From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Poland (disambiguation).
Rzeczpospolita Polska
Republic of Poland
Flag of Poland Coat of Arms of Poland
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: none[1]
Anthem: Mazurek Dąbrowskiego
Location of Poland
Capital Warsaw
52°13′ N 21°02′ E
Largest city Warsaw
Official languages Polish[2]
Government Republic
Aleksander Kwaśniewski
Lech Kaczyński
Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz
Christianisation Date[3]
 • Declared
 • Redeclared

10th century
November 11, 1918
 • Total
 • Water (%)
312,685 km² (68th)
 • 2005 est.
 • 2002 census
 • Density
38,635,144 (32nd)
123.5/km² (64th)
 • Total
 • Per capita
2005 estimate
$512.9 billion (23rd)
$13,275 (51st)
Currency Złoty (PLN)
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
Internet TLD .pl
Calling code +48
1^  See also unofficial mottos of Poland.
2^  Belarusian, Cassubian, German and Ukrainian are used in five communal offices; however, they are not official languages at the state level.
3^ The adoption of Christianity in Poland is seen by many Poles, regardless of their religious affiliation, as one of the most significant national historical events.

The Republic of Poland is a country located in Central Europe, between Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and the Baltic Sea, Lithuania, and Russia (in the form of the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave) to the north.

The Polish state was formed over 1,000 years ago under the Piast dynasty, and reached its golden age near the end of the 16th century under the Jagiellonian dynasty, when Poland was one of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful countries in Europe. In 1791 the Sejm of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth voted for the Constitution of May 3, Europe's first modern codified constitution, and the second in the world after the Constitution of the United States. Soon afterwards, the country ceased to exist after being partitioned by its neighbours Russia, Austria, and Prussia. It regained independence in 1918 in the aftermath of the First World War as the Second Polish Republic. Following the Second World War it became a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union known as the People's Republic of Poland. In 1989 the first partially-free elections in Poland's post-World War II history concluded the Solidarity (Solidarność) movement's struggle for freedom and resulted in the defeat of Poland's communist rulers. The current Third Polish Republic was established, followed a few years later by the drafting of a new constitution in 1997. In 1999 Poland became a part of NATO, and in 2004 it joined the European Union.



See the name 'Poland' in other languages, in Wiktionary.

Poland's official name in Polish is Rzeczpospolita Polska. The names of the country, Polska, and of the nationality, the Poles, are of Slavic origin. Their name may derive from the tribal name Goplanie - people living around Lake Gopło - the cradle of Poland mentioned as Glopeani having 400 strongholds circa 845 (Bavarian Geographer). Common opinion holds that the name Polska comes from the Slavic Polanie tribe who established the Polish state in the 10th century (Greater Poland). The conventional etymology of the ethnic name of the Poles relates it to these Polish Polanie, "dwellers of the field"; pole, "field", analogous to Russian polyî, "open land", from Indo-European pelè-, "flat" + -anie, "inhabitants", analogous to Latin -anus, "originating from" (please compare Yuriev-Polsky). In old Latin chronicles the terms terra Poloniae (land of Poland) or Regnum Poloniae (kingdom of Poland) appear.

Parallel to this terminology, another one, Lechia, came into use, thought to derive from the tribe name Lędzianie. It gave rise to an alternative name for "Pole": Lęch, Lęchowie in Old Church Slavonic, Lechia, Lechites in Latin, Lach in Ruthenian, Lyakh in Russian, as well as to old German Lechien, Hungarian Lengyelorszag, Lengyel, Lithuanian Lenkija, lenkas and Turkish Lechistan (from Persian Lehestan.)


For more details on this topic, see History of Poland.

