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Republic of Poland
Rzeczpospolita Polska
""Mazurek Dąbrowskiego"
(English: "Poland Is Not Yet Lost")
Location and extent of the
Second Polish Republic in Europe ("circa 1930).
Capital "Warsaw
52°14′N 21°1′E / 52.233°N 21.017°E / 52.233; 21.017
Languages Official:
Religion 1931 census
64.8% "Roman Catholicism
11.8% "Eastern Orthodox
10.5% "Greek Catholic
9.8% "Jewish
2.6% "Protestant
0.5% Other Christian
0.02% Other
Government "Unitary "parliamentary "constitutional "republic (1918-35)
"Unitary "presidential "constitutional "(1935-39)
 •  1918–1922 "Józef Piłsudskia
 •  1922 "Gabriel Narutowicz
 •  1922–1926 "Stanisław Wojciechowski
 •  1926–1939 "Ignacy Mościcki
"Prime Minister
 •  1918–1919 (first) "Jędrzej Moraczewski
 •  1936–1939 (last) "Felicjan S. Składkowski
Legislature "Sejm
 •  Upper chamber "Senate
 •  Lower chamber "Sejm
Historical era "Interwar period
 •  End of "World War I 11 November 1918
 •  "Peace of Riga 18 March 1921
 •  "German invasion 1 September 1939
 •  "Soviet invasion 17 September 1939
 •  "Fall of Warsaw 28 September 1939
 •  "Complete occupation 6 October 1939
 •  1921 387,000 km2 (149,000 sq mi)
 •  1931 388,634 km2 (150,052 sq mi)
 •  1938 389,720 km2 (150,470 sq mi)
 •  1921 est. 27,177,000 
     Density 70/km2 (182/sq mi)
 •  1931 est. 32,107,000 
     Density 83/km2 (214/sq mi)
 •  1938 est. 34,849,000 
     Density 89/km2 (232/sq mi)
Currency "Marka (until 1924)
"Złoty (after 1924)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
"Kingdom of Poland
"German Empire
"Russian SFSR
"Republic of Zakopane
"Ukrainian PR
"West Ukrainian NR
"Komancza Republic
"Lemko-Rusyn Republic
"Galician SSR
"Galicia and Lodomeria
"Republic of Tarnobrzeg
"Central Lithuania
"Belarusian DR
"Nazi Germany
"Military Administration
"Soviet Union
"Slovak Republic
"Polish Underground State
"Polish-govt in exile
Today part of  "Poland
 "Czech Republic
a. As "Chief of State (Naczelnik Państwa).

The Second Polish Republic, commonly known as "interwar Poland, refers to the country of "Poland between the "First and "Second World Wars (1918–1939). Officially known as the Republic of Poland or Commonwealth of Poland ("Polish: "Rzeczpospolita Polska), the Polish state was "re-established in 1918, in the "aftermath of World War I. When, after several regional conflicts, the borders of the state were fixed in 1922, Poland's neighbours were "Czechoslovakia, "Germany, the "Free City of Danzig, "Lithuania, "Latvia, "Romania and the "Soviet Union. It had access to the "Baltic Sea via a short strip of coastline either side of the city of "Gdynia. Between March and August 1939, Poland also shared a border with the then-"Hungarian governorate of "Subcarpathia. Despite internal and external pressures, it continued to exist until 1939, when "Poland was invaded by "Nazi Germany, the "Soviet Union and the "Slovak Republic, marking the beginning of "World War II in Europe. The Second Republic was significantly different in territory to the "current Polish state as it included substantially more territory in the east and less in the west.

The Second Republic's land area was 388,634 km2, making it, in October 1938, the sixth largest country in Europe. After the "return of "Zaolzie from "Czechoslovakia, this grew to 389,720 km2. According to the "1921 census, the number of inhabitants was 27.2 million. By 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II, this had grown to an estimated 35.1 million. Almost a third of population came from "minority groups: 13.9% "Ukrainians; 10% "Jews; 3.1% "Belarusians; 2.3% "Germans and 3.4% "Czechs and "Lithuanians. At the same time, a significant number of ethnic Poles lived "outside the country borders. The Republic endured and expanded, despite a variety of difficulties in the "aftermath of World War I, including conflicts "with the Ukrainians, "Czechoslovakia, "Lithuania, "Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine; the "Weimar Republic "over Greater Poland, "and Upper Silesia; and in spite of increasing hostility from "Nazi Germany.

Poland maintained a slow (see: "trade embargo) but steady level of economic development. The cultural hubs of interwar Poland – "Warsaw, "Kraków, "Poznań, "Wilno and "Lwów – became major European cities and the sites of internationally acclaimed universities and other institutions of higher education. By 1939, the Republic had become "one of Europe's major powers".[1]



After more than a "century of Partitions between "the Austrian, "the Prussian, and "the Russian imperial powers, Poland re-emerged as a sovereign state at the end of the First World War in Europe in 1917-1918.[2][3][4] The victorious "Allies of World War I confirmed the rebirth of Poland in the "Treaty of Versailles of June 1919. It was one of the great stories of the "1919 Paris Peace Conference.[5] Poland solidified its independence in a series of border wars fought by the newly formed "Polish Army from 1918 to 1921.[6] The extent of the eastern half of the interwar territory of Poland was settled diplomatically in 1922 and internationally recognized by the "League of Nations.[7][8]

End of World War I[edit]

