Silesian Voivodeship (1920–1939)

The Silesian Voivodeship (Polish: Województwo Śląskie) was an autonomous province (voivodeship) of the interwar Second Polish Republic. The bulk of its territory had formerly belonged to the German/Prussian Province of Silesia and became part of the newly reborn Poland as a result of the 1921 Upper Silesia plebiscite, the Geneva Conventions, three Upper Silesian Uprisings, and the eventual partition of Upper Silesia between Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia. The remainder had been the easternmost portion of Austrian Silesia (see Cieszyn Silesia) which was partitioned between Poland and Czechoslovakia following the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the Polish–Czechoslovak War and the Spa Conference of 1920. The capital of the voivodeship was Katowice.[1]

Silesian Voivodeship
Województwo Śląskie
Voivodeship of Poland
1920–1939
Poland Voivodeships adminstrative division 1930 Silesian Voivodeship.svg
Location of the Silesian Voivodeship within Poland (1930).
CapitalKatowice
Area
 • Coordinates50°15′N 19°00′E / 50.250°N 19.000°E / 50.250; 19.000Coordinates: 50°15′N 19°00′E / 50.250°N 19.000°E / 50.250; 19.000
 
• 1921
5,100 km2 (2,000 sq mi)
Population 
• 1921
1125528
• 1939
1533500'
Government
 • TypeAutonomous voivodeship
Voivode 
• since 1922
Józef Rymer
• until 1939
Michał Grażyński
LegislatureSilesian Sejm
History 
• Established
15 July 1920
8 October 1939
Political subdivisionsSee list
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Province of Silesia
Cieszyn Silesia
Province of Upper Silesia
Today part of Poland

The voivodeship was dissolved on 8 October 1939 following the German invasion of Poland, and its territory was incorporated into the German Province of Silesia. After the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, its territory was incorporated into a new, larger Silesian Voivodeship which existed until 1950.

General descriptionEdit

The Silesian Voivodeship was one of the richest and best developed provinces of inter-war Poland. It owed its wealth to rich deposits of coal, which resulted in construction of numerous coal mines and steelworks. For this reason, this Voivodeship was crucial to Polish armaments production. However, its location on the border with Germany made it vulnerable. In mid-1930s, the Polish government decided to move some sectors of heavy industry to the nation's heartland, creating the Central Industrial Region. Due to efficient agricultural practices, the Silesian Voivodeship also was a major producer of food, in spite of its small size.

According to the 1931 Polish census, 92.3% of population stated Polish as their mother tongue. Germans made up 7% and Jews only 0.5%. Poles lived mainly in the villages (95.6% of population there), while Germans and Jews preferred cities (12.9% of Polish Upper Silesian cities' population was German, especially Katowice).

Population density was the highest in the country at 299 persons per 1 km2. On 1 January 1937, forested areas made up 27.9% of the province. Rail density was the highest in the country at 18.5 km per 100 km2. In 1931, the illiteracy rate was the lowest in the country at 1.5% of population.

HistoryEdit

After the First World War a dispute arose about the future of Upper Silesia. This part of the Silesia region was the least affected by centuries of Germanisation. The population was predominately Slavic, especially in rural areas. Many of them considered themselves Poles, and some Czechs. The rest did not feel any strong connections to either of those nations; according to Wojciech Korfanty's estimations, this last group represented up to a third of the total whole population of the region.[2]

 
Silesian Parliament building in Katowice as it looks today

The Treaty of Versailles resolved that a plebiscite be conducted so that the local population could decide whether Upper Silesia should be assigned to Poland or to Germany. Before the plebiscite took place, two Silesian Uprisings supporting the Polish option broke out. There was a third uprising after the plebiscite, as well.

Based on the results of the plebiscite, which has been held on 20 March 1921, Upper Silesia was divided between Poland and Germany. The Polish part was incorporated as the Silesian Voivodeship. Consequently, to the referendum of 1921, the German-Polish Accord on East Silesia (Geneva Convention) was concluded on 15 May 1922 which dealt with the constitutional and legal future of Upper Silesia as it has partly became Polish territory.

The voivodeship was one of the best economically developed parts of Poland. It had been granted autonomous status by an Act of the Polish Sejm dated 15 July 1920.[3] This status was secure until the May Coup in 1926, after which there were various attempts to limit it in favor of a strong and centralised state.

