Table Of Content
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Glossary of terms and abbreviations
- Chapter 1. Prelude
- 1. Impending war
- 2. Mobilization
- 3. To the front
- Chapter 2. Military operations
- 1. Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes
- 2. Kraśnik and Komarów
- 3. Lwów and Lwów again
- 4. The Warsaw-Dęblin and Łódź operations
- 5. Kraków and Limanowa
- 6. Przemyśl: “Pure Hell”
- 7. The Carpathian winter war
- 8. Gorlice
- 9. Sochaczew: the Ypres of the East
- 10. The aftermath of Gorlice
- Chapter 3. The army takes over
- 1. The last days of peace and the first days of war
- 2. Gossip
- 3. Spies
- Chapter 4. The Prussian Partition
- 1. Berlin and the Poles
- 2. The war economy
- 3. Russian troops in East Prussia
- Chapter 5. Russian Galicia
- 1. The capture of Galicia
- 2. The new order
- 3. The getaway
- Chapter 6. Austrian Galicia
- 1. Treachery
- 2. Evacuation
- 3. Winning back Galicia
- 4. The Poles sidelined
- 5. Demolition and restoration
- 6. Civic Galicia
- 7. Polish politics, Ukrainian politics
- 8. Fighting for Poland
- Chapter 7. The Russian Kingdom of Poland
- 1. Poles and Russians
- 2. Citizens’ Committees
- 3. The scorched earth policy
- 4. Enforced migration
- Chapter 8. The Kingdom of Poland under German and Austrian rule
- 1. Occupation
- 2. Domestic and foreign relief organizations
- 3. The Church
- 4. German and Austrian administration
- 5. The Polonization of symbolic space
- 6. Polish attitudes to occupation
- 7. The Act of the Fifth of November
- 8. The Provisional Council of State, the Regency Council, and the Council of Ministers
- 9. Homecomings
- 10. The economy
- Chapter 9. On the way to final outcomes
- 1. Ober-Ost
- 2. Brest-Litovsk
- 3. Pogroms in the Borderlands
- 4. Poles in Russia. The Polish Corps in the East
- 5. Resistance
- 6. The Polish Question
- 7. Haller’s Army
- Chapter 10. Everyday life
- 1. Population change
- 2. Health and hygiene
- 3. The wartime menu
- 4. Heating and lighting
- 5. The black market
- 6. Wartime demoralization
- 7. Transport and communication
- 8. Women’s activation
- Conclusion. The Polish Finale
- Index of Names
1795 marks the most dramatic event in Polish history. The dismemberment of Poland-Lithuania, which had existed since 1569 as a federation with a mixed system incorporating a monarchical and a republican component, and with a history of statehood going back to the 10th century, was a shock to the people of Poland and an unprecedented event in modern Europe. I would go as far as to say that the Poles have never gotten over the trauma. The endeavor to launch a reform program undertaken by the Great Sejm of 1788-1792 which materialized in the Third of May Constitution (1791) – Europe’s first modern, written constitution, second only to that of the United States – cost the country a war against Russia in defense of its Constitution (1792), which it lost along with its statehood. The military intervention spawned by the Russian Empire and the fall of the Kościuszko Insurrection effected the ultimate dismemberment of the entire territory of a once mighty state, apportioning it to three neighboring powers. The other two “Trustees” to the partitioning – apart from the pioneering Russian Empire – were Prussia and Habsburg Austria. Poland was off the maps for the next 123 years. It was a spectacular demise for a country that once spanned the lands from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
In the early 17th century, when Poland–Lithuania was at its peak in terms of territory, its eastern border encompassed Smolensk, lapping the foreground of Moscow. In 1610-1612 a Polish garrison was stationed in the Kremlin, and Poland–Lithuania was the only state which managed to hold large stretches of the Grand Duchy of Muscovy (as of 1721 the Russian Empire) for any length of time, assisted by the Tsar’s subjects. The policies Poland–Lithuania pursued in the 15th and 16th centuries to build up its power, were the outcome of the republican tradition of its “Noblemen’s Democracy” grounded on a compromise solution to government. Poland–Lithuania provided a safe haven for diverse minorities, including its Jewish communities, whom other European countries had spurned. At a time when Western Europe was fraught by religious wars and absolutism was on the rise, leaving no room for dissidence from the opinion espoused by the monarch, Poland–Lithuania offered toleration and a freedom-loving lifestyle. Jewish communities fleeing pogroms sought refuge under the auspices of the king of Poland. The republican setup in the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania offered a home for a diversity of peoples speaking many tongues – Polish, Lithuanian, Ruthenian (which developed into modern Belarusian and Ukrainian), German, and practicing many religions – Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, ←7 | 8→several Protestant Churches, Judaism, and Islam. Politically, Poland–Lithuania was an idiosyncratic phenomenon, and expanding by means of voluntary accession of new lands that wanted to join, not by military aggression. It could do this because its republican administration was based on a large enfranchised segment of society, the nobility and gentry, which made up about 10% of its population. The Noble Estate was under the predominant influence of Polish culture but open to newcomers. It attracted and welcomed in the leaders of other ethnic communities, who soon adopted the culture and manners of the Polish nobility, their love of and commitment to their civil rights.
Yet having achieved success, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth stopped in its tracks and ceased to keep up with the times. Its ruling class became self-satisfied and failed to notice its shortcomings and faults, which was the cause of its downfall. A sluggish development of the cities and towns, the predominance of agriculture over all other branches of the economy, failure to grant political rights to the other social estates, which triggered discontent and rebellion, the demise of the moderately well-to-do gentry and the inordinate rise of the top echelons of the wealthiest lords, a retreat from its earlier acceptance of all religions, worldviews, and ethnicities – these were just some of the factors that led to the disaster. In addition, there were wars with the country’s neighbors, including the Swedish invasion in the mid-17th century, which spelled the end of prosperity for Poland–Lithuania and started its gradual slide downhill.
Poland was extinguished at the worst possible time – just as the world was taking its biggest leap into 19th-century industrialization and laying the foundations for its modern political, material, and technological realities. Deprived of a state of their own, the people of Poland were left behind. The Powers which partitioned Poland conducted anti-Polish policies for the whole of the 19th century, though at different intensities in different times. They blocked the economic development of regions with a Polish population. They located important investments in areas they considered their native domains and discriminated against their Polish acquisitions. All this incited the Poles to rise up against their oppressors, but all the insurrections that erupted frequently throughout the century ended in failure.
History offered the Poles a new opportunity when the Imperial Powers of the 19th century collapsed in outcome of the First World War. Specially significant were the changes in the Russian Empire, which was overwhelmed by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917–1918 and fixed its attention on its own domestic affairs. The multinational, multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated, splitting up into numerous states, and the Kingdom of Prussia was defeated.
The people of Poland decided to recover their independence. The leaders of their political parties focused all their efforts on the supreme value – independence. On November 11, 1918, their joint endeavor led to the restitution ←8 | 9→of the Polish State, which within the next two years fought and won two wars: against Ukraine for the historical lands of Red Ruthenia, and against Bolshevik Russia, which invaded Poland in 1920 but was forced to retreat in the Battle of Warsaw, which the British diplomat Lord D’Abernon considered the world’s eighteenth decisive battle.
However, history is made by more than just great battles and memorable peace conferences, but also by the lives of ordinary people. And that is what this book by Andrzej Chwalba is about. Professor Chwalba is not preoccupied with the familiar military or political issues. He looks at the story of the man in the street and his everyday life, carefully reconstructing the atmosphere in the diverse parts of Poland during the Great War that started in 1914. He writes about the things that made up people’s everyday lives – gossip, spymania, the collapse of representative organizations, the restrictions put on the work of social organizations, material losses, the loyalty of the Poles to the monarch of their respective Partitioning Power, and to the Polish cause. He is interested in what the papers and the chronicles said, what the diary entries recorded, and what the eyewitnesses of the events reported. He examines interpersonal relations, the way people conducted their commercial affairs, and the atmosphere on the streets.
