Poland Old History

By | January 2, 2023

Poland is an independent nation in Eastern Europe. With the capital city of Warsaw, Poland 2020 population is estimated at 37,846,622 according to countryaah. A heyday began in the 1300s when the Jagellonian royal family came to power. The nobility was strengthened at the expense of the royal power during the Lublin Union between Poland and Lithuania in the 16th century, and a century-long battle between Poland and Sweden over the dominion of the Baltic Sea began with Poland’s participation in the Nordic Seven-Year War in the 1560s. In the 18th century, the state disappeared from the map of Europe. Poland was swallowed up by Russia, Prussia and Austria. World War I led Poland to regain its independence in 1918. But during the Second World War, the state collapsed again; approximately six million citizens, including three million Jews, lost their lives through systematic extinction initiated by Nazi Germany’s occupying power.

  • AbbreviationFinder.org: Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Poland, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

In the 9th century, Poles and other West Slavic peoples in the area between the Wisła, Warta and Noteć rivers united under one ruler (Mieszko I). At the same time, they converted to Roman Catholic faith. Catholicism was taken to Poland from Bohemia (Czech Republic), which was a conscious mark against both the West (the German Emperor) and the East (Kievrus, Kiev Kingdom; Russia did not yet exist). Through the war and the succession, this Polish kingdom was divided, but it was united again in the 1300s. For Poland political system, please check computerminus.

A personnel union between Poland and Lithuania was founded in 1386 by the marriage of Polish Queen Jadviga to the Lithuanian Grand Prince Jagiełło. With the power of the Jagellonian royal family, a great time began. Poland was finally able to fight back attacks from the German enemy inheritance, a knight’s state (a precursor to Ost Prussia) that at that time dominated much of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. During the 15th century, a continuous Polish empire was created from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

The ties between Poland and Lithuania were strengthened in 1569 in the so-called Lublin Union. The Union was called “the republic of both peoples” and was a kingdom in which the nobility, a tenth of the population, had sole representation in parliament and elected kings. After the extinction of the Jagellonian lineage, each newly elected king was given the promise to respect religious freedom, the privileges of the nobility and free kingship. This eventually led to a decline in royal power.

Poland’s participation in the Nordic Seven-Year War in the 1560s marked the beginning of a century-long battle between Poland and Sweden over the dominion over the Baltic Sea. After a time of internal political crisis, the Poles in 1587 elected Sigismund Vasa, son of the Swedish King Johan III and Katarina Jagellonica, to King (in Polish: Zygmunt III Waza). In 1592 he also became king of Sweden, but was deposed in 1599 after a civil war (the battle of Stångebro 1598). During Karl IX (Sigismund’s uncle), the Lutheran faith in Sweden was strengthened, while his nephew ensured that a Catholic counter-Reformation spread in Poland.

Power struggle with Sweden

After Zygmunt’s death in 1632, stronger internal divisions began to be felt in Poland. The work of the noble parliament was crippled almost to the unity principle, since each member was given the right to veto decisions (hence the term “Polish Parliament”). Since Sweden’s King Karl X Gustav invaded Poland in 1655, the last King of the Polish Vaasa in peace at Oliwa in 1660 was forced to surrender Livland (parts of present-day Estonia and Latvia) to Sweden and give up his claim to the Swedish krona. In the east, Cossacks conquered large parts of Ukraine. A Turkish advance through Europe was halted in 1683 by the Polish king Jan Sobieski, who rescued the siege of Vienna by the Turks. It was the last military victory of several centuries for the increasingly weak Polish-Lithuanian empire.

Since Poland, in August, the strong participant in an alliance of attacks against Sweden, August was deposed by Karl XII but he regained his throne after the battle of Poltava in 1709. After August’s death in 1733, the Polish throne war broke out, in which also Russia, Austria and France took active part. After the war, there was anarchy in Poland. Russia, Prussia and Austria took advantage of the situation by seizing parts of the country’s territory in 1772. In a power gathering to save the Polish state formation, in 1791, the progressive so-called Third May Constitution, an unusually democratic constitution that granted peasants civil rights and abolished the right of veto in the Polish Parliament, was adopted in 1791. But it came too late. Poland was further shrunk by a second division in 1793.