The Polish nation began to form into a recognizable unitary and territorial entity around the middle of the 10th century under the Piast dynasty. Poland's first historically documented ruler, Mieszko I, was baptized in 966, adopting Catholic Christianity as the country's new official religion, to which the bulk of the population converted in the course of the next century. In the 12th century Poland fragmented into several smaller states, which were later ravaged by the Mongol armies of the Golden Horde in 1241. In 1320 Władysław I became the King of reunified Poland. His son Casimir the Great repaired the Polish economy, built new castles and won the war against the Russian dukedom (Lwow become a Polish City). Under the Jagiellon dynasty, Poland forged an alliance with its neighbour Lithuania. A golden age occurred in the 16th century during its union (Lublin Union) with Lithuania in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The citizens of Poland took pride in their ancient freedoms and parliamentary system, although the Szlachta monopolised most of the benefits. Since that time Poles have regarded freedom as their most important value. Poles often call themselves the nation of the free people.

The White Eagle, symbol of Polish statehood
Polish Statehood

Kingdom of the first Piasts
Feudal dissolution
Kingdom of the later Piasts
Kingdom of the Jagiellons
Republic of Both Nations
Duchy of Warsaw
Congress Kingdom
Grand Duchy of Poznań
Free City of Kraków
Regency Kingdom
Second Polish Republic
Polish Secret State
People's Republic of Poland
Third Polish Republic

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its greatest extent
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its greatest extent

In the mid-17th century a Swedish invasion rolled through the country in the turbulent time known as "The Deluge" (potop). Numerous wars against the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Cossacks, Transylvania and Brandenburg-Prussia ultimately came to an end in 1699. During the following 80 years, the waning of the central government and deadlock of the institutions weakened the nation, leading to anarchistic tendencies and a growing dependency on Russia. In Polish Democracy every member of parliament was able to break any work or project by shouting 'Liberum Veto' during the session. Russian tsars took advantage of this unique political vulnerability by offering money to Parliamentary traitors, who in turn would consistently and subversively block necessary reforms and new solutions.

The Enlightenment in Poland fostered a growing national movement to repair the state, resulting in the first written constitution in Europe in 1791 (May Constitution of Poland). The process of reforms ceased with the partitions of Poland between Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1772, 1793 and 1795 which ultimately dissolved the country. Poles resented their shrinking freedoms and several times rebelled against their oppressors ( see List of Polish Uprisings).

Napoleon recreated a Polish state, the Duchy of Warsaw, but after the Napoleonic wars, Poland was split again by the Allies at the Congress of Vienna. The eastern part was ruled by the Russian tsar as a Congress Kingdom, and possessed a liberal constitution. However, the tsars soon reduced Polish freedoms and Russia eventually de facto annexed the country. Later in the 19th century, Austrian-ruled Galicia became the oasis of Polish freedom.

During World War I all the Allies agreed on the restitution of Poland that United States President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed in point 13 of his Fourteen Points. Shortly after the surrender of Germany in November 1918, Poland regained its independence as the Second Polish Republic (II Rzeczpospolita Polska). A new threat, Soviet aggression, arose in the 1919 (Polish-Soviet War), but Poland succeeded in defending its independence.

Poland between 1921 and 1939
Poland between 1921 and 1939

The Second Polish Republic lasted until the start of World War II when Germany and the Soviet Union invaded and split the Polish territory between them from (September 28, 1939). Poland suffered greatly in this period (see General Government). Of all the countries involved in the war, Poland lost the highest percentage of its citizens: over 6 million perished, half of them Polish Jews. Poland's borders shifted westwards; pushing the eastern border to the Curzon line and the western border to the Oder-Neisse line. After the shift Poland emerged smaller by 77 500 km² or by 20% of its pre-war size. The shifting of borders also involved the migration of millions of people – Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Jews. As a result of these events, Poland became, for the first time in history, an ethnically unified country. Polish minority is still present in neighbouring countries of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.The biggest diaspora of Poles however lives in USA.

