|Polesie Voivodeship of the Second Republic
|Voivodeship of Poland|
Coat of arms
|Second Polish Republic.|
|Capital||Pińsk (until August 1921)
|-||1921–1922 (first)||Walery Roman|
|-||1932–1939 (last)||Wacław Kostek-Biernacki|
|Historical era||Interwar period|
|-||Established||19 February 1921|
Polesie Voivodeship (Polish: województwo poleskie) was an administrative unit of interwar Poland (1918–1939). It ceased to function in September 1939, following the Nazi-German and Soviet invasion of Poland.
The provincial capital of the Polesie Voivodeship, and also the largest city was Brześć nad Bugiem (Brest-on-the-Bug) with some 216,200 inhabitants (1931). The province was made up of 9 powiats (counties), and had 12 substantial towns or cities. In 1921, the population of the province numbered 879,417, with the population density of about 20.8 persons per km², the lowest in interwar Poland. By 1931, thanks to a government-sponsored settlement programme and the progressive development of education, commerce and industry in the urban centres (neglected under the Tsarist Russia), the population had risen to 1,132,200, and the population density to 31 per km². The Jews constituted 49.2% of the urban population of Polesie, the highest in interwar Poland. They engaged mainly in retail trade, commerce and small industry.
According to the 1931 census, some 80.6% of the population engaged in agriculture. Most estates above 50 hectares in size, were owned by the Poles (65.4%) followed by ethnic Belorussians (17.8%). The majority of inhabitants (62.6%) described themselves merely as “locals” (tutejsi), and for the greater part were peasants of Belarusian and Ukrainian origin. Ethnic Poles made up around 15% of the population, Ukrainians (mainly in the south-east) numbered about 5%, Belarusians 6.6%, and Jews (mainly in towns) around 10%. Smaller communities of Russians also existed. The illiteracy rate was 48.4% due to the lingering imperial legacy, the highest in Poland and well above national average of 23.1% (in 1931).
Location and area
Initially, the area of the voivodeship comprised 42 149 km². However, in 1930 Sarny county became part of the Volhynian Voivodeship, thus the area shrank to 36 668 square kilometers. Even after this change, it still was the biggest Voivodeship of interwar Poland.
Polesie lay in eastern part of the then Polish state, bordering the Soviet Union to the east, Lublin Voivodeship and Białystok Voivodeship (1919–1939) to the west, Nowogródek Voivodeship to the north and the Volhynian Voivodeship to the south. Most of it consisted of the Polesie swamp - a flat, vast, sparsely inhabited area, with several rivers and streams. Access to some villages and hamlets required boats, especially in early spring, when the waters of the Pripyat and other rivers (like the Pina, the Styr and the Horyn) rose as the snow melted. In 1937 forests covered 33.3% of the Voivodeship (compared with the average for the whole country of 22.2%). The biggest lake in the voivodeship's area, Lake Wygonowskie, lay on the Oginski Canal. In spring of 1939, construction of the 127-kilometer Stone Canal (Kanal Kamienny) began. The canal was planned to connect Pinsk with Klesow, which at that time was part of Volhynian Sarny County.
Cities and counties
Brześć, the voivodeship’s capital and biggest city, did not have an impressively large population: about 50,700 according to the 1931 national census and around 55,000 in mid-1939. Other urban centers included Pińsk (population 31,900 in 1931), Dawidgródek (population 11,500), Kobryń (population 10,100) and Prużana (population 6,500).
Counties of Polesie Voivodeship
- Brześć county (area 4625 km², pop. 216 200),
- Drohiczyn Poleski county (area 2351 km², pop. 97 000),
- Iwacewicze county (area 3562 km², pop. 83 700),
- Kamień Koszyrski county (area 3243 km², pop. 95 000),
- Kobryń county (area 3545 km², pop. 114 000),
- Łuniniec county (area 5722 km², pop. 109 300),
- Pińsk county (area 5587 km², pop. 183 600),
- Prużana county (area 2644 km², pop. 108 600),
- Stolin county (area 5389 km², pop. 124 800).
