History of Poland

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This series of in-depth articles on Polish history is divided into two parts: chronological entries and monographs. The former take up issues of Polish political history, including primarily external politics and important internal transformations in successive time periods. Monographs, on the other hand, describe the various forms of the Polish state from the Poland of the first Piasts to the Third Republic – its society, power, system, economy, military, etc. History of Poland – covers the history of the Polish state and nation from the 10th to the 21st century.

The history of Poland begins with the reign of the first historical ruler Mieszko I, who was baptized in 966. His son Boleslaw Chrobry was crowned the first king of Poland in 1025. Until 1138, Poland, as a patrimonial monarchy, was ruled by rulers from the Piast dynasty, who, not counting junior districts and temporary periods of division, retained sovereignty over the entire territory.

As a result of the so-called Succession Act of Prince Boleslaw the Wrymouth, the Polish lands succumbed to a 150-year deepening of the district split. Attempts at reunification began in the late 13th century, and were eventually crowned by the coronation of Wladyslaw Lokietek in 1320. The Piast dynasty died out after the death of his son, Casimir the Great in 1370, who left no legitimate successor. The rule of Poland was taken over by the Andegawens (Louis of Hungary and Jadwiga), and then – through Jadwiga’s marriage to the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jagiello – by the kings of the Jagiellonian dynasty.

In 1569 the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland entered into a permanent union with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. By virtue of the union concluded in Lublin, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was established, which from 1573 was ruled by rulers appointed by free election. The state was one of the territorially largest political organisms in Europe. After the peace with Russia concluded at Polanov in 1634, it reached an area of 990,000 km². During this period, the Republic developed a peculiar political system, based on the domination of a more numerous nobility than in other European countries and a system of parliamentary government. The golden age of the state fell during the reign of the last Jagiellons. It eventually ended with the wars of the mid-17th century.

In the following century, the Republic, plunged into anarchy, began to fall into strong dependence on Russia, and then disappeared from the map of Europe as a result of three partitions. An independent Polish state did not exist until the 20th century, although periodically its residual forms appeared, such as the Duchy of Warsaw, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Posen. The full rebirth of Poland did not occur until after World War I, when the Second Republic was established in the situation of the collapse of the partitioning powers. It existed until 1939, the beginning of World War II. In September 1939, the Polish lands were occupied by the Third Reich and the USSR. Only from 1944 did their gradual takeover by Soviet troops and the People’s Polish Army formed at their side begin.

After the war ended, Poland found itself behind the so-called Iron Curtain, and the communists took over. In 1952 the country was renamed the People’s Republic of Poland. Until 1989 it was ruled by a party system, in which the leading role was played by the Polish United Workers’ Party. In addition to it, there were also satellite groups – the ZSL and SD. It eventually collapsed as a result of a process known as the Autumn of Nations. Parliamentary elections in 1989 initiated processes of democratization and economic reform, which enabled the Third Republic to join NATO (1999) and then the European Union (2004).

Table of contents

1 Prehistory of the Polish lands

2 History of Poland

2.1 The state of the first Piasts (until 1138)

2.1.1 History 2.1.2 Economy and society 2.1.3 Culture and religious life

2.2 Poland during the period of disintegration of districts (1138-1320) 2.3 United Kingdom of Poland 1320-1386

2.4 Poland under the Jagiellonians (1386-1572)

2.4.1 1386-1492

2.5 The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795) 2.6 The years 1572-1697 2.7 The years 1697-1795

2.8 Period of partitions (1795-1918)

2.8.1 1795-1831 2.8.2 1831-1914

2.9 1914-1918 2.10 Second Republic (1918-1939)

2.11 World War II (1939-1945)

2.11.1 September campaign 2.11.2 Government in exile 2.11.3 Occupation and repression 2.11.4 Resistance movement

2.12 People’s Poland (1944-1989) 2.13 Third Republic (since 1989)

3 Periodization 4 See also 5 Footnotes 6 Bibliography 7 External links

Prehistory of the Polish lands[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Prehistory of the Polish lands.

The first traces of human presence in the Polish lands are dated to 200,000 B.C.[1] The transition from Paleolithic to Neolithic culture occurred in the Polish lands in between 8000 and 4500 B.C.[2] The Neolithic period is the era in which the predominance of farming and agriculture over gathering and hunting was finally established. The years 4500-2500 B.C. saw the emergence of ceramic cultures from the Danubian areas – ribbon rhytic and ribbon tufted; the second period, lasting until 2000 B.C., saw painted pottery and pottery without painted ornamentation, but most notably the emergence of the Funnel Cup culture at that time[3]. In the third period (until 1800 BC), several cultures appeared in the Polish lands: the ribbon pottery culture, the amphorae culture and the rope pottery culture, with which the beginnings of horse breeding are associated[4].

The beginning of the Bronze Age in the territories of present-day Poland is dated to 1800-700 BC, and is associated with the unietycka culture, alongside which existed the more primitive Iowa and Mierzanowicka cultures[4]. Around 1600 BC, the Nuntian culture transformed into the pastoral pre-Lusitanian culture, on which ca. 300 years later, a highly developed Lusatian culture overlapped, with which the ability to smelt iron is associated[4].

Polish history[edit | edit code].

The state of the first Piasts (until 1138)[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Early Piast monarchy.