The Soviet Union instituted a new communist government in Poland, analogous to much of the rest of the Eastern Bloc. Military alignment within the Warsaw Pact throughout the Cold War was also part of this change. In 1948 a turn towards Stalinism brought in the beginning of the next period of totalitarian rule. The People's Republic of Poland (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa) was officially proclaimed in 1952. In 1956 the régime became more liberal, freeing many people from prison and expanding some personal freedoms. In 1970 the government was changed. It was a time when the economy was more modern, and the government had large credits. Labour turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union, "Solidarity", which over time became a political force. It eroded the dominance of the Communist Party; by 1989 it had triumphed in parliamentary elections, and Lech Wałęsa, a Solidarity candidate, eventually won the presidency in 1990. The Solidarity movement greatly contributed to the soon-following collapse of Communism all over Eastern Europe.

A shock therapy program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe. Despite a regression in social and economic standards, there were numerous improvements in other human rights (free speech, functioning democracy and the like). Poland was the first post-communist country to regain pre-1989 GDP levels. Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999 along with the Czech Republic and Hungary. Polish voters then said yes to the EU in a referendum in June 2003. Poland joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.


For a more detailed treatment of this topic, see the subarticles Politics of Poland, Foreign relations of Poland and Military of Poland.

Poland is a democratic republic. Its current constitution dates from 1997. The government structure centres on the Council of Ministers, led by a prime minister. The president appoints the cabinet according to the proposals of the prime minister, typically from the majority coalition in the bicameral legislature's lower house (the Sejm). The president, elected by popular vote every five years, serves as the head of state. The current president is Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

Polish voters elect a two house parliament, consisting of a 460 member lower house Sejm and a 100 member Senate (Senat). The Sejm is elected under a proportional representation electoral system similar to that used in other parliamentary political systems while the Senate is elected under a comparatively rare first past the post bloc voting. With the exception of ethnic minority parties, only political parties receiving at least 5% of the total national vote can enter Sejm. When sitting in joint session, members of Sejm and Senate form the National Assembly, (Polish Zgromadzenie Narodowe). The National Assembly is formed on three occasions: taking oath by the new president, bringing an indictment against the President of the Republic to the Tribunal of State, declaration of the President's permanent incapacity to exercise his duties due to the state of his health.

The judicial branch plays an important role in decision-making. Its major institutions include the Supreme Court (Sąd Najwyższy), the Supreme Administrative Court (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny) (judges appointed by the president of the republic on the recommendation of the National Council of the Judiciary for an indefinite period), the Constitutional Tribunal (Trybunał Konstytucyjny) (judges chosen by the Sejm for nine-year terms) and the Tribunal of State (Trybunał Stanu) (judges chosen by the Sejm for for the current term of office of the Sejm, except for the position of chairperson which is held by the First President of the Supreme Court). The Sejm (on approval of the Polish Senate) appoints the Ombudsman or the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) for a five-year term. The Ombudsman has the duty of guarding the observance and implementation of the rights and liberties of the human being and of the citizen, the law and principles of community life and social justice.


Tatra Mountains in the very south of Poland
Tatra Mountains in the very south of Poland
Administrative map of Poland
Administrative map of Poland
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Poland.

The Polish landscape consists almost entirely of the lowlands of the North European Plain, at an average height of 173 metres, though the Sudetes (including the Karkonosze) and the Carpathian Mountains (including the Tatra mountains, where one also finds Poland's highest point, Rysy, at 2,499 m.) form the southern border. Several large rivers cross the plains; for instance, the Vistula (Wisła), Oder (Odra), Warta the (Western) Bug. Poland also contains over 9,300 lakes, predominantly in the north of the country. Masuria (Mazury) forms the largest and most-visited lake district in Poland. Remains of the ancient forests survive: see list of forests in Poland. Poland enjoys a temperate climate, with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters and mild summers with frequent showers and thunder showers.

Administrative division

Administrative division of Poland
Administrative division of Poland
For more details on this topic, see Voivodships of Poland.

