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Coat of arms of Lower Silesia.
Traditional Silesian clothing
Lower Silesia ( ; ; , ); is the northwestern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia; Upper Silesia is to the southeast. Throughout its history Lower Silesia has been under the control of medieval Polandmarker, Bohemia, Austria, Prussiamarker, and Germany. After 1945 the main part of the former Province of Lower Silesia became Polish, a smaller part remained German. A small part of the historical Lower Silesia belongs to the Czech Republic, namely the Jeseník District and Heřmanovicemarker as well as Mnichov and Železná - parts of Vrbno pod Pradědemmarker in Bruntál District. Prior to 1742 those lands formed the south part of the Duchy of Nysa.

The southern border of Lower Silesia is mapped by the mountain ridge of the Sudetes, which are located on the Polish-Czechmarker border. The westernmost point of the former Lower Silesian province can be found as far west as the small village Ortrandmarker (now belonging to Brandenburgmarker, Germanymarker), whereas the Bóbrmarker and Kwisa are considered being the historical western border. To the north Silesia is bordered by the Barycz river and to the east by parts of Greater Poland.

Polish Lower Silesia, the bulk of the historical region, is located mostly along the Oder River and is shared between the Lower Silesianmarker, Lubuszmarker and Opole Voivodeshipsmarker.

A small part of the former Prussian Province of Lower Silesia on the western side of the Lusatian Neissemarker is located in Germany. Namely the Landkreis Görlitzmarker, the town of Görlitzmarker and the former Hoyerswerdamarker district within Oberspreewald-Lausitzmarker in eastern Germanymarker.Apart from the small village Pechern (Sorbian: Pěchč), which became Silesian in 1413, that region historically belonged to Saxonmarker Upper Lusatiamarker.After the Napoleonic Wars, the region became part of the Prussian Province of Silesiamarker in 1815 and after its division part of the Province of Lower Silesia in 1919 respectively.


Ancient history

At the close of the Ice Age, the first man appeared at the Silesian Lowland. In the Lower Paleolithic (7,000 years ago), the first nomadic people settled in Lower Silesia lived in caves and primitive chalets. They were collectors, hunters, and fishers, and used weapons and other tools made of stone and wood. In the Mesolithic (7000-4000 BC), the oldest human remains of the nomadic people, which were 40,000 years old, were found in a tomb in Tyniec on the river Ślężamarker.

In the Neolithic (4000-1700 BC), the process of transformation into a settled way of life began. The first rural settlements were made. People began to breed animals and farm. Mining, pottery, and weaving were dated to this period. Serpentinite quarries came into existence, of which Silesian hatchets were made, and near Jordanów Śląskimarker people extracted nephrite that was transformed into diverse tools. In the Bronze Age (1700-1500 BC), the evolution of different cultures developed to the existence of unetice culture that had an impact on the existence of Trzciniec culture. In next periods, since about 750 BC, it encompasses all of Europe.

Early history

In the La Tène culturemarker period Lower Silesia was inhabited by the Celts who had their main place of cult on the Mount Ślężamarker. Their stonee statues situated on and araound this hill were later on worshiped by the Slavic tribes that came here around the 6th century BC. Between the Celtic and the Slavic period Lower Silesia was recorded in Magna Germania in the 2nd century inhabited by a number of Germanic tribes among them the Vandals, Lugii and the Silingi, who might have given the region Silesia its name, though its not clear and disputed.

With the Germanic tribes leaving westwards a number of new peoples came into Silesia from Sarmatia, Asia Minormarker, and the Asian steppes during the Great Migrations at the beginning of the 6th century.

The Bavarian geographer (ca. 845) reported the Ślężanie (the other possible source of the regions (Śląsk and later Silesia) name) and Dziadoszanie tribes, while a document of the Bishopric of Prague (1086) listed the Zlasane, Trebovane, Poborane, and Dedositze tribes. At the same time Upper Silesia was inhabited by the Opolanie, Lupiglaa, and Golenshitse tribes.

Great Moravia

In the 9th and 10th centuries the territory was subject to the Great Moravian and then Bohemian rulers of the neighbouring area covered by today's Czech Republicmarker.

In the first Polish state

In 990 Silesia was conquered and incorporated into the first Polish state by the duke Mieszko I from the Piast dynasty. In 1000 his son and successor Bolesław the Brave founded the Diocese of Wrocław, which, together with the Bishopric of Kraków and Kołobrzeg, was placed under the Archbishopric of Gniezno in Greater Poland, founded by Otto III at the Congress of Gniezno in the same year. The ecclesial suzerainty of Gnieznomarker over Wrocławmarker lasted until 1821. After a temporary shift to Bohemia, in the first half of the 11th century, Lower Silesia continued to be an integral part of the Polish state until the end of its fragmentation period when all Polish claims on this land were renounced in favour of Bohemia under the terms of the Treaty of Namslau in 1348.

