Polish history (1918-1939)

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Polish history from 1918-1939 – the history of Poland in the interwar period, from the restoration of Poland’s independence to the end of regular military operations of the Polish Army against the Wehrmacht and the Red Army after the aggression of the Third Reich and the USSR against Poland and the relocation of the seat of government of the Second Republic outside the country due to the occupation of the national territory by the aggressors.

The October Revolution in Russia and the November Revolution in Germany led to a further weakening of the partitioners, so the chances of establishing an independent Poland increased. A further step towards its creation was the arrival in Warsaw of Jozef Pilsudski and the transfer of authority over the military to him by the Regency Council. Between 1918 and 1921, six armed conflicts took place on Polish soil, of which only one threatened independence – the Polish-Bolshevik war.

Frequent changes of cabinet governments, based on a sometimes unstable parliamentary majority, resulted in a coup d’état by Marshal Jozef Pilsudski in May 1926. After this event, Poland changed its system from a parliamentary to a presidential-authoritarian one. The so-called Sanation took power. On September 1, 1939, the Republic was attacked by the Third Reich. September 17, 1939 saw the aggression of the USSR against Poland. The attack was an implementation of the secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The territory of the Second Republic was occupied by the Wehrmacht and the Red Army and annexed, contrary to international law. The annexation of the territory of the Republic of Poland and the announcement by the occupiers of the cessation of its existence were not internationally recognized. During World War II, the state continuity of the Second Republic was represented by the Polish Government in Exile, the Polish Armed Forces and diplomacy subordinate to it, and in the occupied country by the civilian and military structures of the Polish Underground State, operating continuously from September 27, 1939 until the end of the war.

The Second Republic bordered Germany (1918-1933 Weimar Republic, 1933-1939 Third Reich), Czechoslovakia (since 1938 with Slovakia and Hungary), Romania, USSR, Latvia, Lithuania and the German exclave (East Prussia). The area of the Second Republic was 389,720 square kilometers. The currency in force throughout the country from 1920 was the Polish mark, and from April 1924 – the Polish zloty. The Second Republic had 34.8 million citizens.

Republic of Poland in mid-November 1918

Polish territorial demands at the Paris Peace Conference (Dmowski Line) against the background of the ethnographic map of the region and the borders of the Republic 1772

Administrative division of the Second Republic in 1930

Population of the Second Polish Republic, declaring Polish as the native language, according to the 1931 census

Population of the Republic with German as their native language, according to the 1931 census

Population of the Republic with a Belarusian mother tongue, according to the 1931 census

Population of the Republic with Ukrainian and Ruthenian mother tongues, according to the 1931 census

Population of the Republic with Hebrew and Yiddish mother tongues, according to the 1931 census

Table of contents

1 Formation of the borders and political system of the Second Republic

1.1 Januszajtis assassination, government of Ignacy Jan Paderewski 1.2 Parliamentary elections of 1919, Legislative Sejm (1919-1922) 1.3 Communist Workers’ Party of Poland 1.4 Poland at international conferences 1.5 Struggle for the western border 1.6 Struggle for the eastern border

2 Poland in 1921-1926 3 The May Coup 4 Poland in 1926-1935 5 Poland in 1935-1939

6 Basic laws

6.1 The Little Constitution 6.2 The March Constitution (1921) 6.3 The August Amendment (1926) 6.4 The April Constitution (1935)

7 See also 8 Footnotes 9 Bibliography

Formation of the borders and system of the Second Republic[edit | edit code].

See also category: Shaping the Borders and System of the Second Republic.

In the face of the impending defeat of the Central Powers, local centers of power were formed to organize the Polish administration, disarm the enemy and take over the property of foreign capital:

National Council of the Duchy of Cieszyn (October 19, 1918)

Polish Liquidation Commission in Cracow (October 28, 1918) – Wincenty Witos

Provisional Governing Committee in Lviv (November 24, 1918)

Council of Workers’ Delegates in Lublin, Dąbrowa Górnicza (November 5, 1918)

Supreme People’s Council in Poznań (November 10, 1918) – Wojciech Korfanty, Władysław Seyda

Republic of Tarnobrzeg (November 1918) – Tomasz Dabal, Rev. Eugeniusz Okoń

Ostrow Republic, also Ostrow Republic (November 10-26, 1918)

Provisional People’s Government of the Polish Republic in Lublin (November 6, 1918) – PPS, PPSD, PSL “Wyzwolenie”, POW; Prime Minister: Ignacy Daszynski – did not cover the whole country, not internationally recognized

