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The Cultural and Economic Oppression of the Poles by Prussia

Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski|Saturday, December 25, 2010

In order to answer O. Mueller’s concerns about the “Historical Facts” in his letter to the editor of Culture Wars of November 2010, I would like to present facts about the Berlin’s efforts to eradicate Polish language and culture and Vienna’s exploitation of Polish provinces annexed by Austria. The Cultural and Economic Oppression of the Poles by Prussia The year1815 saw renewed efforts by the Berlin government to eradi­cate Polish lan­guage and culture in Silesia.  As a result 40 Polish villages went on strike in 1817 near Ostróda and Nidzica in Mazuria, East Prussia.  Germans arrested the strikers

The Cultural and Economic Oppression of the Poles by Prussia 2010-12-15   In order to answer O. Mueller’s concerns about the “Historical Facts” in his letter to the editor of Culture Wars of November 2010, I would like to present facts about the Berlin’s efforts to eradicate Polish language and culture and Vienna’s exploitation of Polish provinces annexed by Austria. The Cultural and Economic Oppression of the Poles by Prussia The year1815 saw renewed efforts by the Berlin government to eradi­cate Polish lan­guage and culture in Silesia.  As a result 40 Polish villages went on strike in 1817 near Ostróda and Nidzica in Mazuria, East Prussia.  Germans arrested the strikers. In 1817-1823 clandestine Polish stu­dents’ organizations in Wroc»aw (Bre­slau) proclaimed that Polish national territory covers all areas where Pol­ish is the main language.  There were 416 Polish grade schools in the Grand Duchy of Pozna½ in 1819.  Józef Lompa (1797-1862) pu­blished the History of Silesia in 1821reminding the readers that Silesia is and always was Polish. 1823 saw the beginning of agrarian reform in the Grand Duchy of Pozna½.  Year later King Frederick Wilhelm III von Hohenzollern proclaimed the Constitution of the Grand Duchy of Pozna½: the ex­ecutive branch was to be headed by the King; the actual administration was to be conducted by provincial president; the unicameral Seym was to be ruled by a two-thi­rds majority; elective rights were given to Christian males only; appointed judges were to enforce the laws decreed by the King; the right to demand protection of person and property was granted. In 1824 an Act of Incorporation of G­da½sk, Pomerania into a Prus­sian pro­vince with its capital in Koenigsberg (Królewiec) was issued; the rest of Pome­rania was formed into a province with its capital in Stettin (Szczecin). The purpose of the new provincial boundaries was to enforce the German­ization program of the Berlin govern­ment. The Berlin government ordered a mas­sive expropriation of Polish land­holders, and the increase of the Germanization pressure on the 416 Polish elementary schools in the Grand Duchy of Pozna½.  From 1824-1826 230 Polish landed es­tates were taken over by new German owners in Pozna½ area.  Protest marches were organized against the impo­sition of German language in church services in Siles­ia.  The arrests of protesters followed. In 1827 the Polish Seym of the Grand Duchy of Pozna½ successfully petitioned the government in Berlin to extend politi­cal rights and obligations to the Jews; this created favorable conditions for upper class Jews and led to their eventual as­similation in Germany, after the eviction of Jewish proletariat to the Polish Kingdom under Russia; the successful assimilation of the wealthy Jews who remained in Germany was facilitated by their subculture based on Yiddish, a Germa­nic language.  Jews were among the patriotic supporters of the policies of Berlin gov­ernment and made an important con­tri­bution to the German culture; thus in politics they often supported anti-Polish policies of the Berlin government. In 1827 the Seym of Pozna½ protested the political discrimination against the Poles.   The Most Exploited Provinces of the Austrian Empire During 1772-1867 Polish provinces annexed by Austria became the most exploi­ted and most cruelly treated parts of the Aus­trian Empire. Austrian offi­cials organized peasant mutinies a­gainst Polish landowners and fomen­ted mutual hatred between Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews.  Mass starvation periodically reached catastrophic pro­portions claiming up to 50,000 dead during the worst years. Southern or Less­er Poland was renamed by the Austrians in 1772 as Galicia and Lodomeria  –  names of Ruthenian-Ukrainian provinces at the eastern end of the lands annexed by Austria.  This was consistent with Austrian policy to eradicate every­thing Polish and to extend Ukrainian ethnic claims all the way to Kraków.  A strict censorship was imposed. A huge Austrian­ imperial bureaucra­cy staffed with Ger­mans pestered the population with complicated and intri­cate bureaucratic formali­ties. In 1817 the Austrians revived the provincial Seym of Estates in Lwów, which functioned in 1782-1788 and would function again in 1817-1845.  The Emperor Frances I of Austria ruled by decree.  He appointed to the Seym of Estates wealthy landowners with aristocratic Austrian titles, two deputies from the city of Lwów, and the Chan­cellor of the University of Lwów.  The Seym was not a repre­sentative body, it was entitled to petitions only.
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