Republic of Poland
- Population 38.3 million
- Area 312,685 sq km (120,728 sq miles)
- Major language Polish
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 72 years (men), 81 years (women)
- Currency zloty
President: Andrzej Duda
Andrzej Duda of the conservative, Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party, scored a surprise win in the 2015 election, beating the incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski of the centrist Civic Platform in the closest presidential contest in Poland’s history.
Born in 1972 and a law lecturer by profession, Mr Duda has been active in conservative politics since the early 2000s, rising to work in the Presidential Chancellery under Lech Kaczynski in 2008-2010.
Prime Minister: Mateusz Morawiecki
Mateusz Jakub Morawiecki (born 20 June 1968) is a Polish politician, manager, banker, economist, lawyer, historian who is currently the Prime Minister of Poland. He has served as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Development and Minister of Finance in the cabinet of Beata Szydło. He also served as chairman of Bank Zachodni WBK from 2007 to 2015.
On 7 December 2017, Morawiecki was designated as the Prime Minister of Poland. On 11 December he was sworn into office.
SOME KEY DATES IN POLAND’S HISTORY
966 – Duke Mieszko I, the historically recognised founder of the Polish state, adopts Catholic Christianity.
1791-1793 – A programme of political and social reform culminates in the 3 May Constitution in 1791, which promises civil rights to the urban and peasant population of the Commonwealth. Russia invades to prevent liberal change. Prussia also sends in troops, and the two powers carry out a second partition in 1793.
1794-1795 – Reformers lead an armed uprising against the partitioning powers. Following its failure the Commonwealth is finally partitioned among Prussia, Russia and Austria. Independent Poland disappears from the map of Europe.
1918 – After more than a century of foreign rule, an independent Polish state is restored after the end of World War I, with Marshal Jozef Pilsudski as head of state.
1939 – Nazi Germany invades Poland. Beginning of World War II as the United Kingdom declares war on Germany in response to the invasion. The Soviet Union invades from the east. Germany and the Soviet Union divide Poland between them and treat Polish citizens with extreme brutality. Germany begins systematic persecution of the large Jewish population.
1943 – Warsaw ghetto uprising against German attempts to transport the remaining Jewish inhabitants to concentration camps. Resistance lasts nearly four weeks before the ghetto is burned down. The Germans announce the capture of more than 50,000 Jews.
1945 – Soviet forces capture Warsaw in January. All German forces are driven from Poland by March. Poland’s borders are set by the post-war Potsdam conference; Poland loses territory to the Soviet Union but gains some from Germany.
1947 – Poland becomes a Communist People’s Republic after Soviet-run elections, under the Stalinist leadership of Boleslaw Bierut.
1955 – Poland joins the Soviet-run Warsaw Pact military alliance.
1978 – Karol Wojtyla, Cardinal of Krakow, elected Pope.
1989 – Round-table talks between Solidarity, the Communists and the Catholic Church pave the way for fall of communism in Poland. Partially free elections see landslide win for Solidarity, which helps form coalition government. Tadeusz Mazowiecki becomes the first non-Communist Polish prime minister since 1946..
1990 – Walesa elected president of Poland. Market reforms, including large-scale privatisation, are launched.
1991 – First parliamentary elections since fall of communism. Soviet troops start to leave Poland.
1997 – Polish parliament adopts a new constitution. General election is won by the Solidarity grouping AWS. Jerzy Buzek forms a coalition government.
1999 – Poland joins Nato.
2004 May – Poland is one of 10 new states to join the EU.
2010 April – President Lech Kaczynski and many other senior officials are killed in a plane crash while on his way to a ceremony in Russia marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre during World War II.
A Russian policeman surveys the scene of the aircrash which killed the Polish president and several officials
2010 July – Parliament Speaker and Acting President Bronislaw Komorowski of the centre-right Civic Platform defeats former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the second round of presidential elections.
2014 April – Poland asks Nato to station 10,000 troops on its territory, as a visible mark of the Alliance’s resolve to defend all its members after Russia’s seizure of Crimea.
2014 September – Prime Minister Donald Tusk resigns to take up the post of president of the European Council. Ewa Kopacz takes over as head of government.
2015 May – Conservative Law and Justice candidate Andrzej Duda beats centrist incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski in presidential election.