During the November Revolution in Germany, a group of political prisoners were freed from the Magdeburg fortress, among them Jozef Pilsudski. On November 10, 1918, he arrived in Warsaw[1]. A day later, he was given authority over the army and entrusted with the mission to form a national government. On November 14, the Regency Council dissolved, and Pilsudski assumed full authority over the country. The Provisional People’s Government of the Republic of Poland in Lublin announced social reforms (an 8-hour workday[2], nationalization of large estates, democratic freedoms, convocation of the Legislative Sejm). The fulfillment of the objectives of this government did not take place, as it stepped down after talks with the Provisional Head of State. The government of Ignacy Daszynski, like that of subsequent Prime Minister Jędrzej Moraczewski, which carried out some of the social reforms of its predecessor and introduced social insurance, was considered “too leftist” and unsupported internationally. According to a decree of Moraczewski’s government, the Provisional Chief of State appointed a government responsible to him and approved laws. On November 28, 1918, a democratic electoral law was introduced for the Legislative Sejm,[3] whose task was to pass a constitution.

Januszajtis assassination, Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s government[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: The coup in Poland (1919) and the government of Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

On January 4 to January 5, 1919, there was an unsuccessful coup d’état organized by National Democratic Party circles to overthrow the government of Jędrzej Moraczewski. The initiators of the coup included Colonel Marian Januszajtis-Zegota and Prince Eustachy Sapieha. The conspirators arrested government ministers who, however, were recaptured by government forces after several hours. The organizers of the coup themselves were only dismissed from the army for a time after returning to their careers[4]. On January 16, 1919, Ignacy Paderewski’s government came to power. It had the strong support of all political forces, as well as the Polish National Committee in Paris.

On January 26, Paderewski’s government held elections to the Legislative Sejm, then Paderewski took part in the Paris Peace Conference. The newly formed Republic was represented at the Paris Peace Conference by Roman Dmowski, Wladyslaw Grabski and Ignacy Paderewski[5]. Roman Dmowski presented his concept of borders for the first time on January 29, 1919[6]. In his five-hour speech, Roman Dmowski outlined Poland’s internal and international problems and presented the scope of territorial claims against the former partitioners. According to the representatives of the Second Republic, Poland should have a large enough territory and a large enough population to be able to defend itself both from the east – against Soviet Russia – and from the west against Germany.

Ignacy Paderewski’s government faced the difficult task of rebuilding and unifying the Polish lands. The Polish Army abolished the Tarnobrzeg Republic, established in 1918 by communist people’s activists[7].

Parliamentary elections of 1919, Legislative Sejm (1919-1922)[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Parliamentary elections in Poland in 1919 and Legislative Sejm (1919-1922).

On February 10, 1919, the Sejm of the Republic of Poland was opened. Most political parties participated in the Sejm elections; the elections were boycotted by the KPP, which believed that the world war would turn into a workers’ revolution[8]. The Sejm passed the Small Constitution intended to be in force until the adoption of the Constitution. Power in Poland was to be formally exercised by the Chief of State, Jozef Pilsudski, while real power lay in the hands of the Sejm, to which the government and the Chief of State were answerable[9].

Communist Workers’ Party of Poland[edit | edit code].

The Communist Workers’ Party of Poland, established at Moscow’s behest in 1918, was formed from the merger of the SDKPiL and PPS-Left. At the unification congress, the party adopted a program platform that included: preventing the liberation of the Prussian district (Silesia, Poznan and Pomerania), as this would weaken Germany, where the Bolshevik revolution was to triumph. It was postulated that the Councils of Workers’ Delegates should be captured to create a center of revolutionary power competitive with the Polish government, which would form one of the Republics of Councils from Congress Poland and possibly Western Galicia, incorporated into the Russian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic. It was recommended to deepen the state of turmoil and disorder in the country, to conduct propaganda against elections to the Sejm and land reform. The creation of a Polish Army was opposed, as it would hinder the victory of the revolution in Germany and would be an obstacle to the Red Army in “liberating” Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine[10].

In the first years of the formation of Poland, the position of the Jews, who were accused by the nationalists of pro-Bolshevik sympathies, changed. During the fighting with Soviet Russia and Ukraine, pogroms occurred in Lviv, Vilna and Pinsk, among other places. Morgenthau’s report established that at the turn of 1918/1919, anti-Semitic incidents resulted in the deaths of 280 people[11].

Poland at international conferences[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: The Treaty of Versailles and the Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920).

