The Sovietisation of Poland's Baltic 'Recovered Territories', 1945-1956.
McNamara, Paul Martin
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This doctoral dissertation examines the Sovietisation of Poland's Baltic provinces, a region which witnessed sweeping changes regarding its borders and population as formerly German territory was incorporated into a re-constituted Polish state following the Second World War. Although under-populated and geographically peripheral, these 'Recovered Territories' were central to the raison d'être of the post-war Polish state and were to be in the vanguard of spreading communism into central Europe. At the same time, due to a common desire to reclaim these lands for Poland, the Polish communist regime's policies of rapid 'degermanisation' and 'repolonisation' were supported by both the Polish Roman Catholic hierarchy, as well as the anti-communist underground. Moreover, forced migration and ordinary push-pull settlement to this region placed groups of Poles with strong regional and cultural differences into a transnational social and demographic mosaic. The imposition of Soviet-style policies, therefore, added yet another layer of complexity to a region already in extreme demographic, social and political flux. Although religious practice was an obstacle for the creation of a new sovietised society, in practice the regime recognized that the presence of Polish Catholic churches was essential in order to attract settlers to the Baltic provinces. Despite the Red Army's looting and asset-stripping, the regime engendered the fear of German revanchism among the settlers in order to justify the region's 'protection' by Soviet forces. Based on Polish-language archive material and personal testimony, much of which has never been published before, this thesis provides an insight into how much local Polish officials were driven by pragmatism or ideology in forming flexible but uneasy alliances with settlers and the Church in order to achieve regional and national goals. It also looks at how Polish settlers and indigenous communities in this peculiar region developed effective strategies of compromise and/or resistance to Sovietisation.