On June 24, 972, Poland’s first Christian ruler, Mieszko I defeated the forces of German count Odo I at the Battle of Cedynia, which sealed Western Pomerania’s fate as a Polish dependency.
Throughout the 10th century, the West Slavic tribes, united under the Piast dukes, who regarded themselves as descendants of the semi-legendary Piast the Wheelwright (Piast Kołodziej), went through a period of accelerated building of fortified settlements and territorial expansion. This gave rise to developed regions along the upper Vistula, the coast of the Baltic Sea and in Greater Poland.
Under Mieszko I, the expanded territory was converted to Christianity in 966, when the Piast duke married Princess Doubravka of Bohemia. Known as the “Baptism of Poland”, the event laid the basis for the development of a Polish state and its integration into the prevailing European culture. In fact, its date is often used to mark the symbolic beginning of Polish statehood.
The viability of the Mieszko’s emerging state was assured by the persistent territorial expansion of the Piast lords, which lasted throughout most of the 10th century and resulted in a territory approximating that of present-day Poland.
After the West Slavic tribes successfully established their young state east of the Saxon marches, Mieszko advanced into the Pomeranian lands and marched for the Baltic trade centre of Wolin.
The Polish ruler quickly entered into open conflict with the German count Odo I of Lusatia who, vested with the Saxon Eastern March by Holy Roman Emperor, Otto the Great, had spent years subduing the Slavic tribes settling in the eastern parts of the Saxon Ostmark.
The Saxon Magrave gathered his forces and attacked the Polish army near the Oder river. He was victorious at first, but the intervention of Miesko’s brother swung the battle in the Polish Duke’s favour. It is believed that his victory at Cedynia effectively sealed Western Pomerania’s fate as a Polish dependency.
Largely unknown in Poland before World War II, the Battle of Cedynia was instrumentalised by post-war communist propaganda to justify the Oder-Neisse line, which in 1945 made former German Cedynia Poland’s westernmost town.
The victory was portrayed as the first German-Polish battle to promote the doctrine of the “eternal German-Polish enmity”, and several memorials were erected in Cedynia to that effect.
With the fall of Communism, Cedynia lost its propagandistic value and its memory is now upheld in a non-political fashion by re-enactments at the annual Cedynia Days festival.
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