Roman Dmowski

The delegates proposed to grant Poland the lands of the First Prussian Partition and the lands where the population feels belonging to the Republic, but without those where the national feeling weakened after the partitions. There were some differences of opinion among the delegates about the eastern border. A group of representatives was in favor of establishing a federation with Lithuania, Belarus and, in the future, Ukraine. Roman Dmowski, however, demanded the incorporation of territories that Poland would be able to absorb. He fiercely opposed the creation of a federation, as he believed it would weaken the Republic. The British prime minister questioned the transfer of Upper Silesia to Poland and the detachment of Gdansk from East Prussia along with four counties on the right bank of the Vistula – the so-called Kwidzyn district. David Lloyd George was said to have said that he would sooner give “monkey watch” than give Upper Silesia to Poland[12]. Eventually, as stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles, a plebiscite was held in Upper Silesia, and Danzig was established as a free city.

Separate article: Plebiscite in Upper Silesia.

Jozef Pilsudski

Since the Treaty of Versailles largely defined only the western border, the eastern one was subject to formation for another three years after independence. Jozef Pilsudski’s concept (the federation program) was to form a federation with Lithuania, Belarus and, in the future, Ukraine. These states were to provide a bulwark against the invasion of the Bolshevik army. Roman Dmowski’s (incorporationist) concept was based on the absorption by the Republic of territories that were indigenously Polish and those with a predominantly Polish population. National minorities were to be assimilated. Both concepts collapsed after the signing of the Riga Treaty ending the Polish-Bolshevik War. Since the republics of Belarus and Ukraine were torn between Poland and Soviet Russia, it was not possible to form a federation with them, while the territories granted to Poland did not meet the assumptions of the incorporation concept.

Struggle over the western border[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Greater Poland Uprising.

On December 27, 1918, an uprising broke out in Poznan in response to a German demonstration, during which Polish and Allied flags were burned. The uprising of the German population was caused by the arrival in the city of Ignacy Paderewski – the leader of the Polish National Committee in Paris. The uprising lasted until February 16, 1919, and ended with the truce in Trier. Initially, by virtue of this truce and later the Treaty of Versailles, almost all of Greater Poland was incorporated into Poland.

Separate article: the Silesian uprisings.

A series of Silesian uprisings began in August 1919. The First Silesian Uprising was caused by a massacre in a Myslowice mine. In subsequent ones the “Polishness” of Upper Silesia was clearly manifested. As a result of an attempt to unfairly divide the region, the last uprising broke out, after which the plebiscite area was divided more favorably for Poland. The Polish authorities, preoccupied with the situation in the east, did not officially support the uprisings, despite the fact that the area was economically important for the country. This is still controversial in Upper Silesia today.

Separate article: Polish-Czechoslovak border conflicts.

Separate article: Polish-Czechoslovak war.

The Polish-Czechoslovak conflict began on January 23, 1919 with an attack by the Czechs on Cieszyn Silesia. On January 26, the Czechs occupied Cieszyn. Polish forces withdrew to the Vistula line and organized positions there. On January 28-30, the Czechs launched an offensive on Skoczow, where the Polish Silesian Front command was based. Polish troops under the command of Franciszek Latinik, much less numerous than the Czech forces, repulsed the attack. After the failure of the offensive, an armistice was reached at the Czech request. Initially, a plebiscite was to be held in Cieszyn Silesia, but eventually on July 28, 1920 the dispute was settled by arbitration of the allied countries (the Council of Ambassadors). Poland received 44% of the land (1002 km² – 139.6 thousand inhabitants), while Czechoslovakia received 1280 km², which was inhabited by 295.2 thousand people, including 150 thousand of the Polish minority. Minor conflicts in Spiš and Orava continued until 1925.

Struggle over the eastern border[edit | edit code].

Since Poland’s eastern border was not included in the Treaty of Versailles, it was established by armed struggle.

Separate article: Polish-Ukrainian war.

The Ukrainian War, which began in the first days of November 1918 and ended with the fall of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic in July 1919, led to the establishment of Polish rule in the territory of Eastern Galicia, up to the Zbruch River. The conflict began during the defense of Lviv (considered Polish) by the city’s students and pupils – the Lvov Eaglets.

Separate article: Polish-Bolshevik War.

The war with Soviet Russia began with an unexpected clash on February 14, 1919 near the town of Mosty near Shchuchin. The clashes lasted for 2 years until March 1921, when an agreement called the Riga Peace was signed. Based on it, the Polish-Soviet border was established, in addition, Poland was to recover works of art and culture and receive 30 billion rubles – this never happened.

