Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa (Polish)
Coat of arms
Anthem: "Mazurek Dąbrowskiego"
(English: "Poland Is Not Yet Lost")
Largest City: Warsaw
Official Language: Polish
Demonym: Pole, Polish
Government: Unitary Marxist–Leninist de facto one-party socialist republic under a military junta
First Secretary of the PZPR:
President of the Council of State:
19 February 1947 (Small Constitution)
22 July 1952 (Constitution of the People's Republic)
Land Area: 312,685 km˛
Water (%): 3.07
GDP (nominal): 240.6
GDP (nominal) per capita: 6,283
Human Development Index: 0.712
Currency: Polish złoty
Time Zone: UTC +1 (CET)
Summer: UTC +2 (CEST)
Drives on the: right
Calling code: +48
ISO 3166 code: PL
Polish People's Republic
The Polish People's Republic (Polish: Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, PRL) is a country in Central Europe that has existed since 1947. With a population of approximately 38.3 million, it is the most populous communist and Eastern Bloc country in Europe after the Soviet Union. Having a unitary Marxist–Leninist government imposed by the USSR following World War II, it was also one of the main signatories of the Warsaw Pact alliance. The largest city and official capital since 1947 is Warsaw, followed by the industrial city of Łódź and cultural city of Kraków.
The country is bordered by the Baltic Sea to the north, the Soviet Union, Ukraine, Lithuania to the east, Czechoslovakia to the south, and Germany to the west.
The country covers the history of contemporary Poland between 1952 and the present day under the Soviet-backed communist administration established after the Red Army's release of its territory from German occupation in World War II. The state's official name was the "Republic of Poland" (Rzeczpospolita Polska) between 1947 and 1952 in accordance with the temporary Small Constitution of 1947. The name "People's Republic" was introduced and defined by the Constitution of 1952. Like other Eastern Bloc nations (East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania), Poland was regarded as a satellite state in the Soviet sphere of interest, but was never part of the Soviet Union.
The Polish People's Republic is a one-party state characterized by constant internal struggles for various lines from western style capitalism to the restoration of Bierut era policies and the ending of revisionism in Poland. The Polish United Workers' Party became the dominant political faction, officially making Poland a socialist country (argued against by those following the Albanian line), but with more liberal policies than other states of the Eastern Bloc. Throughout its existence, economic hardships and social unrest are common almost in every decade. The nation is split between those who supported the party, those who were opposed to it and those who refused to engage in political activity. Despite this, some groundbreaking achievements were established during the People's Republic such as improved living conditions, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and access to free healthcare and education was made available. The birth rate was high and the population almost doubled between 1947 and 1989. The party's most successful accomplishment, however, was the rebuilding of ruined Warsaw after World War II and the complete eradication of illiteracy.
Poland today is still de jure allied with the Soviet Union, however the USSR has been occupied by a foreign power since the 25th of December, 1991, following a rapid campaign of conquest conducted by an extra-terrestrial force. Poland continues to recognize the USSR as the sole leading authority within the region, however in reality the USSR is a collection of warlord states and Red Army forces, with the Soviet government only holding limited power over some warlords and Red Army forces, with others having separated from the USSR. The most notable of these separated governments is Ukraine, with Lithuania also bordering Poland as another splinter state.
The Polish People's Army is the main branch of the Armed Forces, though Soviet Army units were also stationed in Poland as in all other Warsaw Pact countries. The UB and succeeding SB are chief intelligence agencies that acted as secret police, similar to East German Stasi and Soviet KGB. The official police organization, responsible for supposed peacekeeping and violent suppression of protests, was renamed Citizens' Militia (MO). The Militia's elite ZOMO squads committed serious crimes to maintain the Communists in power, including the harsh treatment of protesters, arrest of opposition leaders and in extreme cases murder, with at least 24,000 people killed by the regime during its rule. As a result, Poland has a high imprisonment rate but one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
The origin of the name "Poland" derives from the West Slavic tribe of Polans (Polanie), who inhabited the Warta river basin of present-day Greater Poland region starting in the mid-6th century. The origin of the name Polanie itself derives from the Proto-Slavic word pole (field). In some languages, such as Hungarian, Lithuanian, Persian and Turkish, the country's name is derived from the Lendians (Lędzianie or Lachy), who dwelled on the southeasternmost edge of present-day Lesser Poland, in the Cherven Grods between the 7th and 11th centuries — lands which were part of the territorial domain ruled over by the Polans. Their name derives from the Old Polish word lęda (open land or plain).
The early Bronze Age in Poland began around 2400 BC, while the Iron Age commenced in approximately 700 BC. During this time, the Lusatian culture, spanning both the Bronze and Iron Ages, became particularly prominent. The most famous archaeological find from the prehistory and protohistory of Poland is the Biskupin fortified settlement (now reconstructed as an open-air museum), dating from the Lusatian culture of the late Bronze Age, around 748 BC.
Throughout the Antiquity period, many distinct ancient ethnic groups populated the regions of what is now Poland in an era that dates from about 400 BC to 500 AD. These groups are identified as Celtic, Scythian, Germanic, Sarmatian, Slavic and Baltic tribes. Also, recent archeological findings in the Kuyavia region, confirmed the presence of the Roman Legions on the territory of Poland. These were most likely expeditionary missions sent out to protect the amber trade. The exact time and routes of the original migration and settlement of Slavic peoples lacks written records and can only be defined as fragmented. The Slavic tribes who settled the territory of modern Poland migrated to the region in the 6th century AD. Up until the creation of Mieszko's state and his subsequent conversion to Christianity in 966 AD, the main religion of the numerous West Slavic (Lechitic) tribes that inhabited the geographical area of present-day Poland was paganism. With the Baptism of Poland the Polish rulers accepted Western Christianity and the religious authority of the Roman Church. However, the transition from paganism was not a smooth and instantaneous process for the rest of the population as evident from the pagan reaction of the 1030s.
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, accepted Christianity, as the rightful religion of his realm, under the auspices of the Latin Church with the Baptism of Poland in 966. The bulk of the population converted in the course of the next few centuries. In 1000, Boleslaw the Brave, continuing the policy of his father Mieszko, held a Congress of Gniezno and created the metropolis of Gniezno and the dioceses of Kraków, Kołobrzeg, and Wrocław. However, the pagan unrest led to the transfer of the capital to Kraków in 1038 by Casimir I the Restorer.
In 1109, Prince Bolesław III Wrymouth defeated the King of Germany Henry V at the Battle of Hundsfeld, stopping the German incursion into Poland. The clash between Bolesław III and Henry V was documented by Gallus Anonymus in his 1118 chronicle. In 1138, Poland fragmented into several smaller duchies when Bolesław divided his lands among his sons. In 1226, Konrad I of Masovia, one of the regional Piast dukes, invited the Teutonic Knights to help him fight the Baltic Prussian pagans; a decision that led to centuries of warfare with the Knights. In 1264, the Statute of Kalisz or the General Charter of Jewish Liberties introduced numerous right for the Jews in Poland, leading to a nearly autonomous "nation within a nation".