In the course of World War I (1914-1918), "Germany gradually gained overall dominance on the "Eastern Front as the "Imperial Russian Army fell back. German and "Austro-Hungarian armies seized the "Russian-ruled part of what became Poland. In a failed attempt to resolve the "Polish question as quickly as possible, Berlin set up a "German puppet state on 5 November 1916, with a governing "Provisional Council of State and (from 15 October 1917) a "Regency Council (Rada Regencyjna Królestwa Polskiego). The Council administered the country under German auspices (see also "Mitteleuropa), pending "the election of a king. A month before Germany surrendered on 11 November 1918 and the war ended, the Regency Council had dissolved the "Council of State, and announced its intention to restore Polish independence (7 October 1918).["citation needed] With the notable exception of the "Marxist-oriented "Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), most Polish political parties supported this move. On 23 October the Regency Council appointed a new government under "Józef Świeżyński and began conscription into the "Polish Army.[9]

Formation of the Republic[edit]

Second Polish Republic between 1921 and 1939 (light beige), including the "Eastern Borderlands (Kresy)

In 1918–1919, over 100 "workers' councils sprang up on Polish territories;[10] on 5 November 1918, in "Lublin, the first "Soviet of Delegates was established. On 6 November socialists proclaimed the "Republic of Tarnobrzeg at Tarnobrzeg in Austrian "Galicia. The same day the Socialist, "Ignacy Daszyński, set up a "Provisional People's Government of the Republic of Poland (Tymczasowy Rząd Ludowy Republiki Polskiej) in Lublin. On Sunday, 10 November at 7 a.m., "Józef Piłsudski, newly freed from 16 months in a German prison in "Magdeburg, returned by train to Warsaw. Piłsudski, together with Colonel "Kazimierz Sosnkowski, was greeted at Warsaw's railway station by Regent "Zdzisław Lubomirski and by Colonel "Adam Koc. Next day, due to his popularity and support from most political parties, the Regency Council appointed Piłsudski as Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces. On 14 November, the Council dissolved itself and transferred all its authority to Piłsudski as Chief of State ("Naczelnik Państwa). After consultation with Piłsudski, Daszyński's government dissolved itself and a new government formed under "Jędrzej Moraczewski. In 1918 Italy became the first country in Europe to recognise Poland's renewed sovereignty.[11]

Polish defences at "Miłosna, during the decisive "battle of Warsaw, August 1920.

Centers of government that formed at that time in "Galicia (formerly Austrian-ruled southern Poland) included the National Council of the "Principality of Cieszyn (established in November 1918), the "Republic of Zakopane and the "Polish Liquidation Committee (28 October). Soon afterward, the "Polish–Ukrainian War broke out in "Lwów (1 November 1918) between forces of the "Military Committee of Ukrainians and the Polish irregular units made up of students known as the "Lwów Eaglets, who were later supported by the Polish Army (see "Battle of Lwów (1918), "Battle of Przemyśl (1918)). Meanwhile, in western Poland, another war of national liberation began under the banner of the "Greater Poland Uprising (1918–19). In January 1919 "Czechoslovakian forces attacked Polish units in the area of Zaolzie (see "Polish–Czechoslovak War). Soon afterwards the "Polish–Lithuanian War (ca 1919-1920) began, and in August 1919 Polish-speaking residents of "Upper Silesia initiated a series of three "Silesian Uprisings. The most critical military conflict of that period, however, the "Polish–Soviet War (1919-1921), ended in a decisive Polish victory.[12] In 1919 the Warsaw government suppressed the Republic of Tarnobrzeg and the workers' councils.

Politics and government[edit]

"Józef Piłsudski, "Chief of State (Naczelnik Państwa) between November 1918 and December 1922

The Second Polish Republic was a "parliamentary democracy from 1919 (see "Small Constitution of 1919) to 1926, with the "President having limited powers. The "Parliament elected him, and he could appoint the "Prime Minister as well as the government with the "Sejm's (lower house's) approval, but he could only dissolve the Sejm with the "Senate's consent. Moreover, his power to pass decrees was limited by the requirement that the Prime Minister and the appropriate other Minister had to verify his decrees with their signatures. Poland was one of the first countries in the world to recognize "women's suffrage. Women in Poland were granted the right to vote on 28 November 1918 by a decree of Józef Piłsudski.[13]

The major political parties at this time were the "Polish Socialist Party, "National Democrats, various "Peasant Parties, "Christian Democrats, and political groups of ethnic minorities (German: "German Social Democratic Party of Poland, Jewish: "General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland, "United Jewish Socialist Workers Party, and Ukrainian: "Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance). Frequently changing governments (see "Polish legislative election, 1919, "Polish legislative election, 1922) and other negative publicity the politicians received (such as accusations of corruption or "1919 Polish coup attempt), made them increasingly unpopular. Major politicians at this time, in addition to Piłsudski, included peasant activist "Wincenty Witos (Prime Minister three times) and right-wing leader "Roman Dmowski. Ethnic minorities were represented in the "Sejm; e.g. in 1928 – 1930 there was the Ukrainian-Belarusian Club, with 26 Ukrainian and 4 Belarusian members.


After the Polish – Soviet war, Marshal Piłsudski led an intentionally modest life, writing historical books for a living. After he took power by a "military coup in May 1926, he emphasized that he wanted to heal the Polish society and politics of excessive partisan politics. His regime, accordingly, was called "Sanacja in Polish. The "1928 parliamentary elections were still considered free and fair, although the pro-Piłsudski "Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government won them. The following three parliamentary elections (in "1930, "1935 and "1938) were manipulated, with opposition activists sent to "Bereza Kartuska prison (see also "Brest trials). As a result, pro-government party "Camp of National Unity won huge majorities in them. Piłsudski died just after an "authoritarian constitution was approved in the spring of 1935. During the last four years of the Second Polish Republic, the major politicians included President "Ignacy Mościcki, Foreign Minister "Józef Beck and the Commander-in-Chief of the "Polish Army, "Edward Rydz-Śmigły. The country was divided into "104 electoral districts, and those politicians who were forced to leave Poland, founded "Front Morges in 1936. The government that ruled Second Polish Republic in its final years is frequently referred to as "Piłsudski's colonels.[14]

