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Republic of Poland

Rzeczpospolita Polska  (Polish)
EU-Poland (orthographic projection).svgShow globe
EU-Poland.svgShow map of Europe
Location of  Poland  (dark green)

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

and largest city
52°13′N 21°02′E / 52.217°N 21.033°E / 52.217; 21.033
Official language Polish
Ethnic groups
  • 98% Poles
  • 2% other / undeclared
    • 72.2% Christianity
      • 71.3% Catholicism
      • 0.9% other Christian
  • 6.9% no religion
  • 0.4% other
  • 20.5% unanswered
Government Unitary parliamentary republic
Andrzej Duda
Donald Tusk
Legislature Parliament
• Baptism of Poland
14 April 966
• Kingdom of Poland
18 April 1025
1 July 1569
24 October 1795
11 November 1918
17 September 1939
22 July 1944
• Third Republic
31 December 1989
• Total
312,700 km2 (120,700 sq mi) (69th)
• Water (%)
1.48 (2015)
• 2022 census
Neutral decrease 38,036,118 (38th)
• Density
122/km2 (316.0/sq mi) (75th)
GDP (PPP) 2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $1.712 trillion (21st)
• Per capita
Increase $45,538 (40th)
GDP (nominal) 2023 estimate
• Total
Increase $842.172 billion (21st)
• Per capita
Increase $22,393 (44th)
Gini (2020)  27.2
HDI (2021) Increase 0.876
very high · 34th
Currency Złoty (PLN)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
• Summer (DST)
Date format (CE)
Driving side right
Calling code +48
ISO 3166 code PL
Internet TLD .pl [a]
  1. Also .eu, shared with other European Union member states.

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative provinces called voivodeships, covering an area of 312,696 km2 (120,733 sq mi). Poland has a population of 38 million and is the fifth-most populous member state of the European Union. Warsaw is the nation's capital and largest metropolis. Other major cities include Kraków, Wrocław, Łódź, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Poland has a temperate transitional climate and its territory traverses the Central European Plain, extending from Baltic Sea in the north to Sudeten and Carpathian Mountains in the south. The longest Polish river is the Vistula, and Poland's highest point is Mount Rysy, situated in the Tatra mountain range of the Carpathians. The country is bordered by Lithuania and Russia to the northeast, Belarus and Ukraine to the east, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to the south, and Germany to the west. It also shares maritime boundaries with Denmark and Sweden.

The history of human activity on Polish soil dates to c. 10,000 BC. Culturally diverse throughout late antiquity, the region became inhabited by tribal Polans who gave Poland its name in the early medieval period. The establishment of statehood in 966 coincided with a pagan ruler of the Polans converting to Christianity under the auspices of the Roman Church. The Kingdom of Poland emerged in 1025 and in 1569 cemented its longstanding association with Lithuania, thus forming the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was one of the great powers of Europe at the time, with a uniquely liberal political system that adopted Europe's first modern constitution in 1791.

With the passing of a prosperous Polish Golden Age, the country was partitioned by neighbouring states at the end of the 18th century and regained its independence in 1918 as the Second Polish Republic. In September 1939, the invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union marked the beginning of World War II, which resulted in the Holocaust and millions of Polish casualties. As a member of the Communist Bloc in the global Cold War, the Polish People's Republic was a founding signatory of the Warsaw Pact. Through the emergence and contributions of the Solidarity movement, the communist government was dissolved and Poland re-established itself as a democratic state in 1989.

Poland is a parliamentary republic, with its bicameral legislature comprising the Sejm and the Senate. It is a developed market and a high income economy. Considered a middle power, Poland has the sixth largest economy in the European Union by GDP (nominal) and the fifth largest by GDP (PPP). It provides a very high standard of living, safety and economic freedom, as well as free university education and a universal health care system. The country has 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 15 of which are cultural. Poland is a founding member state of the United Nations, as well as a member of the World Trade Organization, NATO, and the European Union (including the Schengen Area).


The native Polish name for Poland is Polska. The name is derived from the Polans, a West Slavic tribe who inhabited the Warta River basin of present-day Greater Poland region (6th–8th century CE). The tribe's name stems from the 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 German Pole(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 Lechia and its root syllable remains in official use in several languages, notably Hungarian, Lithuanian, and Persian. The exonym possibly derives from either Lech, a legendary ruler of the Lechites, or from the Lendians, a West Slavic tribe that dwelt on the south-easternmost edge of Lesser Poland. The origin of the tribe's name lies in the Old Polish word lęda (plain). Initially, both names Lechia and Polonia were used interchangeably when referring to Poland by chroniclers during the Middle Ages.



