Proto-Slavic noun pole meaning field, which in-itself originates from the Proto-Indo-European word *pleh₂- indicating flatland. The etymology alludes to the topography of the region and the flat landscape of Greater Poland. The English name Poland was formed in the 1560s, from GermanPole(n) and the suffix -land, denoting a people or nation. Prior to its adoption, the Latin form Polonia was widely used throughout medieval Europe.
The country's alternative archaic name is
Old Polish word lęda (plain). Initially, both names Lechia and Polonia were used interchangeably when referring to Poland by chroniclers during the Middle Ages.
In 1386, Jadwiga of Poland entered a marriage of convenience with
Modern Era. The partnership between Poles and Lithuanians brought the vast multi-ethnic Lithuanian territories into Poland's sphere of influence and proved beneficial for its inhabitants, who coexisted in one of the largest European political entities of the time.
In the Baltic Sea region, the struggle of Poland and Lithuania with the
General Sejm in 1505, transferred most of the legislative power from the monarch to the parliament, an event which marked the beginning of the period known as Golden Liberty, when the state was ruled by the seemingly free and equal Polish nobles.
Protestant Reformation movements making 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 the religious turmoil and wars of religion that beset Europe. In Poland, Nontrinitarian Christianity became the doctrine of the so-called Polish Brethren, who separated from their Calvinist denomination and became the co-founders of global Unitarianism.
, reigned from 1764 until his abdication on 25 November 1795.
Catherine II of Russia. The new king maneuvered between his desire to implement necessary modernising reforms, and the necessity to remain at peace with surrounding states. His ideals led to the formation of the 1768 Bar Confederation, a rebellion directed against the Poniatowski and all external influence, which ineptly aimed to preserve Poland's sovereignty and privileges held by the nobility. The failed attempts at government restructuring as well as the domestic turmoil provoked its neighbours to intervene.
During this period, Poland successfully managed to fuse the territories of the three former partitioning empires into a cohesive nation-state.
The inter-war period heralded 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, the
Sanacja (Healing) movement to prevent radical political organisations on both the left and the right from destabilising the country. 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 organisations, including communist and ultra-nationalist political parties, which threatened the stability of the country.
Armia Krajowa (Home Army), fought against German occupation. It was one of the three largest resistance movements of the entire war,[g] 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 began on 1 August 1944 is the best-known operation.
extermination camps are marked with white skulls in black squares. The border in 1941 between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union
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.
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
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 characterise the full-fledged integration of Poland into the brotherhood of communist nations.
The new communist government took control with the adoption of the
The mountainous belt in the extreme south of Poland is divided into two major
Mount Śnieżka at 1,603.3 metres (5,260 ft), shared with the Czech Republic. The lowest point in Poland is situated at Raczki Elbląskie in the Vistula Delta, which is 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) below sea level.
. Poland has one of the highest densities of lakes in the world.
Bug. The country also possesses one of the highest densities of lakes in the world, numbering around ten thousand and mostly concentrated in the north-eastern region of Masuria, within the Masurian Lake District. The largest lakes, covering more than 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi), are Śniardwy and Mamry, and the deepest is Lake Hańcza at 108.5 metres (356 ft) in depth.
Precipitation is more frequent during the summer months, with highest rainfall recorded from June to September.
There is a considerable fluctuation in day-to-day weather and the arrival of a particular season can differ each year.Climate change and other factors have further contributed to interannual thermal anomalies and increased temperatures; the average annual air temperature between 2011 and 2020 was 9.33 °C (48.8 °F), around 1.11 °C higher than in the 2001–2010 period. Winters are also becoming increasingly drier, with less sleet and snowfall.
first-past-the-post electoral system, with one senator being returned from each of the one hundred constituencies. The Senate has the right to amend or reject a statute passed by the Sejm, but the Sejm may override the Senate's decision with a majority vote.
With the exception of ethnic minority parties, only candidates of political parties receiving at least 5% of the total national vote can enter the Sejm. Both the lower and upper houses of parliament in Poland are elected for a four-year term and each member of the Polish parliament is guaranteed parliamentary immunity. Under current legislation, a person must be 21 years of age or over to assume the position of deputy, 30 or over to become senator and 35 to run in a presidential election.
