Geographia Polonica (1988) vol. 54

Rural depopulation areas in Poland

Andrzej Gawryszewski, Alina Potrykowska

Geographia Polonica (1988) vol. 54, pp. 81-100 | Full text

The depopulation of rural areas, its speed and scale as a demographic process depends on the level of the economic development of the country and on the current economic policy, and in particular on the agricultural policy. The phenomena of rural depopulation appear in the territories of some voivodships in the western and northern areas of Poland, as well as in central and eastern Poland. Although the decrease of rural population in absolute numbers had been previously observed in some regions of the country, it was not, initially, regarded as a disadvantageous phenomenon. The time is not so remote when the main socio-economic problem in Poland was rural over-population and the need for decreasing it (Mirowski 1985). During the inter-world war years, in the 1930s, some economists estimated the overpopulatin of the Polish rural areas at about 8 million people, which amounted to, approximately, 1/3 of the overall rural population count. This overpopulation hindered the modernization of agriculture and slowed down the general socio-economic development of the country. As the result of the biological war losses and mass demographic movements just after the war, which were connected with the resettlement process, the rural over-population problem had already disappeared before 1950. Thereafter, in the 1950s and 1960s, there were still mass migrations going on from rural to urban areas, but this outflow from villages was compensated by the very high birthrates there. The rural population in Poland, although undergoing slight ups and downs, remained at the level of approximately 15 000 000 people. Under these circumstances, there were no reasons for anxiety about rural population, although the on-going decrease of the agricultural population had been a problem throughout this period. Still, when taking into account the fact that employment decrease is unavoidably linked with the modernization of agriculture, this phenomen was not regarged as disadvantageous for agricultural production. On the regional scale, however, there appeared in some particular locations population decreases in rural areas and especially so in the regions with domintaing agricultural employment, and deprived of industrial development as well as other non-agricultural job opportunities. This phenomenon did not, however, appear distinctly enough in the analyses performed on the regional level (according to the previous administrative breakdown in which Poland was divided into 17 voivodships but only in these studies which considered smaller territorial units, i.e., boroughs, communes, and new voivod-ships, according to the new spatial division, in force since June 1st, 1975 (Dzieworiski and Kosinski 1967; Iwanicka — Lyra 1981; Eberhardt 1983).In this study, the depopulation process in rural areas has been presented from the point of view of demographic statistics in a regional pattern, according to the division into voivodships, and the progress of this process as a succession of the development policy of the country.

Andrzej Gawryszewski, Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences, Twarda 51/55, 00‑818 Warszawa, Poland
Alina Potrykowska, Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakowskie Przedmieście 30, 00-927 Warszawa, Poland