Today people in Poland are not very aware of the vast losses sustained by the Polish territories and of the tremendous sacrifices their inhabitants made during the First World War. These facts have been eclipsed by the tragic events of the Second World War, which are still impacting on Poland and the lives of its people. Nonetheless, during the First World War most of the battles on the Eastern Front were fought in the Polish territories. Now at each other’s throats, the Partitioners treated the Polish territories as a sparring ground. Many of the atrocities committed during the next World War were tested in 1914–1918. A notorious example were the anti-Semitic pogroms and oppressive measures against the Jewish inhabitants of Galicia by the Russian forces invading the region in August 1914. Their aim was to degrade the status of the local Jewish communities and bring them down to the position Jews had in the Russian Empire, where they were subject to discrimination.
Theft and looting, the impoverishment of the inhabitants caused by confiscations, robberies, raids, and devastation in the aftermath of the fighting, the belligerents willfully stirring up conflicts between the diverse ethnic communities and the deportations – for the people of Poland all of this made everyday life hell on earth. The scorched earth tactics employed by the retreating Russian army fleeing the Central Powers’ offensive in the summer of 1915 was especially devastating. Farms, homesteads, and towns were set on fire and the local people were driven out and hustled east by the retreating soldiery. As a rule, when an enemy power seized a given area, he would impose a policy of Russification or Germanization (depending on which Partitioner it was) ←9 | 10→on the terrorized inhabitants. During the First World War the Polish territories sustained an enormous amount of wartime devastation, largely due to the policy of overexploitation pursued by Germany and Russia. The Great War utterly degraded Polish industry, especially the industrialized region of Łódź, diminishing the country’s potential for economic development in the postwar period. In 1913 the Polish territories were the tenth most advanced region in the world economy, with a GDP that put them just after France, Japan, and Italy.1 The Polish GDP per capita was US $1,739 (in 1990 values); as compared to $2,564 for Italy; $1,387 for Japan; $1,488 for Russia; and $3,485 for France. The Poles themselves are not fully aware of the scale of this devastation, chiefly because of the nightmare of the Second World War, which eclipsed the earlier ruination and is still a powerful force in the national memory. The lands of the restored Polish State did not manage to achieve the level of their industrial production prior to the First World War until a year before the outbreak of the next World War.2
As the First World War drew to an end, Polish political parties and organizations coordinated all their efforts for independence as never before. Andrzej Chwalba gives a detailed account of the situation in each of the partitional zones, showing what action was taken by the various groups, whether National Democrats, Conservatives, or Socialists. He describes the work of the social organizations, the scouts, the Sokół gymnastics associations, and the patriotic paramilitary groups. He shows how Józef Piłsudski put his vision of the Polish Legions into practice, triggering a chain reaction of socio-political developments which eventually led to the creation of the Polish Army and accelerated the work for the Polish cause by military means. All these endeavors came together to bring the ultimate success, the restoration of an independent Republic of Poland.
This book, which approaches the subject from the perspective of historical anthropology, will help readers and scholars worldwide understand the events that happened on the territory of Poland during the First World War and encourage more people to join in the discussion on the history of the region. The broad spectrum of facts and topics it addresses has met the principles governing the award of the Janusz Kurtyka Prize, which is the main project conducted by the Janusz Kurtyka Foundation. The aim of the Prize, awarded ←10 | 11→annually since 2017, is to promote Polish history and historiography abroad by making prizewinning books available in translation to readers worldwide. Professor Chwalba’s book was the winner of the 2018 competition entitled “Within the Span of Polish Independence.” We hope that the book’s English translation will serve as a guide to the history of our region of Europe – a history which is still having an effect on us today.
President of the Janusz Kurtyka Foundation
1 Angus Maddison, The World Economy, Vol. 1: A Millennial Perspective, Paris: OECD, 2006, p. 261, Tab. B-18; p. 264,Table B-21; Vol. 2: Historical Statistics, Paris: OECD, 2006, p. 476, Table 3b; p. 478, Table 3c; Jan Szpak, Historia gospodarcza powszechna, Warszawa: PWE, 2007, p. 275, Table 24.
