This map, which I discovered the other day, shows the results of the 2007 Polish parliamentary election superimposed with the borders of the German Empire (1871 – 1918). Study this for a moment.
I was blown away when I first saw this, and couldn’t believe it to be true. But it is. The results for the 2011 parliamentary election show a similar divide. My first thought towards a reason was on ethnic grounds – perhaps a less concentrated Polish population in the West is a reason for the support of different parties? But considering the ethnic turmoil and change Poland has experienced in the last century, particularly during the Second World War, I can’t imagine ethnicity alone could create anything near this clear a divide.
The division is between the Civic Platform (Liberal, pro-Europe) in the West and the Law and Justice Party (Conservative, Eurosceptic) in the East. Perhaps the Western territory’s potential historic links with Germany have given it closer connections to Europe, and it’s therefore more likely to vote for a pro-Europe party, than the West, which might align itself more closely to Russia?
I did some research, and one proposed theory is that of economic differences. When the Western territories were part of first Brandenburg, then Prussia and then eventually Germany, it was an industrial heartland of the current Empire. Generally controlled by nations fearing their more powerful neighbours, its successive controllers will have put an emphasis on military and industrial expansion. In contrast, the areas to the East, controlled by Russia and Austria, had well developed industries and militaries in their respective heartlands and consequently focused their Polish territories on agricultural output. Such vast differences in industry and infrastructure would take longer than a century to subside, especially considering the economic stagnation Poland would have experienced during Communist rule.
This map of the Polish rail network also roughly aligns to the borders of the German Empire, which seems to back up the industrial differences argument.
The idea of ‘ghost borders’ certainly is a fascinating one. There must be many examples outside of voting behaviour, but another clear example I can think of is the north-south divide in the USA which often aligns well with the borders of the Confederate States during the civil war.