The French Emperor Napoleon, in 1807, during his campaign against Moscow and partly as a reward for the efforts of exile Poles in his army, established the Duchy of Warsaw in Polish territory conquered from Prussia. At the Vienna Congress in 1815, however, this area, later referred to as the Congress Pole, was transferred to Russia. The residents were deprived of the last vestiges of independence since they tried to rebel against the Russians in 1830 (the November uprising) and 1863 (the January uprising).

During the First World War, the Polish territories were battlefields for three occupation forces: Germany, Austria and Russia. For all three, the war ended with defeat. This led to Poland regaining its independence on November 11, 1918. The head of state of the new republic became the former socialist and leader of the liberation struggle Józef Piłsudski.

Hitler’s Germany attacks

The border to the west was established in the Versailles Peace in 1919. Following a referendum, Poland gained parts of Górny Śląsk (Upper Silesia) and access to the Baltic Sea through a land strip cut by Ostpreussen from the rest of Germany. Gdańsk (Danzig) became a free port city under shared Polish-German administration. The frontier in the east was only established after a war with the new Soviet state, which in 1920 in a campaign through Poland was about to bring its revolution to Germany. However, the Red Army was stopped by Marshal Piłsudski in a battle at Wisła in August 1920 and driven back east.

A new constitution in 1921 established a parliament with two chambers as well as general and equal voting rights, for both women and men. The parties were small and divided and several weak minority and coalition governments succeeded. In 1926 Piłsudski regained power in a coup d’etat and ruled Poland authoritarian until his death in 1935. Despite the undemocratic regime, there was a fairly free press and independent trade unions. Political parties could also work.

In August 1939, Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union signed a non-assault agreement, the so-called Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. In the secret addition of the pact, Poland (and the Baltic countries) were divided into German and Soviet spheres of interest. On September 1, Germany went to military attack against Poland. Two days later, in accordance with the Defense Treaty with Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. World War II collapsed.

The war led to the collapse of the Polish state within three weeks. 17 days after Germany’s attack, the Red Army (USSR) invaded the east. A German-Soviet treaty on September 28, 1939 completed Poland’s fourth division. The Soviet Union retained eastern Poland. Over 20,000 officers in the Polish army who ended up in areas occupied by the Red Army were arched on order by Stalin. Western Poland was incorporated with Germany. A smaller area, occupied by the Germans, in the middle was called the General Government and was managed by a German governor based in Wawel, the Royal Castle in Kraków. About six million Polish citizens, including three million Polish Jews, lost their lives in a systematic extermination initiated by Germany’s occupying power.

Poland becomes communist

At the defeat, the Polish government had fled the country; an exile government was later formed in France, and at the French collapse in the summer of 1940 it was moved to London. Units from the Polish Army and an underground resistance movement in Poland, the so-called Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK) continued to fight against the Germans on various fronts, including in Narvik in Northern Norway in 1940. Abroad Polish exile armies were first formed in France, then in the United Kingdom, and, since the outbreak of the German-Soviet war in 1941, even in the Soviet Union. An army corps (Armia Andersa) was formed in Iran and Palestine, consisting of Poles who after 1939 were held as prisoners in the Soviet Union, but who in 1941 were allowed to leave the Soviet Union. This corps participated in fighting against the Germans in Libya and Italy.

In 1942, the Polish exile government tried to hand over documentation to the Allies in the West about the Nazi mass extermination of Jews, largely carried out in occupied Poland. The Nazis forced Jews from several countries to extermination camps, the largest of which, Auschwitz, lay a few miles from Krakow. Opponents Jan Karski and Witold Pilecki risked their lives by “wall-raping” the camps. But the reports of indescribable atrocities were met by unbelievers.

After Soviet troops began to expel Germans from Poland in 1944, a group of leading Polish communists from their exile in Moscow could move to Polish Lublin and install themselves as the first Polish government in liberated territory. In Warsaw, the resistance movement AK, which was under the exile government in London, tried to accelerate the liberation by taking open action against the Germans in August 1944. The Warsaw Uprising was defeated, as there was no support from the Soviet troops that remained east of the city. The Germans systematically leveled Warsaw with the ground before the Red Army marched into the ruined city in January 1945.

Poland Old History