Feudal fragmentation of Poland

Silesia was split into lower and upper parts in 1172 during the period of Poland's feudal fragmentation, when the land was divided between two sons of High Duke Władysław II. Bolesław the Tall ruled over Lower Silesia with his capital in Wrocławmarker (then known as Vratislav, Wrotizla or Prezla) and Mieszko Plątonogi ruled over Upper Silesia with his capital in Opolemarker.

Later Silesia was divided into as many as 17 duchies.

Duchies of Lower Silesia in the 14th century (German names in italics):

The Bohemian Crown and Austria (1348-1742)

In 1348 most of the Silesian duchies were ruled by the Silesian Piast dukes under the feudal overlordship of the Bohemian kings, and thus became part of the Crown of Bohemia. In 1476 the Crossen district became part of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, when the widow of the Piast ruler, Barbara von Brandenburg, daughter of Elector Albert Achilles, inherited Crossen. In 1526 Silesia was acquired by Austriamarker's Habsburg Monarchy after the death of King Louis II of Bohemia. Brandenburg contested the inheritance, citing a treaty made with Frederick II of Legnica, but Silesia largely remained under Habsburg control until 1742.

19th century coat of arms of Lower Silesia.

Division between Austria and Prussia (1742-1945)

Most of Lower Silesia, except for south part of the Duchy of Nysa, became part of the Kingdom of Prussiamarker in 1742 after the First Silesian War and was turned into the Province of Silesiamarker, divided into the districts of Lower Silesia (Liegnitzmarker), Middle Silesia (Breslaumarker), and Upper Silesia (Oppelnmarker).

The area around Görlitzmarker in Upper Lusatiamarker was added to the Prussian Province of Silesiamarker in 1815 following the Napoleonic Wars.

By the beginning of the 20th century Lower Silesia had an almost entirely German-speaking and ethnic German population, with the exception of a small Polish-speaking area in the northeastern part of the district of Namslaumarker, Sycówmarker and Miliczmarker and a 9 % Czech-speaking minority in the rural area around Strehlenmarker. After the First World War, Upper Silesia was divided between Germanymarker, Polandmarker, and Czechoslovakiamarker, while Lower Silesia remained in Germany. The Prussian Province of Silesia was reorganized into the Prussian Free Statemarker's provinces of Lower Silesia and Upper Silesia.

After 1945

Following the end of World War II, all territories east of the Oder-Neisse line were placed under Polish administration according to the Potsdam Conference and consequently incorporated into Poland. Under those terms all of the historical Lower Silesia that was part of Germany was reassigned to Poland. In Germany remained a small portion of the former Province of Lower Silesia that is part of the Upper Lusatiamarker historical region. The territory's German and Czech population was expelled and replaced with Poles, many of whom had themselves been expelled from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union.

The Red Army's Northern Group of Forces occupied part of the region till 1991, such as much of the city of Legnicamarker, part of Świdnicamarker, many air-fields, barracks, and one large proving ground.

From 1945-1975 Lower Silesia was administered within the Wrocław Voivodeship. As a result of theLocal Government Reorganisation Act (1975), Poland's administration was reorganized into 49 voivodeships, four of them in Lower Silesia: Jelenia Góra, Legnica, Wałbrzych, and Wrocław Voivodeships (1975-1998). As a result of the Local Government Reorganisation Act of 1998, these four provinces were joined into the Lower Silesian Voivodeshipmarker (effective 1 January 1999), whose capital is Wrocław.

The section of Lusatia belonging to the Province of Lower Silesia before 1945, west of the Lusatian Neisse, which remained in Germany is divided between the districts of Landkreis Görlitzmarker in Saxonymarker and Oberspreewald-Lausitzmarker in Brandenburgmarker.

Towns of the historical Lower Silesia

Towns with over 20,000 inhabitants (German names in italics):

Silesian traditions in Upper Lusatia

For 130 years (from 1815 to 1945) parts of formerly Saxonmarker territories of Upper Lusatiamarker formed the most westward part of the Prussian Province of Silesiamarker and later of Lower Silesia. During this time Silesian culture and the Silesian German dialect spread into this region with its centre Görlitzmarker. The expulsion of the Germans from the east of Oder Neisse line led to an additional settlement of German Silesians in this region. Due to this facts some of the inhabitants of this region still consider themselves Silesian and cultivate some Silesian customs. One of their special privileges is the right to use the Lower Silesian flag and coat of arms which is guaranteed to them by the Saxon Constitution of 1992. The Evangelical Church of Silesian Upper Lusatia meanwhile merged with the one of Berlin and Brandenburg to form the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.