Separate article: Polish-Lithuanian conflict.

When the Bolsheviks decided to hand over Vilnius to the Lithuanians in the summer of 1920, the latter immediately wanted to make it their capital. This was supported by the Western powers. Meanwhile, Vilnius itself and large areas around it were inhabited by Poles, who wanted to incorporate Vilnius into Poland. Initially, the Polish authorities hoped that the dispute could be resolved by reviving the pre-partition tradition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and persuading the Lithuanians to build a state on a federal basis. Lithuania firmly refused. On October 12, 1920, Gen. Lucjan Zeligowski occupied Vilnius and declared the creation of Central Lithuania. On March 24, 1922, the Seimas of Vilnius incorporated Vilnius into Poland, causing the Republic of Lithuania to break off diplomatic relations with its capital in Kaunas.

Poland between 1921 and 1926[edit | edit code].

Władysław Grabski, Minister of the Treasury and twice Prime Minister of the Second Republic, author of the currency reform in 1924, which introduced a new, fully convertible Polish currency, the zloty

The newly-established Poland, bound to the Treaty of Versailles, tried to cooperate closely with countries interested in maintaining it. As early as 1921, Poland entered into a military alliance with France and Romania. The treaty with France was aimed at countering the expected revision of the treaty by Germany. The Polish-Romanian alliance was intended to strengthen both countries in the face of the USSR. The Second Republic became a member of the League of Nations. The most important task after independence was to build a modern state. The basic problem was the different state institutions, laws, languages, religions, nationalities and currencies within the Republic.

Separate article: Times of centrist rule.

The internal situation was tense, a wave of strikes was growing: in 1921 there were 720 strikes with 497,000 strikers, in 1922 there were already 800 strikes and 607,000 participating, in 1923, respectively, 1273 strikes and 849,000 strikers[13]. Although officially the rights of minorities were guaranteed by Articles 95, 101 and 110 of the March Constitution, in practice they were violated. In 1922, the National Minorities Bloc took part in parliamentary elections, winning 16% of the vote[14]. The main national minorities living in Poland at the time were Jews and Ukrainians. Other minorities also lived in the Second Republic: Belarusians (two million), Germans (a community of one million) and the less numerous Czechs and Russians. After 1924, repression of Byelorussians began, the Byelorussian language was incorporated into the Latin alphabet, and Byelorussian schools were handed over to Poles. The rights of Germans were taken care of by the Council of Germans in Poland. The German Socialist Workers Party, cooperating with the PPS, was active in Poland, having been formed in 1925 from smaller socialist parties[15].

Polish Jews formed a community of three million people. Jews created their own education system, there were CJSZO schools teaching in Yiddish or Polish-Hebrew JAWNE schools. There were Jewish self-governing kahals. Jewish newspapers were published, including Chwila, Nowy Dziennik and Nasz Przegląd. Jews were politically concentrated mainly in Zionist and socialist organizations. Representatives of the Jewish population sat in the Polish senate and parliament, Polish Jews were active in Polish political parties mainly in the left-wing PPS and KPP. There were Jewish political parties in Poland, the Zionist Mizrachi, Hitachdut, the socialist Poale Zion[16] and the Bund.

The Ukrainian minority was concentrated in a number of political parties; there were Ukrainian socialist, radical, liberal and nationalist parties. Moderate nationalists were grouped in the Ukrainian National Democratic Union. Socialists were active in the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party working in cooperation with the PPS. Pro-Soviet splitters from the USDP fed into the Ukrainian Communist underground. The second of the socialist parties was the Ukrainian Socialist-Radical Party. Nationalists and democrats from the Ukrainian National-Democratic Union and socialists from the Ukrainian Socialist-Radical Party were active in parliamentary life, but nationalists grouped in the illegal Ukrainian Military Organization joined the terrorist path[17].

Separate article: The first speech of the UWO.

In 1921, Ukrainian nationalists organized an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Jozef Pilsudski. As early as 1922, there were UWO sabotage and terrorist actions. In October of that year, the UWO fielded a 50-man partisan unit[18].

On February 2, 1921, the authorities of the Second Republic decided to sign an alliance with France. This arrangement was unofficially aimed against the Weimar Republic in case of its “revival”. Exactly one month later, an alliance was concluded with Romania. This one was directed against the Soviet Union.

In 1924, at the Fifth Congress of the Comintern, a resolution calling for the annexation of East Galicia to the Soviet Union was passed[19].

