Rzeczpospolita Polska
Republic of Poland
1918–1939 Flag of Germany 1933
Flag of the Soviet Union 1923
Flaga PPP
Flag of Poland Coat of arms of Poland2 1919-1927
Flag Coat of arms 1919–1927
Mazurek Dąbrowskiego
Capital Warsaw
Language(s) Polish official
Ukrainian, Yiddish, Belarusian, German also spoken
Government Republic
Prime ministerList
Legislature Sejm
 - upper chamber Senat
 - lower chamber Sejm
Historical era Interwar period
 - World War I November 11
 - Invasion September 1
 - 1921 387,000 km² (149,422 sq mi)
 - 1931 388,634 km² (150,052 sq mi)
 - 1938 389,720 km² (150,472 sq mi)
 - 1921 est. 27,177,000 
     Density 70.2 /km²  (181.9 /sq mi)
 - 1931 est. 32,107,000 
     Density 82.6 /km²  (214 /sq mi)
 - 1938 est. 34,849,000 
     Density 89.4 /km²  (231.6 /sq mi)
Currency Marka (until 1924)
Złoty (after 1924)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Austria-Hungary 1869-1918 Austria–Hungary
Flag of the German Empire German Empire
Sin bandera Kingdom of Poland (1916–1918)
Flag of Ukraine West Ukrainian National Republic
Flag of the Lemko-Rusyn Republic Lemko-Rusyn Republic
Flag of Ukraine Komancza Republic
Flag of UNR Ukrainian People's Republic
Flag of the Galician SSR Galician Soviet Socialist Republic
Flag of Galicia and Lodomeria (1849-1890) Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria
Flag of Central Lithuania Republic of Central Lithuania
Nazi Germany Flag of Germany 1933
Soviet Union Flag of the Soviet Union 1923
Polish Underground State Flaga PPP
File:Bevölkerungsverteilung Ostmitteleuropa um 1918.jpg
Poland1939 physical

Second Polish Republic, Physical 1939

Rzeczpospolita 1938

Second Polish Republic 1922–1939

Armoured Car Korfanty 1920

Polish armoured car Korfanty in 1920 in the Silesian Uprisings

Roman Dmowski LOC 3c35372u

Roman Dmowski

The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; from the creation of an independent Polish state in the aftermath of World War I, to the invasion of Poland in 1939 by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and the Slovak Republic, which marked the beginning of World War II.

When the borders of the state were fixed in 1922 after several regional conflicts, the republic bordered Czechoslovakia, Germany, Free City of Danzig, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, and the Soviet Union, plus a tiny strip of the coastline of the Baltic Sea, around the city of Gdynia. Furthermore, in the period March 1939 - August 1939, Poland bordered then-Hungarian Carpathian Ruthenia. It had an area of 388 634 km² (sixth largest in Europe, in the fall of 1938, after the annexation of Zaolzie, the area grew to 389,720 km².), and 27.2 million inhabitants according to the 1921 census. In 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II, it had an estimated 35.1 million inhabitants. Almost third of these were minorities (13.9% Ukrainians, 3.1%[1] Belarusians, 8.6% Jews, 2.3% Germans, and 3.4% percent Czechs, Lithuanians and Russians).

The Second Polish Republic is often associated with times of great adversity, of troubles and of triumph. Having to deal with the economic difficulties and destruction of World War I, followed by the Soviet invasion during the Polish Soviet War, and then increasingly hostile neighbors such as Nazi Germany, the Republic managed not only to endure, but to expand. Lacking an overseas empire (see: Maritime and Colonial League), Poland nevertheless maintained a level of economic development and prosperity comparable to that of the West. The cultural hubs of Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Wilno and Lwów raised themselves to the level of major European cities. They were also the sites of internationally renowned universities and places of higher learning. By 1939 the Republic was becoming a major world player in politics and economics.[2]


Main article: History of Poland (1918–1939)

Timeline (1918–1939)Edit

The beginningsEdit

Polish-soviet war 1920 Aftermath of Battle of Warsaw

Polish soldiers displaying captured Soviet battle flags after the Battle of Warsaw.