History[edit | edit code]

Jan Matejko, Introduction of Christianity

Around the 9th century, strong political organizations began to form in the Polish lands. Two came to the greatest importance – the Vistula state, around Krakow, and the Polanian state, around Gniezno and Poznan. The Vistula state presumably came under Great Moravian rule in the second half of the century, and later, between 936 and 945, under Bohemian rule[5]. The baptism of the Vistula prince, mentioned in the sources, can be connected with the Great Moravian rule[6].

Grody in the period of Mieszko I

Around 930-940 in the north, the Polanian rulers began to vigorously incorporate the surrounding lands, and by around 960 they already ruled over all of Greater Poland[7]. The first historical ruler from this dynasty, Mieszko I, was baptized in 966. Mieszko never became king; he was a prince until the end of his life. At the end of his reign, the state included Greater Poland, Mazovia, part of Pomerania with Gdansk, Silesia and probably Lesser Poland[8]. Both he and his successors fought battles with the states of the German Empire and Bohemia and Kievan Rus, as well as with Slavic tribes settled between the Oder and Elbe rivers.

Poland in the time of the Brave

Separate article: History of Poland (until 1138).

The state reached its greatest territorial extent during the reign of Boleslaw I Chrobry, he was the son of the first ruler of Poland. The Brave seized Milsko, Lusatia, Moravia, Slovakia (and temporarily Bohemia) and restored the Czerwieńskie Grody to Poland.

Boleslaw Chrobry succeeded in establishing an independent ecclesiastical metropolis in Poland in 1000, with Gniezno as its capital[9]; the alleged coronation act performed that year by Otto III was confirmed in 1025 with a papal sacrament[10]. Chrobry was crowned that year, but died shortly thereafter. The collapse of the state of the first Piasts occurred in 1031 during the reign of Boleslav’s son Mieszko II, almost all territories annexed by Boleslav were lost, and the dynasty lost its coronation insignia. The invasion of the Bohemian prince Bretislav in 1038 and a popular uprising completed the destruction.

The reign of Casimir the Restorer began a period of state reconstruction, crowned by the coronation in 1076 of his son Boleslaw the Bold. Boleslaw owed his coronation to the support of Pope Gregory VII in his dispute with the Emperor[11]. A conflict with Bishop Stanislaus of Szczepanów, and probably with a wider group of magnates,[12] led to the king’s exile and his brother Ladislaus Herman, who was submissive to the Emperor, reaching for power. After a long rivalry between his sons Zbigniew and Boleslaw, the latter took the reign; after his death, he divided the state between his sons, giving the eldest the title of senior[13]. The year 1138 is assumed to be the beginning of the district split.

Economy and society[edit | edit code].

The basis of the power of the Polish princes was the ducal squad – a group of warriors surrounding the prince and dependent on him. Probably Norman warriors accounted for its strength[14]. The prince and his entourage derived income from war expeditions, from where slaves were brought, and from benefits collected from the rural population. The centers of power were strongholds[15]. After the conquest, new strongholds were brought in on the site of old ones. The most important strongholds, out of about 60-80, were Gniezno, Poznań, Kraków, Kruszwica, Ostrów Lednicki, Płock, Wrocław, Opole, Głogów and Niemcza. The fortified settlements were surrounded by sub-groups, where crafts and trade developed. Settlements populated by servant populations were scattered in the area of the strongholds[16].

The prince owned all the land in the country, some of the rights he could cede for use to individuals or institutions. Ducal law (ius ducale) placed a number of privileges in the hands of the ruler, from monopolies on the use of forests or minerals (regales) to a range of duties and services provided by groups or individuals. The population was divided into a number of categories regulating the nature and amount of services to the ruler[17]. It is not clear when the princely law was formed, most likely it occurred in the late 12th century, so it is dangerous to relate it to the period before the death of the Wrymouth, however certain features certainly existed by then[18].

After the crisis of the monarchy of the 1130s, the military system based on the squadron disintegrated, and a knightly state began to take shape, no longer maintained by the prince, but rewarded by endowments. In time, a separate law of knighthood (ius militare) was formed to regulate the duties and privileges of warriors, as for other groups[19]. Toward the end of the period, the more powerful magnates also developed their own clientele of knights, whom, following the prince, they rewarded with endowments; governors Sieciech and Skarbimir and the archbishop had their own knights[19]. However, the entire population was still obliged to defend the country, and all groups were open.

In the course of history, a great deal of power in the state was gained by the governor (palatinus), who originally managed the court of the ruler, over time became the second person in the state, and sometimes was able to subjugate the prince, as was the case with Sieciech[20]. The provinces were headed by chiefs (principes terrae), it is estimated that there were about six of them, often becoming members of the ducal family. The office of chieftains ceased to exist during the period when the country was split into districts. The gord district was administered by the żupan (comes), they exercised judicial, military and fiscal authority. Border areas were given the status of marches, the Glogow and Gdansk marches are known[21].

Culture and religious life[edit | edit code].

Benedictine monastery in Tyniec

The beginning of the culture of writing in Poland is associated with the adoption of Christianity. The first monument of this type is the document Dagome iudex, with which Mieszko I gave his state to the protection of the See of Peter. The presence of Bruno of Querfurt is associated with the first literary works: the Second Life and Passion of St. Adalbert and the Lives of the Five Brothers Martyrs[22]. At the same time, the first yearbooks written down in the Polish lands and concerning Poland are also created, the richest of which is the Ancient Cracow Chapter Yearbook.

