|Regions with significant populations|
| United States
(500,000 Poles and 8,500,000 of Polish ancestry)
|Germany||1,500,000 – 2,000,000|
|Polish • Kashubian • Silesian|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Significant minorities of Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism (especially Lutheranism), Judaism and Non-Religious minorities
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Slavs (particularly West Slavs), Balts|
The Poles (Polish: Polacy, pronounced [pɔˈlat͡sɨ]; singular masculine: Polak, singular feminine: Polka) are a nation of predominantly West Slavic ethnic origin who are native to East-Central Europe, inhabiting mainly Poland. The present population of Poles living in Poland is estimated at 36,522,000 out of the overall Poland population of 38,512,000 (based on the census of 2011). 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, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine), the Americas (the United States, Canada, 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. There is a festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, called Polish Fest, and a festival in Chicago, Illinois, called "Polish Fest Chicago", that celebrate the Polish people.
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.
- 1 Statistics
- 2 Culture
- 2.1 Language
- 2.2 Science and technology
- 2.3 Music
- 2.4 Literature
- 2.5 Religion
- 3 Exonyms
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
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 United Kingdom, 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.
The culture of Poland has a history of 1000 years. Poland, located in East-Central Europe, developed a character that was influenced by its geography at the confluence of fellow Central European cultures (German, Western Ukrainian, Czech and Austrian), Western European cultures (French and Dutch), Southern European cultures (Italian and Greek), Northern European cultures (Lithuanian, Swedish and Danish) and Eastern European cultures (East Ukrainian and Russian). Influences 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) and conquerors of the Polish lands (Russia; Kingdom of Prussia; and the Habsburg monarchy, later the Austrian Empire and Austro-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. 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 World War II and in the following years. These factors have contributed to the versatile nature of Polish art, with all its complex nuances.
The Polish language (Polish: język polski) is a West Slavic language and the official language of Poland. Its written form uses the Polish alphabet, which is the Latin alphabet with the addition of a few diacritic marks.
Poland is the most linguistically homogeneous European country; nearly 97% of Poland's citizens declare Polish as their mother tongue. Elsewhere, ethnic Poles constitute large minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. Polish is the most widely used minority language in Lithuania's Vilnius County (26% of the population, according to the 2001 census results) and is found elsewhere in southeastern Lithuania. In Ukraine it is most common in the western Lviv and Volyn oblast (provinces), while in Western Belarus it is used by the significant Polish minority, especially in the Brest and Grodno regions and in areas along the Lithuanian border.
The geographical distribution of the Polish language was greatly affected by the border changes and population transfers that followed World War II. Poles settled in the "Recovered Territories" in the west and north, which had previously been mostly German-speaking. Some Poles remained in the previously Polish-ruled territories in the east that were annexed by the USSR, resulting in the present-day Polish-speaking minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, although many Poles were expelled or emigrated from those areas to areas within Poland's new borders. Meanwhile the flight and expulsion of Germans, as well as the expulsion of Ukrainians and resettlement of Ukrainians within Poland, contributed to the country's linguistic homogeneity.
Polish-speakers use the language in a uniform manner throughout most of Poland, though numerous languages and dialects coexist alongside the standard Polish language. The most common dialects in Poland are Silesian, spoken in Upper Silesia, and Kashubian, widely spoken in the north.
Science and technology
Education has been of prime interest to Poland since the early 12th century. The catalog of the library of the Cathedral Chapter in Kraków dating from 1110 shows that Polish scholars already then had access to western European literature.
After the 1795 third partition of Poland, no Polish state existed. The 19th and 20th centuries saw many Polish scientists working abroad. The greatest was Maria Skłodowska Curie, a physicist and chemist living in France. Another notable expatriate scientist was Ignacy Domeyko, a geologist and mineralogist who worked in Chile.
In the first half of the 20th century, Poland was a world center of mathematics. Outstanding Polish mathematicians formed the Lwów School of Mathematics (including Stefan Banach, Hugo Steinhaus, Stanisław Ulam) and Warsaw School of Mathematics (including Alfred Tarski, Kazimierz Kuratowski, Wacław Sierpiński). World War II pushed many of them into exile; Benoît Mandelbrot's family left Poland when he was still a child. An alumnus of the Warsaw School of Mathematics was Antoni Zygmund, a shaper of 20th-century mathematical analysis.
Today Poland has over 100 institutions of post-secondary education — technical, medical, economic, as well as 500 universities — located in major cities such as Gdańsk, Kraków, Lublin, Łódź, Poznań, Rzeszów and Warsaw. They employ over 61,000 scientists and scholars. Another 300 research-and-development institutes are home to some 10,000 researchers. There are also a number of smaller laboratories. Altogether, these institutions support some 91,000 scientists and scholars.