Members of the Sejm and Senate jointly form the
National Assembly of the Republic of Poland. The National Assembly, headed by the Sejm Marshal, is formed on three occasions – when a new president takes the oath of office; when an indictment against the president is brought to the State Tribunal; and in case a president's permanent incapacity to exercise his duties due to the state of his health is declared.
Poland is divided into 16 provinces or states known as voivodeships. As of 2022, the voivodeships are subdivided into 380 counties (powiats), which are further fragmented into 2,477 municipalities (gminas). Major cities normally have the status of both gmina and powiat. The provinces are largely founded on the borders of historic regions, or named for individual cities. Administrative authority at the voivodeship level is shared between a government-appointed governor (voivode), an elected regional assembly (sejmik) and a voivodeship marshal, an executive elected by the assembly.
National Council of the Judiciary and are appointed for life by the president. On the approval of the Senate, the Sejm appoints an ombudsman for a five-year term to guard the observance of social justice.
Poland has a low
congenital disorder and stillbirth are not covered by the law, prompting some women to seek abortion abroad.
Historically, the most significant Polish legal act is the
In recent years, Poland significantly strengthened its relations with the United States, thus becoming one of its closest allies and strategic partners in Europe. Historically, Poland maintained strong cultural and political ties to Hungary; this special relationship was recognised by the parliaments of both countries in 2007 with the joint declaration of 23 March as "The Day of Polish-Hungarian Friendship".
Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Poland. However, its commander-in-chief in peacetime is the president, who nominates officers, the Minister for National Defence and the chief of staff. Polish military tradition is generally commemorated by the Armed Forces Day, celebrated annually on 15 August. As of 2022, the Polish Armed Forces have a combined strength of 114,050 active soldiers, with a further 75,400 active in the gendarmerie and defence force.
Poland is spending 2% of its GDP on defence, equivalent to approximately US$14.5 billion in 2022, with a slated increase to US$29 billion in 2023.
SIPRI, the country exported €487 million worth of arms and armaments to foreign countries in 2020.
single market, the country has not adopted the Euro as legal tender and maintains its own currency – the Polish złoty
Poland is the regional economic leader in
Central Statistical Office estimated that in 2014 there were 1,437 Polish corporations with interests in 3,194 foreign entities.
Poland has the largest banking sector in Central Europe, with 32.3 branches per 100,000 adults. It was the only European economy to have avoided the recession of 2008. The country is the 20th largest exporter of goods and services in the world. Exports of goods and services are valued at approximately 56% of GDP, as of 2020. In 2019, Poland passed a law that would exempt workers under the age of 26 from income tax.
Poland experienced a significant increase in the number of tourists after joining the European Union in 2004. With nearly 21 million international arrivals in 2019, tourism contributes considerably to the overall economy and makes up a relatively large proportion of the country's service market.
Tourist attractions in Poland vary, from the mountains in the south to the sandy beaches in the north, with a trail of nearly every architectural style. The most visited city is
The country has a good network of highways, composed of express roads and motorways. At the start of 2022, Poland had 4,623.3 km (2,872.8 mi) of highways in use. In addition, all local and regional roads are monitored by the National Road Rebuilding Programme, which aims to improve the quality of travel in the countryside and suburban localities.
In 2017, the nation had 18,513 kilometres (11,503 mi) of railway track, the third longest in European Union, after Germany and France.
The electricity generation sector in Poland is largely fossil-fuel–based. Coal production in Poland is a major source of jobs and the largest source of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Many power plants nationwide use Poland's position as a major European exporter of coal to their advantage by continuing to use coal as the primary raw material in the production of their energy. The three largest Polish coal mining firms (Węglokoks, Kompania Węglowa and JSW) extract around 100 million tonnes of coal annually. After coal, Polish energy supply replies significantly on oil—the nation is the third-largest buyer of Russian oil exports to the EU.
The new Energy Policy of Poland until 2040 (EPP2040) would reduce the share of coal and lignite in electricity generation by 25% from 2017 to 2030. The plan involves deploying new nuclear plants, increasing energy efficiency, and decarbonising the Polish transport system in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prioritise long-term energy security.
