country in Central Europe

Poland is a country in the eastern region of Central Europe.[8] Its official name is Republic of Poland. It is on the east of Germany (along Oder and Lusatian Neisse). The Czech Republic and Slovakia are to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and the Baltic Sea, Lithuania, and the Russian exclave Kaliningrad to the north. The total land area of Poland is about 312,679 km2[9] (120,728 mi2), slightly larger than Oman. This makes Poland the 77th largest country[9] in the world with over 38.5 million people. Most Polish people live in large cities, including the capital, Warsaw (Polish: Warszawa), Łódź, Cracow (Polish: Kraków), the second capital of Poland (first was Gniezno), Szczecin, Gdańsk, Wrocław and Poznań.

Republic of Poland
Rzeczpospolita Polska  (Polish)
Anthem: "Mazurek Dąbrowskiego"
Mazurek Dąbrowskiego"
Location of  Poland  (dark green) – on the European continent  (green & dark grey) – in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]
Location of  Poland  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]

Location of Poland
and largest city
52°13′N 21°02′E / 52.217°N 21.033°E / 52.217; 21.033
Official languagesPolish
Spoken languages
Ethnic groups
GovernmentUnitary semi-presidential republic
• President
Andrzej Duda
Donald Tusk
LegislatureNational Assembly
14 April 966
18 April 1025
1 July 1569
24 October 1795
22 July 1807
9 June 1815
11 November 1918
1 September 1939
8 April 1945
13 September 1989
1 May 2004
• Total
312,678 km2 (120,726 sq mi)[a] (69th)
• Water (%)
• 2018 estimate
38,420,687[2] (34th)
• Density
123/km2 (318.6/sq mi) (83rd)
GDP (PPP)2017 estimate
• Total
$1,110 trillion[3] (21st)
• Per capita
GDP (nominal)2017 estimate
• Total
$509.955 billion[3] (23rd)
• Per capita
Gini (2014)Positive decrease 32.08[4]
HDI (2015)Increase 0.855[5]
very high · 36th
CurrencyPolish złoty (PLN)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
• Summer (DST)
Driving sideright
Calling code+48
ISO 3166 codePL
Internet TLD.pl
  1. ^a The area of Poland, as given by the Central Statistical Office, is 312,679 km2 (120,726 sq mi), of which 311,888 km2 (120,421 sq mi) is land and 791 km2 (305 sq mi) is internal water surface area.[6]
  2. ^b 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 tribes in the region.[7]

The word "Poland" was written officially for the first time in 966. In 1569, Poland formed a strong union with Lithuania called the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At some point in its history, it was the largest state in Europe and became very influential. Eventually, after a slow decline, the Commonwealth collapsed in 1795. Poland regained its independence in 1918 after World War I. In 1921, Poland defeated Soviet Russia in the Polish-Soviet War that started in 1919.

However, Poland lost independence again not long after the beginning of World War II, after suffering a defeat by both the USSR and Nazi Germany. Although the government collapsed, the Polish people fought on by forming the largest and most effective resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe. It is most notable for disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern Front of WWII, providing military intelligence to the British, and for saving more Jewish lives in the Holocaust than any other Allied organization or government. After the war, Poland regained "independence" and became a communist country within the Eastern Bloc. The new government was appointed by Joseph Stalin and was under the control of the Soviet Union.

In 1989, Poland ceased being a communist country and became a liberal democracy. Its change of government was the first in a series of events that led to the states of Eastern and Central Europe regaining their independence and the fall of the USSR in 1991. After the democratic consolidation, Poland joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. Poland is also a member of NATO, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization.



Early history

Slavic tribes 600-800

The first sign of humans in Polish lands was 500,000 years ago. The Bronze Age started around 2400-2300 BC. The Iron Age started around 750-700 BC. At that time the Polish lands were under the influence of the Lusatian culture. About 400 BC Celtic and Germanic tribes lived there. Those people had trade contacts with the Roman Empire.

