Poland, 1918-1945: An Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic

By Peter D. Stachura | Go to book overview

3

SOCIETY AND THE ECONOMY

Any objective assessment of the state of Polish society and of the economy in 1918 could hardly fail to point out the magnitude and complexity of the tasks confronting both spheres. A common language, culture and religion had sustained ethnic Poles throughout the lengthy partitionist era, but it was immediately doubtful whether this basis would be sufficient to promote a new, integrated society now that Poland was again an independent state. It was not simply that the inevitable differences in the administration, laws, conventions and other practices of the three former partitioned areas would need to be smoothed out, remodelled and eventually made uniformly and widely acceptable. A further complication was that when Poland's borders were finally established and internationally recognised by 1923, the population included non-Polish ethnic groups who accounted for approximately one-third of the total at any time throughout the interwar period.

According to the national censuses of 1921 and 1931, about 14 per cent of the population were Ukrainian, 4 per cent Byelorussian, 2 per cent German, 10 per cent Jewish, and a further 1 per cent composed of much smaller numbers of Russians, Czechs, Lithuanians and so-called 'locals' of no determinate nationality. In confessional terms, this meant that the predominantly Roman Catholic Poles were joined by some five million Orthodox Ukrainians, three million of the Jewish faith, and three-quarters of a million Protestant Germans. The Polish State, although lacking the relevant experience, had somehow to find the means of integrating these minorities so that a cohesive, viable society could develop. In this respect, it may have appeared to be an advantage that the population as a whole enjoyed an equal gender balance, and that, as in many other contemporary European countries, a large majority of both sexes were in 1931 aged under 39 years. Against this was the incontrovertible fact that Poland was very much a male-dominated society.

Otherwise, the Polish society that emerged after 1918 was overwhelmingly rural and agrarian, so that the largest social group was by far the

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Poland, 1918-1945: An Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations and Glossary viii
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Independence Regained 6
  • 2 - Consolidation 28
  • 3 - Society and the Economy 45
  • 4 - Politics 59
  • 5 - The Ethnic Minorities 79
  • 6 - Culture and Education 101
  • 7 - Foreign Policy 111
  • 8 - Occupation and Resistance 130
  • 9 - The Jewish Holocaust and the Poles 144
  • 10 - Defeat in Victory 161
  • Conclusion 182
  • Bibliography 188
  • Appendix I 201
  • Appendix II 208
  • Index 211
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