History of Silesia
Silesia has historically been an ethnically diverse region. Germanic tribes were first recorded within Silesia in the 1st century.Slavs arrived in this territory around the 6th century. The first known states in Silesia were those of Greater Moravia and Bohemia. In the 10th century, Mieszko I incorporated Silesia into the Polish state. In this state it remained until the Fragmentation of Poland. Afterwards it was divided between Piast dukes, descendants of Władysław II the Exile, High Duke of Poland.
In the Middle Ages, Silesia was divided among many independent duchies ruled by various Silesian dukes of the Piast dynasty. During this time, cultural and ethnic German influence increased due to immigrants from the German-speaking components of the Holy Roman Empire. Between the years 1289–1292 Bohemian king Wenceslaus II became suzerain of some Upper Silesian duchies. Silesia subsequently became a possession of the Crown of Bohemia under the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century, and passed with that Crown to the Habsburg Monarchy in 1526. The Duchy of Crossen was inherited by Margraviate of Brandenburg in 1476 and, with the renunciation by King Ferdinand I and estates of Bohemia in 1538, it became an integral part of Brandenburg.
In 1742, most of Silesia was seized by King Frederick the Great of Prussia in the War of the Austrian Succession and subsequently made the Prussian Province of Silesia.
After World War I, Lower Silesia remained with Germany while Upper Silesia, after a series of insurrections by the Polish inhabitants was split. The part which became part of the Second Polish Republic was administered as the Silesian Voivodeship. The Prussian Province of Silesia within Germany was divided into the Provinces of Lower Silesia and Upper Silesia. Austrian Silesia (officially: Duchy of Upper and Lower Silesia; almost identical with modern-day Czech Silesia), the small portion of Silesia retained by Austria after the Silesian Wars, became part of the new Czechoslovakia.
In 1945, following World War II, both of the provinces of Silesia were occupied by the Soviet Union. According to the Potsdam agreement most of this territory was afterwards transferred to Poland. As a result a vast majority of the native ethnic German population was expelled by force and replaced by Polish settlers who had themselves been expelled from eastern Poland.
The first signs of genus Homo in Silesia date to between 230,000 and 100,000 years ago. The Silesian region between the upper Vistula and upper Oder was the northern extreme of the human penetration at the time of the last glaciation. The anatomically-modern human is estimated to have arrived in Silesia about 35,000 years ago. Subsequently, Silesia was inhabited by people who belonged to changing archaeological cultures in the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, and the ethnic identity of whose cannot currently be determined. The civilization of Old Europe undoubtedly included Silesia. In the late Bronze Age, the Lusatian culture (in the past, variously speculated to be either 'pre-Germanic', Proto-Slavic, Thracian, Karpo-Dacian or Illyrian) covered Silesia. Later, the Scythians and Celts (the tribes of Boii, Cotini and Osi) are known to have played a role within the Silesian territory. Still later Germanic tribes migrated to Silesia, possibly from Northern Germany or Scandinavia.
The first written sources about Silesia came down from the Egyptian Claudius Ptolemaeus (Magna Germania) and the Roman Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (Germania). According to Tacitus, the 1st century Silesia was inhabited by a multi-ethnic league dominated by the Lugii. The Silingi were also part of this federation, and most likely a Vandalic people (Germanic) that lived south of the Baltic Sea in the Laba, later Elbe, Oder and Vistula river areas. Also, other East Germanic tribes inhabited the region.
After c. AD 500, the migration period had induced the bulk of the East Germanic tribes to continue their migration and leave Silesia towards Southern Europe, while Slavic tribes began to appear and spread including into the Silesian lands. Early documents mention a few mostly Slavic tribes probably living in Silesia (Silesian tribes). The Bavarian Geographer (c. AD 845) specifies the following peoples: the Ślężanie, Dzhadoshanie, Opolanie, Lupiglaa and Golęszycy. A document of the Bishopric of Prague (1086) also mentions the Zlasane, Trebovyane, Poborane and Dedositze.
Great Moravia and Kingdom of Bohemia
In the 9th century, parts of Silesia's territory came under the influence of Great Moravia, the first historically-attested state in the region. After Great Moravias decline one of its successors, Bohemia, gradually conquered Silesia. At the beginning of the 10th century Vratislaus I subdued the Golensize and soon afterwards seized Middle Silesia. Wrocław was possibly founded by and named after him. His son Boleslaus I subdued the Boborane between 950 and 965 and later also the Opolane and Dedosize. The town of Bolesławiec bears his name. The Bohemian rulers also tried to evangelize the region and opened up Silesia for the international trade. Abraham ben Jacob in 973 crossed Southern Silesia on a road which later became one of the major trading routes between East and West when he travelled from Prague to Kraków.
Kingdom of Poland
At the end of the 9th century Silesia came within the sphere of influence of two other neighbours, the Holy Roman Empire and Poland. In order to proselytise Silesia to Christianity Holy Roman emperor Otto I in 971 donated the tithe of the Dziadoszyce area to the Diocese of Meissen, and in 996 Otto III defined the Oder up to the spring as the border of the Margraviate of Meissen. All this however was without practical consequences as the expanding Polish state of Mieszko I conquered Silesia at the same time. The Dziadoszyce area was already incorporated c. 970. In 990 Mieszko annexed Middle Silesia and its main township Niemcza with the help of the Holy Roman Empire, which supported Poland in order to weaken Bohemia. In the coming years Mieszkos successor, Bolesław I, integrated the area of the Opolane and Golenszanie into his realm. With the establishment of an independent Polish ecclesiastical province in 1000 (see: Congress of Gniezno) the bishopric of Wrocław, subordinate to the archbishopric of Gniezno, was established.
After the death of Bolesław I in 1025 his oldest son Mieszko II was crowned as king of Poland. Due to a foreign invasion in 1031 Mieszko had to go on exile. The military defeat of the young state led to a pagan revolt that took place between 1031 and 1032. It endangered the newly established Christian church also in Silesia where it ousted the bishop of Wrocław. However Mieszko managed to regain power in 1032 and restored order in the kingdom. He died in 1034 and his oldest son Casimir the Restorer came into power. In 1037 a nobility revolt took place and Casimir had to flee from the country. This was used by a Bohemian Duke Bretislaus I who after pillaging Greater Poland took control of Silesia in 1038. In 1039 Casimir was back in Poland and started to reunite the country. In 1050, he retook most of Silesia, but was forced to pay a tribute to Bohemia. This tribute, 300 Marks per year and later raised to 500 Marks, was the reason for long-lasting wars between the two countries. Silesia was moreover divided by internal struggles, as some parts of the society were unsatisfied with the changes imposed by Poland. In 1093 an uprising of the Silesian nobility, which was supported by Bohemia, took place. The nobles demanded removal from power of despotic palatine Sieciech as well as recognition of rights to the Polish crown of prince Zbigniew of Poland. The uprising was only partly successful. Zbigniew was officially recognized as an heir to the throne, Sieciech however retained power until 1099 and fled the country in 1101. This era of wars and unrest ended with the peace treaty of Kladsko (Polish: Kłodzko) in 1137, in which the border between Bohemia and Silesia was defined and the affiliation of the Kladsko area to Bohemia was confirmed.
