Chapter One: The Historical Background
Poland appears in history during the last decades of the X century as a realm which not only included the western provinces of the present Polish state and extended beyond, but also comprised an important part of its eastern provinces in the region which went for many centuries under the name Red Ruthenia. Geographically this region is characterised by the close intermingling of the three river systems of the San, the Bug, and the Dniester. Historically it is noteworthy that it was precisely here that the two political formations, which arose almost simultaneously, Poland in the west and Kiev in the east, came into contact, when, according to the chronicler Nestor, Vladimir the Great, Grand Duke of Kiev, conquered the castles of Przemysl, Czerwien and others from the Poles (981).
The relations of Poland with her neighbours in the southeast during the following generations were such as prevailed everywhere in the Middle Ages, presenting a sequence of conflicts and agreements of a dynastic character. In spite of his conquests, Vladimir the Great is credited by his historian with having lived in peace with neighbouring princes, Boleslas of Poland being specially mentioned among them. But twice, in 1018 and 1070, Polish kings entered Kiev in arms, bringing aid to friends or kinsmen. In the last years of the XII century Casimir the Just extended his dominions as far as Vladimir and Halicz.
Meanwhile, the proud realm of St. Vladimir split up into a multitude of principalities which reached the number of over seventy. In consequence of this excessive division of the Ruthenian States the Duchy of Suzdal in the north-east, which was to become the nucleus of that of Moscow, began to overshadow its southern neighbours. But all these early developments met with an abrupt end through the great invasion of the Mongols in the middle of the XIII century. The entire political system covering the vast lands drained by the Dneister, the Boh and the Dneiper, was wiped out; only in the extreme west did a fragment of it survive. Daniel, Prince of Halicz, looked for aid to the Hungarians and the Pope and succeeded in establishing an important realm in Red Ruthenia absed on the ducal seats of Halicz and Vladimir of Volhynia. But after a few generations his dynasty became extinct and it was a Polish prince, Bolko, Duke of Mazovia, who came into his lands. After a short reign he died in his turn and Casimir the Great, King of Poland, his kinsman, claimed succession (1340). Simultaneously the northern part of the principality was taken over by Lubart, youngest son of Gedymin, Grand Duke of Lithuania.
Starting from its modest domain on the lower reaches of the Niemen, this valiant dynasty at this time advanced southwards, somewhat in the Norman style, into a world still swayed by the Mongols, and, resuming the old fuedal traditions of the country, settled its sons in a series of principalities, finally extending its power to the steppes bordering the Black Sea. In this way Ruthenian lands found themselves liberated from the Tatar yoke, not by virtue of their own efforts, but through the intervention of a new agent in their history. Poland for her part faced a new power along the whole length of her eastern frontier.
The Lithuanians, then still a pagan race, were not always peaceful neighbours, and the eastern regions of Poland often had to suffer from their inroads. A new struggle broke out over the inheritance of Vladimir, which Casimir the Great victoriously concluded, joining Volhynia to his kingdom in 1352. His peaceful and able rule benefitted Red Ruthenia as much as his other domains. It was he who first founded the Greek Orthodox metropoly at Halicz.
His nephew and heir, Louis of Anjou, being King of both Poland and Hungary, annexed Red Ruthenia to Hungary, a thing which led to a conflict with the latter in the reign of his daughter Jadwiga. Meanwhile a major event occurred which was to decide the whole future of the Polish east. For generations Poland had suffered from the encroachments of the Tuetonic order established in Polish territory in the XIII century, and systematically extending their possessions at the expense of their neighbours. After the overthrow and extermination of the Prussians (N.B. in those days the Prussians were a tribe not the same as the modern day Prussians who overtook them) it was Lithuania which as a pagan power became the object of the crusading undertakings of these ruthless missionaries supported by the knighthoods of many countries. In the east both realms were also menaced by the ever formidable power of the Tartars . It was in the face of this common peril that the young Queen of Poland was prevailed upon to give her hand to Jagello, Grand Duke of Lithuania, who promised to receive baptism with his entire people.
The marriage took place in 1386. The union of the two countries formed the largest European realm of the time. The immediate results of their becoming linked together were not long in appearing. In 1410 a great victory was won in common over the Tuetonic Order at Tannenberg. Simultaneously Lithuania extended her conquests at the expense of the tartars in the east as far as the rivers Ugra and Oka.
The union went through many phases and encountered many obstacles. Dynastic difficulties arose and the possession of Volhynia and Podolia was a bone of contention. But the Jagellon dynasty acted ably and consistently to maintain its position, frequent dangers reminded the two peoples of the major interests which they had in remaining united, and above all the development of political conditions in Poland in the XV and XVI centuries exercised a strong force of attraction upon the inhabitants of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The extinction of the Piast dynasty (1372) and the recurrent questions of succession afforded the gentry of Poland the opportunity of gaining step by step an ever increasing measure of liberty and influence on the governance of the Kingdom, until, by the beginning of the XVI century, the whole constitution had been completely transformed. The once absolute power of the monarch was limited by the rights of the two Chambers of Parliament not only in the field of legislation but even in that of the executive. The sanctity of persons and of property, freedom of opinion and of print, a high measure of religious tolerance, the complete independence of the courts of justice, all these became outstanding features of Polish life. Very naturally this order of things awakened similar aspirations in Lithuania all the more as by the union concluded at Horodlo (1413) the biyars had had bestowed on them the privileges enjoyed at that time by the Polish knighthood, and the towns and the peasantry of the Grand Duchy had received the rights to which they were entitled according to Polish law.
The ground was therefore well prepared when Sigismund Augustus, last of the Jagellon dynasty, towards the close of his reign resolved to transform the personal union subsisting up till then into a real union of the two countries over which he reigned. That memorable act was carried out by the Diet of Lublin in 1569. The only opposition which made itself at all felt proceeded from the lords of the Grand Duchy Council. Otherwise this act was highly popular in Lithuania although it also provided the cession to Poland of Podlasia, Volhynia, Braclaw and Kiev. It brought about in the years that followed a strong spread of Polish language and letters, culture and customs in Lithuanian lands. The contemporary religious movements and controversies had a similar effect. Lithuania maintained a distinct political organization, a treasury, army and code of laws with distinct public offices, but these were moulded in the Polish form and the federal commonwealth rapidly developed into a homogenous whole.
Its resources grew in consequence. When Moscow, having finally shaken off Tartar suzerainty, set out under its Grand Dukes and Tsars on its great career of expansion and conquest it found itself faced in the west by a power strikingly contrasting in spirit and institutions, but still its equal in strength. Similarly the clashes with Turkey in the south were met in an unflinching mood and with adequate means. Poland’s danger lay in the south-east. There she found herself from the XIII century onwards on the confines of civilization facing fluid and at the same time inexhaustible forces drawing part of their strength from the depths of Asia. In the course of history the Tartars raided Polish territory on innumerable occasions, as often as not at the instigation of Poland’s enemies, ceaselessly taxing her military resources.
But in these vast wilds another peculiar element sprang up which formed a counterpart to the Tartars and eventually played an important role in Polish history. The Cossacks were originally rough borderers recruited from many lands, who volunteered to settle in the steppes and formed a militia. The governors of the frontier fortresses having undertaken to register them and subject them to a certain discipline, the Cossacks objected and began to escape to the distant region beyond the rapids of the Dnieper, Zaporoze, where they formed armed camps and whence, being free from all control, they carried on their endless fray with the Tartars and their predatory expeditions into Turkish possessions. For this very reason it became a necessity for Poland to impose her authority upon them. Hence successive clashes occurred in the last decade of the XVI century in which the Cossacks were beaten and subdued but not without having carried out devastating incursions into the “Borderland” Ukraina. The task of restraining them was further a difficult one and they retained many sympathisers among the restless elements naturally frequent in newly colonized regions, ill-fitting into the social system of nobiliary Poland.
It was in this ever threatening quarter that in the middle of the XVII century a great upheaval broke out, followed by wars and foreign invasions which threatened Poland’s very existence and, in fact, put an end to her development and prosperity which had lasted nearly three centuries.
The head of the great rebellion, Bohdan Chmielnicki, was a Polish squire and the immediate cause of his exasperation was the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of a fellow gentleman. The backgound of the unrest among the Cossacks was sudden reversal of King Ladislaus IV preparations for a great war with Turkey for which great numbers of them had been enlisted. Chmielnicki often declared that the movement was not directed against the King, but against the nobility and more especially against the mighty landlords of the Borderland. Inevitably, as the leader of a revolutionary outbreak, Chmielnicki stirred up every kind of discontent smouldering in this land of primitive, violent and reckless men. He appealed to the tiller of the soil resenting his dependence on the landowner, to the small squire nourishing grievances against the powerful lord, to the peasant bearing ill-will to the jewish money-lender, to the Greek Orthodox clergy not admitted to some of the privileges of the Catholic hierarchy.
It was only after unforseen successes that Chmielnicki’s ambitions grew, and that he began to envisage the possibility of severing the Borderland from the mother country. It is therefore a simplification of very complex events when historians of the Ukraine unhesitatingly claim Chmielnicki’s rebellion as well as other Cosack revolts to have been the outcome of a national movement. In fact Chmielnicki unleashed formidable forces, but his policy was governed by the changing course of events, not admitting of any clear aim. Chmielnicki threw Poland open to a fierce invasion of the tartars, his allies, and attempted to raise the whole peasantry in a bloody revolt. He declared himself hetman of all Ruthenia, then courted and finally did homage to the Sultan and threatened to overrun the possessions of the Tsar of Moscow as a vanguard of Islam. He then concluded an agreement with the King and himself suppressed centres of the rebellion he had stirred up; he aspired to found a principality for himself in Moldavia which twice before he had laid waste, and, having failed there and incurred the enmity of the Tartars , finally surrendered himself and the people, whose liberties he had been supposed to champion, to the Tsar.
A new invasion of Poland, this time by the Muscovites, and a long war ensued, in the course of which a creditable attempt was made at Hadjadj (1658) to settle Cossack affairs by creating a third member of the Polish and Lithuanian federation under the form of a duchy of Ruthenia in which the more prominent and faithful Cossacks would be called upon to play the part of a privileged class with important liberties for the rest of the people. But the anarchy prevailing was not so easy to check, and the Cossacks, although quickly tired of the Tsar’s protection, still continued to shift their policy between Poland and Moscow, which also retained many partisans among them. The two countries continued their struggle and exchanged severe blows until the desire for peace gained ground on both sides and a compromise was arrived at in the form of a new delimitation in Ruthenian lands. Poland regained most of her northern territories but ceded to the Tsar Smolensk and her possessions beyond the lower reaches of the Dnieper as well as Kiev. This agreement was signed at Andruszow in 1667. The frontier line thus established persisted down to the First Partition of Poland.
This long period of wars and devastating invasions from every quarter, followed by a new struggle with Turkey in the reign of Sobieski, was a prelude to Poland’s decline which ended in the partitions. But even the years of exhaustion and political prostration contributed towards the welding of the eastern voievodships to the rest of the country. In the XVIII century the typical life of the Polish ancien regime in the district and the province focussed around the dietines and law courts, the churches, convents and schools was nowhere more stirring and full of colour than it was in the east, and Polish with its characteristic mixture of Latin became everywhere definitely dominant. In the reign of Augustus III the antiquated Ruthenian of the Grand Ducal Chancellory of Lithuania was abandoned as no more intelligible to those concerned. It is true that public life was only accessible to the privileged class, but this does not apply to the church and the Roman Catholic Church everywhere used Polish as the vernacular. Further, it must be borne in mind that the franchise in ancient Poland extended to about 10% of the population and consequently gave considerable statistical weight even to the developments which only concerned the “gentry”. And these “petty gentry” were especially numerous in the eastern territories. Polish peasant settlements, the result of many generations of colonization, were also by no means rare.
Besides, the movement in favour of reform was by the middle of the XVIII century permeating the country at large. In the political field it was baulked by the neighbouring powers, which by this time were in a position openly to interfere in the affairs of Poland. The field of education was clear, and here decisive steps were taken as early as 1747 when Stanislas Konarski, provincial of the Piarists, founded his first reformed school. By 1775 the Commission of Public Education, the first board of this scope and character in Europe, was founded.
From the first the eastern provinces were brilliantly represented among the reformers. In Wolczyn near Brest of Lithuania the Princes Czartoryski held their enlightened court. Prince Adam, with Joachim Chreptowicz, J. U. Niemcewicz, Bishop Igance Massalski of Wilno, the educationalist Gregory Piramowicz of Lwow, were among the first members of that pioneer body. The rights of the estates in Poland being paramount, measures of this kind could not be settled in the royal cabinet. They had to be fought out by public opinion, which by this time was fast recovering from its torpor. The share taken by men of the eastern territories in the struggle for political reform which led to the enactment of the new consttution on May 3rd, 1791, and in the cultural revival accomplished in the reign of Stanislas Augustus, was too great for it to be possible here to enumerate their names. The same can be said of the armed conflicts in defence of the country’s independence. Let it suffice to point out that the first national insurrection against foreign interference had its starting point in Bar in Podolia (1768), and that the best known popular hero of the next generation, Kosciuszko, was a “Lithuanian” of humble descent born in the neighbourhood of Slonim. When the venerable academy of Wilno was, already under Russian sovereignty, transformed into a complete university entrusted to the curatorship of Prince Adam Czartoryski, at one time the friend of Aleksander I, it rapidly became the largest and most influential centre of Polish learning and education that so far had existed. Here the great school of romantic poetry headed by Mickiewicz took its rise and ushered in modern Polish literature. On a smaller scale something analagous took place at Krzemieniec in Volhynia under the patronage of Tadeusz Czacki.
