Poland did not exist in 1914, having been carved up by Austria, Prussia and Russia during the partitions of the late 18th century. It was briefly resurrected during the Napoleonic Wars as the Duchy of Warsaw (1806–15), but after Napoleon’s defeat (1815) was absorbed into Russia and became Polish-Russia. The Polish population were proud of their ethnicity and, while most accommodated their Russian overlords, there were several insurrections. When war broke out in 1914, the Polish populations were split over their loyalties, with both the Allies (which included Russia) and Central Powers offering the hope of an independent Poland after victory. Germany alienated many Poles by demanding an oath of allegiance and creating puppet states as they moved eastwards. Tragically for the Poles, the first eastern front battles were in Polish-Russia, creating vast numbers of Polish refugees. Shortly after the 1918 armistice, the right to sovereignty of the Polish people was finally recognized and an independent Polish Republic was created, with Józef Piłsudski its first president.
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