but the largest representation
received only 12% of the total vote.
European Union memberships
There were several post-Solidarity governments between the 1989
election and the 1993 election, after which the "post-communist"
left-wing parties took over. In 1993, the formerly Soviet
Northern Group of Forces, a vestige of past domination, left
Aleksander Kwaśniewski of the social democratic party was
elected president and remained in that capacity for the next ten years
In 1997, the new Constitution of
Poland was finalized and approved in
a referendum; it replaced the Small Constitution of 1992, an amended
version of the communist constitution.
NATO in 1999. Elements of the Polish Armed Forces
have since participated in the
Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.
Poland joined the
European Union as part of its enlargement in 2004.
The two memberships were indicative of the Third Polish Republic's
integration with the West.
Poland has not adopted the euro currency,
History of Europe
History of the
Jews in Poland
List of Polish monarchs
List of heads of state of Poland
List of Prime Ministers of Poland
History of the Polish Army
Politics of Poland
a.^ Piłsudski's family roots in the Polonized gentry of the Grand
Lithuania and the resulting perspective of seeing himself and
people like him as legitimate
Lithuanians put him in conflict with
modern Lithuanian nationalists (who in Piłsudski's lifetime redefined
the scope and meaning of the "Lithuanian" identity), and, by
extension, with other nationalists including the Polish modern
b.^ In 1938,
Romania refused to agree to a Franco-British
proposal that in the event of war with Nazi Germany, Soviet forces
would be allowed to cross their territories to aid Czechoslovakia. The
Polish ruling elites considered the Soviets in some ways more
threatening than the Nazis.
Soviet Union repeatedly declared intention to fulfill its
obligations under the 1935 treaty with
Czechoslovakia and defend
Czechoslovakia militarily. A transfer of land and air forces through
Romania was required and the Soviets approached about it
the French, who also had a treaty with
Czechoslovakia (and with Poland
and with the Soviet Union).
Edward Rydz-Śmigły rebuked the French
suggestion on that matter in 1936, and in 1938
Józef Beck pressured
Romania not to allow even Soviet warplanes to fly over its territory.
Poland was looking into using the German-Czechoslovak
conflict to settle its own territorial grievances, namely disputes
over parts of Zaolzie,
Spiš and Orava.
c.^ In October 1939, the British Foreign Office notified the Soviets
United Kingdom would be satisfied with a postwar creation of
small ethnic Poland, patterned after the Duchy of Warsaw. An
Poland restricted to "minimal size", according to
ethnographic boundaries (such as the lands common to both the prewar
Poland and postwar Poland), was planned by the Soviet People's
Commissariat for Foreign Affairs in 1943–1944. Such territorial
reduction was recommended by
Ivan Maisky to
Vyacheslav Molotov in
early 1944, because of what Maisky saw as Poland's historically
unfriendly disposition toward Russia and the Soviet Union, likely in
some way to continue.
Joseph Stalin opted for a larger version,
allowing a "swap" (territorial compensation for Poland), which
involved the eastern lands gained by
Poland at the
Peace of Riga
Peace of Riga of
1921 and now lost, and eastern
Germany conquered from the Nazis in
1944–1945. In regard to the several major disputed areas:
Silesia west of the
Oder and the
Eastern Neisse rivers (the
British wanted it to remain a part of the future German state),
Stettin (in 1945 the German communists already established their
administration there), "Zakerzonia" (western
Red Ruthenia demanded by
the Ukrainians), and the
Białystok region (
Białystok was claimed by
the communists of the Byelorussian SSR), the Soviet leader made
decisions that favored Poland.