2011 Polish census, 37,310,341 people reported Polish identity, 846,719 Silesian, 232,547 Kashubian and 147,814 German. Other identities were reported by 163,363 people (0.41%) and 521,470 people (1.35%) did not specify any nationality. Official population statistics do not include migrant workers who do not possess a permanent residency permit or Karta Polaka. More than 1.7 million Ukrainian citizens worked legally in Poland in 2017. The number of migrants is rising steadily; the country approved 504,172 work permits for foreigners in 2021 alone.
Largest cities or towns in Poland
Statistics Poland (GUS) 2021 and GUS BDL 2021
Ministry of Health; it provides administrative oversight and scrutiny of general medical practice, and is obliged to maintain a high standard of hygiene and patient care. Poland has a universal healthcare system based on an all-inclusive insurance system; state subsidised healthcare is available to all citizens covered by the general health insurance program of the National Health Fund (NFZ). Private medical complexes exist nationwide; over 50% of the population uses both public and private sectors.
The framework for primary, secondary and highertertiary education are established by the Ministry of Education and Science. Kindergarten attendance is optional for children aged between three and five, with one year being compulsory for six-year-olds. Primary education traditionally begins at the age of seven, although children aged six can attend at the request of their parents or guardians. Elementary school spans eight grades and secondary schooling is dependent on student preference – a four-year high school (liceum), a five-year technical school (technikum) or various vocational studies (szkoła branżowa) can be pursued by each individual pupil. A liceum or technikum is concluded with a maturity exit exam (matura), which must be passed in order to apply for a university or other institutions of higher learning.
In Poland, there are over 500 university-level institutions,
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ranked Poland's educational system higher than the OECD average; the study showed that students in Poland perform better academically than in most OECD countries.
Particular traditions and superstitious customs observed in Poland are not found elsewhere in Europe. Though
carolers journey around smaller towns with a folk Turoń creature until the Lent period.
Holy Sunday are painted and placed in decorated baskets that are previously blessed by clergymen in churches on Easter Saturday. Easter Monday is celebrated with pagan dyngus festivities, where the youth is engaged in water fights. Cemeteries and graves of the deceased are annually visited by family members on All Saints' Day; tombstones are cleaned as a sign of respect and candles are lit to honour the dead on an unprecedented scale.
The origins of Polish music can be traced to the 13th century; manuscripts have been found in
polonaise tune for Polish kings by an unknown composer), may also date back to this period, however, the first known notable composer, Nicholas of Radom, lived in the 15th century. Diomedes Cato, a native-born Italian who lived in Kraków, became a renowned lutenist at the court of Sigismund III; he not only imported some of the musical styles from southern Europe but blended them with native folk music.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Polish baroque composers wrote
Traditional alcoholic beverages include honey mead, widespread since the 13th century, beer, wine and vodka. The world's first written mention of vodka originates from Poland. The most popular alcoholic drinks at present are beer and wine which took over from vodka more popular in the years 1980–1998.Tea remains common in Polish society since the 19th century, whilst coffee is drunk widely since the 18th century.
Several Polish designers and stylists left a legacy of beauty inventions and
Maksymilian Faktorowicz, who created a line of cosmetics company in California known as Max Factor and formulated the term "make-up" which is now widely used as an alternative for describing cosmetics. Faktorowicz is also credited with inventing modern eyelash extensions. As of 2020, Poland possesses the fifth-largest cosmetic market in Europe.Inglot Cosmetics is the country's largest beauty products manufacturer, and the retail store Reserved is the country's most successful clothing store chain.
Versailles, where French dresses inspired by Polish garments included robe à la polonaise and the witzchoura. The scope of influence also entailed furniture; rococo Polish beds with canopies became fashionable in French châteaus. Sarmatism eventually faded in the wake of the 18th century.
Ekstraliga division has one of the highest average attendances for any sport in Poland. The national speedway team of Poland is one of the major teams in international speedway. Individually, Poland has three Speedway Grand Prix World Champions, with the most successful being three-time World Champion Bartosz Zmarzlik who won back-to-back championships in 2019 and 2020, and his third in 2022. In 2021, Poland finished runners-up in the Speedway of Nations world championship final, held in Manchester, UK in 2021.
