Poland facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Republic of Poland

Rzeczpospolita Polska
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Coat of arms
Anthem: 
Mazurek Dąbrowskiego
Poland Is Not Yet Lost
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]

Capital
and largest city
Warsaw
Official language Polish
Regional language Kashubian
Ethnic groups
(2011)
  • 93.52% Polish
  • 1.09% Silesian
  • 0.13% German
  • 0.10% Belarusian
  • 0.09% Ukrainian
  • 0.04% Kashubian
  • 0.03% Romani
  • 0.02% Lemko
  • 4.86% other
Demonym(s)
Government Parliamentary republic
Andrzej Duda
• Prime Minister
Beata Szydło
Legislature National Assembly
Senate
Sejm
Formation
• Christianization
14 April 966
• Kingdom of Poland
18 April 1025
1 July 1569
24 October 1795
• Duchy of Warsaw
22 July 1807
• Congress Poland
9 June 1815
• Reconstitution of Poland
11 November 1918
• Invasion of Poland, World War II
1 September 1939
8 April 1945
• Republic of Poland
13 September 1989
• Joined the European Union
1 May 2004
Area
• Total
312,679 km2 (120,726 sq mi) (71st)
• Water (%)
3.07
Population
• 30 June 2014 estimate
38,483,957 (34th)
• 2011 census
38,511,824 (34th)
• Density
123/km2 (318.6/sq mi) (83rd)
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
• Total
$1.004 trillion (21st)
• Per capita
$26,402 (49th)
GDP (nominal) 2015 estimate
• Total
$481.235 billion (23rd)
• Per capita
$12,662 (54th)
Gini (2013)  32.73
medium
HDI (2013) 0.834
very high · 35th
Currency Złoty (PLN)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+2 (CEST)
Driving side right
Calling code 48
ISO 3166 code PL
Internet TLD .pl
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Poland is a country in Central Europe. 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 Russia to the north. The total land area of Poland is about 312,679 km2 (120,728 mi2). This makes Poland the 77th largest country 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.

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. Much of the territory that now makes up Central European states used to belong to that Commonwealth. Eventually, after a steady 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 the USSR and Nazi Germany. Although the government capitulated, 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.

History

Before Piasts

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

Poland1020
Poland around 1020

Poland began to form into 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 the 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 . A large number of 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.

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 II Republic of Poland

Rzeczpospolita
The Polish-Lithuanian Union when it was largest.

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. The Polish people did not like the new kings, and often rebelled (two big rebellions in 1830 and 1863 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. 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 in 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War.

World War II

Rzeczpospolita 1922
Poland 1922-1938

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 up 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 were killed. At the war's end, Poland's borders were moved west, pushing the eastern border to the Curzon line. 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.

After the war

Curzon line en
Poland's current boundaries were made after 1945. The grey areas went from Poland to the Soviet Union. The pink 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. It 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. The 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 Ewa Kopacz. 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.

Geography

Poland topo
Topographic map of Poland
Brama Krakowska, Dolina Prądnika
Kraków-Częstochowa Uplands in the Lesser Poland region

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 is also a large number of mountain lakes in the Tatras mountains.

South of the northeastern region is the regions of Silesia and Masovia, which are marked by broad ice age river valleys. 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.

Biodiversity

Białowieski Park Narodowy03 23a
Białowieża Forest, an ancient woodland in eastern Poland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to 800 wild wisent.

Phytogeographically, Poland belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Poland belongs to three Palearctic Ecoregions of the continental forest spanning Central and Northern European temperate broadleaf and mixed forest ecoregions as well as the Carpathian montane conifer forest.

Many animals that have since died out in other parts of Europe still survive in Poland, such as the wisent in the ancient woodland of the Białowieża Forest and in Podlaskie. Other such species include the brown bear in Białowieża, in the Tatras, and in the Beskids, the gray wolf and the Eurasian lynx in various forests, the moose in northern Poland, and the beaver in Masuria, Pomerania, and Podlaskie.

In the forests there are game animals, such as red deer, roe deer and wild boar. In eastern Poland there are a number of ancient woodlands, like Białowieża forest, that have never been cleared or disturbed much by people. There are also large forested areas in the mountains, Masuria, Pomerania, Lubusz Land and Lower Silesia.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Zajki meadows, Eastern Poland
Poland is host to the largest white stork population in Europe.

Poland is the most important breeding ground for a variety of European migratory birds. One quarter of the global population of white storks (40,000 breeding pairs) live in Poland, particularly in the lake districts and the wetlands along the Biebrza, the Narew, and the Warta, which are part of nature reserves or national parks.

Poland has historically been home to the two largest European species of mammals — wisent (żubr) and aurochs (tur). Both survived in Poland longer than anywhere else. The last aurochs of Europe became extinct in 1627, in the Jaktorów Forest, while European wood bisons survived until the 20th century only in the Białowieża Forest, but have been reintroduced to other countries since.

