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Central Industrial Region (Poland)

The Central Industrial Region (Centralny Okręg Przemysłowy, abbreviated COP), is an industrial region in Poland. It was one of the biggest economic projects of the Second Polish Republic. The 5-year long project was initiated by a famous Polish economist, deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Treasury, Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski. Its goal was to create a heavy industrial center in the middle of the country, as far as possible from any borders, strengthen the Polish economy and reduce unemployment. The four-year plan for the development of COP was scheduled from 1 September 1936 until 30 July 1940 and was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War and the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. Nonetheless, the COP project succeeded in vastly expanding Polish industry, and after the end of the war in 1945 COP was rebuilt and expanded under the People's Republic of Poland.

The scheme history

Starting in 1928, there were recurring attempts to create a triangle of security, an industrial region in the middle of the country, secured from any aggression by Germany or Soviet Russia. The plan was finally approved in 1936 by the Polish government. By April 1938, the scheme, already set in motion in some parts of the country, was expanded to the territories beyond those covered by the original plan for the most secure 'triangle'.

COP was located in the territories of the following former voivodeships: eastern parts of Kielce Voivodship and Kraków Voivodship, southern part of Lublin Voivodeship, and the western part of Lwów Voivodeship, or in other terms, 46 powiats, constituting 15.4% of the territory of Poland and inhabited by 17% of Poland's population. The urbanization factor of those territories was 17% (94 cities), compared to Poland's average of 30%. The arguments for such location of COP were:

a) military - relatively long distance from the western border (Poland was expecting German aggression), protected from the south by the Carpathian Mountains.
b) demographic - fairly high density of population (100 people per square km) with high unemployment (400-700,000)
c) economic - to strengthen the mostly agricultural market of Eastern Poland and create a market for Western Poland's industrial products, and an energy market for Southern Poland. In addition, this region had a some undeveloped natural resources (stone, iron, clay, plus some energy resources).
d) social - to reduce unemployment, still high in the mostly agricultural regions of Eastern Poland, still feeling the aftershocks of the Great Depression.

The COP scheme required gigantic financial investment - just the development of the infrastructure and the military industry was estimated at 3 billion zlotys. As the expectations of war grew, private investment in Europe in the late 1930s was small, and thus the Polish government carried most of the burden of financing the project: in the years 1937-1939, COP had consumed approximately 60% of all Polish investment funds.

The scheme achievements

The following industrial projects were part of the scheme: steel mill and power plant in Stalowa Wola, rubber factory in Dębica, automobile factory in Lublin, aircraft factory in Mielec, aircraft engine and artillery factory in Rzeszów, hydroelectric power plants in Rożnów and Myszkowice, expansion of Zakłady Azotowe in Mościce. Military industry in the Staropolski Okręg Przemysłowy was expanded in the towns of Radom, Skarżysko-Kamienna, Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, Starachowice, Kielce. Most of those investments were located in regions with high unemployment, and their construction succeeded in reducing social tensions and began to strengthen the Polish economy.

The development of COP and similar projects, like the construction of the seaport in Gdynia, were the most outstanding achievements of the Second Polish Republic, marking the beginning of the new era of the recently regained independence. The COP scheme was continued by the communist government of Poland after the Second World War.

However, as the end date for the scheme was end of July 1940, and Poland did not have sufficient capital to carry out the entire plan on its own, few of the intended projects were completely operational before the war broke out, and many other ones were not launched at all. Consequently, their contribution to the equipment of the Polish Army in the run-up to the war was relatively insignificant, and did little to offset the crushing material superiority of the German armed forces. German blitzkrieg tactics in the Second World War, with their rapid advances by fast motorized forces and long range air attacks, ensured that the COP region failed in being a secure haven for Polish industry. In any event, the German dismemberment of Czechoslovakia outflanked Poland from the south and put the COP factories in the direct path of German advance from Slovakia. During the German occupation, most of the factories were converted to contribute to the German war effort. After the war, the COP-initiated industrial enterprises were further expanded and for the most part continue to function until today.

See also

References

  • Wiesław Samecki, Ekonomia 3: Centralny Okręg Przemysłowy 1936-1939, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, 1998, ISBN 8322916345

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