With the third partition of Poland in 1795, Austria, Prussia and Russia divided the remaining areas of Poland between themselves. Poland no longer existed as an independent state. Russia, Prussia and Austria each had a large Polish-speaking population. The map shows how the mostly Polish-speaking areas were divided. In 1871, following the unification of the German Reich, some 2.5 million Poles were living in Prussia. They constituted the largest minority, yet possessed Prussian nationality. There were efforts to ‘germanise’ the Poles within the Reich but they upheld their national consciousness. There was a Polish press and many Poles belonged to Polish associations.
While Upper Silesia was an important centre of industry, the East Prussian provinces were to a large extent agricultural. This why so many Poles moved westwards to the Ruhr.