Presidents and Prime ministers (November 1918 – September 1939)     
"President of Poland "Ignacy Mościcki (left), Warsaw, 10 November 1936, awarding the "Marshal's "buława to "Edward Rydz-Śmigły

Chief of State


Prime ministers


"PZL.37 Łoś was a Polish twin-engine "medium bomber

The interwar Poland had a considerably large army of 950,000 soldiers on active duty: in 37 infantry divisions, 11 cavalry brigades, and two armored brigades, plus artillery units. Another 700,000 men served in the reserves. At the outbreak of the war, the Polish army was able to put in the field almost one million soldiers, 4,300 guns, 1,280 tanks and 745 aircraft.[15]

The training of the "Polish army was thorough. The N.C.O.s were a competent body of men with expert knowledge and high ideals. The officers, both senior and junior, constantly refreshed their training in the field and in the lecture-hall, where modern technical achievement and the lessons of contemporary wars were demonstrated and discussed. The equipment of the Polish army was less developed technically than that of Nazi Germany and its rearmament was slowed down by confidence in Western European military support and by budget difficulties.[16]


Polish pavilion at expo in Paris 1937.
Polish pavilion at expo in New York 1939.

After regaining its independence, Poland was faced with major economic difficulties. In addition to the devastation wrought by World War I, the exploitation of the Polish economy by the German and Russian occupying powers, and the sabotage performed by retreating armies, the new republic was faced with the task of economically unifying disparate economic regions, which had previously been part of different countries.[17] Within the borders of the Republic were the remnants of three different economic systems, with five different currencies (the "German mark, the "Russian ruble, the "Austrian crown, the "Polish marka and the "Ostrubel)[17] and with little or no direct infrastructural links. The situation was so bad that neighboring industrial centers as well as major cities lacked direct railroad links, because they had been parts of different nations. For example, there was no direct railroad connection between Warsaw and Kraków until 1934. This situation was described by "Melchior Wańkowicz in his book "Sztafeta.

On top of this was the massive destruction left after both World War I and the "Polish–Soviet War. There was also a great economic disparity between the "eastern (commonly called Poland B) and western (called Poland A) parts of the country, with the western half, especially areas that had belonged to the "German Empire being much more developed and prosperous. Frequent border closures and a "customs war with Germany also had negative economic impacts on Poland. In 1924 Prime Minister and Economic Minister "Władysław Grabski introduced the "złoty as a single common currency for Poland (it replaced the "Polish marka), which remained a stable currency. The currency helped Poland to control the massive hyperinflation. It was the only country in Europe able to do this without foreign loans or aid.[18] The average annual growth rate ("GDP per capita) was 5.24% in 1920–29 and 0.34% in 1929–38.[19]

GDP per capita
Year "Int$.
1922 1,382
1929 2,117
1930 1,994
1931 1,823
1932 1,658
1933 1,590
1934 1,593
1935 1,597
1936 1,626
1937 1,915
1938 2,182

Hostile relations with neighbours were a major problem for the economy of interbellum Poland. In the year 1937, "foreign trade with all neighbours amounted to only 21% of Poland's total. Trade with Germany, Poland's most important neighbour, accounted for 14.3% of Polish exchange. Foreign trade with the Soviet Union (0.8%) was virtually nonexistent. Czechoslovakia accounted for 3.9%, Latvia for 0.3%, and Romania for 0.8%. By mid-1938, after the "Anschluss of Austria, Greater Germany was responsible for as much as 23% of Polish foreign trade.

Poland's "MS Batory, and "MS Piłsudski, at the sea port of "Gdynia, 18 December 1937

The basis of Poland's gradual recovery after the "Great Depression was its mass economic development plans (see "Four Year Plan), which oversaw the building of three key infrastructural elements. The first was the establishment of the "Gdynia seaport, which allowed Poland to completely bypass "Gdańsk (which was under heavy German pressure to boycott Polish coal exports). The second was construction of the 500-kilometer rail connection between "Upper Silesia and Gdynia, called "Polish Coal Trunk-Line, which served freight trains with coal. The third was the creation of a central industrial district, named COP – Central Industrial Region ("Centralny Okręg Przemysłowy). Unfortunately, these developments were interrupted and largely destroyed by the German and Soviet invasion and the start of World War II.[21] Other achievements of interbellum Poland included "Stalowa Wola (a brand new city, built in a forest around a steel mill), "Mościce (now a district of "Tarnów, with a large nitrate factory), and the creation of a central "bank. There were several trade fairs, with the most popular being "Poznań International Fair, Lwów's "Targi Wschodnie, and Wilno's "Targi Północne. "Polish Radio had ten stations (see "Radio stations in interwar Poland), with the eleventh one planned to be opened in the autumn of 1939. Furthermore, in 1935 Polish engineers began working on the TV services. By early 1939, experts of the Polish Radio built four TV sets. The first movie broadcast by experimental Polish TV was "Barbara Radziwiłłówna, and by 1940, regular TV service was scheduled to begin operation.[22]

Interbellum Poland was also a country with numerous social problems. Unemployment was high, and poverty was widespread, which resulted in several cases of social unrest, such as the "1923 Kraków riot, and "1937 peasant strike in Poland. There were conflicts with national minorities, such as "Pacification of Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia (1930), relations with Polish neighbors were sometimes complicated (see "Soviet raid on Stołpce, "Polish–Czechoslovak border conflicts, "1938 Polish ultimatum to Lithuania). On top of this, there were natural disasters, such as "1934 flood in Poland.

