Historians have recorded that in ancient times a variety of distinct tribal groups inhabited this land now called Poland, including the Celts, Balts, Scythians, Huns, Goths, and Germanic peoples.
The earliest settlement found here was an Iron Age fortification, dating to around 700 BC. In modern times archaeologists discovered the remains of a Bronze Age settlement in central Poland.
In the 10th century, Duke Mieszko I of the Piast dynasty, a pagan and Poland’s first recorded leader, converted to Christianity and this event is considered the birth of the Polish nation.
The Christian Crusades (1095-1291) ordered by the pope in Rome, was a wide series of military campaigns fought across Europe. In Poland, as well as in other countries, the goal was (by force) to restore Christian control in pagan areas.
In 1226 Konrad I invited the Teutonic Knights, a crusading military order during the Middle Ages, to help him fight the Baltic pagans; a decision which would ultimately lead to centuries of warfare pitting Poland against the Knights.
In 1385, Lithuania’s Grand Duke Jagiello accepted Poland’s offer to become its king. He consequently converted pagan Lithuania to Christianity and established a personal union between the two lands that lasted for 400 years.
In the 1500s the ‘Renaissance’ came to Poland; Polish became the official language and literature and learning flourished. In 1569, the Polish Parliament unified Poland and Lithuania into a Commonwealth (or one state).
Near the end of the century Poland’s capital city was moved from Krakow to Warsaw by King Sigismund III because of its central location between the Commonwealth’s existing capitals of Krakow and Vilnius.
In the middle of the 17th century Sweden invaded Poland. Much of the Commonwealth was virtually destroyed as cities were burned and plundered. An estimated 4 million lay dead due to that war, as well as epidemics and the resulting famine.
In 1683, under John III Sobieski, the King of Poland, the Commonwealth’s military prowess was re-established. But because Poland was subjected to almost constant warfare and had suffered massive damage to its economy, the Commonwealth fell once again into decline.
In the late 1700s Poland’s three powerful neighbors, Austria, Prussia and Russia coveted Poland. None wanted war with each other so they just decided to divide the now-weakened Poland in a series of agreements called the Three Partitions of Poland.
- Name: Poland
(long form) Republic of Poland
- Capital City: Warsaw (1,716,855 pop.)
- Poland Population: 38,441,588 (2010 est.)
- World Populations (all countries)
- Currency: Zloty
- thnicity: Polish 96.7%, German 0.4%, Belarusian 0.1%, Ukrainian 0.1%, other and unspecified 2.7%
- GDP total: $725.2 billion (2010 est.)
- GDP per capita: $18,800 (2010 est.)
- Land Sizes
- Language: Polish (official) 97.8%, other and unspecified 2.2%
- Largest Cities: (by population) Warsaw, Lodz, Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk, Szczecin, Bydgoszcz, Lublin, Katowice
- Name: Poland’s name is believed to come from the early tribal inhabitants (Polanie) who’s name is derived from the Polish word pole (field), and is representative of the nature of the country.
- National Day: May 3
- Religion: Roman Catholic 89.8% (about 75% practicing), Eastern Orthodox 1.3%, Protestant 0.3%, other 0.3%, unspecified 8.3%
- Coastline: 273.4 miles (440 km)
- Land Area:
(land) 117,473 sq miles (304,255 sq km)
(water) 3,255 sq miles (8,430 sq km)
(TOTAL) 120,728 sq miles (312,685 sq km)
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- Land Area: (all countries)
- Land Divisions: There are 16 provinces in Poland. They are: Dolnoslaskie, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Lodzkie, Lubelskie, Lubuskie, Malopolskie, Mazowieckie, Opolskie, Podkarpackie, Podlaskie, Pomorskie, Slaskie, Swietokrzyskie, Warminsko-Mazurskie, Wielkopolskie, Zachodniopomorskie
- Horizontal Width: 358.05 miles (576.23 km) from Szczecin east to Bialystok
- Vertical Length: 281.82 miles (453.55 km) from Gdansk southeast to Krakow
- Bordering Countries: (7) Belarus, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine
- Geographic Center: 69.21 miles (111.38 km) northwest of Lodz
- Highest Point: Rysy 8,187 feet (2,499 m)
- Lowest Point: Raczki Elblaskie -6.5 feet (-2 m)
Fronting the Baltic Sea, a lowland plain blends into sandy beaches and dunes.
The northern regions are somewhat hilly while flat fertile farmlands dominate the Central Lowlands.
Moving south, the land rises into hilly uplands that front the Sudetic and Carpathian Mountain ranges. The tallest peaks are in the Tatra Mountains. The highest point is Rysy at 8,187 ft. (2,499m)
The Oder, Vistula and Warta are the country’s major rivers. Numerous small lakes dot the far northeast. Fronted by the Baltic Sea in the north, Poland has a fairly smooth coastline covered by sand dunes in some areas and indented by scattered low-rising cliffs.
From the Baltic lowlands, Poland’s land rises gently into tree-covered hilly areas, with some higher elevations in the Pomeranian Lake District in the northeast. The Central Lowlands is a flat region of river valleys that blends into a hillier area to the south of the Vistula River.
The southern third of the country is a mountainous region. Major ranges include the Sudetes, and the Tatra Mountains which are the most elevated part of the Carpathian Mountains.
Poland has 21 mountains over 2,000 m (6,600 ft) in elevation, and all are located in the Tatras, along the border with Slovakia. Poland’s measured highest-point is Mt. Rysy in the High Tatras; it stands at 2,499 m (8,199 ft) in elevation. The lowest point in Poland at -1.8 m (-5.7 ft) is located at Raczki Elblaskie in the Vistula Delta.
The Bledow Desert, located in southern Poland, is only one of five natural deserts in Europe. It has a total area of 32 sq km (12 sq mi). Some of its dunes extend up to 30 m (98 ft).
As for rivers, the longest river in Poland is the Vistula at 1,047 km (651 mi) long. It is followed by the Oder which forms part of Poland’s western border, at 854 km (531 mi) long. Other rivers of note include the Bug and the Warta.
Poland has hundreds of small lakes, and in Europe, only Finland has a greater density of lakes.
Latitude and Longitude:
- Latitude/Longitude (Absolute Locations)
Warsaw: (capital city) 52° 13′ N, 21° 0′ E
Gdansk: 54° 21′ N, 18° 38′ E
Katowice: 50° 15′ N, 19° 1′ E
Szczecin: 53° 25′ N, 14° 33′ E
Wroclaw: 51° 6′ N, 17° 2′ E