Poland topo
Topographic map of Poland

Poland covers an administrative area of 312,722 km2 (120,743 sq mi), and is the ninth-largest country in Europe. Approximately 311,895 km2 (120,423 sq mi) of the country's territory consists of land, 2,041 km2 (788 sq mi) comprises internal waters and 8,783 km2 (3,391 sq mi) is territorial sea. Topographically, the landscape of Poland is characterised by diverse landforms, water bodies and ecosystems. The central and northern region bordering the Baltic Sea lie within the flat Central European Plain, but its south is hilly and mountainous. The average elevation above the sea level is estimated at 173 metres.

The country has a coastline spanning 770 km (480 mi); extending from the shores of the Baltic Sea, along the Bay of Pomerania in the west to the Gulf of Gdańsk in the east. The beach coastline is abundant in sand dune fields or coastal ridges and is indented by spits and lagoons, notably the Hel Peninsula and the Vistula Lagoon, which is shared with Russia. The largest Polish island on the Baltic Sea is Wolin, located within Wolin National Park. Poland also shares the Szczecin Lagoon and the Usedom island with Germany.

The mountainous belt in the extreme south of Poland is divided into two major mountain ranges; the Sudetes in the west and the Carpathians in the east. The highest part of the Carpathian massif are the Tatra Mountains, extending along Poland's southern border. Poland's highest point is Mount Rysy at 2,501 metres (8,205 ft) in elevation, located in the Tatras. The highest summit of the Sudeten massif is 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.

Morskie Oko o poranku
Morskie Oko alpine lake in the Tatra Mountains. Poland has one of the highest densities of lakes in the world.

Poland's longest rivers are the Vistula, the Oder, the Warta, and the 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.


The climate of Poland is temperate transitional, and varies from oceanic in the north-west to continental in the south-east. The mountainous southern fringes are situated within an alpine climate. Poland is characterised by warm summers, with a mean temperature of around 20 °C (68.0 °F) in July, and moderately cold winters averaging −1 °C (30.2 °F) in December. The warmest and sunniest part of Poland is Lower Silesia in the southwest and the coldest region is the northeast corner, around Suwałki in Podlaskie province, where the climate is affected by cold fronts from Scandinavia and Siberia. 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.


2020 żubry 03
The wisent, one of Poland's national animals, is commonly found at the ancient and UNESCO-protected Białowieża Forest.

Phytogeographically, Poland belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. The country has four Palearctic ecoregions – Central, Northern, Western European temperate broadleaf and mixed forest, and the Carpathian montane conifer. Forests occupy 31% of Poland's land area, the largest of which is the Lower Silesian Wilderness. The most common deciduous trees found across the country are oak, maple, and beech; the most common conifers are pine, spruce, and fir. An estimated 69% of all forests are coniferous.

The flora and fauna in Poland is that of Continental Europe, with the wisent, white stork and white-tailed eagle designated as national animals, and the red common poppy being the unofficial floral emblem. Among the most protected species is the European bison, Europe's heaviest land animal, as well as the Eurasian beaver, the lynx, the gray wolf and the Tatra chamois. The region was also home to the extinct aurochs, the last individual dying in Poland in 1627. Game animals such as red deer, roe deer, and wild boar are found in most woodlands. Poland is also a significant breeding ground for migratory birds and hosts around one quarter of the global population of white storks.

Around 315,100 hectares (1,217 sq mi), equivalent to 1% of Poland's territory, is protected within 23 Polish national parks, two of which – Białowieża and Bieszczady – are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 123 areas designated as landscape parks, along with numerous nature reserves and other protected areas under the Natura 2000 network.

Government and politics

Poland is a unitary parliamentary republic and a representative democracy, with a president as the head of state. The executive power is exercised further by the Council of Ministers and the prime minister who acts as the head of government. The council's individual members are selected by the prime minister, appointed by the president and approved by parliament. The head of state is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The current president is Andrzej Duda and the prime minister is Donald Tusk.

Poland's legislative assembly is a bicameral parliament consisting of a 460-member lower house (Sejm) and a 100-member upper house (Senate). The Sejm is elected under proportional representation according to the d'Hondt method for vote-seat conversion. The Senate is elected under the 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.

Administrative divisions

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.

Voivodeship Capital city Area Population
in English in Polish km2 2021
Greater Poland Wielkopolskie Poznań 29,826 3,496,450
Kuyavian-Pomeranian Kujawsko-Pomorskie Bydgoszcz & Toruń 17,971 2,061,942
Lesser Poland Małopolskie Kraków 15,183 3,410,441
Łódź Łódzkie Łódź 18,219 2,437,970
Lower Silesian Dolnośląskie Wrocław 19,947 2,891,321
Lublin Lubelskie Lublin 25,123 2,095,258
Lubusz Lubuskie Gorzów Wielkopolski &
Zielona Góra
13,988 1,007,145
Masovian Mazowieckie Warsaw 35,559 5,425,028
Opole Opolskie Opole 9,412 976,774
Podlaskie Podlaskie Białystok 20,187 1,173,286
Pomeranian Pomorskie Gdańsk 18,323 2,346,671
Silesian Śląskie Katowice 12,333 4,492,330
Subcarpathian Podkarpackie Rzeszów 17,846 2,121,229
Holy Cross Świętokrzyskie Kielce 11,710 1,224,626
Warmian-Masurian Warmińsko-Mazurskie Olsztyn 24,173 1,416,495
West Pomeranian Zachodniopomorskie Szczecin 22,905 1,688,047


Manuscript of the Constitution of the 3rd May 1791
The Constitution of 3 May adopted in 1791 was the first modern constitution in Europe.