Immediately after the baptism of Mieszko I, a missionary bishopric was established in Poznan, headed by Jordan. With the establishment of the Gniezno metropolis in 1000, permanent suffragans were established in Kolobrzeg, Wroclaw and Krakow. Poznań was not subordinated to Gniezno until around 1012, and it was also a problem to bring Silesia and Lesser Poland under the jurisdiction of Gniezno, which were subordinated to the Bohemian bishoprics, and Cracow may even have had its own bishopric[23]. Poland also became a center of missionary activity. The most important missionaries were St. Adalbert and Bruno of Querfurt. Along with them came Benedictines who established the first hermitages in Poland and carried out Christianization activities[24].

Between 1031 and 1032, the so-called pagan reaction broke out in Poland, which, with the subsequent Bohemian invasion, almost completely destroyed the church organization in Poland[25]. Extremely severe was the loss of the relics of St. Adalbert. After Casimir I’s power was stabilized, a bishopric was established in 1046 in Cracow, which remained the capital of the Polish ecclesiastical province for a long time[26]. In turn, Benedictines were settled in Tyniec. Boleslaw succeeded in completing his father’s work in 1075/76, when he established the bishoprics of Poznan, Plock and Gniezno, which again became the capital of the Polish metropolis, and the bishopric of Wroclaw, still renewed by Casimir but subordinated to Magdeburg, was also attached[27]. Under Boleslaw the Wry-mouthed, the bishoprics of Wloclawek and Kruszwica in Kujawy were established, and Pomerania was Christianized, resulting in the establishment of the bishopric of Wolin in 1140[28]. Between 1130 and 1136 there was an ongoing conflict with Archbishop Norbert of Magdeburg, who claimed sovereignty over the Polish Church, but ultimately his efforts failed[29].

Poland during the period of the district split (1138-1320)[edit | edit code].

Battle of Legnica

The monarchy of the Silesian Henrys

Separate article: Poland during the period of the district split.

In 1138, Boleslaw the Wry-mouthed divided the country among his sons: the eldest, Ladislaus, received Silesia, the Lubusz land and the senior district, as well as the title of senior. The other brothers received: Boleslaw – Mazovia and Kujawy, Mieszko – Greater Poland, Henry – Sandomierz land, and Casimir, who was born after his father’s death – Leczyca land[13].

The supreme power was to be held by the senior, who was responsible for foreign policy and judged the brothers. Boleslaw wanted in this way to avoid fighting between his sons after his death, but he did not achieve his goal. As early as 1146, the brothers exiled Ladislaus[30]. After him, Boleslaw the Curly, and after his death Mieszko the Old, took power. He was soon exiled, and power was assumed by Casimir the Just. The principle of seniority finally collapsed in 1180 at the convention in Leczyca, where Casimir guaranteed the inheritance of the Cracow land to his sons[31].

A number of rival principalities arose in the state. An attempt at unification was made by Henry the Bearded and Henry the Pious, dukes of Silesia. They occupied Greater Poland, the land of Kraków and the land of Lubusz. However, a Tartar invasion in 1241 and a defeat at Legnica, where Henry the Pious died, caused the local monarchy to disintegrate[31].

In the 13th century, unification tendencies intensified. The divided state was losing internationally – the Brandenburgers and Teutonic Knights occupied part of the land, and Tartar invasions recurred. In 1295, Prince Przemysł II of Greater Poland was crowned king of Poland, but he was assassinated shortly afterwards[32]. The Czech rulers of the Přemyslid dynasty were also interested in the Polish crown. In 1300, King Wenceslas II of Bohemia crowned himself king of Poland, forcing Prince Wladyslaw Lokietek to flee the country. Lokietek returned in 1304, and Wenceslas II died a year later. After him, his son Wenceslas III took the Czech and Polish crown, but was assassinated in 1306. After his death, the Czechs left Poland and Wladyslaw Lokietek took over the reign in Krakow. He also ruled in Gdansk Pomerania, which was invaded in 1308 by the Brandenburgers. Łokietek asked the Teutonic Knights for help, but after expelling the invaders, the Teutonic Knights incorporated Pomerania into their state. In 1311, Lokietek had to put down a rebellion by the alderman Albert, and in 1314 he occupied Greater Poland. After capturing the two most important districts, he was crowned in 1320 in Cracow[33].

Lokietek’s state covered only part of the Polish lands. Outside the borders were the Silesian principalities, gradually made dependent on the Bohemian kingdom[34], Western Pomerania, lost in the 12th century, could not be annexed, and the Mazovian principalities, interested in Ruthenian territories since the time of Leszek the White, remained independent[35].

United Kingdom of Poland 1320-1386[edit | edit code].

Casimir III the Great, drawing by Jan Matejko

Separate articles: History of Poland (1320-1386) and United Kingdom of Poland.

