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Aerial view of Płock Old Town with the Cathedral Hill and pier
Baroque Nieborów Palace
Castle Square in Warsaw
Market Square in Pułtusk
Coat of arms of Mazovia
Three historical Mazovian voivodeships in comparison with contemporary Polish voivodeships
Three historical Mazovian voivodeships in comparison with contemporary Polish voivodeships
Country Poland
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Primary airportsWarsaw Chopin Airport
Warsaw Modlin Airport

Mazovia or Masovia (Polish: Mazowsze) is a historical region in mid-north-eastern Poland. It spans the North European Plain, roughly between Łódź and Białystok, with Warsaw being the unofficial capital and largest city. Throughout the centuries, Mazovia developed a separate sub-culture featuring diverse folk songs, architecture, dress and traditions different from those of other Poles.

Historical Mazovia existed from the Middle Ages until the partitions of Poland and consisted of three voivodeships with the capitals in Warsaw, Płock and Rawa. The main city of the region was Płock,[1] which was even capital of Poland from 1079 to 1138; however, in Early Modern Times Płock lost its importance to Warsaw, which became the capital of Poland. From 1138, Mazovia was governed by a separate branch of the Piast dynasty[citation needed] and when the last ruler of the independent Duchy of Mazovia died, it was fully incorporated to the Polish Crown in 1526. During the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth over 20% of Mazovian population was categorized as petty nobility. Between 1816 and 1844, the Mazovian Governorate was established, which encompassed the south of the region along with Łęczyca Land and south-eastern Kuyavia. The former inhabitants of Mazovia are the Masurians, who since the Late Middle Ages settled in neighboring southern Prussia, a region later called Masuria, where they converted to Protestantism in the Reformation era, thus leaving Catholicism, to which their relatives from Mazovia still adhered.

The borders of contemporary Mazovian Voivodeship (province), which was created in 1999, do not exactly reflect the original size of Mazovia, as they do not include the historically Mazovian cities of Łomża and Łowicz, but include the historically Lesser Polish cities of Radom and Siedlce.


Historical lands of Mazovia

Mazovia has a landscape without hills (in contrast to Lesser Poland) and without lakes (in contrast to Greater Poland). It is spread over the Mazovian Lowland, on both sides of the Vistula river and its confluence with Narew and Bug. Forests (mainly coniferous) cover one-fifth of the region, with the large Kampinos Forest, Puszcza Biała and Puszcza Zielona.

In the north Mazovia borders on the Masurian subregion of former Prussia, in the east on Podlachia, in the south on Lesser Poland and in the west on Greater Poland (subregions of Łęczyca Land, Kujawy and Dobrzyń Land). The area of Mazovia is 33,500 km2. It has population of 5 million (3 million of them inhabit the metropolis of Warsaw).


Inhabited by the various Lechitic West Slavic tribes, Vistula Veneti[2][3] and with other people who had settled here such as the Wielbark people.[4]

Castle of the Mazovian Dukes in Czersk, 1410
Mazovia (Mazowsze) and other historical lands of Poland against the background of modern administrative borders (names in Polish)

Middle Ages[edit]

The historical region of Mazovia (Mazowsze) in the beginning encompassed only the territories on the right bank of Vistula near Płock and had strong connections with Greater Poland (through Włocławek and Kruszwica). In the period of the rule of the first Polish monarchs of the Piast dynasty, Płock was one of their seats, and on the Cathedral Hill (Wzgórze Tumskie) they raised palatium. In the period 1037–1047 it was the capital of the independent, Mazovian state of Masław. Between 1079 and 1138 this city was de facto the capital of Poland. Since 1075 it has been the seat of the Diocese of Płock encompassing northern Mazovia; the south formed the archdeaconate of Czersk belonging to Poznań, and the Duchy of Łowicz was part of the Archdiocese of Gniezno (this division remained as long as until the Partitions of Poland).

During the 9th century Mazovia was perhaps inhabited by the tribe of Mazovians, and it was incorporated into the Polish state in the second half of 10th century under the Piast ruler Mieszko I. As a result of the fragmentation of Poland after the death of Polish monarch Bolesław III Wrymouth, in 1138 the Duchy of Mazovia was established, and during the 12th and 13th centuries it joined temporarily various adjacent lands and endured invasions of Prussians, Yotvingians, and Ruthenians. To protect its northern section Conrad I of Mazovia called in the Teutonic Knights in 1226 and granted them the Chełmno Land as a fief.

After the reunification of the Polish state by Władysław I in the early 14th century, Mazovia became its fief in 1351. In the second half of 15th century western Mazovia and in 1526/1529 the main part (with its capital in Warsaw) was incorporated into the Polish state. In the 15th century the eastern part of the region (Łomża) was settled, mainly by the yeomanry (drobna szlachta). Mazovia was considered underdeveloped in comparison with Greater Poland and Lesser Poland, with the lowest urban population.

Janusz III of Masovia, Stanisław and Anna of Masovia, 1520
Tombstone of Janusz III and his brother Stanisław in St. John's Archcathedral, Warsaw

Modern period[edit]

In the Early Modern Times Mazovia was known for exporting grain, timber, and fur. It was also distinct because there was no reformation here. Mazovia was divided into three voivodeships, each of them divided into lands (Polish: ziemie, Latin: terrae), each of them divided into counties (Polish: powiaty, Latin: districtus) and all three voivodeships formed part of the larger Greater Poland Province. The Polish-Lithuanian Union of Lublin (1569) established Mazovia as the central region of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, with Warsaw rising to prominence as the seat of the state legislature (sejm). In 1596 King Sigismund III Vasa moved the Polish capital from Kraków to Warsaw. During the 17th and 18th centuries Swedish, Transylvanian, Saxon, and Russian invasions wreaked havoc on the region.

In 1793 western Mazovia, and two years later the rest of the region were annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in the Second and Third Partitions of Poland, while the south-eastern portion was annexed by Austria. In 1807 it became part of the Duchy of Warsaw. In 1815 the region was incorporated into the Congress Kingdom of Poland, which was dependent on Russia. In the 19th century Mazovia was the site of large Polish uprisings (November Uprising and January Uprising) against Russian rule. In that era pre-partition Mazovia was divided among Warsaw, Płock and Augustów (the last one replaced later by Łomża).

Since 1918 Mazovia has been a part of the resurrected Poland, being roughly equivalent to the Warsaw Voivodeship. In 1920, Mazovia was invaded by Soviet Russia, but Poland secured its freedom in the victorious Battle of Warsaw.

World War II[edit]

Siege of Warsaw (1939)

During the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland, which started World War II in September 1939, Mazovia was invaded by the German Army, and the Einsatzgruppen IV and V followed to commit various crimes against Poles.[5] The largest massacres were committed in Zambrów, Śladów and Zakroczym, in which over 200, over 300 and around 600 Polish prisoners of war and civilians were murdered, respectively.[6][7] On 25–29 September, the Germans handed over north-eastern Mazovia with Łomża and Zambrów to the Soviet Union in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.[8]

Under German occupation, the population was subjected to mass arrests, executions, expulsions and deportations to forced labour, concentration camps and Nazi ghettos, whereas under Soviet occupation the population was subjected to mass arrests, executions, deportation to forced labour in Siberia, Central Asia and the Far North. Numerous sites were looted. The Palmiry massacres carried out by Nazi Germany in the village of Palmiry near Warsaw, were one of the largest massacres of Poles committed during the Intelligenzaktion and AB-Aktion, whereas many Poles from north-eastern Mazovia were among the victims of the Soviet-perpetrated Katyn massacre. Despite such circumstances, the Polish resistance was organized and active in the region. Following the Operation Barbarossa in 1941, Germany also occupied north-eastern Mazovia.

The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest German-established Jewish ghetto in occupied Europe, and other sizeable ghettos in the region were located in Otwock, Płońsk, Łomża and Płock, with the surviving Jews eventually deported by the occupiers to the Treblinka, Auschwitz and other extermination camps during the Holocaust.

