Second Republic

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(Second Republic) Republic of Poland[1].

1918 – 1945

Flag of the Second Republic of Poland

Coat of arms of the Second Republic

Anthem: Dabrowski’s Mazurka


Small (1919-1921)March (1921-1935)April (1935-1945)

Official language

PolishPolish in addition:German[2]Ukrainian[3]Belarusian[4]Lithuanian[5]



Political system


Type of state

Parliamentary republic(1919-1926)Semi-presidential republic (1926-1935), super-presidential republic[6][7]8, super-presidential republic at war (1939-1945)

Head of state

President (last) Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz

Head of government

president of the Council of Ministers (last) Tomasz Arciszewski

Area – total

389,720[9] km²

Population (1938) – total – population density – nations and ethnic groups

34,849,000 (1939 estimate, according to 1931 census 31,918,000)89.7 persons/km²Polish, Ukrainians, Jews, Belarusians, Germans, Lithuanians

GDP (1938) – total – per capita

12.88 billion USD [1]372 USD

GDP (PPS) (1938) – total – per capita

USD 10 billion [2]2,182


Polish mark (1918-1924) – throughout the country since April 1920 Polish zloty (1924-1939) (zloty)

regaining independence – announcement- recognition

from Germany and Austria-Hungary16 November 191821 February 1919

Withdrawal of international recognition of the Polish authorities (loss of legal subjectivity)

Great Britain, USA, USSR, followed by the remaining states of the constituting UN5 July 1945

Dominant religion

Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Judaism

Time zone

UTC +1

Dependent territories

Free City of Gdansk (1920-1939)Central Lithuania (1920-1922)

Autonomous territories

Silesian province

Multimedia at Wikimedia Commons

Coat of arms of the Republic of Poland 1919-1927

Republic of Poland in mid-November 1918

Announcement on the establishment of the National Treasury Office, Kalisz, 1918

Population density of the Second Republic according to the 1931 census

Belvedere in Warsaw

New Sejm building, 1930 Wiejska Street

Border post in Gorgany, on the border with Czechoslovakia

World Exposition, Paris, 1925, Polish pavilion

World Exposition, Paris, 1937, Polish pavilion

World Exposition, New York, 1939, Polish pavilion

Château de Pignerolle in Angers – exterritorial residence of the Polish authorities in exile XII 1939- VI 1940

The Second Republic (II RP; official name: Rzeczpospolita Polska[1]) – the historic Polish state that existed between 1918 and 1945, i.e. from the regaining of sovereignty (1918) until the withdrawal of international recognition of the government of the Republic of Poland in exile (1945), which was a consequence of the implementation of the agreements reached at the Yalta Conference (1945) between the Big Three powers[10][11]. The name emphasizes continuity with the First Republic (1569-1795), abolished by the Partition Treaties concluded between Austria, Prussia and Russia in the second half of the 18th century (1772-1795).

The March Constitution was the basic constitutional act, followed (from 1935) by the April Constitution. The official language of the Second Republic was Polish, while the currency was first the Polish mark and only since 1924 the Polish zloty. Poland at the time was an ethnically heterogeneous country (slightly more than ⅔ of the population were Poles), which was a source of internal problems. The largest cities (with more than 200,000 inhabitants) were Warsaw (Poland’s capital), Łódź, Lwów, Poznań, Kraków and Vilnius, but the vast majority of the population (70-75%) lived in rural areas.

The Second Republic was formed on parts of the territories of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia (both the “Congress Kingdom” and the “partitioned lands”); its first years were marked by disputes and battles over future borders and the Polish-Bolshevik war. The state was a republic, initially ruled democratically, moving toward authoritarianism from the 1926 coup.

During World War II (1939-1945), the state territory of the Second Republic was occupied by Germany, the USSR, Slovakia and Lithuania[12]. The Second Republic retained state sovereignty[13], and was represented in diplomatic relations by the government of the Republic of Poland in exile, which obtained refuge in Paris and Angers (on an extraterritorial basis until June 1940), and then in London, where it moved its headquarters after the defeat of France[13]. As the Polish state still had constitutional organs of state power (including a secret civil administration and judiciary on the territory of the occupied country – the Polish Underground State) and armed forces, operating simultaneously in the underground (the Home Army) and in exile, de jure and de facto the Second Republic existed until July 5, 1945.

Most of the state territory of the Second Republic annexed by the USSR and Lithuania in 1939 was incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR, Belarusian SSR and Lithuanian SSR in 1945[10][14]. The areas remaining with Poland constitute most of the territory of the modern Polish state, which in its Constitution explicitly refers to the best traditions of the Second Republic.

Table of contents

1 Boundary dates 2 International recognition

3 Territory and borders

3.1 Area of the country 3.2 Length of the borders 3.3 Determination of the borders 3.4 Neighbors 3.5 Dependent and autonomous territories 3.6 End points of the borders 3.7 Fate of the borders of the Second Republic

4 Political system 5 Polish Army 6 Calendar of political events

7 Authorities

7.1 Chief of State 7.2 Presidents 7.3 Prime Ministers 7.4 Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile

8 Administrative division 9 Economy 10 Peasant question 11 Education and pre-school care 12 Demography

13 National minorities

13.1 Ukrainian minority 13.2 Belarusian minority 13.3 Revindication and Polonization action of 1938 13.4 Jewish minority

14 Religion 15 Population of major cities in 1939 16 National holidays 17 Gallery 18 See also 19 Notes 20 Footnotes 21 External links

Border dates[edit | edit code].

The symbolic beginning of the Second Republic is taken to be the events of November 11, 1918, considered the restoration of Poland’s independence, when Jozef Pilsudski took military power from the Regency Council in Warsaw. On the same day, an armistice between the Entente states and Germany was signed in Compiègne, France, formally ending World War I, which had lasted since 1914[15]. Three days later (November 14), Pilsudski also assumed civilian authority, and both the Regency Council and the Provisional People’s Government of the Republic of Poland dissolved, handing power to Pilsudski, soon to be the Provisional Chief of State.

After the aggression against Poland by the Third Reich and the USSR (the September campaign) and the wartime occupation of the territories of the Second Republic by both aggressors (in September 1939), the legal continuation of the authorities of the Second Republic, internationally recognized throughout World War II, was the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile, and as a subordinate administration in the occupied country – the Polish Underground State and its political and military structures (the Home Army).

