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Masuria

From Academic Kids

This article is about geographic region of Masuria (Mazury), Poland. There is also a breed of horse called "Mazury" or "Mazuren".

Masuria (Polish: Mazury; German: Masuren) is an area in northeastern Poland. Together with Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast to the north, the region used to be a part of Prussia and of the administrative region of East Prussia, a German exclave before World War II. Sanctioned by the allied Potsdam Conference, Masuria became part of Poland in 1945.

The name comes from the ethnic name of Polish settlers from Masovia called Mazurs, who resettled the area following the bloody conquest of the Old Prussian provinces of Pomesania, Pogesania, Galindia and Bartia by the Teutonic Knights.

Masuria and the Masurian Lakeland (Pojezierze Mazurskie) are known in Polish as Kraina Tysiąca Jezior, and in German as Land der Tausend Seen meaning "land of a thousand lakes." As in other parts of northern Poland, from Pomerania on the Oder Odra river to the Vistula (Wisła) river, one continuous stretch of lakes makes it a beautiful holiday location. These lakes were ground out of the land by glaciers during the ice age, when ice covered northeastern Europe. By 10,000 BC this ice started to melt. Great geological changes took place and even in the last 500 years the maps showing the lagoons and peninsulas on the Baltic Sea have greatly altered in appearance.

In the southern part of the region, the ancient Prussian lands of Sudovia and Galindia, wilderness areas survived for longer than in most of Europe. The deep forests in these territories made it possible for moose, aurochs, bears and many other mammals to survive. During the Baltic or Northern Crusades of the 13th century the native Prussian population used this remaining wilderness as defense against the German knights of the Teutonic Order and visiting crusaders from elsewhere in Europe. The official mission of the Teutonic Knights was to baptize and convert the native population to Christianity; they did this mostly through conquest. The southeastern part of Prussia was penetrated and settled by Poles.

The Polish settlers, mainly so-called Mazurs from Masovia, began to arrive following the Teutonic Order's conquest of the area. German, French, Flemish, Danish, Dutch and Norwegian colonists entered the area shortly afterward, founding numerous cities and towns. By the 15th century, the original Prussian population was exterminated and the Prussian language suffered a decline.

In Masuria (the southern part of East Prussia) the Polish language dominated due to the many settlers from Masovia. In the Second Treaty of Thorn (1466) the Teutonic Order came under the overlordship of the Polish crown. Since 1525 Masuria (with the exception of Warmia) has had a mostly Protestant population. While most of the countryside was populated by Polish-speakers, the cities remained centres of mixed German and Polish population, with the upper class more German than the lower class. The ancient Old Prussian language survived in parts of the countryside until the early 18th century.

In 1656 the Ducal part of Masuria was devastated during the Deluge, when it was raided by Tartars and Poles. In 1708 some one-third of the population died from plague.

Losses in population were compensated by migration from Scotland, Salzburg, France and especially from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as well as by refugees, including Polish Arians (Polish brethren) expelled from Poland in 1657. The last such group were the Russian Filipons in 1830.

The name Masuria began to be used officially after new administrative reforms in Prussia after 1818.

Germanisation was slow and mainly done through the educational system: after the unification of the province with Imperial Germany, Polish language was removed from schools in 1872. Of the Masurian population in 1890 143,397 gave German as their language (either primary or secondary), 152,186 Polish, and 94,961 Masurian. In 1910, the German language was given by 197,060, Polish by 30,121, and Masurian by 171,413. In 1925, only 40,869 people gave Masurian as their native tongue and only 2,297 gave Polish.

After World War I, the League of Nations held a plebiscite in 1920 as to whether the people of the two southern districts of East Prussia wanted to remain within East Prussia or to join the state of Poland: 97.5% voted to remain with East Prussia.

Partly devastated during World War II by the retreating Nazi and advancing Soviet armies in 1944-1945 Masuria came under Polish rule at the war's end. Most of the population fled to Germany or were killed during the war, while the rest were subject to "nationality verification" organized by the communist government of Poland. As a result, the number of native Masurians that remained in Masuria was initially quite high. However, many Poles, mostly from the former eastern parts of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union, were settled in Masuria. Soon after 1956, some Masurians were given the opportunity to join their families in West Germany. Gradually, most of them left, mostly because the quality of life was better in Germany, and because the communist government persecuted their separate culture and identity. A few thousand Masurians still live in the area.

In 1999 Masuria was constituted with neighbouring Warmia as a single administrative province through the creation of the Warminsko-Mazurskie voivodship.

Main cities

de:Masuren pl:Mazury

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