In the middle of the 13th century, the Silesian branch of the Piast dynasty (Henry I the Bearded and Henry II the Pious, ruled 1238–1241) nearly succeeded in uniting the Polish lands, but the Mongols invaded the country from the east and defeated the combined Polish forces at the Battle of Legnica where Duke Henry II the Pious died. In 1320, after a number of earlier unsuccessful attempts by regional rulers at uniting the Polish dukedoms, Władysław I consolidated his power, took the throne and became the first king of a reunified Poland. His son, Casimir III (reigned 1333–1370), has a reputation as one of the greatest Polish kings, and gained wide recognition for improving the country's infrastructure. He also extended royal protection to Jews, and encouraged their immigration to Poland. Casimir III realized that the nation needed a class of educated people, especially lawyers, who could codify the country's laws and administer the courts and offices. His efforts to create an institution of higher learning in Poland were finally rewarded when Pope Urban V granted him permission to open the University of Kraków.
The Golden Liberty of the nobles began to develop under Casimir's rule, when in return for their military support, the king made a series of concessions to the nobility and establishing their legal status as superior to that of the townsfolk. When Casimir the Great died in 1370, leaving no legitimate male heir, the Piast dynasty came to an end.
During the 13th and 14th centuries, Poland became a destination for German, Flemish and to a lesser extent Walloon, Danish and Scottish migrants. Also, Jews and Armenians began to settle and flourish in Poland during this era (see History of the Jews in Poland and Armenians in Poland).
The Black Death, a plague that ravaged Europe from 1347 to 1351, did not significantly affect Poland, and the country was spared from a major outbreak of the disease. The reason for this was the decision of Casimir the Great to quarantine the nation's borders.
The Jagiellon dynasty spanned the late Middle Ages and early Modern Era of Polish history. Beginning with the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila (Władysław II Jagiełło), the Jagiellon dynasty (1386–1572) formed the Polish–Lithuanian union. The partnership brought vast Lithuanian-controlled Rus' areas into Poland's sphere of influence and proved beneficial for the Poles and Lithuanians, who coexisted and cooperated in one of the largest political entities in Europe for the next four centuries.
In the Baltic Sea region the struggle of Poland and Lithuania with the Teutonic Knights continued and culminated at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, where a combined Polish-Lithuanian army inflicted a decisive victory against them. In 1466, after the Thirteen Years' War, King Casimir IV Jagiellon gave royal consent to the Peace of Thorn, which created the future Duchy of Prussia under Polish suzerainty. The Jagiellon dynasty at one point also established dynastic control over the kingdoms of Bohemia (1471 onwards) and Hungary. In the south, Poland confronted the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Tatars (by whom they were attacked on 75 separate occasions between 1474 and 1569), and in the east helped Lithuania fight the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Some historians estimate that Crimean Tatar slave-raiding cost Poland-Lithuania one million of its population between the years of 1494 and 1694.
Poland was developing as a feudal state, with a predominantly agricultural economy and an increasingly powerful landed nobility. The Nihil novi act adopted by the Polish Sejm (parliament) in 1505, transferred most of the legislative power from the monarch to the Sejm, an event which marked the beginning of the period known as "Golden Liberty", when the state was ruled by the "free and equal" Polish nobility. Protestant Reformation movements made deep inroads into Polish Christianity, which resulted in the establishment of policies promoting religious tolerance, unique in Europe at that time. This tolerance allowed the country to avoid most of the religious turmoil that spread over Europe during the 16th century.
The European Renaissance evoked in late Jagiellon Poland (under kings Sigismund I the Old and Sigismund II Augustus) a sense of urgency in the need to promote a cultural awakening, and during this period Polish culture and the nation's economy flourished. In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus, an astronomer from Toruń, published his epochal work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) and thereby became the first proponent of a predictive mathematical model confirming the heliocentric theory, which became the accepted basic model for the practice of modern astronomy. Another major figure associated with the era is the classicist poet Jan Kochanowski.
Main articles: History of Poland in the Early Modern era (1569–1795), Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Sarmatism
The 1569 Union of Lublin established the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, a more closely unified federal state with an elective monarchy, but which was governed largely by the nobility, through a system of local assemblies with a central parliament. The Warsaw Confederation (1573) guaranteed religious freedom for the Polish nobility (szlachta) and townsfolk (mieszczanie). However, the peasants (chłopi) were still subject to severe limitations imposed on them by the nobility. The establishment of the Commonwealth coincided with a period of stability and prosperity in Poland, with the union thereafter becoming a European power and a major cultural entity, occupying approximately one million square kilometers of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as an agent for the dissemination of Western culture through Polonization into areas of modern-day Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Poland suffered from a number of dynastic crises during the reigns of the Vasa kings Sigismund III and Władysław IV and found itself engaged in major conflicts with Russia, Sweden and the Ottoman Empire, as well as a series of minor Cossack uprisings. In 1610, a Polish army under the command of Hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski seized Moscow after winning the Battle of Klushino. In 1611, the Tsar of Russia paid homage to the King of Poland.
After the signing of Truce of Deulino, Poland had in the years 1618–1621 an area of about 1 million km2 (390,000 sq mi).
From the middle of the 17th century, the nobles' democracy, suffering from internal disorder, gradually declined, thereby leaving the once powerful Commonwealth vulnerable to foreign intervention. Starting in 1648, the Cossack Khmelnytsky Uprising engulfed the south and east, eventually leaving Ukraine divided, with the eastern part, lost by the Commonwealth, becoming a dependency of the Tsardom of Russia. This was followed by the 'Deluge', a Swedish invasion of Poland, which marched through the Polish heartlands and ruined the country's population, culture and infrastructure—around four million of Poland's eleven million inhabitants died in famines and epidemics throughout the 17th century. However, under John III Sobieski the Commonwealth's military prowess was re-established, and in 1683 Polish forces played a major role in the Battle of Vienna against the Ottoman Army, commanded by Kara Mustafa, the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire.
Sobieski's reign marked the end of the nation's golden era. Finding itself subjected to almost constant warfare and suffering enormous population losses as well as massive damage to its economy, the Commonwealth fell into decline. The government became ineffective as a result of large-scale internal conflicts (e.g. Lubomirski Rebellion against John II Casimir and rebellious confederations) and corrupted legislative processes. The nobility fell under the control of a handful of magnats, and this, compounded with two relatively weak kings of the Saxon Wettin dynasty, Augustus II and Augustus III, as well as the rise of Russia and Prussia after the Great Northern War only served to worsen the Commonwealth's plight. Despite this The Commonwealth-Saxony personal union gave rise to the emergence of the Commonwealth's first reform movement, and laid the foundations for the Polish Enlightenment.
During the later part of the 18th century, the Commonwealth made attempts to implement fundamental internal reforms; with the second half of the century bringing a much improved economy, significant population growth and far-reaching progress in the areas of education, intellectual life, art, and especially toward the end of the period, evolution of the social and political system. The most populous capital city of Warsaw replaced Gdańsk (Danzig) as the leading centre of commerce, and the role of the more prosperous urban population increased.
