While scouring Google Images for maps of Europe for my post on European borders, I was inspired to follow up on Curzon’s excellent series of countries’ changing borders over time with a visual history of Poland’s borders.
The Polish state was born in 966 with the baptism of Mieszko I. By 990, when Mieszko officially submitted to papal authority, he’d transformed his country into one of the strongest powers in Eastern Europe.
The Commonwealth was an extension of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, a personal union between those two states that had existed from 1386. It was one of the largest and most populous states in Europe and for over two centuries successfully withstood wars with the Teutonic Order, the Mongols, the Russians, the Ottomans, and Sweden. The Commonwealth was notable for its political system, which was a precursor to modern democracy and federation; for its remarkable religious tolerance; and for the second-oldest codified national constitution in the world.
Polish independence ended in a series of partitions (1772, 1793 and 1795) undertaken by Russia, Prussia and Austria, with Russia gaining most of the Commonwealth’s territory including nearly all of the former Lithuania (except Podlasie and lands West from Niemen river), Volhynia and Ukraine.Following the French emperor Napoleon I’s defeat of Prussia, a Polish state was again set up in 1807 under French tutelage as the Duchy of Warsaw. Upon Austria’s defeat in 1809, Lodomeria was added, giving the new state a population of some 3.75 million, a quarter of that of the former commonwealth.
Once the German empire was broken apart as part of the Versailles treaty, Poland moved westwards receiving parts of Prussia, though a large chunk remained German yet unconnected to Germany. Additionally, Danzig, a German town, was made a free city. Polish independence was proclaimed on November 3, 1918.
After the second World War, Poland’s borders were made what they are today and after German reunification, the German government renounced (as part of the agreement) any future claim to former German lands. Given Poland’s EU membership signalling ever deepening political and economic integration not to mention its NATO membership, today’s borders are likely to stay where they are for quite awhile.