Portal:Poland

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Panorama of Kraków, former capital of Poland

Welcome to the Poland Portal
Witaj w Portalu o Polsce

Coat of arms of Poland
Map of Poland

Poland is a country in Central Europe, bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast to the north. It is an ancient nation whose history as a state began near the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century when it united with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation. In a series of agreements in the late 18th century, Russia, Prussia and Austria partitioned Poland amongst themselves. It regained independence as the Second Polish Republic in the aftermath of World War I only to lose it again when it was occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. The nation lost over six million citizens in the war, following which it emerged as the communist People's Republic of Poland under strong Soviet influence within the Eastern Bloc. A westward border shift followed by forced population transfers after the war turned a once multiethnic country into a mostly homogeneous nation state. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union called Solidarity (Solidarność) that over time became a political force which by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency. A shock therapy program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe. With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country largely completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of NATO and the European Union.

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From Polish history

The Great Sejm in session in 1791
The Great Sejm, or Four-Year Sejm, was a sejm (diet or parliament) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that was held in Warsaw between 1788 and 1792. Its principal aim became to reform and restore sovereignty to the Commonwealth. The Great Sejm's foremost achievement was the adoption of the Constitution of 3 May 1791, often described as Europe's first modern written national constitution. The constitution was designed to redress long-standing political defects of the nation and its system of Golden Liberties. It introduced political equality between townspeople and nobility and placed the peasants under the protection of the government, thus mitigating the worst abuses of serfdom. It sought to supplant the existing anarchy fostered by some of the country's reactionary magnates with a more egalitarian and democratic constitutional monarchy. The reforms instituted by the Great Sejm were undone by an intervention of the Russian Empire at the invitation of the Targowica Confederation.
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Coffin in a brick-lined crypt beneath a church in Wola Gułowska
Credit: Marcin Białek

Coffin in a brick-lined burial vault beneath a 17th century Baroque Carmelite church in Wola Gułowska, a small village in the Lublin Voivodeship.

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Leaning Tower of Toruń

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Pope John Paul II
John Paul II (1920–2005) served as pope of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City from 1978 until his death almost 27 years later. Born Karol Wojtyła in the Polish town of Wadowice, he served as archbishop of Kraków before becoming one of the longest-serving popes and one of the most-travelled world leaders in history. Continuing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and professing the philosophy of Christian humanism, John Paul II taught about the importance of family and respect for human life and dignity. He criticised materialist ideologies and is widely seen as having been instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually in all of Eastern Europe. The pope also mended the Catholic Church's relations with other denominations and religions. As part of his emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified or canonized a record number of people, and was himself canonized in 2014.
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A wisent in the Białowieża Forest

The Białowieża Forest, an ancient woodland straddling the Polish-Belarusian border, is one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest which once spread across the European Plain. It is home to the wisent (pictured), elk, wild boars, konik horses, and other animals. Its name, Puszcza Białowieska in Polish and Belavezhskaya Pushcha in Belarusian, comes from the village of Białowieża located in the forest. Historically it belonged to Polish kings and, later, Russian emperors who used it as royal hunting grounds or food reserve for the army. It has been protected since 1538 when King Sigismund I instituted death penalty for poaching the wisent. Today parts of the forest on both sides of the border are protected as national parks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.

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