Occupied by German and Austro-Hungarian armies in the summer of 1915, the formerly Russian-ruled part of what was considered Poland was proposed to become a German puppet state by the occupying powers on November 5, 1916, with a governing Council of State and (from October 15, 1917) a Regency Council (Rada Regencyjna Królestwa Polskiego) to administer the country under German auspices (see also Mitteleuropa) pending the election of a king.

Shortly before the end of World War I, on October 7, 1918, the Regency Council dissolved the Council of State and announced its intention to restore Polish independence. With the notable exception of the Marxist-oriented Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), most political parties supported this move. On October 23 the Council appointed a new government under Józef Swierzynski and began conscription into the Polish Army. On November 5, in Lublin, the first Soviet of Delegates was created. On November 6 the Communists announced the creation of a Republic of Tarnobrzeg. The same day, a Provisional People's Government of the Republic of Poland was created under the Socialist, Ignacy Daszynski.

On November 10, Józef Piłsudski, newly freed from imprisonment by the German authorities at Magdeburg, returned to Warsaw. Next day, due to his popularity and support from most political parties, the Regency Council appointed Piłsudski Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces. On November 14 the Council dissolved itself and transferred all its authority to Piłsudski as Chief of State (Naczelnik Państwa).

Centers of government that were created in Galicia (formerly Austrian-ruled southern Poland) included a National Council of the Principality of Cieszyn (created in November 1918) and a Polish Liquidation Committee (created on October 28). Soon afterward, conflict broke out in Lwów between forces of the Military Committee of Ukrainians and the Polish irregular units of students and children, known as Lwów Eaglets, who were later supported by the Polish Army.

After consultation with Pilsudski, Daszynski's government dissolved itself and a new government was created under Jędrzej Moraczewski.

World War IIEdit

The beginning of the Second World War put an end to the Second Polish Republic. The "Invasion of Poland" campaign began 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and ended 6 October 1939, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying the entirety of Poland (with the exception of the area of Wilno, which was annexed by Lithuania). Poland did not surrender, but continued as Polish Government in Exile and the Polish Underground State.

Politics and governmentEdit

Rydz Smigly Bulawa1

Edward Rydz-Śmigły receiving the Marshal buława from president of Poland Ignacy Mościcki. November 10, 1936, Warsaw.

Chief of StateEdit


Prime ministersEdit


WWII-Poland-1939-communications and industry

Industry areas and communication routes in Poland before the start of WWII.

After regaining her independence Poland was faced with major economic difficulties. Within the borders of the Republic were the remnants of three different economic systems, with three different currencies and with little or no direct infrastructural links. The situation was so bad that neighboring industrial centers as well as major cities lacked direct railroad links, because they had been parts of different occupying nations. For example, in the 1920s there was no direct railroad connection between Warsaw and Kraków, the line was not completed until 1934.

On top of this was the massive destruction left after both World War I and the Polish Soviet War. There was also a great economic disparity between the eastern (commonly called Poland B) and western (called Poland A) parts of the country, with the western half, especially areas that had belonged to the German Empire being much more developed and prosperous. Frequent border closures and tariff wars (especially with Nazi Germany) also had negative economic impacts on Poland.

Despite these problems Poland managed in the interwar period to achieve a state of economic prosperity on par with Western Europe. In 1924 prime minister and economic minister Władysław Grabski introduced the złoty as a single common currency for Poland, which remained one of the most stable currencies of Central Europe. The currency helped Poland to bring under control the massive hyperinflation, the only country in Europe which was able to do this without foreign loans or aid (see also Polish marka).

The basis of Poland's relative prosperity were the mass economic development plans which oversaw the building of three key infrastructural elements. The first was the establishment of the Gdynia seaport, which allowed Poland to completely bypass Gdańsk (which was under heavy German pressure to boycott Polish coal exports). The second was construction of the 500-kilometer rail connection between Upper Silesia and Gdynia, called Polish Coal Trunk-Line, which served freight trains with coal. The third was the creation of a central industrial district, named the COP - Central Industrial Region (Centralny Okręg Przemysłowy). Unfortunately, these developments were interrupted and largely destroyed by the German and Soviet invasion and the start of World War II.[3]


According to the 1939 Statistical Yearbook of Poland, total length of railroads of Poland (as for December 31, 1937) was 20 118 kilometers. Rail density was 5.2 km. per 100 km2. Railroads were very dense in western part of the country, and in the east, especially Polesie, rail was non-existent in some counties. During the interbellum period, Polish government constructed several new lines, mainly in central part of the country (see also Polish State Railroads Summer 1939).