In 1146, High Duke Władysław II was driven into exile to Germany by his brothers, who opposed his attempts to strengthen control of High Duke over the remaining dukes. Silesia then became a possession of the new High Duke, Bolesław IV the Curly. Meanwhile, Władysław was trying to persuade Holy Roman Emperors Conrad III and his successor Frederick Barbarossa to aid him in retaking his duchy but he never managed to succeed. In 1163, his three sons Konrad, Mieszko and Bolesław took possession of Silesia with Imperial backing and probably ruled it together until 1172. Afterwards they divided the territory. Bolesław received the area of Wrocław, Opole and Legnica, Konrad Żagań, Głogów and Krosno and Mieszko the smallest part with Ratibor and Cieszyn. As Konrad prepared himself in Fulda for a clerical career his brother Bolesław administered his possessions until Konrads early dead, when Bolesław incorporated Konrads part into his duchy. Mieszko at the same time expanded his own duchy with parts of the Duchy of Kraków around Bytom and Oświęcim, which were given to him by Casimir II in 1778, and Opole, which he received after the dead of Bolesław. In 1202 Bolesław's son, Henry I, and Mieszko moreover specified to rule out the right of succession among their branches, an arrangement which was largely responsible for the special position of what would become Upper Silesia. In the same year Poland abolished the seniorate and Silesias duchies became independent under constitutional law.
In the first half of the 13th century Silesian duke Henry I the Bearded, managed to reunite much of the divided Kingdom of Poland (Regnum Poloniae). His expeditions led him as far north as the Duchy of Pomerania, where he for a short time held some of her southern areas. He became the duke of Kraków (Polonia Minor) in 1232, which gave him the title of the senior duke of Poland (see Testament of Bolesław III Krzywousty), and came into possession of most of Greater Poland in 1234. Henry tried to achieve the Polish crown but he did not manage to succeed. His activity in this field was continued by his son and successor Henry II the Pious but his sudden death in 1241 (Battle of Legnica) unabled him to achieve this goal. His successors were not able to maintain their holdings outside of Silesia, which were lost to other Piast dukes. Polish historians refer to territories acquired by the Silesian dukes in this period as Monarchia Henryków śląskich ("The monarchy of the Silesian Henries"). In those days Wrocław was the political center of the divided Kingdom of Poland.
In 1241, after raiding Lesser Poland, the Mongols invaded Silesia and caused widespread panic and mass flight. They looted much of the region, but abandoned their siege of the castle of Wrocław, supposedly after being fended off by Blessed Czeslaw's "miraculous fireball." They then defeated the combined Polish and German forces under Henry II at the Battle of Legnica, which took place at Legnickie Pole near Legnica. Upon the death of Ögedei Khan, the Mongols chose not to press forward further into Europe, but returned east to participate in the election of a new Grand Khan.
Walloons belonged to the first ambassadors of western culture in Silesia, working in various fields and places in the middle and late 12th century. Noticeable were weavers in Wrocław and Oława, peasants near Wrocław, Oława and Namysłów and Augustinian monks from Arrouaisse in Sobótka. The German Ostsiedlung was started at the same time by the ruling Piasts in order to develop their realms and to increase their power. Silesia then was sparsely populated with approximately 150,000 people,[when?] the settlements consisted of small hamlets, each with only a few peasants. Castellanies with small suburbias around them were centers of administration, commerce and crafts. In 1155 probably 20 castellanies existed all over Silesia. Some market places however also existed without a castle, like Środa Śląska or Sobótka. These settlements were already noticeable towns in an economic sense, most of the larger ones being the residence of a ruler. Contemporary sources record 8 markets in Silesia, their real number however was probably much higher. The castellanies with their fortified churches were also the center of the church organization, while the network of churches was very coarsely meshed and multiple villages belonged to one parish. The dominions were protected by the so called Preseka (German: Hag, Latin: indago), a wide, fortified strip of woodland which had to be maintained by the Polish peasants.
The Ostsiedlung probably started already with the arrival of German monks in the entourage of Bolesław I, who spent a part of his life in Thuringia, when he returned from his exile in the Holy Roman Empire. These Cistercian monks from the Saxon abbey of Pforta were brought into the country by the duke to establish Lubiąż Abbey. The monks received the permission to settle Germans on their possessions, which in turn were excluded from Polish law "for all time" and instead encouraged to use their own German law. This approach became exemplary for all later German settlements, but the German law also replaced older, customary Slavic and Polish laws in existing settlements. Towns were chartered with the codified German town law, most of the time either Magdeburg law or local Silesian variants like Środa Śląska/Neumarkt law (Latin: ius Theutonicum Srodense, ius Theutonicum Noviforense), which was a variant of Halle law. Existing towns received German town law often before the Mongol invasion in 1241. Examples are Wrocław, Oława, Sobótka and Środa Śląska.
After slow beginnings in the late 12th century the German Ostsiedlung fully started in the early 13th century, initiated and supported by duke Henry I, the first Slavic ruler outside of the Holy Roman Empire to invite German settlers on a wider base. At this time, the eastern border of the German settlement area was still some 130 kilometres (81 miles) away from Silesia. The security of the borders was the biggest goal Henry I. wanted to achieve, which was the reason why the earliest German settlements, built by colonists from Middle Germany, appeared in the area of the Preseka, and later moved into the border forests on the outside of the Preseka. The colonization first affected the region on the western border together with the subsequent southwestern area along the Sudete mountains. German villages soon also appeared in forest islands inside Slavic settlement areas, for instance in a triangle between Wrocław, Legnica and Ząbkowice Śląskie. A second goal of the duke was a better exploitation of resources with the help of more advanced technologies of German miners, which led to the foundation of the mining towns of Goldberg (Polish: Złotoryja) in 1211 and Löwenberg (Polish: Lwówek Śląski) in 1217, some of the earliest German towns in Silesia.