On January 20, 1320, Władysław Łokietek was crowned in Cracow. This date is considered the moment of the restoration of the united Polish Kingdom. During this period, Poland first waged war with the Teutonic Order and then, above all, diplomatic disputes with the Teutonic Knights and the Luxemburgs. As a result of the actions of King Casimir the Great and his advisors, in 1335 the Luxembourgers relinquished their rights to the title of King of Poland in exchange for 20,000 mounds of Prague pennies. Thus, Piast, who ruled in Cracow, was recognized by the international community as king of Poland. His actions in the following years allowed him to end his dispute with the Teutonic Knights (the Kalisz treaty of 1343) and then to undertake expansion into Halicko-Wlodzimierska Rus. After the death of Casimir the Great in 1370, Louis of Hungary of the Andegavian dynasty took over the Polish throne. The period of his reign is also the beginning of the supremacy of the nobility in the political life of the country, bestowed with the first general privilege in Kosice in 1374. When Louis also died in 1382, Poland experienced the longest interregnum in its history. Eventually Ludwig’s daughter, Jadwiga of Anjou, became king of Poland on October 16, 1384. In 1386 she entered into marriage with the Lithuanian prince Jogaila, who was crowned ruler of Poland on March 4, 1386.

Poland under the Jagiellons (1386-1572)[edit | edit code].

Poland and Lithuania during the reign of Ladislaus II Jagiello

1386-1492[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Polish History (1386-1492) and Polish History (1492-1572).

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795)[edit | edit code].

Poloniæ descriptio auctore Wenceslao Godreccio polono, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Abraham Ortelius in 1592

Jan Matejko, The power of the Republic at its zenith, Golden liberty, election 1573

Separate article: The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

A state composed of the Polish Crown and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that existed from 1569-1795 under the Union of Lublin. It stretched over the territory of present-day Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Latvia, and partially included Ukraine, Estonia, Slovakia, Russia and Moldova. In 1618 it reached its largest territorial extent of 990,000 km². It was then larger than Russia and twice the size of France. The population ranged from 6.5 million in 1569 to 14 million in 1772.The reigning system was a democracy of the nobility, and the head of state was an elected king.

The Republic held a high position on the international stage until the mid-17th century. Wars with its neighbors, Cossack uprisings and a collapse in demand for the grain exported in large quantities led to an economic crisis for the state. It was followed by a political crisis as well, eventually leading to anarchy and the breakdown of institutions of power. In the 18th century, the Republic fell into the orbit of Russian influence, and was subsequently liquidated by three partitions in 1772, 1793 and 1795.

Years 1572-1697[edit | edit code].

Separate article: History of Poland (1572-1697).

On July 7, 1572, the last representative of the Jagiellonian dynasty in the male line – Sigismund Augustus – died, heirless. In this situation, the Republic faced its first truly free election (although the constitutions of 1530 and 1538 guaranteed a free election, it was not specified in them how it would be carried out). Along with legislative problems (the conflict between Uchanski and Firlej), there were conflicts between dissident and Catholic nobles. At the Convocation Sejm it was agreed, through Kujawy Bishop Stanislaw Karnkowski, that Jakub Uchanski, Primate of Poland and Archbishop of Gniezno, would become interrex. The same Sejm also passed the Warsaw Confederation Act. This was a document ensuring the equality of Protestant nobility with Catholic nobility. It guaranteed full religious tolerance in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Electoral Sejm (April 5 – May 20, 1573) was held in Wola near Warsaw. The candidates were French Prince Henry d’ Anjou, Archduke Ernest Habsburg, Swedish King John Vasa and Russian Czar Ivan IV the Terrible. The Polish nobility made a viritim election of Henry of Valois, who thus became the first Polish elected king.

Years 1697-1795[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Polish History (1697-1763) and Polish History (1764-1795).

Augustus II the Strong, painting by Louis de Silvestre

After the death of John III, a double election was held, with Saxon Elector Frederick Augustus and French Prince François di Conti elected. Although Condeus won more votes, Augustus, who enjoyed the support of neighboring powers, arrived in Poland more quickly, with which he tipped the issue in his favor. After his coronation on September 15, 1697, Poland and Saxony were united by a personal union. August II, who in the early years of his reign sought support from everywhere and sought to unite Saxony and Poland, recognized almost immediately the coronation of Elector Frederick I as King of Prussia, while the Republic itself did not do so until 1764[36]. Augustus had plans to consolidate his power in Poland by capturing lands lost to the Republic[37]. To this end, he entered into a private alliance with Tsar Peter I,[38] with which he became involved as elector in the Third Northern War (1700-1721). The Commonwealth became the main theater of operations, although it itself, until 1704, did not participate in the war. In 1704 Augustus lost the Polish throne, which was taken by Stanislaw Leszczynski, who was elected under pressure from the Swedes, and abdicated in 1706 under pressure from the Swedes. He also lost Saxony, which was occupied by Swedish troops[39]. The defeat of the Swedes at Poltava on August 8, 1708 turned the page, and Augustus returned to the throne a year later. However, in 1715, the Ternogrod Confederation ousted Augustus, who was again saved by the entry of Russian troops. Under the tutelage of the tsar’s army, the situation was defused by the resolutions of the Warsaw Confederation and the 1717 Silent Sejm – the king’s absolutist aspirations collapsed, the size of the army was limited to 24,000 soldier portions, and the chance for a real Polish-Saxon union was also lost[40]. Also important was the tsar’s direct involvement in Polish affairs and the guarantee of the freedoms of the nobility.