Climate

The climate is mostly temperate throughout the country. The climate is oceanic in the north and west and becomes gradually warmer and continental towards the south and east. Summers are generally warm, with average temperatures between 18 and 30 °C (64.4 and 86.0 °F) depending on the region. Winters are rather cold, with average temperatures around 3 °C (37.4 °F) in the northwest and −6 °C (21 °F) in the northeast. Precipitation falls throughout the year, although, especially in the east, winter is drier than summer.

The warmest region in Poland is Lower Silesia in the southwest of the country, where temperatures in the summer average between 24 and 32 °C (75 and 90 °F) but can go as high as 34 to 39 °C (93.2 to 102.2 °F) on some days in the warmest months of July and August.

Regions

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
Podlasie Podlaskie Białystok
Pomerania Pomorskie Gdańsk
Silesia Śląskie Katowice
Subcarpathia Podkarpackie Rzeszów
Swietokrzyskie Świętokrzyskie Kielce
Warmia-Masuria Warmińsko-Mazurskie Olsztyn
West Pomerania Zachodniopomorskie Szczecin

Wojewodztwa.svg

Culture

The culture of Poland is closely connected with its intricate 1,000-year history. With origins in the culture of the Proto-Slavs, over time Polish culture has been influenced by its interweaving ties with the Germanic, Latinate and Byzantine worlds as well as in continual dialog with the many other ethnic groups and minorities living in Poland. The people of Poland have traditionally been seen as hospitable to artists from abroad and eager to follow cultural and artistic trends popular in other countries. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Polish focus on cultural advancement often took precedence over political and economic activity. These factors have contributed to the versatile nature of Polish art.

Music

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 Chopin, Rubinstein, Paderewski and Penderecki, and traditional, regionalized folk composers create a lively and diverse music scene, which even recognizes 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 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. During the 16th century, two main musical groups – both based in Kraków and belonging to the King and Archbishop of Wawel – led to the rapid development of Polish renaissance music. Diomedes Cato, a native-born Italian who lived in Kraków from about the age of five, became a renowned lutenist at the court of Sigismund III, and 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 mostly wrote either liturgical music or 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. Also, Wojciech Bogusławski's Krakowiacy i Górale, which premiered in 1794, is regarded as the first Polish national opera.

Traditional Polish folk music has had a major effect on the works of many well-known Polish composers, and no more so than on Fryderyk Chopin, a widely recognised national hero of the arts. All of Chopin's works involve the piano and are technically demanding, emphasising nuance and expressive depth. As a great composer, Chopin invented the musical form known as the instrumental ballade and made major innovations to the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, polonaise, étude, impromptu and prélude, he was also the composer of a number of polonaises which borrowed heavily from traditional Polish folk music. It is largely thanks to him that such pieces gained great popularity throughout Europe during the 19th century. Nowadays the most distinctive folk music can be heard in the towns and villages of the mountainous south, particularly in the region surrounding the winter resort town of Zakopane.

Today Poland 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. Since the fall of communism throughout Europe, Poland has become a major venue for large-scale music festivals, chief among which are the Open'er Festival, Opole Festival and Sopot Festival.

Art

The Lady with an Ermine
Lady with an Ermine (1490) by Leonardo da Vinci. Though not Polish in its origin, the painting symbolizes Poland's cultural heritage and is among the country's most precious treasures. The critics named it "a breakthrough in the art of psychological portraiture."

Art in Poland has always reflected European trends while maintaining its unique character. The Kraków Academy of Fine Arts, later developed by Jan Matejko, produced monumental portrayals of customs and significant events in Polish history. Other institutions such as the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw were more innovative and focused on both historical and contemporary styles. In recent years, art academies such as the Kraków School of Art and Fashion Design, Art Academy of Szczecin, University of Fine Arts in Poznań and Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław gained much recognition.

Perhaps the most prominent and internationally admired Polish artist was Tamara de Lempicka, who specialized in the style of Art Deco. Lempicka was described as "the first woman artist to become a glamour star." Another notable was Caziel, born Zielenkiewicz, who represented Cubism and Abstraction in France and England.

Prior to the 19th century only Daniel Schultz and Italian-born Marcello Bacciarelli had the privilege of being recognized abroad. The Young Poland movement witnessed the birth of modern Polish art, and engaged in a great deal of formal experimentation led by Jacek Malczewski, Stanisław Wyspiański, Józef Mehoffer, and a group of Polish Impressionists. Stanisław Witkiewicz was an ardent supporter of Realism, its main representative being Józef Chełmoński, while Artur Grottger specialized in Romanticism. Within historically-orientated circles, Henryk Siemiradzki dominated with his monumental Academic Art and ancient Roman theme.

2658 Muzeum Narodowe. Foto Barbara Maliszewska
Interior of the National Museum in Wrocław, which holds one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the country.