Over time, Slavs came to Polish lands. Some of those Slavs, now commonly referred to as Western Slavs (though in reality a diverse group of tribes with shared ethnic and cultural features), stayed there and started to create new nations. The most powerful tribe was called the Polans, who united all of the other Slavic tribes living there, and this is where the name "Poland" comes from.

Piast and Jagiellon dynasties

Poland 960-992
Boleslaw I of Poland

Poland began to form a country around the middle of the 10th century in the Piast dynasty. In 966, Prince Mieszko I became a Christian, and so the Polish people also became Christians. The next king was Bolesław I of Poland (called Bolesław the Brave). He conquered many lands and he became the first King of Poland. Casimir I of Poland changed the Polish capital from Gniezno to Kraków. In the 12th century, Poland broke into some smaller states after the death of King Bolesław III Wrymouth in 1138 because of his will. Those states were later attacked by Mongol armies in 1241, which slowed down the unification of the small states into the big country of Poland. This happened eighty years later, in 1320 when Władysław I became the King of United Poland. His son Casimir III the Great reformed the Polish economy, built new castles, and won the war against the Ruthenian Dukedom. Many people emigrated to Poland, becoming a haven for emigrants. Many Jewish people also moved into Poland during that time. The Black Death, which affected many parts of Europe from 1347 to 1351, did not come to Poland.[10]

After the death of the last Piast on the Polish throne, Casimir III, Louis I of Hungary and his daughter Jadwiga of Poland began their rule. She married the Lithuanian prince Jogaila. Their marriage started a new dynasty in Poland: the Jagiellon dynasty. Under the Jagiellon dynasty, Poland made an alliance with its neighbor Lithuania.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to Second Republic of Poland

Polish-Lithuanian Union when it was largest 1618-1655

In the 17th century Sweden attacked almost all of Poland (this was called “the Deluge”). Many wars against the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Cossacks, Transylvania and Brandenburg-Prussia ended in 1699. For the next 80 years, the government and the nation were weak, making Poland dependent on Russia. Russian tsars took advantage of this by offering money to dishonest members of the Polish government, who would block new ideas and solutions. Russia, Prussia, and Austria broke Poland into three pieces in 1772, 1793 and 1795, which dissolved the country. Before the second split, a Constitution called "The Constitution of 3 May" was made in 1791.

Napoleon made another Polish state, “the Duchy of Warsaw”, but after the Napoleonic wars, Poland was split again by the countries at the Congress of Vienna. The eastern part was ruled by the Russian tsar. The Polish people did not like the new kings, and often rebelled (two big rebellions in 1830[10] and 1863[11]). During World War I all the Allies agreed to save Poland. Soon after the surrender of Germany in November 1918, Poland became the Second Polish Republic (II Rzeczpospolita Polska). It got its freedom after several military conflicts; the largest was the 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War.

World War II

Poland 1922-1939

On September 1, 1939, World War II started when Nazi Germany attacked Poland. The Soviet Union attacked Poland on September 17, 1939. Warsaw was defeated on September 28, 1939. Poland was split into two pieces, one half owned by Nazi Germany, the other by the Soviet Union. More than 6 million Polish people died, and half of these people were Jewish. Most of these deaths were part of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews and 1.5 poles were killed. At the war's end, Poland's borders were moved west, pushing the eastern border to the Curzon line.[12] The western border was moved to the Oder-Neisse line. The new Poland became 20% smaller by 77,500 square kilometers (29,900 sq mi). The shift forced millions of Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, and Jews to move.

Polish People's Republic to Third Polish Republic

Poland's current boundaries were made after 1945. The grey areas went from Poland to the Soviet Union. The red areas from Germany to Poland.