The origin of Polish music can be traced as far back as the 13th century, from which manuscripts have been found in Stary Sącz, containing polyphonic compositions related to the Parisian Notre Dame School. Other early compositions, such as the melody of Bogurodzica, may also date back to this period. The first known notable composer, however, Mikołaj z Radomia, lived in the 15th century.
During the 16th century, mostly two musical groups—both based in Kraków and belonging to the King and Archbishop of Wawel—led the rapid innovation of Polish music. Composers writing during this period include Wacław z Szamotuł, Mikołaj Zieleński, and Mikołaj Gomółka. Diomedes Cato, a native-born Italian who lived in Kraków from about the age of five, became one of the most famous lutenists at the court of Sigismund III, and not only imported some of the musical styles from southern Europe, but blended them with native folk music.
17th and 18th centuries
In the last years of the 16th century and the first part of the 17th century, a number of Italian musicians were guests at the royal courts of Sigismund III Vasa and Władysław IV. These included Luca Marenzio, Giovanni Francesco Anerio, and Marco Scacchi. Polish composers from this period focused on baroque religious music, concertos for voices, instruments, and basso continuo, a tradition that continued into the 18th century. The best-remembered composer of this period is Adam Jarzębski, known for his instrumental works such as Chromatica, Tamburetta, Sentinella, Bentrovata, and Nova Casa. Other composers include Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, Franciszek Lilius, Bartłomiej Pękiel, Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński and Marcin Mielczewski.
In addition, a tradition of operatic production began in Warsaw in 1628, with a performance of Galatea (composer uncertain), the first Italian opera produced outside Italy. Shortly after this performance, the court produced Francesca Caccini's opera La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d’Alcina, which she had written for Prince Władysław three years earlier when he was in Italy. Another first, this is the earliest surviving opera written by a woman. When Władysław was king (as Władysław IV) he oversaw the production of at least ten operas during the late 1630s and 1640s, making Warsaw a center of the art. The composers of these operas are not known: they may have been Poles working under Marco Scacchi in the royal chapel, or they may have been among the Italians imported by Władysław.
The late 17th and 18th century saw a decline of Poland, which also hindered the development of music. Some composers attempted to create a Polish opera (such as Jan Stefani and Maciej Kamieński), others imitated foreign composers such as Haydn and Mozart.
The most important development in this time, however, was the polonaise, perhaps the first distinctively Polish art music. Polonaises for piano were and remain popular, such as those by Michał Kleofas Ogiński, Karol Kurpiński, Juliusz Zarębski, Henryk Wieniawski, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Józef Elsner, and, most famously, Fryderyk Chopin. Chopin remains very well known, and is regarded for composing a wide variety of works, including mazurkas, nocturnes, waltzes and concertos, and using traditional Polish elements in his pieces. The same period saw Stanisław Moniuszko, the leading individual in the successful development of Polish opera, still renowned for operas like Halka and The Haunted Manor.
Polish folk music was collected in the 19th century by Oskar Kolberg, as part of a wave of Polish national revival. With the coming of the world wars and then the Communist state, folk traditions were oppressed or subsumed into state-approved folk ensembles. The most famous of the state ensembles are Mazowsze and Śląsk, both of which still perform. Though these bands had a regional touch to their output, the overall sound was a homogenized mixture of Polish styles. There were more authentic state-supported groups, such as Słowianki, but the Communist sanitized image of folk music made the whole field seem unhip to young audiences, and many traditions dwindled rapidly.
Polish dance music, especially the mazurka and polonaise, were popularized by Frédéric Chopin, and they soon spread across Europe and elsewhere. These are triple time dances, while five-beat forms are more common in the northeast and duple-time dances like the krakowiak come from the south. The polonaise comes from the French word for Polish to identify its origin among the Polish aristocracy, who had adapted the dance from a slower walking dance called chodzony. The polonaise then re-entered the lower-class musical life, and became an integral part of Polish music.
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.
Almost nothing remains of Polish literature prior to the country's Christianization in 966. Poland's pagan inhabitants certainly possessed an oral literature extending to Slavic songs, legends and beliefs, but early Christian writers did not deem it worthy of mention in the obligatory Latin, and so it has perished.
The first recorded sentence in the Polish language reads: "Day ut ia pobrusa, a ti poziwai" ("Let me grind, and you take a rest") — a paraphrase of the Latin "Sine, ut ego etiam molam." The work, in which this phrase appeared, reflects the culture of early Poland. The sentence was written within the Latin language chronicle Liber fundationis from between 1269 and 1273, a history of the Cistercian monastery in Henryków, Silesia. It was recorded by an abbot known simply as Piotr (Peter), referring to an event almost a hundred years earlier. The sentence was supposedly uttered by a Bohemian settler, Bogwal ("Bogwalus Boemus"), a subject of Bolesław the Tall, expressing compassion for his own wife who "very often stood grinding by the quern-stone." Most notable early medieval Polish works in Latin and the Old Polish language include the oldest extant manuscript of fine prose in the Polish language entitled the Holy Cross Sermons, as well as the earliest Polish-language Bible of Queen Zofia and the Chronicle of Janko of Czarnków from the 14th century, not to mention the Puławy Psalter.
In the early 1470s, one of the first printing houses in Poland was set up by Kasper Straube in Kraków (see: spread of the printing press). In 1475 Kasper Elyan of Glogau (Głogów) set up a printing shop in Breslau (Wrocław), Silesia. Twenty years later, the first Cyrillic printing house was founded at Kraków by Schweipolt Fiol for Eastern Orthodox Church hierarchs. The most notable texts produced in that period include Saint Florian's Breviary, printed partially in Polish in the late 14th century; Statua synodalia Wratislaviensia (1475): a printed collection of Polish and Latin prayers; as well as Jan Długosz's Chronicle from the 15th century and his Catalogus archiepiscoporum Gnesnensium.
With the advent of the Renaissance, the Polish language was finally accepted on an equal footing with Latin. Polish culture and art flourished under Jagiellonian rule, and many foreign poets and writers settled in Poland, bringing with them new literary trends. Such writers included Kallimach (Filippo Buonaccorsi) and Conrad Celtis. Many Polish writers studied abroad, and at the Kraków Academy, which became a melting pot for new ideas and currents. In 1488 the world's first writers' club, called Sodalitas Litterarum Vistulana was founded in Kraków. Notable members included Conrad Celtes, Albert Brudzewski, Filip Callimachus and Laurentius Corvinus.
The literature in the period of Polish Baroque (between 1620 and 1764) was significantly influenced by the great popularization of Jesuit high schools, which offered education based on Latin classics as part of a preparation for a political career. The studies of poetry required the practical knowledge of writing both Latin and Polish poems, which radically increased the number of poets and versifiers countrywide. On the soil of humanistic education some exceptional writers grew as well: Piotr Kochanowski (1566–1620) gave his translation of Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered; Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski, a poet laureate, became known among European nations as Horatius christianus (Christian Horace) for his Latin writings; Jan Andrzej Morsztyn (1621–1693), an epicurean courtier and diplomat, extolled in his sophisticated poems the valors of earthly delights; and Wacław Potocki (1621–1696), the most productive writer of the Polish Baroque, unified the typical opinions of Polish szlachta with some deeper reflections and existential experiences. Notable Polish writers and poets active in this period include:
The period of Polish Enlightenment began in the 1730s–40s and peaked in the second half of the 18th century during the reign of Poland's last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski. It went into sharp decline with the Third and final Partition of Poland (1795), followed by political, cultural and economic destruction of the country, and leading to the Great Emigration of Polish elites. The Enlightenment ended around 1822, and was replaced by Polish Romanticism at home and abroad.
One of the leading Polish Enlightenment poets was Ignacy Krasicki (1735–1801), known locally as "the Prince of Poets" and Poland's La Fontaine, author of the first Polish novel called The Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom (Mikołaja Doświadczyńskiego przypadki); he was also a playwright, journalist, encyclopedist and translator from French and Greek. Another prominent writer of the period was Jan Potocki (1761–1815), a Polish nobleman, Egyptologist, linguist, and adventurer, whose travel memoirs made him legendary in his homeland. Outside Poland he is known chiefly for his novel, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, which has drawn comparisons to such celebrated works as the Decameron and the Arabian Nights.
Due to partitions carried out by the neighboring empires – which ended the existence of the sovereign Polish state in 1795 – Polish Romanticism, unlike Romanticism elsewhere in Europe, was largely a movement for independence against the foreign occupation, and expressed the ideals and the traditional way of life of the Polish people. The period of Romanticism in Poland ended with the Tsarist suppression of the January 1863 Uprising, marked by public executions by the Russians and deportations to Siberia.