2015 October – Law and Justice conservative, Eurosceptic party becomes first to win overall majority in Polish democratic elections.
The flag of Poland consists of two horizontal stripes of equal width, the upper one white and the lower one red. The two colours are defined in the Polish constitution as the national colours.
SIZE AND LOCATION
Located in the continent of Europe, Poland covers 304,255 square kilometers of land and 8,430 square kilometers of water, making it the 70th largest nation in the world with a total area of 312,685 square kilometers.
The current population of Poland is 38,141,086
Poland population is equivalent to 0.51% of the total world population
Poland ranks number 37 in the list of countries by population.
The population density in Poland is 125 per km2
The median age in Poland is 40.1 years.
38,512,000 – Total population of Poland
36,157,000 – Only Polish ethnicity
951,000 – Nationality not specified
1,404,000 declared non-Polish ethnicity either as a first or as a second one (Silesians, Kashubians, Germans, Ukrainians)
Polish is a Slavic language.
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, Kashubian, Rusyn (called Lemko in Poland) and Tatar.
About 90% of Poles are Roman Catholics. The most religious parts of Poland are the highlander Podkarpacie region and the Silesia region.
The other religions of Poland today are predominantly Christian, including Byzantine Catholics (Uniates), Orthodox Christians, Armenians, Old-Believers, Evangelical Reformed, Evangelical Augsburg, Evangelical Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are also communities of Muslims, Jews, Karaims, and Hare Krishnas.
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 a 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.
The most typical ingredients used in Polish cuisine are sauerkraut, beetroot, cucumbers (gherkins), sour cream, kohlrabi, mushrooms, sausages and smoked sausage. A meal owes it taste to the herbs and spices used; such as marjoram, dill, caraway seeds, parsley, or pepper. The most popular desserts are cakes and pastries.
Bigos – a combination of cabbage, mushrooms and various meats—traditionally pork, bacon and Polish sausage
Pierogi – traditional dumplings; dough filled with cheese, potatoes, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, meat, pierogi are served steaming hot boiled or fried and are accompanied by sour cream.
Zrazy – traditional Polish food; a filling of bacon, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, and cucumber is rolled inside a seasoned slice of sirloin beef then fried or grilled
Paczki – round pieces of deep-fried dough that are filled with custard or sweet preserves, traditionally served on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent.
Traditional Polish smoked cheese Oscypek
Pickled cucumbers without vinegar
Bigos (hunter’s stew)
|Leading polish painters|
|Leading classical composers|
|Leading polish writers and poets|
Polish Nobel Prize in Literature laureates
|Isaac Bashevis Singer|
FAMOUS POLISH PEOPLE
Mikołaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus) – mathematician and astronomer
Fryderyk Chopin – composer
Maria Skłodowska – Curie – scientist
Jan Matejko – painter
Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746-1817) – great Polish patriot, the leader of the forces taking part in the national uprising of 1794
Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyła)
Adam Mickiewicz – poet
Henryk Sienkiewicz – Polish novelist, a storyteller, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1905
Czeslaw Milosz – Polish author, translator and critic, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980
Wislawa Szymborska – Poet and translator, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996
Roman Polanski – film director
Andrzej Wajda – film director
Robert Lewandowski – footballer
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT POLAND
Poland proudly claims to have won seventeen Nobel Prizes, which includes five in the field of literature, which speaks volumes of its learned people. Almost 90% of Polish people have completed their education, still the secondary level.
Perhaps, Poland is the only country in the world where the forested areas are on the rise. Almost 30.5% of Poland is covered with forest, and thanks to the efforts of the national program of reforestation, the forested area is expected to rise up to 33% by the year 2050.
Another interesting fact about Poland is that the country takes the honors, as the first country to abolish corporal laws, which required inflicting physical pain as punishment for wrong doers. It is a very tolerant country and has high level of gender equality and minority tolerance.
Weaving straw dolls and decorating it with ribbons is a tradition long followed in Poland, under the guise of Marzanna. This endeavor is undertaken during winters, as the dolls represent winters. Hence, when the snow starts melting, the dolls are thrown in the river, symbolizing getting rid of winters.
The Polish numbers are brain crackers, and you have to give in a lot of efforts to master them, especially the number 2, which has thirteen different forms of names.
