Poland’s Territorial Changes 1635-Present – Life, Death & Rebirth
February 15, 2016
Poland has not been one of Europe’s luckiest countries.
It’s gone from being the largest country in Europe to being wiped off the map, not once but several times. These territorial shifts had a profound impact on Poland’s political and social composition. It is now a century after Poland was restored but differences persist between those parts that were ruled by Germans and those that were part of Austria or Russia. The European powers did not dismember Poland at once. They went through three rounds of partition between 1772 and 1795. Then Napoleon’s France revived it as a puppet state, the Duchy of Warsaw, in 1807. The Congress of Vienna, which withdrew the map of Europe after Napoleon’s defeat, restored Poland in 1815, but it was gradually absorbed by Russia in the years thereafter. Poland was restored again after World War I. But the Soviets at the end of World War II to claimed Poland’s Eastern Borderlands, which were added to the Belarusian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian Soviet republics. Poland was compensated with territories in the west, taken from the defeated Germans. Around one million Poles were transferred from the Russian borderlands to these “Recovered Territories” in the west.
The map below traces the history of Poland’s borders from 1635 right through to the present day.
Watch as the borders shrink from their peak during the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth to the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century to the massive shift west during the 20th.
Map created by Esemono via WikimediaHere’s a bit more background about some of the key years listed in the map above:
- 1657: Treaty of Wehlau and Bromberg the Hohenzollern dynasty of Brandenburg given hereditary sovereignty in the Duchy of Prussia.
- 1660: Treaty of Oliva, the end of Swedish involvement in the Deluge.
- 1667: End of Russo-Polish War and the end of the Deluge.
- 1672: Treaty of Buchach, ceded Podolia to the Ottomans.
- 1686: Eternal Peace Treaty of 1686, reconfirms peace with Russia. The peace itself would prove not to be eternal.
- 1699: Treaty of Karlowitz Podolia returned to Poland from Ottomans.
- 1772: First Partition of Poland
- 1793: Second Partition of Poland
- 1795: Third Partition of Poland – Poland disappears from the map.
- 1807: Duchy of Warsaw created.
- 1809: Battle of Raszyn, results in an expanded Duchy of Warsaw.
- 1815: Congress Poland created following Napoleonic Wars. While de jure an independent state, it was in personal union with the Russian Empire. Thus, it was de facto a Russian client state until 1867, when it was formally absorbed into the empire.
- 1815: Grand Duchy of Posen also created following the Napoleonic wars and was a Prussian client state.
- 1815: Free City of Kraków also created.
- 1831: Start of direct Russian military rule in the Congress of Poland, following November Uprising.
- 1846: Kraków Uprising failure results in Free City of Kraków being annexed to Austria.
- 1848: Grand Duchy of Posen downgraded to a Prussian province following the failure of the Greater Poland Uprising. Poland once again ceases to exist.
- 1867: Austria-Hungary created following Austria defeat in the Austro-Prussian war.
- 1871: German Empire proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.
- 1914: Outbreak of World War One.
- 1917: Russian Revolution begins.
- 1918: World War One ends and West Ukrainian People’s Republic declared.
- 1919: New Polish state created as part of the Treaty of Versailles. The new state includes most of Posen, Polish Corridor, part of eastern Upper Silesia. Poland also seizes territory from the West Ukrainian People’s Republic as part of the short Polish–Ukrainian War.
- 1920: Free City of Danzig created.
- 1920: Polish–Lithuanian War results in the creation of the short lived Republic of Central Lithuania.
- 1920: Conference of Ambassadors results in minor territorial exchanges with Czechoslovakia.
- 1920: Battle of Warsaw results in a deceive Polish victory against the Soviet Union, saving Poland.
- 1921: Peace of Riga ends the Soviet-Polish War, ending Poland’s conflicts with its neighbours.
- 1922: Republic of Central Lithuania becomes part of Poland.
- 1924: Further territorial changes between Czechoslovakia and Poland.
- 1938: Czech half of Cieszyn, was annexed by Poland in 1938 following the Munich Agreement and First Vienna Award.
- 1939: Poland ceases to exist once again after being partitioned between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia at the outbreak of World War Two.
- 1945: Poland re-emerges on the map following the end of World War Two as the People’s Republic of Poland, a Soviet satellite state. As a result of extensive territorial changes, Poland moves several hundred kilometres to the west, losing its former eastern territories to the Soviet Union.
- 1945-1975: Minor territorial changes between Poland and its communist neighbours.
- 1989: People’s Republic of Poland comes to an end and Poland becomes a democracy.
- 2002: Minor border adjustments with Slovakia.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of Poland have a look at the following books:
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