While the German settlement in Lower and Middle Silesia was in a steady progress, it advanced much slower in Upper Silesia, before 1241 actually only because of outside pressure from Moravia, which itself invited German settlers after 1220 to colonize the area around the border to Silesia.
The Mongolian invasion of 1241 inflicted casualties in Silesia, the damage however was limited to a narrow strip from Opole to Wrocław and Legnica and soon compensated by the ongoing colonization. The time after 1241 was marked by a strong expansion of the German settlement activities, mostly carried out by people from older German places in Silesia. The colonization now affected also the mountains in the south of Lower and Middle Silesia, the Lower and Middle Silesian regions to the right of the Oder and also Upper Silesia. During the same time many existing Polish places received German law, often with the help of German settlers.
At the end of the 13th century all regions in Silesia except for some small outer zones in the east were affected by the processes of colonization. Because of migration not only Silesia's population density but also the forms of settlement and the population itself changed dramatically. Characteristic now were well-planned, large villages. A network of almost 130 towns covered the country almost evenly, with a distance from town to town of approximately 18 km (11 mi). The Weichbild constitution replaced the old Slavic castellany constitution. As every village built its own church (the number of churches at the end of the 13th century added up to 1200) the network of parishes also became much more dense, and the diocese was split into the archdeaconries of Breslau, Glogau, Opole and Liegnitz. There are different estimates of the population of Silesia in the 14th century. They vary from approximately 500,000 people, to over 1,000,000 in 1400 and 1,200,000 in 1500. It is estimated that in the year 1400 there were about 30,000 Czechs and 30,000 Germans in Upper Silesia with a Polish population of 240,000 (80%). In the Lower Silesia the amount of Poles and Germans has been estimated as roughly equal; 375,000 for each language group. After the era of German colonization, Polish language was still predominant in Upper Silesia and parts of Lower and Middle Silesia north of the Odra river. Here, the Germans who arrived during the Middle Ages were mostly Polonized; Germans dominated in large cities and Poles mostly in rural areas. The Polish speaking territories of Lower and Middle Silesia, commonly described until the end of the 19th century as the Polish side were mostly Germanized in the 18th and 19th centuries, except for some areas along the northeastern frontier.
After the death of Henry II the Pious his realm was divided between various Piast dukes. In the second half of the 13th century, Henry II's grandson, Henryk IV Probus of Silesia, made an attempt to gain the Polish crown, but he died in 1290 before realizing his goal. Duke Przemysł II of Greater Poland united two of the original provinces and was crowned in 1295, but was murdered in 1296. According to his will, Greater Poland was supposed to be inherited by Duke Henryk III głogowski, (a Silesian duke of Głogów) who also aspired to unite Poland and even claimed the title Duke of Poland. However, most nobles of Greater Poland supported another candidate from the Kuyavian line of Piasts, Duke Władysław I the Elbow-high. Władysław eventually won the struggle because of his broader support. In the meantime, King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia decided to extend his rule and was crowned as King of Poland in 1300. The next half-century was rife with wars between Władysław (later his son Casimir III the Great) and a coalition of Bohemians, Brandenburgers and Teutonic Knights trying to divide Poland. During this time, most Silesian dukes, despite their ties with Poland, refused to accept Władysław's and Casimir's claims for rule sovereignty over other Piasts, and their relatively small realms fell again under the influence of neighboring Bohemia.
After the death of Wenceslaus III, king of Bohemia and Poland, the right to the Polish crown was disputed, being claimed by various Piast dukes as well as the successors of Wenceslaus III on the Bohemian throne. In 1327 John of Bohemia invaded Poland in order to gain the Polish crown. After the intervention of King Charles I of Hungary he left Polonia Minor, but on his way back he enforced his supremacy over the Upper Silesian Piasts.
In 1329 Władysław I the Elbow-high engaged himself in a war with the Teutonic Order. The Order was supported by John of Bohemia who managed to enforce his supremacy over the dukes of Masovia and Lower Silesia.
In 1335 John of Bohemia renounced his claim to the title of king of Poland in favour of Casimir the Great, who in return renounced his claims to the Silesia province. This was formalized in the Treaty of Trentschin and Congress of Visegrád (1335), ratified in 1339 and later confirmed in the 1348 Treaty of Namslau.
The last independent Silesian Piast, Bolko II of Świdnica, died in 1368. His wife Agnes ruled the Świdnica duchy until her death in 1392. From that time on all remaining Silesian Piasts became vassals of the Bohemian Crown.
Despite the shift of the Silesia province from Poland to Bohemia and the treaties mentioned above, medieval lawyers of the Kingdom of Poland created a specific claim to all formerly Polish provinces that were not reunited with the rest of the country in 1320. It based on the theory of the Corona Regni Poloniae according to which the state (the Crown) and its interests were no longer strictly connected with the person of the monarch. Because of that no monarch could effectively renounce his claims to any of the territories that were historically and/or ethnically Polish. Those claims were reserved for the state (the Crown) which in theory still covered all of the territories that were part, or dependant of, the Polish Crown in 1138.
Over the following centuries, the lines of the Piast dukes of Silesia died out and were inherited by the Bohemian Crown:
- Opolska (of Opole)in 1314;
- Świdnicka (of Świdnica) in 1368;
- Oleśnicka (Oleśnica and Głogów) in 1476;
- Żagańska (of Żagań) in 1504;
- Woitowitz (of Woitowitz, Wrocław) in 1532 ;
- Cieszyńska (of Cieszyn) in 1625;
- and Brzesko-Legnicka (of Brzeg and Legnica) in 1675.
Although Friedrich Wilhelm, the last male Silesian Piast Duke of Teschen (Cieszyn) died in 1625, rule of the duchy passed to his sister Elisabeth Lucretia, wife of the duke of Liechtenstein, until her death in 1653 after which it reverted to the Bohemian crown under the Habsburg rulers.
By the end of the 14th century, the country had been split up into 18 principalities: Wrocław, Brzeg, Głogów, Jawor, Legnica, Ziębice, Oleśnica, Świdnica and Ścinawa in Lower Silesia; Bytom, Niemodlin, Koźle, Nysa, Opole, Racibórz, Strzelce Opolskie, Cieszyn and Opava in the upper district. The petty rulers of these sections wasted their strength with internecine quarrels and proved quite incompetent to check the lawlessness of their feudal vassals. Save under the vigorous rule of some dukes of Lower Silesia, such as Henry I and Bolko I[disambiguation needed], and the above-named Henry II and IV, who succeeded in reuniting most of the principalities under their sway, the country fell into a state of growing anarchy.
