Autonomous Silesia

10 Nov 2017

Katowice’s Short-lived Golden Age

If you’ve poked around Katowice a bit, the notion of the city having had some kind of Golden Age may sound a bit like the farfetched fever dream of a desperate writer up late at night. Be that as it may, you should have noticed the imposing Parliament buildings on Plac Sejmu Śląskiego (Silesian Parliament Square) during your grouse about town. Yes, that’s right, Katowice – that same city we’ve all poked fun at like the fat kid in the class photo – once held its very own self-governing sessions. And it did it as a baby, no less.

Indeed, it was a mercurial rise for Katowice once the ball got rolling, and the mills and drills got churning. A relatively remote outpost of 100 homes, Katowice exploded into a prosperous industrial town when a railway link was added in 1847, receiving official city status shortly thereafter in 1897 (still some 700 years behind nearby Kraków). Following Germany’s defeat in WWI just twenty years later, Upper Silesia was left on the fence between Germany and Poland thanks to the unhappy cohabitation of an equal number of Poles and Germans in the area. With both countries vying strongly for the resource-rich region, the Treaty Of Versailles shrugged its sloped shoulders declaring it would be put to popular vote in two years’ time. That was long enough for two Silesian Uprisings to break out in favour of the area’s incorporation into the Second Polish Republic, with a third occurring just after the tardy plebiscite. The League Of Nations, scarcely reading the results, had seen enough violence and split the region down the middle, with Gliwice and Bytom falling on the German side and Katowice becoming part of Poland. Then something unprecedented in European legislation occurred (hold your breath)...


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