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Kingdom of Poland

Kingdom of Poland

The 19th century Kingdom of Poland was established according to resolutions of the Congress in Vienna (1815) and thus it was often referred to as "Congress Poland". This state was initially in personal union with Russia, but later, after anti-Russian uprisings lost by the Poles, its autonomy was gradually reduced. The territory of Congress Poland included areas which during the Partitions of Poland were initially annexed by Prussia and Austria but then, due to the result of the Napoleonic Wars, were taken over by Russia. Those included mostly the historical region of Masovia, northern parts of Little Poland (most of which then belonged to Galicia), eastern fragments of Greater Poland (whose other parts constituted the Prussian Province of Posen), and certain regions of historical Lithuania.


Most inhabitants of the Congress Poland were Polish-speaking and Catholic. Three minorities (each about 5-10% of the total) were also present: Lithuanians (north from Suwalki), Ruthenians (professing Byzantine Catholicism) in the east and the Jews. There was also a small German-speaking group. In 1875 the Tzar abolished Byzantine Catholicism (the Uniate rite) and the faithful were forced to "convert" to Eastern Orthodox. In the beginning of the 20th century many of them converted to Roman Catholicism which resulted in their polonization. Those who remained Orthodox usually felt themselves to be Ukrainians.


After WWI, most of Congress Poland became part of the independent Republic of Poland. Only the northernmost fragment was incorporated into Lithuania.


During the Second World War, more than a million inhabitants of the former Congress Poland lost their lives. 90% of the Jews living there were murdered by the Nazis as were hundreds of thousands of Catholic Poles. After WWII, the majority of the remaining Jews emigrated from Poland. The Ukrainian minority was mostly forced to re-settle in the USSR. Due to the boundary change in 1945, a small fragment of the former Congress Poland then became part of Belarus.


 The map shows the territory of the Kingdom of Poland before WWI. The pink line is the post-WWII border between Poland and its eastern neighbors. The northeastern fragment of the Kingdom, which now belongs to Lithuania, is shown in green and a small area now in Belarus is marked in yellow.



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