Major industrial centers[edit]

"Lwów, Eastern Trade Fair ("Targi Wschodnie), 1930
"Gdynia, modern Polish seaport established 1926, photo dated 1938

Interbellum, Poland was unofficially divided into two parts – better developed "Poland A" in the west, and underdeveloped "Poland B" in the east. Polish industry was concentrated in the west, mostly in Polish "Upper Silesia, and the adjacent "Lesser Poland's province of "Zagłębie Dąbrowskie, where the bulk of coal mines and steel plants was located. Furthermore, heavy industry plants were located in "Częstochowa (Huta Częstochowa, founded in 1896), "Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski (Huta Ostrowiec, founded in 1837–1839), "Stalowa Wola (brand new industrial city, which was built from scratch in 1937 – 1938), "Chrzanów ("Fablok, founded in 1919), "Jaworzno, "Trzebinia (oil refinery, opened in 1895), "Łódź (the seat of Polish textile industry), "Poznań ("H. Cegielski – Poznań), Kraków and Warsaw ("Ursus Factory). Further east, in "Kresy, industrial centers included two major cities of the region – Lwów and Wilno ("Elektrit).[23]

Besides coal mining, Poland also had deposits of oil in "Borysław, "Drohobycz, "Jasło and "Gorlice (see "Polmin), potassium salt ("TESP), and "basalt ("Janowa Dolina). Apart from already-existing industrial areas, in the mid-1930s, an ambitious, state-sponsored project of "Central Industrial Region was started under Minister "Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski. One of characteristic features of Polish economy in the interbellum was gradual nationalization of major plants. This was the case of "Ursus Factory (see "Państwowe Zakłady Inżynieryjne), and several steelworks, such as Huta Pokój in "Ruda Śląska – Nowy Bytom, Huta Królewska in "Chorzów – Królewska Huta, Huta Laura in "Siemianowice Śląskie, as well as Scheibler and Grohman Works in Łódź.[23]


Industry and communications in Poland before the start of World War II

According to the 1939 Statistical Yearbook of Poland, total length of railways of Poland (as for 31 December 1937) was 20,118 kilometres (12,501 miles). Rail density was 5.2 kilometres (3.2 miles) per 100 square kilometres (39 square miles). Railways were very dense in western part of the country, while in the east, especially "Polesie, rail was non-existent in some counties. During the interbellum period, the Polish government constructed several new lines, mainly in the central part of the country (see also "Polish State Railroads Summer 1939). Construction of extensive "Warszawa Główna railway station was never finished due to the war, and Polish railroads were famous for their punctuality (see "Luxtorpeda, "Strzała Bałtyku, "Latający Wilnianin).

In the interbellum, road network of Poland was dense, but the quality of the roads was very poor – only 7% of all roads was paved and ready for automobile use, and none of the major cities were connected with each other by a good-quality highway. Poles built in 1939 only one highway, 28 km of straight concrete road connecting villages Warlubie and Osiek (mid-northern Poland). It was designed by Italian engineer Piero Puricelli.

"CWS T-1 Torpedo was the first serially-built car manufactured in Poland

In the mid-1930s, Poland had 340,000 kilometres (211,266 miles) of roads, but only 58,000 had hard surface (gravel, "cobblestone or "sett), and 2,500 were modern, with asphalt or concrete surface. In different parts of the country, there were sections of paved roads, which suddenly ended, and were followed by dirt roads.[24] The poor condition of the roads was the result of both long-lasting foreign dominance and inadequate funding. On 29 January 1931, the Polish Parliament created the State Road Fund, the purpose of which was to collect money for the construction and conservation of roads. The government drafted a 10-year plan, with road priorities: a highway from Wilno, through Warsaw and Cracow, to Zakopane (called Marshall Pilsudski Highway), asphalt highways from Warsaw to Poznań and Łódź, as well as a Warsaw ring road. However, the plan turned out to be too ambitious, with insufficient money in the national budget to pay for it. In January 1938, the Polish Road Congress estimated that Poland would need to spend three times as much money on roads to keep up with Western Europe.

In 1939, before the outbreak of the war, "LOT Polish Airlines, which was established in 1929, had its hub at "Warsaw Okęcie Airport. At that time, LOT maintained several services, both domestic and international. Warsaw had regular domestic connections with "Gdynia-Rumia, "Danzig-Langfuhr, "Katowice-Muchowiec, "Kraków-Rakowice-Czyżyny, "Lwów-Skniłów, "Poznań-Ławica, and "Wilno-Porubanek. Furthermore, in cooperation with "Air France, "LARES, "Lufthansa, and "Malert, international connections were maintained with "Athens, "Beirut, Berlin, "Bucharest, "Budapest, Helsinki, "Kaunas, London, Paris, "Prague, "Riga, Rome, "Tallinn, and "Zagreb.[25]


Ciągówka Ursus was the first Polish farm tractor, produced in the years 1922-1927 in the "Ursus Factory

Statistically, the majority of citizens lived in the countryside (75% in 1921). Farmers made up 65% of the population. In 1929, agricultural production made up 65% of Poland's GNP.[26] After 123 years of partitions, regions of the country were very unevenly developed. Lands of former German Empire were most advanced; in "Greater Poland and "Pomerelia, crops were on Western European level.[27] The situation was much worse in parts of "Congress Poland, "Eastern Borderlands, and former "Galicia, where agriculture was most backward and primitive, with a large number of small farms, unable to succeed in either the domestic and international market. Another problem was the overpopulation of the countryside, which resulted in chronic unemployment. Living conditions were so bad that in several regions, such as counties inhabited by the "Hutsuls, there was permanent starvation.[28] Farmers rebelled against the government (see: "1937 peasant strike in Poland), and the situation began to change in the late 1930s, due to construction of several factories for the "Central Industrial Region, which gave employment to thousands of countryside residents.