Since the inter-war years, Polish art and documentary photography has enjoyed worldwide fame and in the 1960s the Polish School of Posters was formed. Throughout the entire country, many national museum and art institutions hold valuable works by famous masters. Major museums in Poland include the National Museum in Warsaw, Poznań, Wrocław, Kraków, and Gdańsk, as well as the Museum of John Paul II Collection, and the Wilanów Museum. Important collections are also held at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Wawel Castle and in the Palace on the Isle. The most distinguished painting of Poland is Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci, held at the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków. Although not Polish, the work had a strong influence on Polish culture and has been often associated with Polish identity.

Architecture

Polish cities and towns reflect a whole spectrum of European architectural styles. Romanesque architecture is represented by St. Andrew's Church, Kraków, and St. Mary's Church, Gdańsk, is characteristic for the Brick Gothic style found in Poland. Richly decorated attics and arcade loggias are the common elements of the Polish Renaissance architecture, as evident in the City Hall in Poznań. For some time the late renaissance style known as mannerism, most notably in the Bishop's Palace in Kielce, coexisted with the early baroque style, typified in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Kraków.

Saint Mary's Church in Kraków
St. Mary's Basilica on the Main Market Square in Kraków is an example of Brick Gothic architecture.
Poznań City Hall
Ratusz, the 16th-century Renaissance City Hall in Poznań designed by Italian masters.

History has not been kind to Poland's architectural monuments. Nonetheless, a number of ancient structures has survived: castles, churches, and stately homes, often unique in the regional or European context. Some of them have been painstakingly restored, like Wawel Castle, or completely reconstructed, including the Old Town and Royal Castle of Warsaw and the Old Town of Gdańsk.

The architecture of Gdańsk is mostly of the Hanseatic variety, a Gothic style common among the former trading cities along the Baltic sea and in the northern part of Central Europe. The architectural style of Wrocław is mainly representative of German architecture, since it was for centuries located within the Holy Roman Empire. The centres of Kazimierz Dolny and Sandomierz on the Vistula are good examples of well-preserved medieval towns. Poland's ancient capital, Kraków, ranks among the best-preserved Gothic and Renaissance urban complexes in Europe.

The second half of the 17th century is marked by baroque architecture. Side towers, such as those of Branicki Palace in Białystok, are typical for the Polish baroque. The classical Silesian baroque is represented by the University in Wrocław. The profuse decorations of the Branicki Palace in Warsaw are characteristic of the rococo style. The centre of Polish classicism was Warsaw under the rule of the last Polish king Stanisław II Augustus. The Palace on the Water is the most notable example of Polish neoclassical architecture. Lublin Castle represents the Gothic Revival style in architecture, while the Izrael Poznański Palace in Łódź is an example of eclecticism.

Kazimierz Dolny Market Square
Kazimierz Dolny, the town exemplifies traditional provincial Polish folk architecture.

Traditional folk architecture in the villages and small towns scattered across the vast Polish countryside is characterized by its extensive use of wood as the primary building material. Some of the best preserved and oldest structures include wooden churches, and tserkvas primarily located across southern Poland in the Beskids and Bieszczady regions of the Carpathian mountains. Numerous examples of secular structures such as Polish manor houses (dworek), farmhouses (chata), granaries, mills, barns and country inns (karczma) can still be found across most regions of Poland.

These structures were mostly built using the horizontal log technique, common to eastern and northern Europe since the Middle Ages and also going further back to the old Slavic building traditions, exemplified by the wooden Gród (a type of fortified settlement built between the 6th and 12th centuries). These traditional construction methods were utilized all the way up to the start of the 20th century, and gradually faded in the first decades when Poland's population experienced a demographic shift to urban dwelling away form the countryside.

Literature

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. He wrote dramatized versions of famous events in Polish history. Władysław Reymont won a Nobel prize in 1924. He wrote the novel Chłopi. Two polish poets won Nobel prize as well. One is Wisława Szymborska (1996) and the second Czesław Miłosz (1980).

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

People

Marie Curie c1920
Physicist and chemist Maria Skłodowska-Curie, the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, established Poland's Radium Institute in 1925

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 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.

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 on the 2002 figure of 38,230,080. Since Poland's accession to the European Union, a large number of 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 Polish economy and increasing value of Polish currency (PLN) makes many Polish immigrants to 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

Nikolaus Kopernikus
Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th-century Polish astronomer who formulated the heliocentric model of the solar system that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at its center—work first published in 1543
John Paul II 1980 cropped
John Paul II was the first Pole and Slav to become a Roman Catholic Pope. He held the papacy between 1978 and 2005
Frederic Chopin photo
Fryderyk Chopin was a renowned classical composer and virtuoso pianist.
Arthur Rubinstein 1962
Artur Rubinstein was one of the greatest concert pianists of the 20th century.

Urban demographics

Warsaw - Royal Castle Square
Warsaw, the castle and the cathedral in the background.
Lodz manufaktura 01
Łódź, Izrael's Poznański Factory.
Poznan Poland
Old Market square in Poznań.
Gdansk Glowne Miasto
Old town in Gdańsk.
Szczecin town hall
Old town in Szczecin.
Bielsko-Biała Town Hall
Town Hall in Bielsko-Biała.

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
Inhabitants
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 Podlasie 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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