But the partitions of Poland were a catastrophe, if possible even greater for the eastern provinces than for the rest of the country. Their share in patriotic movements and struggles for liberation was passionate and the repressions which followed more ruthless and crushing than elsewhere. 1812, 1830-31, 1863 mark the outstanding dates in that tragic history. Mickiewicz had immortalized the unquenchable hopes of Lithuania centered on the war of 1812 as well as the pitiless reprisals directed at the students of Wilno University in 1822-23. Vast areas of Polish landed property were confiscated, thousands of the most patriotic citizens were exiled or deported to Siberia and, what is more, the practice of transplanting populations was applied to the Polish element on a considerable scale. But the most sweeping measures concerned the religious field.
For many generations Russia had seen her chance of spreading her ascendancy over Polish territories, not so much in the ethnic heterogeneity of the Polish East, as in the existence in Poland of an important branch of the Greek Orthodox Church of which Moscow succeeded in becoming the acknowledged protector. Poland countered these endeavours in two different directions. On the one hand she encouraged and attained the re-union with Rome of a large fraction of the Greek Church within her boundaries (1596). On the other, she repeatedly contributed to the erection on her territory of an indepenent Orthodox hierarchy under the patronage of the ancient patriarchal see of Constantinople, not under that of the new one in Moscow. After the Partitions, Russia gained complete control of these matters. The Orthodox Church in Polish lands found itself immediately fused with the State Church of the Russian Empire, which, since the days of Peter the Great, was no longer governed by a patriarch but directly controlled by a bureaucratic board known as the Holy Synod. The Uniate Church, at the moment of the Partitions, possessed a very large body of followers. About 20% of the total population of Poland belonged to it. But it survived only in the Austrian partition. Under the Russian sphere it was ruthlessly suppressed by a series of ukases (proclamations having the weight of the law). Elsewhere Polish national feeling and national tradition found right of sanctuary in the Church, but here the Church became the most unrelenting and searching instrument of Russification.
All other methods of attaining that object were also adopted. Down to 1863 vestiges of the Polish language survived in some branches of the administration. After that date they were unrelentingly abolished. The University of Wilno was closed down in the early thirties (1830s) and the Polish language, which remained the mother-tongue of millions, was severely excluded from education. In Wilno, its very use in public was forbidden. In 1865 persons of Catholic descent were prohibited from aquiring landed property.
But, while thus in the provinces of the Russian partition all reminiscences of the past were being unmercifully obliterated, in Austrian Poland, including its eastern part, things developed in the opposite sense. Austria, under the rule of Prince Metternich and after, had also tried her hand at denationalizing her Polish subjects. But after Sadowa the Monarchy had been obliged to come to terms with them. At that time the Polish language was introduced into the public administration, and the country was granted a considerable measure of self-government. As a consequence education in Polish and also in Ruthenian was reinstated in the schools and in the University of Lwow, where Polish culture showed a rapid growth.
A lasting vestige of Polish rule, which remained wherever the frontiers of the ancient Commonwealth had reached, was the attachment of the inhabitants to the individual form of property. When the peasants were emancipated in the Russian Empire (1862-1865) the Government yielded to the influence of the so-called Slavophiles who, in their enthusiasm for alleged Slavonic traditions advocated the maintenance of the “mir” or collective village property with periodical re-distribution of plots for cultivation among the particular farmers. In the provinces which were once Polish, as far as the Dnieper and beyond, many negligencies and inconsistencies occurred, intricacies of property and of rights of common were allowed to survive, but the “mir” could not be and was not introduced. The instincts and traditions of the people were too much opposed to these encroachments on their simple notion of an independent existence.
Another indelible mark left by Polish sovereignty in the east was the presence of Jewish communities. Russia had never admitted them into her territory. She took them over, when annexing Polish lands, but a “pale of Jewish settlement” beyond which Jews were not allowed to reside existed to the end of the Tsarist regime. It roughly corresponded to the former boundaries of Poland.
After the dark days which made up the latter part of the XIX century the World War of 1914-18 brought to these lands the dawn of better times to come. The Polish-Russian campaign which followed in 1919-20 was like the recurrence of a contest centuries old of which they had been the theatre and the stake. Long enough they had been situated across the line of partition between east and west, between Byzantine influences and Roman traditions, between absolutism and free government, between oriental bondage and an unquenchable spirit of liberty, between Europe and Eurasia. So when signing the Treaty of Riga on March 18th, 1921, Poland’s representatives most earnestly desired to bring that contest to an end on a basis of fairness and moderation. They renounced Poland’s historic frontiers of 1772 and her rights to a vast area almost equalling in size the total of her own territory. What remained within her boundaries was a country intimately bound up in her life and bearing the unmistakeable imprint of her past, of her faith and of her civilization.
Chapter Two: General Outlines
The four northern Palatinates (Voievoidships or Provinces) of eastern Poland: Wilno, Nowogrodek, Polesia and Volhynia, belonged up to the Great War (1914-1918) to the Russian Empire. The three southern ones, Lwow, Tarnopol and Stanislawow, formed a part of the Hapsburg Monarchy.
During the Great War this whole area was a battlefield of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian armies. The three southern provinces were occupied by the Russians from September, 1914, until June, 1915, the northern provinces were in the summer of 1915 invaded by the Germans. Between 1918 and 1920 these regions were again a theatre of war, this time between Poland and Soviet Russia.; the southern area was disturbed during 1918 and 1919 by fighting between Poles and Ukrainian military formations which ended with a Polish victory in the summer of 1919, and on June 25th, 1919, Poland was authorised by a decision of the Supreme Inter-Allied Council to occupy the whole of Eastern Galicia to the river Zbrucz. After a temporary setback in the summer of 1920 the war with the Soviets ended in the same year with a complete Polish victory in the battles of Warsaw (August, 1920) and of the Nieman (September, 1920). The victory was followed by the treaty of Riga , signed in March of 1921, under which the eastern frontier of Poland in its present form was traced as a result of laborious negotiations. Compared with the historic frontiers of Poland as they had existed in 1772, Poland abandoned to Russia an area of roughly 120,000 square miles. Thus about one and a half million Poles were left outside of the Polish boundaries, largely as a result of that policy of relentless national oppression which Russia had carried on for over a century.
The Lithuanian borderland has its own history. In December, 1918, the German troops retreated westwards and detachments of the Bolshevik Army entered the area of Wilno, which was taken on January 5th, 1919. Eight days before, the Lithuanian National Council (Taryba) created there by the German occupants had moved from Wilno to Kovno. On April 22nd, 1919, Wilno was wrested from Soviet forces by a Polish army. The changing fortune of war forced Poland in the summer of 1920 to abandon Wilno for three months during which it was captured again by the Russians who on retiring handed it over to the Lithuanians. On October 9th, 1919, a free Polish Corps conducted by General Zeligowski entered Wilno. The town with its surrounding area was organized as an independent territory known at the time as Central Lithuania. But all attempts at reconciliation between this new political formation and the Lithuanian Republic having failed, a local parliament was convoked which unanimously insisted on the incorporation of Wilno in Poland (January 9th, 1922).
In the south-east, Poland found herself a neighbour not only of the Soviet Republics but also of Rumania and Czecho-Slovakia, the boundary with the latter State being replaced in March, 1939, by frontiers with Slovakia and Hungary.
In accordance with article 87 of the Treaty of Versailles, Poland’s eastern frontiers were ratified by the Conference of Ambassadors on March 15th, 1923, and recognized by the United States on April 5th of the same year.
Until September 1st, 1939, Poland bordered with the Soviet along the eastern frontiers of the provinces of Wilno, Nowogrodek, Polesia, Volhynia and Tarnopol to the extent of 877 miles (about a quarter of the total of all the Polish borders), with Lithuania along the western frontiers of the province of Wilno for 149 miles (the entire Polono-Lithuanian boundary amounted to 315 miles, i.e. less than ten percent of the total Polish frontier line), with Latvia north of the Wilno province for 68 miles (two per cent), with Rumania along the southern and eastern part of the province of Stanislawow and along the southern part of the province of Tarnopol for 216 miles (over six per cent), with Hungary along the rest of the southern frontier of Stanislawow province and by a part of the southern Lwow boundary on 172 miles and finally with Slovakia on the rest of the southern province of Lwow for a distance of 94 miles.
The eastern Polish borderlands are situated in the basins of the following rivers: the Dvina, on the left banks of its lower course and its lower tributaries, the upper and middle course of the Nieman, the upper Pripet (a stream flowing into the Dnieper from the west), the upper Dniester, the upper Prut ( a stream flowing into the Danube) and the San, a tributary of the Vistula. The river systems of the Baltic and Black Sea join in these lands.
The area of the seven provinces amounted to 71,892 square miles, that is 47.70 per cent or almost one half of the total area of Poland. The population numbered:
1) In the four north-eastern provinces: in 1921, 4,200,000; in 1931, 5,600,000; in 1939, 6,200,000 inhabitants.
2) In the three south-estern provinces: in 1921, 5,500,000; in 1931, 6,200,000; in 1939, 6,700,000.
The figures for 1921 and 1931 are given in accordance with the census carried out in those years. Those for 1939 have been obtained on the basis of the former and the rate of natural increase.
The poplation of these seven provinces in 1939 was therefore nearly 13,000,000, i.e. 36.80 per cent of the total population of Poland.
The birth-rate per annum averaged:
1) In 1921-1931: 1.70 per cent for the total population, 3 per cent for the four north-eastern provinces and 1.3 per cent for the three south-eastern provinces.
2) In 1931-1939: 1.20 per cent for the total population, 1.40 per cent for the north-eastern provinces and 1.1 per cent for the south-eastern provinces.
The density of population in 1939 was for the north-east 126, and for the south-east 275 inhabitants per square mile, the average density for the whole country being 234 per square mile. In 1931 the total urban population of Poland was 8,900,000 (32.30 per cent), the figures for the north-east being 800,000 or 14.20 per cent, and for the south-east 1,300,000 or 21.60 per cent. The north-eastern group of provinces had sixteen towns of more than 10,000 inhabitants, the south-eastern group twenty nine towns. The biggest cities were Wilno with 200,000 and Lwow with more than 300,000 inhabitants. These two capitals are the main centres of civilization in the east. Contrary to sundry allegations it must be stressed that in Wilno the Lithuanians constituted only 0.8% of the total population, with 1,600 persons, the White Ruthenians 0.9% with 1,700 persons and the Ukrainians 3.80 % with 7,800 persons. The city of Lwow had 35,100, i.e. 11.30 % Ukrainians or Ruthenians, and not quite 500 or 0.10 % Russians. It must also be pointed out that in these two cities, as in all eastern towns, the problem of the Jewish minority was the only important one.
The seven eastern provinces were divided into 97 districts; each district formed the primary administrative unit with local self-government. The average Polish district, of which there were 266, comprised 565 square miles with 132,000 inhabitants. In the four north-eastern provinces a district averaged 1,274 square miles with 150,000 inhabitants, and in the three south-eastern provinces 386 square miles with 115,000 inhabitants. The districts comprised urban and rural municipal units, the latter termed “collective communes”, which included several villages, hamlets or settlements and represented the lowest unit of self-government. The eastern provinces contained 905 of these out of 3,195 for the whole country. The size of these communes varied considerably, the average for all Poland being 34.80 square miles, but in the four north-eastern provinces it ranged from 102 to 181 square miles, and in the south-eastern from 37.7 to 54.9 square miles.
These rather tedious statistics may be justified by the fact that in Poland the districts and the communes, rural and urban, were the framework for collaboration between the state authorities and the population on the basis of local self-government. The latter was founded on democratic principles of universal suffrage and proportional representation with ample powers in local matters, such as education. economic and social welfare, public health and communications. It therefore played a most important part in the cultural and economic development of the country. It also became a good school for public life and, with the complex minority conditions, a field in which every citizen, regardless of nationality and religion, could contribute his share of work. It may be noted, for instance, that in the south-east tens of thousands of Ukrainians collaborated in the communal self-government alone. It is to be emphasized, too, that this collaboration tending to solve local problems of all kinds, worked quite smoothly. National antagonism, which in the higher spheres of political life was often very clamorous, did not infiltrate into this important section of social and public work, definite proof that the sometimes stormy surface of the country’s political life did not reflect the reality of the peaceful and harmonious communal collaboration in the villages and towns of eastern Poland.