German trade[edit]

Beginning in June 1925 there was a customs' war with the "revanchist Weimar Republic "imposing trade embargo against Poland for nearly a decade; involving tariffs, and broad economic restrictions. After 1933 the trade war ended. The new agreements regulated and promoted trade. Germany became Poland's largest trading partner, followed by Britain. In October 1938 Germany granted a credit of "Rm 60,000,000 to Poland (120,000,000 zloty, or £4,800,000) which was never realized, due to the outbreak of war. Germany would deliver factory equipment and machinery in return for Polish timber and agricultural produce. This new trade was to be in addition to the existing German-Polish trade agreements.[29][30]

Education and culture[edit]

"Prime Minister "Kazimierz Bartel, also a scholar and mathematician
The National Museum in Warsaw, opened in 1938.

In 1919, the Polish government "introduced compulsory education for all children aged 7 to 14, in an effort to limit illiteracy, which was widespread especially in the former "Russian Partition and the "Austrian Partition of eastern Poland. In 1921, one-third of citizens of Poland remained illiterate (38% in the countryside). The process was slow, but by 1931, the illiteracy level had dropped to 23% overall (27% in the countryside) and further down to 18% in 1937. By 1939, over 90% of children attended school.[23][31] In 1932, Minister of Religion and Education "Janusz Jędrzejewicz carried out "a major reform which introduced two main levels of education: common school (szkoła powszechna), with three levels – 4 grades + 2 grades + 1 grade; and middle school (szkoła średnia), with two levels – 4 grades of comprehensive middle school and 2 grades of specified high school (classical, humanistic, natural and mathematical). A graduate of middle school received a small "matura, while a graduate of high school received a big matura, which enabled them to seek university-level education.

Before 1918, Poland had three universities: "Jagiellonian University, "University of Warsaw and "Lwów University. "Catholic University of Lublin was established in 1918; "Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, in 1919; and finally, in 1922, after the annexation of "Republic of Central Lithuania, "Wilno University became the Republic's sixth university. There were also three "technical colleges: the "Warsaw University of Technology, "Lwów Polytechnic and the "AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków, established in 1919. "Warsaw University of Life Sciences was an agricultural institute. By 1939, there were around 50,000 students enrolled in further education. Women made up 28% of university students, the second highest proportion in Europe.[32]

"Marian Rejewski, "Jerzy Różycki and "Henryk Zygalski, Polish "mathematicians and "cryptologists who worked at breaking the German "Enigma ciphers before and during "World War II

Polish science in the interbellum was renowned for its mathematicians gathered around the "Lwów School of Mathematics, the "Kraków School of Mathematics, as well as "Warsaw School of Mathematics. There were world-class philosophers in the "Lwów–Warsaw school of logic and philosophy.[33] "Florian Znaniecki founded Polish sociological studies. "Rudolf Weigl invented a vaccine against typhus. "Bronisław Malinowski counted among the most important anthropologists of the 20th century. In "Polish literature, the 1920s were marked by the domination of poetry. Polish poets were divided into two groups – the "Skamanderites ("Jan Lechoń, "Julian Tuwim, "Antoni Słonimski and "Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz) and the "Futurists ("Anatol Stern, "Bruno Jasieński, "Aleksander Wat, "Julian Przyboś). Apart from well-established novelists ("Stefan Żeromski, "Władysław Reymont), new names appeared in the interbellum – "Zofia Nałkowska, "Maria Dąbrowska, "Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, "Jan Parandowski, "Bruno Schultz, "Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, "Witold Gombrowicz. Among other notable artists there were sculptor "Xawery Dunikowski, painters "Julian Fałat, "Wojciech Kossak and "Jacek Malczewski, composers "Karol Szymanowski, "Feliks Nowowiejski, and "Artur Rubinstein, singer "Jan Kiepura. Theatre was very popular in the interbellum, with three main centers in the cities of Warsaw, Wilno and Lwów. Altogether, there were 103 theaters in Poland and a number of other theatrical institutions (including 100 folk theaters). In 1936, different shows were seen by 5 million people, and main figures of Polish theatre of the time were "Juliusz Osterwa, "Stefan Jaracz, and "Leon Schiller. Also, before the outbreak of the war, there were about a million radios (see "Radio stations in interwar Poland).

Administrative division[edit]

The "administrative division of the Republic was based on a three-tier system. On the lowest rung were the "gminy, local town and village governments akin to districts or parishes. These were then grouped together into "powiaty (akin to counties), which, in turn, were grouped as województwa ("voivodeships, akin to provinces).

Administrative map of Poland (1930)
Polish "voivodeships 1922–39
Polish voivodeships (1 April 1937)
"Car plates
(starting 1937)
or city
Capital Area (1930)
in 1,000s km2
Population (1931)
in 1,000s
00–19 City of Warsaw Warsaw 0.14 1,179.5
85–89 "warszawskie Warsaw 31.7 2,460.9
20–24 "białostockie "Białystok 26.0 1,263.3
25–29 "kieleckie "Kielce 22.2 2,671.0
30–34 "krakowskie "Kraków 17.6 2,300.1
35–39 "lubelskie "Lublin 26.6 2,116.2
40–44 "lwowskie "Lwów 28.4 3,126.3
45–49 "łódzkie "Łódź 20.4 2,650.1
50–54 "nowogródzkie "Nowogródek 23.0 1,057.2
55–59 "poleskie "Brześć nad Bugiem 36.7 1,132.2
60–64 "pomorskie "Toruń 25.7 1,884.4
65–69 "poznańskie "Poznań 28.1 2,339.6
70–74 "stanisławowskie "Stanisławów 16.9 1,480.3
75–79 "śląskie "Katowice 5.1 1,533.5
80–84 "tarnopolskie "Tarnopol 16.5 1,600.4
90–94 "wileńskie "Wilno 29.0 1,276.0
95–99 "wołyńskie "Łuck 35.7 2,085.6
The borders of several western and central voivodeships "were revised on 1 April 1938


