Polesie Voivodeship

Polesie Voivodeship (Polish: województwo poleskie) was an administrative unit of interwar Poland (1918–1939), named after the historical region of Polesia. It was created by the Council of Ministers of the Second Polish Republic on February 19, 1921,[1] as a result of peace agreement signed with the Russian and Ukrainian SSRs in Riga. Polesie Voivodeship was the largest province of interwar Poland. It ceased to function in September 1939, following the Nazi-German and Soviet invasion of Poland in accordance with a secret protocol of the Nazi–Soviet Pact of non-aggression.

Polesie Voivodeship
Województwo poleskie
Voivodeship of Poland
Coat of arms of Polesie Voivodeship
Coat of arms
Polesie Voivodeship in the Second Polish Republic (1938).png
Location of Polesie Voivodeship within the Second Polish Republic.
CapitalPińsk (until August 1921)
• 1921
42,280 km2 (16,320 sq mi)
• 1939
36,668 km2 (14,158 sq mi)
• 1921
• 1931
• 1921–1922 (first)
Walery Roman
• 1932–1939 (last)
Wacław Kostek-Biernacki
Historical eraInterwar period
• Established
12 February 1921
September 1939
Political subdivisions27 / 9
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Polesian District
Polesia Voblast
Ukrainian SSR
Today part ofUkraine, Belarus


The provincial capital of the Polesie Voivodeship, and also the largest city was Brześć nad Bugiem (Brest-on-the-Bug) with some 48,000 inhabitants (1931). The province was made up of 9 powiats (counties), and had 12 substantial towns or cities. In 1921, the population of the province numbered 879,417, with a population density of about 20.8 persons per km2, the lowest in interwar Poland. By 1931, thanks to a government-sponsored settlement programme and the progressive development of education, commerce and industry in the urban centres (neglected under Tsarist Russia), the population had risen to 1,132,200, and the population density to 31 per km2. The Jews constituted 49.2% of the urban population of Polesie, the highest in interwar Poland. They engaged mainly in retail trade, commerce and small industry.[2]

According to the 1931 census, some 80.6% of the population engaged in agriculture. Most estates above 50 hectares in size, were owned by Poles (65.4%), followed by ethnic Belarusians (17.8%).[2] The majority of inhabitants (62.6%) described themselves merely as “locals” (Tutejszy), and for the greater part were peasants of Belarusian and Ukrainian origin. Ethnic Poles made up around 15% of the population,[citation needed] Ukrainians (mainly in the south-east) numbered about 5%, Belarusians 6.6%, and Jews (mainly in towns) around 10%. Smaller communities of Russians also existed. The illiteracy rate was 48.4% due to the lingering imperial legacy, the highest in Poland and well above the national average of 23.1% (in 1931).

Location and areaEdit

Initially, the area of the voivodeship comprised 42 149 km2. However, in 1930 Sarny county became part of the Volhynian Voivodeship, thus the area shrank to 36 668 km2. Even after this change, it still was the biggest Voivodeship of interwar Poland.

Polesie lay in eastern part of the then Polish state, bordering the Soviet Union to the east, Lublin Voivodeship and Białystok Voivodeship (1919–1939) to the west, Nowogródek Voivodeship to the north and the Volhynian Voivodeship to the south. Most of it consisted of the Polesie swamp - a flat, vast, sparsely inhabited area, with several rivers and streams. Access to some villages and hamlets required boats, especially in early spring, when the waters of the Pripyat and other rivers (like the Pina, the Styr and the Horyn) rose as the snow melted. In 1937 forests covered 33.3% of the Voivodeship (compared with the average for the whole country of 22.2%). The biggest lake in the voivodeship's area, Lake Wygonowskie, lay on the Oginski Canal. In the spring of 1939, construction of the 127-kilometer Stone Canal (Kanal Kamienny) began. The canal was planned to connect Pinsk with Klesow, which at that time was part of Volhynian Sarny County.

Cities and countiesEdit

Brześć, the voivodeship's capital and biggest city, did not have an impressively large population: about 50,700 according to the 1931 national census and around 55,000 in mid-1939. Other urban centers included Pińsk (population 31,900 in 1931), Dawidgródek (population 11,500), Kobryń (population 10,100) and Prużana (population 6,500).

