Province of Posen

Province of Posen

Infobox Former Subdivision
conventional_long_name = Posen
common_name = Posen
subdivision = Province
nation= Prussia
year_start = 1848
year_end = 1919
p1 = Grand Duchy of Posen
flag_p1 = Flag of Wien.svg
s1 = Posen-West Prussia
flag_s1 = Flagge Preußen - Grenzmark Posen-Westpreußen.svg
s2 = Poznań Voivodeship (1921-1939)
image_s2 =
today =

image_map_caption = Posen (red), within the Kingdom of Prussia, within the German Empire
capital = Posen
latd=52 |latm=24 |latNS=N |longd=16 |longm=55 |longEW=E
stat_area1= 28970
stat_year1 = 1905
stat_pop1 = 2099831
political_subdiv= Posen
The Province of Posen ( _de. Provinz Posen, _pl. Prowincja Poznańska) was a province of Prussia from 1848-1918 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918; the whole area is now part of Poland. Its capital was Poznań (German: "Posen"). The province replaced the Grand Duchy of Posen.

Known as the "cradle of the Polish nation", this region was the home to Poles, Germans, some Jews and a smattering of other peoples. Almost all the Poles were Roman Catholic, and about 90% of the Germans were Protestant. The small numbers of Jews were primarily to be found in the larger communities, mostly in skilled crafts, local commerce and regional trading. The smaller the community, the more likely it was to be either Polish or German. These "pockets of ethnicity" existed side by side, with German villages being the most dense in the northwestern areas. With Germanization policies, the population became more German until the end of the 19th century, when the trend reversed (in the Ostflucht). This was despite efforts of the government in Berlin, which established the Settlement Commission to buy land from Poles and make it available only to Germans.


The land is mostly flat, drained by two major watershed systems; the Noteć (German: "Netze") in the north and the Warta (German: "Warthe") in the center. Ice Age glaciers left moraine deposits and the land is speckled with hundreds of "finger lakes", streams flowing in and out on their way to one of the two rivers.

Agriculture was the primary industry, as one would expect for the 1800s. The three-field system was used to grow a variety of crops, primarily rye, sugar beets, potatoes, other grains, and some tobacco and hops. Significant parcels of wooded land provided building materials and firewood. Small numbers of livestock existed, including geese, but a fair amount of sheep were herded.

When this area came under Prussian control, the feudal system was still in force. It was officially ended in Prussia ("see" Freiherr vom Stein) in 1810 (1864 in Congress Poland), but lingered in some practices until the late 1800s. The situation was thus that (primarily) Polish serfs lived and worked side by side with (predominantly) free German settlers. Though the settlers were given initial advantages, in time their lots were not much different. Serfs worked for the noble lord, who took care of them. Settlers worked for themselves and took care of themselves, but paid taxes to the lord.

Typically, an estate would have its manor and farm buildings, and a village nearby for the Polish laborers. Near that village, there might be a German settlement. And in the woods, there would be a forester's dwelling. The estate owners, usually of the nobility, owned the local grist mill, and often other types of mills or perhaps a distillery. In many places, windmills dotted the landscape, reminding one of the earliest settlers, the Dutch, who began the process of turning unproductive river marshes into fields. This process was finished by the German settlers who were used to reclaim unproductive lands (not only marshland) for the host estate owners.


The Kingdom of Prussia had annexed the later territory of the Province of Posen during the 18th century Partitions of Poland. It was part of the Duchy of Warsaw during the Napoleonic Wars, but was restored to Prussia in 1815 as the Grand Duchy of Posen.

During the Revolutions of 1848, the Frankfurt Parliament attempted to divide the duchy into two parts: the Province of Poznań, which would have been given to the Germans and annexed to a newly-created German Empire, and the Province of Gniezno, which would have been given to the Poles and held outside Germany. Because of the protest of Polish parliamentarians, these plans failed and the integrity of the duchy was preserved. On February 9, 1849, after a series of broken assurances, the Prussian administration renamed the duchy to the province of Posen. However, "Grand Duke of Posen" remained a title of the Hohenzollern dynasty and the name remained in official use until 1918.

With the unification of Germany after the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, the province of Posen became part of the German Empire (1871-1918) and the city of Posen was officially named an imperial residence city.

In the 1880s, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck started Germanisation policies, such as an increase of police forces, a colonization commission, the German Society for the Eastern Borders (Hakata), and the Kulturkampf. In 1904, special legislation was passed against the Polish population. The legislation of 1908 allowed the confiscation of Polish landed property. The Prussian authorities did not allow the development of industries, so the duchy's economy was dominated by high-level agriculture.

After World War I, the fate of the province was undecided. The Poles demanded that the region be included in the newly independent Second Polish Republic, while the Germans refused any territorial concessions. The Greater Poland Uprising broke out on 27 December 1918, a day after the speech of Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The uprising received little support from the Polish government established in Warsaw at that time. After the success of the uprising the Posen province was briefly (until mid-1919) an independent state with its own government, currency and military force.

With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I, most of the province, primarily the areas with a Polish majority, was returned to Poland and reformed as the Poznań Voivodship. The remaining German part of the province was reformed as Posen-West Prussia with "Schneidemühl" (Piła) as its capital, until 1938, when it was divided between Silesia, Pomerania and Brandenburg.

Religious and ethnic conflicts

The province's large number of resident Germans resulted from constant immigration of Germans since the Middle Ages, when the first settlers arrived in the course of the Ostsiedlung. Although many of those had been Polonized over time, a continous immigration resulted in maintaining a large German community. The 1700s Jesuit-led Counter-Reformation enacted severe restrictions on German Protestants. The end of the century turned the tables as Prussia seized the area during the Partitions of Poland.

During the first half of the 1800s, the German population grew due to state sponsored colonisationFact|date=September 2008. In the second half, the Polish population grew gradually due to the "Ostflucht" and a higher birth-rate among the Poles. During the Kulturkampf, mainly Protestant Prussia sought to reduce the Catholic impact on its society. Posen was hit severly by these measures due to its high, mainly Polish Catholic population. Many Catholic Germans in Posen joined with ethnic Poles in opposition to Kulturkampf measures.

Following Kulturkampf, the German Empire for nationalist reasons implied Germanisation programs. One measure was to set up a Settlement Commission, that was to attract German settlers to encounter the Polish population growth. However, this attempt failed, even when accompanied by additional legal measures. The Polish language was eventually banned from schools and government offices as part of the Germanisation policies.

In World War II, part of the German minority living in the territory of the former Posen province formed "Selbstschutz" units, which assisted in the Nazi assault on Poland and the subsequent atrocities against Poles and Jews.


Area: 28,970 km²
* Regierungsbezirk Posen 17,503 km²
* Regierungsbezirk Bromberg 11,448 km²Population

*1816: 820,176
*1868: 1,537,300 (Bromberg 550,900 - Posen 986,400)
*1871: 1,583,843
**Religion: 1871
***Catholics 1,009,885
***Protestants 511,429
***Jews 61,982
***others 547
*1875: 1,606,084
*1880: 1,703,397
*1900: 1,887,275
*1905: 1,986,267
*1910: 2,099,831 (Bromberg 763,900 - Posen 1,335,900)

External links

* [ Administrative subdivision of the province (in 1910)]
* [ Genealogy research]

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