The withdrawal of diplomatic recognition of the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile by the United Kingdom and the United States on July 5, 1945 (and subsequently by all other countries of the world affiliated with the then-constituting United Nations – only Spain, Cuba, Lebanon, Ireland and the Vatican still recognized the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile for some time after the war) and the consequent loss of international legal subjectivity should be considered the formal and actual end of the Second Republic.

The last symbolic act of the formal existence of the Second Republic was the transfer of the presidential insignia of the Second Republic and the original of the April Constitution by Ryszard Kaczorowski – the last president of the Second Republic in exile – to the first freely elected president of the Republic of Poland[16] – Lech Walesa – on December 22, 1990.

International recognition[edit | edit code].

Jozef Pilsudski immediately after assuming civilian power, i.e. on November 16, 1918, sent dispatches to the Entente states, informing them of the establishment of an independent Polish state[17][18]. On the other hand, the existence of an independent Polish state was the first to be recognized on November 20, 1918. Germany, but already on December 15, 1918, Poland broke off diplomatic relations with that country[b][19][20]. Wider international recognition of Poland’s independence was linked to the attitudes of France and Great Britain. Shortly after the Armistice of Trier and the ceasefire on the Polish-Ukrainian front, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers (February 21, 1919)[21], France (February 24) and Great Britain (February 25)[22] recognized the Polish government. Japan on March 22, 1919 and on March 27 of the same year Poland’s independence was recognized by the Holy See[23].

Territory and borders[edit | edit code].

Area of the country[edit | edit code].

386,273 km² (1928)[24]

388,634 km² (January 1, 1938) 389,720 km² (after the occupation of Zaolzie in October 1938)

Length of borders[edit | edit code].

Total length of Poland’s borders – 5529 km

Borders with neighboring countries by length

with Germany – 1912 km

with the USSR – 1412 km

with Czechoslovakia – 984 km

with Lithuania – 507 km

with Romania – 349 km

with the Free City of Gdansk – 121 km

with Latvia – 109 km sea border – 71 km (with Hel Spit 147 km)[c][25]

Establishment of borders[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Formation of the borders of the Second Republic.

The borders of the Second Republic were established by treaty through: The Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of Saint Germain, the Treaty of Riga, the Treaty of Trianon and the settlements of the inter-allied Council of Ambassadors[d]. In 1921, following the Treaty of Versailles, the results of the plebiscite and the three Silesian uprisings, the eastern part of the plebiscite territory in Upper Silesia was annexed to Poland.

Neighbors[edit | edit code].

Germany – Prussian provinces (bordering): East Prussia, Pomerania, Upper Silesia, Lower Silesia, Brandenburg, the Border March of Posen-West Prussia,

USSR – union republics (bordering): Ukrainian SSR and Belarusian SSR,

Czechoslovakia, then Czecho-Slovakia from March 15, 1939 to Germany as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia,

Slovakia from March 15, 1939, dependent on Germany,

Lithuania, in 1940 annexed by the USSR

Latvia, annexed by the USSR in 1940

Carpatho-Ukraine – March 14 – March 18, 1939 (annexed by Hungary, March 18, 1939)


Hungary – from March 18, 1939 (after annexation of Carpatho-Ukraine by Hungary on March 18, 1939)

Dependent and autonomous territories[edit | edit code].

Silesian Voivodeship – the Polish part of Upper Silesia with the incorporated Cieszyn Silesia

Free City of Danzig – Danzig and its surroundings

Central Lithuania – Vilnius region

Border endpoints[edit | edit code].

North: 55°51′08″N 27°09′08″E/55.852222 27.152222 – the village of Somino on the Przeświata River at the height of the Latvian Droryszcz, Braslav district, Vilnius province. South: 47°43′28″N 24°52′59″E/47.724444 24.883056 – vicinity of the southern source of the Menchil stream, Kosovo district, Stanislavl province. East: 55°20′58″N 28°21′32″E/55.349444 28.358889 – the village of Spasibionki (1) (border post No. 173) near the railroad line to Polotsk, Dzhensk district, Vilnius province. West: 52°37′07″N 15°47′04″E/52.618611 15.784444 – Muchocinek settlement on the Warta River near Lake Meszyn, międzychodz county, Poznan province.

Fate of the borders of the Second Polish Republic[edit | edit code].

Administrative division of occupied Polish lands in 1939-1941

After the armed aggression of the USSR against Poland on September 17, 1939, the military occupation of the eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic by the Red Army and the establishment of the German-Soviet border line on the militarily occupied territories of Poland by the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in the Pact on Borders and Friendship concluded in Moscow on September 28, 1939, the inhabitants of both occupied parts of the Polish state were subjected to repression by the occupiers.

The Pomeranian Voivodeship (Danzig-West Prussia), the Silesian Voivodeship, the Poznan Voivodeship (Wartheland), part of the Łódź Voivodeship with Lodz, the Suwałki Region, the northern and western parts of Mazovia and the western parts of the Cracow and Kielce Voivodeships were directly incorporated into the Reich.

From the territory of the Republic of Poland between the line of the German-Soviet border of September 28, 1939, and the eastern border of Polish lands incorporated directly into Germany, as specified in the decree (defined as the new eastern border of the Reich), Adolf Hitler created a separate administrative entity subordinate to the Reich – the General Government.

As a result of an agreement between Germany and Slovakia, 52 border communes[26] in Spiš and Orava were included in November 1939.

The remaining territory of the Polish Republic east of the border line established on Polish territory in the treaty between the Third Reich and the USSR was annexed by the USSR in October 1939[27]. The formal basis was a pseudo plebiscite in the form of elections in 1939, followed by annexation by resolution of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. At the same time, the Soviet Union ceded Vilnius and its district to Lithuania, but in August 1940, following the annexation of the Baltic States, this area too was placed within the borders of the USSR.

These were parallel acts to Adolf Hitler’s two decrees (dated October 8 and 12, 1939), by which he unilaterally incorporated Poland’s western territories into the Reich (see Territories of the Republic of Poland annexed by the Third Reich), while at the same time creating a General Government from the central lands of the Second Republic.