Russia’s rise to the position of a new potentate in Europe, worried other powers, who, led by Great Britain, sought to block Russian advances in the Republic. They proposed that Augustus sign a treaty guaranteeing the inviolability of Poland, but the withdrawal of the Russian army in 1719 derailed these plans[41]. The 1721 peace with Sweden at Nystadt did not bring any gains to the Republic. The Torun tumult of 1724 severely damaged Poland’s image, the sentencing to death of 11 Protestant townsmen reverberated throughout Europe, Poland was portrayed as an intolerant and barbaric country. Frederick II of Prussia’s attempts to use the events of Torun as a pretext to seize Royal Prussia were only stopped by the death of Peter the Great. However, it resulted in the beginning of treaties between neighboring states protecting the rights of dissidents in the Republic[42].

Siege of Gdansk in 1734

The last years of August II’s reign were filled with efforts to guarantee the Polish throne to his son Frederick Augustus, and they determined both the king’s external and internal policy of essentially seeking the widest possible support, at the price of every concession. However, Prussia, Austria and Russia sought to block both the election of Wettin and Leszczynski (the Loewenwold Treaty of 1732), putting forward the candidacy of the Portuguese Infanta Emanuel. After the death of Augustus, the nobility elected Leszczynski, while Austria and Russia advanced the candidacy of the young Wettin at the price of gold and the relinquishment of Inflants and Courland to Russia. A war over the Polish succession soon broke out, as France supported Leszczynski, but did nothing to realistically boost his candidacy. Leszczynski had to go into exile again after the fall of Danzig and the Dzik confederation that supported him[43].

In the first years of Augustus II’s reign, a civil war broke out in Lithuania between the Sapiehs and other Lithuanian families; the decisive point was the 1700 Battle of Olkieniki, in which the Sapiehs suffered defeat[44]. Unrest in Lithuania continued, however, and the country itself showed separatist tendencies, with coequal assemblies in 1698 and 1726 that equalized Lithuanian and Polish legislation[45]. Revolts broke out in Ukraine in 1702-1703.

Partition period (1795-1918)[edit | edit code].

Separate article: The lands of the Republic of Poland under partition.

1795-1831[edit | edit code].

Separate article: History of Poland (1795-1831).

Chapter of Polish history covering the period from the Third Partition of Poland to the fall of the November Uprising. After the fall of the Polish state (1795), the Polish state was divided by 3 states: Austria, the Kingdom of Prussia and Russia. The division of the state caused a wave of emigration, the main direction of which was the territories of present-day Italy, as well as Saxony and France. In January 1797, Polish army units called the Polish Legions in Italy were formed there. The commander was General Jan Henryk Dabrowski. The Legions took part in the battles for Rome, and in July 1797 lived to hear their own song called Song of the Polish Legions in Italy, whose 4 stanzas became the Polish national anthem in 1926. After the French army defeated the 3 invaders and liberated part of the Polish lands, the Duchy of Warsaw was established in 1807. In 1809 it was expanded to include part of the lands of the Austrian partition. About 100,000 Polish army took part in the French invasion of Russia (1811-1812). After Napoleon’s defeat and exile on the island of Saint Helena, the Duchy of Warsaw was placed under Russian administration. After the Congress of Vienna (1815), its name was changed to the Kingdom of Poland, with the Russian Tsar as King of Poland. On November 29, 1830, the November Uprising broke out in the Kingdom of Poland, which, on January 25, 1831, after the dethronement of Czar Nicholas I, turned into the Polish-Russian War. This war ended in victory for Russia. The Kingdom of Poland lost most of its attributes of independence and de facto became part of the Russian Empire.

1831-1914[edit | edit code].

Separate article: History of Poland (1831-1914).

Chapter of Polish history covering the period from the fall of the November Uprising to the outbreak of World War I. During these 83 years in the history of Poland, there were many events of great importance, in the first place the events of 1846, the Spring of Nations, the January Uprising and the revolution of 1905.All of them, along with the development of Polish political thought and the formation of directions, groupings and finally political parties and organizations and armed unions or paramilitary organizations, as well as efforts to build a modern society in the social and economic sense, constituted the history of this period. In the historical sense, it is necessary to distinguish here the Great Emigration, which in the years 1831-1863 created and decided the direction of Polish national-independence movements, organic labor, which laid the foundation for the economic development of Poland under the partitions, independence movements (Zaliwsky’s partisanship, the Cracow Uprising, the Spring of Nations, the January Uprising), up to the last activities of leftist, national, people’s organizations in the early twentieth century.

1914-1918[edit | edit code].

Poland of the partition period after the Congress of Vienna

Separate article: Polish history (1914-1918).

The history of Poland in the years 1914-1918 covers a short, only five-year fragment of history, but the events of this five-year period had a decisive impact on the situation of Poland in both the international and domestic arenas. In 1914, World War I broke out with the participation of the partitioning powers: Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia. It led to the awakening of a sense of national identity among Poles, and its course and results (primarily the collapse of all three partitioning powers) enabled the restoration of an independent Polish state.