2 Bogusław Kopka, “Patriotyzm i nacjonalizm od święta. W przeddzień rocznicy stulecia odzyskania przez Polskę niepodległości.” Konteksty, Bezpieczeństwo, Obronność, Socjologia 2017, No. 5 (7), p. 7.
“A historian who assumes the task of giving an account of what the people of Poland thought and did during the War will have a fair deal of trouble,” Ignacy Daszyński wrote to Władysław Leopold Jaworski on June 2, 1916. And indeed, for nearly a hundred years historians have not had it easy, because the Polish territories at the time of the First World War have turned out to be an extremely complex subject to study. This is one of the reasons why there have been so few attempts to take a comprehensive approach to the question. The only books which present an overview history of Poland during the First World War are university and school textbooks, but most of these are, by their very nature, too general and too much of an overview, generally limited to the political and military issues.
The centenary of the emergence of a new Republic of Poland has encouraged me to write this book, which will present a comprehensive picture of the lives of the millions of people, Poles and members of other ethnic communities, who inhabited the lands of the old Polish Republic in 1914–1918. This book could not have done without a series of in-depth accounts of what happened to the three partitional zones and the three occupied regions, of the activities of the principal Polish politicians and military commanders, but also the plight of the nameless witnesses and contributors to the events of history, whose lives were shattered by the Great War. Another important point was to identify those practices which the occupying forces would repeat, on a bigger scale and in a more brutal déjà-vu, during the Second World War. They treated the territories of Poland as an experimental test site for the management of human resources, the economy, and supplies. The People of Poland at War: 1914–1918 could not overlook the Polish political and military effort which led to the Polish November of 1918; nor could it skip the military operations of the three Powers that had partitioned the old Polish State, because – first of all – they fought in Polish territories, second – they had a fundamental impact on the everyday lives of thousands of people and the work of the administrative authorities, and third – Polish officers and men participated in them. But I am going to give the military history just the amount of space needed to present the full historical context necessary to make the story of the War relatively easy to understand.
The libraries and archives contain invaluable collections of sources useful for the study of the people of Poland during the Great War. Over the century they have been consulted by Polish and foreign researchers, who have accomplished an impressive amount of work, with hundreds of works of scholarship ←13 | 14→and general interest publications, and issuing scores of editions of the source texts. All this makes up a sufficient groundwork of source records to portray a comprehensive picture of the struggles and vicissitudes the people of Poland sustained in 1914–1918.
The complexity of wartime affairs did not make it easy for me to construct a framework which would be the best to tell a story that evolved at a rapid pace and was full of surprising situations, ideas, opinions, and solutions. I found it indispensable to run a series of simulations to try out a number of different frameworks. In the end I decided on one which combined a chronological order with an array of subjects I discuss as self-standing problems. This account of Poland during the Great War will not start in the traditional way with an account of the diverse Polish political parties and factions, military exploits, the Polish riflemen, or Piłsudski and his legionaries. I’ll begin in a different way.
It was much easier to decide on the chronological cut-off points. The starting point is the death of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered the global disaster. The end point is the traditional and symbolic date, November the Eleventh 1918, when armistice and the end of the War were declared on the Western front, while in Poland the Regency Council handed over military power to Józef Piłsudski. The choice of any other closing date would have set off an endless chain of academic debate.
Professors Jan Jacek Bruski, Tadeusz Czekalski, and Piotr Mikietyński of the Jagiellonian University were good enough to read the book, for which I am grateful to them, and share their comments and suggestions, correct the mistakes, and offer alternative ways to present particular issues. I am all the more indebted to them, since it was certainly not a short read.