All of the above acts, disposing unilaterally of the sovereign and internationally defined territory of the Second Republic, were contrary to the Hague Convention IV (1907) ratified by Germany and Russia. They were consequently invalid under international law and were not recognized by both the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile and the states allied to Poland, as well as third (neutral) states throughout World War II. They stemmed from the doctrine adopted by the Treaty of Borders and Friendship of September 28, 1939 exclusively by the Third Reich and the USSR of the cessation of the existence of the Polish state as of September 28, 1939, after the capitulation of Warsaw as the capital of Poland.

As a result of the provisions of the Tehran Conference, the Yalta Conference and the Potsdam Conference after the end of World War II, the Republic of Poland (since 1952 under the name of the Polish People’s Republic), included the central and western parts of the territory of the Second Polish Republic, as well as the Recovered Territories granted by the superpowers, and became the legal international successor of the Second Polish Republic. On the other hand, the lands east of the Bug River, the Eastern Borderlands, i.e. the provinces of Vilnius, Novgorod, Polesie, Volhynia, Ternopil and Stanislawow, as well as part of the Bialystok and Lviv provinces, were incorporated into the USSR.

Political system[edit | edit code].

The system of government in the Second Republic was described until 1926 as a democratic republic with a multi-party parliamentary-cabinet system. After the coup d’état (the May Coup of 1926), the state system was modified in the mode of amending the constitution (the August amendment) and the actual exercise of power, and consequently was transformed into a presidential-autocratic system (from the political camp in power called sanacja).

Polish Army[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Polish Army (Second Republic).

Calendar of political events[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Polish History (1918-1939) and Polish History (1939-1945).

October 7, 1918 – The Regency Council declared the independence of the Kingdom of Poland from Germany and Austria-Hungary. November 11, 1918 – Jozef Pilsudski assumed military power in Warsaw

November 14, 1918 – the Regency Council was dissolved; it was also on this day that the term Republic of Poland was officially used for the first time, signifying the abolition of the monarchist system in Poland[28].

November 22, 1918 – Jozef Pilsudski assumes the post of Provisional Chief of State November 28, 1918 – women in Poland gain voting rights by decree of Jozef Pilsudski. Separate article: The situation of women in the Second Republic.

1918-1921 – six wars and border conflicts:

November 1, 1918 – battle for Lviv (1918-1919)

December 27, 1918 – the Greater Poland Uprising

August 17, 1919 – outbreak of the First Silesian Uprising (next: August 19/20, 1920 and May 3, 1921) Polish-Bolshevik war Polish-Ukrainian conflict Polish-Lithuanian conflict Polish-Czechoslovak border conflicts

Separate article: Formation of the borders of the Second Republic.

January 26, 1919 – elections to the Legislative Sejm

February 20, 1919 – Small Constitution

June 28, 1919 – signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany (see also Little Treaty of Versailles) August 13-19, 1920 – Battle of Warsaw

February 19, 1921 – alliance treaty with France[29].

March 2, 1921 – treaty with Romania March 17, 1921 – March Constitution

March 18, 1921 – treaty of Riga with the RFSSR

June 16, 1922 – incorporation of Upper Silesia

December 16, 1922 – Assassination of Polish President Gabriel Narutowicz

March 15, 1923 – the Council of Ambassadors approved the course of the eastern border of the Second Republic April 28, 1924 – establishment of the Bank of Poland, beginning of Grabski’s currency reform

May 12-14, 1926 – Pilsudski’s May coup (coup d’état) (the beginning of the Sanation) December 4, 1926 – the Great Poland Camp was established in Poznan’s “Hotel Bazar”, initiated by Roman Dmowski

November 16, 1930 – so-called “Brest elections” June 14, 1932 – Gdansk crisis; ORP Wicher forced respect for the right of the Republic of Poland to an armed presence in the port of the Free City of Gdansk

July 25, 1932 – non-aggression pact with the USSR

January 26, 1934 – declaration of nonviolence with Germany

April 14, 1934 – the National-Radical Camp was established

April 23, 1935 – establishment of the April Constitution

May 12, 1935 – death of Jozef Pilsudski

1936 – creation of the Central Industrial District

February 2, 1937 – establishment of the Camp of National Unity

May-July 1938 – action to demolish Orthodox churches in the Chelm region

October 1, 1938 – entry of Polish troops into Zaolzie and its incorporation into Poland January 2, 1939 – death of Roman Dmowski

March 31, 1939 – guarantees of Great Britain and France to Poland (declaration to provide assistance in case of military threat) August 23, 1939 – pact of the USSR with the Third Reich (the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) August 25, 1939 – alliance treaty between Poland and Great Britain September 1, 1939 – aggression of the Third Reich, beginning of the September campaign, beginning of World War II

September 7 – surrender of Westerplatte, see Defense of Westerplatte, Military Transit Depot (Westerplatte)

September 17, 1939

(morning) – aggression of the USSR against Poland

(evening) – evacuation of the government of the Second Republic through Kuty to Romania

September 22, 1939 – capitulation of Lviv before the Red Army

September 28, 1939 – capitulation of Warsaw

September 30, 1939 – appointment in Paris by Polish President Władysław Raczkiewicz of the government of Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski

October 2, 1939

capitulation of the Fortified Region of Hel against the Wehrmacht

decree of Polish President Władysław Raczkiewicz on the dissolution of the Sejm and Senate

October 5, 1939 – capitulation of the Independent Operational Group Polesie (the last operational union on Polish territory), took effect the next day.

Authorities[edit | edit code].

Chief of State[edit | edit code].

Lp. Photo First and last name Period in office[e].


Jozef Pilsudski

November 22, 1918 – December 11, 1922

Presidents[edit | edit code].

No. Photo First and last name Period in office


Gabriel Narutowicz

December 11, 1922 – December 16, 1922

Maciej Rataj[f]

December 16, 1922 – December 22, 1922


Stanislaw Wojciechowski

December 22, 1922 – May 14, 1926

Maciej Rataj[g]

May 15, 1926 – June 4, 1926

Jozef Pilsudski[h]

Did not take office


Ignacy Moscicki

June 4, 1926 – September 30, 1939


Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz

September 30, 1939 – June 6, 1947 (general international recognition until July 5, 1945)

After the May Coup of 1926, in fact, the highest authority in the state was held by Polish Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, who formally held the office of General Inspector of the Armed Forces and Minister of Military Affairs in successive governments, and also – twice (1926-1928, 1930) – Prime Minister.