On April 15, 1924, the Bank of Poland Joint Stock Company was established – a private bank with the right to issue, headquartered in Warsaw.

May Coup[edit | edit code].

Marshal Jozef Pilsudski on the Poniatowski Bridge during the May Coup of 1926.

Separate article: May Coup.

The main reason for the May Coup was the critical situation of the government. After the collapse of the second cabinet of Wladyslaw Grabski, a new prime minister – Aleksander Skrzynski – took power. The coalition he formed was based on National Democracy, Christian Democracy, the National Workers’ Party, the PSL “Piast” and the Polish Socialist Party. The conflicting visions of economic policy of the Right and Left were unworkable during this coalition. The first to leave the government was the PPS, which sympathized with Pilsudski. The government of the Christian Democrats, the National Democrats, the PSL “Piast” and the National Workers’ Party led by Wincenty Witos came to power. The external cause of the coup was the tariff war with Germany, which began in 1925. On April 24, 1926, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Germany concluded a treaty of friendship and neutrality. This was perceived in Warsaw as a threat of another partition of Poland[20].

On the night of May 11-12, Marshal Pilsudski took command of some troops from the Warsaw garrison. On May 12, bridges over the Vistula in the capital were seized. The legal government declared a state of emergency in the city. In the afternoon, a meeting between President Stanislaw Wojciechowski and Jozef Pilsudski took place on the Poniatowski Bridge. A direct conversation was not heard by anyone. However, it is believed that the Marshal called for the resignation of the authorities. Around 7 pm the first fighting began. On May 14, the PPS declared a general strike on the railroads, blocking the arrival of troops supporting the president and prime minister from Greater Poland. The third government of Wincenty Witos resigned, and with it Stanislaw Wojciechowski. Speaker of the Sejm Maciej Rataj temporarily took over as president. The fighting ended. 379 people were killed, including 164 civilians.

As a result of the coup, the first government of Kazimierz Bartel was formed. On the last day of May, the National Assembly elected Jozef Pilsudski as president. However, the latter did not accept the post, and Ignacy Moscicki was appointed in his place.

Poland in 1926-1935[edit | edit code].

Marine Station in Gdynia, 1930s – on the quay the transatlantic liner MS Piłsudski

Inaugural session of the Polish Academy of Literature in 1933 with the participation of the President of the Republic of Poland Ignacy Mościcki

The Castle of the President of the Republic of Poland in Wisła, modernist, built in 1929-1930, designed by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz for the President of the Republic of Poland Ignacy Mościcki

RWD-6, a Polish tourist and sports airplane, constructed by the RWD construction team, on which Franciszek Żwirko and Stanisław Wigura won the international Challenge competition in 1932

A branch of the National Police equipped with protective armor along with shields. They were intended, according to the instructions promulgated in KGPP Order No. 506 of 27.09.1930, for use in searches of suspicious premises, in apprehending or incapacitating dangerous and armed individuals, and in entering closed premises for the purpose of search or arrest.

Separate article: Sanation.

After the overthrow of the legal government, the Second Republic is considered an authoritarian state. Ministerial positions, positions in the army, state administration, and police were given to Pilsudski’s trusted associates from the First World War and activities in the PPS. Two months after the May coup, the parliament passed an amendment to the March Constitution called the August amendment. It gave greater powers to the executive. At the behest of Jozef Pilsudski in 1928, Walery Slawek established the Non-Partisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government (BBWR) to build a non-partisan political camp. Many social and political groupings, as well as prominent personalities (conservatives, liberals, socialists, peasants and even former ND members) joined the party’s structures. In the 1928 elections, the BBWR became the largest club in parliament, but failed to gain an independent parliamentary majority.

The political stability of the post-May government was conducive to the economic recovery of 1926-1929.