Counties of Polesie VoivodeshipEdit

Powiat (County) Area (km2) Population County Seat Gmina (Municipalities)
Powiat brzeski
(Brześć County)
4,625 km2 216,200 Brześć nad Bugiem Dmitrowicze • Domaczewo • Dworce (1928<) • Kamienica Żyrowiecka • Kamieniec Litewski • Kosicze • Łyszczyce (1928<) • Małoryta • Miedna • Motykały • Ołtusz • Połowce (1928<) • Przyborowo (1928<) • Radwanicze (1928<) • Ratajczyce • Turna • Wielkoryta • Wierzchowice • Wojska (1928<) • Wołczyn • Wysokie Litewskie • Życin (1928<)
Powiat drohicki
(Drohiczyn County)
2,351 km2 97,000 Drohiczyn Poleski Bezdzież • Braszewicze • Chomsk • Drohiczyn (Poleski) • Drużyłowicze (1928) • Imienin (1928) • Janów • Motol • Odryżyn • Osowce • Woławel • Worocewicze (1928)
Powiat iwacewicki
(Iwacewicze County)
3,562 km2 83,700 Iwacewicze Iwacewicze • Kosów (Kossów) • Piaski • Różana • Święta Wola • Telechany
Powiat koszyrski
(Kamień County)
3,243 km2 95,000 Kamień Koszyrski Borowno (Wielki Obzyr) • Chocieszów • Kamień Koszyrski • Lubieszów • Lelików • Soszyczno • Uhrynicze (Pniewno) • Wielka Głusza (Wielka Hłusza)
Powiat kobryński
(Kobryń County)
3,545 km2 114,000 Kobryń Antopol • Błoty (1928<) • Dywin • Dziatkowicze (1928>) • Horodec • Iłosk (1928<) • Kobryń (1928>) • Lelików (1926>) • Matiasy (Matjasy, 1926>) • Mokrany (1928<) • Nowosiółki • Oziaty • Podolesie (Jeremicze) • Pruska (1928<) • Rohoźna (Rohożna, 1928<) • Siechnowicze (1928<) • Stryhowo (1928<) • Tewle (1928>) • Zbirohi (Zbirogi, 1928<) • Ziołowo (1928<) • Żabinka (1928>)
Powiat łuniniecki
(Łuniniec County)
5,722 km2 109,300 Łuniniec Berezów (1922<) • Chorsk (1922<) • Chotynicze • Czuczewicze • Dobrosławka (1922<) • Kożangródek (1928<) • Kruhowicze • Lenin (1939<) • Łachwa • Łunin (1928<) • Łuniniec (1928>) • Płotnica (1922<) • Pohost Zahorodzki (Pohost Zahorodny, 1922<) • Stolin (1922<) • Sosnkowicze (1939) • Terebieżów (1922<) • Zaostrowiecze (1922<) • Dawidgródek (1922<) • Horodno (1922<)
Powiat piński
(Pińsk County)
5,587 km2 183,600 Pińsk Brodnica • Chojno • Dobrosławka (1923>) • Kuchecka Wola • Lemieszewicze • Lubieszów (1926<) • Łohiszyn • Moroczna • Pinkowicze • Pohost Zahorodzki (1923>) • Porzecze • Radczysk (1922<) • Stawek (do 1928) • Uhrynicze (1926<) • Wiczówka • Żabczyce • Pińsk • Serniki ?
Powiat prużański
(Prużana County)
2,644 km2 108,600 Prużana Bajki (1926<) • Bereza Kartuzka (lub gmina Bereza Kartuzka) (1932<) • Czerniaków (1926<) • Dobuczyn (1926<) • Horodeczno (lub gmina Horodeczna) • Kotra (1932<) • Linowo (1932<) • Maciejewicze (1926<) • Malecz • Matiasy (lub gmina Matjasy) (1925<) • Międzylesie (1926–32) • Mikitycze (1926<) • Noski (1926<) • Prużana (1926>) • Rewiatycze (1932<) • Rudniki (Chorewo / Rudniki) • Siechniewicze • Sielec • Suchopol (1926>) • (1926<) • Szereszów
Powiat stoliński
(Stolin County)
5,389 km2 124,800 Stolin Berezów • Chorsk • Płotnica • Radczysk (1928<) • Stolin • Terebieżów (1928<) • Wysock • Dawidgródek • Horodno (1927<)
Administrative division of the voivodeship. In 1930, Sarny county (lower right) became part of the Volhynian Voivodeship.

The voivodeship was created on February 19, 1921 with its capital was Pińsk.[1] However, after the citywide fire in August 1921, the voivodship's capital was moved to Brześć Litewski. Brześć Litewski was renamed as Brześć nad Bugiem ("Brest on the Bug" in Polish) on March 20, 1923. Between 1921 and 1923 the first administrative division of Polesie Voivodeship included: the Brześć county, the Drohiczyn Poleski county, the Kamień Koszyrski county, the Kossów county, the Łuniniec county, the Pińsk county, the Prużana county, and the Sarny county.