Another field of action which tended to allay racial distrust was the co-operative system. In the south-east it was carried on by associations which differed from one another in nationality, while in the north-eastern provinces it assumed a mixed character; in neither case was it infected seriously by germs of chauvinism. National sentiment did sometimes manifest itself in this field, but then it took the form of competition. These natural tendencies, founded on the real economic interests of the entire population such as trade, production or credit, and taking no account of religious, national or language differences, were in harmony with the spirit of the co-operative system. It is quite significant too, that even in Eastern Galicia, where nationalism roused much animosity between Polish and Ukrainian politicians, the members of the co-operative associations contrived to work together. Not only was the competition between them of a friendly nature, but they often collaborated in other fields. In the agricultural co-operative societies of Eastern Galicia, which dealt in milk, eggs and bacon, the Polish and Ukrainian central associations permanently joined their efforts with satisfactory results. Although the co-operative system is properly discussed in the chapter on economic life, it may not be out of place to say something about it here. Besides its economic and even political importance, it had many features in common with local self-government. The development of the co-operative associations in Poland may be divided into phases: a period of prosperity until 1929, a sudden decline during the critical years of 1930-32, and renewed progress from 1933 onwards. Whereas in 1928 Poland had 10,212 co-operative societies of all kinds, their number grew, in spite of the difficult years which followed, to 12,860 in 1937 and 13,741 in 1938. In the four north-eastern provinces the total amounted in 1937 to 1,734 co-operative societies, all of them founded after the war (WW1). In 1937 the three south-eastern provinces could boast of 4,994 associations, the Ukrainian societies increasing under Polish rule about six-fold, from 579 in 1921 to 3,194 in 1937.
Chapter Three: Races and Religions
According to the census of December 9th, 1931, the population of Poland numbered 32,132,936 inhabitants, consisting of 22,051,813 or 69.10 percent Poles and 9,924,860 or 30.90 percent language minorities. The seven eastern provinces had 11,758,000 inhabitants. Of these 4,751,900 or 40.40 percent of the total were Polish, the remainder being as follows: Ukrainians and Ruthenians 4,297,900 or 36.60 percent; White Ruthenians 781,200 or 6.60 percent; Russians 90,800 or 0.80 percent; Lithuanians and Germans, each about 80,000 or 0.70 percent; Czechs (in Volhynia) about 30,000 or 0.30 percent; Jews 925,600 or 7.90 percent; and “natives” of undefined nationality in Polesia 707,100 or 6.10 percent. The Polish population had therefore a relative majority of 40.40 percent.
To produce the clearest possible picture of the race and language aspect of the eastern provinces of Poland we may divide the list of districts into groups according to the percentage of Polish population as shown by the census of 1931. The first is the Polish majority group:
Fourteen districts present a compact Polish majority. Of these, four are situated in the western part of the voievodship of Wilno and in the north-western part of that of Nowogrodek, namely: Wilno-Troki with 84.3 percent Poles, Szczuczyn with 83.8 percent, Oszmiana with 81.5 percent and Lida with 79.4 percent.
In the south ten districts with compact Polish majorities border the ethnographically mixed zone. They are Tarnobrzeg with 92.9 percent Polish population, Nisko with 94.9, Przeworsk with 95.8, Lancut with 94.6, Kolbuszowa with 94.5, Rzeszow with 94.1, Brzozow with 82.4, Krosno with 81, Jaroslaw with 82.3 and Strzyzow with 95.7.
Sixteen districts have absolute Polish minorities. Five of these districts belong to the vast ethnic island of Wilno, being situated partly in the voievodship of Wilno, partly in the neighbouring voievodship of Nowogrodek. These are Braslaw with 66 percent Polish population, Swieciany with 50.2 percent, the city of Wilno with 66 percent, Wolozyn with 66.5 and Stolpce with 52.2 percent.
Three districts form a region of transition between the more compact and the scattered Polish settlements, Sanok with 59.8 percent Polish population, Mosciska with 56 percent and Przemysl with 53.2
Further east two groups of four districts each form two “ethnic islands” with absolute Polish majorities. One lies round Lwow comprising Lwow city with 63.7 percent Poles, Lwow district with 56.9 percent, Przemyslany with 58.3 percent, Kamionka Strumilowa with 51.1 percent. Another “island” is situated in Podolia and comprises the districts of Skalat with 66.6 percent Polish population, Tarnopol with 66.4, Trembowla with 60.9 and Zbaraz with 50 percent.
There are eight districts with relative Polish majorities in which the Polish-speaking group is more numerous than any other language group. One of them rounds off the “island” of Wilno on the eastern side, namely Postawy, where the Polish population amounts to 47.9 percent. Others adjoin the districts with Polish majority in southern Poland, Lubaczow with 49.8 percent Poles, Rudki with 48.4 percent and Drohobycz with 47.2 percent.
A further group connects the two ethnic islands of Lwow and Podolia, namely Brzezany with 47.1 percent Poles, Podhajce with 48.8 percent, Zborow with 47.8 and Zloczow with 47.9 percent.
Twenty-eight districts belong to a category in which there may be said to prevail a state of balance between the Polish population and the most numerous minority group inhabiting the same territory.
Of these districts, three form the eastern border of the voievodship of Wilno. They are Dzisna with 39.2 percent Poles, Wilejka with 45.5 percent, Molodeczno with 39.1 percent. In these districts the preponderance of the White Ruthenian language group over the Polish one is negligible.
Two districts of the category at present under consideration lie to the south-west of the voievodship of Nowogrodek, Baranowicze with 46.6 percent Poles and Slonim with 42.5 percent. In Baranowicze the Poles in fact possess a relative majority, as the White Ruthenians, the next most numerous group, only attain 42.4 percent.
The same characteristics occur in seven districts at one time forming the northern region of Galicia and in that of Vladimir of Volhynia. The Polish population constitutes 39 percent in Sokal, 37.5 percent in Zolkiew, 39.2 percent in Grodek Jagiellonski, 31.1 percent in Jaworow, 36.7 percent in Radziechow, 36.6 percent in Brody, 26.9 percent in Vladimir of Volhynia.
Five districts of the middle sub-Carpathian region, namely Sambor with 44.5 percent Polish population, Dobromil with 36.8, Stary Sambor (since abolished) with 27.2 percent, Lesko with 28.3 percent, Turka with 26.3 percent, belong to the same class.
The same thing can be said about eleven districts situated in the basin of the Dniester, Bobrka with a Polish population of 31.5 percent, Rohatyn with 28.7, Stanislawow with 28.8 percent, Tlumacz with 38.2, Kolomyja with 29.3, Horodenka with 30.2, Buczacz with 43.7, Czortkow with 43.1, Kopyczynce with 43.7, Zaleszczyki with 38.6 and Borszczow with 45.8 percent.
In thirty-one districts the Poles constitute less than 25 percent of the population. Of this number are nine districts of Polesia, Brest on the Bug with 23.4 percent, Pruzana with 16.3, Pinsk with 15.7, Stolin with 15.2, Luniniec with 15, Kosow with 10.1, Kobryn with 8.7, Drohiczyn with 7.1 and Kamien Koszyrski with 7 percent. Geographically, Nieswiez with 24.2 percent Poles adjoins this group in the north-east.
Ten districts of Volhynia present the same case, Kostopol with 21.7 percent Polish population, Luck with 19.3, Horochow with 17.3, Sarny with 16.5, Zdolbunow with 15, Rowne with 14.6, Kowel with 14.3, Dubno with 14.3, Lubomila with 14.3, and Krzemieniec with 10.5.
Two districts, Nowogrodek in the north with a Polish population of 23.4 percent and Rawa Ruska (in former Austrian territory) with 22.5 percent, are both surrounded by districts with a distinctly higher Polish percentage.
Fianlly nine districts with a Polish percentage of the lowest category include the highlands of the eastern Carpathians and the extreme south-east confines of Poland. These districts are the following: Stryj, with a Polish percentage of 23.1, Zydaczow with 19.2, Sniatyn with 22.2, Dolina with 17.3, Kalusz with 17.9, Nadworna with 14.9, Skole, a district since abolished, with 9.4, Kosow with 7.2, Bohorodczany, likewise abolished, with 5.2 percent Poles.
To sum up, we can distinguish in the eastern provinces of Poland three zones presenting distinct characteristics in point of language and racial feeling: I. A Polish ethnic region comprising the “peninsula’ of Wilno, the western border of what was formerly eastern Galicia and the “peninsula” of Lwow and Podolia. Here, out of a total of 4,400,000 inhabitants the Poles number 2,900,000, and therefore represent 66 percent of the population. II. A region of racial balance between the Poles and the most numerous minority group. This was the state of things in the eastern part of the province of Wilno, in the south-west of that of Nowogrodek, in what was once North-Eastern Galicia, Vladimir in Volhynia, the middle Carpathians and the Dniester basin. Here, of a total of 3,100,000 inhabitants, the Poles numbered 1,100,000, i.e. 36.7 percent. III. Regions of distinct minority preponderance which prevailed in Polesia including Volhynian Polesia, the eastern Carpathians, the districts of Nowogrodek and Rawa Ruska, where of a total of 4,300,000 inhabitants there were 700,000 Poles, representing 16 percent of the population.
The Jewish population was uniformly distributed throughout the eastern territories, conglomerating, as in central Poland, chiefly in towns, which contained 70 percent of their number.
65,300 Lithuanians lived chiefly in the north-western part of the province of Wilno, constituting there only 5 percent of the total population. The Czechs, settled in Volhynia since the second half of the 19th century, represented there, in 1931, 0.3 percent of the population. The Russians were dispersed in small numbers, 0.70 to 3.40 percent, mostly in the four north-eastern provinces of Wilno, Nowogrodek, Polesia and Volhynia. The Germans, with 0.70 percent, were scattered all over the east of Poland. It was only in Volhynia that they constituted a relatively important element of the population with 46,900 persons.
The region of Polesia, geographically speaking, the province of that name together with the northern part of Volhynia, is unique from an ethnographic point of view. Recent scientific researches in this region have proved beyond doubt that Polesia differs physiographically and anthropologically from the north-eastern territories of Wilno and Nowogrodek as well as from the southern part of Volhynia (Demographic peculiarities, namely a small density of population – 17 inhabitants per square mile – with a high birth rate of over 16 percent, racial characteristics such as the prevalence of the laponoidal type, ethnographical peculiarities such as special folk-lore and economic conditions characterised by the predominance of cattle-breeding and lumbering over production of grain, distinguish Polesia from the surrounding regions).
In language and mode of life, the inhabitants of this area are equally peculiar. Polesia preserves archaic dialects which, though related to the White Ruthenian and Ukrainian speeches, do not belong to either of them. They were always, more than any other minority, susceptible to Polish influence. The inhabitants of Polesia are divided into a large number of small, entirely separated local groups, differing sharply from each other and having little mutual intercourse. Compared with the Ukrainians, or even with the White Ruthenians, they show little tendency towards social activity. On such a substratum there grew up an ethnically distinct type, possessing the consciousness of dissimilarity with its surroundings, without any national conciousness, hence the number of “native residents” by which term the Polesians, in the census of 1921 and 1931, evaded direct questions concerning their nationality or language. The contest between the competing Polish, White Ruthenian and Ukrainian influences was easily won by the Polish, especially among the young generation, owing chiefly to the school system introduced here immediately after the country’s restoration to Poland. This Polish influence did not deprive Polesia of its original ethnical marks, it merely raised the population to a higher standard of culture. Whoever has visited Polesia and come into contact with the youth of that province must have been astonished by their excellent Polish, which they speak with a quite unusual, almost literary elegance and purity.
The census of 1931 showed the following linguistic groups for Polesia proper: out of a total of 1,132,200, 164,400 spoke Polish; 54,000 Ukrainian; 75,000 White Ruthenian; 16,200 Russian; 113,000 Yiddish, while 707,100 described themselves as speaking the local dialect.
The area north of Polesia is mixed as to language, speaking Polish and White Ruthenian. The White Ruthenians predominated in only two out of eight districts of Nowogrodek, and in two out of nine districts, the town of Wilno included, of the province of Wilno; in the other districts the White Ruthenians formed either a decided minority, as in the region of Wilno, or equalled approximately the number of Poles.
In 1931, 95 percent (4,441,600) of the Ukrainian – or Ruthenian – speaking population inhabited four provinces in the south-east, viz. Volhynia and the three south-eastern provinces situated in territory at one time Austrian. The official record of 1931 distinguished persons of Ukrainian speech of which there were 3,222,000, and those of Ruthenian speech numbering 1,219,600. In the present study these two groups have been treated as one. This population speaks, apart from dialectical differences, the same language, but only a part of it desires to call this language “Ukrainian” and thus to profess its Ukrainian nationality. The rest, suspecting the term “Ukrainian” to convey a political tendency towards Ukrainian nationalism, and disagreeing with the latter’s political tenets, prefers to call its mother-tongue Ruthenian according to century-old usage, as opposed to Russian. The state authorities, including both terms in the census-forms, acted therefore in accordance with the desires of the population. Both terms refer nevertheless to the same language, merely reflecting the different attitudes of certain sections of the population to purely political problems.
