This map is part of a series of 19 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations, 1918-1942.
In 1795, Poland was wiped from the map of Europe, having been divided up between Prussia, Austria and Russia. At the end of the First World War, it was recreated from the ruins of the old authoritarian empires.
In 1919, Poland was made up of two areas. To the East were the ancient “Kingdom of Congress”, which had been placed under Russian control at the Council of Vienna, and Western Galicia, taken from the ex-Austro-Hungarian Empire. Poland’s eastern border roughly followed the Curzon Line, a frontier traced by Allied diplomats. To the West, its border included German territories around Poznan and in Prussia. Poland was guaranteed access to the German port of Dantzig, which was administered by the League of Nations.
Nevertheless, the territorial integrity of Poland was constantly under threat from its two powerful neighbours, Russia and Germany.
Thus, in 1920, Communist Russia attempted to take Warsaw and install a revolutionary government. Marshall Pilsudski’s successful counter-offensive allowed Poland to acquire territory in Russia and Ukraine to the east of the Curzon Line in 1922.
Germany, on the other hand, did not recognize its eastern borders with Poland and challenged the separation of eastern Prussia from the rest of the country by the Dantzig corridor. Germany and Poland were also divided over the future of Upper Silesia: this region was first awarded to Germany after a referendum in 1921, then occupied by Poland, and finally shared between the two countries by the League of Nations, a solution which suited no one.
Poland became a democratic parliamentary republic in 1921 but, with the country’s political and socio-economic difficulties, Marshall Pilsudski was able to take control in 1926 and establish a conservative military dictatorship.