The voivodeship was created on February 19, 1921 with its capital was Pińsk. After a fire in August 1921, the voivodship's capital was moved to Brześć Litewski. Brześć Litewski was renamed as Brześć nad Bugiem ("Brest on the Bug" in Polish) on March 20, 1923. First administrative division was listed below:
Counties of Polesie Voivodeship (1921–1923)
- Brześć county
- Drohiczyn Poleski county
- Kossów county
- Łuniniec county
- Pińsk county
- Prużana county
- Sarny county
Infrastructure and industry
In popular opinion, interwar Poland comprised two parts - Poland “A” (better developed) and Poland “B” (less developed). On this scale, however, the Polesie Voivodeship might class as Poland “C”: it was by far the most backward region of the country. Industry was non-existent, agriculture poorly developed, the rail network consisted of barely a few lines. There were few rail hubs: Brześć (with 5 routes), Łuniniec, Żabinka and Sarny. In 1937 the total length of railroads within voivodeship amounted to just 1,063 km., while rail density was just 2.9 km per 100 km² (the lowest in the country). One of the few signs of modernity in the infrastructure was a paved road connecting Pińsk and Drohiczyn Poleski constructed in the late 1930s.
1939 and its aftermath
Two and a half weeks after the German invasion of Poland, the Soviet forces invaded eastern Poland on September 17, 1939 in accordance with the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939. As the bulk of the Polish Army had concentrated in the west of the country to fight the Germans, the Soviets met with little resistance and their troops quickly moved westwards until they reached Brześć where they met up with the German army, and held the joint victory parade.
The Soviet authorities who occupied Polesie Voivodeship dismantled the Polish administration and formally annexed what became known as West Belarus into the Soviet Union, dividing it between the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Polesia Voblast). Following the Tehran Conference of 1943, Joseph Stalin insisted in 1945 on redrawing Poland's borders with Western approval. The Soviets forcibly resettled the Polish population of the province to the west, and the prewar voivodeship area became part of the Soviet Union for the next sixty years. As of 2009[update] most of the former Polesie Voivodeship (including Brześć and Pińsk) belongs to the sovereign Belarus; only the southern part of it belongs to Ukraine (Kamień Koszyrski and Sarny).
- Walery Roman 14 March 1921 – 3 May 1922
- Stanisław Józef Downarowicz 18 May 1922 – 2 October 1924
- Kazimierz Młodzianowski 4 October 1924 – 5 May 1926
- Vacant 5 May 1926 – 14 July 1926
- Jan Krahelski 14 July 1926 – 8 September 1932 (acting to 23 December 1926)
- Wacław Kostek-Biernacki 8 September 1932 – 2 September 1939
- Jerzy Albin de Tramecourt 17 February 1937 – 7 September 1937 (acting for Kostek-Biernacki)
- Alice Teichova, Herbert Matis, Jaroslav Pátek (2000). Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-century Europe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 342–344. ISBN 978-0-521-63037-5.
- (Polish) Janusz Magnuski, Maksym Kolomijec, Czerwony Blitzkrieg. Wrzesien 1939: Sowieckie Wojska Pancerne w Polsce (The Red Blitzkrieg. September 1939: Soviet armored troops in Poland). Wydawnictwo Pelta, Warszawa 1994, ISBN 83-85314-03-2, Scan of page 72 of the book.
- Norman Davies, God's Playground (Polish edition), Second volume, p.512-513
- Stosunki polsko-białoruskie pod okupacją sowiecką, (Polish-Byelorussian relations under the Soviet occupation). Bialorus.pl (Polish)
- (Polish) Mały rocznik statystyczny 1939, Warszawa, Nakładem Głównego Urzędu Statystycznego Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej (Concise Statistical Year-Book of Poland, Warsaw 1939)