Poland, linguistic 1937


Polish Nation in 1912 and territorial claims

Poland administrative division 1922 literki

Polish voivodeships 1922–1939

II RP adm

Administrative map of Poland from 1930

Poland has traditionally been a nation of many nations, with large Jewish and Ukrainian minorities. This was especially true after she regained her independence in the wake of World War I, in 1918. The census of 1921 allocates 30.8% of the population in the minority.[4] This was further exacerbated with the Polish victory in the Polish Soviet War, and the large territorial gains made by Poland as a consequence. According to the 1931 Polish Census (as cited by Norman Davies[5]), 68.9% of the population was Polish, 13.9% were Ukrainians, 8.6% Jews, 3.1%[1] Belarusians, 2.3% Germans and 2.8% - others, including Lithuanians, Czechs and Armenians.

Poland was also a nation of many religions. In 1921 16,057,229 Poles (approx. 62.5%) were Roman (Latin) Catholics, 3,031,057 citizens of Poland (approx. 11.8%) were Eastern Rite Catholics (mostly Ukrainian Greek Catholics and Armenian Rite Catholics), 2,815,817 (approx. 10.95%) were Greek Orthodox, 2,771,949 (approx. 10.8%) were Jewish, and 940,232 (approx. 3.7%) were Protestants (mostly Lutheran Evangelical).[6] By 1931 Poland had the second largest Jewish population in the world, with one-fifth of all the world's Jews residing within Poland's borders (approx. 3,136,000).[4]


Date Population Percentage of
rural population
Population density
(per km²)
30 September 1921 (census) 27,177,000 75,4% 69,9
9 December 1931 (census) 32,348,000 72,6% 82,6
31 December 1938 (estimate) 34,849,000 70% 89,7
Largest cities in early 1939:
  1. Warsaw – 1,289,000
  2. Łódź – 672,000
  3. Lwów – 318,000
  4. Poznań – 272,000
  5. Kraków – 259,000
  6. Wilno – 209,000
  7. Bydgoszcz – 141,000
  8. Częstochowa – 138,000
  9. Katowice – 134,000
  10. Sosnowiec – 130,000
  11. Lublin – 122,000
  12. Gdynia – 120,000
  13. Chorzów – 110,000
  14. Białystok – 107,000

Administrative divisionEdit

The Administrative division of Second Polish Republic was based on the three tier system. On the lowest rung were the gminy, which were little more than local town and village governments. These were then grouped together into powiaty which were then arranged into wojewodstwa.

Popadia 02

Popadia in Gorgany. Polish-Czechoslovak border (before World War 2)

Polish voivodeships in the interbellum
(data as per April 1, 1937)
car plates
(since 1937)
Separate city
Capital Area
in 1000 km² (1930)
in 1000 (1931)
00-19 City of Warsaw Warsaw 0,14 1179,5
85-89 warszawskie Warsaw 31,7 2460,9
20-24 białostockie Białystok 26,0 1263,3
25-29 kieleckie Kielce 22,2 2671,0
30-34 krakowskie Kraków 17,6 2300,1
35-39 lubelskie Lublin 26,6 2116,2
40-44 lwowskie Lwów 28,4 3126,3
45-49 łódzkie Łódź 20,4 2650,1
50-54 nowogródzkie Nowogródek 23,0 1057,2
55-59 poleskie Brześć nad Bugiem 36,7 1132,2
60-64 pomorskie Toruń 25,7 1884,4
65-69 poznańskie Poznań 28,1 2339,6
70-74 stanisławowskie Stanisławów 16,9 1480,3
75-79 śląskie Katowice 5,1 1533,5
80-84 tarnopolskie Tarnopol 16,5 1600,4
90-94 wileńskie Wilno 29,0 1276,0
95-99 wołyńskie Łuck 35,7 2085,6

On April 1, 1938, borders of several western and central Voivodeships changed considerably. For more information, see Territorial changes of Polish Voivodeships on April 1, 1938.