This period is contained between two dates – August 3, 1914 (Pilsudski’s speech to soldiers in Krakow’s Oleandry district) and November 11, 1918 (the transfer of power to Pilsudski by the Regency Council). Over the course of this time – with the shifting of fronts and the changing fortunes of the various partitioning powers, both Polish concepts (regarding the ways and means of regaining independence) and those of the partitioning powers, as well as those of Western Europe and the United States, leading to the resolution of the Polish cause were shaped. As a result of the course of the war, which was difficult to predict beforehand, all interested parties had to outdo each other in declarations, and soon also in deeds, which lay behind the creation of a Polish army (Austro-Hungary, German occupation, Russia, France) and the seeds of a state organism (German occupation, France). All of this combined to ensure that when World War I ended on November 11, 1918, Poland emerged as an internationally recognized state, with a prepared political and administrative cadre, as well as attachments of the army, executive and judicial organs.

Second Republic (1918-1939)[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Second Republic.

II Rzeczpospolita was the popular name for the Polish state between 1918 and 1939. The official language of the Second Republic was Polish, and the currency was the Polish zloty. The Second Republic was a sovereign democratic republic with a multi-party parliamentary-cabinet system. This system was severely modified by the May Coup, which took place on May 12-15, 1926, when it was transformed into a presidential-authoritarian system. Its formal beginning is taken as November 11, 1918, when Jozef Pilsudski assumed military power in Warsaw. Its end can be considered the transfer of power from President Ignacy Moscicki to the Polish Government in Exile, which took place on September 25, 1939, or the crossing of the country’s border by the Government of the Republic on September 17, 1939.

The territory of the Second Republic after Poland regained its independence in 1918

Separate article: Polish History (1918-1939).

The Polish history of 1918-1939 covers the period from the restoration of Poland’s independence until the attack of the Third Reich on September 1, 1939. After the end of World War I, the Polish state gained independence as a result of the abandonment of Polish territories by Germany and Russia. Centers of local power were established in the abandoned territories, which handed over power to the central government after independence. On November 11, Poles took control of Warsaw, and 3 days later the Polish state was recognized by Western countries. Officially, the newly formed Polish state took the name of the Second Republic. After regaining independence, people began to think about the concept of borders. The first of these was the concept based on ethnic criteria. The proponent of this theory was Roman Dmowski. The second concept was to create a border in the east as far as possible to weaken Russia. In March 1919, the Constitution was adopted and the first parliamentary elections were held. Jędrzej Moraczewski became the first prime minister in Polish history.

In 1922, as a result of rampant inflation, Władysław Grabski carried out a treasury and currency reform, replacing the mark with the zloty. In the same year, the government of Wincenty Witos (the so-called “chjeno-piast government”) was appointed, which led to a political and economic crisis. In 1926, despite the disastrous situation – the chjeno-piasta coalition headed by Wincenty Witos once again took over the government of the country. At that time, a port was also built in Gdynia to provide Poland with access to the sea. The author of this idea was Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski. Nevertheless, Jozef Pilsudski, in order to prevent the crisis from happening again, carried out a military putsch (the so-called May Coup). As a result of the three-day fighting, 200 people were killed, and the president himself and the government resigned. After the May coup, Sanation took over the government in Poland. It formed a political camp known as the Non-Partisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government (BBWR). In 1930 it went so far as to arrest opposition members, who, after show trials, were placed in prisons in Brest and Bereza Kartuska. As a result, the BBWR won 249 seats in the Sejm and 77 in the Senate. With an absolute majority, the BBWR pushed through a project to change the electoral law and reduce the number of deputies and senators. In April 1935, the BBWR adopted by acclamation in the Sejm a constitution increasing the powers of the president. After defeat in the 1935 parliamentary elections, which were rigged and boycotted by the opposition, the BBWR was dissolved and its members founded the Camp of National Unity (OZN). In 1938, Poland held parliamentary elections for the last time, in which the OZN was the only party to get into the Sejm apart from national minorities. In 1939, after the Third Reich’s aggression against Poland, the Second Republic came to an end.

World War II (1939-1945)[edit | edit code].

September 1, 1939 – the German battleship “Schleswig-Holstein” fired on a Polish military outpost at Westerplatte

Separate article: Polish history (1939-1945).

September campaign[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: The September campaign and The USSR’s aggression against Poland.

On August 23, a non-aggression treaty between Germany and the USSR (the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) was signed in Moscow. It contained a secret additional protocol, which provided for the division of Eastern Europe, including Polish territory, into a German and Soviet sphere of influence. Under the terms of the pact, German aggression against Poland began on September 1, 1939. On September 17, 1939, Soviet aggression followed.

The attack by Germany and the USSR from two sides, and the lack of real military assistance from Western countries (obliged to do so by mutual aid treaties), caused Poland to lose the September campaign after 35 days of fighting. The state authorities moved on to Romania (where they were interned), planning to get to France and establish a center of power in exile there.

Government in exile[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Government of the Republic of Poland in exile and the National Council of the Republic of Poland.

After the resignation of Polish President Ignacy Moscicki, the reconstruction of the most important structures of the Polish state in France (with the approval and support of this country) was handled by politicians who were mostly through 1939, in opposition to the ruling Sanation camp. The new government of the Republic of Poland in exile, was formed by members of the political parties Polish Socialist Party, National Party, People’s Party, Labor Party. On September 29, Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz became President of the Republic of Poland, and on September 30 he appointed General Władysław Sikorski as Prime Minister (and also, on November 7, 1939, entrusted him with the post of Commander-in-Chief). On December 9, the National Council of the Republic of Poland was also established, acting as a parliament in exile.