Kingdom of Bohemia
The ties with Bohemia revived Silesia's economy, which until then mainly profited from the High Road, an important trade road between Eastern and Western Europe which crossed the country. According to the wishes of the House of Luxembourg Breslau, Silesia's main emporium, established new contacts with Budapest and Venice to the south, Thorn and Danzig to the north and became a member of the Hanseatic League. The economic prosperity supported the development of a rich municipal culture, which found its expression in important religious and secular buildings as well as the attendance of many Silesians at the surrounding universities of Kraków, Leipzig and Prague, the latter being the most popular until the decree of Kutná Hora (1409).
With the death of Charles IV in 1378 and the following disputes in the house of Luxemburg the protection of Silesia by Bohemia ended; strife spread out and robber barons devastated the country. The regional public peaces, declared by local Silesian princes, did not change the situation, which became much worse in the following Hussite wars.
The burning of Jan Hus at Konstanz led to religious and national agitation in Bohemia, which was tolerated by king Wenceslaus. After his death in 1419 the Czechs refused to accept Sigismund as their new king as he let Hus be executed. Sigismund in return called a Reichstag in Breslau, the first one to the east of the Elbe, to determine actions against the revolting Czechs. Eighteen Silesian rulers rendered homage to the king and promised help against his foes. In 1421 a Silesian army repeatedly invaded (northeastern) Bohemia, but was defeated by the Hussites. As Moravia also joined the Hussite movement Silesia and Lusatia became isolated in the Bohemian lands and the foremost object of hate for the most radical Czechs, the Taborites. In January 1425 began permanent pressure on Silesian lands, so-called "beautiful rides". After 1427 the Hussites—supported by some Polish lords (Dobiesław Puchała, Sigismund Korybut) and Silesian dukes (Bolko V the Hussite)—invaded Silesia many times, destroyed more than 30 towns and ravaged the country. On the other hand, united armies of local dukes and wealthy towns (Breslau etc.) plundered Bohemian-Silesian borderland and eastern Bohemia (area around Náchod and Trutnov). Some Silesian towns, like Gleiwitz, Kreuzburg, Nimptsch or Ottmachau, became Hussite bases for several years and were a constant threat for the surrounding regions. The Hussite menace lasted until 1434, when they were defeated by the more moderate Ultraquists at Lipany in Bohemia. Sigismund now became king of Bohemia and united Silesia (except lands of Bolko V) by a public peace and the appointment of bishop Konrad, duke of Oels, as senior governor (German: Oberlandeshauptmann).
The death of Sigismund in 1437, however, was soon followed by new challenges for Silesia. The Bohemian crown was now disputed between Albert II of Habsburg and Władysław III of Poland. After Albrecht's early death in 1439 his widow Elisabeth renewed these claims. Silesia, lying between Poland and Bohemia, became a constant battleground of both powers. Wladislaus moreover demanded Silesia and covered the country with war. The majority of Silesian princes however supported Elisabeth. After Wladislaus died in 1444, Bohemia's interim regent George of Poděbrady was elected new king of Bohemia in 1458 and enfeoffed his two sons with the Silesian duchies of Münsterberg (Ziębice) and Opava (Troppau), but also Bohemian territory Kladsko (Glatz), which thereby became closer connected to Silesia. He moreover appointed Czech peers as governors of Silesian hereditary principalities and thus made Czech temporarily the official language for large parts of Silesia.
George of Podiebrad's enemies in 1469 elected Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary and former son-in-law of George, as his rival king of Bohemia. Silesia was divided on the matter, and the power struggle between George and Matthias was predominantly carried out on territory of Silesia and Moravia. The fighting did not stop with George's death in 1471 but continued under his underage successor Vladislaus. After long battles a compromise was found: both kept their title as king of Bohemia, Vladislaus received the Bohemian heartland whereas Matthias took Moravia, Lusatia and Silesia.
The internal development of Silesia during the 15th century was marked by these external insecurities. Some peripheral regions of Silesia were lost, among them Siewierz, Oświęcim or Zator, while other territories were acquired by non- Silesian dynasties like the Wettins, who gained Sagan, or the House of Brandenburg, which gained the Duchies of Krosno (Crossen), Krnov (Jägerndorf), Opole-Racibórz (Oppeln-Ratibor) and Bytom (Beuthen). The economy declined, not only caused by the Hussite destruction but also because the commodity flow avoided both Bohemia and Silesia due to the general insecurity. The new direct trading route between Leipzig and Poznań threatened Silesias interests and was a reason for several trade wars between Silesia and Poland. Breslau lost its staple right in 1515, and the trade on the High Road towards the Black Sea lost its importance after the Turkish occupation of Italian colonies on the Black Sea. The trade with South East Europe, especially Hungary, however increased after the kings of Hungary became the overlords of Silesia, and the trade connections to Upper German cities were also strengthened.
The population declined since the late 14th century because of a late-medieval agricultural crisis, which was later intensified by the Hussite wars. While rural settlements desolated the cities lost a part of their population. This caused a population movement which led to an intermix of Germans and Slavs in Silesia. The respective minority soon adopted the language of the majority, which in turn resulted in a linguistic offset in Silesia. Most Polish linguistic enclaves in Lower and Middle Silesia disappeared; these regions became largely German. Polish survived only in the region around Grünberg and Deutsch Wartenberg and in the agricultural plain to the left of the Oder in a triangle between Breslau, Kanth, Strehlen and Ohlau. On the other hand almost all German linguistic enclaves in Upper Silesia vanished in the 16th century too. Only the towns of Opava (Troppau), Kietrz (Katscher) and Bielsko (Bielitz) remained largely German. This Polonization was moreover encouraged by the usage of Czech as the official language at that time, as both languages were still closely related at the time.
Efforts to implement a constitution for all Silesian estates and thus unite the fragmented country were positive aspects of the 16th century. First attempts by Sigismund in the 15th century were only temporarily successful, Matthias Corvins reforms however were far more effective. The king always had his representatives in Silesia, for a short time called Oberlandeshauptleute (senior governors), otherwise called advocates. Sometimes the competences of these advocates were split between Upper and Lower Silesia; these terms appeared for the first time in the 15th century. The Fürstentage ("Princely diet"), until then only irregular meetings, became yearly events, although sometimes split between Upper and Lower Silesia. The diets dealt with questions like tax collection (tax demands by the overlord were a novelty), the deployment of troops for public peace or coinage. A supreme "Princely court" (Czech: knížecí soud; German: Fürstenrecht) was established for the first time in 1498 to settle disputes between the king (then Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary), the princes and barons (free lords) & the estates of 3 duchies: Głogów (Glogau), Opole-Racibórz and Żagań (Sagan).