"Partitioned Poland overlaid with the outline of the Second Republic. Most territories "annexed by the Russian Empire (in shades of green) remained in the Soviet Union, and became the scene of "genocide of Poles in 1938.[34]

Historically, Poland was a nation of many nationalities. This was especially true after independence was regained in the wake of World War I and the subsequent "Polish–Soviet War ending at "Peace of Riga. The "census of 1921 shows 30.8% of the population consisted of ethnic minorities,[35] compared with 10% today.[36] The first spontaneous flight of about 500,000 Poles from the Soviet Union occurred during the reconstitution of sovereign Poland. In the second wave, between November 1919 and June 1924 some 1,200,000 people left the territory of the USSR for Poland. It is estimated that some 460,000 of them spoke Polish as the first language.[37] According to the "1931 Polish Census: 68.9% of the population was Polish, 13.9% were Ukrainian, around 10% Jewish, 3.1% Belarusian, 2.3% German and 2.8% other, including Lithuanian, Czech, Armenian, Russian, and Romani. The situation of minorities was a complex subject and changed during the period.[6]

Poland was also a nation of many religions. In 1921, 16,057,229 Poles (approx. 62.5%) were "Roman (Latin) Catholics, 3,031,057 citizens of Poland (approx. 11.8%) were "Eastern Rite Catholics (mostly "Ukrainian Greek Catholics and "Armenian Rite Catholics), 2,815,817 (approx. 10.95%) were "Greek Orthodox, 2,771,949 (approx. 10.8%) were Jewish, and 940,232 (approx. 3.7%) were Protestants (mostly "Lutheran).[38]

By 1931, Poland had the second largest Jewish population in the world, with one-fifth of all the world's Jews residing within its borders (approx. 3,136,000).[35] The urban population of interbellum Poland was rising steadily; in 1921, only 24% of Poles lived in the cities, in the late 1930s, that proportion grew to 30%. In more than a decade, the population of Warsaw grew by 200,000, Łódź by 150,000, and Poznań – by 100,000. This was due not only to internal migration, but also to an extremely high birth rate.[23]

Largest cities in the Second Polish Republic[edit]

Poland's population density in 1930
Contemporary map showing language frequency in 1931 across Poland; red colour: more than 50% native Polish language speakers; green colour: more than 50% native language other than Polish, including "Yiddish, "Hebrew, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Russian and less frequent others
The Second Mountain Brigade of the "Polish Legions in World War I officers establishing the Polish-Czechoslovak border near the summit of Popadia in "Gorgany during the formation of the Second Republic, 1915
City Population Voivodeship
1 ""Herb Warszawy "Warsaw 1,289,000 "Warsaw Voivodeship
2 ""Herb Łodzi "Łódź 672,000 "Łódź Voivodeship
3 ""Herb Lwowa "Lwów 318,000 "Lwów Voivodeship
4 ""Herb Poznania "Poznań 272,000 "Poznań Voivodeship
5 ""Herb Krakowa "Cracow 259,000 "Kraków Voivodeship
6 ""Herb Wilna "Wilno 209,000 "Wilno Voivodeship
7 ""Herb Bydgoszczy "Bydgoszcz 141,000 "Poznań Voivodeship
later "Pomeranian Voivodeship
8 ""Herb Częstochowy "Częstochowa 138,000 "Kielce Voivodeship
9 ""Herb Katowic "Katowice 134,000 "Silesian Voivodeship
10 ""Herb Sosnowca "Sosnowiec 130,000 "Kielce Voivodeship
11 ""Herb Lublina "Lublin 122,000 "Lublin Voivodeship
12 ""Herb Gdyni "Gdynia 120,000 "Pomeranian Voivodeship
13 ""Herb Chorzowa "Chorzów 110,000 "Silesian Voivodeship
14 ""Herb Białegostoku "Białystok 107,000 "Białystok Voivodeship
15 ""Herb Kalisza "Kalisz 81,000 "Poznań Voivodeship
16 ""Herb Radomia "Radom 78,000 "Kielce Voivodeship
17 ""Herb Torunia "Toruń 62,000 "Pomeranian Voivodeship
18 ""Herb Stanisławowa "Stanisławów 60,000 "Stanisławów Voivodeship
19 ""Herb Kielc "Kielce 58,000 "Kielce Voivodeship
20 ""Herb Włocławka "Włocławek 56,000 "Pomeranian Voivodeship
21 ""Herb Grudziądza "Grudziądz 54,000 "Pomeranian Voivodeship
22 ""Herb Brześcia nad Bugiem "Brześć nad Bugiem 51,000 "Polesie Voivodeship
23 ""Herb Piotrkowa Trybunalskiego "Piotrków Trybunalski 51,000 "Łódź Voivodeship
24 ""Herb Przemyśla "Przemyśl 51,000 "Lwów Voivodeship

Prewar population density[edit]

Date Population Percentage of
rural population
Population density
(per km2)
Ethnic minorities (total)
"30 September 1921 (census) 27,177,000 75.4% 69.9 30,77% [35]
"9 December 1931 (census) 32,348,000 72.6% 82.6 31.09%
31 December 1938 (estimate) 34,849,000 70.0% 89.7 Upward trend in immigration


The Second Polish Republic was mainly flat with average elevation of 233 metres (764 ft) "above sea level, except for the southernmost "Carpathian Mountains (after World War II and its border changes, the average elevation of Poland decreased to 173 metres (568 ft)). Only 13% of territory, along the southern border, was higher than 300 metres (980 ft). The highest elevation in the country was "Mount Rysy, which rises 2,499 metres (8,199 ft) in the "Tatra Range of the Carpathians, approximately 95 kilometres (59 miles) south of "Kraków. Between October 1938 and September 1939, the highest elevation was Lodowy Szczyt (known in the "Slovak language as Ľadový štít), which rises 2,627 metres (8,619 ft) above sea level. The largest lake was "Lake Narach.