Occupation and repression[edit | edit code].

Map of occupied Poland

The division of Polish territory between the Third Reich and the USSR, was accomplished by the German-Soviet treaty on borders and friendship, signed on September 28, 1939. In this document, the two countries declared the end of the Polish state, breaking the rules of international law and pre-war agreements with the Second Republic. The division of Polish territory was made along the line demarcating the spheres of influence of the two occupiers, drawn along the line of the San-Bug-Narew-Pisa rivers. In an additional protocol, the Gestapo and NKVD, as well as other security services, pledged to cooperate in combating the Polish resistance movement and independence organizations[46].

The territories under German occupation, were divided into two parts: the northern and western lands were incorporated into the Third Reich, and the General Government was formed from the rest[47]. The Polish territories occupied by the USSR were incorporated into the Soviet state – the Vilnius region, on the other hand, was handed over to Lithuania and later incorporated into the USSR in August 1940.

The population living in Soviet-occupied areas became the target of mass deportations to the east, primarily in the first half of 1940 and in mid-1941. Repressions affected military and police officers, intelligentsia, administrative officials, landowners, communists, clergy, etc.[48] Some 1.5 million people were deported. The fate of some 15,000 Polish officers murdered at Katyn and elsewhere became a symbol of Stalinist terror.

German-occupied areas were placed under martial law and exempted from the law. The population from the General Government was sent en masse to Germany as cheap labor, while the population from the areas incorporated into the Reich was displaced to the General Government (Operation Tannenberg)[49]. In 1939-1941, some 700,000-800,000 people were displaced from the incorporated territories, while some 740,000 people were sent to the Reich[50]. The shooting of 106 hostages in Wawer on December 26, 1939 became the end of illusions about the nature of the German occupation[51]. The Germans aimed to liquidate the Polish intelligentsia, which they began immediately after the end of hostilities (Intelligenzaktion, Aktion AB); the second category of victims were patients of psychiatric institutions and invalids[52]. The Jewish population was almost immediately symbolically segregated and, starting in 1940, incarcerated in ghettos. The process of mass murder of Jews began in 1942, and the largest extermination camps were Auschwitz and Treblinka Concentration Camps, located on Polish soil[51]. In 1943, the liquidation of ghettos began, and on January 18, a deadly uprising, bloodily suppressed, broke out in the Warsaw ghetto. The extent of German terror was increasing – roundups and shootings took place in cities, and villages were pacified (primarily the Zamosc district). Soldiers held in prisoner-of-war camps on Polish soil died en masse[53]. In total, about 6 million Polish citizens died during World War II, of which 2.9 million were Jews and 644,000 were victims of warfare. More than 11 million people, including 5 million Jews, were killed on Polish soil, out of 18 million victims of Nazism[54].

Resistance[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Polish Underground State.

At the end of the September campaign (September 1-October 5, 1939), the first underground organizations began to form, carrying on the fight against the occupiers. Out of the regular formations of the Polish Army, the Separate Division of the Polish Army (the so-called “Hubalczycy”) was formed, commanded by Colonel H. Dobrzanski, pseud. “Hubal. On September 27, 1939, the Polish Victory Service was established in Warsaw, in December 1939 transformed into the Union of Armed Struggle – these were the first armed formations of the Polish Underground State.

People’s Poland (1944-1989)[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Polish History (1945-1989) and People’s Republic of Poland.

On January 4, 1944, troops of the Red Army’s 1st Ukrainian Front crossed the USSR’s border with Poland[55] in the Rokitno area. As a consequence of the Belorussian offensive launched on June 22, 1944 (Operation Bagration), the Red Army pushed the Wehrmacht out of Belarus and the eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic, and was expected to enter Polish territory west of the so-called Curzon Line, recognized by Britain, the US and the USSR in a secret agreement at the Tehran conference as the post-war Polish-Soviet border. The USSR did not maintain diplomatic relations with the Polish Government in Exile, widely recognized as Poland’s legal representative. Soviet-Polish relations, severed by the USSR with its aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939,[56] and resumed by the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement after the German attack on the USSR, were then unilaterally severed again by the USSR on April 27, 1943 in the face of the revelation of the Katyn Massacre and the request by the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile to the International Red Cross to investigate it. Attempts at British mediation for the restoration of Soviet-Polish diplomatic relations made in the first half of 1944 failed in view of Moscow’s position, which, as a precondition for their resumption, made ultimative demands for the immediate[57] establishment of the Polish-Soviet border on the so-called Curzon Line and personnel changes in the composition of the Polish Government and the command of the Polish Armed Forces[58].