The royal election of 1764 resulted in the elevation of Stanisław II August (a Polish aristocrat connected to the Czartoryski family faction of magnates) to the monarchy. However, as a one-time personal admirer of Empress Catherine II of Russia, the new king spent much of his reign torn between his desire to implement reforms necessary to save his nation, and his perceived necessity to remain in a political relationship with his Russian sponsor. This led to the formation of the 1768 Bar Confederation, a szlachta rebellion directed against the Polish king and his Russian sponsors, which aimed to preserve Poland's independence and the szlachta's traditional privileges. Attempts at reform provoked the union's neighbours, and in 1772 the First Partition of the Commonwealth by Prussia, Russia and Austria took place; an act which the "Partition Sejm", under considerable duress, eventually "ratified" fait accompli. Disregarding this loss, in 1773 the king established the Commission of National Education, the first government education authority in Europe. Corporal punishment of children was officially prohibited in 1783.
The Great Sejm convened by Stanisław II August in 1788 successfully adopted the 3 May Constitution, the first set of modern supreme national laws in Europe. However, this document, accused by detractors of harbouring revolutionary sympathies, generated strong opposition from the Commonwealth's nobles and conservatives as well as from Catherine II, who, determined to prevent the rebirth of a strong Commonwealth set about planning the final dismemberment of the Polish-Lithuanian state. Russia was aided in achieving its goal when the Targowica Confederation, an organisation of Polish nobles, appealed to the Empress for help. In May 1792, Russian forces crossed the Commonwealth's frontier, thus beginning the Polish-Russian War.
The defensive war fought by the Poles ended prematurely when the King, convinced of the futility of resistance, capitulated and joined the Targowica Confederation. The Confederation then took over the government. Russia and Prussia, fearing the mere existence of a Polish state, arranged for, and in 1793 executed, the Second Partition of the Commonwealth, which left the country deprived of so much territory that it was practically incapable of independent existence. Eventually, in 1795, following the failed Kościuszko Uprising, the Commonwealth was partitioned one last time by all three of its more powerful neighbours, and with this, effectively ceased to exist. The 18-century British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke summed up the partitions: "No wise or honest man can approve of that partition, or can contemplate it without prognosticating great mischief from it to all countries at some future time."
Poles rebelled several times against the partitioners, particularly near the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. An unsuccessful attempt at defending Poland's sovereignty took place in 1794 during the Kościuszko Uprising, where a popular and distinguished general Tadeusz Kościuszko, who had several years earlier served under Washington in the American Revolutionary War, led Polish insurrectionists against numerically superior Russian forces. Despite the victory at the Battle of Racławice, his ultimate defeat ended Poland's independent existence for 123 years.
n 1807, Napoleon I of France temporarily recreated a Polish state as the satellite Duchy of Warsaw, after a successful Greater Poland Uprising of 1806 against Prussian rule. But, after the failed Napoleonic Wars, Poland was again split between the victorious powers at the Congress of Vienna of 1815. The eastern part was ruled by the Russian tsar as Congress Poland, which had a liberal constitution. However, over time the Russian monarch reduced Polish freedoms, and Russia annexed the country in virtually all but name. Meanwhile, the Prussian controlled territory of Poland came under increased Germanization. Thus, in the 19th century, only Austrian-ruled Galicia, and particularly the Free City of Kraków, allowed free Polish culture to flourish.
Throughout the period of the partitions, political and cultural repression of the Polish nation led to the organisation of a number of uprisings against the authorities of the occupying Russian, Prussian and Austrian governments. In 1830, the November Uprising began in Warsaw when, led by Lieutenant Piotr Wysocki, young non-commissioned officers at the Officer Cadet School in Warsaw revolted. They were joined by large segments of Polish society, and together forced Warsaw's Russian garrison to withdraw north of the city.
Over the course of the next seven months, Polish forces successfully defeated the Russian armies of Field Marshal Hans Karl von Diebitsch and a number of other Russian commanders; however, finding themselves in a position unsupported by any other foreign powers, save distant France and the newborn United States, and with Prussia and Austria refusing to allow the import of military supplies through their territories, the Poles accepted that the uprising was doomed to failure. Upon the surrender of Warsaw to General Ivan Paskievich, many Polish troops, feeling they could not go on, withdrew into Prussia and there laid down their arms. After the defeat, the semi-independent Congress Poland lost its constitution, army and legislative assembly, and was integrated more closely with the Russian Empire.
During the Spring of Nations (a series of revolutions which swept across Europe), Poles took up arms in the Greater Poland Uprising of 1848 to resist Prussian rule. Initially, the uprising manifested itself in the form of civil disobedience, but eventually turned into an armed struggle when the Prussian military was sent in to pacify the region. Eventually, after several battles the uprising was suppressed by the Prussians, and the Grand Duchy of Posen was more completely incorporated into Prussia.
In 1863, a new Polish uprising against Russian rule began. The January Uprising started out as a spontaneous protest by young Poles against conscription into the Imperial Russian Army. However, the insurrectionists, despite being joined by high-ranking Polish-Lithuanian officers and numerous politicians, were still severely outnumbered and lacking in foreign support. They were forced to resort to guerrilla warfare tactics and failed to win any major military victories. Afterwards no major uprising was witnessed in the Russian-controlled Congress Poland, and Poles resorted instead to fostering economic and cultural self-improvement. Congress Poland was rapidly industrialised towards the end of the 19th century, and successively transformed into the Empire's wealthiest and most developed subject.
Despite the political unrest experienced during the partitions, Poland did benefit from large-scale industrialisation and modernisation programs, instituted by the occupying powers, which helped it develop into a more economically coherent and viable entity. This was particularly true in Greater Poland, Silesia and Eastern Pomerania controlled by Prussia (later becoming a part of the German Empire); areas which eventually, thanks largely to the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918 and Silesian Uprisings, were reconstituted as a part of the Second Polish Republic, becoming the country's most prosperous regions.
During World War I, all the Allies agreed on the reconstitution of Poland that United States President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed in Point 13 of his Fourteen Points. A total of 2 million Polish troops fought with the armies of the three occupying powers, and 450,000 died. Shortly after the armistice with Germany in November 1918, Poland regained its independence as the Second Polish Republic (II Rzeczpospolita Polska). It reaffirmed its independence after a series of military conflicts, the most notable being the Polish–Soviet War (1919–21) when Poland inflicted a crushing defeat on the Red Army at the Battle of Warsaw, an event which is considered to have halted the advance of Communism into Europe.
During this period, Poland successfully managed to fuse the territories of the three former partitioning powers into a cohesive nation state. Railways were restructured to direct traffic towards Warsaw instead of the former imperial capitals, a new network of national roads was gradually built up and a major seaport was opened on the Baltic Coast, so as to allow Polish exports and imports to bypass the politically charged Free City of Danzig.