The area of Ukrainian language in these four provinces may be divided into three regions: 1, The northern, comprising Volhynia where the Ukrainian-speaking population numbered 1,418,000 or 68 percent of the total. It must be pointed out, however, that in Northern Volhynia those same elements were registered as Ukrainian, which in the neighbouring districts of Polesia had been classified as “native”. 2, A central section containing a Ukraino-Ruthenian minority in the aforementioned Lwow-Tarnopol zone. The Ukrainian-speaking population amounted here to 675,000 or 36.4 percent of the total. 3, A southern section including the province of Stanislawow, four sub-Carpathian districts of the Lwow province and four southern districts of the province of Tarnopol, which go by the name of “Warm Podolia”. Here lived 1,564,000 Ukrainian-speaking inhabitants, representing 64.3 percent of the total.
With regard to religion, the population of the seven eastern provinces showed the following figures in the census of 1931: 3,955,500 or 33.60 percent Roman Catholics, 3,272,000 or 27.80 percent Greek-Catholics or Uniates, 3,210,000 or 27.30 percent Greek Orthodox, 93,000 or 0.80 percent Protestants, 79,300 or 0.70 percent other Christian denominations, 1,131,700 or 9.70 percent Jews, and 16,000 or 0.10 percent various non-Christian creeds, mostly Moslems or unspecified. It may be noted that 85 percent of all the Greek Orthodox inhabitants of Poland lived in the eastern territories.
The religious aspect of the several language groups was as follows: the Poles belonged in an overwhelming majority to the Roman-Catholic Church; nevertheless, the census of 1931 showed in “Red Ruthenia” 465,000 Poles in the Uniate church and, dispersed over the whole eastern area, some 70,000 Orthodox Poles as well as several thousands belonging to other denominations, mostly Protestants. The Lithuanians were, with very few exceptions, Roman-Catholics, the Russians as well as the “natives” of Polesia being entirely Orthodox. The Jews were of the Mosaic faith. By far the most of the White Ruthenians were Orthodox, but 155,000 or 7 percent belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. Of the Ukrainians 60 percent were Uniates, 39 percent Orthodox, the remainder or one percent, being divided among the Roman Catholic, Protestant and other Christian denominations. It is striking that the twenty years of mutual relations between the Orthodox and the Uniates within the Polish State produced few changes so that the religious frontier, identical with the administrative limits of Volhynia on one side, and the Lwow and Tarnopol provinces on the other, remained fundamentally untouched. (For detailed information on minority statistics in poland cf.: “The Polish and non-Polish populations of Poland. Results of the population census of 1931.” Published by the Institute for the Study of Minority Problems, Warsaw, 1932; p. 4-9.).
Chapter Four: National and Religious Problems
The national and religious problems of the eastern provinces of Poland were influenced by the ethnic conditions as presented above. These lands had been divided into two separate parts ever since the time of Poland’s first partition (1772), when the three south-eastern provinces were annexed to the Austrian Empire, while the four northern ones became Russian twenty years later. In the former Russian territories the different national groups felt a powerful urge towards emancipation from the consequences of the century-old Russian sway and there arose the problem of the reform of the Greek Orthodox church, demoralised by the political role it was compelled to play under the Tsarist regime. In the south-east the dominant question concerned the relations between the two indigenous peoples, Poles and Ukrainians, who were opposed to each other during their common subjection to Austrian rule and engaged in a fratricidal struggle in 1918-1919, largely at the instigation of the collapsing Central Powers.
Identical political conditions gradually obliterated the boundaries fixed at the time of Poland’s dismemberment, while new causes of division arose, partly economic and social, partly ethnic and religious. In the place of the former two areas, three regions could now be distinguished with increasing clearness: the north-eastern territories, Polesia and the south-eastern area. Traces of the old political borderline survived in the south-east between Volhynia and the neighbouring voievodships. Although the same Ukrainian language was spoken on both sides of it and thus provided ground for amalgamation, all other conditions, economic, social and religious, fostered many differences more important than simple administrative lines of division.
The most striking feature in the former Russian provinces was the rapid removal of the veneer of Russian culture. For the old Polish Commonwealth had – until its dismemberment in the 18th century – extremely few citizens of Rusian descent. The appearance of Russian elements here in greater numbers dates from the hundred and twenty years of foreign rule. In those times Russian military men and officials swarmed into these lands, being favoured by a governmental policy which included the buying up and at times the confiscation of real estate. With the war in 1914 and the ensuing occupation of the eastern territories by the Germans, the majority of these Russians left with their retreating armies, and only a small number, already assimilated and partly Polonized, remained. Some of them later served in the Polish Army or worked in Polish governmental or communal offices. A second category of Russians were the refugees of recent times who, in 1917-1920, fled from persecution in their native country.
The total number of Russians in the eastern territories amounted, as has been said, to 90,800. Of these only 40,000 represented a genuine old immigration. These were the so-called Starowiery, or Old believers, who left Russia in the reign of Tsar Peter the Great and his successors in protest against the church reforms introduced by the Metropolitan Nikon. The Starowiery adhered to the non-modernised script and ritual and were savagely persecuted in Russia. They found security in Poland and in 1928 their church was officially recognized by the Polish State as “the Eastern Orthodox Church of Ancient Rite” without any ecclesiastical hierarchy. They were organized into thirty religious communities, situated mostly in the provinces of Wilno and Bialystok, with a Supreme Council as a representative body. For some time they had their own deputies in the Polish Parliament and Senate. They were well known for their pro-Polish tendencies.
The remaining 50,000 Russians were also, for the most part, very faithfully attached to their Polish surroundings and formed a group of reliable, law-abiding citizens, except for an insignificant fraction of the most recent refugees.
During the transitory period of 1915 – 1918 the feeble Russian facade had already collapsed, revealing the real ethnic aspect of these lands. Even the German armies of occupation were obliged to ackowledge the Polish character of the country as was the case in their first manifesto to the population of Wilno.
The varying fortunes of war are naturally unfavourable for establishing normal conditions, particularly in the sphere of minority problems. But barely starting with the treaty of Riga in 1921, things in this field began to develop reasonably well. (Only the problem of the small Lithuanian minority remained in suspense until 1938 because relations had not been established between the Polish and Lithuanian States and because of the harsh treatment by the Lithuanian Government of the Polish minority in Lithuania. But involving as it did a very restricted area, the Lithuanian problem was of no serious importance.).
The Jewish minority in the eastern territories, though differing in psychological and cultural features from the rest of the Polish Jews, particularly from those in formerly Austrian parts, was very soon involved in the general Jewish social and political movement. Enjoying full liberty to develop in culture, economic life and religion, they showed a strong political leaning toward the Zionist movement. It is worthy of note that Wilno itself became the seat of a Jewish National Institute which, as an Academy for Yiddish research, radiated throughout the Jewish diaspora and was financed by Jewish world organizations. Future teachers of the Hebrew language were educated at Wilno in a Hebraic seminary and not far from this town there existed, in the small town of Radun, a “Yeshiboth”, or rabbinical college, famous not only amongst Jews in Poland, but all over the world. The life of the eastern Polish Jews was also favourably influenced by the religious self-government, granted them by the Polish authorities, which opened to them a wide field for cultural and social welfare activity, besides strictly religious studies.
The White Ruthenians were the most numerous minority in the north-eastern territories. They had achieved a certain ethnical awakening only a few decades before the restoration of the Polish State, mostly by the joint endeavours of Poles and White Ruthenians educated in the atmosphere of Polish civilization, but did not possess the conditions required for starting on a national life. Their aspirations, where they appeared, were chiefly of an economic and social nature, while in other matters, they did not exceed demands for the teaching of religion in their primitive tongue, or for the White Ruthenian classes in the primary schools, or the admission of their language to the ritual of the Orthodox church. A few White Ruthenian secondary schools, founded in the first years after the war, had to be shut for lack of pupils. Self-dependant White Ruthenian associations – social, economic and even cultural, only just survived, while the White Ruthenian peasants willingly joined Polish organizations. The White Ruthenian press was unable to aquire sufficiently numerous readers, and appeared mostly in the form of popular weeklies which vanished after an ephemeral existence. Under these conditions the White Ruthenians were easily assimilated. The Catholics among them, almost without exception, considered themselves Poles. They had always prayed in Polish, regarding their own tongue as a speech good enough for daily use but not capable of any refinement.
Volhynia proper, that is to say the southern districts of the province of that name, lived a political life of its own. It presented one of the many varieties of the Ukrainian problem, but conditions here differed from those prevailing in the districts formerly Austrian. The most essential differences were due to Volhynia’s past and its religious development. The Ukrainian movement arose here from a reaction against domination of the Great-Russian element which was fundamentally alien to the country, and the Poles, also opposing the Russian oppressor, in many instances became its allies. Hence, during the war between Poland and Soviet Russia, the Polish and Ukrainian inhabitants frequently found themselves fighting side by side. The movement was continued in the stabilized condition of the reborn Polish State by the creation of economic and social organizations embracing all small land-holders regardless of their race or religion. On the basis of these mutual relations a political party was formed bearing the name of “The Ukrainian Union of Volhynia”, which had its own parliamentary representatives and was active in favour of Polish-Ukrainian collaboration in the struggle against Communism.
Volhynia held an outstanding position in the Greek Orthodox church of Poland, not only because almost one half of the Orthodox community numbering 1,455,900, lived here, but also because it was here that a movement started destined to impress its peculiar character on the Eastern church in Poland.
The Greek Orthodox church had, as already stated, 85 percent of its members in the eastern territoires of Poland. Although the centre of this church – the Metropolitan See – was set up in Warsaw, all ecclesiastical problems and activities affected the inhabitants of the eastern territories and the political situation in these lands exerted a powerful influence upon the attitude adopted by the Orthodox church.
This church had been since the earliest times, and particularly since the reforms of Tsar Peter the Great in 1720, a very powerful political instument in the hands of the Russian Government. Before the partitions of Poland it provided the Russian Empire with pretexts for interference in Poland’s internal affairs, an action bearing some resemblance to the defence of national minorities by Poland’s neighbours two centuries later. After the partitions, the Greek Orthodox church merged into the State Church of the Russian Empire, became a willing tool of the forcible Russification of its members, and of attacks upon the Catholic church of both the Roman and Greek rites. The Church of Russia tried during the revolution of 1917 to emancipate itself from State influence but failed and, after the Bolshevik upheaval, was subjected to destructive measures. Paradoxically enough it was in Poland that Orthodoxy survived. Neither the Polish Government, nor the Polish people allowed themselves to be prompted by prejudice, only too justified in view of that church’s former role in Poland. Both supported the Orthodox hierarchy in its endeavours to put the internal and external affairs of their church in order. As early as 1922 a provisional order was issued regulating the Government’s relations with the Greek Orthodox church in Poland and dealing with the internal structure of this church. Further a resolution of the Orthodox Episcopal Synod having been carried to this end the Polish Government received on November 13th, 1924, from the Patriarch of Constantinople, Gregory VII, a “thomos” confirming the “autocephaly” of the Greek Orthodox church in Poland. This “thomos” was supplemented by a decree of the Patriarch Constantine VI on January 13th, 1925, notifying all Orthodox churches of the establishment of “autocephaly” in Poland. Then this church entered upon its fundamental task of raising, with the aid of the Polish State, the intellectual standard of its clergy. Several educational institutions, chief of which was a college of Orthodox Theology at the University of Warsaw, founded in 1925, were soon established. The president of the Polish Republic procalaimed on May 30th, 1930, by a decree addressed to the Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox church in Poland, the convocation of an Orthodox Synod to regulate certain matters concerning that church, and authorized the Metropolitan to summon a preliminary assembly with a view to preparing and elaborating the numerous questions and problems to be discussed by the Synod. After a few years of collaboration with government delegates this Assembly completed its task and a Bill defining the relations of the Orthodox church with the State was drawn up and regulations for the internal government of the church were elaborated. The Bill was passed on November 18th, 1938, and in replacing the former provisional regulations, founded the organization of the Greek Orthodox church in Poland, in accordance with the requests of both clergy and laity, on three cardinal principles: the unity of that church and the independance of the Metropolitan See of external authorities; the full canonical authority of the episcopate represented by the Episcopal Synod; and, lastly, the synodal system guaranteeing to all members of the church, the laity in particular, a considerable influence on the church’s activity and development. To provide for the material needs of the Orthodox church the Polish Parliament, in the early months of 1939, increased the State subsidy granted to that church by almost 100 percent so that it now amounted to 2,575,000 zloty or 104,000 British pounds sterling for the financial year 1939-40.
While the Orthodox church in Poland was being reorganized the Polish authorities very often had to play the delicate role of arbitrator in the friction which arose between the Orthodox hierarchy, mostly Russian by descent, on the one side, and the overwhelming majority of the non-Russian laity on the other. The chief subject of dispute was that of the language to be adopted as the vernacular by the Orthodox church in Poland. The Orthodox clergy, being Russian and therefore accustomed to methods, practised throughout the long years of Tsarist rule, could not acquiesce in the change of political conditions and its consequences. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians, the White Ruthenians and the Orthodox Poles, the latter numbering, in 1931, several hundreds of thousands, now claimed their rights. The Government, admitting these claims, exerted its influence on behalf of the Orthodox laity with the result that, without touching the the super-national character of the Church’s unity, the demands of the faithful were now largely satisfied by way of internal regulations. Clergy of non-Russian descent were appointed to ecclesiastical posts, thus abolishing the former purely Russian character of the Orthodox clergy. Volhynia particularly benefited by this development, the Orthodox church thenceforth providing a free ground for the development of native culture.