In the winter of 1942–1943, the Germans buried some 300 kidnapped Polish children from another region of occupied Poland in the Łąck forests, after the children froze to death in a freight train.[9] Since 1943, the Sicherheitspolizei also carried out deportations of Poles including teenage boys from Płock and Łomża to the Stutthof concentration camp.[10]

Expelled Poles from Warsaw in Pruszków following the Warsaw Uprising of 1944

Germany operated several prisoner-of-war camps, including Oflag 73, Stalag 319, Stalag 324, Stalag 333 and Stalag 368 with several subcamps, for Polish, Italian, Soviet and Romanian POWs in the region.[11]

The population of Warsaw decreased sharply as a result of executions, the extermination of the city's Jews, the deaths of some 200,000 inhabitants during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and the deportation of the city's left-bank population following the uprising. Some 40,000–50,000 Poles were murdered in the Wola massacre alone, one of the largest massacres of Poles. Shortly after the uprising, Adolf Hitler ordered German troops to destroy the city.

In 1944–1945, the region was occupied by the Soviet Red Army, and gradually restored to Poland, although with a Soviet-installed communist regime, which then stayed in power until the Fall of Communism in the 1980s.

Recent history[edit]

The rebuilding of the Polish capital was the main task of the postwar period.[12]

The Polish resistance remained active, with one of the last Polish anti-communist partisans, Stanisław Marchewka [pl], killed by the communists in Jeziorko in 1957.[13] Particularly large anti-communist protest occurred in the region in 1976.

During and following the Korean War, in 1951–1959, Poland admitted 200 North Korean orphans in Gołotczyzna and Otwock in Mazovia.[14]

Those times Warsaw Voivodeship was still roughly similar to historical Mazovia and used to be informally called so, but in 1975 it was divided into several little voivodeships. However, in 1999 Mazovian Voivodeship was created as one of 16 administrative regions of Poland.


Folk costumes from Łowicz sub-region

Mazovian dialect[edit]

The Mazovian language probably existed as a separate dialect until the 20th century.[15][16][17][18][19] The ethnonym Mazur has given the name for a phonetic phenomenon known as mazurzenie (although it is common in the Lesser Polish dialect as well).

Local cuisine[edit]

There is no specific regional cuisine of Mazovia. Formerly, dairy foods dominated the peasant cuisine. Nobles used poultry, geese, chickens and ducks. The most separate Mazovian culinary regions are Kurpie and Łowicz, where traditional dishes survive to the present day. In Kurpie, traditional dishes are prepared with ingredients collected in the forest: berries, honey and mushrooms. There are several traditional Polish dishes like flaki (tripes), kluski (noodles and dumplings), which are prepared in different way than in other parts of Poland.[20][21]


Mazovian Voivodeship is ranked decidedly first in Poland according to the Gross Domestic Product.[22] This is thanks to Warsaw, which is a financial centre of East-Central Europe.[23][24] The majority of state enterprises are headquartered in this metropolis. It is a hub for both rail and vehicular traffic, with access throughout Poland and across Europe. Warsaw Chopin Airport is the nation's busiest. There are many branches of industry and services well developed in this city. The other economical center is Płock, where large petrochemical plants PKN Orlen operate. The rest of Mazovia belongs to the poorest parts of Poland. In agriculture the most typical Mazovian crops are potatoes and rye, but the most popular (as in the whole of Poland) is wheat. Others are barley, sugar beets, fruits (with their biggest Polish basin in the south of the region), and vegetables. Pigs are commonly bred, often also cows and chickens.


Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola

Kampinos National Park is one of Poland's largest national parks and is popular with tourists making day trips from Warsaw to hike among the park's primeval forests, sand dunes, and marshland. The main cultural centre of the region, and, alongside Kraków, in all of Poland, is Warsaw, which is home to dozens of theatres, the National Philharmonic, the National Opera House, the National Library, the National Museum, Centrum Nauki Kopernik, Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego, Temple of Divine Providence, and the Sanctuary of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko. Warsaw has many magnificent historic buildings and monuments, including those in the Old Town and the New Town, both of which were almost completely demolished during World War II but were meticulously restored and were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1980. Several important edifices has been built at the adjacent street Krakowskie Przedmieście. There are also royal palaces and gardens of Łazienki and Wilanów. The most interesting building from post-war period is Pałac Kultury i Nauki.

