History of Cieszyn and Tesin

From Academic Kids

This article is a short history of the towns of Cieszyn and Cesky Tesin as well as the Duchy of Cieszyn. For more info on the actual towns refer to the proper articles.

History of Cieszyn and Těšín - The area of the towns of Cieszyn and Cesky Tesin has been populated by Slavs at least since 7th century. According to the legend, in 810 three sons of a prince– Bolko, Leszko and Cieszko, met here after a long pilgrimage, found a spring, and in their happiness decided to found a new settlement. They called it Cieszyn, from a Slavic root ciesz- meaning joy.

The first written reference about Cieszyn is in a document from Pope Hadrianus IV for the Wrocław bishop Valter from April 23, 1155. It was about the castle of Tescin, which was the centre of a castellany. Around the castle a town was founded on a fortified headland above the Olza River. The city rights are documented as of 1290, and later confirmed in 1364.

The town shared history of Silesia and after the feudal division of Poland in 1138 was ruled by Piast dukes from Silesian line. The duchy belonged to the dukes of Upper Silesia, and since 1298 it recognized the overlordships of Kings of Bohemian dynasty. Since 1343, when Poland acknowledged Bohemian rule over Silesia, it shared history of Bohemian Silesia.

In 16th century the town became one of the most important centres of trade and commerce, with significant manufactories of arms and jewelry. It also became a centre of reformation.

It became a direct apanage of the Bohemian crown in 1625 at the extinction of the male line of its dukes, and since 1766 it bore the name of Saxe-Teschen, owing to the fact that Prince Albert of Saxony, who married a daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria, received it as part of his wife's dowry. In 1822, it was bestowed on the Archduke Charles, the victor of Aspern; it was inherited by his eldest son, and, at his death, in 1895 it passed into the hands of his nephew, the Archduke Frederick.

At the end of 19th century the population of the duchy was split between Poles and Czechs, with Poles being the majority. There were also significant German, Hungarian and Jewish minorities.

At the end of World War I local self-governments were established and divided the region basing on ethnic composition. However, by 1919 the governments were swallowed by governments in Prague and Warsaw with the earlier arguing that the division was unfair.

The only railway going to Slovakia went throughout this area and access to the railway was critical: newly-formed Czechoslovakia was at war with revolutionary Hungary trying to re-establish control over Slovakia. This set up stage for conflict.

Czechoslovakia attacked Polish part of the region and then forced Poland, which was at the time almost completely overrun by Bolsheviks in course of the Polish-Soviet War, to withdraw from the bigger part of the so called Zaolzie area. After the Polish counteroffensive a cease-fire was reached. Poland was forced to recognize new borders running along the Olza river in 1920. Czechoslovakia received the western section (including the Karviná basin) and part of the Duchy capital known as Český Těšín, while Poland received the eastern section Cieszyn.

Poland claimed the Czech section, eventually retaking it in October, 1938 after the Munich Agreement. Teschen was annexed by Germany during World War II as a result of the September Campaign and the 1920 borders were restored in 1945. During the German occupation (1941-1945) there was a POW camp in the town.



  • City 19,142 Germans 52%, Poles 43%, Czechs 5%
  • Duchy 350,000 Germans 18%, Poles 55%, Czechs 27%

See also

History of Cieszyn and Těšín Missing image
Coat of Arms

Cieszyn | Olza | Český Těšín
Zaolzie | Duchy of Cieszyn | Silesia | Upper Silesia | Cieszyn Silesia

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