History of Pomerania

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Historical administrative divisions

Eastern Pomerania

Removed Free City of Danzig, left bank of Vistula river and Grenzmark Posen-Westpreussen
Pomeranian Voivodship 1920-1938
Added Bydgoszcz county 1938
Pomeranian Voivodship 1938-1939
added Free City of Gdansk
Danzig-Westpreussen 1939-1945 ...
Gdansk Voivodship
Gdansk Voivodship 1975-1998
Added: part of Slupsk Voivodship, Elblag Voivodship and Chojnice county from Bydgoszcz Voivodship Pomeranian Voivodship 1998-

Prehistoric Pomerania

To be done.

See Lusatian culture, Pomeranian culture, Wielbark Culture, Goths

Slavonic Pomeranians

From ca 500 CE, the region was inhabited by various tribes known collectively as Pomeranians and Polabians, part of the Lechitic group of the West Slavs. The tribes spoke Pomeranian and Polabian dialects.

A Frankish document entitled Bavarian Geographer (ca 845) mentions the tribes of Volinians (Velunzani), Pyritzans (Prissani), Veleti (Wiltzi), and Abodrites (Nortabtrezi).

At this point in time, the region was settled by Lechitic Pomeranians who were constantly defending themselves against Viking raids. Pomeranians made their living from the sea, trading and fishing. They sometimes even raided Vikings in their homes. The ships of Pomeranians were not distinguishable from the ships of the Vikings themselves.

Pomerania as a province of Poland

One of the earliest references to Pomerania as a province of Poland comes in 962, when Mieszko I of Poland inherited eastern Pomerania. In the 960s, Mieszko fought with the tribes of Wieletes and Volinians south of the Baltic Sea, and their ally, the Saxon count Wichman. It is supposed that Mieszko at least partially conquered western Pomerania (Polish, Zapomorze; German, Vorpommern) in this period.

Mieszko later defeated Count Dietrich of the Northern March at Cedynia in 972 and reached the mouth of the Oder River in 976. The decisive battle there in 979 ensured Mieszko's position as ruler of the area. In the following year, he celebrated his victory by dedicating the city of Gdansk at the mouth of the Vistula River, to compete with the ports of Szczecin and Wolin on the Oder (all in Pomerania province). Shortly before his death, Mieszko placed his state, including Pomerania, under the suzerainty of the pope in a document usually called the Dagome Iudex.

Mieszko's son and successor, Boleslaus I of Poland, continued his father's conquests in Pomerania in 995, when he personally led his army. In 1000 CE, while on pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Adalbert of Prague at Gniezno, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III invested Boleslaus with the title Frater et Cooperator Imperii ("Brother and Partner of the Empire") and confirmed the rights of Boleslaus to Pomerania. On the same visit, Otto gave Boleslaus the right to create the first Pomeranian bishopric in Kolobrzeg. The ultimate aim of this gesture was to christianize the Pomeranians.

Nevertheless, the mission was destroyed when Pomeranians revolted against the church in 1005. The events brought five new martyrs to the Roman Catholic Church. This was the first time that the country split; the eastern part along the Vistula remained subject to Poland, whereas western Pomerania tended to remain independent and pagan. The Pomeranian bishopric was moved to safer Kruszwica in Cuiavia (ca 1015.

Canute the Great was the son of sea-king Sweyn Forkbeard, also reputed to be a member of the Jomsburg Vikings, a military organization of mercenary warriors with a fortress based in Pomerania. There is some dispute among historians, however, over the existence of the "Jomsvikings." Canute's mother was Gunhild (formerly Swiatoslawa, daughter of Mieszko I of Poland). In about 1020, Canute made a deal with Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II, and the emperor gave Canute the Mark of Schleswig and Pomerania to govern. Nevertheless, Pomerania or parts thereof may or may not have been part of that deal. In any event, Boleslaus sent his troops to help Canute in his successful conquest of England.