Poland is subdivided into sixteen administrative regions known as voivodships (województwa, singular - województwo):

Voivodship Capital city (cities)
Greater Poland Voivodship (Wielkopolskie) Poznań
Cuiavian-Pomeranian Voivodship (Kujawsko-Pomorskie) Bydgoszcz and Toruń
Lesser Poland Voivodship (Małopolskie) Kraków
Łódź Voivodship (Łódzkie) Łódź
Lower Silesian Voivodship (Dolnośląskie) Wrocław
Lublin Voivodship (Lubelskie) Lublin
Lubusz Voivodship (Lubuskie) Gorzów Wielkopolski and Zielona Góra
Masovian Voivodship (Mazowieckie) Warsaw
Opole Voivodship (Opolskie) Opole
Podlasie Voivodship (Podlaskie) Białystok
Pomeranian Voivodship (Pomorskie) Gdańsk
Silesian Voivodship (Śląskie) Katowice
Subcarpathian Voivodship (Podkarpackie) Rzeszów
Swietokrzyskie Voivodship (Świętokrzyskie) Kielce
Warmian-Masurian Voivodship (Warmińsko-Mazurskie) Olsztyn
West Pomeranian Voivodship (Zachodniopomorskie) Szczecin

Lower levels of administrative division are:


For more details on this topic, see Economy of Poland.

Since its return to democracy, Poland has steadfastly pursued a policy of liberalising the economy and today stands out as one of the most successful and open examples of the transition from a partially state-capitalist market economy to a primarily privately owned market economy.

Złoty, the nation's currency.
Złoty, the nation's currency.

The privatisation of small and medium state-owned companies and a liberal law on establishing new firms have allowed for the rapid development of an aggressive private sector, followed by a development of consumer rights organisations later on. Restructuring and privatisation of "sensitive sectors" (e.g., coal, steel, railways, and energy) has begun. The biggest privatisations so far were a sale of Telekomunikacja Polska, a national telecom to France Telecom (2000) and an issue of 30% shares of the biggest Polish bank, PKO BP, on the Polish stockmarket (2004).

Poland has a large agricultural sector of private farms, that could be a leading producer of food in the European Union now that Poland is a member. Challenges remain, especially under-investment. Structural reforms in health care, education, the pension system, and state administration have resulted in larger-than-expected fiscal pressures. Warsaw leads the region of Central Europe in foreign investment and allegedly needs a continued large inflow. GDP growth had been strong and steady from 1993 to 2000 with only a short slowdown from 2001 to 2002. The prospect of closer integration with the European Union has put the economy back on track, with growth of 3.7% annually in 2003, a rise from 1.4% annually in 2002. In 2004 GDP growth equalled 5.4% and in 2005, it is expected to be around 3.7%.

Annual growth rates broken down by quarters:

  • 2003: Q1 - 2.2% | Q2 - 3.8% | Q3 - 4.7% | Q4 - 4.7%
  • 2004: Q1 - 6.9% | Q2 - 6.1% | Q3 - 5.8% | Q4 - 5.9%
  • 2005: Q1 - 2.1% | Q2 - 2.8% | Q3 - 3.3%

Although the Polish economy is currently undergoing an economic boom there are many challenges ahead. The most notable task on the horizon is the preparation of the economy (through continuing deep structural reforms) to allow Poland to meet the strict economic criteria for entry into the European Single Currency. There is much speculation as to just when Poland might be ready to join the Eurozone, although the best guess estimates put the entry date somewhere between 2009 and 2013. For now, Poland is preparing to make the Euro its official currency (as other countries of the European Union), and the Złoty will eventually be abolished from the modern Polish economy. Since joining the European Union, many young Polish people have left their country to work in other EU countries.

Science, technology and education

For a more detailed treatment of this topic, see the subarticles Polish science and technology and Education in Poland.