Special thanks are due to the book’s reviewers, Professor Tomasz Nałęcz of the University of Warsaw, and Professor Marek Przeniosło of the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce. I am grateful to them for the vast amount of thorough work they put in, for their concern for the book as a whole, and for all their comments and suggestions. I would also like to thank the management and staff of the Institute of History Library at the Jagiellonian University for their considerate approach and professional assistance.
Activists – Poles in the Russian Partition of Poland who cooperated with the German and Austro-Hungarian forces which invaded and occupied the territories they inhabited; they did this in the hope that it would help Poland recover its independence.
dwór – a Polish country house (or country cottage), the traditional abode of the Polish gentry; architecturally, the typical dwór was a long, rectangular building with a single story and a veranda with a colonnaded entrance porch at the front
Galicia (aka Lesser Poland; German name Galizien) – the southeastern part of the territories of the old Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, annexed by Austria under the Partitions. Informally, the region was regarded as composed of Western Galicia (aka Western Lesser Poland, now in the Republic of Poland), and Eastern Galicia (now in Ukraine and known as Halichina). Lwów (Lviv, Lemberg, Lvov) was the regional capital with a regional parliament. In 1861 Austria-Hungary granted the region a certain amount of autonomy.
German Eastern Marches Society (Deutscher Ostmarkenverein, also known in German as Verein zur Förderung des Deutschtums in den Ostmarke) – a social and political organization in the German Reich established to Germanize the Polish population inhabiting the Polish territories Prussia had annexed under the Partitions of Poland. It promoted and pressed for a set of anti-Polish policies, including the dispossession of Polish property owners, the closing down of Polish schools, a prohibition on the use of Polish in public etc.
gmina – third-tier (lowest level) territorial administrative unit in Poland
Greater Poland – (Polish name Wielkopolska), the western part of the Polish territories, annexed by Prussia under the Partitions. Poznań is the regional capital of Greater Poland.
Irredentists – Poles whose paramount political aim was to restore Polish independence.
Kingdom of Poland – also known as the Congress Kingdom of Poland; a territorial entity set up at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and put under the rule of the Tsar of Russia. In 1832, after the fall of the November Uprising, it was incorporated in Russia and governed by a Russian viceroy. In the 1860s and ’70s it was subjected to an intensive program of Russification.
Königlich Preußische Ansiedlungskommission in den Provinzen Westpreußen und Posen – the Prussian Settlement Commission, established by Bismarck ←15 | 16→in 1874, with the chief aim of dispossessing Polish landowners in the Polish territories annexed by Prussia
krone – currency of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Loyalists – Poles in the Austro-Hungarian and Prussian Partitions who remained loyal to the Partitioning Power governing their region when it was invaded and occupied by the Russians
mark – currency of the German Empire, legal tender in Germany from 1873 until the economic depression of the early 1920s
National Democratic Party, Polish Nationalists (Narodowa Demokracja) – a political party originally from the Russian Partition but gradually acquiring a membership in all three Partitions. It held conservative views but was anti-German and regarded Tsarist Russia as the “lesser evil” for Poland. Their leader was Roman Dmowski.
Partitions of Poland – in the late 18th century the Commonwealth of Poland–Lithuania was partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Austria, three states neighboring on it. They dismembered it in three stages (1772, 1793, and 1795), each annexing part of its territory, until Poland-Lithuania ceased to exist. For the next 123 years – until 1918 and the end of the First World War – the peoples of the old Commonwealth of Poland–Lithuania lived under the rule of the three Partitioning Powers, which grew more and more hostile to each other and eventually went to war. The unfavorable outcome of the First World War for all three Partitioning Powers gave Poles and other peoples who had been subjugated by them the opportunity to demand independence and set up their own sovereign states.
Passivists – Poles in the Russian Partition of Poland under German and Austro-Hungarian occupation who refused to cooperate with the invaders.
Podolians – a political group of wealthy Poles from Podolia (now a territory in Ukraine) who held Polish national views but remained loyal to Austria-Hungary when their region was invaded by the Russian army.
