January 23, 2011

Partitioning of Poland – 1793

What makes a country a country?

I bet you think that the definition of a country is a specific chunk of land that has its own government. But of course you already know that cities, provinces, and states-that-are-part-of-countries are specific chunks of land with their own governments--and yet they are not countries, they are divisions within a country—so the definition is not as simple as that.

It turns out that a lot of what makes a country a country is that other people in the world recognize it as such. However, that's where it gets tricky: not everybody agrees! Some countries see Taiwan (or Chinese Taipei, or the Republic of China) as a country; others don't. Some countries recognize Kosovo as an independent country; others don't. There are many other examples of this sort of disagreement.

Well, on this date in 1793, Prussia and Russia carved up (or “partitioned”) Poland. Prussia obtained “Great Poland” and a number of other territories, and Russia obtained eastern provinces from Livonia to Moldavia. Poland ended up being less than one third its original size!

This wasn't the only partitioning of Poland. Poland was tussled over by Russia and Prussia and also Austria before this (in 1772) and after this (in 1795)! With that last partitioning, Poland no longer existed at all.

By which we of course do NOT mean that the land poof! Disappeared... Instead, we mean to say that people no longer acknowledged Poland as a separate, independent country—not, at least, until many years later.

Try Polish Paper Crafts

You're going to love gwiazdy, which is like an 8-sided paper snowflake.  And how about wycinanki? This folk art is cheery and heavy on the rooster motif! 

Puzzle your way to a Polish landscape

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