Prime Ministers[edit | edit code].

From 1918 to 1939, the Presidium of the Council of Ministers was located in the current Presidential Palace




Period in office


Jędrzej Moraczewski

November 18, 1918 – January 16, 1919


Ignacy Jan Paderewski

January 18, 1919 – November 27, 1919


Leopold Skulski

December 13, 1919 – June 9, 1920


Wincenty Witos

June 10, 1920 – June 23, 1920


Wladyslaw Grabski

June 27, 1920 – July 24, 1920


Wincenty Witos (for the second time)

July 24, 1920 – September 13, 1921


Antoni Ponikowski(twice)

September 19, 1921 – March 5, 192210 March 1922 – June 6, 1922


Artur Sliwinski

June 28, 1922 – July 7, 1922


Wojciech Korfanty[i].

July 14, 1922 – July 31, 1922


Julian Nowak

July 31, 1922 – December 14, 1922


Wladyslaw Sikorski

December 16, 1922 – May 26, 1923


Wincenty Witos (for the third time)

May 28, 1923 – December 4, 1923


Wladyslaw Grabski (for the second time)

December 19, 1923 – November 14, 1925


Aleksander Skrzynski

November 20, 1925 – May 5, 1926


Wincenty Witos (for the fourth time)

May 10, 1926 – May 14, 1926


Kazimierz Bartel(three times)

May 15, 1926 – June 4, 19268 June 1926 – September 24, 192627 September 1926 – September 30, 1926


Jozef Pilsudski

October 2, 1926 – June 27, 1928


Kazimierz Bartel (for the fourth time)

June 27, 1928 – April 13, 1929


Kazimierz Świtalski

April 14, 1929 – December 7, 1929


Kazimierz Bartel (for the fifth time)

December 29, 1929 – March 15, 1930


Walery Slawek

March 29, 1930 – August 23, 1930


Jozef Pilsudski (for the second time)

August 25, 1930 – December 4, 1930


Walery Slawek (for the second time)

December 4, 1930 – May 26, 1931


Aleksander Prystor

May 27, 1931 – May 9, 1933


Janusz Jędrzejewicz

May 10, 1933 – May 13, 1934


Leon Kozlowski

May 15, 1934 – March 28, 1935


Walery Slawek (for the third time)

March 28, 1935 – October 12, 1935


Marian Zyndram-Kościałkowski

October 13, 1935 – May 15, 1936


Felicjan Slawoj Składkowski

May 15, 1936 – September 30, 1939


Wladyslaw Sikorski (for the second time)

September 30, 1939 – July 4, 1943


Stanislaw Mikolajczyk

July 14, 1943 – November 24, 1944


Tomasz Arciszewski

November 29, 1944 – July 2, 1947 (general international recognition until July 5, 1945)

Government of the Republic of Poland in exile[edit | edit code].

After the aggression against Poland by the Third Reich and the USSR (the September campaign) and the wartime occupation of the territories of the Second Republic by both aggressors, the legal continuation of the authorities of the Second Republic, internationally recognized throughout World War II, was the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile, and as a subordinate administration in the occupied country – the Polish Underground State and its political and military structures (the Home Army).

Separate articles: The September campaign, the Soviet Union’s aggression against Poland, the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile and the Polish Underground State.

Administrative division[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Administrative division of the Second Republic of Poland.

Administrative division of the Second Republic (1930)

Administrative division of the Second Republic at the outbreak of war with Germany

Administrative division of the Second Republic(1937)

License plates(1937)



Areain thousand km²(1930)

Populationw thousand people(1931)

























































City of Warsaw





























Economy[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Economic policy of the Second Republic.

Map of PKP railroad lines 1939

The exchange rate of the zloty against the dollar in 1924-1939. The strengthening of the zloty was the result of the U.S. departure from gold parity and the devaluation of the dollar in 1933.

Poland’s external debt in 1924-1938

Percentage of large private property in relation to the total area of the counties of the Second Republic in 1925

After the devastation of World War I, Poland was formed from the merger of the three partitions, which before the war sold mainly to the partitioning states. The new borders limited sales to the old markets[30]. In addition, a tariff war broke out in 1925 with Germany, which was a major trading partner.

The Great Depression in Poland was much deeper and longer as a result of the preservation of the convertibility of the zloty to gold (gold parity), while many countries departed from it and devalued their currencies, making Polish goods more expensive abroad. According to historical data from the Central Statistical Office,[31] in 1938 industrial production in Poland was 19% higher in real terms than in 1928, an increase slightly higher than the average growth in all of Europe (up 13% excluding the USSR) and much higher than the growth in the United States (down 23%) where, after steady growth in 1933-1937, industrial production collapsed again in 1938. In 1938, per capita industrial production was still almost 10% lower than in 1913[30].

Had it not been for the development of the country’s economy in 1936-1939, which was, next to 1926-1929, the fastest in the entire existence of the Second Republic, the global level of industrial output of 1913 would not have been reached before September 1939, but even so, industrial output per capita was still several percent lower in 1938 than in the Polish territories in 1913. Meanwhile, everywhere else in Europe in the interwar period, these rates were much higher. Thus, the backwardness, in terms of the country’s industrialization, grew between 1918 and 1939[32].

Polish GDP per capita before 1939 never exceeded half of the average GDP per head in Western Europe[33].

The output produced per capita in interwar Poland was about 610 zlotys, when, for example, in Romania the equivalent of 600 zlotys, and in Western European countries the average was 1800 zlotys. (in the U.S. 4,500 zlotys)[34].

Throughout the 1930s, the state increased its share in the economy. It took over enterprises threatened with bankruptcy and established its own. By the end of the Second Republic, state enterprises produced more than 25% of industrial output, and many key sectors of the economy were under total government control[35]. The banking system was dominated by four state-owned banks, which concentrated 42% of total customer deposits and captured 38% of the credit market.

