It turns out that when my Polish teacher announced we were going to concentrate on politics this term, this was not an excuse to complain about the current Polish government but to teach proper Polish history. This is a great relief to my mind because the current Polish government is just too easy a target in Guardian-reading Edinburgh and my classmates might faint in horror if I mentioned that when it comes to life issues, the Polish Bishops Conference and I are at one.
As there are no Prussians, Austrians or Russians in the class, the Partitions of Poland are controversy-free in Polish 2.6. I recall with chagrin that I got the dates wrong in CWR, but this shall never happen again, for they have been impressed upon my brain by the sheer effort of having to pronounce tysiąc siedemset siedemdziesiątego drugiego roku ( "the year 1772"), etc.
I Rozbiór (First Partition) 1772 r. Poland, once a staggeringly powerful country with masses of territory (see exciting video below), was in a state of inner turmoil. Austria, Prussia and Russia drew up a treaty saying, in effect, "Hey,Prussia says we should take advantage of this situation. Let's do it!" So they toddled in and took away a third of Polish territory before the Poles could do anything about it.
II Rozbiór (Second Partition) 1793 r. Austria was busy fighting France, so this time Prussia and Russia drew up a treaty saying they could further annex Polish territory. This totally destabilized the Polish government and destroyed Polish manufacturing and banking. The economy was shot.
III Rozbiór (Third Partition) 1795. The Polish uprising (1794) led by Tadeusz Kościuszko vastly annoyed Austria, Prussia and Russia because of its revolutionary ideals as much as its threat to Prussian and Russian bullying. So they all got together and ended Polish self-rule, which made just as much sense to the Poles as Canada, Mexico and Russia dividing up the USA would make to American readers. (Mexico has the numbers, Russia has the cash, Canadians conveniently look and sound like Americans... Hmm. Hmm. Get back to me on this.) At any rate, there was no more Polish government and therefore no more Polish state for 123 years, but clearly there were still Poles.
Here is an amusing Polish video to illustrate all the above. Stick around for the end to watch Poland swell, shrink and swell again through the centuries:
Speaking highly generally, if your first language was Polish during this period of Polish statelessness, you were a Pole. Some argue that to be a Pole is to be a Catholic or at least a Christian (as well as Polish-speaking), but I am not going there. This is the sort of idea the Guardian wails over with barely disguised glee. Adam Mickiewicz and other Polish writers since 1795 have been very keen on the idea that there have been lots of patriotic Polish Jews, and I'm leaving it at that. Presumably Polish Tatars were also patriotic when they were not in cahoots with the Ottoman Empire.
Now the poor Tatars have to put up with foreign Wahhabist immigrants throwing their weight about--yet another reason why the Polish government is absolutely right to limit Islamic migration. Remember, boys and girls, when you are accused of being Islamophobic before some authority figure, this useful speech: "I like ordinary Muslims. It's the Wahhabist bastards I object to, and their attempts to destroy native Islams, like the faith and way of life of the Tatars in Poland." This should knock your enemy off-guard, as they will have no idea whatsoever that there is an ancient native community of Muslims in Poland, and thus you will have out-sympathized him/her.
By the way, as part of my preparation for my trip to Paris, I have been reviewing in Survival how best to survive a terrorist attack. (Hint: I'm not fussed about the Huguenots or the Soixante-huitards.) The times we live in, eh?