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Welcome to the Poland Portal — Witaj w Portalu o Polsce

Cityscape of Kraków, Poland's former capital
Cityscape of Kraków, Poland's former capital
Coat of arms 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

The "Cake of Kings", a 1773 engraving by Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune
The First Partition of Poland took place in 1772 as the first of three partitions that ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth by 1795. Growth in the Russian Empire's power, threatening the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Austrian Empire, was the primary motive behind this first partition. The weakened Commonwealth's land, including that already controlled by Russia, was apportioned among its more powerful neighbors—Austria, Russia and Prussia—so as to restore the regional balance of power in Eastern Europe among those three countries. With Poland unable to effectively defend itself and with foreign troops already inside the country, the Polish parliament ratified the partition in 1773 during the Partition Sejm convened by the three powers.


Selected image

Coffin portrait of a noblewoman in a white bonnet
Credit: anonymous (painting), National Museum in Warsaw (photograph)

Coffin portrait of an unidentified Polish noblewoman wearing a black lace-trimmed dress and a white bonnet adorned with strings of pearls and tufts of black ribbons, dated to the reign of King John Casimir (r. 1648–1668). Realistic portraits of the deceased painted on distinctively hexagonal or octagonal metal sheets, were an important part of the Polish nobility's funerary tradition during the period of Sarmatian Baroque. They were attached to coffins for the duration of the funeral, but removed before the burial and hanged on a wall inside a church.

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E. bozenae holotype

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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.


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Palace of Culture and Science

Warsaw (Warszawa) is the capital and, with a population of over 1.7 million, the largest city of Poland. Founded in 1300 on the Vistula River, Warsaw became the seat of the dukes of Masovia in 1413. Masovia was annexed by Poland in 1526, and 70 years later, in 1596, King Sigismund III moved his seat from Kraków to Warsaw. The rise in political status was accompanied by strong economic and cultural development. Occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, Warsaw was the site of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 and the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, followed by a complete destruction of the city. Painstakingly rebuilt in the Communist era, Warsaw is now an increasingly important political and economic hub of Central Europe.

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Krzemionki flint mines archeological reserve

Holidays and observances in July 2019
(statutory public holidays in bold)

Battle of Grunwald reenactment

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