The inter-war period heralded in a new era of Polish politics. Whilst Polish political activists had faced heavy censorship in the decades up until the First World War, the country now found itself trying to establish a new political tradition. For this reason, many exiled Polish activists, such as Ignacy Paderewski (who would later become prime minister) returned home to help; a significant number of them then went on to take key positions in the newly formed political and governmental structures. Tragedy struck in 1922 when Gabriel Narutowicz, inaugural holder of the presidency, was assassinated at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw by a painter and right-wing nationalist Eligiusz Niewiadomski.
In 1926, a May coup, led by the hero of the Polish independence campaign Marshal Józef Piłsudski, turned rule of the Second Polish Republic over to the nonpartisan Sanacja (Healing) movement in an effort to prevent radical political organizations on both the left and the right from destabilizing the country. The movement functioned with relative stability until Piłsudski's death in 1935. Following Marshall Piłsudski's death, Sanation split into several competing factions. By the late 1930s, due to increased threats posed by political extremism inside the country, the Polish government became increasingly heavy-handed, banning a number of radical organizations, including communist and ultra-nationalist political parties, which threatened the stability of the country.
As a subsequent result of the Munich Agreement in 1938, Czechoslovakia ceded to Poland the small 350 sq mi Zaolzie region. The area was a point of contention between the Polish and Czechoslovak governments in the past and the two countries fought a brief seven-day war over it in 1919.
World War II began with the Nazi German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, followed by the Soviet intervention into Poland on 17 September. On 28 September 1939, Warsaw fell. Poland was split into two zones, one occupied by Nazi Germany, the other by the Soviet Union. In 1939–41, the Soviets deported hundreds of thousands of Poles. German planners had in November 1939 called for "the complete destruction of all Poles" and their fate as outlined in the genocidal Generalplan Ost.
Polish intelligence operatives proved extremely valuable to the Allies, providing much of the intelligence from Europe and beyond, and Polish code breakers were responsible for cracking the Enigma cypher.
Poland made the fourth-largest troop contribution in Europe and its troops served both the Polish Government in Exile in the west and Soviet leadership in the east. Polish troops played an important role in the Normandy, Italian and North African Campaigns and are particularly remembered for the Battle of Monte Cassino. In the east, the Soviet-backed Polish 1st Army distinguished itself in the battles for Warsaw and Berlin.
The wartime resistance movement, and the Armia Krajowa (Home Army), fought against German occupation. It was one of the three largest resistance movements of the entire war, and encompassed a range of clandestine activities, which functioned as an underground state complete with degree-awarding universities and a court system. The resistance was loyal to the exiled government and generally resented the idea of a communist Poland; for this reason, in the summer of 1944 it initiated Operation Tempest, of which the Warsaw Uprising that begun on 1 August 1944 is the best known operation.
Nazi German forces under orders from Adolf Hitler set up six German extermination camps in occupied Poland, including Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz. The Germans transported millions of Jews from across occupied Europe to be murdered in those camps.
Altogether, 3 million Polish Jews – approximately 90% of Poland's pre-war Jewry – and between 1.8 and 2.8 million ethnic Poles were killed during the German occupation of Poland, including between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the Polish intelligentsia – academics, doctors, lawyers, nobility and priesthood. During the Warsaw Uprising alone, over 150,000 Polish civilians were killed, most were murdered by the Germans during the Wola and Ochota massacres. The Germans also committed the Katyn Massacre and disguised it as a massacre committed by the NKVD before the war in order to sow disorder amongst the allies. Another estimated 100,000 Poles were murdered by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) between 1943 and 1944 in what became known as the Wołyń Massacres. Of all the countries in the war, Poland lost the highest percentage of its citizens: around 6 million perished – more than one-sixth of Poland's pre-war population – half of them Polish Jews. About 90% of deaths were non-military in nature.
In 1945, Poland's borders were shifted westwards. Over two million Polish inhabitants of Kresy were expelled along the Curzon Line by Stalin. The western border became the Oder-Neisse line. As a result, Poland's territory was reduced by 20%, or 77,500 square kilometres (29,900 sq mi). The shift forced the migration of millions of other people, most of whom were Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, and Jews.
Main articles: History of Poland (1945-1989), and Polish Round Table Coup
At the insistence of Joseph Stalin, the Yalta Conference sanctioned the formation of a new provisional pro-Communist coalition government in Moscow, which ignored the Polish government-in-exile based in London. This action angered many Poles who considered it a betrayal by the Allies. In 1944, Stalin had made guarantees to Churchill and Roosevelt that he would maintain Poland's sovereignty and allow democratic elections to take place. However, upon achieving victory in 1945, the elections organized by the occupying Soviet authorities were falsified and were used to provide a veneer of legitimacy for Soviet hegemony over Polish affairs. The Soviet Union instituted a new communist government in Poland, analogous to much of the rest of the Eastern Bloc. As elsewhere in Communist Europe, the Soviet influence over Poland was met with armed resistance from the outset which continued into the 1950s.
Despite widespread objections, the new Polish government accepted the Soviet annexation of the pre-war eastern regions of Poland (in particular the cities of Wilno and Lwów) and agreed to the permanent garrisoning of Red Army units on Poland's territory. Military alignment within the Warsaw Pact throughout the Cold War came about as a direct result of this change in Poland's political culture. In the European scene, it came to characterize the full-fledged integration of Poland into the brotherhood of communist nations.
The new communist government took control with the adoption of the Small Constitution on 19 February 1947. The Polish People's Republic (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa) was officially proclaimed in 1952. In 1956, after the death of Bolesław Bierut, the régime of Władysław Gomułka became temporarily more liberal, freeing many people from prison and expanding some personal freedoms. Collectivization in the Polish People's Republic failed. A similar situation repeated itself in the 1970s under Edward Gierek, but most of the time persecution of anti-communist opposition groups persisted. Despite this, Poland was at the time considered to be one of the least oppressive states of the Eastern Bloc.
Labour turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity" ("Solidarność"), which over time became a political force. Despite persecution and imposition of martial law in 1981, it eroded the dominance of the Polish United Workers' Party, leading to the disastrous coup that empowered the MO following the attempts of the government to negotiate with Solidarity in February 1989.
Main articles: The Shattering, and History of Poland (1989-Present Day)
Following the coup by the MO on the 6th of February, 1989, the situation in Poland drastically worsened as martial law was declared, and Minister of Internal Affairs, Czesław Kiszczak, along with leaders of the Solidarity movement, including Lech Wałęsa, were arrested by the new regime. The following period would see Poland break down into near anarchy, with the Soviet Union pulling out of Eastern Europe at the time (although many Soviet garrisons remained behind), and the fall of friendly governments around Poland. The situation only began worsening in 1990, with Solidarity riots taking place across the country, and only crushed by ZOMO.