The Constitution of Poland is the enacted supreme law, and Polish judicature is based on the principle of civil rights, governed by the code of civil law. The current democratic constitution was adopted by the National Assembly of Poland on 2 April 1997; it guarantees a multi-party state with freedoms of religion, speech and assembly, prohibits the practices of forced medical experimentation, corporal punishment, and acknowledges the inviolability of the home, the right to form trade unions, and the right to strike.

The judiciary in Poland is composed of the Supreme Court as the country's highest judicial organ, the Supreme Administrative Court for the judicial control of public administration, Common Courts (District, Regional, Appellate) and the Military Court. The Constitutional and State Tribunals are separate judicial bodies, which rule the constitutional liability of people holding the highest offices of state and supervise the compliance of statutory law, thus protecting the Constitution. Judges are nominated by the 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.

Historically, the most significant Polish legal act is the Constitution of 3 May 1791. Instituted to redress long-standing political defects of the federative Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and its Golden Liberty, it was the first modern constitution in Europe and influenced many later democratic movements across the globe. In 1918, the Second Polish Republic became one of the first countries to introduce universal women's suffrage.

Foreign relations

Ministerstwo Spraw Zagraniczych al. Szucha 23
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, located in Warsaw

Poland is a middle power and is transitioning into a regional power in Europe. It has a total of 52 representatives in the European Parliament as of 2022. Warsaw serves as the headquarters for Frontex, the European Union's agency for external border security as well as ODIHR, one of the principal institutions of the OSCE. Apart from the European Union, Poland has been a member of NATO, the United Nations, and the WTO.

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".


F-16 Jastrząb (48)
Polish Air Force F-16s, a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft

The Polish Armed Forces are composed of five branches – the Land Forces, the Navy, the Air Force, the Special Forces and the Territorial Defence Force. The military is subordinate to the 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. From 2022, Poland is set to spend 110 billion euros on the modernisation of its armed forces, in close cooperation with American, South Korean and local Polish defence manufacturers. Also, the Polish military is set to increase its size to 250,000 enlisted and officers, and 50,000 defence force personnel. According to SIPRI, the country exported €487 million worth of arms and armaments to foreign countries in 2020.

Compulsory military service for men, who previously had to serve for nine months, was discontinued in 2008. Polish military doctrine reflects the same defensive nature as that of its NATO partners and the country actively hosts NATO's military exercises. Since 1953, the country has been a large contributor to various United Nations peacekeeping missions, and currently maintains military presence in the Middle East, Africa, the Baltic states and southeastern Europe.

Law enforcement and emergency services

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Policja Krakow G719
A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter patrol van belonging to the Polish State Police Service (Policja)

Law enforcement in Poland is performed by several agencies which are subordinate to the Ministry of Interior and Administration – the State Police (Policja), assigned to investigate crimes or transgression; the Municipal City Guard, which maintains public order; and several specialised agencies, such as the Polish Border Guard. Private security firms are also common, although they possess no legal authority to arrest or detain a suspect. Municipal guards are primarily headed by provincial, regional or city councils; individual guards are not permitted to carry firearms unless instructed by the superior commanding officer. Security service personnel conduct regular patrols in both large urban areas or smaller suburban localities.

The Internal Security Agency (ABW, or ISA in English) is the chief counter-intelligence instrument safeguarding Poland's internal security, along with Agencja Wywiadu (AW) which identifies threats and collects secret information abroad. The Central Investigation Bureau of Police (CBŚP) and the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) are responsible for countering organised crime and corruption in state and private institutions.

Emergency services in Poland consist of the emergency medical services, search and rescue units of the Polish Armed Forces and State Fire Service. Emergency medical services in Poland are operated by local and regional governments, but are a part of the centralised national agency - the National Medical Emergency Service (Państwowe Ratownictwo Medyczne).