Other territorial and ethnic scenarios were also possible, generally
with possible outcomes less advantageous to
Poland than the form the
Timothy D. Snyder
Timothy D. Snyder spoke of about 100,000
Jews killed by Poles
during the Nazi occupation, the majority probably by members of the
collaborationist Blue Police. This number would have likely been
many times higher had
Poland entered into an alliance with
1939, as advocated by some Polish historians and others.
e.^ Some may have falsely claimed the
Jewish identity hoping for
permission to emigrate. The communist authorities, pursuing the
Poland of single ethnicity (in accordance with the recent
border changes and expulsions), were allowing the
leave the country. For a discussion of early communist Poland's
ethnic politics, see Timothy D. Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations,
chapters on modern "Ukrainian Borderland".
f.^ A Communist Party of
Poland had existed in the past, but was
eliminated in Stalin's purges in 1938.
g.^ The Soviet leadership, which had previously ordered the crushing
of the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany, the Hungarian Revolution of
1956 and the
Prague Spring in 1968, in late 1970 became worried about
potential demoralizing effects that deployment against Polish workers
would have on the Polish army, a crucial
Warsaw Pact component. The
Soviets withdrew their support for Gomułka, who insisted on the use
of force; he and his close associates were subsequently ousted from
Politburo by the Polish Central Committee.
h.^ East of the Molotov-Ribbentrop line, the population was 43%
Polish, 33% Ukrainian, 8% Belarusian and 8% Jewish. The Soviet
Union did not want to appear as an aggressor, and moved its troops to
Poland under the pretext of offering protection to "the
kindred Ukrainian and Belorussian people".
Joseph Stalin at the 1943
Tehran Conference discussed with Winston
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt new post-war borders in
central-eastern Europe, including the shape of a future Poland. He
endorsed the Piast Concept, which justified a massive shift of
Poland's frontiers to the west. Stalin resolved to secure and
stabilize the western reaches of the
Soviet Union and disable the
future military potential of
Germany by constructing a compact and
Poland (along with the Soviet ethnic Ukraine,
Belarus and Lithuania) and by radically altering the region's system
of national borders. After 1945, the Polish communist regime
wholeheartedly adopted and promoted the Piast Concept, making it the
centerpiece of their claim to be the true inheritors of Polish
nationalism. After all the killings and population transfers during
and after the war, the country was 99% "Polish".
j.^ "All the currently available documents of Nazi administration show
that, together with the Jews, the stratum of the Polish intelligentsia
was marked for total extermination. In fact,
Nazi Germany achieved
this goal almost by half, since
Poland lost 50 percent of her citizens
with university diplomas and 35 percent of those with a gimnazium
diploma." According to Brzoza and Sowa, 450,000 of Polish
citizens had completed higher, secondary, or trade school education by
the outbreak of the war. 37.5% of people with higher education
perished, 30% of those with general secondary education, and 53.3% of
trade school graduates.
k.^ Decisive political events took place in
Poland shortly before the
Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Władysław Gomułka, a reformist party
leader, was reinstated to the
Politburo of the
PZPR and the Eighth
Plenum of its
Central Committee was announced to convene on 19 October
1956, all without seeking a Soviet approval. The Soviet Union
responded with military moves and intimidation and its
"military-political delegation", led by Nikita Khrushchev, quickly
arrived in Warsaw. Gomułka tried to convince them of his loyalty but
insisted on the reforms that he considered essential, including a
replacement of Poland's Soviet-trusted minister of defense, Konstantin
Rokossovsky. The disconcerted Soviets returned to Moscow, the PZPR
Plenum elected Gomułka first secretary and removed Rokossovsky from
the Politburo. On 21 October, the Soviet Presidium followed
Khrushchev's lead and decided unanimously to "refrain from military
intervention" in Poland, a decision likely influenced also by the
ongoing preparations for the invasion of Hungary. The Soviet gamble
paid off, because Gomułka in the coming years turned out to be a very
dependable Soviet ally and an orthodox communist.