In 1929, proponent of the doctrine of economic liberalism Adam Heydel wrote[36]:

Statism in Poland consists in the overexpansion of the state economy and the pressing of state intervention into all modes of economic life. (…) All sections of statism express themselves in an unheard-of number of ties, orders and prohibitions.

Adam Heydel, Statist aspirations in Poland

Energy: in 1914 there were 150 power plants on Polish soil producing 800 million kWh[37]. According to the Central Statistical Office, in 1923, electricity production in the Second Republic amounted to 1511 million kWh and by 1938 had risen to 3977 million kWh. Energy consumption per statistical Pole was 50kWh in 1937 (a resident of Paris at the time used more than 500 kWh, the average Swiss – 700 kWh, and a resident of American cities even 1000 kWh per year). At the end of 1938, electricity reached 3% of villages and 2% of rural households[38].

Oil production: between 1922 and 1938, oil production fell from 705,000 tons to 507,000 tons of oil per year[39].

Automotive: between 1926 and 1931, the number of cars in the Second Republic increased 4 times[40]. During the Great Depression, it fell by about 30%, and in the following years returned to the level of the early 1930s[41]. The number of cars per 1,000 inhabitants[42] in Poland not only remained very low for the period of the 1930s compared to highly developed countries, but the distance to them even widened. For comparison, in 1938 Poland had 1 car per 1,000 residents, Japan had 2.5, Brazil 3.7, Italy 10, Germany and Austria 25.1, Great Britain 51.1, and the United States as many as 228.8.

Agriculture: speaking in the Sejm in 1935, Deputy Prime Minister Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski stated: “Our economic structure is extremely unfavorable (…). The Polish countryside in the twentieth century has almost returned to a natural economy. A number of the needs of the countryside are being met in an abnormal and extremely primitive manner, matches are being divided into parts, there is a return to the bow, and transportation on foot and by wheel even over long distances has come again – after a hiatus since the end of the 19th century. – to importance[43].”

Peasant issue[edit | edit code].

In the 1930s, the peasant population made up about 71% of the country’s population.

The average life expectancy in the countryside was 47 years, more than 10 years lower than in Western Europe[44].

In 1931 in Poland, 23.4% of farms had an area of less than 2 hectares, 35.5% an area of 2 to 5 hectares. It was impossible to live off 2 hectares without additional income. Farms from 2 to 5 hectares provided an existence on the brink of starvation[45].

As a result of the “Great Depression,” starvation became a common, periodic phenomenon in the countryside. Wheat prices in 1934 were only 34% of the 1928 price. In 1937, the economy improved, but peasants did not feel it, for taxes increased at the same time. The debt of peasant farms at the end of the 1930s was 4.3 billion zlotys when the value of annual sold production was only 1.5 billion zlotys[46].

The reserve of agricultural land that could be parceled out was estimated in 1938 at 4.6 million hectares, and the landless population living in the countryside at 5.5 million people. There was too little land in Poland to “relieve” overpopulation in the countryside through land reform alone[47].

In 1939, Poland’s electrified villages were 3%[48].

On August 16-25, 1937, peasants led by the People’s Party organized a strike in Poland. It was Poland’s largest peasant protest in which several million peasants took part. The strike was met with a violent response from the authorities. 44 people were killed, more than 5,000 were arrested and 617 were convicted and imprisoned[49].

Separate article: Peasant strike (1937).

From the proclamation of the People’s Party proclaiming the peasant strike, Warsaw, August 14, 1937:

The strike (…) is a manifesto for the necessity of liquidating the sanationist system in Poland and restoring to the citizen the rights to which he is entitled. (…) We demand a democratic system for Poland and new fair elections[50] In February 1938, the People’s Party announced another peasant protest. The Sanation government responded by pacifying the threatened districts of the Kraków and Lviv provinces. The pacification consisted of devastating the farms of peasant activists – breaking furniture in their homes and dumping grain. In some cases, police went so far as to break the legs of horses and cattle with blows from cobs and rods[48].

“Sugar in the countryside does not exist. Most children have never even seen it, except in the form of candy at indulgences. Salt is now used gray, sometimes even red cattle salt. In the spring, during the period of pre-nourishment, for lack of cash, even the worst kinds are used, boiling potatoes several times in the same salted water.”[48]

Education and pre-school care[edit | edit code].

In the first academic year of independent Poland (1918/19), 7 universities operated in the country. Their number grew due to the establishment of new state and private institutions, reaching 24 in the 1932/33 academic year and 32 in 1937/38. Polish students (a total of 49,300, 28% of whom were women) were mainly concentrated in Warsaw (42%), the second largest academic center was Lviv (19%), followed by Krakow (15.6%) and Vilnius (7.2%). The most popular field of study was law (more than 20% of all students)[51].

In 1928, the portfolio of Minister of Education was taken over by Kazimierz Świtalski, who began by carrying out a personnel purge in the ministry. The main criterion in the selection of personnel was loyalty to the government. After the May Coup, Sanation threw out the slogan of conducting “state education.” The new educational ideal was to be the model of a citizen-stateman, based on a synthesis of the attitude of a fighter and a worker. The features of this model were to be: bravery in life, strong will, powerful energy, ability to do deeds and work, perseverance, honor, and loyalty and sacrifice to the state. Official factors openly indicated that a teacher must serve not only the state, but also the ruling group[52].

In the late 1930s, due to the world crisis, there was a sharp collapse in education. In the 1931/32 school year, there were not enough school places for some 300,000 children. The average number of students per teacher was 58.3. 70% of schools in Poland were 1- and 2-grade schools, with no possibility of continuing secondary education. There were about 10% of 7-class schools. The situation was worst in rural areas, where only 14% of schools had more than 3 classes. Less than half of the students who started in middle school took the matriculation exam. The rest dropped out of school, unable to meet the requirements[53].

Despite teacher unemployment for budgetary reasons, there was a shortage of full-time positions to increase the teaching staff. 25% of the children were obtaining unsatisfactory academic results, which, in comparison with the not very exorbitant requirements, was rather indicative of the low level of teaching at this level of schooling. Only about 52% of students starting in Class I reached Class VII, and only 46% reached Class VIII[54].