Panorama siekierkowski.jpg

Economic indicators
GDP (PPP) $1.599 trillion (2022)
Nominal GDP $716 billion (2022)
Real GDP growth 4.5% (2019)
CPI inflation 2.2% (2019)
Employment-to-population ratio 55% (2019)
Unemployment 2.9% (2021)
Total public debt $274 billion (2019)

As of 2023, Poland's economy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the sixth largest in the European Union by nominal standards and the fifth largest by purchasing power parity. It is also one of the fastest growing within the Union and reached a developed market status in 2018. The unemployment rate published by Eurostat in 2021 amounted to 2.9%, which was the second-lowest in the EU. Around 61% of the employed population works in the service sector, 31% in manufacturing, and 8% in the agricultural sector. Although Poland is a member of EU's single market, the country has not adopted the Euro as legal tender and maintains its own currency – the Polish złoty (zł, PLN).

Poland is the regional economic leader in Central Europe, with nearly 40 per cent of the 500 biggest companies in the region (by revenues) as well as a high globalisation rate. The country's largest firms compose the WIG20 and WIG30 indexes, which is traded on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. According to reports made by the National Bank of Poland, the value of Polish foreign direct investments reached almost 300 billion PLN at the end of 2014. The 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.


Zamojski ratusz 2
The Old City of Zamość is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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 Kraków, which was the former capital of Poland and serves as a relic of the Polish Golden Age and the Renaissance. Kraków also held royal coronations of most Polish kings and monarchs at Wawel, the nation's chief historical landmark. Among other notable sites in the country is Wrocław, one of the oldest cities in Poland which was a model for the founding of Kraków. Wrocław is famous for its dwarf statues, a large market square with two town halls, and the oldest Zoological Gardens with one of the world's largest number of animal species. The Polish capital Warsaw and its historical Old Town were entirely reconstructed after wartime destruction. Other cities attracting countless tourists include Gdańsk, Poznań, Lublin, Toruń as well as the site of the German Auschwitz concentration camp in Oświęcim. A notable highlight is the 13th-century Wieliczka Salt Mine with its labyrinthine tunnels, a subterranean lake and chapels carved by miners out of rock salt beneath the ground.

Poland's main tourist offerings include outdoor activities such as skiing, sailing, mountain hiking and climbing, as well as agritourism, sightseeing historical monuments. Tourist destinations include the Baltic Sea coast in the north; the Masurian Lake District and Białowieża Forest in the east; on the south Karkonosze, the Table Mountains and the Tatra Mountains, where Rysy – the highest peak of Poland, and Eagle's Path mountain trail are located. The Pieniny and Bieszczady Mountains lie in the extreme south-east. There are over 100 castles in the country, most in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship, and also on the Trail of the Eagles' Nests. The largest castle in the world by land area is situated in Malbork, in north-central Poland.

Transport and energy

WK15 Wrocław Główny (2) Lichen99
PKP Intercity Pendolino at the Wrocław railway station

Transport in Poland is provided by means of rail, road, marine shipping and air travel. The country is part of EU's Schengen Area and is an important transport hub along neighbouring Germany due to its strategic position in Central Europe. Some of the longest European routes, including the E40, run through Poland.

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 Polish State Railways (PKP) is the dominant railway operator in the country. Poland has a number of international airports, the largest of which is Warsaw Chopin Airport, the primary global hub for LOT Polish Airlines.

Seaports exist all along Poland's Baltic coast, with most freight operations using Świnoujście, Police, Szczecin, Kołobrzeg, Gdynia, Gdańsk and Elbląg as their base. The Port of Gdańsk is the only port in the Baltic Sea adapted to receive oceanic vessels.

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 relies 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.

Science and technology

Marie Curie c1920
Physicist and chemist Maria Skłodowska-Curie was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes.

Over the course of history, the Polish people have made considerable contributions in the fields of science, technology and mathematics. Perhaps the most renowned Pole to support this theory was Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikołaj Kopernik), who triggered the Copernican Revolution by placing the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe. He also derived a quantity theory of money, which made him a pioneer of economics. Copernicus' achievements and discoveries are considered the basis of Polish culture and cultural identity. Poland was ranked 40th in the Global Innovation Index in 2021, down from 39th in 2019.

Nikolaus Kopernikus
Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th century Polish astronomer who formulated the heliocentric model of the solar system.

Poland's tertiary education institutions; traditional universities, as well as technical, medical, and economic institutions, employ around tens of thousands of researchers and staff members. There are hundreds of research and development institutes. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries many Polish scientists worked abroad; one of the most important of these exiles was Maria Skłodowska-Curie, a physicist and chemist who lived much of her life in France. In 1925 she established Poland's Radium Institute.

