Prussian annexation

12 mins read
Leave a comment

Nationality map of the lands of the Prussian partition, the former Ducal Prussia and the Prussian part of Upper Silesia, as well as some areas of Lower Silesia (areas not part of the Prussian partition) based on the official Prussian census of 1910. (the census declared the language used, not the nationality). Compiled by Jozef Kostrzewski and Ireneusz Rajewski 1919

The lands of the Republic of Poland after the partitions

Announcement on the Second Prussian Partition, 1793

Prussian partition – the lands of the former Commonwealth occupied by the Kingdom of Prussia as a result of the partitions.

The area of the lands of the former Republic under the rule of the Prussian king changed over the years, i.e. from the first partition in 1772 until Poland regained its independence in 1918.

After the Third Partition of Poland (1795), the area of the Prussian partition accounted for more than half of the territory of the Kingdom of Prussia, while Poles made up nearly half of its population[1].

Table of contents

1 The First Partition of Poland – 1772 2 The Second Partition of Poland – 1793 3 The Third Partition of Poland – 1795 4 Subsequent changes 5 The first years of captivity 6 After the fall of the November Uprising 7 The Spring of Nations 8 Germanization 9 Poles in the face of Germanization 10 The concept of “Prussian partition” 11 See also 12 Footnotes 13 Bibliography

The First Partition of Poland – the year 1772[edit | edit code].

As a result, Prussia occupied: Royal Prussia (without Gdansk and Toruń), Warmia, as well as Kuyavia and northern Greater Poland (about 36,000 square kilometers and 580,000 people).

Second Partition of Poland – 1793[edit | edit code].

The remaining lands of Greater Poland with Poznań and Kalisz, western Mazovia with Płock, the Sieradz land and the area around Częstochowa, as well as Gdańsk and Toruń (about 57,000 km² and over 1 million people) were seized.

Third Partition of Poland – 1795[edit | edit code].

The Third Partition included Mazovia with Warsaw, Podlasie, the Suwałki region, part of the former province of Troki and the Duchy of Samogitia, and part of the province of Cracow (including the former Duchy of Siewierz; owned by the bishops of Cracow; about 48,000 km² and 1 million people).

Later changes[edit | edit code].

After the conclusion of the Peace of Tilsit in 1807, the Kingdom of Prussia lost the Bialystok region to the Russian Empire, and the Duchy of Warsaw was formed from the lands of the entire Second and Third Prussian partitions and part of the First Prussian Partition (Kujawy, Riverside Pomerania). Gdansk became a free city under the protectorate of France. The later shape of the eastern border of the Kingdom of Prussia was influenced by the western border of the Kingdom of Poland, which in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna was established on the Prosna River (Kalisz remained on the side of the Kingdom of Poland).

After World War I, the Second Republic regained:

most of western Greater Poland (uprising, Treaty of Versailles) most of Gdansk Pomerania, without the Free City of Gdansk (Treaty of Versailles)

Poland then also gained territories of the German Reich that did not belong to the Republic before the partitions:

part of Upper Silesia with Katowice (plebiscite, uprisings, decision of the powers) villages of Napromek, Janowo in Warmia and Mazury (plebiscite) region of Działdów in Mazury (decision of the powers) region of Rychtal and Bralin in Lower Silesia (decision of the powers)

First years of captivity[edit | edit code].

The encroachment of Napoleon’s troops on Polish lands led to an uprising in Greater Poland directed against the Prussians. The achievement of the Poles was the creation of a state called the Duchy of Warsaw from part of the lands of the Prussian partition. Shortly thereafter, the fall of Napoleon, followed by the decisions of the Congress of Vienna restoring the pre-Napoleonic order in Europe, led to the creation of the Grand Duchy of Posen. Its area was about 29,000 kilometers. The area was inhabited by 776,000 people. The Grand Duke of Poznan, Frederick William III, issued a decree stating that the Polish and German populations had equal access to offices and the use of the Polish language in schools, courts and administration[footnote needed]. The governor of the Grand Duchy was a Pole – Prince Antoni Henryk Radziwill, married to a Prussian princess. In 1823, the Prussian government issued a decree to carry out an enfranchisement reform granting land to the peasants of Poznan. Prussia and Russia concluded a special treaty on May 3, 1815, which proclaimed, among other things, that the Poles, subjects of both counter-parties, would receive institutions to ensure the preservation of their nationality according to the forms of political system each government deemed appropriate[2].