After the death of King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia in 1526, Ferdinand I of the Habsburg dynasty was elected King of Bohemia and thus ruler of the Crown of Bohemia (including Silesia). In 1537, the Piast Duke Frederick II of Brieg concluded the Treaty of Brieg with Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg, whereby the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg would inherit the Duchy of Brieg upon the extinction of the Piasts, but the treaty was rejected by Ferdinand.
The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century took an early hold in Silesia. Its leading advocates were Frederick II of Liegnitz and George von Ansbach-Jägerndorf, who promoted the adoption of the new faith in his own duchy and in the pledged duchies of Oppeln and Ratibor. Breslau not only adopted the faith but, as the seat of the Provincial governor, also promoted Protestantism in the principality of Breslau. After the death of Ferdinand I in 1564 only the bishop of Breslau, the rulers and lordships of Loslau, Pleß and Trachtenberg and 10% of the population were still Catholic. Silesia became closer attached to the center of the Protestant Reformation, Brandenburg and Saxony, and the country produced several important representatives of the Protestant intellectual sphere. In 1526 Silesia received the first Protestant university of Europe when Frederick II opened an evangelic academy in Liegnitz. This school however was closed three years later due to economic difficulties, but even more because of theological disputes between Lutherans and followers of Caspar Schwenckfeld, a sectarian and confidant of Frederick II whose ideas became more and more popular in Silesia.
The Protestant confession was not persecuted by Ferdinand I and Maximilian II, only Schwenckfeld's teachings, Anabaptists and unhallowed clergymen were not accepted. This changed with the accession of Rudolf II to the throne and with the help of archduke Carl, bishop of Breslau.
In order to avert the oppression of their faith the estates of Silesia joined the Protestant estates of Bohemia and denied paying taxes to the emperor in 1609. After the Bohemians forced the emperor to issue his Maiestas Rudolphina (Letter of Majesty) the emperor was moved to publish another similar letter for Silesia containing even further rights. When Rudolf tried to withdraw from these agreements (1611) the estates of Bohemia and Silesia changed allegiance and followed Matthias, who already owned Austria, Moravia and Hungary. Matthias not only affirmed the Letter of Majesty but also granted the Silesian estates its own independent German chancellery in Prague (which was responsible for both Lusatias too). At the same time the Protestants in Silesia were weakened when several Silesian rulers converted to Calvinism or back to Catholicism.
After Matthias was elected to the Bohemian throne Ferdinand II, a staunch Catholic who began to rigorously enforce the Catholic faith at the expense of Protestants. After the second Defenestration of Prague in 1618 the Silesian Estates followed the Bohemian Revolt, elected Frederick V as their new King of Bohemia and paid homage in Breslau. Losing Battle of White Mountain forced Frederick to flee to Breslau where he wanted gather new troops; however, as these attempts failed he advised the Silesians to contact Saxony, which occupied Lusatia, a part of Bohemia and neighbour of Silesia, and as an imperial ally was authorized to negotiate. The mediated treaty, the Dresden accord, spared Silesia for the next few years and affirmed the earlier privileges, however the Silesian Estates had to pay 300.000 gulden and accept Ferdinand II as their suzerain. Soon after the emperor (which secured formerly elective Bohemian Crown as an inheritable possession of the Habsburg dynasty) together with the prince-bishop started the counter-reformation by inviting Catholic orders to Silesia and giving land to Catholic peers.
The Thirty Years' War reached Silesia when Protestant Ernst von Mansfeld started a military campaign against Hungary and crossed Silesia in 1629. This gave the emperor the chance to invade the country and to enforce his imperial might. The Silesian district authority became an imperial office, Albrecht von Wallenstein became lord of the Duchy of Sagan and of Glogau, the infamous Liechtenstein dragoons pressed the citizens of the principalities back into the Catholic Church or otherwise expelled them, Protestant landlords lost their possessions and were replaced by Catholic families.
In 1632 the Protestant countries of Saxony, Brandenburg and Sweden, which were united against the emperor, invaded Silesia. The Protestant estates of Silesia joined these countries, however as neighbouring Saxony made peace with the emperor in 1635 the Silesians lost this important ally, further weakened their position and had to submit to the emperor once again. This time only the duchies of Liegnitz, Brieg, Wohlau, Oels and the town of Breslau could keep their religious liberty.
The quiet years after 1635 were followed by new military conflicts between 1639 and 1648. Swedish and imperial troops devastated the country, cities were destroyed by fires and plagues, many people fled to the neighbouring countries of Brandenburg, Saxony or Poland, where they could freely express their faith, or at least to the countryside to escape the adverse conditions in the cities.
The Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War. The duchies of Liegnitz, Brieg, Wohlau, Oels and the city of Breslau retained their religious freedom, and the construction of three Protestant churches, the Churches of Peace, was permitted. The systematic oppression of the Protestant faith however was intensified in the rest of Silesia as most churches were closed or given to the few Catholics left. A new exodus to the surrounding countries started, which led to the foundation of several new towns. Also Protestant churches on the soil of these countries and close to the Silesian border, the so called "border churches" (German: Grenzkirchen), were built to provide a place were Silesians could practise their religion.
In 1676 the Duchy of Legnica and Duchy of Brzeg passed to direct Habsburg rule after the death of the last Silesian Piast duke, Georg Wilhelm (son of Duke Christian of Brieg), despite the earlier inheritance pact by Brandenburg and Silesia, by which it was to go to Brandenburg.
These remaining Protestant duchies were also recatholized, but as the Swedish king Charles XII pressed Joseph I to accept the treaty of Altranstädt (1707) the religious freedom in these duchies had to be restored. Moreover the construction of six further churches, the so called "churches of mercy" (German: Gnadenkirchen; Czech: milostivé kostely), was allowed.
Due to the Thirty Years' War, diseases and emigration Silesia lost large parts of its population. Especially affected were the cities, which recovered sometimes not until the 19th century. Despite the uncertain political, economic and religious circumstances Silesia became the center of the German Baroque poetry in the 17th century. Its most important representatives were poets like Martin Opitz, Friedrich von Logau, Andreas Gryphius or Christian Hoffmann von Hoffmannswaldau, but also writers and mystics like Angelus Silesius, Abraham von Franckenberg or Christian Knorr von Rosenroth.