The main cities within the former province of Lower Silesia west of the Oder-Neisse line are (Upper Sorbian names in italics)::

The main lusatian cities within the former province of Lower Silesia east of Lusatian Neisse, now within Lower Silesian Voivodshipmarker are:



The Sudetes are geologically diverse mountains that stretch for 280 kilometers to Lusatian Gate on the East and to Moravian Gatemarker on the West. The Sudetes topographically are divided into West and East Sudetes. In the region of the Sudetes, the Jizera Mountainsmarker are spread (Wysoka Kopa, 1,126 m) along with Zaroślak, 560 m, the Karkonoszemarker (German: Riesengebirge, in English also known as Giant's Mountains) (Śnieżkamarker, 1,602 m), Rudawy Janowickiemarker (Skalnik, 945 m) and the Kaczawskie Mountainsmarker (Skopiec, 724 m) with Ostrzyca, 501 m. They are surrounded by Jelenia Góra valleymarker (420-450 m).

Silesian Lowland

The Silesian Lowland includes the Silesian Lowlands and the Silesian-Lusatian Lowlands. These two lowlands are separated with each other by Dolina Kaczawy, and from the Sudetes by a steep morphological edge located along the Sudetic Marginal Fault, extended from Bolesławiecmarker (the Northwest) to Złoty Stokmarker (the Southeast). The southern part of the Lowland includes The Sudeten Foreland, consisting of quite low Wzgórze Strzegomskie (232m), Grupa Ślęży (Mount Ślężamarker, 718m), and Wzgórza Niemczańsko-Strzelińskie (Gromnik Mountain, 392m). Lower hills occur also in areas of Obniżenie Sudeckie, Świdnik, and Kotlina Dzierżoniowska. The eastern part of Silesian Lowland consists of the wide Silesian Lowlands, located along banks of the Oder River. The eastern part includes also Równina Wrocławska with its surroundig lands: Równina Oleśnicka, Wysoczyzna Średzka, Równina Grodkowska and Niemodlińska. Dolina Dolnej Kaczawy (Kotlina Legnicka) separates the Silesian Lowlands from the Silesian-Lusatian Lowlands, which includes Wysoczyzna Lubińsko-Chocianowska, Dolina Szprotawy, and wide areas of Bory Dolnośląskie, located to the north from the Bolesławiec-Zgorzelec road. From the North, the lowlands are delimited by Wał Trzebnicki, consisting of hills that are 200 km long and over 150m high, in comparison to neighboring lowlands (Kobyla Mountain, 284m). The range of hills includes: Wzgórza Dalkowskie, Wzgórza Trzebnickie, Wzgórza Twardogórskie, and Wzgórza Ostrzeszowskie. Obniżenie Milicko-Głogowskie, with Kotlina Żmigrodzka and Milicka, is located in the northern part, within the hills.

The region of the lowlands is coated with a thick layer of glacial elements (sand, gravel, clay) that covers more diverse relief of the older ground. Generally flat and wide bottoms of the valleys are padded with river settlements. Slopes of the hills over 180-200m are coated with fertile clays and therefore, to begin with the Paleozoic era, they became the lands for people to settle and cultivate intensively. Later form of economy caused almost complete deforestation of the slopes. Not only fertile grounds, but also mild climate is conductive to development of agriculture and market gardening. The annual average temperature of the Wrocławmarker area is 8 degrees Celsius. Average temperature of the hottest month (July) is 18 degrees Celsius, and -1.5 degrees Celsius of the coldest month (January). The average amount of rainfall is between 500-620mm, with its maximum in July and minimum in February. The snow layer disappears after 45 days. The winds, similar to those appearing in the West side of Poland, are West and Southwest.