However, unlike the other
Warsaw Pact countries,
Poland did not
endorse the Soviet armed intervention in Hungary. The Hungarian
Revolution was intensely supported by the Polish public.
l.^ The delayed reinforcements were coming and the government military
commanders General Tadeusz Rozwadowski and
Władysław Anders wanted
to keep on fighting the coup perpetrators, but President Stanisław
Wojciechowski and the government decided to surrender to prevent the
imminent spread of civil war. The coup brought to power the "Sanation"
Józef Piłsudski (
Edward Rydz-Śmigły after
Piłsudski's death). The
Sanation regime persecuted the opposition
within the military and in general. Rozwadowski died after abusive
imprisonment, according to some accounts murdered. According to
Aleksandra Piłsudska, the marshal's wife, following the coup and for
the rest of his life Piłsudski lost his composure and appeared
At the time of Rydz-Śmigły's command, the
Sanation camp embraced the
ideology of Roman Dmowski, Piłsudski's nemesis. Rydz-Śmigły did not
allow General Władysław Sikorski, an enemy of the
to participate as a soldier in the country's defense against the
Poland in September 1939. During
World War II
World War II in France
and then in Britain, the
Polish government-in-exile became dominated
Sanation politicians. The perceived
Sanation followers were in
turn persecuted (in exile) under prime ministers Sikorski and
Zygmunt Berling of the Soviet-allied First Polish Army
attempted in mid-September a crossing of the
Vistula and landing at
Czerniaków to aid the insurgents, but the operation was defeated by
Germans and the
Poles suffered heavy losses.
n.^ The decision to launch the
Warsaw Uprising resulted in the
destruction of the city, its population and its elites and has been a
source of lasting controversy. According to the historians
Czesław Brzoza and Andrzej Leon Sowa, orders of further military
offensives, issued at the end of August 1944 as a continuation of
Operation Tempest, show a loss of the sense of responsibility for the
country's fate on the part of the underground Polish leadership.
o.^ One of the party leaders Mieczysław Rakowski, who abandoned his
mentor Gomułka following the 1970 crisis, saw the demands of the
demonstrating workers as "exclusively socialist" in character, because
of the way they were phrased. Most people in communist Poland,
including opposition activists, did not question the supremacy of
socialism or the socialist idea; misconduct by party officials, such
as not following the provisions of the constitution, was blamed. From
the time of Gierek, this assumed standard of political correctness was
increasingly challenged: pluralism, and then free market, became
frequently used concepts.
p.^ The Polish
Sanation authorities were provoked by the
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). OUN
engaged in political assassinations, terror and sabotage, to which the
Polish state responded with a repressive campaign in the 1930s, as
Józef Piłsudski and his successors imposed collective responsibility
on the villagers in the affected areas. After the disturbances of 1933
and 1934, the
Bereza Kartuska prison
Bereza Kartuska prison camp was established; it became
notorious for its brutal regime. The government brought Polish
settlers and administrators to parts of
Volhynia with a centuries-old
tradition of Ukrainian peasant rising against Polish land owners (and
to Eastern Galicia). In the late 1930s, after Piłsudski's death,
military persecution intensified and a policy of "national
assimilation" was aggressively pursued. Military raids, public
beatings, property confiscations and the closing and destruction of
Orthodox churches aroused lasting enmity in Galicia and antagonized
Ukrainian society in
Volhynia at the worst possible moment, according
to Timothy D. Snyder. However, he also notes that "Ukrainian terrorism
and Polish reprisals touched only part of the population, leaving vast
regions unaffected" and "the OUN's nationalist prescription, a
Ukrainian state for ethnic
Ukrainians alone was far from popular".
Halik Kochanski wrote of the legacy of bitterness between the
Poles that soon exploded in the context of World War
II. See also: History of the Ukrainian minority in Poland.
q.^ In Poland, officials of central government (the provincial office
of wojewoda) can overrule elected local territorial and municipal
r.^ Foreign policy was one of the few governmental areas in which
Piłsudski took an active interest. He saw Poland's role and
opportunity as lying in Eastern
Europe and advocated passive relations
with the West. He felt that a German attack should not be feared,
because even if this unlikely event were to take place, the Western
powers would be bound to restrain
Germany and come to Poland's
s.^ According to the researcher Jan Sowa, the Commonwealth failed as a
state because it was not able to conform to the emerging new European
order established at the
Peace of Westphalia
Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Poland's
elective kings, restricted by the self-serving and short-sighted
nobility, could not impose a strong and efficient central government
with its characteristic post-Westphalian internal and external
sovereignty. The inability of Polish kings to levy and collect taxes
(and therefore sustain a standing army) and conduct independent
foreign policy were among the chief obstacles to
effectively on the changed European scene, where absolutist power was
a prerequisite for survival and became the foundation for the
abolition of serfdom and gradual formation of parliamentarism.