For various important reasons the political and religious conditions in the three southern provinces assumed quite different forms, one of the chief causes being the Polish-Ukrainian antagonism which sometimes became very bitter and which had been not only encouraged, but actually instigated by the Austrian government in former years. Matters came to a head in 1918 when the Ukrainians, profiting not only by Austria’s downfall, but also by German schemes, undertook to set up a Western Ukrainian People’s Republic. The Polish population, including schoolboys and schoolgirls, rushed to arms, and a bitter struggle centring on Lwow ensued, which lasted several months and ended in a Polish victory. Many years passed before the memory of that conflict faded; two decades have not sufficed to obliterate it completely.
Nor did the ethnical structure of the south-east lend itself to any easy settlement. One of the most competent Polish statisticians concerned with the problems of minorities, M. Krysinski, writes: “An extensive and thorough intermingling of the principal races and religions is the prominent feature of the mixed character of Red Ruthenia, which makes the delineation of an ethnical borderline utterly impossible. There are very few localities with a homogenous Polish or Ukrainian population, not to mention larger territorial units (“Sprawy Narodowosciowe,” Warsaw, 1935, p.388).” The Poles are often advised by foreigners to take Switzerland as their model in racial matters. Certainly the Swiss set an excellent example in this respect, but it must not be forgotten that the lasting harmony that binds the three principle races of Switzerland is ascribable not only to her political system but also to the fact that these races are territorially separated. The mingling of different races, penetrating the smallest settlements, a condition practically unknown in the west of Western Europe, makes a solution very difficult.
If to these major causes, which complicated all Polish-Ukrainian collaboration in Eastern Galicia, we add the exploitation of this national antagonism by Poland’s powerful neighbours directed not only against Poland but also against each other, we gain a general idea of the background on which the Polish-Ukrainian fued developed. Nor should it be forgotten that Poland’s enemies not only strove to aggravate the situation, but also made it their policy to proclaim throughout the world the unfavourable state of affairs for which they themselves were largely responsible.
After these rather summary remarks, to dispose of some false current ideas, a brief outline of Polish-Ukrainian relations during the past twenty years may not be out of place. The years 1918 and 1919 were those of the Polish-Ukrainian war with all the tragic aspects of a civil struggle. From 1920 to 1925 the Ukrainians attempted – in spite of their defeat – to disown the Polish State. This period was marked by the activity of Dr Petruszewycz in the international field, the attempt to boycott the census of 1921 and the elections to the Polish Diet in 1922. But events of an entirely contrary nature had also occurred during that period. In 1920 an agreement was concluded between Marshal Pilsudski and General Petlura for co-operation of Poles and Ukrainians in the war against Russia; the above-mentioned boycott was a failure; a declaration was made in the Polish Diet on january 20th, 1923, by Father Ilkow, head of the Ukrainian moderates, that the Ukrainians were willing to accept the leadership of Poland in return for a guarantee of free life and development.
Then bitter fueds broke out within the Ukrainian community resulting in the assassination of prominent Ukrainians who were in favour of an agreement with Poland: Tverdohlib, Pilulak, Petryjczuk and others; finally ideas of self-government sprang up among the Ukrainian National Democrats, later known as the U.N.D.O.
The years 1926-1935 saw the decisive suppression of Ukrainian political activities in Soviet Russia, while in Poland the rise to power, in 1926, of Marshal Pilsudski, known for his friendly disposition towards the Ukrainians, opened favourable prospects for their political requests. These two facts stabilized Polish-Ukrainian relations: the cleavage became ever wider between the majority of the Ukrainian community desiring to abide by the law and restless political groups such as the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine and the pro-German Ukrainian National Organization. These subversive organizations committed acts of sabotage in 1930, murders of prominent Poles and Ukrainians, such as M. Sobinski, Director of the Board of Education in Lwow, M. Holowko, an eminent pro-Ukrainian Polish politician, M. Pieracki, the Polish Minister of the Interior, and Dr. Bily, the headmaster of a Ukrainian secondary school in Lwow, as well as other outrages, followed.
The years 1935-1939 were a period of Polish-Ukrainian agreement, the so-called “normalization”. Although this process was a slow one and was naturally subject to a good deal of criticism on both sides, nevertheless the fact is that, in this period, many Ukrainians showed their ability to reconcile their aims with the interests of the Polish State, and to participate in the activities incumbent on every good citizen. The Ukrainian parliamentary group gave expression to that attitude in 1936 by unanimously supporting the bill for an increase of the military budget, a question of primary importance to the State. The right of the Ukrainians to cultural development was established beyond all doubt and their wants in this regard received fair consideration. This agreement was undoubtedly a compromise, but it sufficed to place Polish-Ukrainian relations outside profitless dispute and cleared the ground for a further understanding. In any case it attained a remarkable result when on September 2nd, 1939, M. Mudryj, chairman of the Ukrainian parliamentary group, proclaimed the readiness of his people to defend the western frontiers of Poland violated by Germany.
Chapter Five: The Economic Structure
The eastern territories of Poland are essentially an agricultural region. In the four north-eastern provinces the rural population represented 85.80 percent and in the three southeastern provinces 78.40 percent of the total. Though not all this number of people were, strictly speaking, farmers or land labourers, the percentage of the rural population not living by agriculture was negligible. The Orthodox and Greek Catholic population, i.e. the Ukrainians (Ruthenians) and the White Ruthenians in particular were tillers of the soil, 92.40 percent of the Orthodox and 88.10 percent of the Greek Catholics working on the land. When we consider that most of the remaining 10 percent of both groups were, nevertheless, in one way or another, dependant on the soil, as was the case with the numerous staffs of co-operative associations, we will not be far from the truth if we state that both Slav minorities were almost entirely of a uniform peasant type.
Hence economic troubles in the eastern provinces more easily than elsewhere developed into political problems. On the other hand agricultural prosperity had a soothing influence even at times of political tension. One social problem, agrarian reform, was particularly complex in the eastern provinces precisely for this reason.
The farms differed widely in the north-eastern provinces from those of the south-eastern. According to the census of 1931, the percentage of holdings under 12 acres amounted to 50 percent in the north-eastern areas, while patches under five acres did not constitute more than 15 percent in any of these four provinces. But in the south-eastern territories holdings under five acres alone ranged from 46 to 65 percent according to the province, while 87 to 92 percent of farms consisted of 12 acres and under. But it must be pointed out that the total of farms of over 125 acres did not exceed in any of the seven eastern provinces 1 percent of the total number of holdings. In this category of holdings all could certainly not rank as large estates, as in Polish conditions of soil and climate a property under 450 acres scarcely deserves that name. However, in three provinces, Wilno, Polesia and Tarnopol, such holdings represented about 20 percent of the total cultivated area, about 15 percent in three provinces, Nowogrodek, Lwow and Stanislawow, and just over 10 percent in Volhynia.
These figures show clearly that the eastern provinces were pre-eminently a land of small farmers. This applies particularly to the south-east where a stupendous breaking up of holdings was to be met with and presented a most complex and difficult social problem. Before the Great War, that problem was mitigated in those districts by heavy emigration overseas to the United States, Brazil and Canada, but since then it had been stopped by immigration restrictions on the part of the States concerned. Therefore it became imperative to look about for some other remedies: as, for example, the enlargement of dwarf holdings, the reclamation of waste-lands, the increase of agricultural output and finally the diversion of a certain percentage of the peasant population from agriculture to other occupations. These questions affected all parts of the country. Central Poland was involved as much as the east, but in the latter area they assumed an exceptional importance because of their repercussions on minority questions. Revolutionary slogans, subtly introduced from outside, did not render any easier the task that was to be accomplished.
And to attain the desired transformation of conditions in the sphere of agriculture one thing above all was needful, time. Even the best schemes worked out by the Polish State in this field, could not all be realized in two decades.
According to the first Polish official census of 1921, not including three districts of the province of Wilno, which at the time formed part of the so-called central Lithuania, the total number of rural estates including corporate property of a size exceeding 125 acres was, in the four north-eastern provinces, 4,022, with an area of 8,224,232 acres. But in this total estates exceeding 240 acres numbered only 2,820, and 42,40 percent of their area was forest. In the three south-eastern provinces holdings over 125 acres were 2,483 in number, with 1,744 over 240 acres, the total area being 4,458,597 acres, of which 53.40 percent was forest.
The Polish Agrarian Reform Law of 1925 exempted from parcellation estates under 450 acres, in certain provinces those under 741 acres, as well as forests and some areas of special economic value such as fish-breeding waters, industrialized farms, etc. Nevertheless, by 1938, 2,415,166 acres had been parcelled out in the four eastern (sic, s/b north-eastern) provinces and 955,022 acres in the three south-eastern. In this way of the entire acreage to be distributed under the new law scarcely anything remained in the north-eastern provinces, while in the south-eastern a reserve, not exceeding 247,000 acres, remained in the province of Tarnopol alone. In the north-eastern provinces about 220,000 small farmers shared in the benefits of the reform, in the south-eastern a little over 200,000. The new holdings were sold to peasants regardless of religion or nationality and in Eastern Galicia exclusively to men born there. And it must be emphasised that the vast majority of estates belonged to Polish land-owners, so that by this new transfer of land the Poles lost much of their influence. In other countries it was generally estates belonging to national minorities that were broken up for the benefit of the national majorities, as in Lithuania and Latvia, where Polish or German property was distributed among Lithuanian or Latvian peasants. In other cases the land went to peasants of the same nationality as the former land-owners. In Poland the applications of the land-reform was guided by social considerations exclusively. The Polish Government took the view that a problem of such vital importance should be treated only from the standpoint of social justice.
However, parcellation was not the only form of agrarian reform in Poland. It was carried out in two other directions, firstly by consolidating small-holdings, consisting of minute strips, into compact farms, and secondly by the paying off of encumbering rights of common, which had contributed greatly towards sowing discord between estate-owners and the peasantry, and had been preserved by the Tsarist Government for that very reason. Consolidation was applied in the eastern provinces to 364,100 holdings with a total area of 6,149,796 acres. The social and economic importance of this measure cannot be sufficiently stressed. Reclaiming waste lands was another important item of agricultural progress. In Polesia waste lands amounted to 21.20 percent of the whole area; in the three other north-eastern provinces from 12 to 16 percent, and in the south-east about 4 percent. That shows the importance of the problem, particularly for the four north-eastern provinces. In Polesia it became the object of special attention. In 1928 a special “Office of Plans for Reconditioning Polesia” was established for physiographical and hydrographical research. This office, after some years of minute investigation conducted by a staff of prominent scientists, found that in Polesia the marshland alone comprises an area of 6,500 square miles, which, if drained, would provide about 1,930 square miles of arable soil. The improvement scheme would also increase the output of holdings under cultivation by supplying ampler pasturage, which would enable the farmers to develop cattle-breeding on a larger scale. The value of the expected increase in output of pasture was reckoned at 29,000,000 zloty or 1,160,000 British Pounds Sterling (bps) per annum. But the cost of such complete reconditioning of Polesia was calculated at 560,000,000 zloty (21,200,000 bps). At a time therefore, when Poland had more other serious and urgent enterprises in hand, like the port of Gdynia, the Central Industrial Region, etc., involving heavy expenditure out of the State Budget, the Polesian reconditioning scheme had to be postponed. In the meantime preliminary works were begun, chiefly local imporvements on a small scale, which, limited as they were, went far to improve the economic situation in Polesia. About 50 percent of the total area reconditioned in Poland from 1919 to 1937, particularly in the last decade, was situated in the eastern provinces, especially in Polesia, and amounted to 677,000 acres.
All these measures intended to enlarge the area of arable soil – even if fully realized – could not change the fundamental characteristic of agricultural conditions in the eastern territories, namely, the extreme smallness of peasant holdings.These schemes had therefore to be supplemented by a big scale effort to increase the output of farming. The united efforts of the agriculturalist, the State, the territorial and economic self -government and of the professional and economic rural organizations achieved notable results, as the figures given below can testify.
The Culture and Crops of the 5 Principal Agricultural Products in the Eastern Territories:
Cultivated Area (sq.mi.) Total Crops (1,000 cwt.)
1908-13 1921-22 1934-38 1908-13 1921-22 1934-38
Poland 5,177.6 4,021.6 6,710.4 33,096 22,655 40,582
Eastern Terr. 2,405.4 1,740.1 3,239.3 13,987 9,456 18,194
Poland 19,613.9 17,538.6 22,293.4 111,502 100,100 127,419
Eastern Terr. 6,656.3 5,368.7 7,220.1 30,141 27,186 37,347
Poland 10,575.3 9,186.0 8,675.6 55,357 49,447 50,432
Eastern Terr. 4,138.9 3,470.2 3,861.0 19,460 17,336 19,503
Poland 4,783.7 4,413.5 4,548.2 29,550 25,610 27,777
Eastern Terr. 2,003.8 1,752.9 2,108.1 9,850 9,456 10,983
Poland 9,204.6 8,451.7 11,698.8 484,423 654,000 691,697
Eastern Terr. 3,239.3* 2,2380.7 3,980.7 156,418* 176,527 226,134
* Including the province of Cracow.
