Geography and Administrative Structure of Silesia

The area of Silesia consists largely of the basin of the upper and middle Oder River, which flows from southeast to northwest into the Baltic Sea. The region is bordered by the Sudeten mountains to the southwest, the Beskedy range to the south and the Krokow-Wielun plateau to the northeast.

The remainder of the region consists of Brandenburg and Saxony (states) of Germany, and part of the Moravia-Silesia kraj (region) of the Czech Republic. Silesia consists of 15,400 square miles and has around 8,000,000 people.

After its reorganization in 1919, the Polish Silesians divided the Polish Silesia in two regions: Lower Silesia and Upper Silesia. Lower Silesia is in the north and Upper Silesia is in the south.

Part of the historic province of Silesia was changed to the province of Poznan and was returned to Poland after World War I. Syców and its vicinity are near the border between Poznan and Silesia in what is now southwestem Poland.

Regions During the German Empire

There were three adminstrative regions during the German Empire, as outlined in the map below:

  • Liegnitz (Niederschlesian), Lower Silesia (in green)
  • Breslau (sometimes called Middle Silesia), Lower Silesia (in gold)
  • Oppeln (Oberschlesien), Upper Silesia (in purple)

Current Voivodeships of Silesia

The four principal Voivodeships/Provinces (Województwa) where Silesia is located today are Lubuskie, Dolnoślaskie, Opolskie, and Ślaskie.

  • Two cities share the functions of regional capital in the Lubusz (Lubuskie) Voivodeship: They are Gorzów Wielkopoliski and Zielona Góra.
  • Wroclaw (called Breslau by the Germans) is the historic capital and largest city of the Lower Silesian (Dolnośląskie) Voivodeship.
  • Opole is the capital and largest city in the Opole (Opolskie) Voivodeship, which is located in the historic area of Upper Silesia.
  • Katowice is the capital of the Silesian (Śląskie) Voivodeship, which is centered in the historic region of Upper Silesia.

The links below provide you with detailed Wikipedia information on the four Voivodeships.


  • As far back as 1750, Silesia has been a leading resource for coal mining, mainly Lower Silesia. In 2008 about 35 billion tons of lignite were discovered near Legnica making it one of the largest finds in the world. Lead, copper, silver, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, uranium and gold are also mined nearby.
  • There is an industrial part of Upper Silesia surrounding Katowice.
  • The area surrounding Opole is largely agricultural.