The education of Polish society was a goal of rulers as early as the 12th century. The library catalog of the Cathedral Chapter of Kraków dating back to 1110 shows that already in the early 12th century Polish intellectuals had access to the European literature. In 1364, in Kraków, the Jagiellonian University, founded by King Kazimierz Wielki, became one of Europe's great early universities. In 1773 King Stanisław August Poniatowski established his Commission on National Education (Komisja Edukacji Narodowej), the world's first state ministry of education. Today, Poland has more than a hundred institutions of post-secondary education: technical, medical, economics, as well as the traditional universities to be found in its major cities; e.g., Gdańsk, Bydgoszcz, Katowice, Kraków, Lublin, Łódź, Poznań, Rzeszów, Warsaw, Wrocław yielding over 61 thousands scientists. Furthermore, there are about 300 research and development institutes, with about 10 thousands more researchers. In addition, there is a number of smaller laboratories. In sum, there are 91 thousands scientists in Poland today.

Telecommunication and IT

For a more detailed treatment of this topic, see the subarticles Communications in Poland and Software development in Poland.

The share of the telecom sector in the GDP is 4.4% (end of 2000 figure), compared to 2.5% in 1996. Nevertheless, despite high expenditures for telecom infrastructure (the coverage increased from 78 users per 1000 inhabitants in 1989 to 282 in 2000)
the coverage mobile cellular is 660 users per 1000 people (2005)

  • Telephones - mobile cellular: 25,3 million (Raport Telecom Team 2005)
  • Telephones - main lines in use: 12.5 million (Raport Telecom Team 2005)


For more details on this topic, see Transportation in Poland.
  • Rail : The Polish State Railways (PKP) is one of the larger railway systems of central and western Europe, with 23,420 kilometers in its network (1998). Refurbishment of the network has commenced to bring standards into line with western European railway networks. [4]
  • Road : By Western European standards, Poland has a relatively poor infrastructure of expressways/highways. The Government has undertaken a programme to improve the standard of a number of significant national highways by 2013. The total length of expressways/highways is 364,657 km. There are a total of 9,283,000 registered passenger automobiles, as well as 1,762,000 registered trucks and buses (2000).
The Marina at Gdynia.
The Marina at Gdynia.

Tourism and holidays


For more details on this topic, see Demographics of Poland.

Poland formerly played host to many languages, cultures and religions. However, the outcome of World War II and the following shift westwards to the area between the Curzon line and the Oder-Neisse line gave Poland an appearance of homogeneity. Today 36,983,700 people, or 96.74% of the population considers itself Polish (Census 2002), 471,500 (1.23%) declared another nationality. 774,900 people (2.03%) didn't declare any nationality. The officially recognised ethnic minorities include: Germans, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Jews and Belarusians. The Polish language, a member of the West Slavic branch of the Slavic languages, functions as the official language of Poland. Most Poles adhere to the Roman Catholic faith, and 75% count as practising Catholics. The rest of the population consists mainly of Jewish, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant religious minorities.


For more details on this topic, see Culture of Poland.

UNESCO World Heritage in Poland

International rankings

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

External links

Governmental websites

Poland Tourism

English-language websites on Poland

Flag of the European Union European Union Flag of the European Union
Austria | Belgium | Cyprus | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Malta | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | United Kingdom
Countries in Europe
Albania | Andorra | Armenia2) | Austria | Azerbaijan1) | Belarus | Belgium | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Croatia | Cyprus2) | Czech Republic | Denmark1) | Estonia | Finland | France1) | Georgia1) | Germany | Greece1) | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Liechtenstein | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Republic of Macedonia | Malta | Moldova | Monaco | Netherlands | Norway1) | Poland | Portugal1) | Romania | Russia1) | San Marino | Serbia and Montenegro | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain1) | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey1) | Ukraine | United Kingdom | Vatican City
Other territories: Akrotiri and Dhekelia 2) | Faroe Islands | Gibraltar | Guernsey | Jan Mayen | Jersey | Isle of Man | Svalbard
1) Includes territories not located in Europe. 2) Geographically in Asia , but often considered part of Europe for cultural and historical reasons.

Personal tools