Sudeten rivers are characterized by changeable water rates, and high pollution resulting from large industrialization of the area. The greatest rivers are Nysa Kłodzka, which is the source of drinking water for Wrocław (the water is drawn by special channel); Stobrawa, Oławamarker, Ślęza, Bystrzyca with its tributaries – Strzegomka and Piława; Widawa, Średzka Woda, Kaczawa with Nysa Szalona and Czarna Wodamarker. There is also the largest right-bank tributary of the area - Barycz. The other guite large rivers - Bóbr, Kwisa, and Lusatian Neisse – flow into Oder River beyond Lower Silesian borders. The majority of the rivers is regulated and their basins are improved, which is conductive to the proper water economy. The characteristic feature of the lowlands landscape is the lack of lakes. The region of Legnicamarker is the only place where a dozen or so of small lakes survived, but the majority of them is already disappearing. The largest one is Jezioro Kunickie (95ha), Jezioro Koskowickie (50ha), Jezioro Jaśkowickie (24ha) and Tatarak (19.5ha) . In contrast to the number of lakes, there are large groups of artificial ponds founded in Barycz basin, in the Middle Ages. Their total area amounts around 80 km square, and the largest ponds (Stary Staw, Łosiowy Staw, Staw Niezgoda, Staw Mewi Duży, and Grabownica) come to 200-300ha.

The primeval flora has been transformed significantly as a result of deforestation and cultivation. The largest forest complexes are Bory Dolnośląskie (3 150 km²), Bory Stobrawskie in Stobrawa and Widawa areas, and smaller fragments of forests in Barycz and Oder River valleys. These forests are kind of multi-species deciduous forests, occurring in fertile grounds. The Oder River valley is reach in groups of mixed forests (beech, oak, hornbeam, sycamore maple, and pine). These forests, with protected status, are: Zwierzyniecmarker, Kanigóra near Oławamarker, Dublanymarker, Kępa Opatowicka near Wrocławmarker, Zabórmarker near Przedmoście, and Lubiążmarker. The other forest areas are: The Natural Park in Orsk, the areas of Jodłowice, Wzgórze Joanny near Milicz, and Gola near Twardogóra. Such types of forest like those up to 1.2m high, which are the mainstay for wild game, or nurseries, are inaccessible because of permanent fire hazard. Territories partly accessible (marked specially) are located in areas of Góra Śląska, Oborniki Śląskie, Wołowa, in the Oder River valley, and in Wzgórza Niemczańsko-Strzelińskie.


The flora of Lower Silesia is specific and different for each zone. From the bottoms to the tops, plants form groups that are arranged in wide or narrow belts, called floral zones. Subsequently, these zones are divided into narrower belts, called vegetation belts.The zone of mountain forest is divided into two belts: subalpine and lower subalpine forest. Above, there is forestless zone divided into subalpine belt with dwarf pine, and alpine belt without shrubs. This vegetation is Glacial, the former one – from Tertiary – was destroyed by the climate of Ice Age. Along with glaciation from the North, some tundra plants appeared, for example: Lapland Willow (Salix Lapponum) and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus).The flora of Lower Silesia is strongly influenced by geological and climatic history. The vegetation is formed by species deriving from various geographic regions. Particular regions are represented by:

Lower subalpine forest

Lower subalpine forest (450-1000m) is characterized by deciduous or mixed forest. The fragments of forests similar to natural complexes of pine-fir-beech with admixture of larch, sycamore maple and lime occur near the Szklarski waterfall, in the Jagniątkowski complex, and Chojnikmarker Mountain. Particular species of trees have different climatic requirements. The lowest parts are covered with oak and ash (up to 500m). On the level of 500-600m occurs pine; in the higher parts (up to 800m), there occurs European larch and above 800m – fir and beech.

Despite of transformation of the basic tree vegetation, the same form of undergrowth survived. There occurs: daphne mezereum, red elderberry, hazel, platanthera bifolian, sweet woodruff, herb paris, cranberry, wood sorrel, chickweed wintergreen, Common Cow-wheat and lily of the valley. The parts over 800m are mainly covered with grasses, purple small-reeds, cranberries, and willow gentian.

In highlighted places, on meadows, and along roads, there occurs: spotted orchid, bugleweed, yellow archangel, arnica montana, sword-leaved helleborine, rosebay willowherb, groundsel, and foxglove. Along riversides, there occurs white butterbur.

Pine forests are rich in spruces, which are permanently weakened by atmospheric factors. Frayed roots are easily infected by harmful fungus and insect. The most damaging is honey mushroom, with edible specimen, which grows in pulp – between the bark and timber - causing the death of tree. The other damaging fungus is bracket fungus, which destroys roots and trunks from the inside. The honey mushroom devastates the tree within a few months, and the bracket fungus – within a few years – as a result of mechanic changes in wood structure.


  • Urbanek M., (2003), Dolny Śląsk. Siedem stron świata., MAK publishing, Wrocław, p. 240 + CD-ROM
  • Śląsk na weekend – touristic guide, Pascal publishing

See also

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