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Poland Border Changes


Administrative Divisions of interest for Family History research:
    From the time of the "Partions of Poland" 1772-1918, the German/Prussian occupied areas...
    ...these are the Kreis/District divisions that are used for the 1871 "Kreis" maps of the German Empire
    ...and this is the time period when the majority of emmigration took place
    ...see following overlay map and East Prussian Empire Kreis/Districts Map

    The 49 Wojewodztwo/Provinces of 1975 prior to the recent restructure into 16 on 1.I.1999...
    ...The 49 and how they went into 16 (text)
    ...these are the divisions that are used in the Locality Index and Catalog at the LDS-Family History Library(FHL)
    ...and are the divisions used in the "Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych"
       [Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland] ...1998 Directory now on-line and searchable

    The current province divisions (16)...
    ...these are used for current Rootsweb/WorldGenWeb websites and message boards


Authentic Polish history began in the early 9th century with the rule of Mieszko I (the "Little Bear")
when the Polians obtained hegemony over the others Slavic tribes that occupied the country.

In 1333-1370 Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) built Poland into a major Central-European power,
increasing her territory 2.5 times.

Poland and Lithuania were united in 1385 with the marriage of young Polish Queen Hedwig to the 
Lithuanian Grand Duke Ladislaus Jogaila, who became king of Poland as Ladislaw II (Wladislaw).

In 1569 the Union of Lublin was a formal union of Poland and Lithuania creating the "Rzeczpospolita
Polska" (the Polish Commonwealth).  After 1572 no dynasty maintained itself for long, and the theory that
the entire nobility could take part in the royal elections frequently led to contested elections and civil wars.

Between 1579 and 1582 Poland came to the aid of Inflanty (Livonia: modern day Estonia and Latvia)
which had been attacked by the Muscovite Tsar, Ivan the Terrible. After a successful campaign and
a brilliant victory at Pskov, Poland accepted the Muscovite plea for peace; Livonia joined the
Commonwealth and Poland was now recognized as the greatest power in Central Europe.

Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania map
In 1586, the Swedish crown prince, Zygmunt Vasa, was brought to the throne. There would eventually be three Vasa Kings and the period would see long rivalry and wars between Poland and Sweden for the control of the Baltic. Under his reign the Polish magnates (great lords) rose to a position of power that would eventually destroy Poland through their greed. In 1697 the Elector of Saxony, Augustus, was elected King, the next sixty-six years of Saxon rule were a national disaster and drove the country to the brink of anarchy. Most ominous was the fact that in 1732 Russia, Prussia and Austria had entered into a secret alliance to maintain the paralysis of law and order within Poland (through control of the Polish magates). This pact became known as the "Alliance of the Three Black Eagles" (since all three powers had a black eagle in their coat-of-arms). The wars of the 17th Century had left Poland ruined; her population had decreased by a third. Taking advantage of a now weakened Poland, Prussia, Russia and Austria agreed to annex parts of the country in 1772, with the first of the three "Partitions of Poland". More territories were annexed in 1793 and 1795, completely removing Poland from the map.
Unifications of Germany 1740-1871
Middle Europe 1897
Partitions of Poland map
Partitions of Poland (text)
In 1807 after defeating the Prussians, Napoleon set up a Polish State made up of the lands the Prussians had taken in the second partition. This was the Duchy of Warsaw. After Napoleons defeat, in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna, the Duchy was partitioned and a large part went to Russia and was administered as the Kingdom of Poland. After many uprisings by the Poles, in 1865 they were finally put down, the Kingdom of Poland was abolished and a severe policy of persecution and "Russification" was established. In the Prussian occupied zone, the aim was also to totally destroy the Polish language and culture. In Austrian Poland, Galicia, conditions were different. After 1868 the Poles had a degree of self-government, the Polish language was kept as the official language and the Universities of Krakow and Lwow were allowed to function.
Atlas of the German Empire 1880
Map of German Empire 1917
On 11 November 1918, Polish Independence was proclaimed. An uprising liberated Poznan and, shortly after, Pomerania (which gave access to the Baltic). In the chaos that followed the collapse of the Central Powers, new states had arisen; Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and the Ukrainian Republic. All these states laid claims on territory occupied by Poles. The Poles liberated Wilno from the Lithuanians in 1919, reoccupied the area around Cieszyn (which had been invaded by the Czechs) and annexed the Western Ukraine when the Ukrainian Republic, which had been supported by Poland, collapsed under attack from Soviet forces. On August 15th 1920, Poland routed the Red Army by Warsaw and saved a weakened Europe from Soviet conquest. An Armistice was signed at Riga in October, followed by a Peace Treaty in March 1921 which determined and secured Poland's eastern frontiers. In 1922 part of Upper Silesia was awarded to Poland by a Geneva Convention following three uprisings by the Polish population who had been handed over to Germany at the Peace Treaty of Versailles.
Changes from the Treaty of Versailles (text)
Europe on the Eve of World War II 1939
In August 1939, Germany and Russia signed a secret agreement concerning the future of Poland. 20 years of Polish rule was interrupted by a new German attack on September 1, 1939. And on September 17th, Soviet forces invaded from the east. After fighting on two fronts against both German and Soviet forces, Poland surrendered on October 5th. Under the German-Soviet pact Poland was divided; the Soviets took and absorbed, the eastern half (Byelorussia and the West Ukraine), the Germans incorporated Pomerania, Posnania and Silesia into the Reich whilst the rest was designated as the General-Government. In June 1941, the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany. At Yalta, in February 1945, the Allies put Poland within the Russian zone of influence in a post-war Europe. At the end of the war on May 8th, 1945, half the country was swallowed up by the Soviet Union.
Map of Post WWII Europe
Maps of Polish Province changes 1939-1998
Province changes of 1 January 1999 (49 into 16) (text)
After the fall of the former Soviet Union, the country became the Republic of Poland in December 1989.


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08/2002 M.A.Leonard, Last Update-09/03/2007