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Portal:Poland

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Panorama of Kraków, former capital of Poland

Welcome to the Poland Portal
Witaj w Portalu o Polsce

Coat of arms of Poland
Map of Poland

Poland is a country in Central Europe, bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast to the north. It is an ancient nation whose history as a state began near the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century when it united with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation. In a series of agreements in the late 18th century, Russia, Prussia and Austria partitioned Poland amongst themselves. It regained independence as the Second Polish Republic in the aftermath of World War I only to lose it again when it was occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. The nation lost over six million citizens in the war, following which it emerged as the communist People's Republic of Poland under strong Soviet influence within the Eastern Bloc. A westward border shift followed by forced population transfers after the war turned a once multiethnic country into a mostly homogeneous nation state. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union called Solidarity (Solidarność) that over time became a political force which by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency. A shock therapy program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe. With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of NATO and the European Union.

From Polish history

King Charles X Gustav of Sweden in a skirmish with Polish Tartars at the battle of Warsaw, 1656
The Second Northern War was fought between 1655 and 1660 by Sweden against the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Russia, Brandenburg-Prussia, the Habsburg Monarchy, and Denmark–Norway. In 1655, Charles X Gustav of Sweden invaded and occupied western Poland, the eastern part of which was already in Russian hands. The rapid Swedish advance became known in Poland as the Swedish Deluge. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania became a Swedish fief, Polish-Lithuanian regular armies surrendered, and King John Casimir of Poland fled to Silesia. Charles Gustav found allies in Frederick William of Brandenburg, whom he granted full sovereignty in the Polish fief of Ducal Prussia, and in George II of Transylvania, whom he promised the Polish throne. With the help of Polish Catholic guerillas of the Tyszowce Confederation, as well as Leopold I Habsburg, and Frederick William, who changed sides in return for the Polish recognition of his claim to Prussia, John Casimir was able to regain ground in 1656 and by the following year much of the fighting had moved to the Danish theater. Polish losses from the Swedish occupation, including a 40-percent drop in population, complete destruction of Warsaw and scores of other Polish towns, as well as plunder of the nation's riches and cultural artefacts, remained unmatched until World War II.


Selected picture

Detail of a half-timbered wall of the Holy Trinity Church in Świdnica
Credit: Wisniowy

Detail of a half-timbered wall of the Holy Trinity Church in Świdnica. It is one of the Churches of Peace constructed after the Peace of Westphalia allowed Lutherans to build three churches in the Catholic parts of Silesia. They were to be built outside city walls, without steeples and church bells, and made only of wood, loam and straw. The three churches were erected in Glogau (Głogów), Jauer (Jawor) and Schweidnitz (Świdnica), the latter of which two have survived to this day.

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Selected biography

Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski
Stanislaus Augustus (Stanisław August Poniatowski; 1732–1798) was the last monarch of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Recognized as a great patron of the arts and sciences of the Polish Enlightenment and a supporter of progressive reforms, he is also remembered as the king who failed to prevent the destruction of the Commonwealth. He was elected king of Poland in 1764, with the help of his former lover, Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. Against expectations, he attempted to amend and strengthen the ailing state. His efforts met with external opposition from Russia and Austria, as well as internal from conservative magnates, who sought to preserve their traditional liberties and prerogatives. The defining crisis of his early reign was the War of the Bar Confederation, which led to the First Partition of Poland in 1772. The latter part of his reign saw reforms wrought by the Great Sejm and the Constitution of 1791. These were overthrown by the Targowica Confederation and Russian intervention, leading to the Second and Third Partitions of Poland. Poniatowski abdicated in 1795 and spent the final years of his life under house arrest in Saint Petersburg.


Selected location

A wisent in the Białowieża Forest

The Białowieża Forest, an ancient woodland straddling the Polish-Belarusian border, is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest which once spread across the European Plain. It is home to the wisent (pictured), elk, wild boars, konik horses, and other animals. Its name, Puszcza Białowieska in Polish and Belavezhskaya Pushcha in Belarusian, comes from the village of Białowieża located in the forest. Historically it belonged to Polish kings and, later, Russian emperors who used it as royal hunting grounds or food reserve for the army. It has been protected since 1538 when King Sigismund I instituted death penalty for poaching the wisent. Today parts of the forest on both sides of the border are protected as national parks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.

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Holidays and observances in May 2018

Statutory non-working days in bold

Corpus Christi procession in Łowicz

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