In 1918, with the end of WWI and the collapse of the three empires that had wiped Poland off the map in 1795, Poland re-emerged as a sovereign state. Here’s what came next.
For a long time Poland had no luck. In the aftermath of a detrimental conjunction of factors, the once mighty Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ceased to exist in 1795, dismantled by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Although Poles have done a lot to preserve their identity under foreign occupation, for over a century all their attempts to restore political independence eventually failed. With the outbreak of WWI in 1914 Poles found themselves conscripted into the armies of the partitioning powers in a war that was not theirs. Furthermore, they were often forced to fight each other, since the armies of Germany and Austria-Hungary were allied against Russia. The major turbulence that engulfed those three countries, however, also opened an unprecedented window of geopolitical opportunity for the cause of Poland’s independence. Polish statesmen saw in advance the emerging chance and knew how to make use of it. Thanks to their efforts, on 11 November 1918, after 123 years of foreign occupation, Polish statehood was restored over the ruins of the German and Austro-Hungarian monarchies which lost the war, and Tsarist Russia which collapsed under the communist revolution. Back in 1918, when Poland rose from the ashes, nothing was granted except for the formal recognition of the new Polish state by the victorious Allied Powers. Today, one hundred years later, Poland is experiencing what appears to be its best time for centuries. This special feature shows the events which have made Poland the country it is today.
Bartosz Stefaniak is Poland Today’s co-founder and creative director. He has cooperated with Le Monde and Agence France Presse among other media. Bartosz has also worked with Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on different projects. He runs a blog about the balance of power in international relations (facebook.com/3wojna). For more information go to madeinPolska.eu