Kingdom of Prussia
In 1740, the annexation of Silesia by King Frederick II the Great of Prussia was welcomed by many Silesians, not only by Protestants or Germans. Frederick based his claims on the Treaty of Brieg and began the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). By war's end, the Kingdom of Prussia had conquered almost all of Silesia, while some parts of Silesia in the extreme southeast, like the Duchy of Cieszyn and Duchy of Opava, remained possessions of the Crown of Bohemia and the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy. The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) confirmed Prussian control over most of Silesia.
Already during the War of the Austrian Succession Prussia installed its own administration which met the needs of a modern absolutistic state. Headed by a provincial minister (German: Provinzialminister), who was directly subordinate to the king, Silesia was split into two war- and domain chambers in Breslau and Glogau, which administrated 48 districts (German: Kreise, singular Kreis). Silesia thus maintained its exceptional position inside Prussia, only the judicature was affiliated to the head of the respective Prussian department. The fortifications were strengthened and the number of soldiers increased tenfold to secure Silesia.
Silesia's industry suffered badly after the war. To stimulate the economy Protestant Czechs, Germans and Poles were invited to settle in the country, particularly in Upper Silesia. Most of the settlers originated from non-Prussian countries as Frederick II wished to increase the population of Prussia. The Poles, most of them from the Habsburg ruled area around Teschen, settled all over Upper Silesia, whereas the Czechs mainly located in the areas around Oppeln, Strehlen and Groß Wartenberg. With the recruitment of Germans from Middle and Western Germany many miners' and lumberjacks' settlements were established. The owners of large estates soon followed these examples of the state and also founded many new settlements. Frederick II supported the reconstruction of the cities, sometimes even by donation from his privy purse, but even more by measures to stimulate the economy, such as the ban to export wool to Saxony or Austria and the increase of customs duties.
Mining and metallurgy became of special importance in the middle of the 18th century. In 1769 Silesia received a standardised mining law, the so-called "revidierte Bergordnung", which excluded the miners of the subservience to the laird and placed them under the control of the upper mining authority (German: Oberbergamt), which first resided in Reichenstein and later in Breslau. In the beginning the center of mining and also metallurgy was in Waldenburg and Neurode in Lower Silesia, but later it moved to Upper Silesia.
The confessional restrictions were abolished already during the first Silesian war and, until 1752, 164 provisional churches, so called Bethäuser or Bethauskirchen, were built. The Moravian Church, a Protestant denomination, established several new settlements, among them Gnadenfrei (Polish: Pilawa Gorna), Gnadenberg (Polish: Godnow) and Gnadenfeld (Polish: Pawlowiczki). Although Frederick and the bishop of Breslau argued about the competences of the Catholic Church the king also strongly supported the Catholic school system.
In 1806 confederates of Napoleon invaded Silesia. Only the forts of Glatz, Silberberg and Cosel withstood until the Treaties of Tilsit. After the adoption of the reforms of Stein and Hardenberg between 1807 and 1812 Silesia was fully incorporated into Prussia, the Catholic Church properties were secularized and the social and economic conditions improved. At the same time the first European university with both a Protestant and a Catholic faculty was established in Breslau. In 1812 Silesia became the center of the revolt against Napoleon. The royal family moved to Breslau and Frederick William III published the letter An mein Volk (to my people) which called the German people to arms. The experience of the war of liberation strengthened the bond of the Silesians to Prussia and the Province of Silesia became one of the most loyal provinces of Prussia. Several military leaders of outstanding merit, like Blücher or Yorck von Wartenburg, received lavishly appointed manors in the country.
In 1815, the northeastern part of Upper Lusatia, formerly part of Saxony, was incorporated into the province, which was divided into the three administrative districts Liegnitz, Breslau and Oppeln. Already in the Middle Ages, German had become the only popular language in all of Lower Silesia. However, dialects of Polish were still used in much of the countryside of Upper Silesia, whereas German was the most common language in most Upper Silesian cities.
Silesias industry was in bad condition in the first decades after 1815. Especially Silesian linen weavers suffered as Prussia's free trade policy and British competitors, which already used machines (see Industrialisation), led to the non-competitiveness of Silesian linen. The situation got worse after Russia imposed an import embargo and the Silesian linen industry began to mechanize their production. In several towns this traditional craft died out altogether, and many linen weavers lost their work. As the social conditions worsened the unrest culminated in the Silesian weavers uprising (German: Schlesischer Weberaufstand) of 1844. This uprising, on the eve of the revolution of 1848, was closely observed by the German society and treated by several artists, among them Gerhart Hauptmann (drama Die Weber) and Heinrich Heine (poem Die schlesischen Weber).
The recovery of the Silesian industry was closely connected to the railroad. The first railroad line of Silesia was built between Breslau and the industrial region of Upper Silesia (1842–1846), lines to the Lower Silesian industrial region around Waldenburg (Polish: Wałbrzych) (1843–1853), to Berlin (1846), Leipzig (1847) and Vienna (1847/48) followed soon afterwards. The fast growing network of railroad lines supported the establishment of new companies, which in turn led to a huge growth of the industrial centers of Breslau, Waldenburg and in Upper Silesia, the second biggest industrial area in Germany at that time. The concentration of mining, metallurgy and factories in a small region like Upper Silesia resulted in an enormous aggregation of the settlement area, especially because of workers' villages next to mines and ironworks. As the old cities of the area, Beuthen (Polish: Bytom) and Gleiwitz (Polish: Gliwice), could not meet the requirements anymore new municipal centers like Kattowitz (Polish: Katowice), Königshütte (Polish: Królewska Huta) and Hindenburg (Polish: Zabrze) emerged, which all were chartered during that time (1865, 1868, 1922).
The discontent of Silesians with the absolutism in Prussia found its expression in the democratic revolt of 1848. The approval of the national assembly in Frankfurt to the new constitution imposed by the Prussian king led to the May uprisings in Breslau (May 6 and 7, 1849). Simultaneously, peasant revolts happened all over the country. All of these democratic efforts however were oppressed by the Prussian state.
After the political situation stabilized in the 1860s and political parties evolved the special status of Upper Silesia, caused by confessional, linguistic and national differences, began to develop.
German Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire
As a Prussian province, Silesia became part of the German Empire during the unification of Germany in 1871. There was considerable industrialization in Upper Silesia, and many people moved there at that time. The overwhelming majority of the population of Lower Silesia was German-speaking and most were Lutheran, including the capital of Breslau. There were areas such as the District of Oppeln (then Regierungsbezirk Oppeln) and rural parts of Upper Silesia, however, where a larger portion or even majority of the population were Slavic-speaking Poles and Roman Catholic. In Silesia as a whole, ethnic Poles comprised about 23% of the population, and most of them lived around Kattowitz (Katowice) in the southeast of Upper Silesia. In whole Upper Silesia Poles made 61,1% of population in 1829, but due to state's policy of forced germanization their numbers decreased to 58,6% of population 1849. The Kulturkampf set Catholics in opposition to the government and sparked a Polish revival, much of it fostered by Poles from outside of Germany, in the Upper Silesian parts of the province. The first conference of Hovevei Zion groups took place in Kattowitz (Katowice), German Empire in 1884.
However, the population did not move just to Silesia; Silesia was a demografically expansive region and contributed significantly to the demographics of the neighboring provinces. For example, a "typical" inhabitant of Berlin of 1938 would proverbially be a Silesian. (See also Ostflucht.)
At the same time, the areas of Ostrava and Karviná in Austrian Silesia became increasingly industrialized. Significant portion of the Polish-speaking people there, however, were Lutherans in contrast to the German-speaking Catholic Habsburg dynasty ruling Austria-Hungary.
In 1900, the population of Austrian Silesia numbered 680,422, which corresponds to 132 inhabitants per square kilometre (342 per square mile). The Germans formed 44.69% of the population, 33.21% were Poles and 22.05% Czechs and Slavs. According to religion, 84% were Roman Catholics, 14% Protestants and the remainder were Jews. The local diet was composed of 31 members, and Silesia sent 12 deputies to the Reichsrat at Vienna. For administrative purposes Silesia was divided into 9 districts and 3 towns with autonomous municipalities: Opava (Troppau), the capital, Bielsko-Biała (Bielitz) and Frýdek-Místek (Friedeck). Other principal towns were: Cieszyn/Těšín (Teschen); Slezská Ostrava (Polnisch-Ostrau), the eastern part of Ostrava; Krnov (Jägerndorf); Karviná (Karwin); Bruntál (Freudenthal); Jeseník (Freiwaldau); and Horní Benešov (Bennisch).
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Interwar period and World War II
In the Treaty of Versailles after the defeat of Imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I, it was decided that the population of Upper Silesia should hold a plebiscite in order to determine the future of the province, with the exception of a 333 km2 (129 sq mi) area around Hlučín (Hultschiner Ländchen), which was granted to Czechoslovakia in 1920 despite having a German-speaking majority. The plebiscite, organised by the League of Nations, was held in 1921. In Cieszyn Silesia first there was an interim deal between Polish Rada Narodowa Księstwa Cieszyńskiego and Czech Národní výbor pro Slezsko about partition of past lands of the Duchy of Cieszyn according to ethnic lines. However, that deal was not approved by the Czechoslovak government in Prague. Poland held general elections in the entire disputed area, and on 23 January 1919, Czech troops invaded the lands of Cieszyn Silesia and stopped on 30 January 1919 on the Vistula River near Skoczów. The planned plebiscite was not organised in the Cieszyn Silesia but was held in most of the other parts of the Upper Silesia. On 28 July 1920, the Spa Conference divided Cieszyn Silesia between Poland and the Czech Republic with the present-day border.
In 1918 there were various plans about the division of Upper Silesia. At the Paris Peace Conference a commission for Polish affairs was created which was preparing proposals of the future Polish borders. In their first two proposals (of 27 March 1919 and of 7 May 1919) most of the future province was granted, together with Opole, to Poland. Yet that was not accepted by the Big Four, and after David Lloyd George suggestion, a plebiscite was organized. Before it actually took place on 20 March 1920, two Silesian Insurrections instigated by Polish inhabitants of the area were organized. After the referendum, in which in favor of Poland were 41% votes, a plan of division was created, which was leaving on the Polish side only a small piece of the territory. In those circumstances the Third Silesian Uprising took place. In its result a new plan of division was prepared but it still created a situation in which some (mostly rural) territories that voted mostly for Poland were granted to Germany and as well some urban territories with a German majority were granted to Poland. The Polish Sejm decided that the eastern-most Upper Silesian areas where majority voted for Poland, should become an autonomous area within Poland organised as the Silesian Voivodeship and with Silesian Parliament as a constituency and Silesian Voivodeship Council as the executive body. One of the central political figures that stirred these changes was Wojciech Korfanty. The part of Silesia awarded to Poland was by far the best-developed and richest region of the newly formed state, producing most of Poland's industrial output.
The major part of Silesia, remaining in Germany, was reorganised into the two provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. In Silesia the synagogues in modern day Wrocław (German: Breslau) and in many other cities were destroyed during the Kristallnacht of 1938. In October 1938, Zaolzie (part of Cieszyn Silesia, the disputed area west of the Olza River: 876 km2/338 sq mi with 258,000 inhabitants), was taken by Poland from Czechoslovakia following the Munich Agreement that surrendered border areas of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany. Czech Silesia with Slezská Ostrava was incorporated into the Sudetenland Gau, while Hultschin was incorporated into Upper Silesia province.
World War II
With the invasion of Poland, Nazi Germany retook mostly Polish parts of Upper Silesia. Additional lands seized in 1939 were Sosnowiec (Sosnowitz), Będzin (Bendzin, Bendsburg), Chrzanów (Krenau), and Zawiercie (Warthenau) counties and parts of Olkusz (Ilkenau) and Żywiec (Saybusch) counties. In late 1940 some 18,000–20,000 Poles were expelled from Żywiec region during Action Saybusch conducted by Wehrmacht with Orpo. In total, between 1940 and 1944, around 50,000 Poles have been forcibly removed from the area and replaced with German settlers from Eastern Galicia and Volhynia. The transfer was agreed upon at the Gestapo–NKVD Conferences. Also, there were 23 camps called Polenlager established across Silesia for the expelled Poles. The German populations in Silesia frequently welcomed the Wehrmacht and many thousands of Silesians were subsequently conscripted to the Wehrmacht.
In 1940, the Germans started to construct the Auschwitz and Groß-Rosen concentration camps. The later concentration camp labour was used in the construction of seven underground military facilities code in the Owl Mountains and Książ Castle. Code named Project Riese work started in 1943 but were unfinished by the time Russian and Polish forces captured the area in 1945. It has been estimated that 5,000 slave labourers lost their lives during the construction work. Following Allied bombing of Silesian refineries and plants such as Blechhammer and Monowitz during the Oil Campaign of World War II, the "synthetic plants and crude oil refineries [were neutralized] by the advance of the Russian armies" c. February 20, 1945.
Silesia was the site for a number of prisoner-of-war camps most famously Stalag Luft III whose prisoner escapes were immortalised in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950).