 
Cities and counties of the voivodeship's administrative division

Following the German invasion of Poland, the voivodeship was dissolved on 8 October 1939, and its territory was incorporated into the German Province of Upper Silesia. The territory came back into Polish possession at the end of the war, and the 1920 act giving autonomous powers to the Silesian Voivodeship was formally repealed by a law of 6 May 1945.[4] An enlarged Silesian Voivodeship (unofficially called Silesia-Dąbrowa Voivodeship, województwo śląsko-dąbrowskie) continued in existence until 1950, when it was divided into Katowice Voivodeship and Opole Voivodeship. (For details, see Administrative division of the People's Republic of Poland.)

PoliticsEdit

The voivodeship possessed wide autonomy in domestic matters excluding foreign and military policy. It had its own Silesian Parliament with 48 MPs (24 since 1935) elected in democratic elections. Legislation, however, had to be consistent with the Polish constitution. The voivodeship also had its own national treasury - the Silesian Treasury (Polish: Skarb Śląski). Only around 10% of taxes were transferred to Polish national treasury. The head of the administration was headed by a voivode appointed by the president of Poland to act as a representative of the central government.

Administrative divisionsEdit

Counties (powiaty)Edit

In mid-1939, in the wake of invasion, the population of the voivodeship was 1,533,500 (together with Zaolzie, annexed in October 1938. Its total area was 5,122 square kilometres (1,978 sq mi). The voivodeship was divided into the following counties; with largest cities based on the 1931 population census).

Powiat Population Area
Katowice county (powiat katowicki) 357,300 213 km2
Rybnik county (powiat rybnicki) 212,900 890 km2
Cieszyn county (powiat cieszyński) 176,600 1 305 km2
Pszczyna county (powiat pszczyński) 151,500 1 046 km2
Frysztat County (powiat frysztacki) 143,000 262 km2
City of Chorzów 128,900 32 km2
City of Katowice 126,200 42 km2
Tarnowskie Góry county (powiat tarnogórski) 107 000 268 km2
Bielsko county (powiat bielski) 59,500 339 km2
Lubliniec county (powiat lubliniecki) 45,200 715 km2
City of Bielsko 25,400 10 km2
          
Cities Population
Chorzówa 128,900
Katowice 126,200
Siemianowice Śląskie 37,800
Cieszyn 28,000
Bielsko 25,400
Rybnik 23 000
Mysłowice 22,700
Karwina 22,300
Tarnowskie Góry 15,500
Mikołów 11,900
Bogumin 10,800
Orłowa 10 000

a. In 1934, the town of Królewska Huta, the village of Maciejkowice, the commune of Nowe Hajduki and the village of Chorzów Stary were merged, creating the city of Chorzów. Additionally, on April 1, 1939, the commune of Wielkie Hajduki also became incorporated into the city of Chorzów.

VoivodesEdit

  • Józef Rymer 16 June 1922 – 5 December 1922
  • Zygmunt Żurawski 15 December 1922 – 1 February 1923 (acting)
  • Antoni Schultis 1 February 1923 – 3 March 1924
  • Tadeusz Koncki 15 October 1923 – 2 May 1924 (acting until 3 March 1924)
  • Mieczysław Bilski 6 May 1924 – 3 September 1926
  • Michał Grażyński 6 September 1926 – 5 September 1939

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Central Statistical Office of the Polish Republic (1927). Population of Poland according to religious denominations and nationality [Ludność według wyznania religijnego i narodowości] (PDF). First National Census of 30 September 1921. Warszawa: GUS. page 52/198 in PDF, page 38 in census results: Table (tablica) XI. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  2. ^ Historia Śląska, page 395, Wrocław, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, 2002
  3. ^ Constitutional Act of 15 July 1920 containing the organic statutes of the Silesian Voivodeship
  4. ^ Constitutional Act of 6 May 1845 on the repeal of the organic statutes of the Silesian Voivodeship.

ReferencesEdit

  • "Mały rocznik statystyczny" nakładem Głównego Urzędu Statystycznego - 1939 (Concise Statistical Year-Book of Poland, Warsaw 1939).