Geography of the Second Polish RepublicEdit

Second Polish Republic was mainly flat, with average elevation of 223 meters above sea level (after World War Two, average elevation of Poland decreased to 173 meters). Only 13% of territory, along the southern border, was higher than 300 meters. The highest elevation was Mount Rysy, which rises 2,499 meters in the Tatra Range of the Carpathians, 95 kilometers south of Kraków. Between October 1938 and September 1939, the highest elevation was Lodowy Szczyt (known in the Slovakian language as Ľadový štít), which rises 2,627 meters above sea level. The biggest lake was Lake Narach.

Country's total area, after annexation of Zaolzie, was 389,720 km²., it extended 903 kilometers from north to south and 894 kilometers from east to west. On January 1, 1938, total length of boundaries was 5 529 km., including:

  • 140 kilometers of coastline (out of which 71 kilometers were made by the Hel Peninsula),
  • 1412 kilometers with Soviet Union,
  • 948 kilometers with Czechoslovakia (until 1938),
  • 1912 kilometers with Germany (together with East Prussia),
  • 1081 kilometers with other countries (Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Danzig).

Among major cities of the Second Polish Republic, the warmest yearly average temperature was in Kraków (9.1 C in 1938) and the coldest in Wilno (7.6 C in 1938).

Extreme pointsEdit

  • Northernmost point: N55*51'8,45" (N55,852250*); Przeświata River in Somino, located in the Braslaw county of the Wilno Voivodeship
  • Southernmost point: N47*43'31,8" (N47,725492*); spring of Manczin River located in the Kosów county of the Stanisławów Voivodeship
  • Easternmost point: E28*21'44,3" (E28,362371*); Spasibiorki (near railway to Połock) located in the Dzisna county of the Wilno Voivodeship
  • Westernmost point: E15*47'12,4" (E15,786773*); Mukocinek near Warta River and Meszyn Lake located in the Międzychód county of the Poznań Voivodeship


Almost 75% of the territory of interbellum Poland was drained northward into the Baltic Sea by the Vistula (total area of drainage basin of the Vistula within boundaries of the Second Polish Republic was 180 300 km².), the Niemen (51 600 km².), the Odra (46 700 km².) and the Daugava (10 400 km².). The remaining part of the country was drained southward, into the Black Sea, by the rivers that drain into the Dnieper (Pripyat, Horyn and Styr, all together 61 500 km².) as well as Dniester (41 400 km².)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Note: 3.1% of Belarusians is derived from the official census data. In fact, the number of Belarusians was about 3.5 million, i.e., about 10%. However in the 1921 Polish Census the number was reduced to about 1 million and to 890,000 in 1931 Polish Census by counting Belarusian Roman Catholics as Poles, see Jan Zaprudnik, "Belarus: At a Crossroads" (1993, ISBN 0-8133-1794-0), p. 83.
  2. The End, TIME Magazine, October 2, 1939
  3. , Atlas Historii Polski, Demart Sp, 2004, ISBN 83-89239-89-2
  4. 4.0 4.1 Joseph Marcus, Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919–1939, Mouton Publishing, 1983, ISBN 90-279-3239-5, Google Books, p. 17
  5. Norman Davies, God's Playground, Columbia University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-231-12819-3, Google Print, p.299
  6. , Powszechny Spis Ludnosci r. 1921

External linksEdit

ca:Segona República Polonesa cs:Druhá polská republika da:Anden polske republik de:Zweite Polnische Republik et:II Rzeczpospolita es:Segunda República Polaca eo:Dua Pola Respubliko fr:Deuxième République de Pologne it:Seconda Repubblica Polacca he:היסטוריה של פולין: הרפובליקה השנייה hu:Második Lengyel Köztársaság nl:Tweede Poolse Republiek no:Andre polske republikk nn:Den andre polske republikken pl:II Rzeczpospolita pt:Segunda República Polonesa ro:A doua Republică Poloneză simple:Second Polish Republic sv:Andra polska republiken uk:Друга Річ Посполита zh:波兰第二共和国

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