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Masuria

Masuria is the English name for the area called Pojezierze Mazurskie or Mazury in Polish (Masurenland in German) in north-eastern Poland. Together with Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast to the north, the region used to be called East Prussia, a part of Germany before World War II. After 1945 Poland received Masuria.

Masuria and the Masurian Lakes Plateau are known in Polish as the Kraina Tysiąca Jezior, and in German as the Land der Tausend Seen which means the same: land of a thousand lakes. As in other parts northern Poland, from Pomerania at the Odra river to the Vistula (Wisła) river, one continuous stretch of lakes makes it a beautiful holiday location. These lakes are the remnants of the ice-age, when north-eastern Europe was covered with ice. By 10000 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 Sudovia and Galindia lands , had 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 also had the chance to survive in the remaining wilderness areas against the onslaught of the Teutonic Knights (of German origin) and other crusaders from elsewhere in Europe (mainly from Germany), who sought conquest of the land and conversion of the native population to Christianity. South parts of the region were already largely penetrated by the Polish settlements.

German, French, Flemish, Danish and Norwegian colonists entered the area shortly afterward, founding numerous cities and towns. The original Prussian population was almost completely exterminated, by XV century. Lucky survivors of the pogrom, were forcefully Germanized. Polish settlers began to arrive following the Teutonic Order's acknowledgement (1466) of the overlordship of the Polish crown. Since 1525 Masuria (with exception of Warmia is mostlyProtestant. The cities remained centres of German and Polish speaking population, while the old Prussian speech survived in parts of the countryside until the early XVI century.

In 1656 the Ducal part of Masuria was devastated during the Deluge[?], when it was raided by Tartars and Poles as retaliation for betrayal of Prussian prince. In 1708 some one third of population died during the Plague. Losses in population were again compensated by migration from Poland and refugees from all over the world, including Polish Arians (Polish Brethren), expelled from Poland in 1657. The last such group were the Russian Filipons[?] in 1830.

Germanisation was slowly and mainly done by education: in 1872 Polish language was removed from schools. In 1890 143,397 of Masurians gave German as their language (either first or second), 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.

The name Masuria began to be used officially after new administrative reforms in Prussia after 1818. The League of Nations held a plebisite in 1920 as to whether the people of the two southern districts of East Prussia wanted to remain within Germany join the state of Poland: 97.5% voted to remain with Prussia. However, during the plebiscite, the currently advancing Soviet Army was on the Vistula line, they had a peace pact with Germany, and they were ready to invade any territories, that would belong to Poland as a result of the rplebiscite. So the major motivation for people to vote the way they voted, was to keep the Soviet hordes, known for brutality, away of their homes. It had nothing to do with nationality. Polish National organizations were the strongest in Masuria, even stronger, than in Silesia.

Partly devastated by war between the retreating German and advancing Soviet armies, Masuria was placed under Polish administration as a result of the Potsdam Conference following Germany's surrender in 1945. Most of the German population was later deported to Germany and elsewhere, and replaced by Poles expelled from the territories taken over by Soviet Union in 1939. In 1999 Masuria was reconstituted with neighbouring Warmia as a single administrative province through the creation of the Warminsko-Mazurskie voivodship.



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