Pomeranian duchies under Polish sovereignty

In the 1030s, the Polish state was destroyed and fragmented into several provinces, but was soon rebuilt when Casimir I the Restorer was victorious in a battle with Mazovians and Pomeranians in 1047. Boleslaus II of Poland ("Boleslaw Smialy") is reported to have lost control of Pomerania.

The first written trace of the Pomeranian monarch is the 1046 mention of Zemuzil dux Bomeranorum (Siemomysl, duke of Pomeranians). The Chronicle of the Polish dukes written in 1113 by Gallus Anomynous mentions several dukes of Pomerania--Swantibor, Gniewomir, and an unnamed duke besieged in Kolobrzeg.

In 1107, there was a civil war in Poland between Duke Boleslaus III of Poland and his brother Zbigniew. As Zbigniew was allied to Pomeranians, Boleslaus brought warriors to Pomerania and captured Bialogard, Koszalin, Kamien Pomorski, and Wolin.

In military campaigns in 1116, 1119, and 1121, the entire region of Pomerania was conquered by Boleslaus III and divided into four parts. Eastern Pomerania and Gdansk were placed under direct Polish control, and the duke nominated his governors. Middle Pomerania, including Slupsk and Slawno, was made a Polish fief under the Pomeranian duke Racibor I. Western Pomerania, including Kamien, Kolobrzeg, and Bialogard, was made a Polish fief ruled by duke Warcislaw I. Szczecin and Wolin were semi-independent city-republics governed as Polish fiefs.

Once his reign was consolidated, Boleslaus asked Otto of Bamberg to convert Pomerania to Christianity, which he accomplished in his first visit in 1124. Otto returned in 1128, this time invited by duke Wartislaw himself, aided by the emperor Holy Roman Emperor Lothar II, to convert the Liutici tribe, who were located mainly in the city of Demmin and incorporated into a Pomeranian state, and to strengthen the Christian faith of the inhabitants of Szczecin and Wolin, who fell back into heathen ways.

In their meeting in Merseburg (1135), Boleslaus and the emperor agreed that Pomerania and Rugen would be fiefs of Poland.

Eastern Pomerania

In 1136, following the death of Boleslaus III, Poland was fragmented into several semi-independent principalities. As the influence of the central authority weakened, Polish governors in Eastern Pomerania gradually gained more power, evolving into semi-independent dukes, ruling the duchy until 1294. So, in contrast to other Polish territories, which were governed by descendants of Boleslaus III, Eastern Pomerania was ruled by separate dynasties. In various times they were vassals of Poland and Denmark. The duchy was split temporarily into districts of Gdansk, Bialogard, Swiecie, and Lubieszewo-Tczew.

Ancestors of Racibor I ruled the Duchy of Middle Pomerania until 1238, and next the area was an object of competition between the Dukes of Western Pomerania, Eastern Pomerania, Rugen, and Brandenburg.

In 1226, Prince Konrad of Masovia signed an agreement with the Teutonic Knights. The Knights gradually conquered and massacred people of neighbouring Prussia, becoming the most serious threat to Pomerania.

Principality of Rana

One of the ancient centers of Slavic paganism was the island of Rugen, with the main religious center in Arkona. The Slavic nation of Ranow resisted foreign domination until it was conquered by Denmark in 1168 and the local ruler give birth to a dynasty of dukes of Rugen, vassals of Danish kings. In 1325, the principality of Rugen fell to Pomerania. The Slavic language of Rana/Rugen went extinct in the eighteenth century.

Independent Pomerania between Germany, Denmark, and Poland

In 1164, the dukes of Pomerania became vassals of the Saxon ruler Henry the Lion from the newly conquered territory of Slavia (today in Mecklenburg).

During the reign of Otto I, Margrave of Brandenburg and son of Albert I of Brandenburg (1100-1170) the Brandenburger wanted the suzerainty over Pomerania. How did we get here -- what happened between 1164 and 1170 to transfer rule to Brandenburg?