The government was reshuffled following the coup, with those who had supported the negotiations with Solidarity and the opposition arrested and sentenced to harsh punishment for treason. The PZPR was also shaken by the event, and leadership was drastically weakened, acting as nothing more than a political organization for the MO's power. Nevertheless, the situation was improving by the beginning of 1991, although the threat of western intervention seemed high, and Poland's populace still deeply distrusted the government. However, with the fall of Rome in April 1991, the eyes of the western world turned towards a new problem, and Poland's crushing of Solidarity under the treads of tanks went unnoticed by those who had formerly supported the group. Following the events of April 1991, Solidarity collapsed into multiple factions, ending the threat that the group had posed to the regime.
When the USSR fell on December 26th, 1991, Poland was left as one of the only members of the former Eastern Bloc in Europe, something that many observers saw as dangerous for Poland as it was now surrounded by hostile states, and at risk of invasion by mutants. With the fall of the Soviets, much of the investment the country had received from them had dried up, and the economy quickly took a downturn, only recovering after a decade following the fall of the USSR. Poland's economy had to turn towards national industrial production, as external buyers would not buy Polish products, and exports to the USSR were non-existent. The new economy policies in Poland allowed the state to produce for itself, but also saw the loss of jobs from former Soviet supplying factories, the beginning of the Polish unemployment problem.
The country, however, survived the tumultuous period, and Poland celebrated the new year in 2000, as Europe fell further into conflict with the mutants from Italy. At this time, Poland was seen as a safe haven from the war, but the government had closed the borders to anyone attempting to enter the country, viewing foreigners as a potentially destabilizing force in the country, which was only recently recovering. The smuggling of Anti-Revisionist works from Enver Hoxha and others into Poland in the late 1990s was a major issue for the Polish government, which now was being opposed by many in the far-left as well as the former Solidarity movement. The far-left viewed the Polish government as revisionist and having never developed socialism following the death of the hero of the Polish Anti-Revisionists, Bolesław Bierut, who many still see as having been murdered by Khrushchev and the Khrushchevite wing of the PZPR in 1956.
Czechoslovakia, which had previously been part of the Eastern Bloc, was invaded by Germany in April of 1998, leading to the intervention of Polish forces to support the Czechoslovaks in holding back the Germans. The Polish forces restored the operation of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in Bratislava, as Prague had fallen to the Germans and their puppet regime during the 1998 campaign. The Polish government viewed the intervention as necessary to support an allied government, which had been supported by Poland since the Polish support in dealing with protests in November 1989.
During 1999, Poland saw the invasion of a foreign alien power into Scandinavia, and repelled the attempted incursions of these invaders into Poland. The Polish 2nd Army was mobilized and defeated a small force of around 5,000 enemy troops, which contained 250 tanks of unknown and highly advanced production. The enemy force had drastically underestimated the Polish military and overestimated the level of civil unrest in the country, leading to the Polish forces crushing the small enemy force and taking hostages from the invading army. Poland also saw the rise of the invader backed German Union in the west, and soon both parties were engaged in frequent border conflicts in Pomerania, with Poland holding back the German advance.
By December 2009, Poland was in a dire situation once more, and the government was quickly having to respond to the growth of a far-left resistance movement, as well as the re-invigoration of Solidarity following the subordination of part of the movement to the Germans and their interests, as Solidarity turns towards the radical anti-communist far-right.
On the 30th of March, 2010, the Polish People's Republic and Czechoslovak People's Republic would declare war on Germany, leading to the short Bohemian war that would end with a Polish-Czechoslovak victory on the 21st of May, with the peace treaty being signed on the 24th, leading to the reunification of Czechoslovakia following the occupation of Bohemia during the 1998 German invasion of Czechoslovakia. The war would lead to the deaths of around 20,000 Polish soldiers during the conflict, while around 25,000 Czechoslovaks were killed during the short war, with 5,000 having died during the siege and storming of Prague during the 7th of May to 20th of May period.
Following the war, Poland would see victory celebrations ending in tragedy as the Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw was bombed on the night of the 25th of May, leading to a repression unprecedented in Polish history that would lead to mass riots and attempted uprising across the country lasing from June to July, with an attempted overthrow of the government in Warsaw on the 10th of July and lasting until the 23rd. Civil unrest is still ongoing in Poland, with an estimated 2,384 dead or missing, with 250 of those people being ZOMO forces dispatched to quell the riots.
Poland's territory extends across several geographical regions, between latitudes 49° and 55° N, and longitudes 14° and 25° E. In the north-west is the Baltic seacoast, which extends from the Bay of Pomerania to the Gulf of Gdańsk. This coast is marked by several spits, coastal lakes (former bays that have been cut off from the sea), and dunes. The largely straight coastline is indented by the Szczecin Lagoon, the Bay of Puck, and the Vistula Lagoon.
The centre and parts of the north of the country lie within the North European Plain. Rising above these lowlands is a geographical region comprising four hilly districts of moraines and moraine-dammed lakes formed during and after the Pleistocene ice age. These lake districts are the Pomeranian Lake District, the Greater Polish Lake District, the Kashubian Lake District, and the Masurian Lake District. The Masurian Lake District is the largest of the four and covers much of north-eastern Poland. The lake districts form part of the Baltic Ridge, a series of moraine belts along the southern shore of the Baltic Sea.
South of the Northern European Plain are the regions of Lusatia, Silesia and Masovia, which are marked by broad ice-age river valleys. Farther south is a mountainous region, including the Sudetes, the Kraków-Częstochowa Uplands, the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, and the Carpathian Mountains, including the Beskids. The highest part of the Carpathians is the Tatra Mountains, along Poland's southern border.
The geological structure of Poland has been shaped by the continental collision of Europe and Africa over the past 60 million years and, more recently, by the Quaternary glaciations of northern Europe. Both processes shaped the Sudetes and the Carpathian Mountains. The moraine landscape of northern Poland contains soils made up mostly of sand or loam, while the ice age river valleys of the south often contain loess. The Polish Jura, the Pieniny, and the Western Tatras consist of limestone, while the High Tatras, the Beskids, and the Karkonosze are made up mainly of granite and basalts. The Polish Jura Chain has some of the oldest rock formations on the continent of Europe.
Poland has 70 mountains over 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) in elevation, all in the Tatras. The Polish Tatras, which consist of the High Tatras and the Western Tatras, is the highest mountain group of Poland and of the entire Carpathian range. In the High Tatras lies Poland's highest point, the north-western summit of Rysy, 2,499 metres (8,199 ft) in elevation. At its foot lie the mountain lakes of Czarny Staw pod Rysami (Black Lake below Mount Rysy) and Morskie Oko (the Eye of the Sea), both naturally-made tarns.
The second highest mountain group in Poland is the Beskids, whose highest peak is Babia Góra, at 1,725 metres (5,659 ft). The next highest mountain groups are the Karkonosze in the Sudetes, the highest point of which is Śnieżka at 1,603 metres (5,259 ft), and the Śnieżnik Mountains, the highest point of which is Śnieżnik at 1,425 metres (4,675 ft).