After the fall of the November Uprising[edit | edit code].

After the fall of the November Uprising, the freedoms previously enjoyed by Poles in the partition began to be systematically curtailed. The Polish governor was replaced by a German, Eduard Flottwell, who was given the title of chief governor of the Grand Duchy of Posen. The process of removing the Polish language from public institutions began. Poles were deprived of many properties, handing them over to the Prussians. Starting in 1832, the German language began to be used in offices. In 1840, Flottwell was dismissed by the new Prussian king, Frederick William IV. There was a certain change of course in policy toward Poles.

The struggle against the invader proceeded on many levels and took a variety of forms – from the cultivation of national customs and the careful protection of cultural property through the organization of secret teaching in Polish to armed clashes. The defeat of the November Uprising caused the rich strata of society to temporarily abandon the thought of insurrectionary struggle. Representatives of the intelligentsia and landed gentry placed particular emphasis on raising the economic and cultural level of the country. In the second half of the 19th century, this activity came to be known as organic labor. It developed especially in Poznan. The result of cooperation between the landed gentry and the bourgeoisie was, for example, the organization by the landowner Gustaw Potworowski of the Casino in Gostyn, which worked to raise the level of Polish culture, economy and education. Karol Marcinkowski founded the Society of Scientific Aid for the Youth of the Grand Duchy of Posen (1841), dedicated to collecting money from which scholarships were funded for educated Polish youth. In the same year the “Bazar” was built in Poznań, housing a hotel, casino, stores and craft workshops. Organic work was also patronized by Hipolit Cegielski – a Polish scholar, junior high school teacher and later founder of a factory of agricultural tools and machines (1846).

Spring of Nations[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Greater Poland Uprising of 1848.

In 1848, revolutionary movements began to penetrate the Prussian partition, causing fighting to break out in Europe. They are referred to as the Spring of Nations. Their leader in the Grand Duchy of Poznan was Ludwik Mieroslawski. He arrived in Poznan after being released from a Berlin prison. His presence caused a huge impact on the local population, who began forcibly removing Prussian officials from their posts. During negotiations, the Prussians promised autonomy to the Principality. When they reneged on their pledge, fighting broke out. These were fought near Książ Wielkopolski, where Polish troops suffered defeat. The victorious battles took place, among others, near Miloslaw and in the village of Sokolowo, near Wrzesnia. Later, however, insurgent officers, not believing in the possibility of final victory, began to leave the ranks. On May 9 Mieroslawski relinquished his command, and a surrender act was signed.

Germanization[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Germanization in the Polish lands.

The Germanization policy of the Polish population began long before the partition of the Polish state, to be precise, with the seizure of almost the entire area of the lands of Upper Silesia by the Prussian King Frederick II the Great in 1740. At the time of the Prussian army’s entry into the area, the Polish population was significantly predominant, as evidenced, for example, by the records of Prussian officials who noted the linguistic and moral conditions prevailing in the area at the time. As early as 1744, a ban on the use of Polish in the judiciary was introduced in Silesia. In 1754 a ban was imposed on the hiring of teachers in schools without knowledge of German, and in 1763 a general obligation to teach the language in all elementary schools; a year later all teachers who did not understand German speech were dismissed. Germanization did not stop after the partition of the Polish state, the Prussian authorities, realizing the widespread presence of the Polish element in the conquered lands, proceeded with another wave of restrictions and repression against Poles. In 1810, a ban was issued on the use of the Polish language at services held in Protestant churches[3].

In the Polish territories seized by the Kingdom of Prussia, the Church was completely subordinated to the state and monasteries were deleted; this occurred in accordance with the Prussian state’s policy of secularization (that is, reducing the role of religion for society). The main emphasis was on isolating the Catholic Church from the Holy See. Church property was taken and seized by the invader, and Catholic bishops were forced to swear allegiance to the Prussian king. The Prussian government undertook a large-scale campaign of Germanization and Protestantization of Polish lands, including bringing German colonists, mostly Protestants, from the depths of Prussia and settling them in the annexed territories of the Republic[4].