In 1181, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I invested Duke Bogislaw with the Duchy of Slavia/Pomerania. Why did he do this and where is Bogidslaw duke? The next paragraph implies that Bradenburg lost its rights, but then regained them -- what happened? And where (except with Canute in 1024) do the Danes come in? Does this mean that the Danes contested other claims?

Between 1185 and 1227 the Western Pomerania remained under suzerainty of Denmark. However 1198/99 Brandenburg again tried held the suzerainty over Western Pomerania. Their virtual rights are recognized by king (later emperor) Frederick II in 1214. After the Battle of Bornhoeven remaining Danish suzerainty rights were removed. Treaties of 1236 and 1250 between Pomeranian dukes and margraves of Brandenburg verify the Brandenburg lordship. Stargard and the northern Uckermark come into direct ownership of Brandenburg.

In 1231 Emperor Frederick II again invested the Ascanian Brandenburg margraves with the dukedome of Pomerania.

In 1266 Barnim I, duke of Pomerania, who had inherited his brothers' parts, married Mechthild, the daughter of Otto III, Margrave of Brandenburg. Then in 1269 duke Barnim promised in his testimony the city of Danzig (Gdansk) and other parts of Eastern Pomerania to his father-in-law, the margrave of Brandenburg. Barnim however had no right to do it, since Eastern Pomerania was ruled by the Mscislaw dukes of Swiecie family, who decided that after his death Pomerania should return to Poland. Schwetz was to be inherited after his death. Barnim died in 1278 at Altdamm. Presumably Danzig, Schwetz, and Altdamm are in Pomerania...except I thought that some might be in Prussia? They became to be in Prussia, when Teutonic Knights took over Pomerania. But if they are in Prussia, why are they here? Also, I think we need clarification on "his brother's parts" -- does this mean "his brother's lands or holdings?"

After the line of the dukes of Pomerania died out in 1294, strifes broke out and in 1295 Adolf of Nassau-Weilburg verified the Lehnshoheit of Brandenburg over Pomerania. From Brandenburg it was dispensed to the sons of Barnim I, Otto I and Bogislaw IV. New lines Pommern-Wolgast and Pommern-Stettin were started. Harbors, waterways etc were to be held in common and it remained that way until those lines became extinct in 1464.

Eastern Pomerania and Poland

In line with the will of the duke Mscislaw of the Eastern Pomerania, the duke Przemysl II of Poland took over Eastern Pomerania in 1294. Therefore the Eastern Pomerania united with his principality - Greater Poland. Keeping two of five major lands of Poland he was crowned as king of Poland.

When he was killed by an assassin sent from Brandenburg in 1295, the country shared with the rest of Poland controversy over succession. From 1300 until 1306 Eastern Pomerania was ruled by the Wenceslaus II of Bohemia and his son Wenceslaus III, King of Bohemia and Poland, later also disputed King of Hungary. After the death of Wenceslaus III in 1306, the most powerful of Polish dukes became Wladislaw Lokietek.

On becoming king of Poland, in summer 1300, Wenceslaus II of Bohemia asked the Teutonic Knights to protect Pomerania from the claims of Brandenburg. In 1306 Wladislaw Lokietek seized Gdansk. When Gdansk was subsequently attacked by the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1308, Lokietek called the Teutonic Knights for help. The Brandenburgers were defeated. The Teutonic Knights, however, then ousted the Polish garrison from Gdansk castle and carried out the "massacre of Gdansk" on the city. Landmaster Heinrich von Tczew) and Swiecie thus became lord over all of Pomerania. The Margraves ceded the area to the Teutonic Order in the 1309 Treaty of Soldin for payment of 10,000 Mark. Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor ratified the Soldin Treaty in 1313. The districts of Slawno, Darlowo and Slupsk, however, remained with Brandenburg. Previously, they had been regarded as part of Eastern Pomerania. The rulers of Poland believed, however, they were legal proprietors of Pomerania. Since the wealth of the province arose from trade and the main trade route for the country was the Vistula river. The existence of the Vistula, linking Pomerania with the counties of Poland, also linked Pomeranian citizens, regardless of language and nationality, further and further with Poland.