In the first half of the 20th century, Poland was a flourishing centre of mathematics. Outstanding Polish mathematicians formed the Lwów School of Mathematics (with Stefan Banach, Stanisław Mazur, Hugo Steinhaus, Stanisław Ulam) and Warsaw School of Mathematics (with Alfred Tarski, Kazimierz Kuratowski, Wacław Sierpiński and Antoni Zygmund). Numerous mathematicians, scientists, chemists or economists emigrated due to historic vicissitudes, among them Benoit Mandelbrot, Leonid Hurwicz, Alfred Tarski, Joseph Rotblat and Nobel Prize laureates Roald Hoffmann, Georges Charpak and Tadeusz Reichstein. In the 1930s, mathematician and cryptologist Marian Rejewski invented the Cryptographic Bomb which formed the basis of the effort that allowed the Allies to crack the Enigma code.


Poland has a population of approximately 38.2 million as of 2021, and is the ninth-most populous country in Europe, as well as the fifth-most populous member state of the European Union. It has a population density of 122 inhabitants per square kilometre (328 per square mile). The total fertility rate was estimated at 1.42 children born to a woman in 2019, which is among the world's lowest. Furthermore, Poland's population is aging significantly, and the country has a median age of roughly 42.

Population of Poland
Population of Poland from 1900 to 2010 in millions of inhabitants

Around 60% of the country's population lives in urban areas or major cities and 40% in rural zones. In 2020, 50.2% of Poles resided in detached dwellings and 44.3% in apartments. The most populous administrative province or state is the Masovian Voivodeship and the most populous city is the capital, Warsaw, at 1.8 million inhabitants with a further 2–3 million people living in its metropolitan area. The metropolitan area of Katowice is the largest urban conurbation with a population between 2.7 million and 5.3 million residents. Population density is higher in the south of Poland and mostly concentrated between the cities of Wrocław and Kraków.

In the 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
Rank Pop.
1 Warsaw 1,860,281
2 Kraków 800,653
3 Wrocław 672,929
4 Łódź 670,642
5 Poznań 546,859
6 Gdańsk 486,022
7 Szczecin 396,168
8 Bydgoszcz 337,666
9 Lublin 334,681
10 Białystok 294,242


Dolina Jadwigi znak
Dolina Jadwigi — a bilingual Polish-Kashubian road sign with the village name

Polish is the official and predominant spoken language in Poland, and is one of the official languages of the European Union. It is also a second language in parts of neighbouring Lithuania, where it is taught in Polish-minority schools. Contemporary Poland is a linguistically homogeneous nation, with 97% of respondents declaring Polish as their mother tongue. There are currently 15 minority languages in Poland, including one recognised regional language, Kashubian, which is spoken by approximately 100,000 people on a daily basis in the northern regions of Kashubia and Pomerania. Poland also recognises secondary administrative languages or auxiliary languages in bilingual municipalities, where bilingual signs and placenames are commonplace. According to the Centre for Public Opinion Research, around 32% of Polish citizens declared knowledge of the English language in 2015.


Pope John Paul II in Kraków – 1983
John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyła, held the papacy between 1978–2005 and was the first Pole to become a Roman Catholic Pope.

According to the 2011 census, 87.6% of all Polish citizens adhere to the Roman Catholic Church, with 2.4% identifying as having no religion. Poland is one of the most religious countries in Europe, where Roman Catholicism remains a criterion of national identity and Polish-born Pope John Paul II is widely revered. In 2015, 61.6% of respondents outlined that religion is of high or very high importance. Important pilgrimages to the Jasna Góra Monastery, a shrine dedicated to the Black Madonna, take place annually. However, church attendance has decreased in recent years; only 38% of worshippers attended mass regularly on Sunday in 2018.

Freedom of religion in Poland is guaranteed by the Constitution, and the concordat guarantees the teaching of religion in public schools. Historically, the Polish state maintained a high degree of religious tolerance and provided asylum for refugees fleeing religious persecutions in other parts of Europe. Poland also hosted Europe's largest Jewish diaspora and the country was a centre of Ashkenazi Jewish culture and traditional learning until the Holocaust.

Contemporary religious minorities comprise Orthodox Christians, Protestants — including Lutherans of the Evangelical-Augsburg Church, Pentecostals in the Pentecostal Church in Poland, Adventists in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and other smaller Evangelical denominations — Jehovah's Witnesses, Eastern Catholics, Mariavites, Jews, Muslims (Tatars) and neopagans, some of whom are members of the Native Polish Church.


Medical service providers and hospitals (szpitale) in Poland are subordinate to the 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.

According to the Human Development Report from 2020, the average life expectancy at birth is 79 years (around 75 years for an infant male and 83 years for an infant female); the country has a low infant mortality rate (4 per 1,000 births). In 2019, the principal cause of death was ischemic heart disease; diseases of the circulatory system accounted for 45% of all deaths. In the same year, Poland was also the 15th-largest importer of medications and pharmaceutical products.


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Jagiellonian University in Kraków

The Jagiellonian University founded in 1364 by Casimir III in Kraków was the first institution of higher learning established in Poland, and is one of the oldest universities still in continuous operation. Poland's Commission of National Education (Komisja Edukacji Narodowej), established in 1773, was the world's first state ministry of education.