Polish Circle (Koło Polskie) – informal name of the group of Polish deputies returned in the latter half of the 19th century to the parliaments of the Partitioning Powers (i.e. to the Russian Duma, German Reichstag, and Austro-Hungarian Council of State respectively)
powiat – second-tier (intermediate level) territorial administrative unit in Poland
Realists – Poles with conservative views living in the Russian Partition who remained pro-Russian when their territories were invaded by the Germans and Austro-Hungarians. Many Realists joined a political party called Stronnictwo Polityki Realnej (the Party of Realistic Policy).
Regency Council of the Kingdom of Poland – a body set up in 1917 by the German and Austro-Hungarian authorities occupying the Polish territories formerly under Russian rule, pending the prospective foundation of a new kingdom ←16 | 17→of Poland. Although the Regency Council did not exercise real power (except in civil matters), when the War ended in November 1918 it ceded its powers to the authorities of a now independent Poland (effectively to Piłsudski, appointing him Supreme Commander of the Polish Forces).
ruble – the Russian currency
Seized Territories – the northeastern territories of the old Commonwealth of Poland–Lithuania; at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 they were not included in the Congress Kingdom but incorporated directly in Russia.
Sejm – the Polish parliament, especially its lower chamber
Sokół (“Falcon”) – a Polish gymnastic society which promoted patriotic attitudes
starost – the chief administrative officer of a powiat
Stronnictwo Narodowe (SN, the National Party) – an Activist faction of the National Democrats
Towarzystwo Strzelec (Riflemen’s Society) and Związek Strzelecki (the Riflemen’s Association) – Polish paramilitary organizations under Piłsudski’s command which participated in combat on the Austro-Hungarian side
Trialists – a political group in the Austrian Partition who wanted the Habsburg Empire to assume a tripartite form as an Austro-Hungarian-Polish state
Uprisings – a series of 19th–century Polish armed insurrections against the Partitioning Powers, especially the November Uprising (1830-1831) and the January Uprising (1863-1864). All the 19th-century uprisings were eventually crushed by the forces of the Partitioning Powers, but the national memory of them was an incentive for the Polish pro-independence efforts during the First World War. Veterans of the January Uprising lived to see the restoration of Poland’s independence in 1918.
voivodeship – first-tier (top level) territorial administrative unit in Poland
wójt – the administrative officer of a gmina, especially a rural gmina
złoty – the Polish currency
AOK – Armeeoberkommando (high command of the German forces; high command of the Austro-Hungarian forces)
CKN – Centralny Komitet Narodowy (Main National Committee)
CKO – Centralny Komitet Obywatelski (CKO, the Citizens’ Central Committee)
GGL – Militärgeneralgouvernement in Polen (Military General Government in Poland, with headquarters in Lublin, the part of the Russian Kingdom of Poland under Austro-Hungarian occupation)
GGW – Generalgouvernement Warschau (the Government General of Warsaw; the part of the Russian Kingdom of Poland under German occupation)
GKO – Główny Komitet Obywatelski (Main Citizens’ Committee)←17 | 18→
GKR – Główny Komitet Ratunkowy (Main Welfare Committee)
KBK – Książęco-Biskupi Komitet (the Prince Bishop’s Committee; full name: Książęco-Biskupi Komitet Pomocy dla Dotkniętych Klęską Wojny; the Prince Bishop’s Assistance Committee for the Relief of War Victims)
KNP – Komitet Narodowy Polski (National Committee of Poland)
KRG – Krajowa Rada Gospodarcza (National Economic Council)
KSSN – Komisja Skonfederowanych Stronnictw Niepodległościowych (Committee of Confederated Independence Parties), initially known as the Provisionals
LPP – Liga Państwowości Polskiej (League of Polish Statehood)
MKO – Międzypartyjny Komitet Obywatelski (Interparty Citizens’ Committee)
MKP – Międzypartyjny Komitet Polityczny (Interparty Political Committee)
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2021 (April)
- Everyday life Citizens‘ public activity The nature and scale of the devastation Social, cultural, and political consequences of the War The First World War in Central Europe The struggle for Polish independence
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 426 pp., 1 table.