Feudal fragmentation and reunification

Internal divisions of West Pomerania (1295–1464)

After the death of duke Barmin I (1278) his sons have divided West Pomerania in 1295 between themselves. Duchy of Szczecin was ruled by Otto I and his successors until 1464. The Duchy of Wolgast was ruled by Boguslaw IV and his successors. The latter was split in 1368 into the proper Duchy of Wolgast and the Duchy of Slupsk under Boguslaw V the Old. (For complete list of dukes and duchies see: Dukes of Pomerania.)

Thirteen-years war for Eastern Pomerania (1454–1466)

to be written

War for Szczecin inheritance between Brandenburg and Pomerania (1464–1529)

to be written

Unification and modernisation under Boguslaw X (1478–1523)

to be written

Pomeranian voivodship in Royal Prussia (1466–1772)

to be written

Divisions of Duchy of Pomerania (1569–1625)

to be written

The Last Pomeranian monarch: Boguslaw XIV (1625–1637)

to be written

Thirty Years' War (1618-48) and its consequences

During the Thirty Years' War Pomerania lost two thirds of its population due to military raids, plague and criminal violence.

Upon entering into the Thirty Years' War in 1629, Sweden gained effective control over Pomerania. Following the death of Duke Boguslaw XIV without issue in 1637, control was disputed between Sweden and Brandenburg-Prussia - which had previously held reversion to the Duchy. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 enforced a partition. Sweden received Upper Pomerania (now in Germany), together with Szczecin (Stettin), as a possession. (See Swedish Pomerania.) Lower Pomerania (now in Poland) passed to Brandenburg-Prussia. Szczecin (Stettin) became part of Brandenberg-Prussia following the end of the Great Northern War in 1720.

Upper Pomerania remained a dominion of the Swedish Crown from 1648 until 1815.

Napoleonic Wars and its consequences

In 1812, when French troops marched into Pomerania, The Swedish army mobilized and 1813 won against Napoleon in the Battle of Leipzig, together with troops from Russia, Prussia and Austria. Sweden also attacked Denmark. During the peace negotiations in Kiel 1814, Sweden got Norway, but gave Pomerania to Prussia in 1815.

After the extinction of the Ascanian Brandenburg line several other ruling houses were invested with the administration of Pomerania by the empire. After Napoleon's break-up of the empire in 1806, the Western Part was the member of the Deutsche Bund. After foundation of the German Empire of 1871, the whole of Pomerania was included into the newly created state.

All of Pomerania in the Kingdom of Prussia (1815–1870)

to be written yet

Pomerania in the German Empire (1870–1918)

During the German Empire whole Pomerania remained an agricultural area.

The Prussian Province of Pomerania was dominated by large-scale agriculture which forced many abundant workers to emigrate into the western provinces of Germany. Only the city of Stettin (now Szczecin) became an industrialized city with more than 200,000 inhabitants. Some towns on the Baltic Sea became tourist resorts. The Prussian Province of Pomerania was a stronghold of conservative parties during the German Empire.

The Prussian province of West Prussia (Eastern Pomerania) was inhabited by both ethnic groups: Polish people predominantly in rural areas and German people predominantly in big cities. The German government tried to support German settlement in Polish areas, but German investors did not show much interest. Polish people founded economical and political organisations and succeeded in electing some Polish representatives into the German Reichstag.