Masovia also boasts 11 Historic Monuments of Poland:

Historical monuments elsewhere include the manor house in Żelazowa Wola where composer Frédéric Chopin was born and his museum is located nowadays. Płock, once the seat of the Mazovian princes, and Łowicz, the residence of the archbishops of Gniezno, are noted for their cathedrals. There are also palaces and parks in Nieborów and Arkadia, the Modlin Fortress, castles in Czersk, Pułtusk, Ciechanów, Opinogóra, Rawa Mazowiecka, Sochaczew and Liw, as well as churches in Niepokalanów, Góra Kalwaria, Warka, Skierniewice, Czerwińsk, Wyszogród, Zakroczym, Szreńsk, Przasnysz, Ostrołęka, Łomża, Szczuczyn, Wizna, Brok, Zuzela, Rostkowo, and Boguszyce. Interesting folklore is found in the subregion of Kurpie; another skansen has been established in Sierpc.[25]

Main cities and towns[edit]

Warsaw Old Town
Płock Castle
Łomża Cathedral
Sokół Palace in Pruszków
Castle in Rawa Mazowiecka
Regional museum in Ostrołęka

The following table lists the cities in Mazovia with a population greater than 20,000 (2015):

City Population (2015)[26] Voivodeship in 1750 Voivodeship in 2016 Additional information
1. Warsaw 1 724 404 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Capital of Poland, former royal city of Poland.
2. Płock 122 815 Płock Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Historical capital of Masovia, former capital of Poland, former royal city of Poland.
3. Łomża 62 711 Masovian Voivodeship Podlaskie Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland.
4. Pruszków 59 570 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
5. Legionowo 54 231 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
6. Ostrołęka 52 917 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland.
7. Skierniewice 48 634 Rawa Voivodeship Łódź Voivodeship Former private bishop town of Poland.
8. Otwock 45 044 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
9. Piaseczno 44 869 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland, part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
10. Ciechanów 44 797 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland.
11. Żyrardów 41 096 Rawa Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship
12. Mińsk Mazowiecki 39 880 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
13. Wołomin 37 505 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
14. Sochaczew 37 480 Rawa Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland.
15. Ząbki 31 884 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
16. Mława 30 880 Płock Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland.
17. Grodzisk Mazowiecki 29 907 Rawa Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former private town of the Mokronoski family, part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
18. Łowicz 29 420 Rawa Voivodeship Łódź Voivodeship Temporary de facto capital of Poland in years 1572–1573, former private bishop town.
19. Marki 29 032 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
20. Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki 28 287 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former private town, part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
21. Wyszków 27 222 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former private bishop town of Poland.
22. Piastów 22 826 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.
23. Ostrów Mazowiecka 22 796 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland.
24. Płońsk 22 494 Płock Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland.
25. Zambrów 22 451 Masovian Voivodeship Podlaskie Voivodeship Former royal city of Poland.
26. Grajewo 22 246 Masovian Voivodeship Podlaskie Voivodeship Northernmost and easternmost town of Mazovia. It borders the regions of Podlachia and Masuria.
27. Kobyłka 20 855 Masovian Voivodeship Masovian Voivodeship Part of the Warsaw metropolitan area.


Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw

Successful sports teams in Masovia include association football teams Legia Warsaw, Polonia Warsaw and Wisła Płock, basketball teams Polonia Warsaw, Legia Warsaw and Znicz Pruszków, and handball teams Wisła Płock and KS Warszawianka.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Mazowsze: Obraz Etnograficzny, Volume 1, by Wojciech Gerson and Oskar Kolberg, BiblioBazaar, 2009 – 372 pages
  2. ^ Roland Steinacher: Vandalen. Rezeptions- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. In: Hubert Cancik (Hrsg.): Der Neue Pauly, Band 15/3. Metzler, Stuttgart 2003, S. 942–946, ISBN 3-476-01489-4
  3. ^ Roland Steinacher: Wenden, Slawen, Vandalen. Eine frühmittelalterliche pseudologische Gleichsetzung und ihre Nachwirkungen bis ins 18. Jahrhundert. In: Walter Pohl (Hrsg.): Die Suche nach den Ursprüngen. Von der Bedeutung des frühen Mittelalters (Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters; Bd. 8). Verlag der ÖAW, Wien 2004, S. 329–353, ISBN 3-7001-3296-4.
  4. ^ J. Piontek et al. "Odontological analysis of central european populations from the Roman period and the Early Middle Ages". Humanbiologia Budapestinensis. 30. 2007. pp. 77–86. [1]
  5. ^ Wardzyńska, Maria (2009). Był rok 1939. Operacja niemieckiej policji bezpieczeństwa w Polsce. Intelligenzaktion (in Polish). Warszawa: IPN. pp. 54–55.
  6. ^ Sudoł, Tomasz (2011). "Zbrodnie Wehrmachtu na jeńcach polskich we wrześniu 1939 roku". Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej (in Polish). No. 8–9 (129–130). IPN. pp. 80–82. ISSN 1641-9561.
  7. ^ Wardzyńska, p. 97
  8. ^ Boćkowski, Daniel (2005). Na zawsze razem. Białostocczyzna i Łomżyńskie w polityce radzieckiej w czasie II wojny światowej (IX 1939 – VIII 1944) (in Polish). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Neriton, Instytut Historii PAN. p. 45.
  9. ^ Kołakowski, Andrzej (2020). "Zbrodnia bez kary: eksterminacja dzieci polskich w okresie okupacji niemieckiej w latach 1939-1945". In Kostkiewicz, Janina (ed.). Zbrodnia bez kary... Eksterminacja i cierpienie polskich dzieci pod okupacją niemiecką (1939–1945) (in Polish). Kraków: Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Biblioteka Jagiellońska. p. 78.
  10. ^ Drywa, Danuta (2020). "Germanizacja dzieci i młodzieży polskiej na Pomorzu Gdańskim z uwzględnieniem roli obozu koncentracyjnego Stutthof". In Kostkiewicz, Janina (ed.). Zbrodnia bez kary... Eksterminacja i cierpienie polskich dzieci pod okupacją niemiecką (1939–1945) (in Polish). Kraków: Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Biblioteka Jagiellońska. p. 187.
  11. ^ Megargee, Geoffrey P.; Overmans, Rüdiger; Vogt, Wolfgang (2022). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933–1945. Volume IV. Indiana University Press, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 224, 310, 314, 328–329, 373. ISBN 978-0-253-06089-1.
  12. ^ "Mazowieckie | province, Poland | Encyclopædia Britannica". britannica.com. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  13. ^ Grzegorz Makus. "Ostatni z Białostocczyzny. Ppor. Stanisław Marchewka "Ryba"". Muzeum Żołnierzy Wyklętych (in Polish). Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  14. ^ Sołtysik, Łukasz (2009). "Dzieci i młodzież północnokoreańska w Polsce w latach 1953–1954 w świetle wybranych dokumentów". Rocznik Jeleniogórski (in Polish). Vol. XLI. Jelenia Góra. p. 196. ISSN 0080-3480.
  15. ^ "Full text of "Historya Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego: Srednie wieki i odrodzenie. Z wstepem o Uniwersytecie ..."". Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  16. ^ Felicyan Antoni Kozłowski (1858). Dzieje Mazowsża za panowania książat. Warszawa: Nakł. i druk S. Orgelbranda. p. 504. jezyk mazowiecki.
  17. ^ Kopernikijana czyli materyaly do pism i zycia Mikolaja Kopernika. Gniezno, Drukiem J.B. Langiego. 1873.
  18. ^ Maciejowski, W.A. (1852). Piśmiennictwo polskie, od czasów najdawniejszych aż do roku 1830: z rękopisów i druków zebrawszy, w obrazie literatury polskiej historycznie skreślonym. Vol. 2. Nakładem i drukiem S. Orgelbranda. p. 327. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  19. ^ "Mitteilungen : Literarische Gesellschaft Masovia : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  20. ^ Kuchnia Mazowsza i Kurpiów – Kuchnia Polska
  21. ^ Potrawy mazowieckie – Kuron.com.pl
  22. ^ "Mazowsze jest i będzie najbogatsze w Polsce – Analizy rynku – Forsal.pl – Giełda, Waluty, Finanse – forex, notowania NBP, surowce". forsal.pl. 3 November 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  23. ^ Warsaw: Central Europe's Bourse to Beat – BusinessWeek
  24. ^ Warsaw makes bid to become Central Europe’s financial hub – Taipei Times
  25. ^ "Mazowieckie | province, Poland | Encyclopædia Britannica". britannica.com. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  26. ^ "Lista miast w Polsce (Spis miast, mapa miast, liczba ludności, powierzchnia, wyszukiwarka)".