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Ignacy Paderewski: Poland


Ignacy Paderewski: Poland
Makers of the Modern World: The peace conferences of 1919-23 and their aftermath

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History, Makers of the Modern World



Friedrich Ebert: Germany

Woodrow Wilson: United States

Makers of the Modern World: The peace conferences of 1919-23 and their aftermath
By Anita Prazmowska

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The thirteenth of President Wilson’s Fourteen Points of 1918 read: ‘An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.’ Ever since the Third Partition in 1795 brought Polish independence to an end, nationalists had sought the restoration of their country, and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 did indeed produce the modern Polish state.

The Western Allies saw a revived Poland as both a counter to German power and a barrier to the westward expansion of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia – a role the Polish army fulfilled by defeating a Soviet invasion in 1920. But caught between two powers and composed of territory taken from both of them, Poland was vulnerable, and in 1939 it was divided up between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The highest profile Polish representative at the Conference was the pianist and politician Ignacy Paderewski (1860–1941), the ‘most famous Pole in the world’, whose image had done much to promote the Polish cause in the West. But he was joined by the altogether less romantic figure of Roman Dmowski (1864–1939), whose anti-Semitic reputation Paderewski took pains to distance himself from when seeking support in the United States.

Anita Prazmowska is Professor in International History at the London School of Economics, where she has taught since 1992. Her main fields of research interest lie in the Cold War, communism, contemporary history, Eastern Europe, fascism and Poland. Her other publications include Civil War in Poland (2004), A History of Poland (2004), Eastern Europe and the Origins of the Second World War (2000), Britain and Poland 1939–1943. The Betrayed Ally (1995), and Britain, Poland and the Eastern Front, 1939 (1987).

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Review from the H-Diplo Review Project (USA). Click here to read the full review.