The literature of Polish Romanticism falls into two distinct periods, both defined by insurgencies: the first around 1820–1830, ending with the November Uprising of 1830; and the second between 1830–1864, giving birth to Polish Positivism. In the first period, Polish Romantics were heavily influenced by other European Romantics - Their art featured emotionalism and imagination, folklore, country life, as well as the propagation of the ideals of independence. The most famous writers of the period were: Adam Mickiewicz, Seweryn Goszczyński, Tomasz Zan and Maurycy Mochnacki. In the second period (after the January Uprising), many Polish Romantics worked abroad, often banished from the Polish soil by the occupying power. Their work became dominated by the ideals of freedom and the struggle for regaining their country's lost sovereignty. Elements of mysticism became more prominent. Also in that period, the idea of the poeta-wieszcz (nation's bard) developed. The wieszcz functioned as spiritual leader to the suppressed people. The most notable poet among the leading bards of Romanticism, so recognized in both periods, was Adam Mickiewicz. Other two national poets were: Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasiński. Polish writers and poets of the Romantic period include:
In the aftermath of the failed January Uprising against the Russian occupation, the new period of Polish Positivism began to advocate skepticism and the exercise of reason. Questions addressed by the "Positivist" writers revolved around the so-called "organic work," which included the establishment of equal rights for all members of society; the assimilation of Poland's Jewish minority; and the defense of the Polish population in the German-ruled part of Poland against Kulturkampf and their violent displacement. The writers were poised to educate the public about constructive patriotism, which would enable Polish society to function as a fully integrated social organism, regardless of external circumstances. The period lasted until the turn of the 20th century and the advent of the Young Poland movement.
Young Poland (1890-1918)
The modernist period known as the Young Poland movement in visual arts, literature and music, came into being around 1890, and concluded with the Poland's return to independence (1918). The period was based on two concepts. Its early stage was characterized by a strong aesthetic opposition to the ideals of its own predecessor (promoting organic work in the face of foreign occupation). Artists following this early philosophy of Young Poland believed in decadence, symbolism, conflict between human values and civilization, and the existence of art for art's sake. Prominent authors who followed this trend included Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Stanisław Przybyszewski and Jan Kasprowicz.
Interbellum and the return to independence (1918-1939)
Literature of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939) encompasses a short, though exceptionally dynamic period in Polish literary consciousness. The socio-political reality has changed radically with Poland's return to independence. In large part, derivative of these changes was the collective and unobstructed development of programs for artists and writers. New avant-garde trends had emerged. The period, spanning just twenty years, was full of notable individualities who saw themselves as exponents of changing European civilization, including Tuwim, Witkacy, Gombrowicz, Miłosz, Dąbrowska and Nałkowska (PAL).
1945 to 1956
Much of Polish literature written during the Occupation of Poland appeared in print only after the conclussion of World War II, including books by Nałkowska, Rudnicki, Borowski and others. The Soviet takeover of the country did not discourage Émigrés and exiles from returning, especially before the advent of Stalinism. Indeed, many writers attempted to recreate the Polish literary scene, often with a touch of nostalgia for the prewar reality, including Jerzy Andrzejewski, author of Ashes and Diamonds, describing the political and moral dilemmas associated with the Anti-communist resistance in Poland. His novel was adapted into film a decade later by Wajda. The new emerging prose writers such as Stanisław Dygat and Stefan Kisielewski approached the catastrophe of war from their own perspective. Kazimierz Wyka coined a term "borderline novel" for documentary fiction.
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 Protestants (mainly Lutherans) in Cieszyn Silesia and Warmia-Masuria. A growing Jewish population exists in major cities, especially in Warsaw and Krakow. Over two million Jews of Polish ancestry reside in the United States, Brazil, and Israel.
According to Poland's Constitution freedom of religion is ensured to everyone. It also allows for national and ethnic minorities to have the right to establish educational and cultural institutions, institutions designed to protect religious identity, as well as to participate in the resolution of matters connected with their cultural identity.
Religious organizations in the Republic of Poland can register their institution with the Ministry of Interior and Administration creating a record of churches and other religious organizations who operate under separate Polish laws. This registration is not necessary; however, it is beneficial when it comes to serving the freedom of religious practice laws.
The Slavic Rodzimowiercy groups, registered with the Polish authorities in 1995, are the Native Polish Church (Rodzimy Kościół Polski) which represents a pagan tradition that goes back to Władysław Kołodziej’s 1921 Holy Circle of Worshipper of Światowid (Święte Koło Czcicieli Światowida), and the Polish Slavic Church (Polski Kościół Słowiański), There's also the Native Faith Association (Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary, ZRW), and the Association for Tradition and Culture Niklot (founded in 1998).
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 in Belorussian, Ukrainian (now considered offensive and is replaced by the neutral поляк (polyak)) and Russian as synonyms for "Poles". The foreign exonyms include also: Lithuanian Lenkai, Hungarian Lengyelek, Turkish Leh, Armenian: Լեհաստան Lehastan; Persian: لهستان Lahestān.
- Karta Polaka
- Polish nationality law
- Demographics of Poland
- List of Poles
- List of Polish Jews
- 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
- Poles in the United Kingdom
- 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
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^ (English) 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.
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