POLAND

Date of establishment: November 11, 1918

Brief history:

966: Formation of the Polish state after the baptism of Prince Mieszko I, which marks the beginning of Poland’s integration into Western Christendom.

1025: Coronation of Bolesław I the Brave as the first king of Poland, establishing the Kingdom of Poland.

10th century – 1370: Poland consolidates under the rule of the Piast dynasty, which includes expansion and consolidation of Polish territories, not reaching its peak but laying foundational state structures.

1386: The Union of Krewo leads to the formation of a dynastic union between Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which later formalizes into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

1569: Formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the Union of Lublin, creating a significant political and military power in Europe.

17th century: Poland faces internal conflicts such as the Deluge (a series of mid-17th-century wars) and external invasions from Sweden, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, leading to a gradual weakening of the country.

1772, 1793, 1795: The three partitions of Poland by Prussia, the Russian Empire, and the Habsburg Monarchy result in the complete dissolution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

1795 – 1918: Poland ceases to exist as an independent nation and is divided among the partitioning powers.

1918: Restoration of an independent Polish state (the Second Polish Republic) following the end of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles.

1939: Poland is invaded by Nazi Germany on September 1st, and by the Soviet Union on September 17th, marking the beginning of World War II. Poland is subsequently occupied and suffers immense devastation.

1945: End of World War II; Poland’s borders are shifted westwards (including the loss of eastern territories to the Soviet Union and the gain of formerly German territories), and the country becomes a socialist republic under Soviet influence.

1980-1989: The rise of the Solidarity movement, leading to significant social and political changes.

1989: End of communist rule in Poland, leading to democratic reforms and the establishment of the Third Polish Republic.

1999: Poland becomes a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

2004: Poland becomes a member of the European Union (EU).

 

International abbreviation: PL

 

Currency: Polish złoty (PLN)

The złoty is the official currency of Poland and is divided into 100 smaller units called grosz. The currency includes both coins and banknotes of various denominations. The banknotes are in values of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 zloty.

 

Internet domain: .pl

 

Dialing code: +48

 

Time zone: GMT+1

 

Geography:

Poland is a country located in Central Europe with a coastline along the Baltic Sea in the north. The northern region features extensive coastal areas with beautiful beaches, such as those found in the Pomeranian and West Pomeranian Voivodeships.

In the south, the country is characterized by mountain ranges, including the Carpathian Mountains and the Sudetes. The Carpathians contain Poland’s highest peak, Rysy, located in the Tatra Mountains.

Between the northern coast and the southern mountains, Poland has a diverse landscape that includes the Central European Plain, consisting of lowlands and uplands. The Masurian Lake District in the northeast is notable for its numerous lakes and rolling hills.

Poland shares borders with seven countries: Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and Lithuania and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to the northeast.

 

Highest peak: Rysy 2 499 m (8 199 feet) above sea level

The highest peak in Poland is Rysy, located in the Tatra Mountains on the border with Slovakia.

This mountain offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and is part of the Tatra National Park, which preserves unique nature and biodiversity in the area.

 

Climate:

Poland has a temperate climate that transitions between oceanic in the north and west to continental in the south and east. The country experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are generally warm, with average temperatures ranging from 18-25°C (64-77°F), although temperatures can occasionally exceed 30°C (86°F) during heatwaves. Autumns are mild and colorful, characterized by gradually cooling temperatures and frequent rainfall.

Winters can be cold, especially in the eastern and northeastern regions, with average temperatures ranging from -6°C to 3°C (21°F to 37°F), though temperatures can drop below -20°C (-4°F) during severe cold spells. Snow is common in the winter months, particularly in the mountainous regions.

Springs are mild and marked by a gradual warming of temperatures, typically ranging from 5-15°C (41-59°F). The climate can vary significantly across different parts of the country due to its geographical diversity, with the coastal areas experiencing milder winters and the southern mountainous regions having colder temperatures and more precipitation.

 

Fauna and flora:

Forests make up a significant part of the Polish landscape, covering about 30% of the country’s area. These forests are dominated by species such as pine, spruce, beech, oak, birch, and maple trees. Białowieża National Park, home to a unique primeval forest, is renowned for protecting the European bison (wisent), an endangered species that thrives in this ancient woodland. It is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest that once stretched across the European Plain.

In the lowlands and uplands of Poland, you can find flowering meadows with a variety of wildflowers, including dandelions, daisies, poppies, irises, and cornflowers, creating colorful and picturesque landscapes.

Poland is home to a diverse range of bird species inhabiting various environments from forests to wetlands. Commonly spotted birds include owls, woodpeckers, hawks, herons, storks, and wild geese. The White Stork, in particular, is a symbol of Poland, with a significant population nesting in the country.

High mountain areas like the Tatras and Bieszczady also provide a refuge for rare birds, including the golden eagle, which is a particularly valuable and scarce species. These mountainous regions are also habitats for other wildlife, such as lynxes, wolves, and brown bears.

 

Agriculture:

The main crops grown in Poland include wheat, rye, barley, corn, sugar beet, potatoes, and a variety of fruits, particularly apples. Poland is one of the leading producers of apples, cereals, and potatoes in Europe. The country is also known for growing other fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, currants, and cherries.

Poland has a strong agricultural sector, with significant production of vegetables like cabbage, carrots, onions, and cucumbers. The country also produces rapeseed, which is used for both cooking oil and biofuel production.

In recent years, Poland has become a significant producer of biofuels, especially biodiesel and ethanol. This development has created new business opportunities and contributed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels. The biofuel industry utilizes crops such as rapeseed for biodiesel and cereals for ethanol, integrating agricultural production with renewable energy initiatives.

Animal husbandry is also an important part of Polish agriculture, with substantial production of pork, beef, poultry, and dairy products. Poland is one of the largest exporters of poultry and dairy products in the European Union.

 

Natural resources extracted:

Upper Silesia is the center of Poland’s coal industry, where extensive coal mines and coal-fired power plants are located. Poland is one of the largest producers of hard coal in Europe, and coal remains a vital part of the country’s energy mix and economy.

Copper is another important resource, primarily mined in the Lower Silesia region. The Lubin and Polkowice-Sieroszowice mines, operated by KGHM Polska Miedź, are among the largest and most productive copper mines in Europe. Poland has rich copper deposits, and its mining tradition dates back centuries.

Salt is a significant resource, historically mined in places like the Wieliczka and Bochnia Salt Mines near Krakow. These mines are among the oldest in the world and have been in operation since the 13th century. While the Wieliczka Salt Mine is now primarily a tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site, salt production continues in other parts of Poland for use in the food industry and industrial applications.

Additionally, Poland has significant deposits of other minerals and natural resources, including lignite (brown coal) in the Bełchatów and Turów areas, sulfur, silver, zinc, and lead. The country also has natural gas and petroleum resources, although it remains a net importer of these fuels.

 

Industry:

Industry plays a key role in Poland’s economic development, contributing significantly to GDP and employment. The main sectors of Polish industry include automotive manufacturing, electronics, food processing, chemicals, and raw materials mining.

The automotive industry is particularly robust, with major international companies like Fiat, Opel, and Volkswagen operating in the country, as well as a strong network of local suppliers and parts manufacturers.

Electronics and electrical machinery manufacturing is another growing sector, with Poland producing a wide range of consumer electronics, home appliances, and industrial equipment.

Food processing is a major industry due to Poland’s strong agricultural sector, leading to significant production and export of processed food products, including meat, dairy, and confectionery.

The chemical industry includes the production of pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, plastics, and other chemical products, with companies like PKN Orlen and Grupa Azoty being major players.

 

Services and other sectors of the economy: services, tourism, transportation, banking, telecommunications, and transportation

 

Natural and historical attractions:

Among the most popular tourist attractions in Poland are historical cities such as Krakow, Warsaw, Gdańsk, and Wrocław, each boasting rich histories and beautiful landmarks. Krakow, the former royal capital, is renowned for its well-preserved medieval core and the Wawel Castle. Warsaw, the capital city, features a reconstructed Old Town and the impressive Royal Castle. Gdańsk, a historic port city on the Baltic coast, is known for its Hanseatic architecture and the iconic Neptune Fountain. Wrocław, situated on the Oder River, is famous for its Market Square and beautiful Gothic architecture.

Natural attractions in Poland are also highly attractive to tourists. The Tatra Mountains, the highest mountain range in Poland, are a popular destination for hiking, skiing, and mountaineering, with Zakopane serving as the main resort town. The Bieszczady Mountains, known for their stunning views, wild nature, and tranquil pastures, offer a more secluded experience.

Poland also has a long coastline on the Baltic Sea with beautiful sandy beaches and popular spa towns such as Sopot and Kołobrzeg. The Slowinski National Park, known for its shifting sand dunes, is another unique coastal attraction.

Additionally, Poland is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines, Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and the medieval town of Toruń, further enhancing its appeal as a destination rich in both natural beauty and historical significance.

 

 

System of government: parliamentary republic

The political system of Poland is a parliamentary republic. The president is the head of state and represents Poland in international relations. The president is directly elected by the people in general elections for a five-year term and has powers that include appointing the prime minister, vetoing legislation, and exercising some legislative powers.

The government of Poland is led by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president and must be confirmed by the Sejm. The government consists of ministers who oversee various government departments and are responsible for different areas of government activity. The government manages state affairs and implements policies.

The Polish parliament is bicameral, consisting of the Sejm and the Senate. The Sejm is the lower chamber with 460 deputies, elected in regular parliamentary elections for a four-year term. The Senate is the upper chamber with 100 senators, elected for a four-year term. The parliament plays a crucial role in making laws, approving the budget, and overseeing the government.

The judicial system in Poland is independent and separate from the executive and legislative branches. The courts administer justice and protect the rights of citizens. They have the authority to decide on civil and criminal cases and review the constitutionality of laws through the Constitutional Tribunal.

 

Capital city: Warsaw

Located in east-central Poland on the Vistula River, Warsaw has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. It became the capital of Poland in the late 16th century.

Among the most significant attractions is the Old Town (Stare Miasto), a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its beautiful market square and the meticulously reconstructed Royal Castle, both of which were rebuilt after being destroyed during World War II.

Other notable landmarks include the Royal Route, which connects the Old Town with Wilanów Palace. This route passes through key historical sites such as the Presidential Palace and the University of Warsaw. The modern city center features a mix of contemporary skyscrapers and historic palaces, such as the Palace of Culture and Science, the tallest building in Poland.

Warsaw is also home to several outstanding museums, including the National Museum, which houses a vast collection of art and historical artifacts, and the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which commemorates the 1944 uprising against Nazi occupation.

One of the most famous sites is Łazienki Królewskie (the Royal Baths Park), a beautiful park with a palace on the water, an amphitheater, and numerous sculptures and pavilions, making it a popular spot for picnics, walks, and cultural events.

Additionally, the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a significant cultural institution that offers insight into the thousand-year history of Jews in Poland.

The city has a population of about 1 800 000.

 

Area: 311 888 km2 (120 421 square miles)

 

Population: 39 857 000 (2022 estimate)

Poland is predominantly a homogeneous country, with over 96% of the population being ethnic Poles. Polish is the primary language and the only official language of the country.

The Catholic Church has a strong tradition in Poland and is the main religion, with the majority of Poles belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. However, Poland also has minorities of other religions, including Orthodox Christians, Lutherans, Jews, Muslims, and others. The influence of the Catholic Church is significant in Polish culture, holidays, and social norms.

Poland faces demographic challenges due to an aging population, despite a significant portion of the population being younger. This aging demographic poses challenges for the government and healthcare system, including the need for sustainable pension schemes and adequate healthcare services.

Poland is home to several recognized ethnic minority groups, including Silesians, Kashubians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, and Germans. These minorities have their own cultural and linguistic identities and are recognized and protected by Polish law and the constitution. The government supports various initiatives to preserve their cultural heritage and languages.

Additionally, there is a growing number of immigrants and foreign workers from countries such as Ukraine, contributing to the cultural diversity of the population.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 16

 

  1. Auschwitz-Birkenau (1979) – The largest concentration and extermination camp of the Third Reich.
  2. Historic Centre of Kraków (1978) – The Old Town, including Wawel Castle and the medieval town layout.
  3. Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines (1978) – Significant monuments and evidence of a long salt-mining tradition.
  4. Białowieża Forest (1979) – One of the last and largest remaining parts of the primeval forest that once covered much of Europe, located on the border between Poland and Belarus.
  5. Warsaw’s Old Town (1980) – The historic center of the city, which was meticulously reconstructed after being destroyed in World War II.
  6. Wooden Churches of Southern Małopolska (2003) – Catholic churches built with horizontally placed logs.
  7. Historic Centre of Zamość (1992) – A Renaissance town with the original urban layout and fortifications.
  8. Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (1997) – One of the largest and most impressive medieval castle fortresses in the world.
  9. Medieval Town of Toruń (1997) – An architectural complex of historical value, birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus.
  10. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: The Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park (1999) – An architectural complex and pilgrimage site.
  11. Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica (2001) – The largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe.
  12. Muskauer Park / Park Mużakowski (2004) – A landscape park along the Neisse River, straddling the border with Germany.
  13. Centennial Hall in Wrocław (2006) – A historical and architecturally significant building located in Wrocław.
  14. Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine (2013) – Wooden churches of Greek Catholic and Orthodox traditions in the Carpathians.
  15. Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe (2007) – These forests are located in various parts of Europe, including Poland.
  16. Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region (2019) – A vast area of mines over 6,000 years old, where striped flints were mined.

 

National parks: 23

 

  1. Babia Góra National Park
  2. Białowieża National Park
  3. Biebrza National Park
  4. Bieszczady National Park
  5. Drawa National Park
  6. Gorce National Park
  7. Kampinos National Park
  8. Karkonosze National Park
  9. Magura National Park
  10. Narwiański National Park
  11. Ojców National Park
  12. Pieniny National Park
  13. Polesie National Park
  14. Roztocze National Park
  15. Słowiński National Park
  16. Stołowe Mountains National Park
  17. Świętokrzyski National Park
  18. Tatra National Park
  19. Tuchola Forest National Park
  20. Warta Mouth National Park
  21. Wigry National Park
  22. Woliński National Park
  23. Ujście Warty National Park