After these events, Poland gradually became a communist country. It was supposedly an independent country, but in reality, the new government was appointed by Joseph Stalin and was also under the control of the Soviet Union. The country was then renamed the People's Republic of Poland. There are many Poles in the neighboring countries Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania (these three countries were part of the Soviet Union until 1991), as well as in other countries. Most Poles outside of Poland are in the United States, especially in Chicago. Germany and the United Kingdom are also home to a large Polish diaspora. The most recent mass emigration of Poles to western countries began after 1989.

In 1989 Solidarity - a trade union led by Lech Wałęsa - helped defeat the communist government in Poland. Even before that event, Lech Wałęsa was given a Nobel Prize for leading the first non-communist trade union fighting for democracy in the Communist Block. When Communism ended in Poland there were many improvements in human rights, such as freedom of speech, democracy, etc. In 1991 Poland became a member of the Visegrad Group and joined NATO in 1999 along with the Czech Republic and Hungary. Polish voters then voted to join the European Union in a vote in June 2003. The country joined the EU on May 1, 2004.

Currently, the Prime Minister is Mateusz Morawiecki. On 10 April 2010 the President Lech Kaczyński died in a government plane crash in Smolensk in Russia. The president is elected directly by the citizens for a five-year term. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and confirmed by the "Sejm". The Sejm is the lower chamber of Parliament legislature for the country. It has 460 deputies elected every four years.


Physical land features of Poland

Poland's territory is a plain reaching from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Carpathian Mountains in the south. Within that plain, the land varies from east to west.

The Polish Baltic coast is mostly smooth but has natural harbors in the Gdańsk-Gdynia region and Szczecin in the far northwest. This coast has several spits, dunes, and coastal lakes. Coast lakes are former bays that have been cut off from the sea. These areas are sometimes called lagoons. Szczecin Lagoon is on the western border with Germany. The Vistula Lagoon is on the eastern border with Kaliningrad, province of Russia. The longest river in Poland, the Vistula river, empties into the Vistula Lagoon and also directly into the Baltic Sea.

The northeastern region is densely wooded, sparsely populated, and lacks agricultural and industrial resources. The geographical region has four hilly districts of moraines and lakes created by moraines. These formed during and after the Pleistocene ice age. The Masurian Lake District is the largest of the four districts and covers much of northeastern Poland.

Poland has many lakes. In Europe, only Finland has more lakes. The largest lakes are Śniardwy and Mamry. In addition to the lake districts in the north, there are also many mountain lakes in the Tatras mountains.

South of the northeastern region is the regions of Silesia and Masovia, which are marked by the broad ice-age river valleys. The Silesia region has many resources and people. Coal is abundant. Lower Silesia has large copper mining. Masovian Plain is in central Poland. It is in the valleys of three large rivers: Vistula, Bug and Narew.

Further south is the Polish mountain region. These mountains include the Sudetes and the Carpathian Mountains. The highest part of the Carpathians is the Tatra mountains which is along Poland’s southern border. The tallest mountain in Poland, Rysy at 2,503 m (8,210 ft), is in the High Tatras.



Poland has a continental climate.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Poland was 40.2 °C (104.4 °F) on 29 July 1921 in Prószków. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Poland was −41.0 °C (−41.8 °F) on 11 January 1940 in Siedlce.

Top 5 warmest days

Rank Temperature Date Location
1. 40.2 °C (104.4 °F) 29 July 1921 Prószków
2. 38.4 °C (101.1 °F) 19 June 2022 Słubice
3. 38.2 °C (100.8 °F) 26 July 2019 Radzyń
4. 37.6 °C (99.7 °F) 20 July 2022 Wrocław
5. 37.3 °C (99.1 °F) 1 August 2020, 13 July 2010 Kikoły, Hajnowka

Administrative divisions


Poland is made of sixteen regions known as voivodeships (województwa, singular - województwo). They are basically created from the country's historical regions, whereas those of the past two decades (till 1998) had been focused on and named for separate cities. The new units range in areas from under 10,000 km2 (Opole Voivodeship) to over 35,000 km2 (Masovian Voivodeship). Voivodeships are controlled by voivod governments, and their legislatures are called voivodeship sejmiks.