The framework for primary, secondary and higher tertiary 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, with technical, medical, economic, agricultural, pedagogical, theological, musical, maritime and military faculties. The University of Warsaw and Warsaw Polytechnic, the University of Wrocław, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and the University of Technology in Gdańsk are among the most prominent. There are three conventional academic degrees in Poland – licencjat or inżynier (first cycle qualification), magister (second cycle qualification) and doktor (third cycle qualification). In 2018, the Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the 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.


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The Polish White Eagle is Poland's enduring national and cultural symbol

The culture of Poland is closely connected with its intricate 1,000-year history, and forms an important constituent in the Western civilisation. The Poles take great pride in their national identity which is often associated with the colours white and red, and exuded by the expression biało-czerwoni ("whitereds"). National symbols, chiefly the crowned white-tailed eagle, are often visible on clothing, insignia and emblems. The architectural monuments of great importance are protected by the National Heritage Board of Poland. Over 100 of the country's most significant tangible wonders were enlisted onto the Historic Monuments Register, with further 17 being recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

Holidays and traditions

Celebración de Todos los Santos, cementerio de la Santa Cruz, Gniezno, Polonia, 2017-11-01, DD 10-12 HDR
All Saints' Day on 1 November is one of the most important public holidays in Poland.

There are 13 government-approved annual public holidays – New Year on 1 January, Three Kings' Day on 6 January, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, Labour Day on 1 May, Constitution Day on 3 May, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Feast of the Assumption on 15 August, All Saints' Day on 1 November, Independence Day on 11 November and Christmastide on 25 and 26 December.

Particular traditions and superstitious customs observed in Poland are not found elsewhere in Europe. Though Christmas Eve (Wigilia) is not a public holiday, it remains the most memorable day of the entire year. Trees are decorated on 24 December, hay is placed under the tablecloth to resemble Jesus' manger, Christmas wafers (opłatek) are shared between gathered guests and a twelve-dish meatless supper is served that same evening when the first star appears. An empty plate and seat are symbolically left at the table for an unexpected guest. On occasion, carolers journey around smaller towns with a folk Turoń creature until the Lent period.

A widely-popular doughnut and sweet pastry feast occurs on Fat Thursday, usually 52 days prior to Easter. Eggs for 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.


Fryderyk Chopin
Fryderyk Chopin was a renowned classical composer and virtuoso pianist.
Artur Rubinstein
Artur Rubinstein was one of the greatest concert pianists of the 20th century.

Artists from Poland, including famous musicians such as Frédéric Chopin, Artur Rubinstein, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Wieniawski, Karol Szymanowski, and traditional, regionalised folk composers create a lively and diverse music scene, which even recognises its own music genres, such as sung poetry and disco polo.

The origins of Polish music can be traced to the 13th century; manuscripts have been found in Stary Sącz containing polyphonic compositions related to the Parisian Notre Dame School. Other early compositions, such as the melody of Bogurodzica and God Is Born (a coronation 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 liturgical music and secular compositions such as concertos and sonatas for voices or instruments. At the end of the 18th century, Polish classical music evolved into national forms like the polonaise. Wojciech Bogusławski is accredited with composing the first Polish national opera, titled Krakowiacy i Górale, which premiered in 1794.

Poland today has an active music scene, with the jazz and metal genres being particularly popular among the contemporary populace. Polish jazz musicians such as Krzysztof Komeda created a unique style, which was most famous in the 1960s and 1970s and continues to be popular to this day. Poland has also become a major venue for large-scale music festivals, chief among which are the Open'er Festival, Opole Festival and Sopot Festival.


Jan Matejko
Jan Matejko, leading Polish history painter whose works depict Poland's heritage and key historical events.
Lady with an Ermine
Lady with an Ermine (1490) by Leonardo da Vinci is displayed in the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków.

Art in Poland has invariably reflected European trends, with Polish painting pivoted on folklore, Catholic themes, historicism and realism, but also on impressionism and romanticism. An important art movement was Young Poland, developed in the late 19th century for promoting decadence, symbolism and art nouveau. Since the 20th century Polish documentary art and photography has enjoyed worldwide fame, especially the Polish School of Posters. One of the most distinguished paintings in Poland is Lady with an Ermine (1490) by Leonardo da Vinci.

Internationally renowned Polish artists include Jan Matejko (historicism), Jacek Malczewski (symbolism), Stanisław Wyspiański (art nouveau), Henryk Siemiradzki (Roman academic art), Tamara de Lempicka (art deco), and Zdzisław Beksiński (dystopian surrealism). Several Polish artists and sculptors were also acclaimed representatives of avant-garde, constructivist, minimalist and contemporary art movements, including Katarzyna Kobro, Władysław Strzemiński, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Alina Szapocznikow, Igor Mitoraj and Wilhelm Sasnal.

