Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-Century Europe

By Alice Teichova; Herbert Matis et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
Economic differentiation and the national question in
Poland in the twentieth century
Jerzy Tomaszewski

The share of national minorities in Poland in 1931 can be estimated at about 36 per cent of the total population. The basic data are shown in table 17.1. 1 The characteristic feature of these minorities were significant differences in their social structure and economic situation connected with the regional differences between the provinces of the Polish Republic. Regional differentiation and specific social and economic features of national minorities and the dominating Polish nation were caused by the historical development of the country. In some cases these differences were rooted in medieval times (for example, the different structure of land ownership) and deepened during the nineteenth century, when the territory of the former Polish Commonwealth was divided between the three neighbouring powers — Austria, Prussia and Russia — and incorporated into the three economic and political units of greatly differing size, economic structure and policy.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the three parts of the future Polish Republic included in these three political and economic units varied significantly. The lands included at the end of the eighteenth century and after 1815 in the Prussian Kingdom developed a strong and relatively modern agriculture with small industrial enterprises and services related to the needs of the agricultural population. The future Poznań and Pomorze provinces were agricultural lands delivering their products to the industrial regions of the German Empire. The Prussian administration supported the German minority in these provinces, organised and financed the influx of German farmers, businessmen and officials from the western part of the monarchy and tried to impose the German language and culture upon the local Polish and Jewish population. Polish landlords, farmers and small businessmen developed a net of Polish co-operatives and institutions, which helped to defend their interests against the state administration and their German neighbours. The financial centre of the Polish co-operatives and small business was the

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