The sixteen voivodeships that make up Poland are further divided into powiaty (singular powiat), second-level units of administration, which are about the same as to a county, district or prefecture in other countries.

Voivodeship Capital city or cities
in Polish
Kuyavia-Pomerania Kujawsko-Pomorskie Bydgoszcz / Toruń
Greater Poland Wielkopolskie Poznań
Lesser Poland Małopolskie Kraków
Łódź Łódzkie Łódź
Lower Silesia Dolnośląskie Wrocław
Lublin Lubelskie Lublin
Lubusz Lubuskie Gorzów Wielkopolski / Zielona Góra
Masovia Mazowieckie Warsaw (National Capital)
Opole Opolskie Opole
Podlaskie Podlaskie Białystok
Pomerania Pomorskie Gdańsk
Silesia Śląskie Katowice
Subcarpathia Podkarpackie Rzeszów
Swietokrzyskie Świętokrzyskie Kielce
Warmia-Masuria Warmińsko-Mazurskie Olsztyn
West Pomerania Zachodniopomorskie Szczecin



Henryk Sienkiewicz, famous Polish novelist

Almost no Polish literature remains before Christianisation in the 10th century. Polish literature was written in the Latin language during the Middle Ages. The Polish language was accepted as equal to Latin after the Renaissance for literature.

Jan Kochanowski was a leading poet of European Renaissance literature in the 16th century. Other great Polish poets include Adam Mickiewicz who wrote Pan Tadeusz epic in 1834.

Several Polish novelists have won the Nobel prize. Henryk Sienkiewicz won in 1905 dramatized versions of beginnings of Christianity (Quo Vadis). Władysław Reymont won a Nobel prize in 1924. He wrote the novel Chłopi, recently filmed. Olga Tokarczuk 2018. Two Polish poets won Nobel prizes as well. One is Czesław Miłosz (1980) and the second Wisława Szymborska (1996).

Stanisław Lem is a famous science fiction author in the modern era. His Solaris novel was made twice into a feature film.


Frederic Chopin, famous Polish composer and pianist

In the past, Poland was inhabited by people from different nations and of different religions (mainly Catholics, Orthodox and Judaism). This changed after 1939, because of the Nazi Holocaust which killed many Polish Jews. After World War II, the country was changed into a communist country, by the Warsaw Pact which included most central European countries and Russia Russia.

Today 38,038,000 people live in Poland (2011). In 2002 96.74% of the population call themselves Polish, while 471,500 people (1.23%) claimed another nationality. 774,900 people (2.03%) did not declare any nationality. Nationalities, or ethnic groups in Poland are Silesians, Germans (most in the former Opole Voivodeship), Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Russians, Jews, Roma and Belarusians. The Polish language is part of the West Slavic section of the Slavic languages. It is also the official language of Poland. English and German are the most common second languages studied and spoken.

Marie Curie, famous Polish chemist and two time Nobel Prize winner

In the past few years, Poland's population has gone down because of an increase in emigration and a sharp drop in the birth rate. In 2006, the census office estimated the total population of Poland at 38,536,869, a very small rise from the 2002 figure of 38,230,080. Since Poland's accession to the European Union, many Polish people have moved to work in Western European countries like the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Some organizations state people have left because of high unemployment (10.5%) and better opportunities for work somewhere else. In April 2007, the Polish population of the United Kingdom had risen to about 300,000 people and estimates predict about 65,000 Polish people living in the Republic of Ireland. However, in recent years strong growth of the Polish economy and the increasing value of Polish currency (PLN) makes many Polish immigrants go back home. In 2007, the number of people leaving the country was lower than people who are coming back. Poland became an attractive place to work for people from other countries (mainly Ukraine).

A Polish minority is still present in neighboring countries of Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, as well as in other countries. The largest number of ethnic Poles outside of the country can be found in the United States.

Famous people


Urban demographics


The lists below show the population count of Poland's largest cities based on 2005 estimates.