In 1929, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists was formed in Vienna from a merger of the Ukrainian Military Organization and smaller organizations of integral Ukrainian nationalists. The OUN was an illegal nationalist organization aiming to detach part of the territory of the Second Republic by violence. It used sabotage against state property and private individuals, expropriations and political assassinations. In 1930 there was the so-called Second UWO Occurrence, a sabotage action in the southeastern provinces. OUN’s assassinations were directed primarily against Ukrainians advocating cooperation with the Polish state and high officials of the Second Republic advocating cooperation with Ukrainians, the aim being to escalate mutual violence between the Polish state and the Ukrainian minority. In 1930, the OUN assassinated Tadeusz Holowka, vice-president of the BBWR, a supporter of the policy of state assimilation and liberal nationality policy; in June 1934, the OUN assassinated Interior Minister Bronislaw Pieracki. In 1933, Alexei Maylov, an official at the USSR consulate in Lviv (actually a Soviet intelligence officer), was shot dead, officially in protest against the Holodomor on USSR territory. After Pieracki’s assassination, the Bereza Kartuska Camp was established, where members of the ONR, KPP and OUN were detained by administrative decision. The Ukrainian population was subjected to repression in response to acts of terror by the Nationalists. Belarusians were also subjected to repression once again. An action to revindicate Orthodox churches was carried out. The socialist Belarusian party Hromada was smashed by the police in 1927. Since the 1930s and Hitler’s seizure of power in Poland, the Polish section of the NSDAP, which had been active since 1935, had been courting German support[15].

Separate articles: The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Second Speech of the UWO, the Pacification of Eastern Lesser Poland and the Assassination of Bronislaw Pieracki.

The ruling camp broadened its governing base to include the landed-conservative circles, taking their support away from National Democracy. In the parliamentary elections of 1928, the victory went to the Non-Partisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government, an organization newly established by the Piłsudski camp for electoral purposes. The BBWR received the support of nearly 2,400,000 voters (21% of the votes cast, 125 parliamentary seats), the PPS – 1,481,000 voters (13% of the votes, 64 seats) and the Bloc of National Minorities – 1,438,000 voters (12.6,% of the votes, 55 seats). The outcome of the elections in view of the fragmentation of the parliament prevented the formation of a stable parliamentary majority, moreover, the government camp sought to maintain a system of extra-parliamentary rule. At the turn of 1928 and 1929, the PPS, PSL “Wyzwolenie,” PSL “Piast,” Peasant Party and Christian Democracy formed an agreement called Centrolew. Also in opposition to the Sanation government was the Camp of Great Poland (OWP), founded by Roman Dmowski – a mass organization of the national camp, located on the right of the Polish political spectrum. Several years after its establishment, the PLO already had a membership of approx. 200 thousand members. The PLO was outlawed in 1932.

Separate articles: Parliamentary elections in Poland in 1928, the Non-Partisan Block for Cooperation with the Government, the Camp of Great Poland and Centrolew.

In June 1930 in Cracow, the Centrolew parties organize the Congress for the Defense of the Right and Freedom of the People. The 30,000-strong demonstration announced the overthrow of the Sanation government. Jozef Pilsudski ordered the dissolution of parliament and the arrest of the leaders of the march in Krakow, among them Wincenty Witos. Those arrested were imprisoned in a fortress in Brest-on-the-Bug, where they were beaten and humiliated. In October 1931, 11 of the 19 detainees were charged with attempting to seize power by force. They were sentenced to prison terms of 1.5 to 3 years. Some of them went into exile. In protest against the violation of the law, the democratic and liberal circles of the BBWR left the grouping. During the imprisonment of the Centrolew leaders, Brest elections were held, in which the BBWR won an absolute majority. The BBWR lists received 46.7% of the vote (249 parliamentary seats), the Centrolew electoral bloc lists received 17.3% of the vote (79 parliamentary seats), and the National Party lists received 12.7% of the vote (63 parliamentary seats). During the election campaign, there were a number of formal abuses and disruptions of the opposition groups’ campaigns on the government’s part. The main example of these was the failure of election commissions to register some district lists. Also significant were the arrest of prominent opposition parliamentarians (not protected by immunity at the time) during the inter-cadence recess and the BBWR’s election campaign conducted under the slogan of consolidation around the government in the face of slogans of revision of the border with Poland in the Weimar Republic and the UWO’s sabotage speech in Eastern Lesser Poland.

Separate articles: Poland’s 1930 parliamentary elections and the Brest Trial.

On July 25, 1932, Poland concluded a non-aggression pact with the USSR. Both sides renounced war. The pact provided for neutrality in the event of an attack on either country for 25 years. In January 1934, a declaration of non-violence with Germany was signed in Berlin. It was to be in force for a period of ten years.

In 1934, Poland denounced the minority treaty, fearing that the Soviet Union could use it against her after she joined the League of Nations[21].

Separate articles: The Non-Aggression Pact between Poland and the USSR (1932) and the Polish-German Declaration of Non-Violence of January 26, 1934.

Poland in 1935-1939[edit | edit code].

