Silesia - Administrative History

Prior to 1137 . Silesia 880-906 part of Greater Moravia; from 906 to 1137 Silesia contested by Bohemia and Poland.

1137-1348 . Silesia domain of the Piast kings of Poland. Duchy of Silesia created in 1163, the Duchy of Opole (oppeln) in 1201; when the Kingdom of Poland disintegrated in the course of the 13th century, the Duchies were largely independent entities. These duchies were occasionally partitioned, as the ruling dynasties broke up in branches. Between 1325 and 1342 the political entities in Silesia accepted the King of Bohemia as their overlord; Silesia became one of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown (1348) and as such part of the Holy Roman Empire. Ecclesiastically, the Diocese of Breslau (Wroclaw) was under the Archdiocese of Gniezno (Poland) until 1821.

1348-1526 . Silesia, together with Lusatia (Lausitz), Moravia and Bohemia, formed the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. The population of Silesia consisted of the original ethnic Slavic population element and of a German element mainly consisting of immigrants who arrived in the late 12th, 13th and early 14th century. While politically Silesia was broken up into a number of small duchies and the Princebishopric of Wroclaw/Breslau, a Silesian identity (as opposed to a Bohemian, Moravian, Lusatian identity) emerged. Hussitism (1410-1433) largely remained confined to Bohemia; Silesia functioned as staging area for crusades against the Hussites, and then suffered from Hussite raids into Bohemia. In the 1520es, Lutheranism spread in Silesia and became dominant among the ethnic German population, while the Slavic population remained Catholic.

1526-1742 . The Lands of the Bohemian Crown were under Habsburg rule. Attempts to implement the Counterreformation in Silesia in the late 16th century resulted in treaties securing religious toleration for protestants. Silesia supported Bohemia in the revolt of 1618 (Defenestration of Prague). While the Habsburg Dynasty gradually acquired the Silesian duchies, the administrative structure of Silesia, the borders of the duchies, largely remained unchanged.

1742-1918 . In 1742 the (Austrian) Habsburg Dynasty ceded most of Silesia to the (Prussian) Hohenzollern Dynasty, a cession which was confirmed in 1763. The bulk of Silesia, including the County of Glatz (hitherto part of the Kingdom of Bohemia) now formed Prussian Silesia, capital Breslau. Remnants in the southeast bordering Moravia formed Austrian Silesia.
Within Prussian Silesia, the feudal administrative structure was replaced by the modern provincial administration (Prussian Province Silesia), subdivided into governmental districts (Regierungsbezirke) centered on Liegnitz, Breslau and Oppeln, and circles (1815). With German unification in 1871, Silesia (within the state of Prussia) became a part of Germany.
The rapid urbanization which came with industrialization resulted in the emergence of cities which were exempted from the traditional administrative structure at the level of circles : Breslau, Liegnitz, Gleiwitz, Kattowitz, Beuthen, Zabrze/Hindenburg.
Austrian Silesia was one of the smaller and weaker entities in the complex of territories of the Habsburg Dynasty. The Viennese administration first succeeded pressurizing the regional estates to pass fiscal reforms here. In 1782 Austrian Silesia was absorbed by Moravia; following the Revolution of 1848-1849, it was restored as an administrative entity of its own.

1918-1922 . In accordance with President Wilson's 14 points, in 1918 a Polish state was reestablished, Czechoslovakia was established. Austrian Silesia was split in a Czech and a Polish part; Upper Silesia (most of Regierungsbezirk Oppeln, a small stretch of territory of Kreis Namslau, Regierungsbezirk Breslau) were separated from Germany and declared to be the plebiscite area Upper Silesia (Oberschlesien).
Even German language atlasses printed in the years preceding World War I showed most of this area as predominantly Polish-speaking and majority Catholic. Following the result of the plebiscite, a smaller area in the southeast was split off and annexed by Poland. The now Polish parts of Prussian and Austrian Silesia were merged into the Autonomous Voivodeship of Silesia.

1922-1945 . When Hitler in September 1938 pressurized Czechoslovakia, and succeeded in gaining the Sudetenland (Munich Pact), he justified German territorial claims by the fact that Poland and Hungary also would have claims on Czechoslovak territory. In October 1938 Polish troops occupied the Olsa Territory (part of what used to be Austrian Silesia). It remained Polish until September 1939.
In 1941 the province of Oberschlesien (Upper Silesia) was created by splitting it off the remainder of Silesia. The territiory of Silesia and Upper Silesia was extended by the annexation of part of the Sudetenland, and of adjacent Polist territory.

since 1945 . In 1945-1947 the bulk of the population of Silesia - some voluntarily, fleeing the advancing Soviet forces, the larger part expelled - moved westward across the Neisse river. Poland annexed the land east of the Oder-Neisse line. Poland returned the Olsa Territory to Czechoslovakia.
1945-1975 : Historic Silesia divided in Voivodeships Zielona Gora, Wroclaw, Opole, Katowice.
1975-1988 : Historic Silesia divided in Voivodeships Bielsko-Biala, Jelena Gora, Katowice, Legnica, Opole, Walbrzych, Wroclaw, Zielona Gora.
Since 1999 : Voivodeships Lower Silesia, Opole, Silesia (Katowice), with parts of historic Silesia being included in Lubusz Voivodeship.

Alte Kreise, bis 1850 bzw. 1862 (Old Circles, until 1850 resp. 1862), Posted by GOV SFF, with maps, in German
Article Administrative Divisions of Czechoslovakia, from Wikipedia
Political Subdivision of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, posted by Karel Kysilka
Articles Administrative Divisions of the People's Republic of Poland, Administrative Division of Poland, Silesia, Autonomous Silesian Voivodeship, Zaolzie (Olsa/Olza Territory), Austrian Silesia, Ciescyn Silesia, Prussian Silesia, from Wikipedia
Preussische Provinz Schlesien, from Verwaltungsgeschichte, by M. Rademacher, in German
DOCUMENTS Links to Online Maps of Bohemia and Moravia, posted by Historicum at Herder Institute, Marburg
Map Bohemia & Moravia 1828 (Lizars), posted by
Regions, Districts of the Czech Republic, from

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on March 4th 2009

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