Market square in Poznań Old Town
Highlights of Poland are:
- Gothic architecture from brick. The largest castle in the world is located in Poland (Malbork Castle), as well as the third largest brick church in the world (Gdańsk St. Mary’s Church). The medieval centre of Toruń has a unique collection of such brick buildings – and there are hundreds of other examples of brick Gothic style in whole country.
- Renaissance architecture. Poland was a major European centre of Renaissance art and such amazing landmarks as Zamość and Kazimierz Dolny towns, Krasicki Palace and Poznań Town Hall belong to the best examples of this architectural style.
- Medieval wooden churches. Numerous very old wooden churches are found throughout the country. The oldest ones – such as the unique Haczów Church (1388) – belong to Gothic style.
Sokolica mountains rise high above Dunajec
- Błędów Desert – Lesser Poland. Largest sand fields in Central Europe, taking an area of 32 km². Formed by the accumulation of sand particles from glacier.
- Dunajec River Gorge – Lesser Poland and Prešov in Slovakia. Border river between Slovakia and Poland, with up to 300 m tall cliffs in both sides. Here are growing endemic plant species.
- Wielka Śnieżna Cave – Lesser Poland. The largest and deepest cave in Poland, 23,619 m long and 824 m deep.
- Biskupin – Kuyavia-Pomerania. Archaeological open air museum which demonstrates the fortified Iron Age settlement of Lusatian culture. Settlement was built on marshy peninsula in lake.
- Mount Ślęża – Lower Silesia. Ancient holy site since Neolithic times. Mysterious prehistoric sculptures, possibly made by Celts.
Prehistorical cult statue in Mount Ślęża
Historical towns and cities
- Chocholow – Lesser Poland. Authentic, historical Gorale village, which consists of characteristic wooden houses.
- Gdansk Old City – Pomerania. The medieval city centre contains rich collection of Gothic and Renaissance buildings, including the largest brick church in the world, Artus Court, the enormous Town Hall and other buildings.
- Kazimierz Dolny – Lublin. Small town with numerous Renaissance buildings, some are very ornate.
- Kraków Old Town – Lesser Poland. One of best preserved medieval cities in Europe with a huge number of valuable historical buildings. Served as a major centre of power, art and science. Contains the largest medieval market square in Europe, surrounded by exquisite historical buildings. Center contains some 6000 valuable buildings, millions of artworks.
- Kłodzko historical centre – Lower Silesia. Well preserved historical centre of medieval (mainly – Renaissance) city with many valuable buildings. Huge network of underground tunnels under the city, which were built by merchants. Many passages collapsed in the middle of the 20th century, causing much damage to the city. Bridge in Gothic style, which was built in 1390.
- Poznań Old Town – Greater Poland. Medieval city with many valuable historical buildings, centred around the large market place. Market place is surrounded by interesting Renaissance buildings.
- Toruń medieval town – Kuyavia-Pomerania. Inhabited since 1100 BC, modern city developed around the castle since the early 13th century. Well preserved medieval town with hundreds of historical buildings, including numerous Gothic buildings from brick. Largest concentration of Gothic architecture in Poland.
- Wrocław Market Square – Lower Silesia. Beautiful monument of urban planning, large square surrounded by medieval buildings.
Wrocław Market Square
- Jasna Góra Monastery – Silesia. Major site of pilgrimage: large monastery which was founded in 1382 and housed in ornate, impressive buildings. Here is located Black Madonna of Częstochowa – an image which has miraculous powers attributed to it.
- Kalwaria Zebrzydowska park – Lesser Poland. One of most impressive examples of Mannerist architecture and planning – a pilgrimage complex with churches and chapels, which in its planning was designed to be similar to Jerusalem. Established in 1600.
- Dębno Church of Michael the Archangel – Lesser Poland. One of the best preserved wooden churches in Gothic style, built in the second half of the 15th century. Unique polychrome paintings from around 1500, with 33 colors used.
- Fara Poznań (Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene in Poznań) – Greater Poland. One of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Poland, built in 1651 – 1732.
- Gdańsk St. Mary’s Church – Pomerania. Third largest brick church in the world, enormous Gothic structure built in 1379 – 1502. 25,000 people can fit inside the church. Very impressive, intricate vault system.