In the second half of the 1930s, the school system looked like this: the elementary school consisted of six grades. An additional seventh grade had to be completed by those who did not want to continue their education. Those continuing their education had four years of junior high school and two years of high school ahead of them. At that time, parents had to pay 200 zlotys a year in tuition fees (the salary of an experienced policeman or officer with the rank of lieutenant was about 300 zlotys a month). As a result, young people from wealthy homes were sent to high school. The high school diploma in a country of 30 million people was passed by about 30,000 abitiurents[55].

In 1937/38 – only about 84 thousand children were covered in kindergartens[56].

Demography[edit | edit code].

See multimedia related to the topic: Census 1921 – notebooks Statistics of Poland

View multimedia related to topic: Census 1931 – notebooks Statistics of Poland

Map of the distribution of the Polish population by Eugeniusz Romer 1921, used by the Polish delegation at the Paris Conference

Population of Poland by native language 1931. official map of the Central Statistical Office, 1931

Population of the Republic according to the 1931 statistical census

Population of the Republic with native language Polish

Population of the Republic with native German language

Population of the Republic with native Hebrew and Yiddish languages

Population of the Republic with mother tongue Ukrainian and Ruthenian

Population of the Republic with mother tongue Belarusian

The population of the Republic with a native language of Lithuanian

Mother tongue in the provinces according to the 1931 census

Poland and the Free City of Danzig, population density, 1930


Census date


Percentage of urban population

Population density(persons per 1 km²)

September 30, 1921 27,177,000 24.6% 69.9

December 9, 1931 32,107,000 27.4% 82.6

December 31, 1938 34,849,000 30% 89.7

National minorities[edit | edit code].

See also category: National minorities in the Second Republic.

Poland in the interwar period was a multinational country, with Poles making up 64 to 69.2% of the population. In most of the rural area of the Eastern Borderlands, Poles were a minority (in favor of Ukrainians or Byelorussians), while they were a majority in the large cities[57]. Poles predominated in Vilnius and the then Lwów province, among other places. In the west, Germans predominated in some areas. The Jewish population predominated in many localities. There were conflicts between the authorities and representatives of minorities. On more than one occasion, too, representatives of national minorities became targets of attacks by mass propaganda from nationalist circles[58].

Nationalities according to the 1921 census. (self-identification according to declared nationality of respondents)[59]:

Poles[60] – 69.2%

Ukrainians[61] – 14.0%

Jews[62] – 7.8%

Belarusians[63] – 3.9%

Germans[64] – 3.8% Other, or not specified – 1.3%

Nationalities according to the 1931 census (self-identification according to respondents’ declared native language)[59]

Poles[65] – 68.9%

Ukrainians[j][k][l][66] – 13.9%

Jews[67] – 8.6%

Belarusians[68] – 3.1%

Germans[69] – 2.3% Other, or not specified – 3.2%

Ukrainian minority[edit | edit code].

In the summer of 1930, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists carried out a terrorist action in areas inhabited by the Ukrainian population consisting primarily of mass arson. In response, the Polish government launched a pacification operation in the area in September of that year. It covered a total of 493 villages. Police units supported by the army entered the villages and carried out brutal searches of homes resulting in the destruction of property and numerous beatings. Seven to 35 people were killed as a result. Faced with these methods of the Polish authorities, the Ukrainian peasants, hitherto indifferent to political issues, began to support the OUN[70].

Belarusian minority[edit | edit code].

Under the terms of the Peace of Riga, the territory of present-day Belarus was divided between Poland and the RFSSR. The Bolsheviks created a puppet Belarusian SSR. On the Polish side, most of the negotiators were influenced by National Socialist ideas, which contradicted visions of creating a federation on the territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth covered roughly the areas west of the border of the Second Partition (with a slight correction in favor of Poland in the form of Pinsk and Nesvizh), where the provinces of Bialystok, Novogrudok, Polesie and Vilnius were created. The Polish-Soviet border was drawn 30-60 kilometers west and northwest of Minsk, reoccupied in the final days of the Polish-Bolshevik war[71] by the Polish Army, which was forced to withdraw from the city after the armistice. The larger cities in the area (otherwise very poorly urbanized) included Grodno and Brest.

According to the results of the 1931 census, 990,000 citizens of the Second Republic cited Belarusian as their native language, and 700,000 in Polesia as their “local” language. Among the Belarusian population in the Second Republic, 77.6 percent were illiterate. The intelligentsia included 0.17 percent of the population[72].

A common form of struggle against the “Polish order” used by Belarusian peasants was to start fires. Many villages, towns and industrial facilities fell prey to them. Reports from the Interior Ministry as late as the turn of 1925/1926 indicate that the Polish authorities were unable to effectively counteract the diversionary acts[73].

The Belarusian Peasant-Robotarian “Hromada” was the first political party whose program spread among Belarusian peasants and workers. In addition to the demand for the unification of all Belarusian lands into a single republic, the program emphasis was mainly on social aspects: the need for land reform without compensation, the abolition of military settlements, mud reclamation or the possibility of using the Belarusian language in offices. It had about 100,000 members. “Hromada” was not an annex of the Communist Party of Western Belarus, but there were close contacts between activists of both parties. In 1927 “Hromada” was banned by the sanatorial authorities. After this fact, a grouping was founded called “Zmahannie za interesy Włościan i Robotników”, which gathered in its ranks most of the former members of “Hromada” and presented a similar program. In 1928 it took part in the elections, subsequently forming a parliamentary club in the Sejm. The party was dissolved by the Sanation authorities in 1930. Many of its members joined the ranks of the illegal Communist Party of Western Belarus, which was part of the nationwide KPP. The KPZB was the most successful organization in Bialystok. In interwar Poland there were many political trials in which members of this party were the defendants. Among those that found the greatest public resonance was the so-called “trial of 133” held in 1928. The CPSU tried to participate in local elections, but its lists were invalidated by the authorities and active activists were arrested.