Population of the Prussian provinces in 1890Area km˛Populationforeigners
West Prussia25,4831,433,6811,976

World Wars of the 20th century

Between WWI and WWII - Pomerania in Germany and Poland (1919–1939)

As a result of the Versailles Peace Treaty (1919) after World War I, Pomerania was divided between Poland and Germany. Most of the German-Prussian province of West Prussia fell to Poland and constituted Pomeranian Voivodship (województwo pomorskie) with the capital in Toruń. Danzig was made the Free City of Danzig. Remainders of West Prussia were joined to East Prussia and newly created province Grenzmark Posen-Westpreussen. The entire Prussian province of Pomerania remained in Germany. Area inhabited by Kashubians remained split between Poland, Free City and Germany.

In 1938-39 German and Polish Pomeranian provinces were enlarged. Most of Grenzmark and 2 counties of Brandenburg were made a district of the German province of Pomerania. Several counties from Mazovia and Greater Poland were joined to Polish Pomerania, and the voivodship's capital was moved from Torun to Bydgoszcz.

Pomerania during World War II (1939–1945)

The dispute between Germany and Poland over rights to Free City of Danzig and land transit through the Polish Pomerania to the exclave of East Prussia, came to ignite Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, commenced on September 1, 1939.

The strategy of the Nazi government was to temporarily divide Poland with the Soviet Union, formalized in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In the longer perspective, the Nazis aimed to expand the German "Lebensraum" in the East, to exploit soil, oil, minerals and workforce from the lands of the Slavs, turning them into a race of slaves for the German 1000 Year Reich. The fate of other peoples of these territories, notably Jews and Gypsies, was annihilation in the Holocaust.

Initially, the German Guderian's tank corps was to pass through the Polish Pomerania on the way to Eastern Prussia. The Guderian corps was to regroup there and attack Warsaw from the East.

The Polish opponent was the Army of Pomerania (Armia Pomorze). It was not quite decided, if the army was to protect the Free City of Danzig in case of local uprising in support of the German invasion, or defend the Polish corridor in case of the general war. The first aim suggested to put large units deep north into Pomerania province.

However, they were defenceless against the unexpected attack from the Germans, and this contributed to the fact that the Army of Pomerania was largely destroyed, despite its heroic efforts.

One of those were episodes were famous Krojanty charge, where Polish cavalry unit had charged against German infantry. Germans begun to escape in panic to the forest site, where German tanks were hidden and the charge broke down there. The episode were used in Nazi propaganda to underline unreasonable Polish resistance against overwhelming German power. However, many people in Europe sympathised with the picture of the brave Poles charging desperately against tanks, not knowing how false it was.

After the initial battles in Polish Pomerania, the Army of Pomerania withdrew to the southern bank of river Vistula. After defending Toruń for several days, it withdrew further south under pressure of the overall strained strategic situation, and took part in the main battle on Bzura river.

In the borders of the Free City of Danzig, there were two fortified Polish points: the Polish post office in Danzig and the Polish ammunition store in Westerplatte. Both were ordered to defend up to 12 hours in case of local uprising, until the help from the Polish army was to arrive.

The Polish Post office were held by 50 employees led by Konrad Guderski against the (German) Danzig police, Home Guard and SS, which after 14 hours of battle set the building on fire. 12 postmen were killed in action, 11 were taken POW and then executed, while remaining 28 were sent to the Stutthof concentration camp.

The Polish Military Transit Depot (Polska Wojskowa Składnica Tranzytowa) on Westerplatte repelled countless attacks by the Danzig Police, SS, the Kriegsmarine and the Wehrmacht. Finally, the Westerplatte crew surrendered on 7 September, having exhausted their supplies of food, water, ammunition and medicines.

There were heavy fights in Pomerania, and the Polish Navy base at the Hel peninsula held out as one of the last centres of Polish military resistance until October 3, 1939.

The Polish corridor and Danzig were annexed by Germany on Oct 8, 1939, and were made into the province of Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen.

Even during September campaign, security police set first security police camps for Poles. Deportations to General Government and Stutthof soon followed. Polish was strictly forbidden, even in the church by the Danzig Bishop Splett. Local intelligentsia were executed in the mass murder site of Piasnica (60,000 victims).