Poles made significant achievements in mountaineering, in particular, in the Himalayas and the winter ascending of the eight-thousanders. Polish mountains are one of the tourist attractions of the country. Hiking, climbing, skiing and mountain biking and attract numerous tourists every year from all over the world. Water sports are the most popular summer recreation activities, with ample locations for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing especially in the northern regions of the country.
^Many declared more than one ethnic or national identity. The percentages of ethnic Poles and minorities depend on how they are counted. 94.83% declared exclusively Polish identity, 96.88% declared Polish as their first identity and 97.10% as either first or second identity. Around 98% declared some sort of Polish as their first identity.
^The adoption of Christianity in Poland is seen by many Poles, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof, as one of the most significant events in their country's history, as it was used to unify the Polish tribes.
^British code-breaker Gordon Welchman said: "Ultra would never have gotten off the ground if we had not learned from the Poles, in the nick of time, the details both of the German military version of the commercial Enigma machine, and of the operating procedures that were in use."
Yugoslav partisans were roughly similar to those of the Polish and Soviet partisans in the first years of the war (1941–42), but grew rapidly in the later years, outnumbering the Polish and Soviet partisans by 2:1 or more (estimates give Yugoslavian forces about 800,000 in 1945, to Polish and Soviet forces of 400,000 in 1944).
^Officially translated as "Let me, I shall grind, and you take a rest"
^Attema, P. A. J.; Los-Weijns, Ma; Pers, N. D. Maring-Van der (December 2006). "Bronocice, Flintbek, Uruk, Jebel Aruda and Arslantepe: The Earliest Evidence Of Wheeled Vehicles In Europe And The Near East". Palaeohistoria. University of Groningen. 47/48: 10–28 (11).
. Retrieved 26 October 2014. ... w wersji Anonima Minoryty mówi się znowu, iż w Polsce "paliły się kościoły i klasztory", co koresponduje w przekazaną przez Anonima Galla wiadomością o zniszczeniu kościołów katedralnych w Gnieźnie...
. Retrieved 8 April 2013. At the same time, when most of Europe was decimated by the Black Death, Poland developed quickly and reached the levels of the wealthiest countries of the West in its economy and culture.
^See for example: Leonid D. Grenkevich in The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941–44: A Critical Historiographical Analysis, p. 229 or Walter Laqueur in The Guerilla Reader: A Historical Anthology, New York, Charles Scribiner, 1990, p. 233.
^Materski & Szarota (2009) harvp error: no target: CITEREFMaterskiSzarota2009 (help)Quote: Liczba Żydów i Polaków żydowskiego pochodzenia, obywateli II Rzeczypospolitej, zamordowanych przez Niemców sięga 2,7- 2,9 mln osób. Translation: The number of Jewish victims is estimated at 2,9 million. This was about 90% of the 3.3 million Jews living in prewar Poland. Source: IPN.
^Materski & Szarota (2009) harvp error: no target: CITEREFMaterskiSzarota2009 (help)Quote: Łączne straty śmiertelne ludności polskiej pod okupacją niemiecką oblicza się obecnie na ok. 2 770 000. Translation: Current estimate is roughly 2,770,000 victims of German occupation. This was 11.3% of the 24.4 million ethnic Poles in prewar Poland.
(PDF) on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2020. Oblicza się, że akcja „Inteligencja" pochłonęła ponad 100 tys. ofiar. Translation: It is estimated that Intelligenzaktion took the lives of 100,000 Poles.
^Grzegorz Motyka, Od rzezi wołyńskiej do akcji "Wisła". Konflikt polsko-ukraiński 1943–1947. Kraków 2011, p. 447. See also: Book review by Tomasz Stańczyk: "Grzegorz Motyka oblicza, że w latach 1943–1947 z polskich rąk zginęło 11–15 tys. Ukraińców. Polskie straty to 76–106 tys. zamordowanych, w znakomitej większości podczas rzezi wołyńskiej i galicyjskiej."
^ abZbigniew Ustrunul; Agnieszka Wypych; Ewa Jakusik; Dawid Biernacik; Danuta Czekierda; Anna Chodubska (2020). Climate of Poland(PDF) (Report). Institute of Meteorology and Water Management - National Research Institute (IMGW). p. 7. Retrieved 3 April 2022.