Physical map of the Second Polish Republic

The country's total area, after the annexation of Zaolzie, was 389,720 square kilometres (150,470 sq mi). It extended 903 kilometres (561 miles) from north to south and 894 kilometres (556 miles) from east to west. On 1 January 1938, total length of boundaries was 5,529 kilometres (3,436 miles), including: 140 kilometres (87 miles) of coastline (out of which 71 kilometres (44 miles) were made by the "Hel Peninsula), the 1,412 kilometres (877 miles) with Soviet Union, 948 kilometers with Czechoslovakia (until 1938), 1,912 kilometres (1,188 miles) with Germany (together with "East Prussia), and 1,081 kilometres (672 miles) with other countries (Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Danzig). The warmest yearly average temperature was in Kraków among major cities of the Second Polish Republic, at 9.1 °C (48.4 °F) in 1938; and the coldest in Wilno (7.6 °C or 45.7 °F in 1938). Extreme geographical points of Poland included Przeświata River in Somino to the north (located in the "Braslaw county of the "Wilno Voivodeship); Manczin River to the south (located in the "Kosów county of the "Stanisławów Voivodeship); Spasibiorki near railway to Połock to the east (located in the "Dzisna county of the "Wilno Voivodeship); and Mukocinek near Warta River and Meszyn Lake to the west (located in the "Międzychód county of the "Poznań Voivodeship).


Almost 75% of the territory of interbellum Poland was drained northward into the Baltic Sea by the "Vistula (total area of "drainage basin of the Vistula within boundaries of the Second Polish Republic was 180,300 square kilometres (69,600 square miles), the "Niemen (51,600 square kilometres or 19,900 square miles), the "Odra (46,700 square kilometres or 18,000 square miles) and the "Daugava (10,400 square kilometres or 4,000 square miles). The remaining part of the country was drained southward, into the "Black Sea, by the rivers that drain into the "Dnieper ("Pripyat, "Horyn and "Styr, all together 61,500 square kilometres or 23,700 square miles) as well as "Dniester (41,400 square kilometres or 16,000 square miles)

German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939[edit]

Polish Army, 1939
"Polish soldiers with anti-aircraft artillery near the Warsaw Central Station during the first days of September, 1939.

The Second World War in 1939 put an end to the sovereign Second Polish Republic. The German "invasion of Poland began on 1 September 1939, one week after "Nazi Germany and the "Soviet Union signed the secret "Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. On that day, Germany and "Slovakia attacked Poland, and on 17 September the "Soviets "attacked "eastern Poland. "Warsaw fell to the Nazis on 28 September after a twenty-day siege. Open organized Polish resistance ended on 6 October 1939 after the "Battle of Kock, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying most of the country. "Lithuania annexed "the area of Wilno, and "Slovakia seized areas along Poland's southern border - including "Górna Orawa and "Tatranská Javorina - which Poland had annexed from Czechoslovakia in October 1938. Poland did not surrender to the invaders, but continued fighting under the auspices of the "Polish government-in-exile and of the "Polish Underground State. After the signing of the "German–Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Demarcation on 28 September 1939, Polish areas occupied by Nazi Germany either became directly annexed to the "Third Reich, or became part of the so-called "General Government. The Soviet Union, following rigged "Elections to the People's Assemblies of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus (22 October 1939), annexed eastern Poland partly to the "Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, and partly to the "Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (November 1939).

Polish "light tanks 7TP

Polish war plans ("Plan West and "Plan East) failed as soon as Germany invaded in 1939. The Polish losses in combat against Germans (killed and missing in action) amounted to ca. 70,000 men. Some 420,000 of them were taken prisoners. Losses against the Red Army (which invaded Poland on 17 September) added up to 6,000 to 7,000 of casualties and MIA, 250,000 were taken prisoners. Although the Polish army – considering the inactivity of the Allies – was in an unfavorable position – it managed to inflict serious losses to the enemies: 14,000 German soldiers were killed or MIA, 674 tanks and 319 armored vehicles destroyed or badly damaged, 230 aircraft shot down; the Red Army lost (killed and MIA) about 2,500 soldiers, 150 combat vehicles and 20 aircraft. The Soviet invasion of Poland, and lack of promised aid from the Western Allies, contributed to the Polish forces defeat by 6 October 1939.

"ORP Orzeł was the "lead ship of "her class of "submarines serving in the "Polish Navy during "World War II

A popular myth is that "Polish cavalry armed with lances charged German tanks during the September 1939 campaign. This often repeated account, first reported by Italian journalists as "German propaganda, concerned an action by the Polish 18th Lancer Regiment near Chojnice. This arose from misreporting of a single clash on 1 September 1939 near "Krojanty, when two squadrons of the Polish 18th Lancers armed with sabers surprised and wiped out a German infantry formation with a mounted sabre charge. Shortly after midnight the 2nd (Motorized) Division was compelled to withdraw by Polish cavalry, before the Poles were caught in the open by German armored cars. The story arose because some German armored cars appeared and gunned down 20 troopers as the cavalry escaped. Even this failed to persuade everyone to reexamine their beliefs—there were some who thought Polish cavalry had been improperly employed in 1939.