Consequently, Jozef Stalin decided to establish a temporary body of executive power in the Republic of Poland in the area liberated from German occupation – between the shifting Soviet-German front line and the Curzon Line – the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN). The PKWN was established in Moscow (see puppet government) and functioned under the political control of Joseph Stalin. It was dominated by Polish communists and implemented the USSR’s policy in Poland. The formation of the PKWN was dominantly influenced by communists from the Central Bureau of Communists of Poland, but the final decision to establish it was made by Joseph Stalin. The decision to establish it was made in Moscow between July 18 and 20, 1944,[59] and the name itself (a copy of that of the French Committee of National Liberation, which had been in operation since 1943 under de Gaulle’s leadership) was personally approved by Joseph Stalin,[59] also deciding on the composition of the committee and making the final decision to establish the PKWN. On July 22, 1944, Radio Moscow reported that the PKWN was established in Chelm (the first Polish city west of the Curzon line), which had been occupied by the Red Army in the Belorussian offensive (since June 1944). In fact, the first members of the PKWN did not arrive directly from Moscow to Lublin until July 27, 1944.

On December 31, 1944, the PKWN was transformed into the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland headed by Edward Osóbka-Morawski. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Big Three determined that the new Polish government would be formed by supplementing the Provisional Government (on its basis), through the introduction of individual “Poles from home and abroad” – the existence of the Polish Government in Exile as a subject of international law was completely ignored. On June 28, 1945, following the Moscow conference with Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, the RTRP was transformed into the Provisional Government of National Unity, TRJN by introducing five ministers associated with Mikolajczyk, who took over secondary ministries headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Stanislaw Mikolajczyk. Parallel to the Moscow conference was the show trial of the sixteen arrested under the pretext of negotiations for the implementation of the Yalta resolutions of the leaders of the Polish Underground State.

On July 6, 1945, the previous allies of the Republic, Great Britain and the United States withdrew diplomatic recognition of the Polish Government in Exile, recognizing the establishment of the Provisional Government of National Unity with the participation of Stanislaw Mikolajczyk as the implementation of the provisions of the Yalta Conference on the issue of the establishment of a Polish government recognized by all the countries of the so-called Big Three (Great Britain, the USA and the USSR).

Separate articles: The Polish Committee of National Liberation, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland, the Trial of the Sixteen and the Provisional Government of National Unity.

The results of the January 1947 elections in Poland, which, according to the provisions of the Yalta Conference, were supposed to legitimize power in Poland (the Provisional Government of National Unity established during the Moscow Conference in June 1945 under the supervision of the three powers of the anti-Hitler coalition – Great Britain, the US and the USSR – was to rule until the “democratic elections”), were falsified by the police apparatus (the Ministry of Public Security) subordinated to the PPR, with the direct participation of NKVD officers. The “victorious” electoral result of the so-called Democratic Bloc (composed of the PPR, the concessionary PPS and groups satellite to the PPR) against the opposition PSL, thus announced, was a formal legitimization of the power of the PPR and its heirs in Poland under international law. Indeed, the results of the rigged elections were not questioned by Britain and the US, guarantors of the Yalta Agreement. Poland’s former prime minister, deputy prime minister of the TRJN and chairman of the PSL Stanislaw Mikolajczyk was, under threat of arrest, forced to flee abroad.

Poland consequently became a state dependent on the USSR, with a non-democratic system, which over time took the form of so-called “real socialism. Officially, it was a socialist state, and according to the constitution, a people’s democracy state; however, by its opponents, the system was referred to as communism.In Poland, however, agriculture was not fully collectivized, most land remained in private hands and there were always elements of economic freedom. Economic development was hampered by the characteristic features of the economic and political system of the People’s Republic of Poland – an inefficient mechanism for drawing up and implementing plans, associated with restrictions on the development of individual economic initiative (caused by doctrinal barriers), wasteful management, irrational selection of proportions and directions of investment in the economy (resulting from imposed political-propaganda priorities, e.g. excessive development of the armaments industry at the expense of other branches of the economy), inadequate qualifications of managers and discretion in the use of ad hoc economic incentives[60]. These factors caused the Polish economy, which by 1960 was at a level comparable to Spain or Greece in terms of GDP generated,[61] to gradually lose its developmental momentum and deepen its economic backwardness (in 1982, Spain’s GDP was about 202.44% higher than in the People’s Republic of Poland[62]).

In the period 1989-1991, as a result of political action, the country was transformed into the democratic Republic of Poland, referred to as the Third Republic. The emergence of the Solidarity movement and Pope John Paul II’s support of its activities played a key role in this process[63].

Third Republic (since 1989)[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Third Republic.

The modern Polish state is referred to as the Third Republic. It is a democratic state with a free market economy. It borders Germany (to the west), the Czech Republic, Slovakia (to the south), Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania (to the east) and Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast, to the north), and through the sea border (the border of the Exclusive Economic Zone) also Denmark and Sweden. It is a member of the European Union, NATO, the UN, the OECD, the Visegrad Group, the Weimar Triangle and many other international organizations.

Periodization[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Periodization of Polish history.

The above periodization of Polish history was compiled for Wikipedia. It is similar to the most common way of dividing Polish history used in the literature. The literature usually distinguishes between the medieval history of Poland (with a division into the state of the first Piasts until 1138, the period of the district split, the period of the united kingdom and the Jagiellonian period) and modern history (the Jagiellonian period and the electoral period, sometimes with additional divisions). The next stage is the period of partition, usually included as a separate historical epoch (the 19th century). The 20th century, according to most studies with regard to Poland, began with the establishment of the Second Republic. For this century, the period of the Polish People’s Republic and the Third Republic is additionally distinguished. The exact boundary dates of each era are a matter of dispute[64].

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