The subsequent situation of the Grand Duchy of Posen in the second half of the 19th century was also very difficult. In 1867 it was incorporated into the North German Union. The assumption of the post of Reich Chancellor by Otto von Bismarck resulted in a further tightening of the policy of Germanization in the Polish lands. It was directed against Polish education and the Church (the so-called Kulturkampf, or struggle for the purity of German culture, started in 1871). Between 1872 and 1874, the Polish language was almost completely eliminated from schools. Polish teachers were removed, and Germans were hired in their place. In 1876, the Polish language was finally withdrawn from the judiciary and offices throughout the Prussian partitioned lands. The fight against the Church was aimed at weakening its influence on society. Archbishop Mieczyslaw Ledóchowski tried to prevent the deterioration of relations with the German authorities. However, as a result of the persecution of the clergy, there was a conflict. Ledóchowski was imprisoned (1874) because he opposed the 1873 law making the Church dependent on the state. In 1885, the so-called Prussian Rugges, orders instructing all Poles without German citizenship to leave the eastern provinces of the state, began. Some 26,000 people were affected, primarily workers and artisans. In 1886, the Prussian government created the Colonization Commission, which was in charge of buying land out of Polish hands and settling Germans on it. The process of Germanization further intensified. A Society for the Promotion of Germanness in the Eastern Borderlands was established (1894). At the end of the 19th century it changed its name to the German Association of the Eastern Borderlands. It was popularly referred to as Hakata – from the first letters of the names of its founders: Hansemann, Kennemann and Tidemann. The association’s task was to restrict Polishness in the Prussian partitioned territories. Hakata’s activities enjoyed the support of the new Reich Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow. The organization consisted mainly of Prussian officials.

Poles against Germanization[edit | edit code].

Michal Drzymala and his cart in Grodzisk Wielkopolski

Participants in the strike of the children of Wrzesnia, top middle Bronisława Śmidowicz

After the collapse of the uprising in Greater Poland and the January defeat of 1864, organicist slogans were revived. This period, opposing Romanticism to the cult of work and faith in the achievements of science, characterized by an intensification of the drive for the economic and cultural reconstruction of the country, is called positivism.

Upholding the tradition started by Karol Marcinkowski, forces were engaged in the development of the economy and education of the Grand Duchy. The program of “work at the grassroots” was extended to peasants and the first Agricultural Society in Poland was established in Piaseczno near Gniew. Profit-making companies granting loans were established among the population of cities. In 1871 the Union of Agricultural Companies was also established, headed by Father Piotr Wawrzyniak.

The Scientific Aid Society was in operation. For many years it was headed by Hipolit Cegielski. In 1872, the Society for People’s Education, tasked with establishing libraries in villages, began its activities in Poznan. When the Prussian authorities dissolved the organization, it reappeared in 1880 – this time under the name of the People’s Reading Society.

The partitioning authorities issued laws against the establishment of new farms by Poles and banned the use of the Polish language at meetings. Poles resisted the invaders, as exemplified by the school strike in Września in 1901. The reason for its announcement was the removal of the Polish language from religious lessons. The figure of Michał Drzymała, who was prevented from building a house by the Prussian authorities (1904), is recorded in Polish historiography. He acquired land in the village of Podgradowice and lived in a circus wagon. The partition authorities “for security reasons” ordered him to remove the cart, but thanks to people’s contributions a new one was purchased. After five years, the Prussians forced Drzymala to leave this locale as well. He then settled in a dugout. His attitude became a symbol of the fight against Germanization.

Concept of “Prussian partition”[edit | edit code].

The term Prussian partition does not include the area of Upper Silesia and other lands that were not within the borders of the former Republic before the partitions. The situation in Upper Silesia is often discussed together with the situation in the Prussian partition because of the presence of a predominantly Polish element (with varying degrees of identification with Poland) in the area. Although much of Silesia did not permanently integrate into the Polish state after the district split that followed the death of Boleslaw the Wry-mouthed in 1138, and the Polish state formally relinquished its rights to Upper Silesia (or more accurately, to the then Silesian principalities) in the 14th century during the reign of King Casimir the Great, the Polish population in the area has always been the predominant ethnic element, and Silesia itself was described by chroniclers as part of Poland until the 14th century[5].

Share :

Leave your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *