Poland History

By | January 9, 2023

Poland – national flag

Poland National Flag

The flag was officially adopted in 1919. Its colors are derived from Poland’s old coat of arms from the 1200’s: a red shield with a white, crowned eagle. This weapon has throughout the ages been used as a symbol of Poland’s freedom struggle; 1944-89 it was used without the crown. The state coat of arms is used on the trade flag, the trunk flag.

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Poland – prehistory

Some finds of hand wedges from Silesia and southern Poland show the human presence in the older Paleolithic perhaps more than 300,000 years ago. At Ojców near Kraków, there are caves that in the Middle Paleolithic were inhabited by Neanderthals during the last Middle Ages. The use of thin, leaf-shaped tips of flint can be traced from the Middle Paleolithic into the Late Paleolithic (approximately 35,000-9300 BC), from which there are also traces of the eastern branches of the cultures aurignacia, gravetti and magdalénia. In the Late Paleolithic and Early Mesolithic, a hunter-gatherer culture appeared, Swiderien, whose settlements have been found on sandy terraces. A Mesolithic tomb at Janisławice dates from the same time as the Maglemose culture, when one subsisted by gathering and hunting primeval forest animals.

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According to a2zgov, the Neolithic begins with the ribbon- ceramic culture, approximately 5400-4900 BC, whose settlements with longhouses existed in areas where the soil consisted of fertile lice. From this developed The Lengyel culture approximately 4700-4500 BC with trapezoidal longhouses and fenced cult sites. By the middle of the 5th millennium, the use of copper was introduced. approximately 4000 BC the funnel-cup culture was widespread with tombs in trapezoidal long mounds, especially known from Kujawien. The ball amphora culture and the subsequent string ceramic culture were the dominant agricultural cultures at the beginning of the 3rd millennium, but at the same time semi-agrarian communities existed in forest and coastal areas. Throughout the Neolithic, tools were made from different types of flint, extracted from the over 1000 mine shafts in Krzemionki near Kielce.

The Bronze Age unfolded with the Aunjetitz culture from approximately 2100 BC Among other things, with rich princely burials at Łęki Małe in Silesia. In the older Bronze Age, burial mounds were built under mounds, while the following Lausitz culture approximately 1300-700 BC characterized by urn burial sites and large fortified settlements. Such were also found in the early Iron Age (see Bishop)), where fire pits dominated until the birth of Christ, eg within the Pomeranian face urn culture. Celtic and Roman influences prevailed in the form of imports of luxury goods, especially known from princely tombs in 1-2. AD At that time, large quantities of amber were exported from the Baltic coasts. I 200-300-t. Extensive iron production took place in southern and eastern Poland. Short-lived Hun incursions occurred 400-450. From approximately 550 until the Middle Ages, numerous fortified squares are known, which grew into urban communities with crafts and trade, Wolin at the Oder estuary and Truso near the Wisła estuary in the 600-1000’s, both with connections to Scandinavia.

Poland – history

Poland – history, the Middle Ages

I 700-t. the West Slavic tribe polanie lived around the Oder tributary Warta in Wielkopolska, the western part of present-day Poland. They created in the 900-t. under the princely family Piast an empire bounded by the Oder, the Carpathians, the Bug and the Baltic Sea and thus in general resembling modern Poland.

The first documented Polish prince is Mieszko I, who in 966 accepted Christianity to avoid German missionary work. In 968 he established a bishopric in Poznań. He succeeded in conquering Silesia (Śląsk) and Małopolska from the Czechs. In the year 1000, an archdiocese based in Gniezno was established, and Poland became an independent church province directly under the pope’s protection. Interrupted by violent pagan reactions, Christianity in Poland was consolidated in the following centuries with new dioceses, numerous monasteries and churches. In 1025, Bolesław I Chrobry was the first to be crowned King of Poland. Only some of the subsequent rulers were crowned, others merely titled themselves as princes. After the Battle of Legnica1241 against the Mongols, the central princely power ceased to function. It was not until 1320 that Władysław 1. Łokietek succeeded in reuniting most of the kingdom and gaining the pope’s approval of the royal dignity. However, Silesia had been heavily Germanized, and in 1308 Pomerania had been conquered by the German Order.

Polish society in the Middle Ages was distinctly feudal. The monarchy was weak and the country was divided between a series of powerful vassals, wojewoda, who was the prince’s deputy in all military matters. The civilian administration of the crown estates and jurisdiction lay with officials, each ruling a district. Władysław Łokietek introduced a new layer of officials, starosta, who were obsessed with loyal lava nobles as opposed to the old noble vassals. In connection with a peace treaty with the German Order in 1343, Casimir III the Great had to give up Bagpomer and thus access to the Baltic Sea. To the east, on the other hand, the Poles conquered large areas of Ukraine.

Poland escaped the black death that ravaged the rest of Europe, and during the reign of Kasimir III (1333-70) the country experienced significant economic growth with the development of mining, agriculture and trade and numerous urban foundations. Contributing to the recovery was a large Jewish immigration, where the city of Kazimierz near Kraków became a center of Jewish culture. Even more German peasants immigrated, and they were initially given a better legal and economic position than the Polish ones. During that period, Poland became for the first time an administrative unit with common laws, currency, etc.

After the death of Kasimir III in 1370, the Polish throne was taken over by the Hungarian King Louis I the Great. In order to ensure that one of his daughters could succeed him on the Polish throne, he had to give in 1374 in Košice the Polish nobility (see magnateria) the privilege that any tax levy in addition to a fixed land tax required the consent of the nobility as a stand, and it gave the nobility great political power.

Poland under the Jagiełłons

After Ludwig’s death, his daughter Jadwiga was elected queen, and the Polish nobility elected the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Jagiełło, as her husband. This was the beginning of a close connection between Poland and Lithuania, which included most of present-day Belarus and Ukraine. The common enemy, the German Order, helped to promote co-operation between the two countries. However, Jagiełło was a pagan, so he had to promise to let Lithuania and himself become Christians. In 1386 he was elected king of Poland, baptized under the name Władysław (2nd) Jagiełło and married the only 12-year-old Jadwiga.

In 1410, an army of forces from Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia, and Ukraine succeeded in inflicting a severe defeat on the German Order at Tannenberg in East Prussia, and the expansion of the order was halted. In a war of 1454-66, the leading cities of West Prussia, Gdańsk, Toruń and Elbląg, revolted against the order, and after several Polish victories, Prussia was divided by the Peace of Toruń in 1466, so that Poland gained West Prussia, while East Prussia remained under German rule., but as a Polish len. Poland and Lithuania continued the joint expansion to the east in Belarus and Ukraine with the cultivation of the steppes, which took place in part by convened German colonists and the creation of large estates.

In the 1400’s. the Polish estate state developed with five separate estates: the clergy, the nobility, the citizens, the Jews and the peasants, and with barriers that were very difficult to overcome. Legally, all nobles were equal, but in reality there was a significant difference between the rich magnates and the poor lava nobility (see szlachta). The higher ecclesiastical offices were occupied only by nobles. The Jews were not allowed to own property or obtain ordinary civil rights in the cities.

To secure military support in the fight against the Germans, Kasimir 4. Jagiełłończyk in 1454 had to give the nobility a new privilege (see the Nieszawa Statute), which gave the local land councils, sejmiki, the right to mobilize the army and levy new taxes. In 1493-96, Sejm was developed, the parliament that had two chambers: the Senate, which consisted of the royally appointed officials, and the Chamber of Deputies, where the deputies from the Sejmiki had seats. In 1505 it was decided that the Sejm had the legislative power. The deputies to the Sejm met with a bound mandate from the sejmiki, and as a demand for unanimity developed in all decisions in the Chamber of Deputies, it became especially in the 1600’s and 1700’s. very difficult to enforce even the most necessary laws of the Sejm.

Poland’s heyday in the 16th century

The peace of Toruń in 1466 meant that Poland gained control of the whole of Wisła. As the population of Western Europe began to grow strongly during that period, there was a growing demand for agricultural commodities, especially grain, which Poland was able to supply in large quantities. It was especially the large landowners who could take advantage of the favorable economic conditions. This meant investments in even larger estates and the closure of villages or the cultivation of new land with the main emphasis on production on the main farm fields, which were cultivated by serf farmers. During the same period, the Polish monarchy experienced a strengthening with an efficient central administration, which, however, suffered from the lack of a standing army and navy. By the Lublin UnionIn 1569, Poland and Lithuania entered into a federation with a jointly elected head of state and a joint parliament, the Sejm, but with separate legislation, administration, economy and army.

With Sigismund on August 2, the family Jagiełło became extinct. In 1573, the nobility elected the French king’s brother Henrik (3rd) as Polish king. However, he had to sign a pledge in advance that ensured the electoral monarchy, religious tolerance, regular meetings in the Sejm and the right to depose the king. Corresponding contracts all subsequent kings had to enter into before they could ascend the throne.

Vasatiden, 1587-1668

In 1587, the Polish nobility elected the son of the Swedish king Johan III, Sigismund III of Vaasa, as king. The goal was a union with Sweden that was to secure Poland’s dominion over Estonia and Swedish support against Russia, but since the Swedish nobility had opposite goals, a conflict was inevitable. After Johan III’s death, Sigismund sought to occupy Sweden, but in the Battle of Stångebro in 1598, the Swedish army won, and Sigismund had to return to Poland. This was followed by a long-running conflict between Poland and Sweden. The war was initially fought in Livonia; in 1621 the Swedes conquered Riga and by a truce in 1629 got the rest of Livonia, after Gustav II Adolffrom 1626 had occupied the most important trading towns of Prussia with the exception of Gdańsk. In parallel with the war against Sweden, Poland also waged war against Russia, which in the years after the death of Ivan the Terrible in 1584 was in disarray. In 1610, the Poles succeeded in conquering Moscow and had Sigismund’s son Władysław (4th) Vasa elected tsar, but the Poles were soon expelled.

In 1655, the Swedish king Charles X. Gustav took advantage of a revolt among the Cossacks in Ukraine, supported by Russia, to attack Poland. After major Swedish victories in the first years, however, the country was badly ravaged and starved, and after the Danish declaration of war of 1.6.1657 against Sweden, the Swedish army was led out of Poland and to Denmark. A Polish army then contributed to the liberation of Jutland and Funen.

At the Peace of Oliwa in 1660, the Polish king Johan II Kasimir had to relinquish the claims of the Vasas family to Sweden and Livonia, just as in 1657 it had to be recognized that Elector Frederik Vilhelm of Brandenburg became sovereign Duke of East Prussia, independent of Poland. At the Andrusovo settlement with Russia in 1667, Poland had to cede the eastern part of Ukraine. After a nobility revolt, Johan Kasimir abdicated in 1668.

Poland was heavily devastated after the wars of the mid-1600’s. The population had declined by at least 25% and it took a long time before the loss was recovered. International grain trade declined sharply and Polish state finances were spent on the inadequate military.

The Saxon kings, 1697-1763

In 1697, the Polish nobility elected Elector August 2. Mocny (“the strong”) of Saxony king of Poland, certainly in the hope of securing protection from neighboring Prussia, Sweden, Russia and Austria, while expecting them to would respect the “golden freedom” of the nobility. But Poland was drawn into a series of Saxon wars, and political freedom developed into anarchy. In 1702, Poland was attacked by Charles XII of Sweden. The wars and a very violent plague epidemic devastated large areas of land, so it was a totally ruined Poland, which after the Battle of Poltava in 1709 was given back to August II by Tsar Peter I the Great, who was now the real ruler of the country. In August 3.sreign (1735-63) there was some economic and cultural development despite the ravages of the Prussian Seven Years’ War (1756-63), in which large Austrian, Prussian and Russian armies moved through the country.

Poland’s three divisions, 1772, 1793 and 1795

Poland was around 1770 one of Europe’s largest countries, but basically it was weak. There was no central power, no common treasury, and the army numbered only approximately 12,000 mand. Poland’s last king, Stanisław 2. August Poniatowski, who came to the throne in 1764 with the massive support of Russia’s Empress Catherine II, tried to make Poland a modern state, but neighboring powers systematically helped keep the country weak by preventing any approach to political, administrative and military reforms, supporting the opponents of the monarchy financially and militarily. A noble revolt, the Bar Confederacy, facing the king and against Russia, was supported by France and the Ottoman Empire, and it developed into a comprehensive civil war. As Russia and Austria were at war with each other, Prussia proposed a division of Poland between the three countries. In the first division in 1772, Poland lost 1/3 of its territory and about 1/3 of the population. Prussia took West Prussia (without Gdańsk) and thus established connections between Brandenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia, and Poland was cut off from the Baltic Sea. Russia took the eastern part of Belarus, and Austria got Galicia.

After 1772, Poland experienced remarkable economic and cultural progress, and eventually succeeded in implementing a democratic constitution with a constitutional monarchy by the Third May Constitution of 1791 and organizing a standing army of 100,000 men. However, as neither Prussia nor Russia would accept a strong Poland, Russian troops moved into the country, where they defeated the Polish forces. The result was that in 1793 Poland was again divided between Prussia and Russia. Inspired by the French Revolution, Tadeusz Kościuszko ledthe year after an uprising against the dividing powers, in which for the first time also the peasants and to some extent the citizens participated. The rebels succeeded in taking both Warsaw and Vilnius, but they eventually succumbed to the superiority, and the Russians carried out a bloody massacre of the people of Warsaw. At the Third Partition in 1795, Prussia, Austria and Russia divided the remaining Poland between them.

It divided Poland

After the third partition in 1795, the nationalist Poles aimed to rebuild Poland, but the means were much disputed. Some believed that this could happen through an armed uprising, while others were convinced that independence could only be achieved in cooperation with one of the dividing powers and by strengthening Polish national culture. One of the few institutions that had been allowed to exist was the Catholic Church, which came to play a significant role throughout the division period. Despite all attempts by the dividing powers to destroy and ban everything that was Polish, they actually managed to keep Polish culture and national feeling alive.

After the defeat in 1795, many Poles fled to France, where they joined the revolutionary armies. Among them was General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, who persuaded Napoleon to line up Polish legions for the liberation of Poland. With Napoleon’s help, a new Poland emerged, the Warsaw Duchy. It was established in 1807 by the Prussian parts of Poland and from 1809 included parts of the Austrian possessions.


After the fall of Napoleon, the victorious powers at the Congress of Vienna 1814-15 decided to restore the “Kingdom of Poland” or Congress-Poland, which consisted of the Duchy of Warsaw with the exception of Poznań, which came to Prussia, and Kraków, which became a sanctuary. Emperor Alexander I of Russia became king of Poland, and the eastern parts of ancient Poland-Lithuania were directly incorporated into Russia.

The revolutions in Belgium and France in 1830 immediately inspired the November Uprising in Poland the same year. It began at the officers’ school in Warsaw and quickly spread to the whole country, where Emperor Nikolai I was deposed as King of Poland. The fighting lasted until September 1831, when the Russians brutally crushed the uprising. The special constitution of the Kingdom, the Sejm, the government and the army were dissolved and the universities of Warsaw and Vilnius were closed.

Thousands of Poles fled to France, where the moderates rallied around Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, who sought British and French support to liberate Poland. The more Western-oriented believed that only a national and social revolution in cooperation with other peoples could solve the Polish problem.

In 1846, a national uprising in the Austrian part of Poland developed into a regular peasant uprising, in which manors and castles were burned down, and the most often Polish noble landowners were killed. Kraków was subsequently incorporated into Austria. Inspired by the events of the rest of Europe in 1848, there were also uprisings in the Poznań area against the Prussians and in Galicia against the Austrians; in both places the uprisings were crushed during bloodshed. After the abolition of peasantry in both the Prussian and Austrian parts and the acquisition of self-ownership and civil rights, and the same had happened in Russia in 1861, but not in Congress-Poland, a Polish National Committee revolted in January 1863 and demanded freedom. for the peasants of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. Prussia supported Russia to gain Russian support for the war against Denmark, and France, Britain and Austria contented themselves with expressing their sympathy for the rebels, so that although the fighting lasted until the autumn of 1864, the outcome was clear: a ruthless repression of the rebels, thousands of whom were deported to Siberia. However, the peasants were then given their freedom by the Russian government, which used all means to incite them against the Polish landowners and the Catholic Church. The result, however, was the opposite of what was intended, and the peasants became seriously national-conscious and massively joined the Catholic Church. Congress Poland experienced significant industrialization, especially with the textile industry in Łódź and Warsaw, and in the Prussian parts the coal mines and the Silesian iron industry expanded. the outcome was clear: a ruthless repression of the rebels, thousands of whom were deported to Siberia. The peasants, however, were then given their freedom by the Russian government, which used all means to incite them against the Polish landowners and the Catholic Church. The result, however, was the opposite of what was intended, and the peasants became seriously national-conscious and massively joined the Catholic Church. Congress Poland experienced significant industrialization, especially with the textile industry in Łódź and Warsaw, and in the Prussian parts the coal mines and the Silesian iron industry expanded. the outcome was clear: a ruthless repression of the rebels, thousands of whom were deported to Siberia. However, the peasants were then given their freedom by the Russian government, which used all means to incite them against the Polish landowners and the Catholic Church. The result, however, was the opposite of what was intended, and the peasants became seriously national-conscious and massively joined the Catholic Church. Congress Poland experienced significant industrialization, especially with the textile industry in Łódź and Warsaw, and in the Prussian parts the coal mines and the Silesian iron industry expanded. The result, however, was the opposite of what was intended, and the peasants became seriously national-conscious and massively joined the Catholic Church. Congress Poland experienced significant industrialization, especially with the textile industry in Łódź and Warsaw, and in the Prussian parts the coal mines and the Silesian iron industry expanded. The result, however, was the opposite of what was intended, and the peasants became seriously national-conscious and massively joined the Catholic Church. Congress Poland experienced significant industrialization, especially with the textile industry in Łódź and Warsaw, and in the Prussian parts the coal mines and the Silesian iron industry expanded.

With the creation of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy (see Ausgleich), Galicia also gained national autonomy in 1867, and Polish culture was finally able to unfold freely again, not least at the universities of Kraków and Lviv (Lemberg).

Like the Danish southern Jews, the Prussian Poles experienced a massive national oppression under Bismarck’s government in the last decades of the 1800’s. In a certain collaboration with the Danes, the Poles developed an extensive network of credit unions, cooperatives and social welfare institutions that were to prevent the agricultural properties from passing to German owners.

The poor social and economic conditions, especially in the Russian and Austrian parts of Poland, caused approximately 4 mio. persons, including many Jews, who were often persecuted, emigrated to the United States in particular 1870-1914, just as many farm workers went on seasonal work to Germany and Denmark.

In the 1890’s, two very different political parties developed in Poland and among Poles abroad. Very right-wing and nationalist were the National Democrats, Narodowa Demokracja, ND, led by Roman Dmowski. The party, which was extremely anti-Semitic and anti-German, hoped for Russian support in the form of Slavic solidarity for the re-creation of a new Poland.

In stark contrast to the ND, the Polish Socialist Party, the Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS, was formed in Paris in 1892, with the aim of forming a new democratic and independent Poland. Among the leaders was Józef Piłsudski, who believed that the road to this was an armed national uprising. Others in the party believed that Poland could only gain its independence as part of a major international revolution. They later formed the Communist Party of Poland, the CCP, in 1918.

During World War I, Piłsudski joined a Central Brigade with a Polish brigade and fought on the Russian side against the Russians. On November 5, 1916, the German and Austrian emperors proclaimed the restoration of the Kingdom of Poland, especially to get Polish soldiers for the war against Russia. In March 1917, the Russian Provisional Government declared Poland independent. In August of the same year, Roman Dmowski set up a Polish National Committee in Paris, which served as a government in exile, forming a large army consisting mainly of Poles from the United States. Finally, in his Fourteen Points of January 1918, the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, declared the establishment of an independent Polish state in the areas indisputably inhabited by Poles and with secure access to the Baltic Sea.

Poland – History (Modern Poland)

At the end of World War I, Poland’s dividing powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia, were marked by defeat, dissolution and civil war, giving Poland a chance to re-emerge as a state. The borders of the new Poland were determined partly by the great powers at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, and partly by their own wars against the neighboring states.

Head of State November 1918-November 1922 became Józef Piłsudski. He wanted a Poland to a large extent to the east, preferably in federation with Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. To him, Poland’s main enemy was Russia, regardless of its form of government. Politically, he supported the left wing in Poland, The Polish Socialist Party (PPS). However, he wanted to stand above the parties with a power base in the army newly formed by him. His relationship with the Jews was good; his political opponent, Roman Dmowski, was openly anti-Semitic. Dmowski certainly rejected a federal solution in the East, his main enemy was Germany, and a bourgeois Russia was to form a counterweight to this dangerous Germany; he wanted to share Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine with Russia.

Piłsudski and Dmowski shaped Polish politics in the interwar period. The borders with Germany and Czechoslovakia were determined by the Allies, with Lithuania and the Soviet Union effectively at war. Germany had to cede Danzig (Gdańsk), which became a refuge under the League of Nations, as well as an area between East Prussia and Germany, later called the Polish Corridor, the Poznań area and part of the cool Upper Silesia. Czechoslovakia conquered 1919-20 and retained part of Teschen (Polish Cieszyn), Poland conquered Vilnius in 1920 and later incorporated city and hinterland into Poland, and after war with Ukrainians in Galicia, Poland acquired Eastern Galicia with the city of Lviv. A war against the Russian Bolsheviks 1919-20 ended with the implementation of Dmowski’s solution: Poland and Russia divided Belarus and Ukraine between them.

The Second Republic, 1919-39

The new state gained large national and religious minorities; with approximately 65% of the population were Poles, approximately 10% were Jews. The largest minority was the Ukrainians with 15%, but the most vociferous was the Germans’ 2%, who had the big Germany behind them. Poland became a parliamentary republic with a very democratic constitution from 1921. There were two chambers, the Senate and the Sejm, which elected a president who had little power, for Dmowski would prevent a strong man, such as Piłsudski, from gaining too much influence.

Poland was from 1918 a strongly divided society, which was also seen in the parliament; there were 13 governments between 1919 and 1926. Dissatisfied with this system, Piłsudski returned to power in a coup in May 1926, and he and his successors shaped the political system in 1926-39. The coup in 1926 was directed against the right wing, against Roman Dmowski and the leader of the Peasants’ Party, Wincenty Witos (1874-1945). Piłsudski did not abolish the Constitution, but amended it so that the executive was strengthened at the expense of the parties and the parliament. From 1930, the regime’s treatment of the opposition and parliament became rougher, and the 1935 constitution was a step in an undemocratic direction. However, the opposition press and parties were allowed to exist. Piłsudski’s main interests were foreign policy and military affairs, as he sought a balancing act between the great powers based on Poland’s own strength. The Soviet Union was for him the main enemy. In 1934 he entered into an understanding withHitler without, however, harboring illusions about Hitler’s further plans.

After the Munich Agreement in October 1938, the good Polish-German relationship was over. The Minister of Foreign Affairs 1932-39, Józef Beck (1894-1944), rejected Hitler’s demands for Danzig and better access to East Prussia. Beck did not want to make Poland a German vassal state. He also wanted no guarantee from the Soviet Union, fearing it would change the 1920-21 border. By the agreement between Hitler and Stalin in August 1939, Poland was divided for the fourth time, and with Hitler’s attack in September 1939 and a Soviet attack a few weeks later, Poland disappeared again as a state.

Poland during World War II, 1939-45

During this phase, the existence of the Polish people was threatened, and its dramatic history was unfolded on three levels. One was the events in the Polish territory during the German and Soviet occupation, where the Germans, among other things. sought to remove Poland from the map by calling the part occupied by them the General Government, while the Russians with The Katyn massacre sought to make the formation of a new Polish state impossible. The second was the actions of the government in exile in London under leaders such as Władysław Sikorski and Stanisław Mikołajczyk, seeking to secure a large and independent Poland after an Allied victory, to influence the great powers, and to rely on a large resistance movement in Poland; the third level was the negotiations of British, American and Soviet leaders on Poland’s new borders and new government.

Both the Soviet (1939-41) and the German occupation of Poland led to extensive migrations and assassinations. The Nazi race policy thus came to full unfoldment in Poland; in 1940 the Jews were gathered in ghettos, and from 1942 they were murdered in extermination camps, while the Poles were subjected to terror and arbitrariness, and many were led into slave labor in Germany. The last few Jews in the Warsaw ghetto revolted in vain in April 1943. The large bourgeois Polish resistance army, the AK, tried, also in vain, a revolt in Warsaw August-October 1944, which was militarily directed against the Germans but politically against the Russians, and then it was defeated, the Germans destroyed Warsaw.

The Allies’ deliberations on the future of Poland took place without much regard for the horrific events in Poland. The three great powers agreed that Poland should be moved to the west. The Curzon line from 1920, a British idea, corresponded more to an ethnic border than the Polish eastern border from 1921. The new border in the west became the river Oder, while the free city of Danzig (Gdańsk) and southern East Prussia were to Poland. Poland was thereby moved 250 km to the west, and the country became approximately 20% less in scope. Millions of Germans were moved from the new Poland with Allied permission or fled themselves. Polish critics spoke of Poland’s fifth division, while the government in exile wanted the enlargements in the west, but not the renunciations in the east.

People’s Republic of Poland (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, PRL, 1944-89)

The Polish state was not only relocated but also given a different content. National and religious minorities were now very small; the country was 98% Catholic and Polish. It was soon to turn out that the country was not liberated but subject to the Red Army, the secret Soviet police and a small group of Polish Communists. In Moscow in July 1944, Stalin had created a communist-dominated committee that became the core of the new Polish government, which the three great powers recognized from July 1945. The largest party was the Peasants’ Party at Mikołajczyk. Before the election to the Sejm in January 1947, the Communists (PPR) had intimidated the opposition and the population so much that later in 1947 Mikołajczyk fled to the United States.

Both the election result in 1947 and a referendum the year before were falsified. In 1948-49, a wing of the PPR carried out a Stalinization of the party and of Poland. The party leader, Władysław Gomułka, was removed. Stalinist communists like Bolesław Bierut, Hilary Minc (1905-74) and Jakub Berman (1901-84) carried out Stalin’s policy of state takeover of industry, trade and agriculture, and censorship and the secret Polish police monitored everything and everyone. The PPR had little support among the population and therefore used terror and electoral pressure. Cultural life was Sovietized, instruction in Russian was forced; the church was bothered and deprived of its land holdings, and priests and bishops were arrested. The unification of political life culminated with the merger of the PPR and PPS into the PZPR in December 1948. Soviet dominance in Poland gained its external symbol by the Soviet Marshal Rokossovsky’s becoming Marshal of Poland in 1949 – Piłsudski’s old title.

There was great opposition in Poland to this Soviet model. As early as 1954, the power of the Polish security police was curtailed after a defector’s revelations of its brutality. Workers’ unrest in Poznańin 1956, October of the same year led to a change of leadership. Gomułka again became the leader of the Communist Party, now the PZPR, and claimed the possibility of a Polish path to socialism. At a number of points, his regime led to a relaxation, and the obvious Soviet interference diminished. The collective form of agriculture, which the peasants had spontaneously dissolved in 1956, was not reintroduced. Poland’s agriculture at that time was for approximately 80% of them in private ownership, a special sight for the Eastern Bloc, just as the church was given greater leeway with a Catholic press and Catholic representatives in the Sejm. In foreign policy, Gomułka closely followed the Soviet Union, which for him was the best guarantor of the Oder-Neiße border in the west, and in August 1968, Poland participated in the incursion into Czechoslovakia.

A new conciliatory course towards West Germany began with Willy Brandt’s visit to Warsaw in December 1970, in the month in which Gomułka was deposed; West Germany effectively recognized the Oder-Neiße border. However, Gomułka’s internal reforms had been few, so neither economic policy nor the party’s monopoly were changed. State and Church were in open controversy at the 1000th anniversary of the introduction of Christianity in 1966, and widespread unrest among students in March 1968 was brutally crushed by the police. Parts of the party led an anti-Zionist campaign from 1967, causing many Jews to lose their jobs and flee.

In the years 1945-70, the agricultural country of Poland changed into a country with strongly growing cities and a large heavy industry, based on raw materials from the new rural areas. The population, which had fallen by 6 million. during the war, increased from approximately 24 mio. in 1946 to 34 million. in 1975, after 1956, cultural freedom was greater than in the rest of the Eastern bloc, and illiteracy, which had been great in the interwar period, disappeared.

Riots in port cities such as Gdańsk in December 1970 led to a change of leadership, with Edward Gierek stepping down. He tried with a new style and a new policy to create a bridge between the party and the people. Without giving up the party’s exclusive power, he tried to make direct contact with the people. Unlike Gomułka, he took out large loans in the West for the renewal of Polish industry, just as he set out to build more homes and procure more consumer goods. The hope of material change, however, was disappointed within a few years; the loans were not used productively and the foreign debt grew unchecked. Gierek improved relations with the church during a visit to the Vatican in 1977; however, it came as a shock to the weak Polish regime that the 1978 newly elected pope, John Paul II., var polak. Between 1976 and 1980, the regime lost much authority. The unrest among the workers in 1976 led to a new collaboration between workers, intellectuals and the church, and the pope’s visit to Poland in 1979 strengthened the self – awareness of civil society towards the party. The result was seen during the strikes in the summer of 1980, when the weakened party had to make major concessions. Independent trade unions were allowed, the right to strike was introduced, and Lech Wałęsa emerged as the leader of the strikers and as the leader of the trade union Solidarity. In 1980-81, there was an unheard of free public debate in Poland for an eastern country. Gierek was removed as party leader and succeeded by Stanisław Kania in 1980-81; by the growing polarization between the party and Solidarity, he was replaced in 1981 by GeneralWojciech Jaruzelski. The many strikes increased the economic hardship in Poland, and in December 1981 pressure from the Soviet Union, the GDR, and Czechoslovakia led Jaruzelski to impose martial law. All concessions to the workers were now taken back, Solidarity was dissolved, its leaders imprisoned, and the military effectively took over the leadership of the state.

Jaruzelski’s regime in 1981-88 did not succeed in winning over the population. Economically, the 1980’s were a downturn, and societal morale reached a low in 1988. The debt to a now hostile West weighed heavily. A new wave of strikes in 1988 led the regime to once again recognize Solidarity as one of several interlocutors, and agreements in April 1989 with the opposition led to a partially free election to the Sejm and the Senate. Surprisingly for all, in August 1989, Poland got Eastern Europe’s first non-communist prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, which was the beginning of a rapid dismantling of PZPR’s monopoly of power.

The Third Republic (Rzeczpospolita Polska, RP, 1989)

In December 1989, the new parliament passed a series of laws that made Poland a parliamentary democracy and paved the way for the transition from a planned economy to a market economy, and in January 1990, the PZPR dissolved itself. The Russian troops were withdrawn from Poland, the last in 1993. Three elections in 1990-91 completely changed Poland’s political life. In the 1990 local elections, Solidarity won, and in the 1990 presidential election, Wałęsa won and Jaruzelski resigned peacefully.

Poland’s situation became better after 1989 than it had been at any other time in the 1900’s. The country’s orientation to the West resulted in accession to the Council of Europe in 1991, to the OECD in 1996, to NATO in 1999 and finally to the EU in May 2004. Poland played a more active role in foreign policy. In the spring of 2003, Poland contributed thousands of troops to the US war in Iraq. It aroused considerable anger in Russia when Polish President Kwaśniewski and former President Lech Wałęsa in late 2004 helped the politicians of Ukraine with a peaceful outcome on their transition to more democracy and thus less dependence on Russia.


The SLD government, which came to power in 2001, experienced its greatest success with the negotiations on Poland’s terms for accession to the EU, the framework of which was formulated at the Copenhagen summit in 2002. Following its accession in 2004, Leszek Miller resigned as Prime Minister. As had happened with the AWS government in 1997-2001, the government slowly disintegrated with the split and formation of new parties as a result; growing allegations of elite corruption and links to Russian intelligence undermined confidence in the SLD. The acclaimed Marek Belka was appointed new Prime Minister, but he had the primary support of the President, whereas the support of the Sejm or SLD was fluctuating.

The 2005 parliamentary elections meant that the two new parties, PiS and PO, both rooted in Solidarity, won. Contrary to expectations, PiS and PO did not form a government together, but a minority government with PiS emerged. The party received many votes from southeastern, more backward Poland, where Catholic and national values ​​are also deeply rooted. This caused anxiety among the former political elite. The politically unknown Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz became prime minister, while the real bearer of power was PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński. The subsequent presidential election in two rounds ended in a showdown between Lech Kaczyński(PiS), Lord Mayor of Warsaw – and Kaczyński’s twin brother – and rival Donald Tusk (PO, b. 1957). Lech Kaczyński won and was installed as the new president in December. Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz became a popular leader, but resigned the following year, after which Jarosław Kaczyński took over as Prime Minister. The Kaczyński brothers pursued a policy that required the state to ensure the security of its citizens, even though economic policy has not been entirely clear. The Kaczyński brothers soon came under criticism, both internally in Poland and from outside. Their policies had strong nationalist undertones, were critical of the EU and stood for traditional Catholic values, e.g. regarding issues concerning abortion and homosexuals. In 2007 the government could not get a majority, and in an election in 2007 Jarosław Kaczyński lost the post of Prime Minister,

Poland was hit by a shock in April 2010 when President Lech Kaczyński and his wife were killed in a plane crash along with a number of other top figures from Polish society, including the army’s chief of staff, the Sejm’s deputy chairman, the national bank director and an intelligence chief. They were on their way to Smolensk for a memorial service for the victims of the Katyn massacre.

Poland – history (historical overview)

Poland – history (historical overview),

Historical overview
approx. 35000-9300 BC The Aurignaci -, the gravetti – and the magdalénien cultures
5000 BC First arable crops
approx. 2100-700 BC Bronze Age. Aunjetitz and Lausitz cultures. Rave exports to the south
approx. 700 BC-400 AD Iron Age. Pomeranian face culture. From approximately 120 BC trade with the Roman Empire
approx. 400-900 The area is inhabited by Slavic and Germanic tribes etc. From approximately 550 are the first city-like communities
966 The first Polish prince, Mieszko I, becomes a Christian
1000 With the creation of the archbishopric of Gniezno, Poland becomes an independent church province directly under the protection of the pope
1241 After the Battle of Legnica against the Mongols, the central power ceases to function
1320 Władysław Łokietek regroups most of the country and gets the Pope’s approval of the royal dignity
1333-70 Under Kasimir III, many Jews and German peasants immigrated, contributing to an economic boom. Poland wins large tracts of land in Ukraine
1386 The Lithuanian prince Jagiełło marries the Polish queen Jadwiga, whereby Poland enters into a personnel union with Lithuania
1410 The German Order is defeated at the Battle of Tannenberg (Grunwald)
1466 Peace in Torun; West Prussia falls to Poland
1569 Lublin Union; the staff union is replaced by a real union with Lithuania
1572 Poland becomes an electoral kingdom
1697-1763 Staff union with Saxony
1772, 1793 and 1795 Poland’s three divisions; Prussia, Russia and Austria divide the country between them
1807 France establishes the Warsaw Duchy
1815 Congress Poland is established with the Russian emperor as king
1830-31 November Uprising; national revolt, which is crushed by the Russians
1863-64 The January Uprising is crushed by the Russians, Congress-Poland is incorporated into Russia
1918 Poland resurrects at the end of World War I.
1919-20 The Polish-Russian War; Poland conquers territories in Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania
1926-35 Piłsudski’s dictatorship
1939 World War II begins with Germany’s attack on Poland on 1 September. The Soviet Union attacks on 17 September. Poland is occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union, which divide the country between them. A Polish government in exile is established in London
1943 Jewish uprising in the Warsaw ghetto is crushed
1944 Warsaw Uprising; the Polish resistance army tries in vain to drive out the Germans
1945 After World War II, Poland’s borders were shifted; the western border is drawn by the rivers Oder and Neiße, the eastern border approximately by the Curzon line
1944-89 People’s Republic of Poland. The Communist Party rules under the strong influence of the Soviet Union
1956 Poznan revolts. Gomułka again becomes leader of the Communist Party; the peasants dissolve the collective farms
1970 West Germany effectively recognizes the Oder-Neiße border Gomułka is sold and replaced by Gierek
1980 The trade union Solidarity is formed
1981 Jaruzelski becomes party and government chief, introducing martial law status in December; Solidarity is forbidden
1989 Poland gets Eastern Europe’s first non-communist prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki. The Third Republic is established
1990 The Communist Party is dissolving itself. Lech Wałęsa is elected president
1991 First free parliamentary elections
1999 Poland joins NATO
2004 Poland joins the EU among the first of the former communist Eastern bloc countries
Heads of state and government
princes and kings of the Piasts family
approx. 960-992 Mieszko 1.
992-1025 Bolesław 1. Chrobry
1025-34 Mieszko 2.
1038-58 Kasimir 1. Odnowiciel (Renew)
1058-79 Bołeslaw 2. Śmiały (prince, king from 1076)
1079-1102 Władysław 1.
1102-07 Zbigniew
1107-38 Bolesław 3. Krzywousty
reigning princes 1
1138-46 Władysław 2.
1146-73 Bolesław 4.
1173-77 Mieszko 3.
1177-94 Kasimir 2.
1202-27 Leszek 1. Biały
1210-11 Mieszko 2. Platonogi
1228-31 Władysław 3.
1232-38 Henry 1
1238-41 Henry 2.
1241-43 Konrad 1.
1243-79 Bolesław 5.
1279-88 Leszek 2. Czarny
1288/89-90 Henry 4. Probus
1290-91 Example 2.
1291-1300 Wacław 1.
United Kingdom Poland
1306-33 Władysław 1. Łokietek (King of 1320)
1333-70 Kasimir 3. the Great
1370-82 Louis I the Great (Louis I of Hungary)
384-86 Jadwiga
Jagiellonian dynasty
1386-1434 Władysław 2. Jagiełło (Grand Duke of Lithuania 1377-1401)
1434-44 Władysław 3. Warneńczyk
1446-92 Kasimir 4. Jagiełłończyk
1492-1501 Johan 1. Albrecht
1501-06 Alexander
1506-48 Sigismund 1. Stary (‘the old man’)
1548-72 Sigismund 2 August
election kings
1573-74 Henry III (of Valois)
1576-86 Stefan Bathory
1587-1632 Sigismund 3. Vasa
1632-48 Władysław 4. Vasa
1648-68 Johan 2. Kasimir Vasa
1669-73 Mikael Korybut Wiśniowiecki
1674-96 Johan 3. Sobieski
1697-1704 August 2. Mocny
1704-09 Stanisław 1. Leszczyński
1709-33 August 2. Mocny
1733-36 Stanisław 1. Leszczyński
1733-63 August 3.
1764-95 Stanisław 2. Poniatowski
1918-22 Józef Piłsudski (Head of State)
1922 Gabriel Narutowicz
1922-26 Stanisław Wojciechowski
1926-39 Ignacy Mościcki
1939-47 Władysław Raczkiewicz (in exile)
1947-52 Bolesław Bierut 2
Presidents of the Council of State
1952-64 Alexander Zawadzki
1964-68 Edward Ochab
1968-70 Marian Spychalski
1970-72 Józef Cyrankiewicz
1972-85 Henryk Jabłoński
1985-89 Wojciech Jaruzelski
1989-90 Wojciech Jaruzelski
1990-95 Lech Walesa
1995-2005 Alexander Kwaśniewski
2005- Lech Kaczyński
party leaders (secretaries general)
1943-48 Władysław Gomułka
1948-56 Bolesław Bierut
1956-70 Władysław Gomułka
1970-80 Edward Gierek
1980-81 Stanisław Kania
1981-89 Wojciech Jaruzelski
heads of government
1989-90 Tadeusz Mazowiecki
1990-91 Jan Krzysztof Bielecki
1991-92 Jan Olszewski
1992-93 Hanna Suchocka
1993-95 Waldemar Pawlak
1995-96 Józef Oleksy
1996-97 Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz
1997-2001 Jerzy Buzek
2001-04 Leszek Miller
2004-05 Marek Belka
2005-06 Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz
2006-07 Jarosław Kaczyński
2007- Donald Tusk