POLAND DESERVES TO BE the first state of interwar Eastern Europe to receive detailed treatment in these pages. Not only was she the largest, most populous, and most powerful state of the region, but her problems in the period reflect all of the social, economic, and political dilemmas that plagued all of Eastern Europe. A thorough exposition of Poland's situation provides a touchstone for analyzing the specific concerns of the other nations as well as a framework for understanding the status of the region as a whole.
Interwar Eastern Europe is usually characterized as having been created in a power vacuum, and such was certainly the case for Poland. The armistice of November 11, 1918, called for the immediate evacuation by the German military of all areas occupied since the outbreak of the war. Though the sheer volume of space controlled by Germany in the east made immediate withdrawal a logistical impossibility, civil authority in Poland, heretofore a responsibility of German occupation forces, disappeared almost instantly. Since there was no other stable political entity within hundreds of miles of Poland's frontiers, the Poles, after nearly a century and a half of foreign domination, had to begin to fend for themselves right away.
As it happened, the very sudden collapse of authority had the effect of considerably strengthening the position of one of the two principal Polish political factions: that of Joseph Piłsudski and (at least nominally) his Socialist Party. The story of Piłsudski's activities during the war is a complex one, but it is sufficient in this context to point out that, after organizing forces to fight with Austria-Hungary and against Russia, he had had the good fortune to become suspect in the eyes of the German authorities who came to control the sector in which he operated. 1 They put him in prison, a move which both kept him in Poland and freed him