Between 1939 and 1990, the Polish government-in-exile operated in Paris and later in London, presenting itself as the only legal and legitimate representative of the "Polish nation. In 1990 the last president in exile, "Ryszard Kaczorowski handed the presidential insignia to the newly elected "President, "Lech Wałęsa, signifying continuity between the Second and "Third republics.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The End, "TIME Magazine, 2 October 1939
  2. ^ Mieczysław Biskupski. The history of Poland. "Greenwood Publishing Group. 2000. p. 51. "ISBN "0313305714
  3. ^ Norman Davies. Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland's Present. "Oxford University Press. 2001. pp. 100-101. "ISBN "0192801260
  4. ^ Piotr S. Wandycz. The Lands of Partitioned Poland 1795-1918. "University of Washington Press. 1974. p. 368. "ISBN "0295953586
  5. ^ "MacMillan, Margaret (2007). "17: Poland Reborn". Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. New York: Random House. p. 207. "ISBN "9780307432964. The rebirth of Poland was one of the great stories of the Paris Peace Conference. 
  6. ^ a b "Norman Davies, "God's Playground, Columbia University Press, 2005, "ISBN "0-231-12819-3, Google Print, p.299
  7. ^ Mieczysław B. Biskupski. The origins of modern Polish democracy. "Ohio University Press. 2010. p. 130.
  8. ^ Richard J. Crampton. Atlas of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Routledge. 1997. p. 101. "ISBN "1317799518.
  9. ^ Richard M. Watt, Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918–1939 (1998)
  10. ^ "Rady Delegatów Robotniczych w Polsce". Internetowa encyklopedia PWN. Retrieved July 30, 2015. 
  11. ^ Andrzej Garlicki (1995), Józef Piłsudski, 1867–1935.
  12. ^ Norman Richard Davies, White Eagle, Red Star: the Polish-Soviet War, 1919–20 (2nd ed. 2003)
  13. ^ A. Polonsky, Politics in Independent Poland, 1921–1939: The Crisis of Constitutional Government (1972)
  14. ^ Peter Hetherington, Unvanquished: Joseph Piłsudski, Resurrected Poland, and the Struggle for Eastern Europe (2012); W. Jędrzejewicz, Piłsudski. A Life for Poland (1982)
  15. ^ David G. Williamson (2011). Poland Betrayed: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939. Stackpole Books. p. 21. 
  16. ^ Walter M. Drzewieniecki,"The Polish Army on the Eve of World War II," Polish Review (1981) 26#3 pp 54–64 in JSTOR
  17. ^ a b Nikolaus Wolf, "Path dependent border effects: the case of Poland's reunification (1918–1939)", "Explorations in Economic History, 42, 2005, pgs. 414–438
  18. ^ Godzina zero. Interview with professor Wojciech Roszkowski, Tygodnik Powszechny, 04.11.2008"Także reformę Grabskiego przeprowadziliśmy sami, kosztem społeczeństwa, choć tym razem zapłacili obywatele z wyższych sfer, głównie posiadacze ziemscy."
  19. ^ a b Stephen Broadberry, Kevin H. O'Rourke. The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe: Volume 2, 1870 to the Present. "Cambridge University Press. 2010. pp. 188, 190.
  20. ^ (1929-1930) Angus Maddison. The World Economy Volume 1: A Millennial Perspective Volume 2: Historical Statistics. Academic Foundation. 2007. p. 478. [1]
  21. ^ Atlas Historii Polski, Demart Sp, 2004, "ISBN "83-89239-89-2
  22. ^ 70 years of television in Poland, TVP INFO, 26.08.2009
  23. ^ a b c d Witold Gadomski, Spłata długu po II RP. Liberte.pl (in Polish).
  24. ^ Piotr Osęka, Znoje na wybojach. Polityka weekly, July 21, 2011
  25. ^ Urzędowy Rozkład Jazy i Lotów, Lato 1939. Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Komunikacji, Warszawa 1939
  26. ^ Sprawa reformy rolnej w I Sejmie Âlàskim (1922–1929) by Andrzej Drogon
  27. ^ Godzina zero, interview with Wojciech Roszkowski. 04.11.2008
  28. ^ Białe plamy II RP, interview with professor Andrzej Garlicki, December 5, 2011
  29. ^ Wojna celna (German–Polish customs' war) (Internet Archive), Encyklopedia PWN, Biznes.
  30. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives Volume 3, (October 1938) p. 3283.
  31. ^ "Norman Davies (2005), God's Playground A History of Poland: Volume II: 1795 to the Present. Oxford University Press, p. 175. "ISBN "0199253390.
  32. ^ B. G. Smith. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History: 4 Volume Set. "Oxford University Press. 2008 p. 470.
  33. ^ Maria Carla Galavotti, Elisabeth Nemeth, Friedrich Stadler (2013). European Philosophy of Science - Philosophy of Science in Europe and the Viennese Heritage. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 408, 175–176, 180–183. "ISBN "331901899X.  Also in: Sandra Lapointe, Jan Wolenski, Mathieu Marion, Wioletta Miskiewicz (2009). The Golden Age of Polish Philosophy: Kazimierz Twardowski's Philosophical Legacy. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 127, 56. "ISBN "9048124018. 
  34. ^ "Michael Ellman (2005), Stalin and the Soviet Famine of 1932-33 Revisited. Europe-Asia Studies. "PDF file.
  35. ^ a b c Joseph Marcus, Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919–1939, Mouton Publishing, 1983, "ISBN "90-279-3239-5, Google Books, p. 17
  36. ^ "Przynależność narodowo-etniczna ludności – wyniki spisu ludności i mieszkań 2011" [Ethnic makeup of Polish citizenry according to census of 2011] (PDF). Materiał na konferencję prasową w dniu 2013-01-29. "GUS: 3, 4 – via PDF file, direct download 192 KB. 
  37. ^ PWN (2016). "Rosja. Polonia i Polacy". Encyklopedia PWN. Stanisław Gregorowicz. "Polish Scientific Publishers PWN. 
  38. ^ Powszechny Spis Ludnosci r. 1921

Further reading[edit]

Politics and diplomacy[edit]

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