Poland in the Twentieth Century

Poland in the Twentieth Century

Poland in the Twentieth Century

Poland in the Twentieth Century

Excerpt

There are few countries that generate as much violent controversy and diametrically opposed passions as does Poland. For indeed, this country is, and always has been, a puzzling paradox.

Absent from the political map of Europe for over a century as a result of the vivisections performed on it at the end of the eighteenth century, Poland reappeared in 1918 like the mythical phoenix. Its resurrection belied the predictions of some of the most astute and "realistic" statesmen of the world. Many of these sophisticated minds continued to regard Poland for years as a fly-by-night phenomenon. Yet, in 1920, soon after having regained their independence, the Poles again astonished the world when they scored one of the most unexpected and decisive victories of twentieth-century history: they smashed the seemingly irresistible advance of the Red Army, which was then at the gates of Warsaw distributing bulletins about the fall of the Polish capital and the establishment of a Communist government. The victory, which a British diplomat called "the eighteenth decisive battle in world history," allowed not only Poland, but all other countries west of Soviet Russia, to survive and consolidate their independence during the following two decades. The memories of these twenty years of freedom are still with the peoples of the area. As a result of this, their more complete absorption into the Soviet imperial structure after World War II was made virtually impossible.

The interwar period in Poland was a time of important cultural achievement in fields as diverse as literature and mathematical logic. From the mathematical school of Lwów came Stanistaw Ulam, a co‐ inventor of the hydrogen bomb. During the 1920s and early 1930s, Poland managed to play an international role quite out of proportion to its forces and resources, a role facilitated by the momentary . . .

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