Notable art academies in Poland include the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts, Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Art Academy of Szczecin, University of Fine Arts in Poznań and the Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. Contemporary works are exhibited at Zachęta, Ujazdów, and MOCAK art galleries.


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St. Mary's Basilica on the Main Market Square in Kraków is an example of Brick Gothic architecture.
Poznań City Hall
The 16th-century City Hall of Poznań illustrates the Renaissance style.

The architecture of Poland reflects European architectural styles, with strong historical influences derived from Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries. Settlements founded on Magdeburg Law evolved around central marketplaces (plac, rynek), encircled by a grid or concentric network of streets forming an old town (stare miasto). Poland's traditional landscape is characterised by ornate churches, city tenements and town halls. Cloth hall markets (sukiennice) were once an abundant feature of Polish urban architecture. The mountainous south is known for its Zakopane chalet style, which originated in Poland.

The earliest architectonic trend was Romanesque (c. 11th century), but its traces in the form of circular rotundas are scarce. The arrival of brick Gothic (c. 13th century) defined Poland's most distinguishable medieval style, exuded by the castles of Malbork, Lidzbark, Gniew and Kwidzyn as well as the cathedrals of Gniezno, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Frombork and Kraków. The Renaissance (16th century) gave rise to Italianate courtyards, defensive palazzos and mausoleums. Decorative attics with pinnacles and arcade loggias are elements of Polish Mannerism, found in Poznań, Lublin and Zamość. Foreign artisans often came at the expense of kings or nobles, whose palaces were built thereafter in the Baroque, Neoclassical and Revivalist styles (17th–19th century).

Primary building materials comprising timber or red brick were extensively utilised in Polish folk architecture, and the concept of a fortified church was commonplace. Secular structures such as dworek manor houses, farmsteads, granaries, mills and country inns are still present in some regions or in open air museums (skansen). However, traditional construction methods faded in the early-mid 20th century due to urbanisation and the construction of functionalist housing estates and residential areas.


Adam Mickiewicz
Adam Mickiewicz, whose national epic poem Pan Tadeusz (1834) is considered a masterpiece of Polish literature.
Joseph Conrad-Korzeniowski
Joseph Conrad, author of popular books such as Heart of Darkness (1899) and Nostromo (1904).

The literary works of Poland have traditionally concentrated around the themes of patriotism, spirituality, social allegories and moral narratives. The earliest examples of Polish literature, written in Latin, date to the 12th century. The first Polish phrase – Day ut ia pobrusa, a ti poziwai – was documented in the Book of Henryków and reflected the use of a quern-stone. It has been since included in UNESCO's Memory of World Register. The oldest extant manuscripts of fine prose in Old Polish are the Holy Cross Sermons and the Bible of Queen Sophia, and Calendarium cracoviense (1474) is Poland's oldest surviving print.

The poets Jan Kochanowski and Nicholas Rey became the first Renaissance authors to write in Polish. Prime literarians of the period included Dantiscus, Modrevius, Goslicius, Sarbievius and theologian John Laski. In the Baroque era, Jesuit philosophy and local culture greatly influenced the literary techniques of Jan Andrzej Morsztyn (Marinism) and Jan Chryzostom Pasek (sarmatian memoirs). During the Enlightenment, playwright Ignacy Krasicki composed the first Polish-language novel. Poland's leading 19th-century romantic poets were the Three BardsJuliusz Słowacki, Zygmunt Krasiński and Adam Mickiewicz, whose epic poem Pan Tadeusz (1834) is a national classic. In the 20th century, the English impressionist and early modernist writings of Joseph Conrad made him one of the most eminent novelists of all time.

Contemporary Polish literature is versatile, with its fantasy genre having been particularly praised. The philosophical sci-fi novel Solaris by Stanisław Lem and The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski are celebrated works of world fiction. Poland has six Nobel-Prize winning authors – Henryk Sienkiewicz (Quo Vadis; 1905), Władysław Reymont (The Peasants; 1924), Isaac Bashevis Singer (1978), Czesław Miłosz (1980), Wisława Szymborska (1996), and Olga Tokarczuk (2018).


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Selection of hearty traditional comfort food from Poland, including bigos, gołąbki, żurek, pierogi, placki ziemniaczane, and rye bread.

The cuisine of Poland is eclectic and shares similarities with other regional cuisines. Among the staple or regional dishes are pierogi (filled dumplings), kielbasa (sausage), bigos (hunter's stew), kotlet schabowy (breaded cutlet), gołąbki (cabbage rolls), barszcz (borscht), żurek (soured rye soup), oscypek (smoked cheese), and tomato soup. Bagels, a type of bread roll, also originated in Poland.

