- This article is about the 19th and 20th-century Prussian province. For the medieval duchy, see Duchy of Silesia. For the present-day subdivision of Poland, see Silesian Voivodeship.
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The Province of Silesia (нім. Provinz Schlesien; пол. Prowincja Śląsk) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1815 to 1919; the territory had been conquered from Habsburg Austria during the 18th century Silesian Wars. The provincial capital was Breslau. During the Weimar Republic, in 1919, Silesia was divided into the separate provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. The two provinces were reunited into a single province from 1938-41.
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In 1740, King Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia annexed most of Silesia as part of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). By war's end, the Kingdom of Prussia had conquered almost all of Silesia, while some parts of Silesia in the extreme southeast, like the Duchy of Teschen and Duchy of Troppau, remained possessions of the Habsburg Monarchy as Austrian Silesia.
The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) confirmed Prussian control over most of Silesia, and it became one of the most loyal territories of Prussia. The territories of Prussia were reorganized in 1815 following the Napoleonic Wars. The Province of Silesia was created out of the Silesian territories acquired by Prussia in the Silesian Wars, as well as Upper Lusatia near Görlitz, which was formerly part of the Kingdom of Saxony.
As a Prussian province, Silesia became part of the German Empire during the Prussian-led unification of Germany in 1871. There was considerable industrialization in Silesia, and many people moved there at that time. According to the census of 1905, three-quarters of the inhabitants were Germans, while the bulk of the population to the east of the Oder River were Poles.
Following World War I, some parts of the Province of Silesia were transferred to the Second Polish Republic and Czechoslovakia (Czech Silesia). In 1919, the parts remaining in Weimar Germany were reorganized into the two provinces of Lower Silesia (Niederschlesien) and Upper Silesia (Oberschlesien). Between 1938 and 1941, Upper and Lower Silesia were again briefly united as a single province.
Most of Silesia is now within Poland, though the majority of people with German heritage were ethnically cleansed following World War II. Small parts of the former Province of Silesia lie within modern Germany (Niederschlesischer Oberlausitzkreis).
- Coats of arms of Upper Silesian towns while part of the Province of Silesia (нім.)