t.^ Besides the
Home Army there were other major underground fighting
formations: Bataliony Chłopskie,
National Armed Forces
National Armed Forces (NSZ) and
Gwardia Ludowa (later Armia Ludowa). From 1943, the leaders of
the nationalistic NSZ collaborated with
Nazi Germany in a case unique
in occupied Poland. The NSZ conducted an anti-communist civil war.
Before the arrival of the Soviets, the NSZ's Holy Cross Mountains
Poland under the protection of the German army.
According to the historians Czesław Brzoza and Andrzej Leon Sowa,
participation figures given for the underground resistance are often
inflated. In the spring of 1944, the time of the most extensive
involvement of the underground organizations, there were most likely
considerably fewer than 500,000 military and civilian personnel
participating, over the entire spectrum, from the right wing to the
u.^ According to Jerzy Eisler, about 1.1 million people may have been
imprisoned or detained in 1944–1956 and about 50,000 may have died
because of the struggle and persecution, including about 7,000
soldiers of the right-wing underground killed in the 1940s.
According to Adam Leszczyński, up to 30,000 people were killed by the
communist regime during the first several years after the war.
v.^ According to Andrzej Stelmachowski, one of the key participants of
the Polish systemic transformation, Minister Leszek Balcerowicz
pursued extremely liberal economic policies, often extraordinarily
painful for society. The December 1989
Sejm statute of credit
relations reform introduced an "incredible" system of privileges for
banks, which were allowed to unilaterally alter interest rates on
already existing contracts. The exceedingly high rates they instantly
introduced ruined many previously profitable enterprises and caused a
complete breakdown of the apartment block construction industry, which
had long-term deleterious effects on the state budget as well.
Balcerowicz's policies also caused permanent damage to Polish
agriculture, an area in which he lacked expertise, and to the often
successful and useful Polish cooperative movement.
According to Karol Modzelewski, a dissident and critic of the economic
transformation, in 1989 Solidarity no longer existed, having been in
reality eliminated during the martial law period. What the
"post-Solidarity elites" did in 1989 amounted to a betrayal of the old
Solidarity base, and the retribution was only a matter of
w.^ Led by Władysław Anders, the Polish II Corps fought in
1944–1945 in the Allied Italian Campaign, where the corps' main
engagement was the Battle of Monte Cassino.
x.^ The Piast Concept, of which the chief proponent was Jan Ludwik
Popławski (late 19th century), was based on the claim that the Piast
homeland was inhabited by so-called "native" aboriginal
Poles since time immemorial and only later was "infiltrated"
by "alien" Celts, Germanic peoples, and others. After 1945, the
so-called "autochthonous" or "aboriginal" school of Polish prehistory
received official backing and a considerable degree of popular support
in Poland. According to this view, the Lusatian Culture, which
flourished between the
Oder and the
Vistula in the early Iron Age, was
said to be Slavonic; all non-Slavonic tribes and peoples recorded in
the area at various points in ancient times were dismissed as
"migrants" and "visitors". In contrast, the critics of this theory,
such as Marija Gimbutas, regarded it as an unproved hypotheses and for
them the date and origin of the westward migration of the
largely uncharted; the Slavonic connections of the Lusatian Culture
were entirely imaginary; and the presence of an ethnically mixed and
constantly changing collection of peoples on the North European Plain
was taken for granted.
y.^ According to the count presented by Prime Minister and Internal
Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski
Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski before the Sejm
committee in January 1938, 818 people were killed in police
suppression of labor protests (industrial and agricultural) during the
John II Casimir Vasa
John II Casimir Vasa is known for his remarkable and accurate
prediction of the Partitions of Poland, made over a century before the
a1.^ According to war historian Ben Macintyre, "The Polish
contribution to allied victory in the Second World War was
extraordinary, perhaps even decisive, but for many years it was
disgracefully played down, obscured by the politics of the Cold
^ a b c Derwich & Żurek 2002, pp. 122–143.