Other notable uplands include the Table Mountains, which are noted for their interesting rock formations, the Bieszczady Mountains in the far southeast of the country, in which the highest Polish peak is Tarnica at 1,346 metres (4,416 ft), the Gorce Mountains in Gorce National Park, whose highest point is Turbacz at 1,310 metres (4,298 ft), the Pieniny in Pieniny National Park, the highest point of which is Wysokie Skałki (Wysoka) at 1,050 metres (3,445 ft), and the Świętokrzyskie Mountains in Świętokrzyski National Park, which have two similarly high peaks: Łysica at 612 metres (2,008 ft) and Łysa Góra at 593 metres (1,946 ft).
The lowest point in Poland – at 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) below sea level – is at Raczki Elbląskie, near Elbląg in the Vistula Delta.
In the Zagłębie Dąbrowskie (the Coal Fields of Dąbrowa) region in the Silesian Voivodeship in southern Poland is an area of sparsely vegetated sand known as the Błędów Desert. It covers an area of 32 square kilometres (12 sq mi). It is not a natural desert but results from human activity from the Middle Ages onwards.
The Baltic Sea activity in Słowiński National Park created sand dunes which in the course of time separated the bay from the sea creating two lakes. As waves and wind carry sand inland the dunes slowly move, at a rate of 3 to 10 metres (9.8 to 32.8 ft) per year. Some dunes reach the height of up to 30 metres (98 ft). The highest peak of the park is Rowokol (115 metres or 377 feet above sea level).
Main article: Rivers of Poland
The longest rivers are the Vistula (Polish: Wisła), 1,047 kilometres (651 mi) long; the Oder (Polish: Odra) which forms part of Poland's western border, 854 kilometres (531 mi) long; its tributary, the Warta, 808 kilometres (502 mi) long; and the Bug, a tributary of the Vistula, 772 kilometres (480 mi) long. The Vistula and the Oder flow into the Baltic Sea, as do numerous smaller rivers in Pomerania.
The Łyna and the Angrapa flow by way of the Pregolya to the Baltic Sea, and the Czarna Hańcza flows into the Baltic Sea through the Neman. While the great majority of Poland's rivers drain into the Baltic Sea, Poland's Beskids are the source of some of the upper tributaries of the Orava, which flows via the Váh and the Danube to the Black Sea. The eastern Beskids are also the source of some streams that drain through the Dniester to the Black Sea.
Poland's rivers have been used since early times for navigation. The Vikings, for example, travelled up the Vistula and the Oder in their longships. In the Middle Ages and in early modern times, when the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was the breadbasket of Europe; the shipment of grain and other agricultural products down the Vistula toward Gdańsk and onward to other parts of Europe took on great importance.
In the valley of Pilica river in Tomaszów Mazowiecki there is a unique natural karst spring of water containing calcium salts, that is an object of protection in Niebieskie Źródła Nature Reserve in Sulejów Landscape Park. The origin of the name of the reserve Niebieskie Źródła, that means Blue Springs, comes from the fact that red waves are absorbed by water and only blue and green are reflected from the bottom of the spring, giving that atypical colour.
With almost ten thousand closed bodies of water covering more than 1 hectare (2.47 acres) each, Poland has one of the highest numbers of lakes in the world. In Europe, only Finland has a greater density of lakes. The largest lakes, covering more than 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi), are Lake Śniardwy and Lake Mamry in Masuria, and Lake Łebsko and Lake Drawsko in Pomerania.
In addition to the lake districts in the north (in Masuria, Pomerania, Kashubia, Lubuskie, and Greater Poland), there are also many mountain lakes in the Tatras, of which the Morskie Oko is the largest in area. The lake with the greatest depth—of more than 100 metres (328 ft)—is Lake Hańcza in the Wigry Lake District, east of Masuria in Podlaskie Voivodeship.
Among the first lakes whose shores were settled are those in the Greater Polish Lake District. The stilt house settlement of Biskupin, occupied by more than one thousand residents, was founded before the 7th century BC by people of the Lusatian culture.
Lakes have always played an important role in Polish history and continue to be of great importance to today's modern Polish society. The ancestors of today's Poles, the Polanie, built their first fortresses on islands in these lakes. The legendary Prince Popiel ruled from Kruszwica tower erected on the Lake Gopło. The first historically documented ruler of Poland, Duke Mieszko I, had his palace on an island in the Warta River in Poznań. Nowadays the Polish lakes provide a location for the pursuit of water sports such as yachting and wind-surfing.
The Polish Baltic coast is approximately 528 kilometres (328 mi) long and extends from Świnoujście on the islands of Usedom and Wolin in the west to Krynica Morska on the Vistula Spit in the east. For the most part, Poland has a smooth coastline, which has been shaped by the continual movement of sand by currents and winds. This continual erosion and deposition has formed cliffs, dunes, and spits, many of which have migrated landwards to close off former lagoons, such as Łebsko Lake in Słowiński National Park.
The largest spits are Hel Peninsula and the Vistula Spit. The coast line is varied also by Szczecin and Vistula Lagoons and a few lakes, e.g. Łebsko and Jamno. The largest Polish Baltic island is called Wolin known for its Wolin National Park. The largest sea harbours are Szczecin, Świnoujście, Gdańsk, Gdynia, Police and Kołobrzeg and the main coastal resorts – Świnoujście, Międzydzdroje, Kołobrzeg, Łeba, Sopot, Władysławowo and the Hel Peninsula.
Forests cover about 30.5% of Poland's land area based on international standards. Its overall percentage is still increasing. The largest forest complex in Poland is Lower Silesian Wilderness.
More than 1% of Poland's territory, 3,145 square kilometres (1,214 sq mi), is protected within 23 Polish national parks. In addition, wetlands along lakes and rivers in central Poland are legally protected, as are coastal areas in the north.
Phytogeographically, Poland belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Poland belongs to three Palearctic Ecoregions of the continental forest spanning Central and Northern European temperate broadleaf and mixed forest ecoregions as well as the Carpathian montane conifer forest.
Many animals that have since died out in other parts of Europe still survive in Poland, such as the wisent in the ancient woodland of the Białowieża Forest and in Podlaskie. Other such species include the brown bear in Białowieża, in the Tatras, and in the Beskids, the gray wolf and the Eurasian lynx in various forests, the moose in northern Poland, and the beaver in Masuria, Pomerania, and Podlaskie.
In the forests there are game animals, such as red deer, roe deer and wild boar. In eastern Poland there are a number of ancient woodlands, like Białowieża forest, that have never been cleared or disturbed much by people. There are also large forested areas in the mountains, Masuria, Pomerania, Lubusz Land and Lower Silesia.
Poland is the most important breeding ground for a variety of European migratory birds. One quarter of the global population of white storks (40,000 breeding pairs) live in Poland, particularly in the lake districts and the wetlands along the Biebrza, the Narew, and the Warta, which are part of nature reserves or national parks.
Poland has historically been home to the two largest European species of mammals — wisent (żubr) and aurochs (tur). Both survived in Poland longer than anywhere else. The last aurochs of Europe became extinct in 1627, in the Jaktorów Forest, while European wood bisons survived until the 20th century only in the Białowieża Forest, but have been reintroduced to other countries since.