In the above survey, area of cultivation and production of the five principal crops of the eastern provinces have been given for three periods: the pre-war period (from 1908 to 1912, or from 1909 to 1913) giving the average for five years before the Great War; the year 1921-22, showing the fall of agricultural output caused by the Great War and the Polish wars; and the average of the last five years (1934-1938) of Polish economy before the present war. The economic progress in agriculture, though apparent throughout the eastern territories, was particularly noticeable where aided by natural conditions, especially in Volhynia and Tarnopol. It should be remarked here that sandy and barren soil covers large areas in the provinces of Polesia and Nowogrodek, in the western and central part of the province of Wilno, on the lower reaches of the San in the province of Lwow, in the northern districts of Volhynia forming geographically a part of Polesia, and in the north-western parts of the province of Tarnopol. Mediocre soil, mostly the so-called “white loams”, also prevails in the more highly situated regions of the Wilno-Nowogrodek area. The most fertile types of soil, the greater part being well-aerated loess clays, are found throughout a large part of the Tarnopol province, the whole of Southern Volhynia, in the north of the province of Stanislawow, and in many districts of the province of Lwow.
These natural conditions influenced the character of the products. In Polesia and Nowogrodek, for example, less than 2 percent of the total area under the main crops was devoted to wheat; in the Tarnopol province the wheat-area was proportionately ten times larger, covering 20 percent, while for the provinces of Lwow and Stanislawow it was 17 percent. Rye, again, which for the whole of Poland averaged 41.80 percent of the area under the main crops, showed 50.20 percent for Polesia and over 52 percent for Wilno and Nowogrodek. The sugar-beet cultivation for 1938 covered 19,760 acres in Volhynia, 17,290 in the province of Lwow, 9,880 in that of Stanislawow, and 12,350 in that of Tarnopol, while in the provinces of Wilno, Nowogrodek and Polesia there was no plantation of sugar-beet for want of suitable soil as well as on account of the shortness of the summers. Similarly, tobacco, one of the most valuable plants, yielding about 15.7 cwts. (N.B. cwts. = hundredweights = a unit of measure equivalent from 100 to 120 pounds) to the acre, the production of which grew in Poland from 2,854 cwts. in 1919 to 267,204 cwts. in 1937, was cultivated chiefly in the south-eastern territories, in Volhynia and Podolia. The production of vegetables amounted in Poland to 2,505,605 tons in 1937, the figures for the different provinces being: Lwow, 279,110 tons; in Volhynia, 198,900 tons; Tarnopol, 168,560; Nowogrodek, 149,640; Wilno, 135,142; Stanislawow, 126,036; Polesia, 62,720. Maize was grown only in two south-eastern provinces, Stanislawow and Tarnopol, where the acres in 1934-1938 averaged 205,000 acres, against 167,900 acres only in 1921, out of a total of 222,300 acres for the whole of Poland. In 1938 these two provinces accounted for nearly 990,000 tons of maize out of a total of 1,055,400 tons for the whole country, while in 1921 the figure was only 637,000 tons. Flax, rare in western Poland, was grown in the eastern provinces on 2.5 – 5 percent of the total cultivated area, rising from 55,822 acres in 1921 to 154,375 in 1937. The crops of linseed amounted to 170,799 cwts. in 1921, as against 473,000 cwts. yearly in 1934-1938, those of flax fibre rose from 171,981 cwts. to 272, 845 cwts. Hemp was cultivated mostly in the provinces of Lwow, Tarnopol and Volhynia, which included two thirds of the Polish total of hemp-fields, and produced three-fifths of the hemp crops.
Besides the improvement in plant-production, very good progress had also been made in live-stock breeding, both in quality and quantity. This progress was particularly noticeable in the eastern territories. The number of horned cattle nearly doubled in Volhynia between 1921 and 1937, rising from 497,000 head to 915,000, and from 12 to 17 head per 100 acres of tilled land. In Polesia the increase was still greater: being from 7.4 head in 1921 to 12.3 in 1937. This last figure also represents the maximum in relation to the number of inhabitants: 304.8 head per 1,000 inhabitants for all Poland, 480.5 for Polesia. Sheep increased four-fold in the provinces of Wilno and Polesia and almost as much in Nowogrodek. The number of pigs rose, in the south-eastern provinces, from 697,600 head in 1921 to 878,000 in 1937. It may also be added that throughout the eastern area, and particularly in the south-east, poultry-breeding and egg production improved considerably. So did apiculture and honey-production, as well as fish-breeding in the north-eastern provinces.
To illustrate another side of the economic life of Poland’s eastern territories, an outline of their natural resources may not be out of place.
One of the most remarkable riches of these districts are the forests, covering 18,297 square miles, which represent 55 percent of the total Polish forests. The percentage of forest land is considerable, particularly in the provinces of Stanislawow with 34 percent and Polesia with 33.3 percent. In the provinces of Wilno, Lwow, Volhynia and Nowogrodek the proportion ranges from 21.20 to 24.10 percent, and is lowest in that of Tarnopol with 16.40 percent. These forests were, to a large extent, State property, State forests amounting to 23.50 percent of the total of forest land in Poland. It may be mentioned here that of sixteen great forests of Poland, nine are situated in the eastern provinces, including the well-known forest of Bialowieza.
A second, still more important natural resource of these lands are the oil-fields, belonging to the so-called “Carpathian oil region”, and extending in a belt about 220 miles long from Limanowa, in the province of Crakow, to the south-eastern point of the district of Kosow on the Rumanian frontier. The exploited oil-area in Poland comprised three groups of oil-fields: one south of Drohobycz in the province of Lwow, a second near Stanislawow (Bitkov and surroundings), and a third near Krosno on the western border of the province of Lwow. A new gusher was found in the last years before the present war near Kalusz in the province of Stanislawow. The Polish petroleum-production was seriously handicapped by the fact that the deposits lie at a great depth: the most productive Polish deposits of Boryslaw being at 1,600 – 2,200 yards under the surface. The total Polish oil-production amounted in 1936 to 502,824 tons. The oil-fields of Drohobycz-Boryslaw produced 344,400 tons; those of Krosno, 106,272; those of Stanislawow, 52,152. Of the 10,100 men employed in the Polish production of petroleum and natural gas, 83.80 percent worked in the provinces of Stanislawow and Lwow, the rest in the province of Crakow.
The natural gas which, under Austrian administration, was allowed to go to waste, was used to good purpose by the Polish oil-industry after the construction of special pipe-lines. As early as 1919 the first Polish parliament voted considerable funds for the construction of these pipe-lines, which were soon after laid down in the Krosno-Jaslo oil-fields, from Gorlice to Iwonicz. Later the Gazolina Company built a pipe-line 25 miles long, from Daszawa to Boryslaw and Drohobycz, and some time after another was constructed along the same route by the State Oil Company. Finally the Gazolina Company built a pipe-line 42 miles long from Daszowa to Lwow. It may be noted, however, that besides the above mentioned oil-fields, natural gas is found near Sanok in the province of Lwow, and conducted to the town by a pipe-line, and also in the surroundings of Kalusz, Kosow and Drohobycz. The number of exploited wells producing natural gas amounted in 1935 to 186 for all Poland, distributed as follows: the basin of Drohobycz-Boryslaw possessed 121, Jaslo-Krosno 37, Daszawa 10, Bitkow 11. The total natural gas resources of Poland were estimated at 39,000,000,000 cubic yards, with 26,000,000,000 for Daszawa and 10,400,000,000 for Krosno. One half of the gas produced supplied mines and refineries, the other half being used for lighting and heating purposes in several towns and for the production of electricity. It finally yielded a very valuable product, light gasolene. The output of the latter, amounted to only 583 tons in 1920, but reached a total of 127,526 tons in 1937, of which 93,676 tons came from the provinces of Lwow and Stanislawow alone. The value of the entire gasolene production in Poland in 1937 amounted to about 22,000,000 zloty (880,000 british pounds sterling), that of the entire gas production being about 45,000,000 zloty (1,800,000 bps).
Three mines, situated in Eastern Galicia, Boryslaw, Dzwiniacz and Starunia together produced 80 percent of the entire European output of rare ozocerite, or fossil wax, and yielded between 60 and 70 railway-truck loads yearly.
Of the three areas producing common rock salt, situated in the sub-Carpathian region, the largest and richest is between the upper San and the river Czeremosz in Eastern Galicia. 149 miles in length, it covers deposits of about 2,000,000,000 tons of salt, Poland’s total being 6,000,000,000 tons. The improvement in the production of common salt enabled Poland not only to abandon the import of German salt, but from 1923 onwards she was in a position both to meet her own demands and to export the commodity.
The output of potash-salts, valuable for agriculture and chemical industry, was only 2,263 tons in 1913. In restored Poland the production amounted to 54,120 tons as early as 1923. By 1938 it was ten times as much, 560,880 tons. All three potash-mines are situated in the eastern sub-Carpathian region near Kalusz, in the west of the province of Stanislawow, where the deposits cover an area of about 115 square miles.
Iron-ore was to be found in Polesia and in the west of the Lwow province only in the form of bog iron-ore, containing 33-38 percent of pure iron. In the Carpathian mountains the so-called Carpathian iron-stone appeared in the form of clay-iron and spherosiderite. Before the present war researches concerning the possibility of exploiting the latter had been initiated.
On the border between Volhynia and Polesia, very valuable deposits of kaolin, or china-clay, were found in the last decades and two factories for its exploitation were built.
Natural stone is of primary importance for the construction of paved roads. In the eastern territories three different zones can be distinguished: (1) moraine deposits occur in the provinces of Wilno and Nowogrodek; (2) the basin of the upper Pripet and upper Bug rivers, Polesia, is entirely without stone deposits; (3) the southern part, with the exception of western and southern Volhynia and the northern regions of the provinces of Lwow and Tarnopol, has considerable stone quarries. In Volhynia genuine crystalline rock appears in the basins of the rivers Slucz and Horyn, over an area of about 620 square miles and produces excellent material. It was here that quarrying of granite and basalt was most intensively carried on, occupying 12,100 workers, or 53.20 percent of the total number of persons engaged in this industry in Poland. It must be pointed out that the two principal centres of that production in Volhynia (Klesow and Janow) did not develop in Russian times but afterwards provided work for some thousands of workers, recruited mostly from the local population, whose aggregate earnings amounted yearly to about 6,000,000 zloty (240,000 bps). This was part of the scheme of supplying the rural population with additional work, which contributed much towards the change of the social structure in the surrounding country.
Deposits of phosphates were exploited in Niezwiska on the Dniester in the province of Stanislawow, gypsum in Podolia, on both banks of the Dniester. Finally, there are numerous sources of mineral-waters that remain to be mentioned. Some of these, such as the alkaline waters of Borkut, or the sulphurated waters of Lubien Walki and Truskawiec, possess highly curative qualities and have long been known to medicine.
Of 221,710 industrial enterprises in Poland in 1935 the eastern provinces could claim 50,893; out of 468,774 commercial firms in Poland in 1938, they possessed 141,951, and of the Polish total of 373,529 handicraft licences issued in 1937, 95,009 were delivered in the eastern territories. In 1931, of the Polish total of 4,217,000 manual workers and 664,500 black-coated workers, 959,500 of the former and 155,200 of the latter worked in these regions. On the other hand, of a total of 603,400 unemployed in Poland in 1931 the four northern provinces had only 28,000 and Eastern Galicia 82,800.
The natural conditions prevalent in the eastern provinces found their expression in development of industries, such as oil-boring and refining, timber and food production and stone-quarrying. Out of thirty petroleum refineries working in Poland in 1935, twenty of theses were in the provinces of Lwow and Stanislawow, and five of them were large-scale plants. As for the timber industry, of 1,557 saw-mills in all Poland, the province of Lwow came first with 201, while the provinces of Stanislawow and Volhynia each held fifth place with 79. In 1937 the aggregate produce of the Polish saw-mills amounted to 6,291,740 cubic yards, and of this the eastern provinces produced 3,057,600 cubic yards, i.e. almost 50 percent of the total.
Factories for the manufacture of parquet were to be found particularly in the provinces of Volhynia and Stanislawow. In 1937 plywood was produced in the eastern provinces by twelve factories out of a Polish total of 27, while in 1921 only one had existed. Of four Polish match factories, one was at Pinsk, the capital of Polesia. Three north-eastern provinces and particularly the province of Wilno, produced a third of the cardboard made in Poland. It was manufactured in 40 factories which produced, in 1936, 27,550 tons. Shortly before the outbreak of the present war a cellulose and paper-mill was built and equipped at Zydaczow on the river Stryj. It was to employ 3,000 workers in 1939. A similar factory “Stryj” was already active in the same region, with a yearly production of 5,900 tons of natron-cellulose.