General Inspector of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland, Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigly, poster from 1936

Luxtorpedo in Zakopane in 1936, high-speed rail car, built at the Polish Fablok plant in Chrzanów

PZL.37 Łoś, a bomber of Polish design, built at the State Aircraft Works (PZL) in 1936

7TP, a Polish-built light tank, built at Państwowe Zakłady Inżynierii in 1935

In 1935, Jozef Pilsudski died. The post of inspector general of the Armed Forces previously held by the Marshal was assumed by Edward Rydz-Smigly. The BBWR was dissolved by its founder Walery Slawek on October 30, 1935.

After the Marshal’s death, the position of the Jewish population changed. Between 1935 and 1937, 97 Jews were killed in pogroms and about 500 were wounded. Jewish stores were often the target of the incidents. This was linked to the slogan promoted by the extreme right wing, of His to His for His own, and the economic boycott of Jews[22]. The economic boycott of Jews was supported by part of the Polish Church, including Cardinal August Hlond[23]. In defense of the Jewish minority was the PPS[15]. In 1937, a numerus clausus was introduced at universities[24]. After Pilsudski’s death, the policy towards the Orthodox minority was also tightened. In 1935, Belarusian Orthodox churches, schools and cultural associations were closed[25].

After the death of Marshal Pilsudski, the authorities of the Second Republic systematically aimed at the Polonization of Ukrainians[26], and in 1938 a Polonization-Reinduction campaign was carried out.

In late September and early October 1938, when Germany made demands on Czechoslovakia, they were supported by Poland with the effect of seizing Zaolzie, which had been lost in 1919. The Republic expanded by 800 square kilometers with a population of 227,000. The public regarded this as an act of historical justice. Even some opposition deputies declared their support for Minister Jozef Beck. In Western Europe, an image of Poland as an aggressor equal to Germany was created[27].

On October 24, 1938, Third Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, during a conversation with the Polish ambassador in Berlin, put forward proposals for a “general ordering” of Polish-German relations. It assumed the return of the Free City of Danzig to the Reich’s borders and the construction of an extraterritorial highway and railroad connecting East Prussia with the Reich. In return, an extension of the declaration of non-aggression for 25 years was offered. The proposal was rejected. On April 28, Germany terminated the non-aggression pact. On May 5, 1939, Jozef Beck made his famous speech[28] in the Sejm:

“I hear the demand for the annexation of Danzig to the Reich, the moment that I receive no answer to our proposal, made on March 26 to jointly guarantee the existence and rights of the Free City, and instead learn later that it was considered a rejection of the negotiations – then I have to ask myself, what is actually at stake? Is it about the freedom of the German population of Danzig, which is not threatened, is it about prestige issues, or is it about pushing Poland away from the Baltic, which Poland cannot push away from! (…)Peace is a precious and desirable thing. Our generation, bloodied in wars, certainly deserves peace. But peace, like almost all things in this world, has a high but measurable price. We in Poland do not know the concept of peace at any price. There is only one thing in the lives of people, nations and states that is priceless. That thing is honor.”

On March 31, the British Prime Minister announced that if Poland’s independence was threatened, her support would be given. The French prime minister made a similar declaration. The Third Reich began preparations for aggression against Poland; at the same time, the spring and summer of 1939 was a period of feverish diplomatic activity by European powers. On August 23, 1939, the Third Reich and the USSR concluded a treaty, known by the names of the signatories as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, formally a non-aggression pact, in fact a partition agreement between the two totalitarian states concerning the division of spheres of influence in Central and Eastern Europe and the division between themselves of the territories of the countries between the Third Reich and the USSR, including above all Poland. On August 25, a mutual aid treaty was signed between Britain and Poland. On September 1, 1939, the Third Reich launched an aggression against Poland, without an official declaration of war. On September 3, 1939, after the ultimatum to withdraw the Wehrmacht from Poland expired without effect, Britain and France declared war on Germany, but without taking actual military action in favor of the attacked ally. After the USSR’s aggression against Poland, on the evening of September 17, threatened by the onslaught of the Red Army’s armored forces, the Polish government with Prime Minister Felicjan Slawoj Składkowski, President Ignacy Moscicki and General Inspector of the Armed Forces Edward Rydz-Smigly evacuated through the border town of Kuty to Romania, where they were interned. The Polish-Hungarian and Polish-Romanian borders were crossed by numerous civilian refugees and Polish Army units located in the Romanian foreland, saving themselves from Soviet captivity. On September 28 Warsaw capitulated, and on October 6 the last Polish operational grouping, the Polesie Independent Operational Group, capitulated. The entire national territory was occupied by the Wehrmacht and the Red Army, and the aggressors, in the treaty on borders and friendship concluded between them in Moscow on September 28, declared the cessation of the existence of the Polish state. This thesis was not internationally recognized throughout World War II.