^ Derwich & Żurek 2002, pp. 1–75.
^ Derwich & Żurek 2002, pp. 32–53.
^ Derwich & Żurek 2002, pp. 54–75.
^ Derwich & Żurek 2002, pp. 76–121.
^ Mielnik-Sikorska 2013.
^ Davies 2005a, p. xxvii.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Davies 2005a,
^ Zubrzycki 2006, p. 64.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 80–88.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 88–93.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 93–104.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 104–137.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 137–171.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 171–177.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Davies 2005a,
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 178–195.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 195–201.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 201–204.
^ Wyrozumski 1986, pp. 205–225.
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 24–53.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Davies 2005a,
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 116–130.
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 53–92.
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 92–109.
^ Overy 2010, pp. 176–177.
^ Davies 1996, p. 555.
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 109–116.
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 130–146.
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 146–173.
^ a b c Wodecka 2013.
^ a b Gierowski 1986a, pp. 190–219.
^ Williams 2013, p. 27.
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 220–240.
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 240–258.
^ Davies 2005a, pp. 374–375
^ Davies 2005a, pp. 375–377
^ Davies 2005a, pp. 139–142
^ Gierowski 1986a, pp. 258–301.
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 1–60.
^ a b c d e f g h i j Davies 2005a, pp. xxix–xxx
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 60–66.
^ a b Gierowski 1986b, pp. 66–74.
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 74–90.
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 90–101.
^ Herbst 1969, p. 437.
^ Czubaty 2009, pp. 95–109.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Davies 2005b, p. xxi
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 119–30.
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 130–147.
^ a b Gierowski 1986b, pp. 147–181.
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 181–194.
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 208–231.
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 232–287.
^ Burant 1985, pp. 131–156.
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 287–311.
^ a b Zdrada 2010
^ Gierowski 1986b, pp. 311–318.
^ a b Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 182–187.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 192–194.
^ Buszko 1986, pp. 84–85.
^ a b c Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 187–192, 199.
^ Buszko 1986, p. 44.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 194–203.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 207–209.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, p. 190.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 203–208.
^ a b Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 208–216.
^ a b c d e f Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 217–222.
^ a b c d e Davies 2005b, pp. 279–290
^ Davies 2001, p. 112.
^ Gawryszewski 2005, p. ?.
^ MacMillan 2002, p. 207.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Davies 2005b,
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 224, 226–227.
^ a b c d e f Davies 2001, pp. 115–121.
^ Duraczyński 2012, p. 112
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 224–229
^ Biskupski 1987.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, p. 231.
^ Snyder 2003, pp. 60–65.
^ a b c Prażmowska 2011, pp. 164–172.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 225, 230, 231.
^ Snyder 2003, pp. 57–60, 62.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, p. 230.
^ Snyder 2003, pp. 64–65, 68–69.
^ Snyder 2003, pp. 63–69.
^ Davies 2001, p. 147
^ Snyder 2003, pp. 139–144.
^ Davies 2001, pp. 115–121, 73–80.
^ a b Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, p. 232.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, p. 223.
^ a b Davies 2001, pp. 121–123.
^ a b c Garlicki 2009.
^ a b Pilawski 2009.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 237–238.
^ Davies 2005b, pp. 307, 308.
^ Davies 2005b, p. 312.
^ a b Davies 2001, pp. 123–127.
^ Czubiński 1988, pp. 45–46.
^ Brzoza & Sowa 2009, p. 309.
^ a b c Burnetko 2009.
^ Garlicki 2008.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 248–249.
