Early to late antiquity
Before the beginning of the Christian era, the area of today’s Poland was populated by Germanic tribes. Around the 4th century AD Most of these migrated westwards as part of the migration of nations, later Slavic tribes settled in the area, who immigrated from Eastern Europe (Polans, Masovians, Wislanen, Slenzanen, Opolanen, Golensizen).
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In 966 Prince Mieszko I, a Polan from the Piast family, converted to Christianity and united many tribes (this date is considered the year of the founding of the State of Poland). In the next few decades he brought the surrounding regions (Mieszko ruling over the area of today’s Poznan or Poznan) including today’s Pomerania and Silesia under his control. The city of Poznan became the country’s first bishopric in 986. Mieszko’s descendant, Boreslaw I. Chobry (called the Brave), extended the territory further to the east to Kiev and in 1025 he was crowned by the Pope as the first king of Poland.
The unity of the empire was endangered by constant raids from outside and throne disputes inside, so that many rival principalities emerged. In 1226, Konrad I, Duke of Masovia, called the “Teutonic Order” (Teutonic Knights Order) for help in the fight against the pagan Prussians (Prussia), who repeatedly attacked Poland. In return, he left the religious knightly order to the Kulmer Land (Chelmno) on the Baltic Sea, where they created their own religious state. In addition to the knights, numerous settlers came from the west who settled in large parts of Silesia and in the Oder region.
In 1241 only the sudden death of the Mongol ruler Ögödäi, whose throng of horsemen advanced west, saved Poland from submission: a common Polish-German army had already failed in the fight against the Mongolian armies (Battle of Liegnitz) when the Mongols left.
In the first half of the 14th century, Greater and Lesser Poland were united under Wladislaw I, who was crowned King of Poland in 1320. His successor Kasimir III. the Great, the last ruler from the Piast dynasty, introduced a unified administration, currency and legal system. Through deliberate alliance and marriage policy, he expanded Poland’s territory by large areas. With the order state Casimir III. the Peace of Kalish (1343) and renounced the areas of Pomerelles and Silesia. Due to the prevailing religious tolerance, numerous Jews from all over Europe immigrated to Poland at this time and also in the centuries that followed.
In 1370 Ludwig von Anjou ascended to the Polish throne, followed by marriage to the heir to the Polish crown, the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jagiello as Vladislav II (Jagellon dynasty). Lithuania was unified and Christianized with Poland through a personal union (later in Realunion). Poland rose to become a major European power, whose territory comprised Belarus and Ukraine and reached in the south to the Black Sea. Polish-Lithuanian troops won a decisive victory against the mighty Teutonic Order in 1410 (Battle of Tannenberg) and thereby significantly weakened the order.
According to AbbreviationFinder, the Jagellons dynasty ended with the death of Sigismund II in 1572. In the following, the Polish kings were elected by the Polish Reichstag (Sejm), which had already been founded in 1493 by representatives of the nobility and from 1505 was the highest legislative body in Poland. Many of the elected kings were not Poles, such as Wladislaw IV Wasa of Sweden (1632-48), August II the Strong of Saxony (1697-1706) and August III. of Saxony (1733-63). In the 17th century, the empire suffered many losses of territory: East Prussia to Prussia-Brandenburg (Treaty of Wehlau 1657), Estonia and Livonia to Sweden (Peace of Oliva 1660) and areas east of the Dnieper to Russia (Peace of Andrussowo 1667). Nevertheless, German-Polish troops managed to
Division of the empire
In the second half of the 18th century, Poland was caught between the fronts of the great European powers of Prussia, Austria and Russia, and lost large parts of its territory in the three Polish divisions (1772-95). The first division in 1772 resulted in the strengthening of national forces within the country and in 1791 a first written constitution for Poland, which was based on the ideals of the French Revolution and the American Constitution of 1788. But conservative forces in their own country once again called on the great powers, which led to the second division in 1793, in which further areas were lost. A patriotic uprising led by the Polish officer Tadeusz Kosciusko failed, the rest of Poland was divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia in 1795.
In the resolutions of the Vienna Congress of 1815, Poland was again divided into different domains: West Prussia and Poznan fell to Prussia, Galicia to Austria. The eastern part of the country with the Duchy of Warsaw was linked in a personal union with the Russian Empire (so-called Congress Poland). The parts of the country developed very differently. Congress Poland was granted a relatively liberal constitution with its own parliament, government and administration, with the rights of autonomy being severely restricted in the course of the 19th century and increasing Russification beginning. In the Prussian-dominated part, industrialization and the expansion of the infrastructure were advanced, here an anti-Catholic “Germanization policy” was pursued. Riots,
The first political movements were formed at the end of the 19th century: in 1887 the bourgeois-oriented National Democratic Party led by Roman Dmowski (“People’s League”), which sought to refer to an independent Poland against Russia. In 1892 the anti-Russian Polish Socialist Party was followed by J¨®zef Pilsudski, in 1893 the “Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania” around Rosa Luxemburg and Felix Dzierzynski.
