The Polish people, or Poles (Polish: Polacy [pɔˈlat͡sɨ]; singular masculine: Polak, feminine: Polka), are an ethnic group of predominantly West Slavic descent, native to Central Europe, inhabiting mainly Poland, as well as other European and American countries.
The preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Poland defines the Polish nation as comprising all the citizens of Poland. Poland's inhabitants live in the following historic regions of the country: Wielkopolska, Małopolska, Mazovia (Polish: Mazowsze), Silesia (Polish: Śląsk), Pomerania (Polish: Pomorze), Kujawy, Warmia, Mazury, and Podlasie. A wide-ranging Polish diaspora exists throughout Europe (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine), the Americas (the United States, Brazil and Argentina) and Australia. In 1960, Chicago in the United States, had the world's largest urban Polish population after Warsaw. Today, the largest urban concentration of Poles is the Katowice urban agglomeration known as the Silesian Metropolis of 2.7 million inhabitants.
Over a thousand years ago, the Polans of Giecz, Gniezno and Poznań — an influential tribe in Wielkopolska — succeeded in uniting Lechitic tribes under what became the Piast dynasty, thus giving rise to the Polish state.
Polish people are the sixth largest national group in the European Union. Estimates vary depending on source, though available data suggest a total number of around 60 million people worldwide (with roughly 21 million living outside of Poland, many of whom are not of Polish ethnicity, but Polish nationals). There are almost 38 million Poles in Poland alone. There are also Polish minorities in the surrounding countries including Germany, and indigenous minorities in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus. There are some smaller indigenous minorities in nearby countries such as Moldova and Latvia. There is also a Polish minority in Russia which includes indigenous Poles as well as those forcibly deported during and after World War II; the total number of Poles in what was the former Soviet Union is estimated at up to 3 million.
The term "Polonia" is usually used in Poland to refer to people of Polish origin who live outside Polish borders, officially estimated at around 10 to 20 million. There is a notable Polish diaspora in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. France has a historic relationship with Poland and has a relatively large Polish-descendant population. Poles have lived in France since the 18th century. In the early 20th century, over a million Polish people settled in France, mostly during world wars, among them Polish émigrés fleeing either Nazi occupation or later Soviet rule.
In the United States, a significant number of Polish immigrants settled in Chicago, Ohio, Detroit, New York City, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and New England. The highest concentration of Poles in the United States is in New Britain, Connecticut. The majority of Polish Canadians have arrived in Canada since World War II. The number of Polish immigrants increased between 1945 and 1970, and again after the end of Communism in Poland in 1989. In Brazil the majority of Polish immigrants settled in Paraná State. Smaller, but significant numbers settled in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Espírito Santo and São Paulo (state). The city of Curitiba has the second largest Polish diaspora in the world (after Chicago) and Polish music, dishes and culture are quite common in the region.
In recent years, since joining the European Union, many Polish people have emigrated to countries such as Ireland, where an estimated 200,000 Polish people have entered the labor market. It is estimated that over half a million Polish people have come to work in the United Kingdom from Poland. Since 2011, Poles have been able to work freely throughout the EU and not just in the UK, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden where they have had limited rights since Poland's EU accession in 2004. The Polish community in Norway has increased substantially and has grown to a total number of 120,000, making Poles the largest immigrant group in Norway.
Before World War II, many Polish Jews became followers of Zionism and subsequently made aliyah to the British Mandate of Palestine. Following the Holocaust, the vast majority of surviving Polish Jews moved to Israel. Poland is the largest single place of origin of Israeli Jews.
The culture of Poland has a history of 1000 years. Located in Central Europe, its character developed as a result of its geography at the confluence of fellow Central European cultures (German, Western Ukrainian, Czech and Austrian) the Western European cultures (French and Dutch), Southern European cultures (Italian and Turkish), Northern European cultures (Lithuanian, Swedish and Danish) and Eastern European cultures (East Ukrainian and Russian) along with cultural influence of the Jewish culture. Confluences were conveyed by immigrants (Jewish, German and Dutch), political alliances (with Lithuania, Hungary, Saxony, France and Sweden), conquests of the Polish state (Ukraine, Belarus and Latvia) or conquerors of the Polish lands (Tsardom of Russia, Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy, later on Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary).
Over time Polish culture has been greatly influenced by its ties with the Germanic, Latinate and other ethnic groups and minorities living in Poland like the Jews. The people of Poland have traditionally been seen as hospitable to artists from abroad (especially Italy) and open to cultural and artistic trends popular in other European countries. Owing to this central location, the Poles came very early into contact with both civilizations – eastern and western, and as a result developed economically, culturally, and politically. A German general Helmut Carl von Moltke, in his Poland. A historical sketch (1885), stated that Poland prior to her partitions was "the most civilized country in Europe".
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Polish focus on cultural advancement often took precedence over political and economic activity, experiencing severe crisis, especially during the II World War and in the coming years. These factors have contributed to the versatile nature of Polish art, with all its complex nuances.
The Polish language (Polish: język polski, polszczyzna) is a West Slavic language and the official language of Poland. Its written standard is the Polish alphabet which corresponds basically to the Latin alphabet with a few additions. Polish-speakers use the language in a uniform manner throughout most of Poland, though numerous languages, speeches and dialects coexist along the standard Polish language.
Polish literature is the literary tradition of Poland. Most Polish literature has been written in the Polish language, though other languages, used in Poland over the centuries, have also contributed to Polish literary traditions, including Latin, Yiddish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, German and Esperanto.
Most Poles adhere to the Christian faith, the majority belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. The remaining religious part of the population consists mainly of Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, various Protestant and Judaism. Roman Catholics live all over the country, while Orthodox Christians can be found mostly in north-east, in the area of Białystok, and Lutherans in Cieszyn Silesia.
Among the exonyms not native to the Polish people or language are: лях (lyakh) used in East Slavic languages. Today, the word Lachy is used by Eastern Slavs as synonyms for "Poles" and "Poland". The foreign exonyms include also: Lithuanian Lenkai, Hungarian Lengyelek and Turkish Leh. The former became the basis for Poland exonyms in a number of other Middle Eastern languages, including: Armenian: Լեհաստան Lehastan; Persian: لهستان Lehestân; Tajik: لهستان Lahestan).
See also 
- Karta Polaka
- Polish nationality law
- Demographics of Poland
- List of Polish Jews
- List of Polish people
- Name of Poland (etymology of the demonym)
- Pole, Hungarian, two good friends
- Poles in Germany
- Poles in Lithuania
- Poles in Romania
- Poles in the former Soviet Union
- Polish Americans
- Polish Argentine
- Polish Australians
- Polish Brazilians
- Polish British
- Polish Canadians
- Polish minority in the Czech Republic
- Polish minority in France
- Polish Venezuelan
- Sons of Poland
- Świat Polonii, witryna Stowarzyszenia Wspólnota Polska: „Polacy za granicą” (Polish people abroad as per summary by Świat Polonii, internet portal of the Polish Association Wspólnota Polska)
- Przynależność narodowo-etniczna ludności – wyniki spisu ludności i mieszkań 2011. GUS. Materiał na konferencję prasową w dniu 29. 01. 2013. p. 3. Retrieved on 2013-03-06.
- USA National Census 2010. Ancestries With 100,000 or More People in 2010. p. 5
- (German) Erstmals mehr als 16 Millionen Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund in Deutschland Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland (German text about migrants in Germany)
- (Polish) Raport o sytuacji Polonii i Polaków za granicą 2009. Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych 2009. p. 177, ISBN 978-83-89607-81-2
- Polonia w liczbach Stowarzyszenie Wspólnota Polska
- Article on Ynet news site, Hebrew (Google translator).
- British Office for National Statistics, Population by Country of Birth & Nationality, Jan 2009 to Dec 2009 with imigrants for 2012
^ (English) "UK lets in more Poles than there are in Warsaw", Steve Doughty, Daily Mail; see also: "Record numbers leave Britain as Poles head home - but new arrivals increase to half a million" by James Slack, Daily Mail, November 27, 2009. Please note: The British Office for National Statistics recorded the number of Poles who have travelled to the UK in 2006 at over 2,000,000; they are not to be mistaken for permanent residents.
- Belarus National Census 2009 (preliminary results)(in rus.)
- Census 2011 Results
- 2006 Census Community Profile Series : Australia
- Ukrainian Census 2001
- Aftenposten.no: - 120.000 polakker i Norge (Innenriks)
- Polish minority in Russia, WorldNews.com
- Czech Republic National Census 2001 (PDF)
- Kazakhstan National Census 2009
- "Statistics Denmark:FOLK2: Population 1. January by sex, age, ancestry, country of origin and citizenship". Statistics Denmark. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
- Mannfjöldi eftir fæðingarlandi 1981-2008: Pólland
- http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xftp/idoszaki/nepsz2011/nepsz_orsz_2011.pdf 2011 Census of Hungary
- 2004 Moldovan census, including Transnistria
- 2002 Romanian census.
- "Sections of North Milwaukee Avenue are Main Street for Chicago's huge Polish population (the second-largest urban concentration after Warsaw's)" [in:] Chicago for Dummies by Laura Tibert 2007. p. 125; "DID YOU KNOW? Chicago, with nearly a million residents of Polish extraction, is often cited as the world's second-largest Polish city after Warsaw." [in:] Poland by Neil Wilson, Tom Parkinson, Richard Watkins, 2005, p. 33; "In 1960, Chicago claimed 700 000 residents of Polish descent, making it the American city with the largest Polish community and, after Warsaw, the second largest aggregation of urban Poles in the world." [in:] Human development by James O. Lugo, Gerald L. Hershey, 1979
- Gerard Labuda. Fragmenty dziejów Słowiańszczyzny zachodniej, t.1-2 p.72 2002; Henryk Łowmiański. Początki Polski: z dziejów Słowian w I tysiącleciu n.e, t. 5 p.472; Stanisław Henryk Badeni, 1923. p. 270
- NationMaster.com 2003-2008. People Statistics: Population (most recent) by country. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
- Gil Loescher, Beyond Charity: International Cooperation and the Global Refugee Crisis, published by the University of Oxford Press US, 1993, 1996. ISBN 0-19-510294-0. Retrieved 12-12-2007.
- Adam Zamoyski, The Polish Way: A Thousand Year History of the Poles and Their Culture. Published 1993, Hippocrene Books, Poland, ISBN 0-7818-0200-8
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, 2002–2007, AN OVERVIEW OF POLISH CULTURE. Access date 12-13-2007.
- (Polish) Kościoły i związki wyznaniowe w Polsce. Retrieved on June 17, 2008.
- (Turkish) Lehistan in Turkish Wikipedia
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