The Polish authorities also tried to prevent the expansion of the Belarusian cooperative movement also seeing it as a form of communist influence. As a result of the restrictions created by the authorities, only three Belarusian cooperatives existed in 1939. The Sanation authorities liquidated the Belarusian School Society, the largest self-governing organization of the Belarusian population, in 1937, accusing it of “communist infiltration.” Belarusian education was gradually liquidated in the Second Republic. While in the 1918/1919 school year there were 346 Belarusian schools, by 1937 there were only five Belarusian-Polish common schools, 44 schools in which Belarusian was taught as one of the subjects and one Belarusian gymnasium[74]. In the late 1930s, the Sanation authorities dissolved or suspended the activities of many Belarusian organizations, including the most important: Belarusian Institute of Economy and Culture (January 1937), Belarusian National Committee (January 1938), and paralyzed the activity of the Belarusian People’s Union by closing down the magazine Belaruskaya Krynica. The reason was the inclusion in the statutes of these organizations of the demand for the unification of the Belarusian people[75].

The action taken at the inspiration of the military Sanation authorities, which assumed the demolition of 127 “superfluous” Orthodox religious buildings (particularly in the Chelm region) in the summer of 1938, had a large echo among the mostly Orthodox Belarusians.

In 1939, the governor of Bialystok assessed the results of the Polonization policy toward Byelorussians as follows: “The Polish element has so far been unable not only to entrain, but even to bind the Belarusian village by drawing it into common social, political or economic organizations. We have only demanded that this minority think in Polish without giving anything in return (…). In order to accelerate this process, we must conquer the Belarusian countryside culturally.”, while the commander of Corps District No. IX, General Jarnuszkiewicz, stated: “It is not enough that someone considers himself a Pole, but remains Orthodox. In the borderlands, the synonym for Polishness is Catholicism.”[48]

Before the outbreak of the war, the attitude of the Belarusian population was described by the magazine Belaruskiy Front as follows: “The Belarusian population expects any change (…) the philosophy of the peasant masses is: say nothing, know nothing, do nothing. Hungry, shabby, illiterate peasants are not interested in any political or social action. They will go enthusiastically after anyone who promises them bread and more land to produce bread.”[76]

Revindication-Polonization action of 1938[edit | edit code].

Separate article: The action of revindication of Orthodox churches in the Second Republic.

After 1918, part of the population officially Orthodox who were formerly Unitarians, to whom the Orthodox faith was imposed by the partitioning authorities by force, converted back to Catholicism. This was associated with the spontaneous takeover of Orthodox churches (which were formerly sometimes Unitarian temples). Against this background, there were conflicts with the remnants of the Orthodox population, mainly Ukrainians, living mainly in the southern part of Chelm region. The action of spontaneous takeover of Orthodox churches was ended (due to fears of growing confrontational sentiment) by the government in 1924 with a resolution forbidding the takeover of Orthodox churches until the issue was legally settled.

In 1929, the governor of Lublin began a campaign to demolish “superfluous” Orthodox churches in areas where Orthodox Christians no longer resided. 29 Orthodox churches were destroyed. The action was halted due to protests by the Orthodox population.

In 1937 a large-scale campaign was launched to Polonize and Catholicize Chelmshchyna where a large percentage of the population was Ukrainian Orthodox. Among other things, a ban was issued on teaching the Ukrainian language in Chelmshchyna and Podlasie, Orthodox religious instruction and even sermons were to be held in Polish. En masse, under military and police coercion, the Orthodox population was ordered to declare conversion to Catholicism. At the same time, the Second Polish Army District Corps Command in Lublin launched a campaign in 1938 to demolish, often historic, Orthodox churches in the Lublin area. Local authorities inspired demonstrations by local Catholics, who passed resolutions demanding the closure and demolition of Orthodox churches as centers of Ukrainian diversion. The demolition of the churches was carried out by the municipal administration at the behest of the starosts with the help of local youths, mainly from firefighting squads, prisoners or hired brigades. Often the churches were destroyed along with their liturgical equipment. As a result, 91 Orthodox churches (49 remain), 10 chapels and 26 houses of worship were destroyed in the Lublin region. The action caused an increase in anti-Polish and anti-state sentiment among the Ukrainian population[77]. Cat – Mackiewicz commented on the action as follows: “The demolition of Orthodox churches is one more proof that we are governed by people who are not grown up to govern(…).”[48]. On March 30, 1938, the Bialystok city council passed a resolution to demolish the unfinished Orthodox church on Liberty Square – the “Bund” and PPS councilors voted against it[78].

Jewish minority[edit | edit code].

Independence in Polish-Jewish relations began with the anti-Jewish pogrom in Kielce, which occurred on November 11, 1918. As a result of it, four people were killed and 250 injured[79]. Jewish stores and private apartments were looted. The most casualties occurred when a mob forced its way into the Polish Theater and began lynching members of the Zionist organization gathered there, who were deliberating on a proclamation expressing joy at Poland’s regaining independence. Order was only restored in the city by a military detachment of Gen. Waclaw Iwaszkiewicz[80].

During the Polish-Bolshevik war, anti-Semitic sentiments were rampant in the Polish army (Jews were accused of supporting the Red Army). The Polish military authorities ordered the establishment of a camp in Jablonna, where about a thousand soldiers and officers of Jewish origin were interned (the decision to establish it was issued on August 16, 1920, and the camp operated until September 9, 1920; its establishment caused an international scandal, for which the Minister of Military Affairs, Gen. Sosnkowski, had to explain himself to the Sejm and the public)[m][81][82]. An order was also issued to arrest in all military General Districts some 1,000 servicemen among whom the majority were Jews. Many officers of the Jewish faith, meritorious in the struggle for independence, were removed from the army. Jewish academic youths from volunteer units were sent to penal companies[83].

Jewish boxers of Maccabi Warsaw, a fragment of the open-air exhibition “Jewish Sports in Prewar Warsaw” presented at the turn of 2012/13 at 6 Twarda Street in Warsaw.

Also after the end of the Polish-Bolshevik war, soldiers of Jewish origin were treated as second-class soldiers or were even suspected in advance of disloyalty to the Polish state. In his answers to parliamentary interpellations, General Sosnkowski stated that “Jews are not fit for more serious work than typing.” In connection with the Sejm’s resolution of June 17, 1919, according to which only Polish citizens of Polish nationality could be officers, officers of Jewish origin were demoted even those already promoted in independent Poland[84]. In July 1920, the Polish Army exempted doctors and nurses of Jewish origin from service in military hospitals[85]. On March 23, 1923, the General Staff issued a secret order to remove all Jews from military graphic arts facilities[86]. In the second half of the 1920s, 87 officers of Jewish origin served in the Polish Army, which accounted for 0.5 percent of the entire officer corps. Starting in the late 1920s, however, people of Jewish origin were not recruited for the air force, navy, communications and armored weapons, and the Border Protection Corps[87].

