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Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom by Brian Porter-Sz̋cs

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6

JEWS, UKRAINIANS, AND OTHER POLES IN THE INTERWAR PERIOD

The Second Republic’s first census in 1921 asked respondents to declare their nationality (narodowość), and 69 percent said that they were Polish. Ten years later the authorities rephrased the question to focus on language (język ojczysty, literally “paternal tongue”), and 63.8 percent identified themselves as polonophones (see Figure 6.1). Both censuses asked about religion, and once again just under two thirds reported that they were Latin Rite Roman Catholics. So no matter how you slice it, the Second Republic was far from a homogeneous nation-state. Alongside Poles there were large communities of Ukrainians, Belarusians, Germans, and Jews (see Figure 6.2), and alongside Roman Catholics there were Eastern Rite Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Jews, and Protestants. Within Europe, the only countries in which the largest ethnic group had a smaller share of the overall population were Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, USSR, and Belgium – each an explicitly multinational confederation.

This hodgepodge is difficult to talk about because the adjective “Polish” was used to describe the state and its citizens, even though only about two thirds of the population used the term to designate their own ethnic and national identity. Depending on the context and the speaker, one could be both Polish (a citizen of the Second Republic) and not Polish (in the ethno-national sense – a Jew, Ukrainian, etc.). The National Democrats ...

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