WAR AND PRE-WAR HERITAGE
THE Republic of Poland began its independent life after World War I as a backward, predominantly agrarian country. Some three-quarters of its population of around thirty million lived on the land. In the provinces east of the Curzon Line, comprising nearly half the territory of that time and inhabited by about a third of the population, the proportion living on the land was much larger: it ran to over five-sixths. Here also the living standards were lowest. The greater part of the inhabitants in these regions were Byelorussians and Ukrainians, while estate owners were chiefly Poles. A difficult minority problem was thus added to a difficult social situation.1
Polish land was for the most part of mediocre quality, better suited, it was held at that time, to rye and potatoes than to wheat. Forests were not very abundant and were chiefly to the east. Foodstuffs constituted over 40 per cent of all Polish exports between the wars -- witness the fame of Polish bacon -- but domestic consumption was grossly inadequate. 'The diet consisted largely of bread and potatoes.'2 Timber was also important as an article of export, but cutting was wasteful: over half the timber felled was used for fuel, and this in a country exceedingly rich in coal. Less than 10 per cent of the timber output was put to industrial use.
Coal, by far Poland's greatest resource, came chiefly from the rich seams of the Silesian coal basin, none of it from the eastern regions. About a third of it was exported, and upon the remainder was based such industrial development as the larger Polish cities attained.
The land system, inherited from three empires, was the crux____________________