The Great War almost completely destroyed the sugar factories, distilleries and breweries, which were more developed in the eastern provinces than any other branch of industry. This must be kept in mind to understand the low percentage of the total that falls to the eastern provinces. Of 61 sugar refineries working in 1937-1938 Poland, nine were situated in the eastern territories. The sugar produced by these nine factories during the same year amounted to about 66,000 tons. In 1937-1938 there were 1,403 distilleries in Poland. Of these 76 were in the four north-eastern provinces, their output for 1937-1938 being 770,000 gallons of spirit. The south-east had 323 plants with an output of 2,650,000 gallons. The principal breweries in the east were at Lwow and in Volhynia, the principal yeast factories in the south-eastern provinces.
The horticultural output of the eastern territories – as that of all Poland – was seriously damaged by the heavy frosts of the winter of 1929 which utterly destroyed the orchards and fruit-tree plantations prospering here and representing 36 percent of the Polish total. The development of the fruit preserving industry was therefore seriously hampered. Nevertheless, by 1936, thirteen fruit-drying factories were already active in the eastern provinces. Out of 39 fruit-preserving and 21 vegetable-canning factories in Poland in 1936, the eastern territories had 21.
The production of wine developed here – as in the rest of Poland – only after the Great War. The chief centres were Wilno for artificial wines, and “Warm Podolia”, where the vineyards were already producing about 4,000 cwts. of grapes yearly.
The meat industry, producing bacon, tinned ham and lard, did not develop on a large scale till after 1926, when Polish products found good foreign markets, particularly in England and in the United States. In 1937, out of a Polish total of 253, there were 46 of these factories in the eastern districts. Between 1935 and 1938, large canning- and lard-factories had been built at Dubno and Kowel in Volhynia, at Nowowilejka near Wilno, and at Baranowicze in the province of Nowogrodek.
An important branch of the food-industry was the production of cheese. The so-called “Lithuanian” cheese resembling the Dutch, was especially relished in Poland. It was produced mostly in the province of Nowogrodek.
About one third of all the flour-mills, 5,870 out of 17,629 in 1934, were in the eastern provinces. Twenty-eight modern grain-elevators closely connected with flour-production, were built here since the re-establishment of Poland.
Finally, the eastern provinces possessed thirteen factories of potato products, exclusive of spirit-distilleries, mostly making starch, as against a total of 230 potato-drying factories, fifty-four starch factories and 3 syrup factories existing in Poland in 1937.
Of smaller industries, the production of underwear, ready-made clothes, and other wearing-apparel deserves notice. Underwear was made at Lwow, gloves at Wilno, shoes and rubber articles in the west of the province of Lwow, and at Lida in the province of Nowogrodek. The tanning industry was more or less equally distributed all over Poland. In 1927-1928, 327 large tanneries and 969 smaller tanning workshops were active. In the chemical industry the eastern provinces were particularly rich in oil mills with some hundreds of small and twelve large ones, using the raw material produced in these lands. The ceramic industry was also well represented, and there were numerous brick kilns. In 1936 the eastern provinces had nine of the 64 Polish glassworks. They also possessed eleven coke- and gas-works. The graphic industry was represented by several important printing offices at Wilno and Lwow.
The progress of the electrification of the eastern territories under Polish rule is shown by the following figures: in 1923 the power of the existing plants amounted to no more than 4,233 kw., while the yearly production did not exceed 7,948,000 kwh. In 1936 the corresponding figures were: 27,082 kw, an almost seven-fold increase, and 38,733,000 kwh, being almost five times as great as the earlier figure.
The re-establishment of communications presented a serious problem in the restored Polish State. It must be remembered that every part of Poland was frontier territory to one of the three dividing powers, and Russia and Austria systematically neglected such territories for strategical reasons. Whether that was right or wrong does not matter here. Secondly, the railway-lines constructed on Polish territory in the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century, the busiest period of railway construction, were laid down so as to connect the three annexed parts of Poland with the administrative and economic centres of the dividing Empires, that is to say, in directions contrary to what was required in restored Poland. Finally, Poland found, particularly in the eastern territories, a railway-system ruined and disorganized by six years of warfare waged on her territory. The management of the Polish State Railways was compelled to start its activities by repairing the damage done, reconstructing bridges, railway-stations, workshops, etc., and thus spending up to 1930 the considerable sum of 780,000,000 zloty (31,200,00 bps). At the same time the existing system of lines had to be developed so as to correspond to the needs of Poland by linking together the three former parts. Regional requirements could not be considered till a later stage. Poland built 1,097.7 miles of new railway lines, but the construction of those connecting Upper Silesia and Central Poland with the sea-port of Gdynia and the western borderlands with central and eastern Poland had to be given priority. In the eastern provinces two new railway-lines were constructed, one between Luck and Stojanov (52.08 miles) shortening by a half the journey from Central Volhynia to Lwow, and the other between Voropajevo and Druja (55.18 miles), making accessible the northern part of the province of Wilno. A much more intensely conducted undertaking, and one which particularly met regional requirements, was the construction of macadamized (N.B. surfaced with small stones bound together with a stonedust and water cement or cement grout or bitumen binder) public highways, most urgently needed in the eastern provinces, particularly in those of the north-east, which had been completely neglected by the Russian Government on this point. Thus, up to 1936, the following mileage of new highways was built: in the province of Nowogrodek, 800.42 miles; Wilno, 650.38 miles; Polesia, 88.04 miles; Volhynia, 298.22 miles; and in the south-eastern provinces 181.04 miles.
Summed up, the system of communications in the eastern territories was as follows: the total mileage of Polish railways in 1937 was 12,473.16 miles, i.e. 8.34 miles per 100 square miles and 3.59 miles to every 10,000 inhabitants. In the four north-eastern provinces the total mileage was 2,532.08 miles, with from 4.97 to 6.25 miles of railway to 100 square miles, and from 3.28 to 5.33 miles to every 10,000 inhabitants. In the south-eastern provinces the corresponding figures were 2,120.40 miles; from 7.21 to 8.98 in 100 square miles and from 2.85 to 3.47 miles to every 10,000 inhabitants.
In 1938 there was in Poland a total of 39,164.78 miles of public highways, 4,253.20 of which were in the four north-eastern provinces, and 7,377.38 in the south-eastern.
In conclusion it may worth while to point out that the three south-eastern voivodships before the war of 1914-1918 felt the effects of the policy of exploitation conducted by the Austrian Government in relation to Galicia. Having been reunited to the Polish State in 1919 they underwent an economic trabsformation which was fairly favourable.
The four provinces forming the east and north-east of Poland having been divided by the frontier traced at Riga from the larger whole to which they formerly belonged, were an economic territory of new formation. The lands east and west of that frontier now belonged to two distinct economic worlds.
In the east, Soviet White Russia and the Soviet Ukraine contributed their part to the building of Socialist economy in the Soviet Union, but the centres of that economy were situated and developed for the most part in quite different and exceedingly distant regions. The districts lying along the new Polish frontier being purely agricultural did not draw any stiking benefit from this development.
Economic improvement in territory forming part of Poland based on capitalist economy and individual property was much more evenly distributed. Anything that could be done towards rendering agriculture remunerative benefited the whole country-side, and the manifold efforts of the authorities and corporations, of co-operative societies and financial institutions to call into being not only great industrial centres but also smaller establishments scattered over the provinces, no less than to raise the level and efficiency of craftsmanship and of local commerce often greatly helped to promote the well-being of very remote and backward districts. This system resulting in modest but steady progress appears to be specially well adapted to the needs and conditions of a country not endowed with remarkable natural resources.
Chapter Six: Schools and Public Education
One of the most essential efforts made by the Polish State for the development of its eastern provinces was expenditure on public education.
The unusually low standard of teaching and learning in the former Russian part of the eastern territories was not merely the result of inefficiency of the Russian authorities, it was part of a political system. To the last the Tsar’s government held that popular instruction, even within the bounds of a thoroughly Russian education system, was a menace to the autocratic regime. The result of this policy was an unusually high percentage of illiterates. In spite of an immediate radical change from these shocking conditions after the abolition of Russian rule in 1915-1916 and in spite of a decided improvement of the educational system the percentage of illiterates on these territories in 1921 still amounted to 64.70 percent of the inhabitants over ten years of age, and as much as 71 percent of the children of school age (10-14 years).
Poland took exactly the opposite line. The war against the Bolsheviks was still raging when on August 20th, 1919 – only four months after the liberation of the city by the Polish army – the University of Wilno was re-established, and took the name of King Stephen Batory, founder in 1578 of the Academy of Wilno, which had been the University’s fore-runner. This establishment had been developed in later times to full University standing, but in 1832 had been closed down by the Russian authorities when in full bloom, as a consequence of the Polish “November rising” of 1830-1831. Similarly the “Lyceum” of Krzemieniec in Volhynia, founded in 1805 by Polish initiative and afterwards suppressed by the Russian Government, was restored to full activity in 1920.
At the same time the Polish Boards of Education set about the organization of the school system with great energy. In 1910-1911 there existed in the four north-eastern provinces 3,698 elementary schools of exclusively Russian character and of a low standard of teaching, with 242,100 pupils. By 1921-1922 the number of schools had grown to 3,870, and by 1937-1938 these figures had risen to 6,312 schools, with 841,500 pupils. In addition to these schools, kindergartens, hitherto unknown here, were created, and in 1937-1938 numbered 135, with 4,300 children. These schools, at first often located in simple peasant cottages, were removed in due time to newly-built, modern school-buildings. In 1925, the elementary schools still possessed no more than 2,548 school-rooms; by 1937 the number had increased to 5,833 school-rooms.
The results of these efforts soon appeared in the fall of the percentage of illiterates. In 1931, at the time of the census, their number had fallen from 64.70 percent (the figure for 1921) to 41 percent of the population over 10 years of age, and from 71 percent to 17 percent for children of 10 to 14 years. Out of 100 children of school-age in the four north-eastern provinces 80 were already attending school in 1937, and of those nine years old as many as 90.
The number of secondary schools also increased. In 1921-1922 there were 60 such schools, with 15,700 pupils; in 1937-1938 they had increased to 81 with 19,200 pupils, not to mention the higher gymnasiums (N.B. the term gymnasium here refers to secondary schools meant to prepare students for university by stressing a classic curriculum) created in accordance with the Polish school-reform of 1932, which numbered 70 with 3,700 pupils. Besides these, other educational institutions, until then unknown in these lands, were founded, such as teachers’ training colleges, of which in 1937-1938 there were nine with 3,700 students; 114 vocational schools of arious types with 13,200 pupils; 37 argricultural schools with 1,100 pupils, and 40 advanced vocational schools with 6,800 pupils.
Besides the University of Wilno, a school of political Studies was created in that city in the endeavour to educate candidates for the civil service and local government offices in the eastern territories. This school was attached to the Institute for Eastern Europe, founded at Wilno by the Polish Government for the pursuit of research on the Baltic States and Soviet Russia, and in 1937-1938 the aggregate attendance at these two institutions was 3,300.
In the three south-eastern provinces there was also great progress in public education, although this was less striking than in the north-east, as the standar of teaching under Austrian rule had been higher, and the development of educational institutions much less hampered. Hence the percentage of illiterates fell here, between the two census-years of 1921 and 1931, from 31.50 percent to 24.20 percent for inhabitants over 10 years of age, and for children of 10-14 from 26.20 percent to 8.20 percent. The number of school buildings newly-erected in the period 1925-1938 is shown by the growth of the number of school-rooms, which increased during these eleven years from 7,728 to 10,621. The following figures give a general idea of the educational system here in 1937-1938: 126 kindergartens with 5,000 children; 5,176 elementary schools with 822,399; 138 secondary schools with 33,100; 127 higher gymnasiums with 8,700; 15 teachers’ training colleges with 900; 91 vocational schools wiyh 14,700; 24 agricultural schools with 800, and 85 advanced professional schools with 17,300 pupils. After Warsaw, Lwow was one of the principal centres of academic teaching in Poland; five schools of university status existed here with 9,100 students, the University, the Engineering College, the College of Export Trade, the Veterinary Academy and the Institute of Dentistry.