Poland, Czech Republic and Germany
Polish part of Silesia
In 1945, the Polish part of Silesia was liberated from the German occupation by the Soviet Red Army and Polish People's Army. In the course of the same offensive the German part of Silesia was captured by the Red Army and soon put under Polish administration. By then a large portion of the German population had fled or were evacuated from Silesia out of fear of revenge by Soviet soldiers, but many returned after the German capitulation. Under the terms of the agreements at the Yalta Conference and the Potsdam Agreement, both in 1945, German Silesia east of the rivers Oder and Lusatian Neisse was transferred to Poland (see Oder-Neisse line).
Before the war the Silesian German population amounted to more than four million inhabitants. In the course of the war however a big portion of them died or fled before the oncoming front. Most of the remaining ones were forcibly expelled after the conflict had ended and some of them were imprisoned in labour camps, e.g. Lambsdorf (Łambinowice) and Zgoda labour camp. Many perished in those camps and many more during the flight towards the Soviet Occupation Zone across the Oder and Neisse Rivers. Refugees first arrived in what would become East Germany and many of the victims of the firebombing of Dresden were Silesian refugees. Some of the population stayed in the Russian zone while others left for the Western Allies Occupation Zones or what would become West Germany. In addition, some Silesians immigrated to Austria, the United States, South America or Australia. More than 30,000 Silesian men (the majority of which had German roots, some having partially Polish roots) were deported to Soviet mines and Siberia, most of whom never returned. Other Germans from Silesia emigrated or were driven out of the region in the years after the war by the Polish government who, after the atrocities of World War II, took on a very nationalistic anti-German policy in what they deemed the Recovered Territories, (see German exodus from Eastern Europe and Emigration from Poland to Germany after World War II).
Soon after the war representatives of the Polish government came into the Recovered territories including the former German part of Silesia. In 1946 those territories were incorporated into existing Voivodeships or divided into new ones. In Upper Silesia a Silesian-Dąbrowa Voivodeship was established roughly composing of the pre-war Polish Silesian Voivodeship and the Zagłębie Dąbrowskie in the east and of the region of Opole in the west. This Voivodship was divided in 1950 creating distinct Katowice and Opole Voivodeships. The rest of the region was divided between Wrocław Voivodeship and Poznań Voivodeship. In 1950 the Lower Silesian districts of Brzeg and Namysłów from Wrocław Voivodeship were added to the newly formed Opole Voivodeship while the westmost region of Poznań Voivodeship was separated from its main part and formed the Zielona Góra Voivodeship.
Not the whole population of the formerly German Silesia was expelled after the war. Over 1 million Silesians who considered themselves Poles or were treated as such by the authorities due to their language and customs were allowed to stay after they were verified as Poles in a special verification process. It involved declaring Polish nationality and an oath of allegiance to the Polish nation.
The industry of Silesia, in particular the substantial industry of Upper Silesia, suffered comparatively little damage during World War II due to its relative inaccessibility to Allied bombing, a Soviet Army enveloping maneuver in January 1945, and perhaps Albert Speer's slowness or refusal to implement the scorched earth policy. This generally intact industry now played a critical role in the post-war reconstruction and industrialization of Poland. That industry that was damaged or destroyed (mostly in Opole and Lower Silesia) was rebuilt after the war. After the war, all the main businesses were nationalized. Under the terms of the nationalisation statute of 1946 all German (not including Silesians who declared themselves Poles) property was confiscated without compensation. Large businesses that were owned by Polish-Silesians were confiscated as well but for them the statute provided a compensation. Afterwards they were operated by the state, with relatively minor changes or investments, till 1989. At the fall of communism in 1989, the most industrialized parts of Silesia were in decline. Since 1989, Silesia has been transitioning to a more diverse, service-based economy.
After World War II, the formerly German part of the region was substantially repopulated by Poles, many of whom had themselves been expelled from eastern Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union (see Polish population transfers (1944–1946)) and transferred from the Soviet Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus. However those who declared themselves Poles in 1945 and afterwards were allowed to stay and today form a small German-speaking population in the region around Opole (Oppeln), as well as some Slavic speaking and bilingual population of Upper Silesia who either consider themselves Poles or poses just a regional-Silesian identity. In the official Polish census, 153,000 people declared German nationality, though up to 500,000 or more may be of German ancestry. The German-Polish Silesian minority is active in politics and has pressed for the right to again freely use the German language in public which has been largely successful.
In 1975 a new administrative division of Poland was introduced. The former Voivodeships were divided into smaller ones creating a number of 49 from the previous 17. In the south of the country there were 9 Voivodeships that completely or partly lied within the historical borders of the Silesia region:
- Zielona Góra Voivodeship
- Jelenia Góra Voivodeship
- Legnica Voivodeship
- Wałbrzych Voivodeship
- Wrocław Voivodeship
- Opole Voivodeship
- Katowice Voivodeship
- Bielsko-Biała Voivodeship
- Częstochowa Voivodeship
In 1945, following World War II, the autonomy of the former Silesian Voivodeship was not reestablished. The region was from thereafter treated equally with other Polish regions which, because of its specificity, is sometimes considered wrong by a relatively small part of its inhabitants. After the fall of communism in 1989, the parliament of Poland did not return autonomy to Polish Silesia. Since 1991, the Silesian Autonomy Movement has tried peaceful dialogue to convince the Polish parliament to return autonomy, though so far their efforts have been unsuccessful. The support for this organisation is however rather moderate, reaching 10.4% of votes in the Bieruń–Lędziny county in the last Polish local elections of 2006.
Since 1998 the Polish part of the region is divided between the Lubusz, Lower Silesian, Opole and Silesian Voivodeships.
German Part of the former province of Lower Silesia
After the war a part of the historical region of Lusatia that for over a century formed the most westward part of the Prussian Province of Lower Silesia remained in Germany. Due to this facts some of the inhabitants of this region still consider themselves Silesian and cultivate some Silesian customs. One of their special privileges is the right to use the Lower Silesian flag and coat of arms which is guaranteed to them by the Saxon Constitution of 1992. The Evangelical Church of Silesian Upper Lusatia meanwhile merged with the one of Berlin and Brandenburg to form the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.
Czech part of Silesia
Before the war Czech Silesia was settled by large German and Polish-speaking populations. Following the Second World War, the Czech Silesia and Hlučínsko were returned to Czechoslovakia and the ethnic Germans were expelled. The Polish minority however still exists, especially in the Zaolzie region, where it amounts up to 40 000 people.
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Last modified on 9 July 2012, at 18:06