^ Brzoza & Sowa 2009, pp. 322–329.
^ Brzoza & Sowa 2009, pp. 353–359.
^ Czubiński 1988, pp. 124–125.
^ Zgórniak, Łaptos & Solarz 2006, p. 379.
^ Kochanski 2012, pp. 52–53.
^ Drzewieniecki 1981.
^ Czubiński 2009, pp. 37–38.
^ Szeląg 1968, pp. 11–12.
^ Davies 2001, p. 126.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, p. 242.
^ Zgórniak, Łaptos & Solarz 2006, p. 444.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 249–250.
^ Buszko 1986, p. 360.
^ Szeląg 1968, p. 125.
^ Zgórniak, Łaptos & Solarz 2006, pp. 391–393.
^ Davies 2001, p. 128.
^ Zgórniak, Łaptos & Solarz 2006, pp. 409–410.
^ Zasuń 2009.
^ Czubiński 2009, p. 26.
^ a b c d Zgórniak, Łaptos & Solarz 2006, pp. 455–465.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 247–248, 251–252.
^ a b Davies 2001, pp. 127–129.
^ Brzoza & Sowa 2009, pp. 361–365.
^ Zgórniak, Łaptos & Solarz 2006, pp. 412–413.
^ a b Zgórniak, Łaptos & Solarz 2006, pp. 422–425.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 252–253.
^ Czubiński 2009, pp. 38–40.
^ Davies 2005b, pp. 319–320.
^ Zgórniak, Łaptos & Solarz 2006, p. 454.
^ Czubiński 2009, p. 29.
^ Holdsworth 2008.
^ Davies 2001, pp. 155–156.
^ Wieliński 2011.
^ Buszko 1986, pp. 362–369.
^ Biskupski 2003, pp. 214–215.
^ a b c Kochanski 2012, pp. 59–93.
^ Czubiński 2009, pp. 55–56.
^ Kozaczuk & Straszak 2004.
^ Weinberg 2005, p. 50.
^ a b c d Brzoza & Sowa 2009, pp. 693–694.
^ Davies 2001, pp. 68–69.
^ Davies 2005b, pp. 326–346.
^ a b c Czubiński 2009, p. 226.
^ Buszko 1986, pp. 375–382.
^ Czubiński 2009, p. 231.
^ Czubiński 2009, pp. 232–233.
^ Brzoza 2001, pp. 316–317.
^ a b Davies 2005b, pp. 344–346.
^ Lukowski & Zawadzki 2006, pp. 264–265.
^ Czubiński 2009, pp. 67–68.
^ Buszko 1986, pp. 382–384.
^ Davies 2005b, pp. 337–343.
^ Buszko 1986, pp. 389–390.
^ Davies 2001, pp. 73–75.
^ Kochanski 2012, pp. 425–426.
^ a b Buszko 1986, pp. 394–395.
^ Czubiński 2009, p. 250.
^ Brzoza & Sowa 2009, pp. 650–663.
^ a b c Kemp-Welch 2008, pp. 4–5.
^ Brzoza 2001, pp. 386–387, 390.
^ Davies 2001, pp. 75, 104–105.
^ Kemp-Welch 2008, p. 1.
^ Snyder 2009.
^ Buszko 1986, pp. 398–401.
^ a b Kemp-Welch 2008, pp. 6–7.
^ a b Brzoza & Sowa 2009, pp. 694–695.
^ Domagalik 2011.
^ a b c d e f g Brzoza & Sowa 2009, pp. 695–696.
^ Czubiński 2009, pp. 215–217.
^ Berghahn 1999, p. 32.
^ Naimark 2010, p. 91; Snyder 2010, pp. 126, 146–147, 415.
^ Kemp-Welch 2008, pp. 157–163.
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History of the Mediterranean region
History of the European Union
History of Western civilization
Maritime history of Europe
Military history of Europe
History of Europe
History of Europe by country
Bosnia and Herzegovina
States with limited
Isle of Man