Within the general system of education the needs of the non-Polish population were by no means forgotten. In addition to the Jewish schools of every grade which grew up in all their variety there were numerous minority schools. These last existed in three distinct types: 1) Schools in which a minority language was a subject of instruction. Ukrainian was taught in 2, 087 elementary schools attended by 335,400 pupils; White Ruthenian in 44, which 8,200 pupils attended, and Lithuanian in 112 schools with 8,600 pupils. 2) In the “bilingual” schools a minority language besides Polish was a medium of teaching. On this basis instruction was given in Ukrainian and Polish in 3,064 schools with 473,400 pupils. In 56 schools a total of 4,500 children were taught in White Ruthenian and Polish or Lithuanian and Polish. 3) In the third group the medium of instruction was a minority language, Ukrainian in 461 schools attended by 58,800 pupils, Lithuanian in 23 schools with 1,100 pupils, and Czech in 18 schools with 900 pupils. The Ukrainians also had 24 secondary schools and 21 higher gymnasiums for 5,700 pupils, in which teaching was carried on exclusively in their own language, two bilingual secondary schools and two bilingual higher gymnasiums with 1,200 pupils, one Ukrainian teachers’ training college with 100 pupils (the teachers training colleges as a distinct type of school were being systematically abolished since the school-reform of 1932 in favour of higher gymnasiums and special University courses. The number of Ukrainian teachers training colleges in 1933 was eight.) and five Ukrainian vocational schools with 600 pupils. In this way 539,800 pupils were taught in Ukrainian, and 335,400 learned that language as a subject, so that altogether 875,200 children had the opportunity to become literate in the Ukrainian tongue, in nothing more. The White Ruthenians and the Lithuanians each had a secondary school and one higher gymnasium at Wilno, where instruction was given in their native languages.
The systematic teaching of children in Polish and in their mother-tongue simultaneously had been introduced in the eastern provinces by an Act of Parliament in 1924. This measure, aiming at appeasing and uniting the nationally mixed population, established the bilingual school, with Polish and the mother-tongue of the pupils as the medium of instruction, as the normal and fundamental type of school in which Polish and non-Polish pupils were to be taught to respect and understand each other (in addition to the establishments already mentioned there existed a Uniate College of Theology in Lwow. An Orthodox Faculty of Theology was attached to the University of Warsaw. Six chairs in the University of Warsaw, five in Crakow and two in Lwow imparted teaching in Ukrainian subjects in the Ukrainian language.).
It should be mentioned here that the non-Polish population in the eastern provinces enjoyed full liberty in the use of their languages in all matters of asministration, local government and law, as decreed by two acts of parliament of the same year 1924.
Besides this regular educational system, public extra-mural instruction instruction developed rapidly and far towards raising the standard of culture.While in Eastern Galicia there were only certain defects to be made good, in the four north-eastern provinces, formerly Russian, everything had to be organized from the very beginning. In view of the high percentage of illiterates among the adult population, supplementary educational courses, evening schools, and the so-called Peoples’ Universities played an important part: in 1937-1938 there were in these north-eastern provinces about 2,500 educational centres of all types with 50,000 students, in Eastern Galicia about 1,200 centres with 21,000. A special type of professional instruction for the youth engaged in agriculture was created by the so-called “agricultural preparatory groups”, directed by qualified instructors. These groups flourished especially in the eastern territories, and in 1938 reached the number of 4,500 groups out of the Polish total of 10,863 groups. The strenuous effort of local-government in the eastern provinces was extended also to other spheres of educational activity. In 1937-1938 there were 18,636 Polish “community halls”, which combined self-education with instruction by teachers. Of these 9,821 were in the eastern territories. These regions had also 4,634 popular theatrical clubs out of the Polish total of 11,176, 2,505 choral societies out of 5,976 and 9,600 popular libraries out of a Polish total of about 20,000. Thirty new museums were also added to those already existing at Wilno and Lwow. The number of community houses, which gradually became the nodal points of social life in the villages, rose in the north-eastern provinces from two in 1919 to 97 in 1933, and in former Eastern galicia from 126 to 466. It may be added here that particularly the last years (1933-1939) – and this refers especially to the south-eastern territories, for which statistics are unfortunately lacking – were a period of intense and fruitful activity on the part of local government in this sphere of public education in which the central government also took a large share.
In the modern expansion of broadcasting the eastern territories kept pace with the rest of Poland. Of the ten Polish broadcasting stations, four were installed in the east, at Wilno (1928), Lwow (1930), Baranowicze (1938), and at Luck, where the final stage of construction was interrupted by the present war.
In concluding this rapid survey of the cultural and educational life of the eastern territories it may be added that over fifty scientific societies were extremely active in various domains, and that the eastern provinces were the subject of special interest among Polish cultural circles, which in 1934 organized with liberal government help, a “Commission for Scientific Research in the Eastern Territories”. This Commission, co-ordinating and financing research on problems of the eastern provinces in particular, organized a congress held at the University of Warsaw in 1936 to discuss research work in polesia, and in 1938 another congress was held at the University of Cracow on the problems of the central and eastern Carpathians.
Chapter Seven: Conclusions
When in 1918 and 1919 the Polish National Committee presented the representatives of the Allies with memoranda concerning the western and eastern borders of the Polish State, then on the point of re-establishment, it laid down the following principals: “In defing the territory of the future Polish State, historical and ethnographic considerations have been taken into account, though priority is given to motives of a political nature. The principal fact to be reckoned with before all other considerations is the geographical position of Poland. A consideration of this position and of the experiences of the past, as shown by history, proves that Poland is able to exist as an independant state between Germany and Russia only and soley if she herself is a large and powerful state.” (St Koznicki. Sprawa Granic Polski. Warsaw 1920. p 20-21).
In spite of this standpoint the representatives of Poland did not put forward any extreme demands. Regarding the eastern borders in particula, they agreed to a solution which, relinquishing a large portion of territories belonging to Poland before the partitions, constituted not only a compromise, but was inspired by the most genuine desire to assure Poland a durable peace in the east. But neither fairness of the political arguments, nor Poland’s accomodating attitude sufficed to settle the eastern borders of the Polish State. And so, while other nations rejoiced over the return of peace in 1918, Poland, devastated by years of war waged on her territories as well as by long unscrupulous German occupation, unprepared for warfare and most imperfectly organized as she was – became involved in a war with her eastern neighbour. It was her eastern borders that were at stake; by the summer of 1920 it became apparent that she was engaged in a struggle for her very existence. Soviet Russia at that time disregarded the declaration of her Government made in 1918, under the leadership of Lenin, which both acknowledged Poland’s right to freedom and independance and reudiated the Partitions.
Poland, organizing her army out of mostly scanty resources, and at the same time laying the foundations of her state organization, had nothing but her fervent patriotism with which to meet the onslaught, and seeing her very existence threatened was compelled to back her political arguments with the sword. But, even after achieving a complete victory, poland did not try to impose a peace of conquest. Always keeping in view the necessity of a peaceful future, Poland formulated her territorial demands so as to enable Russia to accept them without humiliation. Poland, therefore, did not claim any more territory than she had done before her victorius war, and even consented to her borders being fixed still further west. Poland’s eastern frontiers,as establsihed by the Treaty of Riga were such that not only vast territories belonging to the Polish State of 1772 were abandoned, but over a million Polish inhabitants as well.
Only then could Poland begin her twenty years of peaceful labour. The most intense efforts were needed to heal the wounds inflicted by the wars and to efface the deep and painful traces of a century of enslavement. These schemes were more easily carried out in central Poland than in the eastern territories, subjected as they had been to a particularly chauvinistic Russian policy. A very short space of time sufficed, however, to show how superficial was the Russification of these lands. The Orthodox Church, seemingly the foundation-stone of Russian civilization, was actually preserved only in Poland, and it was only here that it could start a genuine and prosperous development after the severe experiences of the revolutionary period.
While in the north-eastern provinces, previously under the Tsars, the problem of removing the Russian veneer from the surface of national life was the one which united all nationalities in a creative and vigorous effort, the question of the relations between Poles and Ukrainians remained dominant in south-eastern Poland.
But it was not the political differences and contentions that filled the working day in these lands. We are all of us children of the XIX century, the century of triumphant nationalism. We, therefore attach too great an importance to nationalistic problems which too often hide or distort underlying realities. So it was in eastern Poland. Beneath the stormy waves of political tension men lived their everyday matter-of-fact life, with its sorrows and its toil, its fortunes and misfortunes. The same daily questions, by touching simultaneously thousands and millions of people, grew into great social, economic or cultural problems, the solution of which was vital for the progress of the country.
The data given in the preceding chapters will provide the reader with some material to form an opinion as to where and to what degree improvement can be said to have been made in Poland’s eastern territories. It would be erroneous, however, to judge all these problems without reference to the whole Polish situation. The present study is limited to the problems of eastern Poland only, a land much less known to the public in general than the western provinces of Poland. Hence it was necessary to omit questions which, though pertaining to the whole of poland and thus influencing the fate of the eastern territories in a greater or lesser degree, did not affect the eastern part of Poland directly. Here and there the more important of these general Polish problems have been hinted at, but anything like an adequate treatment was out of the question. On the other hand, we have been equally unable to explain which of the eastern problems was of the greatest importance for Poland in general. But whoever feels genuine interest in any particular region of Poland may be supposed to know also the chief problems of the country as a whole.
Of these general problems the following undoubtedly deserve to be stressed: the development of the educational system, the reconstruction of agricultural life, the very modern and progressive social legislation and most of the measures taken in the field of national economy.
Of general Polish matters, which could not be treated here, but which had considerable influence on the eastern provinces, the educative role of the Polish Army deserves the first place. The army, on calling up a young recruit from the village on the Soviet border transferred him to an environment where he was brought into contact with a different standard of civilization, and given very careful instruction in many subjects. The young man’s eyes were opened to things hitherto unknown. He conceived new, higher desires and aspirations. The scope of his interests was enlarged, and finally he returned to his eastern province a thoroughly changed man. Equally worthy of mention, though belonging to a different domain, were the endeavours for the economic development of Poland, such as the improvement of the communications linking Poland with the sea, the Central Industrial Region, etc., which, though not affecting the eastern provinces directly, had nevertheless a strong influence on their economic progress. Nor could this treatise, limited as to subject, even touch on themes which, though closely linked with Eastern Poland, were outside the scope of this work. Unfortunately, it was impossible to treat of the arts and literature of the eastern territories, although it was precisely these regions that gave Poland her greatest poets, Mickiewicz and Slowacki, or initiated such artistic movements in recent times as the school of Plastic Arts in Wilno. Nor was it possible to deal with such interesting problems – though undoubtedly of less practical interest – as a comparison of the human types in the east with analagous types in the other parts of Poland, or the historic role played by the descendants of the eastern races in the struggles for Poland’s independence and in the efforts towards the rebuilding of the Polish State. Each of these topics would prove to be of absorbing interest and might easily fill as many pages as this treatise does, hence they had all to be omitted.
The picturesque beauty of the eastern landscape had also to be passed over. But whoever has visited Poland, even for a brief period, and felt the subtle charm of Wilno and its district, or the proud beauty of the eastern Carpathians, whoever has felt the singulair spell of Polesia’s forests, rivers and marshes, will assuredly understand the mind of a Pole “of the borders”, one of the most valuable Polish human types, and realise what the eastern territories mean to the Polish nation.
For the eastern provinces comprise one half of Poland’s entire territory and almost two-fifths of her population. They possess many natural riches, but above all they have ever been part of that country’s flesh and bone. Without them Poland could lead only a crippled existence.
In 1918, Poland had difficulty coping with independence after some 125 years of occupation. Not only were there border wars but also a devastated economy and infrastructure, clashes between ethnic groups, religious denominations and political idealogies and inexperienced military and political administrations.
Contrast the positive focus of the booklet with the following excerpts from Neal Ascherson’s The Polish August:
“Internal politics in Poland between the wars were turbulent and indecisive. Before 1926 (i.e. before Pilsudski’s military coup), the parties representing national minorities – Jewish, Ukrainian and Byelorussian – helped to ensure that no stable parliamentary majority could be found. The Pilsudski camp never developed an authentic political movement of its own and ruled in effect by force. On the left, the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) and the small Communist Party (KPP) held great influence over the growing working class, but were outweighed by the Peasant Party (PSL). The largest single political formation, the National Democrats (Endecja) led by Roman Dmowski, dominated the right. Although it never held power for more than brief interludes, and then only in complex coalitions, its attitudes gained a wide influence over Polish public opinion, not only in the relatively small upper and middle classes, and the ghosts of Endecja instincts and prejudices can be encountered in Polish political conversations to this day. If they had taken power in the 1930s, their regime would have had little to distinguish it from those of Hitler and Mussolini.”
The reborn military was also having its difficulties:
“Pilsudski was an extraordinary, contradictory figure. Like all Polish politicians who were then trying to learn the practices of normal public life, his political training had been that of a conspirator. Pilsudski had been a dominating personality in the Socialist Party (PPS), but most of his activity in the years before 1918 was given to organizing the cadres of an underground national army, and he emerged essentially as a military leader. At independence he became at once the largest man on the scene.
Their cavalry had beaten the Russians. Poland had won a war (the Polish-Soviet War). A grand complacency descended, especially upon the senior officer caste. Unfortunately, this group took its complacency into still higher positions of influence. After the 1926 coup, Pilsudski ruled through his old military cronies; they were not professional politicians, but they were not really professional officers either. These were not the veterans of long service in the Austrian or Prussian armies who had commanded the operations that stopped the Bolsheviks outside Warsaw. They were amateurs who had served only in Pilsudski’s conspiratorial ‘Legions’ and knew little of real military training or campaining. When Pilsudski died in 1935, this little Legionary junta succeeded him as a collective dictatorship. Their understanding of what the content of state independence could be was primitive and exaggerated.”
Source: The Polish August, Neal Ascherson, Penguin Books, 1981.