1919-1928

Decade of emerging from chaos. The reborn Polish state faced the challenge of unifying disparate regions which had been part of different countries since the late 18th century and therefore had little or no infrastructural or economic links. This all took place while Poland faced unstable internal and external conditions.

Although Poland's independence had been legitimised by WWI's victorious powers through the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, most of its territory had to be won back in a series of border wars fought from 1918 to 1921 under the command of Marshal Józef Piłsudski. Most notably, victory against the USSR prevented the loss of the newly-gained Polish independence but also the potential spread of Soviet revolution into West Europe.

The Polish-Soviet War (1919-21) shaped Poland's eastern border and, as a result, Ukrainians and Belarusians became the bulk of the population in the country's eastern voivodeships. According to a 1921 census, the total population of the country totalled 25.6m people, of whom only 69% were of Polish nationality. The biggest ethnic minority groups were Ukrainian (15%), Jewish (8%), Belarusian (4%) and German (3%). Pictured: Ukrainians in Eastern Poland in their traditional outfits.

After 123 years of non-existence, the Polish state re-emerged as a parliamentary democracy. However, it was marred by constant internal tensions and political instability that resulted, for example, in the assassination of Poland's first president, Gabriel Narutowicz in 1922, just five days after his appointment to the office.

The newly independent Poland inherited the remnants of three different economic systems and five different currencies from its previous occupiers. Following hyperinflation and monetary chaos in the years after WWI, the Polish złoty was reintroduced as Poland’s currency in 1924.

The reborn country gained access to the Baltic Sea but lacked any coastal infrastructure so, in 1920, the government began building its flagship military and trade port in Gdynia. The new port started operations in 1923 and eventually became Poland's window to the world – by 1938 it was servicing 80% of Polish exports and 65% of Polish imports.

Polish national radio station Polskie Radio began making regular broadcasts from Warsaw in 1926. Mass media had a great role in building a sense of national unity and awareness among people living in distant parts of the country. 

The first regular airline in Poland was created in 1922. Aerolloyd - operating under the name Aerolot since 1925 - had a fleet of 17 planes and maintained a 100% safety record throughout its existence. The service was nationalised in 1928, becoming the core of LOT Polish Airlines, Poland's flagship car - rier to this day. Pictured are Aerolot's planes in Warsaw's airport, 1927.

Poland's young parliamentary democracy, proving unstable and erratic, met its end in 1926 when Marshal Józef Piłsudski seized power in a coup. For the next decade, Piłsudski dominated Polish affairs as strongman of an authoritarian centrist regime. His personal authority was widely recognised in the nation for his previous merits as one of the country's founding fathers and its victorious military commander. Pictured bottom left: the army on the streets of Warsaw during the coup. Pictured bottom right: a crowd gathering over the body of one of the 600 casualties caused by the coup.

See next:

1929-1938

November 10, 2018
1918
Decade of emerging from chaos. The reborn Polish state faced the challenge of unifying disparate…
November 19, 2018
1929-1938
Decade of crisis and consolidation. Poland was heavily affected by the Great Depression, yet it…
Written by: Bartosz Stefaniak