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In the Middle Ages, Silesia was inhabited mostly by people of Slavonic ethnic background and belonged at first to Poland and later to Bohemia. Since the 13th century Silesia together with Bohemia has come under German cultural and political influence. In the 16th century it became part of Austria and a significant part of the inhabitants were germanized. This process continued during the next centuries. In 1742 Prussia conquered most of Silesia, only the southernmost regions (marked in orange on the map below) of Opava and Cieszyn remained Austrian.


In 1815 the eastern part of Saxony was incoporated into Silesia, while the northernmost part of Silesia, the enclave of Swiebodzin (Schwiebus) became part of the Province of Brandenburg (marked in red on the map of Brandenburg). In the 19th century the greater part of the Silesian people were Roman Catholics. In the western and central regions practically only German was spoken, while in the eastern part of Silesia (Upper Silesia) the Polish language was predominant.


As independent Poland came into existence in 1918, the Polish speaking populace also wanted to belong to it. After three Polish uprisings and a plebiscite, the region was divided between Poland and Germany (the area which then became Polish is shown in green). Small fragments of Middle Silesia (marked in cyan) were also incorporated into Poland and a little area in the south (marked in magenta) - into Czechoslovakia.


After WWII, the greater part of Silesia became part of Poland. Only three districts west of the Neisse River remained German (they are now part of the State of Saxony). German inhabitants of the province either escaped or were expelled from Silesia after 1945 and Poles from the formerly Polish regions in the East settled there.


The map shows the territory of Silesia at the beginning of the 20th century. The colored regions are explained above. The pink line is the present border between Poland and Germany. Polish and German names of cities are provided.




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