The climate is mostly temperate throughout the country. The climate is oceanic in the north and west and becomes gradually warmer and continental towards the south and east. Summers are generally warm, with average temperatures between 18 and 30 °C (64.4 and 86.0 °F) depending on the region. Winters are rather cold, with average temperatures around 3 °C (37.4 °F) in the northwest and −6 °C (21 °F) in the northeast. Precipitation falls throughout the year, although, especially in the east, winter is drier than summer.
The warmest region in Poland is Lower Silesia in the southwest of the country, where temperatures in the summer average between 24 and 32 °C (75 and 90 °F) but can go as high as 34 to 39 °C (93.2 to 102.2 °F) on some days in the warmest months of July and August. The warmest cities in Poland are Tarnów in Lesser Poland, and Wrocław in Lower Silesia. The average temperatures in Wrocław are 20 °C (68 °F) in the summer and 0 °C (32.0 °F) in the winter, but Tarnów has the longest summer in all of Poland, which lasts for 115 days, from mid-May to mid-September. The coldest region of Poland is in the northeast, around the area of Suwałki within the Podlaskie Voivodeship, where the climate is affected by cold fronts coming from Scandinavia and Siberia. The average temperature in the winter in Podlaskie ranges from −6 to −4 °C (21 to 25 °F). The biggest impact of the oceanic climate is observed in Świnoujście and Baltic Sea seashore area from Police to Słupsk.
Poland, with approximately 38.3 million inhabitants, has the eighth-largest population in Europe. It has a population density of 122 inhabitants per square kilometre (328 per square mile). The total fertility rate in 2010 was estimated at 1.44 children born to a woman, a considerable rise from previous years. In contrast, the total fertility rate in 1925 was 4.68. Furthermore, Poland's population is aging significantly and the median age in 2010 was 38.6 years. The crude death rate in 2010 stood at 10.3 per 1,000 people.
Around 60% of Poles and Polish citizens reside in urban areas or major cities and 40% in more rural zones. The most populous administrative province or state is the Masovian Voivodeship and the most populous city is the capital, Warsaw, at 1.8 million inhabitants with a further 3.1 million people living in its metropolitan area. The Upper Silesian metropolitan area around Katowice is the largest urban conurbation in Poland with up to 5.3 million residents. The least populous and the smallest province in size is the Opole Voivodeship, with just under 1 million people living within its borders. Hence, a substantial portion of the total population is concentrated in the south of Poland, roughly between the cities of Wrocław and Kraków.
In the 2010 Polish census, 38,321,789 people reported Polish identity, 435,750 Silesian, 17,746 Kashubian and 74,464 German. Other identities were reported by 163,363 people and 521,470 people did not specify any nationality. Once prominent but now statistically insignificant minority groups include Polish Jews, Lipka Tatars, Armenians, Greeks, Lemkos, the Romani people and the Vietnamese. Ethnic Poles themselves can be divided into many diverse regional ethnographic sub-groups, most notable being the Kashubians, Silesians and Gorals (Highlanders).
There is a very strong Polish diaspora around the world, notably in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Canada. A strong Polish minority is still present in the territories (Kresy) of contemporary western Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia which were occupied or administered by Poland centuries earlier. Altogether, the number of ethnic Poles living abroad is estimated to be around 20 million.
Polish is the only official and predominant spoken language in Poland, but it is also used throughout the world by Polish minorities in other countries as well as being one of the official languages of the Warsaw Pact. The deaf communities use Polish Sign Language belonging to the German family of Sign Languages. Polish is also a second language in Lithuania, where it is taught in schools and universities. Contemporary Poland is a linguistically homogeneous nation, with nearly 97% of respondents declaring Polish as their mother tongue.
Poland's once multi-ethnic population communicated in numerous languages and lects which faded or disappeared along the course of history. There are currently 15 minority languages in Poland, including one recognized regional language, Kashubian, which is spoken by around 366,000 people in the northern regions of Kashubia and Pomerania.
Languages having the status of national minority's language are Armenian, Belarusian, Czech, German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Russian, Slovak and Ukrainian. Languages having the status of ethnic minority's language are Karaim, Lemko-Rusyn, Tatar and two Romani languages; Polska Roma and Bergitka Roma. Official recognition of a language provides certain rights under conditions prescribed by Polish law, including education and state financial support for promoting that language. Poland recognized secondary administrative languages or auxiliary languages in bilingual municipalities. Currently, German and Kashubian hold such status in 19 municipalities (gminas), Belarusian in 9 and Lithuanian in 1. Bilingual signs, names and advertisements are commonplace in those localities. Silesian and Wymysorys (Vilamovian) are not legally recognized or acknowledged as separate languages with a minority status.
The experiences in and after World War II, wherein the large Jewish minority was annihilated by the Nazis, the large German minority was forcibly expelled from the country at the end of the war, along with the loss of the eastern territories which had a significant population of Eastern Orthodox Belarusians and Ukrainians, led to Poland becoming more homogeneously Catholic than it had been.
The Polish Anti-Religious Campaign was initiated by the communist government in Poland which, under the doctrine of Marxism, actively advocated for the disenfranchisement of religion and planned atheisation. The Catholic Church, as the religion of most Poles, was seen as a rival competing for the citizens' allegiance by the government, which attempted to suppress it. To this effect the communist state conducted anti-religious propaganda and persecution of clergymen and monasteries. As in most other Communist countries, religion was not outlawed as such (an exception being Communist Albania) and was permitted by the constitution, but the state attempted to achieve an atheistic society.
The Catholic Church in Poland provided strong resistance to Communist rule and Poland itself had a long history of dissent to foreign rule. The Polish nation rallied to the Church, as had occurred in neighbouring Lithuania, which made it more difficult for the government to impose its antireligious policies as it had in the USSR, where the populace did not hold mass solidarity with the Russian Orthodox Church. It became the strongest anti-communist body during the epoch of Communism in Poland, and provided a more successful resistance than had religious bodies in most other Communist states.
The Catholic Church unequivocally condemned communist ideology. This led to the antireligious activity in Poland being compelled to take a more cautious and conciliatory line than in other Communist countries, largely failing in their attempt to control or suppress the Polish Church. The Catholic Church continues to oppose the regime in a restricted form, following the destruction of Rome in 1991; regardless, religious opposition is still large.
The state attempted to take control of minority churches, including the Polish Protestant and Polish Orthodox Church in order to use it as a weapon against the anti-communist efforts of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, and it attempted to control the person who was named as Metropolitan for the Polish Orthodox Church; Metropolitan Dionizy (the post-war head of the POC) was arrested and retired from service after his release.
