The Republic of Poland (Polish: Rzeczpospolita Polska) 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 adopted 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 acceded to NATO, and in 2004 it joined the European Union.
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 derives from the tribal name Polanie - 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.
The text below is taken from "Geographica's Pocket: World Reference" ISBN 1-55192-413-7 by "Random House Australia, first published in Canada in 2001 by Raincoast Books, www.raincoast.com."
"Geographica's Pocket: World Reference" page 549: "...In the seventh and eighth centuries AD, Slavic peoples from the south-known as Polonie, or plain-dwellers-occupied most of Poland. In the tenth century their king was converted to Christianity."
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).
Template:Seesubarticle Poland 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 the reunified Poland. His son Kazimierz Wielki repaired the Polish economy, built new castles and won the war against the Russian dukedom (Lwów become a Polish City).
It is interesting to note that the Black Death 1347-1351 did not come to Poland. Here is the source: "One of the greatest calamities in European history began in 1347 when bubonic plague struck, brought to Italy, it is thought, by a group of Genoese returning home through Sicily and Pisa from Kaffa in the Crimea. Their fortress there had been beseiged by Mongol invaders who had suddenly begun to die of a disease that caused black, blood-oozing swellings and immense pain....By 1351, it had spread over most of Europe. The only areas which escaped were Milan, Poland, Belgium, eastern Germany and part of southwest France." From page 235 of "Timelines of World History" by John B. Teeple, ISBN 0-7894-8926-0 www.dk.com Dorling Kindersley.
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.
Template:Polish statehood 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 what is claimed to be the first modern written constitution in Europe, the Constitution of May 3 in 1791. 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.
The Second Polish Republic lasted until the start of World War II when Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland. Warsaw surrendered on September 28 1939. The eastern part of the German occupied zone was transformed into the General Government area, and the western part was just incorporated to German Reich. 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. At its conclusion, 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 20% smaller by 77,500 km² (29,900 mi²); although the important cities of Gdańsk, Szczecin and Wrocław were all incorporated into its post-war borders. The shift 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. A Polish minority is still present in neighbouring countries of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, as well as in other countries (see Poles article for the population numbers). The largest number of ethnic Poles outside of the country can be found in the United States.
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.
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 Lech Kaczyński.
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.
The Polish landscape consists almost entirely of the lowlands of the North European Plain, at an average height of 173 metres (568 ft), 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 [8,199 ft]) 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 thunderstorms.
|Agglomeration or conurbation||Voivodship|| Inhabitants |
|4||Cracow (Kraków)||Lesser Poland||900,000|
|5||Tricity (Greater Gdańsk)||Pomerania||800,000|
|8||Bydgoszcz and Toruń||Cuiavia-Pomerania||600,000|
20 May 2002
31 Dec 2004
|3||Cracow (Kraków)||Lesser Poland||758,544||757,430|
|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:
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.
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 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%.
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 - 3.7%
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 becouse of high unemployment rate (about 17%).
Poland produces: clothes, electronics, cars (including luxury car Leopard), buses (Autosan, Jelcz SA, Solaris, Solbus) helicopters (PZL Świdnik), planes (PZL Mielec), ships, military engineering (including tanks), medicines (Polpharma, Polfa, etc), food, chemical products etc.
Science, technology and education
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 thousand scientists. Furthermore, there are about 300 research and development institutes, with about 10 thousand more researchers. In addition, there is a number of smaller laboratories. In sum, there are 91 thousand scientists in Poland today.
Telecommunication and IT
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)
- Rail: The Polish State Railways (PKP) is one of the larger railway systems of central and western Europe, with 23,420 kilometres (14,552 mi) in its network (1998). Refurbishment of the network has commenced to bring standards into line with western European railway networks. 
- 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 kilometres (226,587 mi). There are a total of 9,283,000 registered passenger automobiles, as well as 1,762,000 registered trucks and buses (2000).
- Air: Poland has eight major airports (in decreasing order of traffic: Warsaw, Kraków, Katowice, Gdańsk, Poznań, Wrocław, Szczecin and Rzeszów), a total of 123 airports and airfields, as well as three heliports. The number of passenger at Polish airports has consistently increased since 1991.
- Marine: The total length of navigable rivers and canals is 3,812 kilometres (2,369 mi). The merchant marine consists of 114 ships, with an additional 100 ships registered outside the country. The principal ports and harbours are: Port of Gdańsk, Port of Gdynia, Port of Szczecin, Port of Swinoujscie, Port of Ustka, Port of Kolobrzeg, Gliwice, Warsaw, Wrocław.
Tourism and holidays
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 Eastern Orthodox (about 509 500), Jehovah's Witnesses (about 123 034) and various Protestant (about 86 880 in the largest Evangelical-Augsburg Church and about as many in smaller churches) religious minorities. 
Polish culture has more than 1,000 years of history. Poland is situated between Western and Eastern cultural spaces and therefore was influenced by both. For example, the traditional costumes include Islamic influences. Polish culture developed actively and always has been a part of Western Europe's culture. We can see that today - architecture, folklore, art, etc. Poland also influenced neighbouring countries. Template:Seesubarticle Template:Sect-stub
UNESCO World Heritage in Poland
- Warszawa (Old Town)
- Kraków (Old Town)
- Wieliczka (Salt mine)
- Malbork (Biggest Brick Stone Castle)
- Zamość (Renaissance Town)
- Toruń (Gothic Town)
- Oświęcim (Auschwitz concentration camp)
- Jawor (Baroque Peace Church)
- Świdnica (Baroque Peace Chruch)
- Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (Pilgrim´s Place)
- Białowieża Forest (National Park - largest remaining primeval forest in Europe)
- Dębno (Gothic Wooden Chruch)
- Słowiński Park Narodowy (highest sand hills)
- Human Development Index 2005: Rank 36th out of 177 countries.
- Reporters Without Borders world-wide press freedom index 2004: Rank 32nd out of 167 countries.
- Index of Economic Freedom 2005: Rank 41st out of 155 countries.
- Extreme points of Poland
- List of castles of Poland
- List of cities in Poland
- List of Poland-related topics
- List of Poles
- Polish Armed Forces
- Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego
- Związek Harcerstwa Rzeczypospolitej
- Template:En iconSejm - Sejm - lower chamber of the Parliament
- Template:En iconSenat - Senate - upper chamber of the Parliament
- Template:En iconPrezydent - President of the Republic of Poland
- Template:En iconKPRM - Prime Minister's Office
- Template:En iconSąd Najwyższy - Supreme Court
- Template:En iconTrybunał Konstytucyjny - Constitutional Tribunal
- Template:En iconNational Bank of Poland
- Template:En iconThe Poland.pl portal
- Template:En iconWarsaw Stock Exchange
- Template:En iconGUS - Central Statistical Office
- Template:En iconConstitution of Poland
English-language websites on Poland
- Polska /page about Poland
- PolBlog - Polish News Site
- Poland and Polish Community Online
- Centreurope.org: Poland section
- Warsaw Business Journal
- Parks in Poland National parks, wetlands, biosphere reserves and other protected areas
- Travel information about several destinations in Poland
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