   Agglomeration or conurbation  Voivodeship  Inhabitants
(Estimated, 2005)
1 Katowice (USIA) Silesia 3,487,000
2 Warsaw (Warszawa) Masovia 2,679,000
3 Kraków Lesser Poland 1,400,000
4 Łódź Łódź 1,300,000
5 Tricity Pomerania 1,100,000
6 Poznań Greater Poland 1,000,000
   City  Voivodeship  Inhabitants
May 20, 2002
December 31, 2004
1 Warsaw (Warszawa) Masovia 1,671,670 1,692,854
2 Łódź Łódź 789,318 774,004
3 Kraków Lesser Poland 758,544 757,430
4 Wrocław Lower Silesia 640,367 636,268
5 Poznań Greater Poland 578,886 570,778
6 Gdańsk Pomerania 461,334 459,072
7 Szczecin Western Pomerania 415,399 411,900
8 Bydgoszcz Kuyavia-Pomerania 373,804 368,235
9 Lublin Lublin 357,110 355,998
10 Katowice Silesia 327,222 319,904
11 Białystok Podlaskie 291,383 292,150
12 Gdynia Pomerania 253,458 253,324
13 Częstochowa Silesia 251,436 248,032
14 Sosnowiec Silesia 232,622 228,192
15 Radom Masovia 229,699 227,613
16 Kielce Świętokrzyskie 212,429 209,455
17 Toruń Kuyavia-Pomerania 211,243 208,278
18 Gliwice Silesia 203,814 200,361
19 Zabrze Silesia 195,293 192,546
20 Bytom Silesia 193,546 189,535
21 Bielsko-Biała Silesia 178,028 176,987
22 Olsztyn Warmia-Masuria 173,102 174,550
23 Rzeszów Subcarpathia 160,376 159,020
24 Ruda Śląska Silesia 150,595 147,403
25 Rybnik Silesia 142,731 141,755
26 Tychy Silesia 132,816 131,547
27 Dąbrowa Górnicza Silesia 132,236 130,789
28 Opole Opole 129,946 128,864
29 Płock Masovia 128,361 127,841
30 Elbląg Warmia-Masuria 128,134 127,655
31 Wałbrzych Lower Silesia 130,268 127,566
32 Gorzów Wielkopolski Lubusz 125,914 125,578
33 Włocławek Kuyavia-Pomerania 121,229 120,369
34 Tarnów Lesser Poland 119,913 118,267
35 Zielona Góra Lubusz 118,293 118,516
36 Chorzów Silesia 117,430 115,241
37 Kalisz Greater Poland 109,498 108,792
38 Koszalin Western Pomerania 108,709 107,773
39 Legnica Lower Silesia 107,100 106,143
40 Słupsk Pomerania 100,376 99,827
41 Grudziądz Kuyavia-Pomerania 99,943 98,757
42 Jaworzno Silesia 98,780 96,600


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  2. "Poland Demographics Profile". Archived from the original on 2020-07-04. Retrieved 2020-05-21.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "5. Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". International Monetary Fund. Archived from the original on 24 May 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
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  7. Smith, Christian (1996). Disruptive Religion: The Force of Faith in Social-movement Activism. Psychology Press. ISBN 9780415914055. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  8. UN Statistics Division (1 April 2010). "Standard Country and Area Codes Classifications (M49)". United Nations Organization. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Poland". The World Factbook (2024 ed.). Central Intelligence Agency.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Teeple, J. B. (2002). Timelines of World History. Publisher: DK Adult.
  11. Burant, Stephen R. (April 1, 1985). "The January Uprising of 1863 in Poland: Sources of Disaffection and the Arenas of Revolt". European History Quarterly. 15 (2). Sage Journals: 131–56. doi:10.1177/026569148501500201. S2CID 143799338. Archived from the original on May 21, 2021. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  12. In first version of that line western Ukraine with Lviv may come to Poland

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