- St. Mary’s Basilica in Kraków – Lesser Poland. Enormous church building, constructed in the 14th century in brick Gothic style. Contains the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world. Two towers, the tallest is 80 m high.
- Toruń Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist – Kuyavia-Pomerania. Enormous brick Gothic cathedral, constructed mostly in the first half of the 14th century. Richly decorated interior with painted decorations.
- Wawel Cathedral – Lesser Poland. Large, complex Gothic cathedral, built in the 14th century. Serves as a Polish national sanctuary, historical place where Polish monarchs were coronated. Notable achievement of Renaissance art is Sigismund’s Chapel.
- Wrocław Cathedral – Lower Silesia. Large Gothic cathedral with Neo-Gothic additions. Mostly built in 1244 – 1272, with later rebuildings and additions.
- Książ Castle – Lower Silesia. Massive, well reconstructed medieval castle, built in 1288 – 1292, the largest castle in Silesia. 900 m long network of underground passages in two levels, built by Nazi as secret military facilities and possible headquarters of Hitler.
- Malbork Castle – Pomerania. Largest castle in the world by the area (21 ha), also the largest brick building in Europe. Constructed by Teutonic Knights, mainly in 1274 – 1300 as their administrative centre.
- Niedzica Castle – Lesser Poland. Magnificent castle rising tall over river. Constructed in 1320 – 1326 in the place of prehistoric stronghold. Site of legends.
- Ogrodzieniec Castle Ruins – Silesia. Mountaintop castle, built in the 14th century in Gothic style. Now in ruins, these ruins belong to most picturesque castle ruins.
- Wawel Castle – Lesser Poland, Kraków. Enormous royal castle, built since the 14th century in Gothic and Renaissance styles. Contains collection of valuable royal regalia and treasure. Castle served as a model to some other royal castles in this part of Europe.
- Krasiński Palace – Masovia, Warsaw. Large, ornate Baroque palace, built in 1677 – 1683.
- Łazienki Palace – Masovia, Warsaw. Palace in Neo-Classical style, built in 1775 – 1795. Palace is built over water and has interesting, rich interiors.
- Moszna Castle – Opole. Gorgeous palace. Central part is built in Baroque style in the 17th century, but most impressive are Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance additions from the early 20th century – tall, romantic towers and other details.
- Pszczyna Castle – Silesia. Originally a castle from the 13th century, this building has been rebuilt into an opulent, beautiful palace. A diversity of stylistic influences from different times can be seen, from Renaissance to Art Noveau.
- Wilanów Palace – Masovia, Warsaw. Enormous, ornate palace, constructed in 1677 – 1696 in Baroque style. Served as royal palace, has very ornate interior and Baroque garden.
- Bochnia Salt Mine – Lesser Poland. Oldest salt mine in Europe, established in the 12th – 13th century AD. 4.5 km long mines up to 468 m deep. Contains numerous premises including ornate church.
- Chełm Chalk Tunnels – Lublin, Chełm. System of mining tunnels in chalk layer under the medieval city of Chełm. Length of network – 15 km, not all passages have been explored.
- Collegium Maius – Lesser Poland, Kraków. One of the oldest dedicated university buildings in Europe, constructed in 1364 in Gothic style. Well preserved and ornate historical lecture rooms, professor’s quarters, library and other premises.
- Kraków barbican – Lesser Poland. One of few remaining well preserved barbicans in Europe – a fortified outpost, forming a part of city walls. Constructed in Gothic style in 1498.
- Old Synagogue in Kraków – Lesser Poland. Oldest existing synagogue in Poland, built in Gothic style in the 15th century. Fortified building.
- Sukiennice in Kraków – Lesser Poland, Kraków. Large Renaissance building – historical market hall where valuable foreign goods were traded. Contains rich collection of Polish art.
- University of Wrocław, Main Building – Lower Silesia. Old university, established in 1702. The enormous main building contains rooms with opulent interiors, including the Baroque interior of Aula Leopoldina and University Church.
- Wieliczka Salt Mine – Lesser Poland. One of the oldest operating salt mines in world, operates since the 13th century AD. Up to 327 m deep, more than 300 km long. Miners have carved multiple reliefs, chandelier, cathedral.