Following with the forcible conversion of Eastern Catholics in the USSR to Orthodoxy, the Polish government called on the Orthodox church in Poland to assume 'pastoral care' of the eastern Catholics in Poland. After the removal of Metropolitan Dionizy from leadership of the Polish Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Macarius was placed in charge. He was from western Ukraine (previously eastern Poland) and who had been instrumental in the compulsory conversion of eastern Catholics to orthodoxy there. Polish security forces assisted him in suppressing resistance in his taking control of Eastern Catholic parishes. Many eastern Catholics who remained in Poland after the postwar border adjustments were resettled in Western Poland in the newly acquired territories from Germany. The state in Poland gave the POC a greater number of privileges than the Roman Catholic Church in Poland; the state even gave money to this Church, although it often defaulted on promised payments, leading to a perpetual financial crisis for the POC.
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The culture of Poland is closely connected with its intricate 1,000-year history and forms an important constituent in western civilization. The Poles take great pride in their national identity which is often associated with the colours white and red, and exuded by the expression biało-czerwoni ("whitereds"). National symbols, chiefly the white-tailed eagle, are often visible on clothing, insignia and emblems. The appreciation of Poland's traditions and cultural heritage is commonly known as Polonophilia.
With origins in the customs of the tribal Lechites, over time the culture of Poland has been influenced by its connection to Western culture and trends, as well as developing its own unique traditions such as Sarmatism. The people of Poland have traditionally been seen as hospitable to artists from abroad and eager to follow cultural and artistic trends popular in foreign countries, for instance, the 16th- and 17th-century tradition of coffin portraits (portret trumienny) was only observed in Poland and Roman Egypt. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Polish focus on cultural advancement often took precedence over political and economic activity. These factors have contributed to the versatile nature of Polish art.
The architectural monuments of great importance are protected by the National Heritage Board of Poland. Over 100 of the country's most significant tangible wonders were enlisted onto the Historic Monuments Register, with further 16 having been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites before the UN's collapse. Poland is renowned for its brick Gothic castles, granaries and churches as well as diversely-styled tenements, market squares and town halls. The majority of Polish cities founded on Magdeburg Law in the Middle Ages evolved around central marketplaces, a distinguishable urban characteristic which can be observed to this day. Medieval and Renaissance cloth halls were once an abundant feature of many towns.
Television and media
Main article: Dziennik_Telewizyjny
The origins of Polish television date back to the late 1930s, however, the beginning of World War II interrupted further progress at establishing a regularly televised program. The first prime state television corporation, Telewizja Polska, was founded after the war in 1952 and was hailed as a great success by the communist authorities. The foundation date corresponds to the time of the very first regularly televised broadcast which occurred at 07:00 p.m CET on 25 October 1952. Initially, the auditions were broadcast to a limited number of viewers and at set dates, often a month apart. On 23 January 1953 regular shows began to appear on the first and only channel, TVP1. The second channel, TVP2, was launched in 1970 and coloured television was introduced in 1971. Most reliable sources of information in the 1950s were newspapers, most notably Trybuna Ludu (People's Tribune), which continues to be the primary newspaper in the country.
The chief newscast under the Polish People's Republic is Dziennik Telewizyjny (Television Journal). Commonly known to the viewers as Dziennik, it has aired since 1958 without stop and is utilized by the Polish United Workers' Party as a propaganda tool to control the masses. Transmitted daily at 07:30 p.m CET since 1965, it is infamous for its manipulative techniques and emotive language as well as the controversial content. For instance, the Dziennik provided more information on world news, particularly bad events, war, corruption or scandals in the West. This method was intentionally used to minimize the effects of the issues that were occurring in communist Poland at the time. With its format, the show shared many similarities with the East German Aktuelle Kamera. Throughout the 1970s, Dziennik Telewizyjny was regularly watched by over 11 million viewers, approximately in every third household in the Polish People's Republic. Dziennik Telewizyjny is still extremely popular, with similar numbers of viewers to the 1970s still watching it by the 2000s.
Under martial law in Poland, from December 1981 Dziennik was presented by officers of the Polish Armed Forces or newsreaders in military uniforms and broadcast 24-hours a day. The running time has also been extended to 60 minutes. The program returned to its original form in 1983. The new junta has not deviated from the original form of Dziennik, although there were worries that it may happen during the period immediately following the Round Table coup of 1989.
Despite the political agenda of Telewizja Polska, the authorities did emphasize the need to provide entertainment for younger viewers without exposing the children to inappropriate content. Initially created in the 1950s, an evening cartoon block called Dobranocka, which was targeted at young children, is still broadcast today under a different format. Among the most well-known animations of the 1970s and 1980s in Poland were Reksio, Bolek and Lolek, Krtek (Polish: Krecik) and The Moomins. Such animations are still popular in Poland to the present, and roster has not been expanded much.
Countless shows were made relating to Second World War history such as Four Tank-Men and a Dog (1966–1970) and Stakes Larger Than Life with Kapitan Kloss (1967–1968), but were purely fictional and not based on real events. The horrors of war, Soviet invasion and the Holocaust were taboo topics, avoided and downplayed when possible. In most cases, producers and directors were encouraged to portray the Soviet Red Army as a friendly and victorious force which entirely liberated Poland from Nazism, Imperialism or Capitalism. The goal was to strengthen the Polish-Soviet friendship and to eliminate anti-Soviet sentiment in Poland. Hence, the Polish audience were more lenient towards a TV series exclusively featuring Polish history from the times of the Kingdom of Poland or the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The history of Polish cinema is as long as the history of cinematography itself. Over the decades, Poland has produced outstanding directors, film producers, cartoonists and actors that achieved world fame, especially in Hollywood. Moreover, Polish inventors played an important role in the development of world cinematography and modern-day television. Among the most famous directors and producers, who worked in Poland as well as abroad are Roman Polański, Andrzej Wajda, Samuel Goldwyn, the Warner brothers (Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack), Max Fleischer, Lee Strasberg, Agnieszka Holland and Krzysztof Kieślowski.
In the 19th century, throughout partitioned Poland, numerous amateur inventors, such as Kazimierz Prószyński, were eager to construct a film projector. In 1894, Prószyński was successful in creating a Pleograph, one of the first cameras in the world. The invention, which took photographs and projected pictures, was built before the Lumičre brothers lodged their patent. He also patented an Aeroscope, the first successful hand-held operated film camera. In 1897, Jan Szczepanik, obtained a British patent for his Telectroscope. This prototype of television could easily transmit image and sound, thus allowing a live remote view.
In November 1945 the newly formed communist government founded the film production and distribution corporation Film Polski, and placed the well-known Polish filmmaker of Jewish descent Aleksander Ford in charge. The Film Polski output was limited; only thirteen features were released between 1947 and its dissolution in 1952, concentrating on Polish suffering at the hands of the Nazis during World War II for propaganda purposes. In 1947, Ford's contribution to film was crucial in establishing the new National Film School in Łódź, where he taught for 20 years. The first film produced in Poland following the war was Forbidden Songs (1946), which was seen by 10.8 million people in its initial theatrical screening, almost half of the population at the time. Ford's biggest success was Knights of the Teutonic Order from 1960, one of the most celebrated and attended Polish films in history.