Separate articles: The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, The September Campaign, The USSR’s Aggression against Poland, A Strange War and The Third Reich-Soviet Treaty on Borders and Friendship (1939).

On September 27, 1939, the Polish Victory Service, an armed organization, the beginning of the Polish Underground State, was established in besieged Warsaw. On September 30, 1939, President Ignacy Moscicki, who was interned in Romania, appointed Władysław Raczkiewicz as his successor for the duration of the war, under the prerogatives of Article 24 of the April Constitution, and then relinquished office. The new Polish President appointed General Władysław Sikorski as Prime Minister, who formed a coalition cabinet composed of representatives of the previous opposition parties (SL, PPS, SP, SN) and the Sanation. The continuity of the Polish state, contrary to the intentions of the aggressors, was preserved.

Separate articles: Polish Victory Service, the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile and the Polish Underground State.

Basic Laws[edit | edit code].

This article should be refined: the political system section should be expanded and moved to the beginning.More detailed information on what should be improved can perhaps be found in the discussion of this article. Once the imperfections have been eliminated, the {{Rework}} template should be removed from this article.

Small Constitution[edit | edit code].

The Small Constitution was passed by the Legislative Sejm established by a decree of the Provisional Chief of State on November 28, 1918. On February 20, 1919, the so-called Small Constitution was passed. It defined the scope of activity and the model for the functioning of the state until the enactment of the March Constitution. The Second Republic became a democratic state, the Legislative Sejm was the supreme authority, and the Chief of State was the representative and executor of the resolutions. He also exercised command over the armed forces, appointed the government after consulting with the Sejm, and was politically responsible along with it. State acts required the countersignature of the relevant minister.

March Constitution (1921)[edit | edit code].

The new basic law, known as the March Constitution, was enacted on March 17, 1921. National Democracy and right-wing parties close to it had a major role in drafting the constitution. The law was modeled on the French Constitution of 1875.

Legislative power:

supreme power belongs to the people, vested in the Diet and the Senate, concurrent five-year terms for deputies and senators, elected in five-term elections, the Diet consisted of 444 deputies and the Senate of 111 senators, legislative initiative was vested in the government and deputies,

Senate had the right to propose amendments, which the Sejm could reject by majority vote, minor role of the Senate.

Power of the president:

Elected for a seven-year term by the National Assembly, appointed and dismissed the government, but had to rely on the majority support of the Sejm in this matter, filled higher civil and military offices, was head of the armed forces, but could not act as commander-in-chief during wartime, concluded international agreements, declared war and made peace with the consent of the Sejm, issued legislation required the signature of the prime minister and the relevant minister, limited role of the president.

Power of the government:

decided the direction of state policy, both the entire government and individual ministers could be dismissed by a simple majority vote, weak position of the executive.

Judicial power – independent courts.

Civil rights:

Equality before the law; protection of life, liberty and property; freedom of speech and press; assembly and formation of associations and societies; freedom of conscience and religion;

to national minorities: preservation of their nationality; cultivation of national speech and property; establishment of their own autonomous associations within the general self-government; establishment of schools, educational, social and charitable institutions; labor protection; social insurance; free education in state and local government schools; prohibition of work for children under 15.

August Amendment (1926)[edit | edit code].

The August 2, 1926 amendment to the March Constitution stipulated that the president be given powers to dissolve the Sejm and Senate and issue decrees with the force of law. The right of the Sejm to raise a vote of no confidence in the government was limited.

April Constitution (1935)[edit | edit code].

The April Constitution was passed on April 23, 1935 by the BBWR without the participation of the opposition. It primarily assumed an increased role for the president at the expense of the Sejm. This constitution de facto legalized the system of authoritarian rule formed in 1926-1930.

The power of the president:

Responsible for the fate of the state before God and history; head of: the government, the Sejm, the Senate, the armed forces, the courts and the organs of state control; appointed and dismissed: the president of the Council of Ministers, the first president of the Supreme Court, the president of the Supreme Chamber of Control, the Commander-in-Chief and the Inspector General of the Armed Forces; appointed the third part of the Senate; could dissolve the parliament before the end of its term; had the right to veto parliamentary laws; elected by the Assembly of Electors[29].

Legislative power:

opinion and control function,

senate approved sejm resolutions, made amendments to bills. Low position of the parliament.

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