The remaining Poles and Kashubians organized guerrilla resistance called Pomeranian Gryffin (TOW Gryf Pomorski).

Border shift after World War II (1945)

After the WWII Polish-German border was moved to the west to the Oder-Neisse line. In case of Pomerania, the Free City of Danzig and most of the pre-war German province of Pomerania fell to Poland. The city of Stettin (now Szczecin) and, located on Usedom island, Swinemünde (now Swinoujscie) were assigned to Poland, as the vessel route goes through Swinoujscie to Szczecin. In addition, the small strip of land 20 km west of Stettin/Szczecin, and a small part of the Usedom island also became part of Poland in order to facilitate the growth of the cities. (see also German exodus from Eastern Europe). The remainder of Pomerania west of Stettin/Szczecin and Oder was joined with Mecklenburg and later renamed Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern).

Modern times (after 1945)

Pomerania in communist Poland and Germany (1945–1989)

Polish Pomerania

At the end of the WWII, Pomerania was completely devastated. In addition to destruction during the war, Soviets treated the property left in Polish Pomerania as war loot. Machines, animals and anything that could be packed were sent to Soviet Union. Additionally, the land contained unexploded mines and explosives remained lying around the sites of major battles.

Gangs of criminals, mostly from razed Warsaw, terrorised the population and used the cover of night to steal anything left behind by the Soviet Army. This period was known as 'Shaber'.

The Soviet Army was granted the military polygons and naval bases of Pomerania; the areas were excluded from Polish jurisdiction until 1992. Russia used the area to store nuclear warheads.

Despite these problems, life in Pomerania soon returned to normality. Poland was ruled by a communist regime and the policy of the government was focused on making the state a sole proprietor of means of production and points of trade. Polish victims of WWII who settled in Pomerania were actually granted only long-term rent right to the land, forests and houses.

The situation changed for the worse in 1948, when all countries of the Eastern bloc had to adopt Soviet economic principles. Private shops were banned and most farmers were forced to join agricultural cooperatives, managed by local communists.

In 1953 Poland were forced to accept the end of war reparations, which previously were solely placed on East Germany, while West Germany enjoyed the benefits of Marshall Plan. In 1956 Poland was on the verge of a Soviet invasion, but the crisis was solved and the Polish government's Communism developed a more human face with Wladyslaw Gomulka as the head of politburo. Poland developed the ports of Pomerania and the shipyards of Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin.

These were organised as two harbour complexes: one of Szczecin port with Swinoujscie avanport and the other was Gdansk-Gdynia set of ports. Gdansk and Gdynia, along with the spa of Sopot located between them, became one metropolitan area called Tricity and populated by more than 1,000,000 people.

In 1970, after putting an end to the border issue, the massive unrest in the coastal cities marked the end of Wladyslaw Gomulka's rule. The new leader, Edward Gierek, wanted to modernize the country by the wide use of western credits. Although the policy failed, Poland became one of the main world players in the shipyard industry. Polish open sea fishing scientists discovered new species of fish for the fishing industry. Unfortunately, countries with direct access to the open seas declared 200 mile economic zones that finally put the end to the Polish fishing industry. Shipyards also came under growing pressure from the subsidized Japanese and Korean enterprises.

During 1970, Poland built also the Northern Harbour in Gdansk, which allowed the country independent access to oil from OPEC countries. The new refinery had been built in Gdansk, and an oil pipeline connected both with main Polish pipeline in Plock.

In 1980, coastal cities became the place of birth for the anticommunist movement Solidarity. Gdansk become the capital for the Solidarity trade union. In 1989 it was found that the border treaty with East Germany had one mistake, concerning the naval border. Subsequently, a new treaty was signed, but one of the three ways out of Szczecin harbour was assigned by Germany.

Pomerania post-communism (1989)


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