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Silesia

Silesia (Polish Śląsk, Czech Slezsko, German Schlesien) is a province of Poland, located in the south of the country between the Odra and Vistula rivers.

Since the end of World War II Silesia is almost entirely within the borders of Poland, with the exception of the Těšín Silesia, which is part of the Czech Republic, and Goerlitz Silesia, which is part of Germany. Silesia is directly adjacent to Saxony, Little Poland, Great Poland[?], and Brandenburg, and very near to Berlin and Cracow. The territory is now divided into the Dolnoslaskie (capital: Wroclaw), Opolskie (capital: Opole), and Slaskie (capital: Katowice) voivoidships.

Silesia is a resource rich and populous region. Coal and iron can both be found there, and a substantial munfacturing industry has grown up, but in post-communist times the outdated nature of many of the facilites have lead to problems. It is also a good agricultural area producing grains, potatos, and sugar beets

The Silingii[?], most likely a Vandalic people, lived south of the Baltic Sea in the Elbe, Odra, and Vistula river area of later Germany and Poland. Most of the province belonged to the Czechs for most of its history.

There are many theories as to how Silesia derived its name. These theories tend to fall along the lines of national interest. The "Silesia is part of Germany" argument claims that the name is derived from the Silingii, most likely a Vandalic (some say Celto-Germanic) people, who lived south of the Baltic Sea in the Elbe, Oder, and Vistula river area of Germany. The "Silesia is Poland" argument is based on etymology and the fact that the place-names in the area now are Slavic.

A third theory claims that the area was indeed "originally" (as far as they are the first people purported to have lived in the area) inhabited by the Silingii. When the Silingii moved from the area during the Migration Period, or Völkerwanderung, they left remnants of their society behind. The most evident remnants were in the place-names, which were adopted (in Slavic form) by the new inhabitants, who were in fact Slavic (Pol. Śląsk, OldPol. Śląžsk [-o], OldSlav. *Sьlьąžьskъ [<*Sьlьągьskъ] from OldGerm. *Siling-isk [land]). These people became associated with the place, and were known as Silesians (using a Latinized form of the name, Pol. Ślêžanie), even though they had nothing to do with the Silingii.

Parenthetically, it should be noted that there is considerable debate among archaeologists and historians as to whether there is such a thing as a Celtic-Germanic people. Exhibits such as the one in Rosenheim (Bayern) certainly demonstrate that the Celts had an influence on the area; however, the movement of the Celts westward through Europe was such that there is little if any overlap between them and the Germanic tribes.

Moreover, the question of Germanic tribes and their relationship to place names is entirely chicken/egg. Traditional German historiography, most notably the works of Ranke[?], tend to argue a thing's inherent "Germanness" on the grounds that clearly work in a 19th century nationalist context, but hardly work for today's historians.

Table of contents

History

Middle Ages

In the 9th and 10th centuries the territory later called Silesia was subject to the Moravian and then Bohemian rulers of the neighbouring area covered by today's Czech Republic to the south, who pledged allegiance to Charlemagne and his successors as emperors in the west. Under Charlemagne the territory was sectioned into four pagi. Vratislav I founded Vratislavia, the later city of Breslau, now Wroclaw.

In 999 Silesia was incorporated into territory ruled by Boleslaus I, duke of the Polianie (Polans; from "pole" - "a field") and later king of Poland. (See [[1] (http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~koby/political/chapter_02/0205pol992)] for the previous boundaries of Poland.) During Poland's Fragmentation (1138-1320) into duchies ruled by different branches of the Piast royal family, Silesia was ruled by descendants of the royal house.

In 1146, duke Wladislaw II acknowledged the overlordship of the Holy Roman Empire, but was driven into exile. After 17 years in Germany, his two sons took possession of Silesia in 1163 with Imperial backing, dividing the land between them as dukes of Lower and Upper Silesia. The policy of subdivision continued under their successors, with Silesia being divided into 18 territories by the 1390s.

From around 1210 Henry I the Bearded, duke of Lower Silesia, and his wife Hedwig of Andechs invited the Knights Templar and other religious, many of them from Germany, to settle the land. The ruling classes increasingly adopted German language and culture. Germans moved in from other parts of the Holy Roman Empire in the wake of the dislocation caused by the 1241 Mongol invasion of Silesia. 160 cities and 1500 towns were founded with German charters and laws.

The Silesian duchies had accepted the suzerainty of the predominantly German-speaking but loosely governed Holy Roman Empire in 1163. In 1327, Duke Henry VI of Breslau and the Upper Silesian dukes recognized the suzerainty of the king of Bohemia (John of Luxemburg). Bohemia was itself an autonomous part of the Holy Roman Empire. Silesia remained part of the lands of the Bohemian crown until 1742.

Under the emperor and king of Bohemia Charles IV, Silesia and especially Wroclaw gained greatly in importance, and many great buildings and large Gothic churches were built.

Between 1425 and 1435, devastation was caused by Hussite rebellion in Bohemia proper - Silesia remained largely Catholicm however.

Early Modern Period

The Protestant reformation took an early hold, and most of Silesia became Lutheran.

- In 1537 the rulers of Brandenburg and Silesia concluded an inheritance treaty, but it was vetoed by the emperor Ferdinand.

- 1526 Habsburgs elected/inherited the Bohemian crown (it is disputed by what right they ruled)

The second "Defenestration of Prague", in 1618, sparked the Thirty Years' War, caused by attempts of the Catholic Habsburg ruler to restore Catholicism and stamp out Protestantism.

After the end of the Thirty Years War, the Habsburgs greatly encouraged Catholicism, and succeeded in reconverting around sixty percent of the population of Silesia.

By 1675 the last Silesian Piast rulers had died out.

In 1740 the seizure of Silesia by Frederick (the Great) of Brandenburg began the War of the Austrian Succession, which ended in 1748. At the end of this war, Prussia retained almost all of Silesia. The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) confirmed this result.

Silesia in the Modern World

Silesia, then part of the Kingdom of Prussia, became part of the German Empire when Prussia lead the unification of Germany (1866-71). There was considerable industrialization in Upper Silesia, and many Slavic-speaking people moved there.

After Germany's defeat in World War I, a 1921 referendum was held by the League of Nations in Upper Silesia, to determine which parts should became part of Poland and which part should remain in Germany. A majority of the population was German. A surprisingly large number of the Slavic people also opted to remain in Germany, despite being Slavic speakers. After the referendum, there were three Silesian Insurrections, as a result of which, parts of Silesia became part of Poland. (By the 20th century over three-quarters of Salvic Silesians spoke Polish and German.)

In 1945 all of Silesia was occupied by Soviet troops. The treaty between the USSR, Great Britain, France, and the United States assigned the major part of Silesia east of the rivers Odra and Nysa to Poland, forcing the German population to flee. A little part of Silesia west of Nysa remained German (now part of the Federal State[?] of Saxony).



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