Rural poverty in Poland between the wars


Poverty is the consequence of not having sufficient income to sustain lives and ways of life. While there are many papers addressing poverty in today’s Poland, no comprehensive study was done to explain and describe rural poverty also in a historical aspect. Therefore, this article attempts to synthetically identify the patterns and particularities of rural poverty in Poland between the wars, and to present the multifaceted and diverse nature of Polish poverty in the initial years of national independence. The authors’ main objective is to indicate the changes in the scope of Polish poverty and to describe the adaptive mechanisms and the discomfort involved in the depreciation of needs. Before independence, the situation varied across the Polish territory. The relatively worst socio-economic conditions were experienced in Galicia due to absence of non-agricultural activities. The population of Prussian rural areas found themselves in a more advantageous situation because of industrial development and working outside agriculture. The situation of peasants was exacerbated by the destructive and resource-draining First World War, whereas rural misery was made even worse by the combination of unemployment and underdevelopment of the country. In the Second Polish Republic, the situation of the rural population did not improve even though the country made great progress at that time. Note that rural poverty varied across employee groups, with cultural and lifestyle differences, limited competences and passive attitudes playing an important role.