On January 1, 1923, Stolin county (powiat) was created from several gminas within the Łuniniec, Pińsk and Sarny counties.[3] On December 16, 1930, Sarny County was transferred to Wołyń Voivodeship. On April 1, 1935, Kossów county's capital was moved to Iwacewicze and it was renamed as Iwacewicze county.[4]

Infrastructure and industryEdit

Polesie was the largest voivodeship of interwar Poland, comprising 10% of the country's overall territory with an area of 42,280 square kilometres (16,320 sq mi).[5] However, the Russian rule during the Partitions of Poland (ending in 1918), left Polesie in the state of economic collapse. Roads and means of communication were destroyed, along with most of the industry. Agriculture was underdeveloped. There were few rail hubs: Brześć (with 5 routes), Łuniniec, Żabinka, and Sarny. By 1937 the total length of railroads within voivodeship grew to 1,063 km, while rail density was 2.9 km per 100 km2 (the lowest in the country). The number of people employed in trades was 38,400 in 12,800 enterprises.[6] Improvements in the socio-economic situation of the ethnically Belarusian peasantry were very slow. Statistically, ethnic Poles constituted 14,5% of the general population in 1931; Polish Jews, about 10,1% (or 114,000) half of whom (at roughly 49%) lived in the cities. Most of provincial economy depended upon the Jewish tradesmen,[5] many of whom immigrated to Poland to escape pogroms in the east.[7][8] Ethnic Ukrainian population of Polesie was 19,3% of the voivodeship, at 219,000.[9] Persisting needs of continuous state investment (as outlined in the 1936 memo) were massive; the road-building programme required 7.1 million Polish złoty annually, with the complete lack of stone in the area. The projected cost of reconstructing waterways was estimated at 14.4 million złoty; processing plants and points of sales at 2.5 million złoty, dairy industry at 480.000 złoty annually, including 2 million złoty for education. In the opinion of local administrators, the economy of interwar Poland consisted of two parts: Poland "A" (better developed) and Poland "B" (less developed); the Polesie area was named by them Poland "C".[6]

1939 and its aftermathEdit

Mother tongue in Poland, based on the 1931 Polish census (original).

The Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on September 17, 1939, two and a half weeks after the Nazi German invasion of Poland of September 1. A two-pronged attack was decided in the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed by the USSR with Germany in August 1939. As the bulk of the Polish Army had concentrated in the west of the country to fight the Germans, the Soviets met with limited resistance and their troops quickly moved westwards until they reached Brześć on September 22, where they met with the invading German army, and held the joint victory parade.[10]

The Soviet authorities who occupied the Polesie Voivodeship dismantled the Polish administration and formally annexed what became known as West Belarus into the Soviet Union, dividing it between the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Polesia Voblast). Following the Tehran Conference of 1943, Joseph Stalin insisted in 1945 on redrawing Poland's borders with Western approval. The Soviets forcibly resettled the Polish population of the province to the west, and the prewar voivodeship area became part of the Soviet Union for the next sixty years. As of 2009 most of the former Polesie Voivodeship (including Brześć and Pińsk) belongs to the sovereign Belarus; only the southern part of it belongs to Ukraine (Kamień Koszyrski and Sarny).[2][11][12] Nearly all of the Belarusian part of Polesie Voivodeship is part of Brest Voblast, except Sosnkowicze (now Lenin) gmina of Łuniniec powiat with villages of Cimoszewicze ve Milewicze, it was part of Pinsk Oblast between 1939 and 1941 and 1944 and 1954 and Brest Voblast between 1954 and 1960 as a raion (Its centre was moved to Mikashevichy on 8 June) before transferring to Žytkavičy Rajon of Homiel Voblast due to dissolving Lenin one on 20 January 1960.


  • Walery Roman 14 March 1921 – 3 May 1922
  • Stanisław Józef Downarowicz 18 May 1922 – 2 October 1924
  • Kazimierz Młodzianowski 4 October 1924 – 5 May 1926
  • Vacant 5 May 1926 – 14 July 1926
  • Jan Krahelski 14 July 1926 – 8 September 1932 (acting to 23 December 1926)
  • Wacław Kostek-Biernacki 8 September 1932 – 2 September 1939
  • Jerzy Albin de Tramecourt 17 February 1937 – 7 September 1937 (acting for Kostek-Biernacki)