In the early 1920s, there were numerous anti-Semitic excesses on the railroads in the form of beatings and robberies of Jewish passengers. Jews feared the Bydgoszcz train station in particular[88].

In 1922, there were rallies at universities, preceded by a memorandum addressed to university senates to introduce numerus clausus. In 1923 there was an attempt to introduce these changes, which was hindered by the May coup in 1926 and the new government’s efforts to reach an agreement with national minorities. In 1931, the Sejm passed a law On the Repeal of Exceptional Provisions Relating to the Origin, Nationality, Race or Religion of Citizens of the Republic. In the 1930s, there were cases of numerus clausus in practice. On the other hand, despite demands, numerus nullus was not introduced[89][90].

In November 1932, violent anti-Jewish riots occurred in Lviv. Several hundred people were injured[91]. In December 1935, as the first in the country, the authorities of Lviv Polytechnic introduced the so-called bench ghetto, or separate seating for Christian and Jewish students, at the engineering and mechanical faculties[92].

I issued an order dividing the seats in the auditorium into three categories: into even-numbered ones for Polish students, into odd-numbered ones for Jewish students, and into unnumbered ones that could be occupied by any student without exception. The purpose (…) was to prevent the previous unrest, flowing from the almost universal desire of Polish students to sit separately from Jewish students, who voluntarily refused to agree to this

Włodzimierz Antoniewicz – Rector of the University of Warsaw in his report for the year 1937/38[93].

A demonstration by the National-Radical Camp in favor of introducing bench ghettos for Jews at the Lviv Polytechnic University (1938).

In the second half of the 1930s, an anti-Jewish campaign began in Zamosc. It was led by General Bruno Olbrycht – commander of the 3rd Legion Infantry Division and president of the Society for the Development of Eastern Lands. The entire army and a large part of the city’s civilian community were drawn into the action. A boycott of Jewish stores was announced by military order. Junior high school students organized pickets in front of Jewish stores, preventing customers from entering them. The general, in connection with his fight against the Jewish minority and his patronage of the local scouts, became very popular in the city and received honorary citizenship of Zamosc[94].

In the first half of 1936 there were excesses, a pogrom, with anti-Semitic motives in Minsk Mazowiecki[95][96].

In May 1937, there were anti-Jewish riots in Brest-on-the-Bug, in which three Jews were killed and more than fifty injured. The Jewish quarter was demolished. The district governor and police remained passive. The army, despite its presence in the city, also failed to intervene. As a result, the riot lasted 16 hours[97].

On June 19, 1937, in Czestochowa, the Camp of National Unity issued an anti-Jewish declaration, as a result of which Polish nationalists attacked the Jewish population for three days. The result was the destruction of the property of 206 Jewish families from stores to privately owned apartments. 20 Jews were wounded. The pogrom spread in the following weeks to towns in the vicinity of Częstochowa[98].

Religion[edit | edit code].

See also Religious associations in the Second Polish Republic.

Administrative division:

Administrative division of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland (1918-1939) Administrative division of the Greek Catholic Church in Poland (1918-1939)

Orthodoxy, Judaism, Lutheranism

Population of major cities in 1939[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Cities in the Second Republic.

In Poland at that time there were: 1 city with a population of one million (Warsaw), 1 city with a population of over 500,000 (Łódź), 9 cities with a population of 100-500,000, 12 cities with a population of 50-100,000, 46 cities with a population of 20-50,000 and 83 cities with a population of 10-20,000.[99]


Population (thousands)





























poznańskie/since 1.04.1938 pomorskie


































































Piotrków Trybunalski







National holidays[edit | edit code].

May 3 – National Day of the Third of May (anniversary of the adoption of the May 3 Constitution; established in 1919[104]),

November 11 – National Independence Day (the anniversary of the transfer of military power to Józef Piłsudski by the Regency Council of the Kingdom of Poland, at the same time the anniversary of the end of World War I; established in 1937[105]).

Gallery[edit | edit code].

Warsaw, Theater Square, on the left is the Jabłonowski Palace – City Hall of the City of Warsaw.

Warsaw at night in 1935

The center of Warsaw before the war in 1939

Skaryszewski Park in Warsaw before the war in 1939

Saski Palace on Pilsudski Square in Warsaw 1930

Brühl Palace in Warsaw, seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Krakowskie Przedmieście in Warsaw, 1939

Warsaw, Mokotow – one of the villa districts

Warsaw, National Museum

Warsaw, Central Railway Station (under construction) 1938

Lviv, Union of Lublin Mound

The Gates of Dawn in Vilnius

Cracow, Kazimierz – the Jewish quarter

Torun, Pomeranian Brewery

Bydgoszcz, Old Market Square

Cieszyn market square 1937-1939


Silesian Parliament building in Katowice 1929

Katowice, Silesian Museum (under construction) 1939


Gdynia, Marine Station

Gdynia, vacationers relaxing on the beach

Gdynia, modern architecture

Poznan, General National Exhibition 1929, Representative Hall

Kalisz, Wrocławskie Przedmieście[106].

Janina coal mine in Libiąż (1939)

Boryslaw oil wells (1932)

State Nitrogen Compounds Plant in Mościce, compressor hall

Representation of Orbis travel agency in Paris 1934

Assembly of passenger railroad cars at the Lilpop, Rau and Loewenstein Works in Warsaw

Pm-36 steam locomotive with aerodynamic lagging, presented at the World Exhibition in Paris 1937

Chevrolet cars assembled under license at the Lilpop, Rau and Loewenstein factory in Warsaw (1936-1939)

Zakopane resort in 1938

Visit of the sailing ship Dar Pomorza from Gdynia to Stockholm in 1938

Vistula – a health resort in 1939

Janów Commune Office in Katowice (1931), Polish functionalism as a manifestation of modernity in architecture

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