The destruction of the 'Second Republic' in September 1939 initiated a decade of continuous turmoil in Poland. The process of reconstructing a new political system began as soon as the old order was destroyed and was not technically complete until the declaration of the constitution of the Polish People's Republic (P.R.L.) on 22 July 1952. Important aspects of this process, including the history of the Polish resistance, the work of the government-in-exile, the diplomacy of the Great Powers on the Polish Question, and the consolidation of the Communist system after 1948, lie beyond the scope of this paper, which is limited to the events in Poland itself in the critical period between the advance of the Soviet Army in July 1944 and the formation of the Polish United Workers' Party (P.Z.P.R.) in December 1948.
At the same time, it is necessary to make a serious reservation about historical sources. Although much is known in detail about the international diplomacy of the wartime and post-war years, Polish internal politics of the period cannot be approached with the same degree of certainty. The Polish archives are not usually accessible to independent research on documents dating after 1944, and the Soviet archives, too, can be regarded as a closed book on this subject. Documentary evidence is fragmentary, and secondary material is often untrustworthy. The subject is more suited to the skills of a sleuth or a soothsayer, than to those of the trained historian 1.
Encyclopædias have been written on the rights and wrongs of the Polish frontiers, but as far as the post-war era is concerned it is a simple fact that at no point was Polish authority established beyond those limits laid down by the U.S.S.R. Despite considerable diplomatic wrangling on the subject, and the absence of any final international recognition, for practical, purposes the Polish Republic was confined from the start to the Soviet concept of its proper frontiers; that is, to a territorial base bodily removed lock, stock and barrel some 150 miles westwards from the pre-war position. The loss of Poland's eastern lands to the U.S.S.R., was compensated by the gain of a similar area of former German territory in the north and west.