  • Svetlana Boltovskaja u. a.; Eva Gerhards (Hrsg.): Tschernobyl: Expeditionen in ein verlorenes Land. Städtische Museen Freiburg im Breisgau, Imhof, Petersberg, 2011, ISBN 978-3-86568-692-3
  • Diana Siebert: Die ländliche Wirtschaft im polnischen und sowjetischen Teil des weissrussischen Polesien (1921–1939) – Ein Vergleich, Hausarbeit zur Magisterprüfung an der Philosophischen Fakultät der Universität zu Köln. Köln 1990.
  • Diana Siebert: Herrschaftstechniken im Sumpf und ihre Reichweiten. Landschaftsinterventionen und Social Engineering in Polesien von 1914 bis 1941. Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2019. ISBN 978-3-447-11229-1.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Rada Ministrów (1921-02-19). "Decree of February 4, 1921, on the normalization of legal and political status of territories incorporated into the Republic based on preliminary peace agreement signed on October 12, 1920, in Riga" [Ustawa z dnia 4 lutego 1921 r. o unormowaniu stanu prawno-politycznego na ziemiach, przyłączonych do obszaru Rzeczypospolitej na podstawie umowy o preliminaryjnym pokoju i rozejmie podpisanej w Rydze dnia 12 października 1920 r]. Dziennik Ustaw 1921/16 (Dz.U. 1921 nr 16 poz. 93). The PDF facsimile of the original document. Art. 1 & 3; in accordance with provisions of the 1920 Agreement signed by Poland with the Russian and Ukrainian SSRs. Including supplement.
  2. ^ a b c Alice Teichova, Herbert Matis, Jaroslav Pátek (2000). Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-century Europe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 342–344. ISBN 978-0-521-63037-5.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Rada Ministrów (1922-12-06). "Decision of the Council of Ministers about the creation of Powiat stoliński county" [Rozporządzenie Rady Ministrów z dnia 6 grudnia 1922 r. o utworzeniu powiatu stolińskiego]. Dziennik Ustaw 1922/116 (Dz.U. 1922 nr 116 poz. 1051).
  4. ^ Rada Ministrów (1931-12-21). "Decision of the Council of Ministers about the cancellation of Powiat kosowski county and creation of Powiat iwacewicki" [Rozporządzenie Rady Ministrów z dnia 21 grudnia 1931 r. w sprawie zmiany rozporządzenia Rady Ministrów z dnia 26 kwietnia 1929 r. o zniesieniu powiatu kosowskiego w województwie poleskiem i utworzeniu z jego terytorjum powiatu iwacewickiego]. Dziennik Ustaw 1931/111 (Dz.U. 1931 nr 111 poz. 867).
  5. ^ a b Informator Przemysłu, Handlu, Rolnictwa, Rzemiosł, Szkolnictwa, Miernictwa i inn. Województw: Lubelskiego, Kieleckiego, Wołyńskiego, Poleskiego, Białostockiego i Nowogródzkiego (1935), Województwo Poleskie, C. Sołowiejczyk, Grodno, 1935.{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b Memoriał wręczony w dniu 17.XII.1936 roku Prezesowi Rady Ministrów [Report delivered to Prime Minister] (1937), Gospodarcze i kulturalne potrzeby województwa Poleskiego, Nakładem Towarzystwa Rozwoju Ziem Wschodnich Warszawa, 1937
  7. ^ Norman Davies, God's Playground (Polish edition), Second volume, pp. 512–513.
  8. ^ Alice Teichova, Herbert Matis, Jaroslav Pátek (2000). Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-century Europe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 342–344. ISBN 978-0-521-63037-5.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Prof. Wojciech Śleszyński, Kresy II RP w obliczu drugiej wojny światowej, Wydział Historyczno-Socjologiczny Uniwersytetu w Białymstoku
  10. ^ Janusz Magnuski, Maksym Kolomijec, Czerwony Blitzkrieg. Wrzesien 1939: Sowieckie Wojska Pancerne w Polsce (The Red Blitzkrieg. September 1939: Soviet armored troops in Poland). Wydawnictwo Pelta, Warszawa 1994, ISBN 83-85314-03-2, Scan of book page 72. Archived.
  11. ^ Norman Davies, God's Playground (Polish edition), Second volume, p.512-513
  12. ^ Stosunki polsko-białoruskie pod okupacją sowiecką, (Polish-Belarusian relations under the Soviet occupation). Bialorus.pl (in Polish)


  • (in Polish) Mały rocznik statystyczny 1939, Warszawa, Nakładem Głównego Urzędu Statystycznego Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej (Concise Statistical Year-Book of Poland, Warsaw 1939)

Coordinates: 52°07′06″N 26°05′46″E / 52.118248°N 26.096223°E / 52.118248; 26.096223