After the outbreak of the First World War, a Polish kingdom was established in 1916 with vaguely defined borders, which remained heavily dependent on the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. After the collapse of the German Empire in 1918, the independent Republic of Poland (Rzeczpospolita Polska) was founded under the leadership of J¨®zef Pilsudski. The borders of the country were laid down in the peace treaties of Versailles and Saint-Germain: most of West Prussia, Poznan and Galicia, which had previously belonged to Austria, were given to Poland. Danzig was divided between Germany and Poland under the control of the League of Nations Free City, Upper Silesia.
The eastern border of Poland with Russia (Curzon Line) remained controversial, and in 1920 there was war with the Soviet Union, in which Poland occupied areas of Belarus and Ukraine (Riga Peace Treaty 1921). As a result of the expansion of territories, Poland once again became a multinational state, which was evident at the political level through the establishment of many new parties. Head of state Pilsudski secured the leadership of the country again in 1926 with a coup d’¨¦tat (he resigned in 1922) and built up an authoritarian system with the elimination of the parliament.
In 1932 and 1934 Poland concluded a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The two major powers overruled these agreements with the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, which provided for an occupation and a further division of Poland. On September 1 of the same year both German and Soviet troops invaded Poland, the country was separated along the Narew-Bug line; this was the start of the Second World War.
When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, German troops also occupied the eastern part of Poland. Polish Jews were rounded up in ghettos in Lublin, Krak¨®w, Lodz and Warsaw. A total of 50,000 Jews lost their lives during the uprising of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in April 1943. The German leadership established the majority of its mass extermination camps on Polish soil (including Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek and S¨®bibor), in which several million people were killed until 1945.
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In 1944 Russian troops recaptured the eastern regions of Poland and established a government of Polish exile socialists there. By the end of the war, all of Poland was under Soviet influence. The country lost around 45% of its pre-war territories to the Soviet Union and was compensated for it with formerly German territories in the west (up to the Oder-Neisse Line). Millions of people were relocated. In July 1945 the predominantly socialist government of Poland was recognized by the victorious powers.
Following the socialist model, land reform was carried out in the same year with the nationalization of most companies, two years later the planned economy was introduced. In 1949 the People’s Democracy of Poland was proclaimed, the only party admitted was the United Polish Workers’ Party. With the inclusion in the COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Aid, founding members of the USSR, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary) in 1949 and in the Warsaw Pact (1955), the eastern orientation of Poland was finally established.
Communist conditions led to discontent and uprisings among the Polish population (Poznan Uprising 1956), which were put down with the help of Russian troops. The party leader was the previously arrested Wladislaw Gomoulka, who carried out a decent “de-Stalinization” and, for example, granted private property to artisans and farmers. Numerous political prisoners were also released.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Poland came closer to the Federal Republic of Germany (German-Polish Treaty 1970). The declaration on the inviolability of the Oder-Neisse Line as the border between Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany was an integral part of the contract.
The continuing poor economic and supply situation in Poland and the suppression of all opposition led to a nationwide strike in 1980. Lech Walesa, a shipyard worker, founded the independent trade union Solidarnosc (Solidarity), which was initially recognized by the Polish government, but one year later under Soviet pressure was banned.
Opening to the west
The reforms introduced in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev from the mid-1980s led to renewed strikes in Poland. In 1989, the Politburo launched free elections, lifted the solidarity union ban, and introduced a two-chamber parliament. The overwhelming majority of the electoral winners was the “Citizens’ Committee Solidarity” (AWS) founded by Lech Walesa, the first non-communist government after the end of the Second World War under Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki to begin its work. Lech Walesa took over the office of President from his predecessor Jaruselzki in 1990 (until 1995, successor Aleksander Kwasniewski). A new constitution entered into force in 1992 and was finally adopted in 1997.In November 1990 a German-Polish border treaty recognized the Oder-Neisse line as a border under international law. After the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991, Poland sought membership in NATO (completed in 1999). Accession to the European Union (EU) took place on May 1, 2004. Poland has been part of the Schengen area since the end of 2007.
In the fall of 2005, the right-wing conservative politician Lech Kaczynski won the presidential election with a clear lead over the liberals. His twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski from the right-wing conservative party Law and Justice (PiS) has been Prime Minister since 2006. The PiS suffered a major defeat in the early parliamentary elections on October 21, 2007. Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s successor as Prime Minister is Donald Tusk, chairman of the liberal-conservative citizens’ platform he co-founded.
On April 10, 2010, President Lech Kaczy¨½ski was on the way to a memorial commemorating the murder of Polish officers by the Soviet secret service in 1940 in Katyn, Russia. The plane crashed on approach. Kaczy¨½ski, his wife, numerous MPs, government officials, high-ranking officers, church officials, senior officials from central authorities and representatives of associations of victims of the Katyn massacre were killed in the crash. His successor as president is Bronisław Komorowski, who holds liberal-conservative positions.