Traditional dishes are hearty and abundant in pork, potatoes, eggs, cream, mushrooms, regional herbs, and sauce. Polish food is characteristic for its various kinds of kluski (soft dumplings), soups, cereals and a variety of breads and open sandwiches. Salads, including mizeria (cucumber salad), coleslaw, sauerkraut, carrot and seared beets, are common. Meals conclude with a dessert such as sernik (cheesecake), makowiec (poppy seed roll), or napoleonka cream pie.

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. Grodziskie, sometimes referred to as "Polish Champagne", is an example of a historical beer style from Poland. Tea remains common in Polish society since the 19th century, whilst coffee is drunk widely since the 18th century.

Fashion and design

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Traditional polonaise dresses, 1780–1785.

Several Polish designers and stylists left a legacy of beauty inventions and cosmetics; including Helena Rubinstein 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.

Historically, fashion has been an important aspect of Poland's national consciousness or cultural manifestation, and the country developed its own style known as Sarmatism at the turn of the 17th century. The national dress and etiquette of Poland also reached the court at 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.


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Andrzej Wajda, the recipient of an Honorary Oscar, the Palme d'Or, as well as Honorary Golden Lion and Golden Bear awards.

The cinema of Poland traces its origins to 1894, when inventor Kazimierz Prószyński patented the Pleograph and subsequently the Aeroscope, the first successful hand-held operated film camera. In 1897, Jan Szczepanik constructed the Telectroscope, a prototype of television transmitting images and sounds. They are both recognised as pioneers of cinematography. Poland has also produced influential directors, film producers and actors, many of whom were active in Hollywood, chiefly Roman Polański, Andrzej Wajda, Pola Negri, Samuel Goldwyn, the Warner brothers, Max Fleischer, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi and Krzysztof Kieślowski.

The themes commonly explored in Polish cinema include history, drama, war, culture and black realism (film noir). In the 21st-century, two Polish productions won the Academy AwardsThe Pianist (2002) by Roman Polański and Ida (2013) by Paweł Pawlikowski.


Siedziba Telewizji Polskiej w Warszawie 2017
Headquarters of the publicly funded national television network TVP in Warsaw

According to the Eurobarometer Report (2015), 78 percent of Poles watch the television daily. In 2020, 79 percent of the population read the news more than once a day, placing it second behind Sweden. Poland has a number of major domestic media outlets, chiefly the public broadcasting corporation TVP, free-to-air channels TVN and Polsat as well as 24-hour news channels TVP Info, TVN 24 and Polsat News. Public television extends its operations to genre-specific programmes such as TVP Sport, TVP Historia, TVP Kultura, TVP Rozrywka, TVP Seriale and TVP Polonia, the latter a state-run channel dedicated to the transmission of Polish-language telecasts for the Polish diaspora. In 2020, the most popular types of newspapers were tabloids and socio-political news dailies.

Poland is a major European hub for video game developers and among the most successful companies are CD Projekt, Techland, The Farm 51, CI Games and People Can Fly. Some of the popular video games developed in Poland include The Witcher trilogy and Cyberpunk 2077. The Polish city of Katowice also hosts Intel Extreme Masters, one of the biggest esports events in the world.


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The Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw, home of the national football team

Motorcycle Speedway, volleyball and association football are among the country's most popular sports, with a rich history of international competitions. Track and field, basketball, handball, boxing, MMA, ski jumping, cross-country skiing, ice hockey, tennis, fencing, swimming, and weightlifting are other popular sports. The golden era of football in Poland occurred throughout the 1970s and went on until the early 1980s when the Polish national football team achieved their best results in any FIFA World Cup competitions finishing third place in the 1974 and the 1982 tournaments. The team won a gold medal in football at the 1972 Summer Olympics and two silver medals, in 1976 and in 1992. In 2012, Poland co-hosted the UEFA European Football Championship.

As of January 2023, the Polish men's national volleyball team is ranked as first in the world. The team won a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics and the gold medal at the FIVB World Championship 1974, 2014 and 2018. Mariusz Pudzianowski is a highly successful strongman competitor and has won more World's Strongest Man titles than any other competitor in the world, winning the event in 2008 for the fifth time.

Poland has made a distinctive mark in motorcycle speedway racing. The top 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.

In the 21st century, the country has seen a growth of popularity of tennis and produced a number of successful tennis players including World No. 1 Iga Świątek, winner of three Grand Slam singles titles (2020 French Open, 2022 French Open and 2022 US Open); former World No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska, winner of 20 WTA career singles titles including 2015 WTA Finals; Top 10 ATP player Hubert Hurkacz; and former World No. 1 doubles player Łukasz Kubot whose career highlights include winning two Grand Slam doubles titles – 2014 Australian Open and 2017 Wimbledon Champioships. Poland also won the 2015 Hopman Cup with Agnieszka Radwańska and Jerzy Janowicz representing the country.

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.

See also

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