How Poland Was Formed

Article Overview

What This Article Covers:

  • Origins: Who established Poland?
  • Partitions: When Poland was controlled by 3 political powers.
  • Vanishing: How Austria, Russia & Germany took over Poland.

What To Read After This Article:

A brief understanding of how Poland was formed followed by the bullyboy interests that Austria, Germany and Russia  had in it will give us the context we need to understand what happened in 1939. In that year, the seeds of deceit and desire to dominate their fellowman into oblivion that had been planted centuries earlier, nurtured and sprouted.

Lets now look closely at Russia & Germany's way of dealing with Poland over the years.

How Poland Was Founded - 966 A.D

The earliest records of Poland date to 966 AD when Misezko a ruler of a territory broadly equivalent to the Poland that we know today, converted to Christianity. In doing so, Poland became a member of the family of Christian kingdoms. Shortly afterwards, in 1000 AD, Poland was recognised as a state of the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire.

The Kingdom Of Poland was subsequently founded in 1025 AD and lasted till 1385. Along the way Duke Boleslaw (1102 AD till 1138 AD) tried to resolve some issue with claims to the land by dividing it into 5 Duchies amongst his sons. That plan didn't go well as the sons fought amongst themselves for ultimate control of Poland. Unfortunately, the arguments and squabbles over the land were taken on by descendants of Duke Boleslaw resulting in the ultimate weakening of monarchical power.

In 1320 AD Poland became united again when Piast Duke Wladyslaw 1 was crowned king. His son Casimir succeeded him and in turn Casimir's nephew, Louis 1 Of Hungary, succeeded him, bringing about a union between Hungary & Poland. Then through descent and marriage the Grand Duke of Lithuania became the heir to the Polish Monarchy thus binding Lithuania and Poland together in a dynasty for the next 4 centuries.

A Brief Guide To The 3 Partitions Of Poland

The First Partition

The First Partition Of Poland - 1772 A.D

The beginning of the end for the Polish-Lithuanian dynasty (also known as the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth) started in 1772 when the first of 3 partitions occurred. The following 2 partitions would follow in the next few years resulting in the complete end of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth by 1795.

Russia's empire had grown by its victories over the Ottomans in the south, to the point it was threatening the Kingdom of Prussia (as well as Austria) which was a German kingdom that extended to parts of present-day Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium and the Czech Republic. (Editors note: This is the first notable point at which Germany and Russia became opponents).

So, Frederick The Great brought about a partition in Poland to prevent Austria going to war with Russia (because Austria felt weakened and so wanted to war with Russia to seize land they had and thus weaken Russia and in the process strengthen Austria). Essentially, Polish-Lithuanian land was apportioned between Austria, Russia and Prussia.

In plain English, Austria was given more land to make it feel more powerful and to equalise the balance of power between Austria, Russia and Prussia. Poland was an easy target to pillage and so Austria, Russia and Prussia benefited at Polands expense without any thought as to to the rights and wrongs of it..

The Second Partition
The Third Partition

Poland Reclaims Grodno Governorate In 1919

Remembering that in the 3rd partition the Grodno Governorate was created and controlled by Russia, in World War 1 the "Grodno Governorate" was then occupied by Germany (although it belonged to Russia) with the Polish citizens being persecuted by the Germans who were essentially "tenants" on land belonging to Russia.

At the end of World War 1 the Belarusian National Republic became independent from Russia. This lead to a Polish-Soviet war from 1919-1921. This war came to an end when the "Peace Treaty of Riga" came into effect at which point the region came to be known as the "Second Polish Republic" with Poland claiming rights to this region having won the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1921.

Again, in simple terms, Poland reclaimed this region (Grodno Governate AKA Kresy region) from Russia (as a result of Russia's war with Poland when Poland was fighting to protect land in which Poles, Lithuanians, Belarussians, Tartars and German colonists lived).

Poland in 1921 then rewarded Polish soldiers who had fought in World War 1 with land. They were given (sometimes sold) land in the "Kresy Region" which is currently western Belarus and western Ukraine. This must have hurt Russia, to know that Poland had rewarded Polish soldiers with land that Russia had formerly regarded as its own.

This is a very simple view of the history of the region but one which helps us understand the backdrop of 1939.

The important point to take from this is that land that had originally belonged to Poland had been seized by Russia with Russia allowing the Germans to occupy it following which Poland reclaimed the land after World War 1.

You can imagine that both Germany and Russia were rather miffed at this and the contention must have started brewing at this point. It would take 20 years of this brewing before Russia would come back and invade the area in an attempt to re-seize Grodno Governorate (Kresy region) back for itself.

The Restoration Of Poland - 1918

Late in 1918 a Polish government was formed and an independent Poland declared. A small uprising then occurred by Poles in the Province Of Posen (although technically German it was under Polish control at that point). This was the early seeds of a restored Poland.

At the end of World War 1 the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919. This was an agreement between multiple nations on how World War 1 would be brought to an end.

This treaty stripped Germany (formerly Prussia) of some of its lands and ordered it to return Polish land back into the hands of a Polish Government. At the same time Germany was awarded some of Russia's land. Ultimately, a vast area came to be known as "Poland" that shared a lot in common with the original boundaries of Poland.

I like plain English and I read the paragraph above as being a reversal of the first partition of Poland i.e power taken back off Austria, Germany and Russia and handed back to Poland.

 

Understanding the history of Polands formation and it's struggle to survive up to 1939 leads us nicely on to the next part: The Molotov-Ribentrop Agreement.

In A Nutshell - A Quick Summary

  • From the outset Poland was an internally governed country, it did not belong to Russia or Germany, in part or in full.
  • Polands borders have been ever changing and the subject of frequent forcible seizure by Germany (Prussia) & Russia
  • Germany & Russia have a history of making pacts and then double crossing each other as well as 3rd parties
  • Russia, Germany, Austria and others have no valid claim over Polands original territories yet frequently use these lands as bargaining pawns.
  • When we see this backdrop in the lead-up to 1939, we begin to understand more about what was behind the rationale of Germany and Russia brokering a deal under the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement to divide Poland amongst themselves. We also more understand Hitlers wish to exterminate the Poles and Stalins equivalent to this being death by hard labour in Soviet Gulags.

Now Learn About The Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement