/poh"leuhnd/, n.
a republic in E central Europe, on the Baltic Sea. 38,700,291; ab. 121,000 sq. mi. (313,400 sq. km). Cap.: Warsaw. Polish, Polska.

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Introduction Poland -
Background: Poland is an ancient nation that was conceived around the middle of the 10th century. It's golden age occurred in the 16th century. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation, until an agreement in 1772 between Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland. Poland regained its independence in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. It became a Soviet satellite country following the war, but one that was comparatively tolerant and progressive. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity" that over time became a political force and 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, boosting hopes for acceptance to the EU. Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999. Geography Poland
Location: Central Europe, east of Germany
Geographic coordinates: 52 00 N, 20 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 312,685 sq km water: 8,220 sq km land: 304,465 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than New Mexico
Land boundaries: total: 2,788 km border countries: Belarus 407 km, Czech Republic 658 km, Germany 456 km, Lithuania 91 km, Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) 206 km, Slovakia 444 km, Ukraine 526 km
Coastline: 491 km
Maritime claims: exclusive economic zone: defined by international treaties territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation; mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers
Terrain: mostly flat plain; mountains along southern border
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Raczki Elblaskie -2 m highest point: Rysy 2,499 m
Natural resources: coal, sulfur, copper, natural gas, silver, lead, salt, arable land
Land use: arable land: 45.81% permanent crops: 1.23% other: 52.96% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,000 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: flooding Environment - current issues: situation has improved since 1989 due to decline in heavy industry and increased environmental concern by postcommunist governments; air pollution nonetheless remains serious because of sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and the resulting acid rain has caused forest damage; water pollution from industrial and municipal sources is also a problem, as is disposal of hazardous wastes Environment - international party to: Air Pollution, Antarctic-
agreements: Environmental Protocol, Antarctic- Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: historically, an area of conflict because of flat terrain and the lack of natural barriers on the North European Plain People Poland -
Population: 38,625,478 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.9% (male 3,535,701; female 3,361,515) 15-64 years: 69.5% (male 13,358,128; female 13,500,443) 65 years and over: 12.6% (male 1,860,274; female 3,009,417) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.02% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 10.29 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 9.97 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.49 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.62 male(s)/ female total population: 0.94 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 9.17 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.66 years female: 78.05 years (2002 est.) male: 69.52 years
Total fertility rate: 1.37 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.07% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Pole(s) adjective: Polish
Ethnic groups: Polish 97.6%, German 1.3%, Ukrainian 0.6%, Belarusian 0.5% (1990 est.)
Religions: Roman Catholic 95% (about 75% practicing), Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and other 5%
Languages: Polish
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 99% male: 99% female: 98% (1978 est.) Government Poland -
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Poland conventional short form: Poland local short form: Polska local long form: Rzeczpospolita Polska
Government type: republic
Capital: Warsaw Administrative divisions: 16 provinces (wojewodztwa, singular - wojewodztwo); Dolnoslaskie, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Lodzkie, Lubelskie, Lubuskie, Malopolskie, Mazowieckie, Opolskie, Podkarpackie, Podlaskie, Pomorskie, Slaskie, Swietokrzyskie, Warminsko-Mazurskie, Wielkopolskie, Zachodniopomorskie
Independence: 11 November 1918 (independent republic proclaimed)
National holiday: Constitution Day, 3 May (1791)
Constitution: 16 October 1997; adopted by the National Assembly 2 April 1997; passed by national referendum 23 May 1997
Legal system: mixture of Continental (Napoleonic) civil law and holdover Communist legal theory; changes being gradually introduced as part of broader democratization process; limited judicial review of legislative acts although under the new constitution, the Constitutional Tribunal ruling will become final as of October 1999; court decisions can be appealed to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Aleksander KWASNIEWSKI (since 23 December 1995) elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 8 October 2000 (next to be held NA October 2005); prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president and confirmed by the Sejm head of government: Prime Minister Leszek MILLER (SLD) (since 19 October 2001), Deputy Prime Ministers Marek POL (since 19 October 2001), Jaroslaw KALINOWSKI (since 19 October 2001), Grzegorz KOLODKO (since 8 July 2002) cabinet: Council of Ministers responsible to the prime minister and the Sejm; the prime minister proposes, the president appoints, and the Sejm approves the Council of Ministers election results: Aleksander KWASNIEWSKI reelected president; percent of popular vote - Aleksander KWASNIEWSKI 53.9%, Andrzj OLECHOWSKI 17.3%, Marian KRZAKLEWSKI 15.6%, Lech WALESA 1%
Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly or Zgromadzenie Narodowe consists of the Sejm (460 seats; members are elected under a complex system of proportional representation to serve four-year terms) and the Senate or Senat (100 seats; members are elected by a majority vote on a provincial basis to serve four-year terms) elections: Sejm elections last held 23 September 2001 (next to be held by September 2005); Senate - last held 23 September 2001 (next to be held by September 2005) election results: Sejm - percent of vote by party - SLD-UP 41%, PO 12.7%, Samoobrona 10.2%, PiS 9.5%, PSL 9%, LPR 7.9%, AWSP 5.6% UW 3.1%, other 1%; seats by party - SLD-UP 216, PO 65, Samoobrona 53, PiS 44, PSL 42, LPR 38, German minorities 2; note - SLD-UP has split: SLD has 200 deputies and UP has 16; Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - SLD-UP 75, AWSP (an electoral alliance of some 36 parties) 15, PSL 4, Samoobrona 2, LPR 2, independents 2 note: two seats are assigned to ethnic minority parties
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Council of the Judiciary for an indefinite period); Constitutional Tribunal (judges are chosen by the Sejm for nine-year terms) Political parties and leaders: Citizens Platform or PO [Maciej PLAZYNSKI]; Democratic Left Alliance or SLD (Social Democracy of Poland) [Leszek MILLER]; Freedom Union or UW [Wladyslaw FRASYNIUK]; German Minority of Lower Silesia or MNSO [Henryk KROLL]; Law and Justice or PiS [Lech KACZYNSKI]; League of Polish Families or LPR [Marek KOTLINOWSKI]; Polish Accord or PP [Jan LOPUSZANSKI]; Polish Peasant Party or PSL [Jaroslaw KALINOWSKI]; Samoobrona [Andrzej LEPPER]; Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right or AWSP [Marian KRZAKLEWSKI]; Social Movement-Solidarity Electoral Action or RS-AWS [Jerzy BUZEK]; Union of Labor or UP [Marek POL] Political pressure groups and All Poland Trade Union Alliance or
leaders: OPZZ (trade union); Roman Catholic Church; Solidarity (trade union) International organization ACCT (observer), Australia Group,
participation: BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS, CCC, CE, CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MINURSO, MONUC, NAM (guest), NATO, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNIKOM, UNMEE, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNOMIG, UPU, WCL, WEU (associate), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Przemyslaw GRUDZINSKI chancery: 2640 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 FAX: [1] (202) 328-6271 consulate(s) general: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York telephone: [1] (202) 234-3800 through 3802 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador
US: Christopher R. HILL embassy: Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31 00- 540, Warsaw P1 mailing address: American Embassy Warsaw, US Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-5010 (pouch) telephone: [48] (22) 628-30-41 FAX: [48] (22) 628-82-98 consulate(s) general: Krakow
Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of white (top) and red; similar to the flags of Indonesia and Monaco which are red (top) and white Economy Poland
Economy - overview: Poland has steadfastly pursued a policy of liberalizing the economy and today stands out as one of the most successful and open transition economies. GDP growth had been strong and steady in 1993-2000 but fell back in 2001 with slowdowns in domestic investment and consumption and the weakening in the global economy. The privatization of small and medium state-owned companies and a liberal law on establishing new firms have allowed for the rapid development of a vibrant private sector. In contrast, Poland's large agricultural sector remains handicapped by structural problems, surplus labor, inefficient small farms, and lack of investment. Restructuring and privatization of "sensitive sectors" (e.g., coal, steel, railroads, and energy) has begun. Structural reforms in health care, education, the pension system, and state administration have resulted in larger than expected fiscal pressures. Further progress in public finance depends mainly on privatization of Poland's remaining state sector. The government's determination to enter the EU as soon as possible affects most aspects of its economic policies. Improving Poland's outsized current account deficit and reining in inflation are priorities. Warsaw leads the region in foreign investment and needs a continued large inflow.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $339.6 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1.5% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $8,800 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 4% industry: 32% services: 64% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: 18.4% (2000 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 3.2%
percentage share: highest 10%: 24.7% (1998) Distribution of family income - Gini 32.7 (1998)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.3% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 17.6 million (2000 est.) Labor force - by occupation: industry 22.1%, agriculture 27.5%, services 50.4% (1999)
Unemployment rate: 16.7% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $49.6 billion expenditures: $52.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1999)
Industries: machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, textiles Industrial production growth rate: 4.3% (1999) Electricity - production: 135.161 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 98.1% hydro: 1.54% other: 0.36% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 119.327 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 9.663 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 3.29 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: potatoes, fruits, vegetables, wheat; poultry, eggs, pork
Exports: $30.8 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Exports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 30.2%, intermediate manufactured goods 25.5%, miscellaneous manufactured goods 20.9%, food and live animals 8.5% (1999)
Exports - partners: Germany 34.9%, Italy 6.3%, France 5.2%, Netherlands 5.1%, UK 4.5%, Czech Republic 3.8% (2000)
Imports: $41.7 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 38.2%, intermediate manufactured goods 20.8%, chemicals 14.3%, miscellaneous manufactured goods 9.5% (1999)
Imports - partners: Germany 23.9%, Russia 9.4%, Italy 8.3%, France 6.4%, UK 4.5%, US 4.4% (2000)
Debt - external: $57 billion (2000) Economic aid - recipient: $NA
Currency: zloty (PLN)
Currency code: PLN
Exchange rates: zlotych per US dollar - 4.0144 (December 2001), 4.0939 (2001), 4.3461 (2000), 3.9671 (1999), 3.4754 (1998), 3.2793 (1997) note: zlotych is the plural form of zloty
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Poland - Telephones - main lines in use: 8.07 million (1998) Telephones - mobile cellular: 1.78 million (1998)
Telephone system: general assessment: underdeveloped and outmoded system; government aimed to have 10 million telephones in service by 2000; the process of partial privatization of the state- owned telephone monopoly has begun; in 1998 there were over 2 million applicants on the waiting list for telephone service domestic: cable, open wire, and microwave radio relay; 3 cellular networks; local exchanges 56.6% digital international: satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat, NA Eutelsat, 2 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions), and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region) Radio broadcast stations: AM 14, FM 777, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 20.2 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 179 (plus 256 repeaters) (September 1995)
Televisions: 13.05 million (1997)
Internet country code: .pl Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 19 (2000)
Internet users: 3.5 million (2001) Transportation Poland -
Railways: total: 23,420 km broad gauge: 646 km 1.524-m gauge standard gauge: 21,639 km 1.435- m gauge (11,626 km electrified; 8,978 km double-tracked) narrow gauge: 1,135 km various gauges including 1.000-m, 0.785-m, 0.750-m, and 0.600-m (2001)
Highways: total: 381,046 km paved: 249,966 km (including 268 km of expressways) unpaved: 131,080 km (1998)
Waterways: 3,812 km (navigable rivers and canals) (1996)
Pipelines: crude oil and petroleum products 2,280 km; natural gas 17,000 km (1996)
Ports and harbors: Gdansk, Gdynia, Gliwice, Kolobrzeg, Szczecin, Swinoujscie, Ustka, Warsaw, Wroclaw
Merchant marine: total: 19 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 382,518 GRT/641,657 DWT ships by type: bulk 14, cargo 3, chemical tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 122 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 83 over 3,047 m: 3 2,438 to 3,047 m: 29 914 to 1,523 m: 6 under 914 m: 3 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 42 Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 39 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 under 914 m: 21 (2001) 914 to 1,523 m: 13
Heliports: 3 (2001) Military Poland -
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air and Air Defense Force Military manpower - military age: 19 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 10,415,598 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 8,120,098 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching males: 344,781 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $3.5 billion (2002)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.71% (2002)
GDP: Transnational Issues Poland - Disputes - international: none
Illicit drugs: major illicit producer of amphetamine for the international market; minor transshipment point for Asian and Latin American illicit drugs to Western Europe

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officially Republic of Poland

Country, central Europe.

Area: 120,728 sq mi (312,685 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 38,644,000. Capital: Warsaw. Most of the people are Polish; there are minorities of Ukrainians, Germans, and Belarusians. Language: Polish (official). Religions: Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy. Currency: zloty. Poland consists almost entirely of lowlands in the northern and central regions. The southern border is largely formed by the Sudeten and Carpathian Mountains. The Vistula and Oder, the principal river systems, both drain into the Baltic Sea. Industries include mining, manufacturing, and public utilities. Poland is a republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the president, and its head of government is the prime minister. Established as a kingdom in 922 under Mieszko I, Poland was united with Lithuania in 1386 under the Jagiellon dynasty (1386–1572) to become the dominant power in east-central Europe and enjoyed a prosperous golden age. In 1466 it wrested western and eastern Prussia from the Teutonic Order, and its lands eventually stretched to the Black Sea. Wars with Sweden (see First and Second Northern War) and Russia in the later 17th century led to the loss of considerable territory. In 1697 the electors of Saxony became kings of Poland, virtually ending Polish independence. In the late 18th century Poland was divided between Prussia, Russia, and Austria (see partitions of Poland) and ceased to exist. After 1815 the former Polish lands came under Russian domination, and from 1863 Poland was a Russian province, subjected to intensive Russification. After World War I an independent Poland was established by the Allies. The invasion of Poland in 1939 by the U.S.S.R. and Germany precipitated World War II, during which the Nazis sought to purge its culture and its large Jewish population. Reoccupied by Soviet forces in 1945, Poland was controlled by a Soviet-dominated government from 1947. In the 1980s the Solidarity labour movement, led by Lech Wałesa, achieved major political reforms, and free elections were held in 1989. An economic austerity program instituted in 1990 sped the transition to a market economy. Poland became a member of NATO in 1999 and followed a program of democratic reform into the 21st century.

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▪ 2009

312,679 sq km (120,726 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 38,111,000
Chief of state:
President Lech Kaczynski
Head of government:
Prime Minister Donald Tusk

      Throughout 2008 Poland's coalition government of the centre-right Civic Platform (PO) and rural-based Polish Peasants Party (PSL) enjoyed strong public support. Though it faced a divided opposition—the Law and Justice party (PiS) on the right and the Left and Democrats (LiD) on the centre-left—the ruling coalition lacked a sufficient majority to override a presidential veto, which became clear in August when the government's proposals to amend media law were staunched. Moreover, the government's unwillingness to pursue controversial reforms, resulting in a lack of visible achievements in its domestic policy, was often blamed on the presidential ambitions of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the leader of the PO. Tusk's proposal to privatize the state-owned hospitals and his on-again, off-again promises of a cabinet reshuffle indicated, however, that he was trying to rectify his government's image problem.

      Relations between the government and Pres. Lech Kaczynski (of the PiS) were tense from the beginning of Tusk's administration and sometimes bordered on hostility, such as Tusk's refusal to provide Kaczynski with a government airplane to fly him to the European Council meeting in Brussels in October. In January 2008 Kaczynski scorned the government's endorsement of Russia's bid to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and he both opposed withdrawal of Poland's military forces from Iraq and refused to sign the Lisbon Treaty on European Union (EU) organization. That these tensions went beyond foreign and security policy, in which the president's role is well defined constitutionally, into domestic matters signaled a political power struggle between the PiS and the PO. In 2008 there were also changes on the left of the political spectrum. Most notably, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the largest centre-left opposition party, replaced its leader, Wojciech Olejniczak, with Grzegorz Napieralski, formerly the party's secretary-general.

      From the beginning it was clear that the Tusk government's foreign policy, formulated by Minister of Foreign Affairs Radek Sikorski, would substantially differ from that of its predecessor. The foreign policy goals outlined by Sikorski in his speech to the parliament in May confirmed that the government would pursue closer cooperation with the EU (particularly with Germany) and attempt to develop a friendlier relationship with Russia by no longer opposing its negotiations with the EU on a new partnership. Sikorski also proposed a scheme for developing cooperation between the EU and Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Belarus.

      The crisis in South Ossetia that in August climaxed in war between Georgia and Russia (see Georgia ) inspired Kaczynski to take a strong anti-Russian stand. On August 12 he and the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine flew to Tbilisi to express strong support for Georgia. The Polish government also took steps to demonstrate support for the Georgian state, but its actions were much more pragmatic. Indeed, it was on Tusk's recommendation that the European Council met to discuss the Georgian crisis.

      Also in August, after 18 months of tough negotiations and influenced strongly by the developments in Georgia, Poland signed an agreement with the U.S. to host 10 antiballistic interceptor missiles as part of the proposed U.S. global missile defense system. The agreement remained to be ratified by the Polish parliament and signed into law by the president; there was speculation, however, that the government might decide to delay the ratification process until after the U.S. presidential election in order to ensure that the agreement had the support of the incoming U.S. administration.

      In 2008 Poland's economy continued to expand briskly, with GDP growing by 5.8% in the second quarter, slightly better than expected and only a little slower than in the first quarter. Consumer price inflation in August was 4.8%, unchanged from July. The unemployment rate in July was 9.4%, 2.8 percentage points lower than at the same time the previous year. In September the government announced that Poland would join the euro zone in 2011, earlier than expected. While it was recognized that the widening international financial crisis would likely slow Poland's economic growth in the last quarter of 2008 and in 2009, many experts believed that Poland was still a relatively safe haven in terms of economic development.

Michael Wyganowski

▪ 2008

312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 38,110,000
Chief of state:
President Lech Kaczynski
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Jaroslaw Kaczynski and, from November 16, Donald Tusk

      In the first three quarters of 2007, Poland continued a difficult transition under a particularly difficult government. The Law and Justice party (PiS), in a ruling coalition with two smaller parties—the Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families—stressed the need for nourishing a traditional community free from corruption, crime, and communist residua. In March, for example, it passed a law to purge public officials suspected of collaborating with the former communist secret services; parts of the law were subsequently declared unconstitutional. In its drive to defend national interests and be treated as an equal partner, the government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski clashed with the EU over privatization, environmental issues, the EU draft treaty, and its demands for reweighting the EU voting system. The government had some success in pushing its agenda in the EU, but its combative way of pursuing its goals annoyed Polands' European partners.

      At home the Kaczynski administration was hurt by intergovernmental squabbling over power in key ministries, a series of corruption and sex scandals, and accusations that the government had misused the intelligence services. After months of recurring internal conflicts, the prime minister fired the coalition ministers and, lacking a parliamentary majority, in September announced new elections. On October 21, with the highest voter turnout (53.9%) since 1989, PiS was swept aside by the centre-right pro-business and pro-European Civic Platform (PO), which captured 41.4% of the vote. PiS, with 32.2%, finished second in the balloting to become the strongest opposition party. The Left and Democrats alliance tallied only 13.1%.

      The chairman of the PO, 50-year-old Donald Tusk, took office as prime minister on November 16 and soon secured a parliamentary majority by forming a coalition with the left-leaning Polish Peasants Party, whose leader, Waldemar Pawlak, was appointed as his deputy and minister of economy. Tusk pledged to restore trust and openness at home. He also vowed that Poland would be a more cooperative member of the EU and try to repair ties with Germany and defuse tensions with Russia. He wanted Polish troops to be pulled out of Iraq in 2008, the Polish military contribution in Afghanistan to be strengthened, and 350 troops to be sent in an EU mission to Chad. Under a new, Oxford-educated foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, tougher negotiations were expected to be made with the U.S. over the potential deployment of U.S. antimissile interceptors in Poland. In late December Russian and Polish authorities signed a memorandum to end a two-year ban on exports of Polish meat to Russia.

      On the internal policy front, the new government planned to revive efforts to adopt the euro in 2012, reform public finances, and speed the sale of government stakes in industry. The PO also promised to fight corruption, rebuild the credibility of state institutions, and put an end to the interference of intelligence services in politics. Competence, better execution, and a better style of governance were to be the guidelines of the new administration. The support of mainly young, urban, and pro-European Poles voting for the PO provided a good chance for change. The pending “cohabitation” with Pres. Lech Kaczynski, the twin brother of the former prime minister, posed a major challenge for the new government, however.

      In spite of the political turmoil, Poland's economic growth was vibrant. GDP was expected to hit 6.8% at the end of 2007. The unemployment rate dropped significantly, from 15.2% in 2006 to 12.4%, and inflation was held in check at 3.5%. These figures, along with a budget deficit of 3% and a low debt-to-GDP ratio of 44%, provided the new government with a comfortable economic starting point.

      Poles were overjoyed with their country's selection as cohost (with Ukraine) of the Euro 2012 association football (soccer) championship and with the national soccer team's qualification for the Euro 2008 finals.

Andrzej Jaroszyński

▪ 2007

312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 38,136,000
Chief of state:
President Lech Kaczynski
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and, from July 14, Jaroslaw Kaczynski

      In 2006 the Polish government, led by the Law and Justice party (PiS), actively sought to introduce radical changes, restore the state administration, and cleanse it from the previous informal network of links with politicians, businessmen, organized-crime figures, and mass media executives. In the first half of the year, the government disbanded the Military Information Services and established the Central Anticorruption Bureau and the Financial Supervisory Commission. In addition, the government established closer liaison with the public media and introduced a measure that would expand the list of public persons subject to vetting. The PiS leadership pledged to retain for Poland “full sovereignty in culture and morals” by defending traditional values. At the same time, welfare protection was increased through an enhanced social budget and by distribution of EU funds to support the poorest regions.

 To achieve these goals, PiS, a minority party, in February signed a “stabilization pact” and in April formed a coalition with two small parties, Self-Defense (SO) and the League of Polish Families (LPR), whose leaders became deputy prime ministers. Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, a popular prime minister since October 2005, was replaced in July by PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski (Kaczynski, Jaroslaw, and Kaczynski, Lech ), the twin brother of Pres. Lech Kaczynski (Kaczynski, Jaroslaw, and Kaczynski, Lech ). (See Biographies.) In October the ruling coalition was reactivated, and SO leader Andrzej Lepper, who had been dropped from the government, was given back a deputy prime ministership. In local elections held on November 12 and 26 PiS managed to retain a slight lead over the largest of the opposition parties, the liberal-centrist Civic Platform, which, however, won the mayorship of Warsaw. Of the other opposition groups, the Polish Peasant Party did surprisingly well, but the bloc consisting of the Democratic Left Alliance and the Democrats did not. The SO and LPR suffered defeat.

      In foreign policy, the government focused on reducing Poland's dependence on Russian energy supplies by diversifying energy sources and investing heavily in the modernization of the domestic energy sector. A project to build an undersea gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, bypassing Poland, met with open resentment. Relations with Germany remained strained under the shadow of the countries' painful shared history and also as a result of the often coarse attacks of the German press on the Kaczynski twins. Uneasy relations with Germany and Russia, together with the traditionalist stance of the coalition parties, provoked internal frustration and foreign criticism that painted Poland in nationalistic, populist, and conservative colours and drove a wider wedge between Poland and liberal Western Europe.

      As a staunch ally of the United States, Poland pledged to maintain its troops—although in reduced numbers—in Iraq through the end of 2007 and to send 1,000 troops to Afghanistan by early 2007. Poland also agreed to place a contingent in Lebanon. In the second year of Poland's European Union membership, a number of issues created friction between Warsaw and Brussels, among them the value-added-tax dispute, banking mergers, and energy-security policy. In December, Poland vetoed a renewal of the EU-Russia partnership agreement because of the Russian ban on meat imports from Poland. On the other hand, the absorption of EU funds and cooperation with Belarus and Ukraine were successful. An October survey showed that 72% of Poles were pleased with EU membership and only 6% were against.

      The enthusiastic reception given to Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to Poland in May was somewhat overshadowed by accusations of collaboration by some Roman Catholic priests with the former communist secret services. The split between Poland's liberal, pro-European circles and the right-wing church faction represented, for example, by the radio station Radio Maryja also deepened.

      Poland's economy was strong, with GDP expected to reach about 5.2% by the end of the year. The unemployment rate dropped to 15.2% but was still the highest in the EU. The check on inflation, a lower budget deficit of 2.1%, and a lower debt-to-GDP ratio of 42.4%, together with an increase of 16.9% in exports, a 13% rise in imports, and easy passage of the 2007 draft budget all gave rise to optimism, even in the absence of tax reforms and increased social benefits. Thanks in part to its EU accession, Poland was classified among the most attractive investment destinations.

      Two new national heroes were hailed in 2006; Robert Kubica became the first Pole to drive in Formula 1 auto racing (for the BMW team in the Hungarian Grand Prix in August), and in October, Agata Szymczewska won the 13th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznan.

Andrzej Jaroszyński

▪ 2006

312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 38,164,000
Chief of state:
Presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and, from December 23, Lech Kaczynski
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Marek Belka and, from October 31, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz

      The year 2005 in Poland was special because of the number of anniversaries, all having their origin in the country's recent history. Preeminent among these was the 25th anniversary of the trade union Solidarity, which triggered the transformation not only of communist Poland but the whole of the former Eastern bloc. The celebrations in Gdansk in September gathered many top European politicians, including the president of the European Commission, José Barroso, and the heads of most of the European states that owed the end of communism to the Polish unionists. The events of 1980, in the words of German Pres. Horst Köhler, “helped to overcome the division of Europe, and, consequently, Germany.”

      Another momentous event for Poland—this one sad and almost overshadowing the Solidarity celebrations—was the death earlier in the year of Pope John Paul II. (John Paul II ) (See Obituaries.) It was the Polish-born pontiff's messages of encouragement that had had Poles chanting the slogan “There's no liberty without solidarity,” which ultimately led to the decentralization of the political system and democratic elections. The 15th anniversary of these elections was yet another date to be remembered in 2005. August turned out to be a month not only for celebration but also for reflection and some soul-searching over some disappointments and a growing decline in public confidence in the country's political leaders.

      Despite promises for the early dissolution of the government, the politicians of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance continued to cling to power, although its public support dropped to 11% and party membership fell drastically. The two centre-right opposition parties, Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS)—both with a Solidarity pedigree—were not idle and used this time to prepare for the parliamentary elections on September 25. Both parties were conservative, and they basically agreed on moral and historical issues, but they had little in common when it came to economic matters. The PO had a free-market stance, while the PiS was more populist and nationalist, promising social protection, a safeguarding of Christian values, and restoration of the integrity of the state. PiS won by a margin of a mere 4% of the vote but thereby secured the right to appoint the prime minister in the expected PiS-PO coalition government, although such a coalition was never actually formed.

      In the second round of voting in the presidential elections four weeks later, however, Lech Kaczynski, the twin brother of PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, defeated PO leader Donald Tusk. That victory, thanks in part to the support PiS received from two parties whose candidates lost in the first round, the populist party Samoobrona and the Catholic nationalistic League of Polish Families, made a PiS and PO coalition impossible. Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz was appointed to the post of prime minister and took office on October 31.

      In 2005 Poland also celebrated the first anniversary of its joining the European Union, which provided an occasion to count some of the gains of EU membership, mainly in the agricultural sector (structural funds and subsidies), the opening of markets, and expanded opportunities for travel, jobs, and education.

      Poland's GDP, expected to end the year at 3.5%, was still acceptable by EU standards, but the country's economy had slowed down considerably in comparison with most of the other former communist states that had joined the EU in 2004. An unemployment rate of 17.6% (the highest in the EU), a budget deficit of 6.8% of GDP, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 53% (the constitutional limit was 55%) in October posed a real challenge for the new government, which started off its term with generous social benefits promises.

      Internationally Poland began to engage more in affairs of significance, both religious and political. “The Europe of Dialogue,” the sixth Gniezno Congress held in Poland's historic first capital in September, attracted some 800 representatives of different religions, including for the first time members of the Jewish and Islamic faiths. One activity that could have far-reaching consequences was Poland's overt involvement in Ukraine's “Orange Revolution.” Also, Poland was demonstrating increased self-confidence and influence in Brussels and in EU affairs generally.

Iwona Grenda

▪ 2005

312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 38,176,000
Chief of state:
President Aleksander Kwasniewski
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Leszek Miller and, from May 2, Marek Belka

      Public debate in Poland in early 2004 focused on the country's place in the European Union, which it joined on May 1, and the new “double majority” voting system that would have reduced Poland's (and Spain's) voting powers in the EU. This issue united the political opposition against the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) for taking too soft a stance in the EU membership negotiations. SLD support had been declining anyway. Sleaze and political scandals had become hallmarks of Prime Minister Leszek Miller's government, which ironically had won office on an anticorruption platform. The party itself was beset by tensions, and in March a new left-wing group, the Polish Social Democracy party, split off. Miller stepped down, first as SLD chairman and later as prime minister, and former finance minister Marek Belka took over on May 2. Many people, however, felt that the SLD had lost its legitimacy and that therefore no socialist government would be acceptable, Belka won a parliamentary vote of confidence in June, but on the condition that another vote would be taken in October. Early elections were scheduled for May 2005 anyway, and opposition politicians immediately switched to election-campaign mode with populist declarations and attacks on the incumbents.

      In September, in an almost unanimous vote, the Sejm (lower house of parliament) passed a resolution that the government should call for Germany to pay war reparations. From a legal point of view, such claims had no chance to be recognized, but, as subsequently revealed in a poll by Rzeczpospolita, a leading daily newspaper, 64% of Poles were in favour of extracting compensation for the Nazi depredations. Polish citizens were reacting to declarations of the right-wing Prussian Trust formed in Germany to secure and support claims by displaced Germans seeking damages for lost property in an area that was now part of Poland (parts of Silesia, Pomerania, and East Prussia). The Polish government, concerned about its cool relations with Germany (in part because of Poland's support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq), did not approve the parliamentary decision. A trip by Belka to Berlin and a follow-up visit by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder with Belka in Krakow in November helped to ease these tensions. Pres. Aleksander Kwasniewski's visit to Russia in late September, however, could not warm relations with this important commercial partner that was unhappy about Poland's membership in the EU and NATO.

      Farmers—formerly Euro-skeptics—happily welcomed the positive consequences of Poland's membership in the EU as the opening of new markets and broader demand for their products, and they eagerly awaited the first EU agricultural subsidy payments. There were also some signs that after years of stagnation the economy had started to pick up, even if improvement was mainly due to the depreciation of the zloty, which was keeping labour costs down. Poland's GDP rose by 6.9% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2004 (up from 4.7% in the last three months of 2003) and by about 6% in the second half of the year. In mid-September, for the first time in three years, the number of unemployed sank below three million, or to 19%. In October the treasury floated 30% of Poland's largest bank, the state-owned PKO BP; this was the largest offering in the history of the fast-growing Warsaw Securities Exchange. A public-service regulation bill passed by the Council of Ministers provided for clearer and more competitive recruitment procedures for some 300,000 civil service positions. At almost the same time, the parliament heard the final report of the parliamentary committee investigating corruption at the government level, which confirmed the existence of a “group holding power” that included the closest associates of then prime minister Miller. PKN Orlen, Poland's largest fuel company, was the subject of another parliamentary investigation that found suspicious interconnections among business leaders, politicians, and top prosecutors.

      In 2004 the world mourned the death of two outstanding Poles, Solidarity leader Jacek Kuron (Kuron, Jacek Jan ) and Nobel Prize-winning author Czeslaw Milosz (Milosz, Czeslaw ) (see Obituaries) and bestowed top international prizes on two others, writer Adam Zagajewski (Zagajewski, Adam ) and philosopher Leszek Kolakowski (Kolakowski, Leszek ) (see Biographies).

Iwona Grenda

▪ 2004

312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 38,623,000
Chief of state:
President Aleksander Kwasniewski
Head of government:
Prime Minister Leszek Miller

      Poland was invited to join the European Union on Dec. 13, 2002, exactly 21 years after the declaration of martial law in Poland that had abruptly ended Solidarity's attempts to break away from the communist system. The accession treaty was signed in April 2003, and the preparation for a referendum in June on EU membership was a preoccupation from the beginning of the year. This “act of historic justice,” as Pope John Paul II called EU membership, could be seen as a symbolic end to the years of political, economic, and cultural isolation, sealing Poland's return to the community of European states. Yet opinions were divided on membership issues among the main parties and within the government itself.

      Declining support for the ruling SLD-UP (Democratic Left Alliance–Union of Labour) and PSL (Polish Peasant Party) coalition formed in 2001 had manifested itself in the results of the local elections in October 2002. A series of dismissals began in January 2003, including the long-awaited removal of the health minister who had been criticized for having liquidated regional patient funds and pushed through a costly but ineffective centralized health-fund system. In February the coalition collapsed, leaving the SLD-UP as a minority government. The economic recession continued, unemployment remained high (18.7% in January), and instances of mismanagement of public money were increasingly made public.

      A hot issue throughout the year was the disclosure of an attempt to solicit a bribe from the largest daily newspaper, allegedly on behalf of the ruling party, for changes to a proposed media law that would secure its private owner rights to expand. A televised parliamentary investigation revealed frequent abuses of power and manipulations in the lawmaking process. A political crisis seemed imminent.

      Many ordinary Poles who supported EU entry feared that a vote in favour would give unintended credit to Prime Minister Leszek Miller and his government, during whose term corruption in public administration reached its peak; they therefore might have boycotted the referendum or voted against accession. Poland was by far the largest EU candidate state, and concerns were voiced that a negative Polish vote might prejudice the referenda on the issue in other candidate states.

      These emotions were played upon by the populist groups and strongest EU opponents Samoobrona (Self-defense) and the League of Polish Families; their scaremongering tactics also pointed to the loss of sovereignty, Christian values, or national identity and the likely buyout of land should Poland join the EU. Reason and pragmatism won out, however, and the referendum gave 77.45% support for entry, with a voter turnout of 58.85%. Prime Minister Miller immediately seized the opportunity to regain support for his government and called for and won a vote of confidence. He shifted control of overall economic policy to the economy and labour minister and made promises that prompted Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko to resign.

      Unexpectedly, the third-quarter growth rate reached 3.9%, and now a 2003 GDP of 3.5% seemed possible. The recession apparently had been derailed. Once the Sejm (lower house of parliament) had accepted the 2004 budget deficit of 45.5 billion zlotys (about $11.3 billion), however, drastic cuts in public spending and a thorough reform of public finances had to follow. These actions, although unpopular, were unavoidable, because the public debt was teetering near the constitutionally permissible threshold level of 60% of GDP and now posed a serious threat to the health of the economy.

      Poland was also active internationally. Its choice to buy American F-16 fighters for the air force and the strategic decision (made on the eve of Poland's entrance into the EU in 2004) to support, even if only symbolically, the U.S. in the Iraq war stirred criticism, even rebuke, in “Old Europe.” Poland was proud to have made a sovereign, independent decision and garnered respect for its foreign policy; it secured a Polish-led peacekeeping sector in Iraq. Later in the year, however, public enthusiasm for Poland's involvement in the war and its participation in the Iraqi stabilization mission significantly declined. Prime Minister Miller visited Polish troops in Iraq on November 11, and Pres. Aleksander Kwasniewski followed suit on December 22.

      On October 16, despite any political divisions among them, Poles celebrated the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II as pontiff.

Iwona Grenda

▪ 2003

312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 38,644,000
Chief of state:
President Aleksander Kwasniewski
Head of government:
Prime Minister Leszek Miller

      Despite Prime Minister Leszek Miller's pledge of continuity with the policies of the previous Polish government, the first months of 2002 saw a series of dismissals followed by often controversial appointments to midlevel public service and administrative positions. The turnover was described as necessary to bring in more competent staff. A series of actions by the new ministers, such as the recall of the new secondary-school final examination and the decision to liquidate regional funds for treatment of medical patients, seemed to suggest that the government sought primarily to undo what had previously been achieved—even when its own decisions, apparently made in haste, were often subsequently modified or left unimplemented. There were worries that the government's actions were threatening the efficiency of public services and, perhaps worse, jeopardizing Poland's implementation of the Public Service Law of 1998, which was a criterion for the country's accession to the European Union (EU).

      Legislation to stimulate corporate economic growth was addressed mainly to small and mid-sized businesses. These bills foresaw the elimination of bureaucratic barriers, certain tax exemptions, simplification of tax regulations and procedures, transparent legislation, anticorruption measures, and amendments to the labour code. The latter were strongly opposed by the Solidarity Trade Union and the leftist National Trade Unions Alliance but were eventually passed in August.

      Seeing high interest rates as an obstacle to business activity, the government started a battle with the Monetary Policy Council (RPP), demanding a more relaxed monetary policy. The RPP, which had succeeded in cutting the inflation rate to 3.5% by January and then to a record 1.9% in May, rejected these demands for lacking any sound economic grounds. Political pressure and attempts to reduce the RPP's independence continued into the summer months, however, possibly influencing the objectivity of the central bank and thus weakening Poland's chances of meeting the requirements of EU membership.

      Another blow came in June when the privatized Szczecin shipyard, Europe's third largest shipbuilder, in which the state treasury held a 10% stake, filed for bankruptcy with debts of over $400 million. Industrial output was rising, however, and in June it went up by 2.2% year-on-year and 3.3% month-on-month. Exports grew 0.2% year-on-year in the period January to May to almost $15 billion, while imports were unchanged at $20.8 billion.

      Meanwhile, opinion surveys showed that the level of public frustration was growing. Perhaps this was not surprising, considering that the unemployment rate—which topped 17%—was the highest in more than a decade and in June almost one million young people under 24 were reported to be out of work—more than double the number in the corresponding period in 1998.

      In July Finance Minister Marek Belka resigned unexpectedly, declaring himself “burnt out,” but many believed his actions had to do with the 2002 budget deficit. His successor, Grzegorz Kolodko (another rather controversial appointment), accepted a deficit of 40 billion zlotys (about $10 billion)—5% of gross domestic product—but pledged early improvements. The cabinet adopted his “anticrisis package,” which focused on help for ailing companies, redemption of selected companies' debts to the state, corporate restructuring, tax loans, and a broad system of credit guarantees. The personnel reshuffling continued with two other sudden dismissals in ministerial positions—the minister of justice (appointed only a few months earlier) and the minister of culture.

      The visit by Pope John Paul II in August, always a special and much-awaited event, helped to divert attention from Poland's economic worries. The pontiff's homecoming was also important to the government, which, determined to lead the country into the EU, recognized the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and its potential for impact upon the results of a referendum planned for spring 2003. John Paul eventually expressed his support for EU accession, but tensions continued within the government coalition, especially over agricultural issues and privatization. When the EU Commission report was published in early October, the issue of restructuring Polish steelworks, which was to be settled by the end of the year, still remained unresolved. In local elections on October 27, village chiefs, city mayors, and municipal counsellors were directly elected for the first time in democratic Poland, using a variation of the Italian system.

Iwona Grenda

▪ 2002

312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 38,647,000
Chief of state:
President Aleksander Kwasniewski
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Jerzy Buzek and, from October 19, Leszek Miller

      The focal point in Poland during 2001 was the September 23 parliamentary election. In the spring and summer, a number of new right-wing parties began to coalesce, including the new Right-Wing Alliance in March and the centre-right pro-business party Civic Forum–Christian Democracy in July. A new election bill with a provision that would admit to the Sejm (lower house of the legislature) only parties that won at least 5% of the vote was adopted in April.

      The elections attracted a low voter turnout (46%), but the left won a decisive victory. The big winner was the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), led by former communist Leszek Miller, which took 216 of 460 seats. Second was the Civic Platform (65 seats), followed by Self Defense, a radical farmers group that opposed Poland's joining the European Union (EU), with 53, and the right-wing Law and Justice party (44). The incumbent Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right (AWSP) was routed, failing to meet the required threshold and therefore not able to claim a single Sejm seat. Despite its big win, the SLD found itself 15 seats short of a majority, and a coalition agreement was struck with the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), which had taken 8.9% of the vote. The same two parties had shared power uneasily from 1993 to 1997. Miller named his cabinet on October 10. SLD members took the key portfolios of finance (Marek Belka) and the economy (Jacek Piechota); PSL leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski was deputy prime minister and minister of agriculture. A new Infrastructure Ministry, embracing transportation, communications, and regional policy, was also created. At his inauguration Prime Minister Miller pledged continuity, “not to start or pursue any revolutions.” An amendment to the civil service regulations passed by the Sejm in December raised eyebrows, as it seemed to open the way for more political appointments to administrative positions.

      AWSP's big losses were principally chalked up to Poland's sinking economy. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek was under severe pressure to trim the $20 billion budget deficit, and the government floundered throughout the spring and summer trying to do so. Shares in the state telecom company Telekomunikacja Polska had to be sold to raise cash in March. The government tried to raise the budget deficit by $2 billion in July. Finance Minister Jaroslaw Bauc was fired in late August, ostensibly for not having warned of the magnitude of the problem. In September the Sejm rejected Buzek's report on the budget. Picking up the struggle to balance the budget, the new government adopted a 20% tax on interest from savings and investments and froze income tax thresholds in order to postpone an expected loss of revenue from that quarter. On October 20 state expenditures were ordered cut by about $2 billion, and salaries of central administration employees were frozen. In the austerity draft budget for 2002, adopted on November 20, the deficit was limited to 5% of gross domestic product. Projected 2001 GDP growth figures of 2.3% were reduced to 1%; inflation figures were estimated at 4.5%, down from the 4.7–4.8% forecast earlier. By December unemployment had soared to 16.8%, a record for the postcommunist period.

      Poland's foreign policy focused on trying to accelerate the process of joining the European Union. The new foreign minister, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, ran into trouble with the Sejm in late November because of concessions he had made in EU negotiations earlier that month. Poland signed a gas deal with Denmark in July, trying to reduce the country's dependence on Russian energy supplies. Miller visited Russia on December 20 to discuss the imbalance of trade and a planned new oil pipeline from Russia through Poland to Western Europe.

      The return of a leftist government was not the only reminder of Poland's past during the year. Former leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski was placed on trial in May for having given orders, when he was defense minister in 1970, to shoot striking workers. In June the first checks from a German fund set up to reimburse workers from Nazi-occupied countries who had been impressed into slave labour were distributed in Poland. Meanwhile, public debate continued over the question of the proper apportionment—between the Nazi occupiers, the Polish Roman Catholic Church, and the local populations—of responsibility for a number of massacres of Polish Jews during World War II. On July 10 Pres. Aleksander Kwasniewski voiced a formal apology on behalf of the Polish people for one such massacre, in the village of Jedwabne, in 1941.


▪ 2001

313,027 sq km (120,860 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 38,655,000
Chief of state:
President Aleksander Kwasniewski
Head of government:
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek

      Poland experienced considerable political ferment in 2000. The two-party “Solidarity coalition” that had governed since 1997 collapsed in June, leaving a fragile and increasingly ineffectual minority government, headed by the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), to spend the rest of 2000 clinging to power. The AWS chairman, Marian Krzaklewski, suffered a stinging defeat in presidential elections in October, finishing third to the popular incumbent, Aleksander Kwasniewski. Although he faced 11 challengers, Kwasniewski triumphed easily in the first round of the balloting, with 53.9% of the vote. Krzaklewski finished third, with 15.6% of the vote, behind Andrzej Olechowski, a charismatic former foreign and finance minister, who won 17.3% despite running without party backing.

      The infighting that caused the collapse of the ruling coalition bolstered the popularity of the main opposition party, the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Buoyed by Kwasniewski's victory, the SLD was garnering about 50% support in public opinion polls in the later months of 2000. As their popularity declined, both the AWS and its erstwhile partner, the centrist Freedom Union (UW), suffered leadership crises. Krzaklewski's refusal to step down after his election defeat prompted a rebellion among the constituent parties that made up the AWS, and although Krzaklewski ultimately agreed to surrender the chairmanship at a future date, the party remained in disarray at year's end.

      The UW experienced its share of turmoil, too. Having walked out of the government to protest economic reform reversals, the party lost its visibility, and its approval rating tumbled. The UW opted not to run a candidate in the presidential elections, and most of its supporters backed Olechowski. Both decisions were the work of Leszek Balcerowicz, the hard-nosed UW chairman and architect of Poland's free-market economic reforms. As disappointment with his leadership spread, Balcerowicz seized an opportunity to make a graceful exit from politics. Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, the central bank president who had guided monetary policy since 1992, announced unexpectedly in October that she was stepping down to take a prestigious post at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. With a nod to the broad consensus that had long protected economic policy from political infighting, the president nominated Balcerowicz to take the helm at the central bank, and he was confirmed on December 22.

      The AWS supported Balcerowicz's candidacy, but at a price. In return, the UW reportedly agreed to support the minority government's draft budget in March 2001, when it was expected to come to a vote. By depriving the president of a pretext to call early elections, passage of the 2001 budget would allow the AWS cabinet to serve out its full term, to September 2001. This bargain would also give the UW time to regroup under its new leader, former foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, before fresh elections, but it was eagerly seized upon by the SLD as evidence of power-hungry maneuvering.

      Although many economic decisions were hostage to similar political considerations, the Polish economy remained on a steady reform course in 2000. Growth was strong in the first half, but steep interest-rate rises, imposed to fight a current-account deficit that peaked at 8.3% of gross domestic product in March before falling back to around 7% at year's end, cut consumption and investment spending sharply. Although the growth rate was slowing as the year drew to a close, Polish GDP was expected to have risen by at least 4.5% overall in 2000. Privatization and restructuring were pushed ahead in many sectors, and investors were invited to buy their way into the power industry. The government concluded the largest privatization deal in Eastern Europe so far with the $4.3 billion sale of a 35% stake in TPSA, the former telecoms monopoly, to a consortium headed by France Télécom.

      European Union membership remained the anchor of Polish foreign policy in 2000. A special parliamentary committee was formed to speed through EU-standard legislation. In its annual progress report, the European Commission hailed a “marked acceleration” in Poland's adoption of EU law and regulations. An EU summit in Nice, France, in December chose to grant Poland 27 votes—on a par with Spain—in the Council of Ministers when it joined the EU.

Louisa Vinton

▪ 2000

313,027 sq km (120,860 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 38,694,000
Chief of state:
President Aleksander Kwasniewski
Head of government:
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek

      Poland saw the introduction of four major structural reforms in 1999 as the coalition government formed in 1997 by two parties descended from the Solidarity tradition, the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW), strove to complete an ambitious agenda of democratic and market reforms. A health insurance program designed to rationalize health care spending and a local government reform intended to devolve power to local communities were launched at the start of the year. A sweeping pension reform saw its belated start in April. An overhaul of the education system took effect in September.

      Political debate in 1999 centred on these four programs. All were introduced in haste, amid public incomprehension. Both health care and pension reforms ran into financial difficulties that required emergency bailouts from the state budget. Although the need for change in all four areas was both clear and pressing, and the reforms promised real benefits over coming years, the government was lambasted for trying to accomplish too much at once and for failing to ensure that proper funding was available. As the year wore on, the government's popularity sank to historic lows; opinion polls indicated that the main opposition party, the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), would triumph easily if early elections were held.

      Incessant infighting between the two ruling parties further jeopardized the government's position. Hardly a month passed without some sort of a showdown, yet the prime minister, Jerzy Buzek, was too constrained by the competing factions within his own party, the AWS, to remove incompetent ministers or impose proper discipline. Cabinet reshuffles in March and September were too timid to satisfy either partner. The UW, led by Leszek Balcerowicz, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, pressed for a tighter fiscal stance, more consistent market reforms, and speedier privatization (particularly given the funding needs posed by the government's four structural reforms). The AWS, while not explicitly opposed to these aims, strove by contrast to implement a conservative social philosophy (demanding, for instance, tax deductions favouring families with large numbers of children) and to appease its main constituency of anticommunist trade unionists.

      Such frictions delayed the passage of legislation and played into the hands of the opposition SLD. The best example was Balcerowicz's tax-reform package, which aimed to stimulate economic growth by slashing both corporate and personal income tax rates. Although the government approved the package at midyear, obstructive behaviour by AWS deputies nearly killed it in parliamentary committee. A resignation threat by Balcerowicz put the legislation back on course, but the parliamentary tricks required for pushing the bills past the SLD and into law in time for implementation in 2000 gave Pres. Aleksander Kwasniewski (formerly of the SLD) a pretext for vetoing one of the package's three main components. Poland spent a suspenseful two days in November waiting to see if Balcerowicz would quit; financial markets reacted with relief when he did not.

      A lacklustre economic performance limited the government's room to maneuver. Unlike many neighbouring countries, Poland's economy continued to grow in 1999. The pace slowed, however, with the collapse of exports to the Commonwealth of Independent States after Russia's devaluation in August 1998 and as a result of lethargic growth in the European Union (EU), which accounted for two-thirds of Polish trade. The low point was reached in the first quarter, when year-on-year gross domestic product rose by just 1.5%. A rebound was building by midyear, however, and Poland looked to be on course for GDP growth of 4% overall for 1999, with a rise of at least 5% forecast for 2000. This economic resilience was praised by the EU, which had opened membership talks with Poland in 1998. Still, the EU faulted Poland for “sluggish” progress in adopting the acquis communautaire (the body of EU law). Lobbying for EU admission in 2003, Poland repeatedly pressed Brussels for a specific timetable on accession. Sticky relations with the EU contrasted with Poland's ties to NATO, which admitted the country as a full member in March.

Louisa Vinton

▪ 1999

      Area: 312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 38,665,000

      Capital: Warsaw

      Chief of state: President Aleksander Kwasniewski

      Head of government: Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek

      The right-wing government dominated by the Solidarity trade union that was formed after the September 1997 parliamentary elections devoted its first full year in power to an ambitious agenda of reforms. Many of these had been planned under the first wave of Solidarity governments in the early 1990s, but their adoption was interrupted by the victory of the former communists in the 1993 parliamentary elections.

      A first reform priority for 1998 was local government. Poland had inherited from communism a highly centralized system of public administration. The first Solidarity government began devolving power to elected local bodies in 1990, creating the gmina, an elected local council at the level of the town or village. Gminas took financial responsibility for local schools, roads, and public order, but local government reform had stalled there. In their election campaigns both parties that took the reins of government in 1997, the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW), had pledged further decentralization.

      By the end of 1998, a hard-fought series of legislative changes had transformed the country's administrative structure. A new institution of elected local government, the powiat, had been created to exercise power at the level between the gmina and the existing voivodship (województwo, or province). The existing 49 voivodships had been consolidated into 16 larger units. The new voivodships, charged with setting regional development strategies, also gained assemblies elected in general ballots. The principle underlying the reforms was to place responsibility for public spending at the lowest level possible, with the aim of ensuring that money was spent in the most efficient and transparent manner possible. The reform was politically contested, but conflict centred on the number of new voivodships rather than any substantive issue. Mobilizing pockets of local resistance from cities slated for downgrading from voivodship capitals, the opposition and the president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, forced the government to compromise and raise the number of voivodships from 13 to 16.

      Elections to all three levels of local government on October 11 provided the year's major test for Poland's political parties. The results underlined the domination of the two major parties, the AWS and the opposition Democratic Left Alliance. Each party was able to build a majority coalition in eight voivodships. The UW had a poor showing, in part owing to controversial proposals by its leader, Leszek Balcerowicz, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, to eliminate tax deductions. The Polish Peasant Party, which had suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1997 parliamentary elections, reemerged as a potential "third force," at least in Polish local government.

      A revolutionary reform of the country's pension system was the year's other main legislative achievement. The reform package, scheduled for launching in April 1999, was designed to forestall a fiscal crisis in the new century by shifting pension funding from a governmental to a partially private basis. The reform, modeled on precedents in Chile and Argentina, required employees under 30 to contribute part of their social security taxes to one of two dozen private pension funds. Employees aged 30 to 50 could choose to join the new system or remain in the old one. The reform was revolutionary in the sense that, starting with the generation of Poles now joining the labour force, pension payments would depend on actual returns achieved by the investment funds rather than on a fixed percentage of final salaries, as had been the case.

      A seventh straight year of buoyant economic growth helped provide a financial cushion to fund the government's reform plans. Poland's economy expanded by approximately 5% in 1998, although the rate of growth slowed dramatically during the year as the financial crisis that began in East Asia reduced demand for Polish exports. The zloty dipped briefly in the wake of Russia's devaluation and default in August but quickly recovered to pre-crisis levels; real appreciation was the stronger trend, as investors continued to pour money into the country, attracted by major privatizations such as the sale of 25% of TPSA, the country's monopoly fixed-line telephone operator. Poland's cumulative foreign direct investment totaled $30 billion in 1998. The rate of inflation plunged to 8.6% at the end of the year.

      Kwasniewski lost a round to the Solidarity-led coalition on December 18, when the legislature voted to override his veto of a bill that would establish an Institute of National Remembrance. The agency was to collect and screen files compiled during the communist years, provide access to them for the victims of the regime, and make public a list of the secret informers.

      In March the European Commission opened formal accession talks, confirming Poland's place on the "fast track" for membership in the European Union. Delays in downsizing the country's steel and coal industries threatened to complicate negotiations, although by the year's end the government had completed plans to cut employment in coal mining by some 100,000 and in steel by about 45,000.


▪ 1998

      Area: 312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 38,802,000

      Capital: Warsaw

      Chief of state: President Aleksander Kwasniewski

      Head of government: Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and, from October 31, Jerzy Buzek

      Parliamentary elections in September 1997 brought a dramatic reversal in Polish politics. The Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), a loose coalition of some 30 right-wing groups dominated by the Solidarity trade union, handily defeated the formerly communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), which had governed since 1993. The AWS won 33.8% of the popular vote in elections to the Sejm (lower house of parliament); the SLD finished second with 27.1%. The centrist Freedom Union (UW), the party of Poland's leading reformers, was third with 13.4%. The election was fought over issues of "history" rather than economics; the divide between the heirs to Solidarity and the successors to the communist party remained the most important fault line in politics.

      The balloting defied opinion polls, which for months before the elections had forecast a tie between the AWS and the SLD. Many voters opted at the last minute to shift their support to the AWS from smaller right-of-centre groupings as the best means of defeating the former communists. The elections thus spurred further consolidation in Polish politics. Only two other parties won seats in the Sejm as voters chose moderate pro-market parties over an assortment of radicals and reactionaries. The Polish Peasant Party, which had governed in coalition with the SLD since 1993, dropped from 15.4% of the popular vote to 7.3%. The populist Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland won just six seats—and promptly disintegrated.

      The AWS sought quickly to ally with the UW to form a new "Solidarity" government. Jerzy Buzek, a mild-mannered chemical engineering professor from Silesia who had drafted the AWS economic program, was named prime minister. Leszek Balcerowicz, the UW chairman and architect of Poland's initial "shock therapy" in 1990, returned to government as finance minister and deputy prime minister. The power broker of the new arrangement was AWS leader and Solidarity chairman Marian Krzaklewski. Although the AWS included both populists and free-market liberals, the coalition with the UW seemed likely to guarantee progress on crucial reform issues, such as privatization and deregulation.

      The coalition set a conservative social agenda. One of the new majority's first acts was to ratify the concordat with the Vatican that had languished in the Sejm since 1993. Another priority was to enact a final settling of accounts (if belated and largely symbolic) with communism. Persons associated with past communist abuses were removed from the state security apparatus, the civil service, and public broadcasting.

      Poland's economy chalked up its sixth straight year of growth in 1997. Gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 7%, and inflation sank to a new year-on-year low of 13% in December. The country's current-account deficit also expanded sharply, however, from under 1% of GDP in 1996 to nearly 5% in 1997. Optimists stressed that the deficit was driven by imports of vital investment goods. Pessimists noted that consumer spending, fueled by a dramatic expansion in household loans, was outpacing growth in productivity. Some economists worried that Poland risked a currency collapse like the one that hit the Czech Republic in early 1997. The new government undertook the unpalatable task of tightening budget plans for 1998 to dampen overstimulated consumer spending.

      Economic growth seemed unaffected by the catastrophic flooding that shut down western Poland in July. More than 50 people died, 140,000 were evacuated, 40,000 were left homeless, and the cities of Raciborz, Opole, and Wroclaw were heavily damaged as two flood waves swept north along the Odra (Oder) River, Poland's border with Germany. The floods exposed the frail condition of Poland's infrastructure. Phones stopped working as soon as the water hit, and 160 bridges and 1,500 km (900 mi) of roads were washed away. Overcentralization hampered official rescue efforts.

      Poland adopted a new constitution in May 1997, after eight years of debate, but public support was lukewarm. The sticking point, reflected in heated debate over the preamble, was a question of world view: should the constitution invoke secular or Christian values? The final wording was a clumsy compromise that papered over deep differences between Poles on religion: "We, the Polish Nation, citizens of the Republic, both those believing in God as the source of truth, justice, good, and beauty, and those who do not share this belief but derive these universal values from other sources."


▪ 1997

      A republic of eastern Europe, Poland is on the Baltic Sea. Area: 312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 38,731,000. Cap.: Warsaw. Monetary unit: zloty, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 2.82 zlotys to U.S. $1 (4.43 zlotys = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Aleksander Kwasniewski; prime ministers, Jozef Oleksy to January 24 and, from February 7, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz.

      The longevity of Poland's political divide between postcommunist and Solidarity forces was evident in 1996's biggest political scandal. Shortly before Lech Walesa left the presidency in late 1995, Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski (a presidential appointee and respected Solidarity activist) accused Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, a former communist, of having served as an informant for the Soviet intelligence agency KGB and, later, for Russian intelligence. While hotly denying the charges, Oleksy conceded that Vladimir Alganov, the former first secretary of the Soviet embassy in Warsaw and, as it happened, an intelligence officer, had long been a close personal friend. The charges forced the prime minister to resign in late January, and he was replaced two weeks later by the less colourful but more credible Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. The Warsaw military prosecutor ultimately dropped all charges against Oleksy but failed to dispel the widespread suspicion that the prime minister had been negligent in his contacts with Russian diplomats.

      The postcommunist-dominated Sejm (parliament) launched an investigation to determine whether Poland's security forces had set out to frame Oleksy or even been duped by a Russian provocation. Eleven months later a special Sejm commission was still divided along partisan lines over its verdict; the postcommunist deputies wanted Milczanowski punished, whereas the opposition deputies saw no grounds.

      Oleksy's resignation did not affect government policy (and the Social Democratic Party, in a gesture of defiance, promptly elected him its chairman). The postcommunist coalition that had taken over the reins of government after the 1993 elections continued to exercise power, although the two ruling parties—the Democratic Left Alliance and the Polish Peasant Party—were almost constantly at odds over privatization, fiscal policy, and, increasingly, the division of potentially lucrative government posts.

      Poland's numerous right-wing parties managed to form a common political representation, Solidarity Electoral Action, led by Solidarity trade union chairman Marian Krzaklewski. Standing for a mix of anticommunism, conservative social policies, and populist economics, Poland's political right had previously engaged in incessant infighting, splintering a large potential electorate. The new organization, however, won immediate popularity; with more than 20% of voter support, at midyear Solidarity Electoral Action overtook the Democratic Left Alliance, which had topped all opinion polls since 1993. If Krzaklewski managed to hold his fractious coalition together, the 1997 elections could spell an end to the postcommunist domination of Polish politics.

      In late November workers at the Gdansk shipyard went on strike and occupied local government offices in hopes of persuading the government to save their jobs by guaranteeing the future of the bankrupt shipyard. Another social problem focused on abortion. Fulfilling pledges made during the 1993 election campaign, the left in the Sejm succeeded in liberalizing the near-total ban on abortion adopted by the previous legislature. The new legislation would permit the termination of a pregnancy up to the 12th week if the woman faced difficult economic or personal circumstances. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church argued that supporting abortion rights was grounds for excommunication. Opinion polls continued to suggest that a solid majority of Poles supported the more liberal provisions. The president signed the bill on November 20.

      Poland recorded its fifth straight year of economic growth in 1996; gross domestic product rose by some 5%. Owing to recession in Germany, Poland's main trading partner, exports slowed, and the rate of growth was down from the 7% achieved in 1995. Imports and investments both reached record highs and, in a first for the countries of the former Soviet bloc, Poland surpassed the level of production achieved when the market transition began. The country also continued to gain international credibility: acceptance into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was an important milestone in 1996.


▪ 1996

      A republic of eastern Europe, Poland is on the Baltic Sea. Area: 312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 38,641,000. Cap.: Warsaw. Monetary unit: zloty, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 2.44 zlotys to U.S. $1 (3.86 zlotys = £ 1 sterling); the zloty was devalued on Jan. 1, 1995, at a rate of 1 (new) zloty to 10,000 (old) zlotys. Presidents in 1995, Lech Walesa and, from December 23, Aleksander Kwasniewski; prime ministers, Waldemar Pawlak and, from March 6, Jozef Oleksy.

      November 1995 marked the end of an era in Polish politics and the beginning of another phase in the country's economic transformation. The stage was set for change when Lech Walesa faced 16 challengers in the presidential election on November 5. No candidate received 50% of the popular vote, a requirement for outright victory, so a runoff election was held on November 19. Walesa, who had won the presidency in 1990 on the strength of the popularity he had won as leader of Solidarity, the federation of trade unions that had defied the communist regime, won only 48.3% of the 18 million votes cast. He was defeated by Aleksander Kwasniewski (see BIOGRAPHIES (Kwasniewski, Aleksander )), leader of the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance, which formed the ruling coalition government with Walesa's Polish Peasant Party. An immediate change occurred with the resignation of the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, and internal affairs, who were Walesa appointees.

      Kwasniewski immediately resigned from the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the communist successor party of which he had been leader, in order to better depict himself as representing the interest of the whole of society. This reconciliation would be difficult to achieve, given the evident polarization of opinion observed during the campaign. The Roman Catholic Church, despite a vigorous endorsement of Walesa in the latter stages of the electoral battle, found itself unable to turn the tide of popular opinion, especially among youth who appeared ready to accept Kwasniewski's vision of a common future that relegated past differences to history.

      During the coming year there would probably be attempts to reconstruct a coalition around the Walesa constituency in time for the Sejm (parliament) elections in 1997. It remained to be seen whether the poor first-round showing of Waldemar Pawlak, the leader of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) and prime minister until his ouster by Walesa in February, would put pressure on the SLD-PSL coalition and precipitate premature elections. The parliamentary opposition, led by the Freedom Union and its newly elected leader, Leszek Balcerowicz, had few issues over which to confront a government that had considerable popular support. Outside the Sejm the Solidarity trade union appeared to feel less hampered in its activities on behalf of an increasingly restive membership, as demonstrated by the Silesian rail strike in October. The ratification of the concordat between Poland and the Vatican City State and the referendum over the constitution remained unfinished business that could further divide society.

      Economic results indicated just how far Poland lagged behind the European Union (EU) countries, even the poorest among them. Having partially floated the zloty at the beginning of the year and allowed creeping devaluation to continue alongside high domestic interest rates, Poland found itself with an embarrassingly large surplus of foreign currency reserves, as well as a 40% increase in exports over the first half of the year, most of which was generated by the vibrant private sector. The budget deficit rose slightly to 3.1% of gross domestic product (GDP), and economic growth was in the region of 6.5%. Inflation figures were variously projected at 23-30%, while unemployment dropped slightly to about 14.5%, albeit with a worrying rate of 37% for those 18-24 years of age. The informal economy produced as much as one-third of GDP, employed one in three adults, and provided extra income to over one million of the 2.6 million unemployed. The "brain drain" of educated professionals to the West (one in five doctors, one in three mathematicians) was accompanied by an enormous influx of casual labour.

      The government of Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy and his ruling SLD was committed to reforming the tax and pension structure, although both bills were vetoed by the outgoing president. Poland, in common with other reforming countries, faced the difficult task of reshaping its welfare state at a time when some 50% of the population was living below the social minimum, life expectancy and infant mortality were unacceptably high, employment in agriculture and in the raw materials and energy sector was inordinately high at 27% and 7%, respectively, and its educational levels were still too low by European standards.

      It was hoped that privatization of the tobacco and other sectors, such as petroleum, could provide an important impulse to reform. In November citizens over 18 years of age could collect privatization certificates exchangeable for shares in the 514 enterprises that made up the 15 National Investment Funds. Although they originally sold for a nominal 20 new zlotys, a secondary market was already offering a 50% markup.

      In its desire to join both the EU and NATO, Poland was about to allow British forces to use Polish territory for tank maneuvers. Russian objections to NATO enlargement were, nevertheless, not jeopardizing plans to build a continuation of the Russian Yamal gas pipeline across the country, which would allow the first supplies to flow by 1997. Trade with Russia and the Central European Free Trade Agreement partners was the major growth area during the year, pointing to a reassessment of Eastern European foreign policy, which was likely to continue under the new president.


▪ 1995

      A republic of Eastern Europe, Poland is on the Baltic Sea. Area: 312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 38,653,000. Cap.: Warsaw. Monetary unit: zloty, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 23,114 zlotys to U.S. $1 (36,763 zlotys = £ 1 sterling). President in 1994, Lech Walesa; prime minister, Waldemar Pawlak.

      There were fears by late 1994 that the policies or lack of them espoused by Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak and his ex-communist coalition, after more than one year in office, had brought Poland's dynamic reforms grinding to a halt. The economic statistics, though not exciting, did not appear to give undue cause for concern, however. Inflation dropped slightly to 30% per year, while unemployment continued at about three million, a rate of about 17%. Industrial growth increased 11%, largely through improved trade with Russia, while per capita gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4% and the trade deficit was significantly reduced. The budget deficit was 3.5% of GDP, and the zloty remained firm throughout the year, with only a gradual devaluation.

      Instead, what set the alarm bells ringing for reformers was the commercialization rather than the privatization of state-owned enterprises. Under this formula, 50% of all industrial enterprises appeared set to remain in the government-owned sector for the foreseeable future. That this slowdown in privatization reflected a strong current in public opinion was to be expected, as the population was now more clearly divided into economic winners and losers.

      Only after considerable delay did Prime Minister Pawlak sign the privatization bill, enabling 444 enterprises to be privatized through the National Investment Funds. Another 28 were sold into the private sector, compared with 39 in 1993. Only 32 companies were listed on the country's stock exchange, where the index kept just ahead of inflation.

      Ailing and indebted state enterprises, especially the mining industry and inefficient farms, were receiving cheap credits and state subsidies and were defended by protectionist policies that were, in effect, creating a dual-sector economy. It was no surprise that such enterprises were among the major constituencies that supported the coalition government of Prime Minister Pawlak. The government also shied away from privatizing utilities such as telecommunications and transportation, while businesses that could be sold profitably, such as tobacco, oil refining, and banking enterprises, remained in state hands. The private sector, which produced all the economic growth, was burdened by high taxation and the increasing power of lobbies that were distorting the rules of the market.

      As always, the political scene was punctuated by conflict between Pres. Lech Walesa and the coalition government. The battle was generally fought over the prerogative to fill key ministries, especially those considered to be within the scope of the president. This conflict was exemplified by Walesa's attempt to dismiss the minister of defense, Piotr Kolodziejczyk (he finally succeeded in November), which, along with the earlier confrontation between Andrzej Olechowski's Foreign Ministry and the legislature's Foreign Affairs Commission, made it obvious to an increasingly cynical population that the presidential campaign for 1995 was under way.

      With a turnout as low as 28% in the towns and 38% in the countryside, the local government elections in June raised the political temperature only slightly. The coalition parties were seeking to repeat their general-election triumph at the local level. In this they were only partially successful and, in fact, the elections witnessed the rebirth of the political right, which captured seats in the poorer eastern parts of the country. The Roman Catholic Church, which had sought to distance itself from politics in the wake of the 1993 elections to the Sejm (parliament), found itself once again embroiled in conflict with the state over the concordat, which the legislature refused to ratify but chose to defer until the matter of the constitution had been settled.

      The debate over the Polish constitution provided the backdrop for the country's politics since it not only would decide how secular Poland was to be but also would define the powers of the president and the legislature. Of the seven draft versions under consideration by the constitutional commission, it was the Solidarity draft backed by a campaign of more than one million signatures that attracted the most attention; it was notable for being accompanied by a rapprochement between Walesa and the Solidarity trade union after a period of estrangement.

      Tensions within the ruling coalition of the Polish Peasant Party and the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) continued, as did the oft-repeated warnings of a major split in the opposition Democratic Union. The major candidates for president included Aleksander Kwasniewski of the SLD; Jacek Kuron, regarded as the nation's most popular politician; Olechowski, who as foreign minister succeeded in staying above party politics; former prime ministers Hanna Suchocka and Tadeusz Mazowiecki, both of the Democratic Union; and President Walesa, who could never be discounted as a contender regardless of public opinion polls.

      It seemed likely that for the first time foreign affairs could be as prominent as the perennial domestic issues of abortion and religious education in the political campaign. Poland's drive to gain membership in the European Union and NATO was given a significant boost by the visit of U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton in July; at that meeting any Russian veto of NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe was explicitly denied. Subsequent maneuvers held jointly with the Polish military and troops from NATO countries, on Polish territory, seemed to underline the Western commitment to the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the last-minute postponement of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's visit to Warsaw, where he was to sign important trade and energy agreements, ostensibly because of the ill-treatment of Russian citizens by Polish police, was followed by official Russian criticisms of the NATO extension into Eastern Europe. This move raised questions as to whether Poland was once again being defined as part of Russia's "legitimate sphere of influence."


▪ 1994

      A republic of eastern Europe, Poland is on the Baltic Sea. Area: 312,685 sq km (120,728 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 38,521,000. Cap.: Warsaw. Monetary unit: zloty, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 19,657 zlotys to U.S. $1 (29,780 zlotys = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, Lech Walesa; prime ministers, Hanna Suchocka and, from October 26, Waldemar Pawlak.

      The ex-communists and their allies were returned to power in 1993 in Poland's second fully democratic general election. This sea change in the politics of the new democracy was brought about by a combination of political misjudgment on the part of the incumbent coalition and an unashamed propaganda pitch by the left-wing parties to capitalize on the economic discontent among the electorate.

      The year began on an upbeat as most of the 300,000 striking coal miners ended their 22-day protest and returned to the pits on January 4. By a narrow vote Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka succeeded in getting an austerity budget through the Sejm (parliament) in February against stiff resistance from the Solidarity parties. In what was seen as a reversal for the prime minister and a portent of a split in the coalition, however, the Sejm voted on March 18 to halt the government's plan to privatize some 600 state enterprises. In late April the Sejm reversed itself and voted to continue the privatization program, but it was too late for Suchocka. The Solidarity trade union called strikes among teachers and public health workers in May and eventually succeeded in forcing a vote of confidence.

      Suchocka resigned on May 28. Pres. Lech Walesa asked her to remain in a caretaker capacity and then set September 19 as the date for new elections. The centrists and rightists were routed by two left-wing parties formerly allied with the communists: the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) of Aleksander Kwasniewski, with 20.4% of the vote, and the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), led by Waldemar Pawlak, with 15.4%. Suchocka's centrist Democratic Union received 10.6%.

      On October 14 Pawlak was asked to form a government. Propped up by the eminence grise Kwasniewski, who chose to stay out of the Cabinet, Pawlak put together a PSL-SLD coalition, but he awarded the sensitive portfolios of foreign, internal, and defense affairs to persons outside the coalition. The SLD retained control of the Finance and Privatization ministries, which provided some assurance to those concerned with the fate of Poland's hard-won reforms. The government handily won a vote of confidence in the Sejm (310-83, with 24 abstentions) on November 10.

      Walesa cast himself in the role of defender of the democratic and economic gains he claimed the Suchocka government had handed to its successor. He continued his enigmatic style of dealing with the government by issuing a less-than-resounding endorsement of the new prime minister: "I wish Pawlak well, but in my opinion he will not stand up to the job."

      One potential area of conflict seemed to have been avoided as the Sejm seemed likely to ratify the concordat with the Vatican. On the other hand, any attempt to reverse abortion legislation (in January the Sejm approved strictly limited access to abortions but did not ban the procedure completely, as the leadership of Poland's Roman Catholic Church had sought) or remove "Christian values" clauses from media legislation could change this situation. The church won a victory in April when a constitutional tribunal dismissed a challenge by the government ombudsman questioning the legality of compulsory teaching of religion in Polish schools. The perception of growing church influence in state affairs undoubtedly played a role in the defeat of the pro-church parties in the September elections, and Prime Minister Pawlak went on the attack in October by making it clear that he did not support Poland's strict abortion law.

      Economic problems were certain to claim most of the attention of the Pawlak government, and holding the line on a budget deficit of 5% seemed likely to prove especially difficult. Unemployment officially stood at 2.9 million—15.4% of the working population. Although personal savings rose and consumption of consumer durables expanded, poverty was reported to have overtaken one-third of households. Poland's 4% growth in gross domestic product for the year was, in large measure, due to the expansion of the private sector. The annual inflation rate was down to 38%, and Poland successfully weathered the introduction of value-added and personal income taxes. The 6% decline in exports, accompanied by the 25% growth in imports, was likely to persuade the new government toward a more protectionist policy, particularly for agricultural produce.

      Issues of security, European integration, and refugees dominated Poland's foreign affairs in 1993. Political uncertainty and hard-line rhetoric in Russia, as well as the modest successes in reinvigorating the Commonwealth of Independent States, kept Polish politicians' attention concentrated on the country's eastern borders. President Walesa deflected an overture from Ukrainian Pres. Leonid Kravchuk to join in a regional security arrangement that would exclude Russia. The last troops of the former U.S.S.R. left Polish soil on September 18, the 54th anniversary of the Red Army's invasion. During his visit in Poland in late August, Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin struck a conciliatory note on the question of Poland's joining NATO, although later statements were less accommodating.

      Some progress, but mostly setbacks, was recorded in Poland's quest for closer integration with Western Europe. The general agreement of the NATO countries at their summit in October to extend opportunities for cooperation to Eastern European countries while putting off the timetable for membership was a disappointment for Poland. In February Warsaw yielded to pressure from Bonn to take back third-country immigrants entering Germany illegally from Poland, and on May 7 a formal agreement was signed. A spat with the European Community over imports of meat in April underlined the protectionist EC attitudes and fears in the West of cheaper Polish products flooding the market. Even with the $47.2 billion foreign debt, however, Poland's relatively robust economy continued to meet the lending criteria of international development banks and creditor organizations. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced plans in October to lend the country $1 billion to support privatization and another $200 million to recapitalize a large insurance company. (GEORGE KOLANKIEWICZ)

* * *

Poland, flag of   country of central Europe. Poland is located at a geographic crossroads that links the forested lands of northwestern Europe to the sea lanes of the Atlantic Ocean and the fertile plains of the Eurasian frontier. Now bounded by seven nations, Poland has waxed and waned over the centuries, buffeted by the forces of regional history. In the early Middle Ages, Poland's small principalities and townships were subjugated by successive waves of invaders, from Germans and Balts to Mongols. In the mid-1500s, united Poland was the largest state in Europe and perhaps the continent's most powerful nation. Yet two and a half centuries later, during the Partitions of Poland (1772–1918), it disappeared, parceled out among the contending empires of Russia, Prussia, and Austria.

      Even at a time of national crisis, however, Polish culture remained strong; indeed, it even flourished, if sometimes far from home. Polish revolutionary ideals, carried by such distinguished patriots as Kazimierz Pułaski (Pułaski, Kazimierz) and Tadeusz Kościuszko (Kościuszko, Tadeusz), informed those of the American Revolution. The Polish constitution of 1791, the oldest in Europe, in turn incorporated ideals of the American and French revolutions. Poles later settled in great numbers in the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Australia and carried their culture with them. At the same time, Polish artists of the Romantic period, such as pianist Frédéric Chopin (Chopin, Frédéric) and poet Adam Mickiewicz (Mickiewicz, Adam), were leading lights on the European continent in the 19th century. Following their example, Polish intellectuals, musicians, filmmakers, and writers continue to enrich the world's arts and letters.

      Restored as a nation in 1918 but ravaged by two world wars, Poland suffered tremendously throughout the course of the 20th century. World War II was particularly damaging, as Poland's historically strong Jewish population was almost wholly annihilated in the Holocaust. Millions of non-Jewish Poles also died, victims of more partition and conquest. With the fall of the Third Reich, Poland effectively lost its independence once again, becoming a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union. Nearly a half century of totalitarian rule followed, though not without strong challenges on the part of Poland's workers, who, supported by a dissident Catholic Church, called the economic failures of the Soviet system into question.

      In the late 1970s, beginning in the shipyards of Gdańsk, those workers formed a nationwide movement called Solidarity (Solidarność). Despite the arrest of Solidarity's leadership, its newspapers kept publishing, spreading its values and agenda throughout the country. In May 1989 the Polish government fell, along with communist regimes throughout eastern Europe, beginning Poland's rapid transformation into a democracy.

      That transformation has not been without its difficulties, as the Nobel Prize-winning poet Wisława Szymborska (Szymborska, Wisława) wrote a decade later:

I came to the paradoxical conclusion that some workers had it much easier in the Polish People's Republic. They didn't have to pretend. They didn't have to be polite if they didn't feel like it. They didn't have to suppress their exhaustion, boredom, irritation. They didn't have to conceal their lack of interest in other people's problems. They didn't have to pretend that their back wasn't killing them when their back was in fact killing them. If they worked in a store, they didn't have to try to get their customers to buy things, since the products always vanished before the lines did.

      By the turn of the 21st century, Poland was a market-based democracy, abundant in products of all kinds and a member of both NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the European Union (EU), allied more strongly with western Europe than with eastern Europe but, as always, squarely between them.

      A land of striking beauty, Poland is punctuated by great forests and rivers, broad plains, and tall mountains. Warsaw (Warszawa), the country's capital, combines modern buildings with historic architecture, most of which was heavily damaged during World War II but has since been faithfully restored in one of the most thoroughgoing reconstruction efforts in European history. Other cities of historic and cultural interest include Poznań, the seat of Poland's first bishopric; Gdańsk, one of the most active ports on the busy Baltic Sea; and Kraków, a historic centre of arts and education and the home of Pope John Paul II, who personified for the Polish their country's struggle for independence and peace in modern times.

 Poland lies at the physical centre of the European continent, approximately between latitudes 49° and 55° N and longitudes 14° and 24° E. Irregularly circular in shape, it is bordered to the north by the Baltic Sea, to the northeast by Russia and Lithuania, and to the east by Belarus and Ukraine. To the south the border follows the watershed of the Beskid (Beskidy), Carpathian (Carpathian Mountains) (Karpaty), and Sudeten (Sudety) mountains, which separate Poland from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, while to the west the Neisse (Nysa Łużycka) and Oder (Odra) rivers define the border with Germany. Its current frontiers, stretching for 2,198 miles (3,538 km), were drawn in 1945. Except for its southern mountainous regions, the country consists almost entirely of lowlands within the North European Plain.

      The natural landscape of Poland can be divided broadly into three relief groups: the lowlands, the highlands, and the mountains. The eastern extremes of Poland display characteristics common to eastern Europe, but the rest of the country is linked to western Europe by structure, climate, and the character of its vegetation. The lowland characteristics predominate: the average elevation of the whole country is only 568 feet (173 metres) above sea level, while more than three-fourths of the land lies below 650 feet (198 metres).

      Poland's relief was formed by the actions of Ice Age glaciers, which advanced and receded over the northern part of the country several times during the Pleistocene Epoch (about 1,800,000 to 10,000 years ago). The great and often monotonous expanses of the Polish lowlands, part of the North European Plain, are composed of geologically recent deposits that lie over a vast structural basin.

 In the southern part of the country, by contrast, older and more diverse geologic formations are exposed. The mountainous arc of the Carpathians (Carpathian Mountains), dating from the mountain-building Tertiary Period (about 65 to 1.8 million years ago), dominates the topography. Around the northern rim of the Carpathians lie a series of structural basins, separating the mountain belt proper from a much older structural mass, or foreland, that appears in the relief patterns of the region as the Bohemian Massif, the Sudeten, and the Little Poland Uplands (Wyżyna Małopolska).

      The relief structure can be divided more specifically into a series of east-west–trending zones. To the north lie the swamps and dunes of the Baltic Sea coast; south of these is a belt of morainic terrain with thousands of lakes, the southern boundary of which marks the limit of the last ice sheet. The third zone consists of the central lowlands, whose minimal relief was created by streams issuing from the retreating glaciers. This zone is the Polish heartland, the site of agriculture in places where loess has been deposited over the relatively infertile fluvioglacial deposits. The fourth zone is made up of the older mountains and highlands to the south; though limited in extent, it offers spectacular scenery. Along the southern border of the country are the Sudeten and Carpathian ranges and their foothills.

The coastal plain
      The Baltic Coastal Plain stretches across northern Poland from Germany to Russia, forming a low-lying region built of various sediments. It is largely occupied by the ancient province of Pomerania (Pomorze), the name of which means “along the sea.” The scarcely indented Baltic coastline was formed by wave action after the retreat of the ice sheet and the raising of sea levels. The Pomeranian (Pomorska) Bay in the west and the Gulf of Gdańsk (Gdańsk, Gulf of) in the east are the two major inlets. In the southern portion of the former, two islands block off the Szczeciński Lagoon (Zalew Szczeciński), into which the Oder River discharges its waters. In the Gulf of Gdańsk, the Vistula (Wisła) River (Vistula River) forms a large delta. Sandbars, on which the winds have created large dunes, line much of the coast, separating the coastal lakes and lagoons from the sea.

      The main urban centres are the ports of Szczecin (German: Stettin) on the lower Oder and Gdańsk (German: Danzig) and Gdynia in the east. The central portion of the Baltic Coastal Plain is scantily populated—there are only small fishing ports, of which Kołobrzeg is the most important—and the landscape has a desolate beauty.

The lake region and central lowlands
      The belt immediately to the south of the coastal plain is a varied landscape with lakes and hills of glacial origin. Wide river valleys divide the region into three parts: the Pomeranian Lakeland (Pojezierze Pomorskie); the Masurian (Mazurskie) Lakeland (Masurian Lakeland), east of the lower Vistula; and the Great Poland (Wielkopolskie) Lakeland (Great Poland Lakeland). The larger settlements and the main communications routes of this zone lie in and along the river valleys; the remainder of the area is mostly wooded and thinly populated. Only the eastern portion of the Great Poland Lakeland has a developed agriculture.

      The extensive central lowlands contain isolated relief features shaped by the oldest glaciations, but their character is generally flat and monotonous. The postglacial lakes have long since been filled in, and glacial outwash masks the weakly developed meltwater valley channels. The basins of the main rivers divide the area into the Silesian (Śląska) Lowland, which lies in the upper Oder; the southern Great Poland Lowland, which lies in the middle Warta River basin; and the Mazovian (Mazowiecka) (Mazovian Lowland) and Podlasian (Podlaska) lowlands, which lie in the middle Vistula basin. Lower Silesia and Great Poland are important agricultural areas, but many parts of the central lowlands also have large industrial centres. Warsaw, the capital, situated on the middle Vistula, is the most prominent.

      South of the central lowlands, the Little Poland Uplands extend from east to west, but they are folded transversely. In the west is the Silesian-Kraków upthrust, with rich deposits of coal. The ancient rocks of the Świętokrzyskie (“Holy Cross”) Mountains (Świętokrzyskie Mountains), which reach a maximum elevation of 2,008 feet (612 metres), form a second upthrust. Between these two regions lies the Nida River basin, with an average height of 650 to 1,000 feet (198 to 305 metres). East of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, the uplands are cut by the valley of the Vistula, beyond which lie the Lublin (Lubelska) Uplands. In the south occur patches of loess on which fertile brown- and black-earth soils have developed.

      The older geologic regions contain valuable minerals; in the Silesian-Kraków uplands there are coal, iron, zinc, and lead deposits. These mineral resources have made possible the rise of Poland's most important industrial region, and the landscape of Upper Silesia is highly urbanized. Katowice is the largest centre, and the region is closely linked with that around Kraków (Cracow). The Little Poland Uplands protect the Little Poland Lowlands, in which Kraków lies, from the colder air of the north. To the north the Staropolski (“Old Polish”) Basin, situated in the foothills of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, has a long history of industrial production. Kielce is the area's urban centre.

      The Sudeten and their foreland, part of the larger Bohemian Massif, have a long and complex geologic history. They owe their present rugged form, however, to earth movements that accompanied the Carpathian uplift, and the highest portion, the Karkonosze (Giant Mountains) (“ Giant Mountains”), reaches 5,256 feet (1,602 metres) above sea level. The region contains rich mineral deposits, notably coking coal, which has occasioned the growth of an industrial centre around Wałbrzych. The region has many small towns. Resorts and spas are found in more-secluded areas. The foreland of the Sudeten, separated by a large fault from the larger mass, contains many granite quarries.

The Carpathians
      The southernmost, and most scenic, portion of Poland embraces the Carpathian Mountains and their associated chains and basins, created in the geologically recent mountain-building Tertiary Period (about 65 to 1.8 million years ago). Within the Polish frontiers lie the Oświęcim and Sandomierz basins (Sandomierz Basin), a portion of the Beskid Mountains, the Orawka-Podhale Basin, and the Tatra (Tatry) Mountains (Tatra Mountains). The sub-Carpathian basins contain deposits of salt, sulfur, and natural gas and some petroleum. The region has a large rural population, but there are also many towns of medium size.

      The highest peak of the Beskid Mountains, Mount Babia (Babia, Mount), reaches 5,659 feet (1,725 metres); the Tatras, with a maximum elevation of 8,199 feet (2,499 metres), are the highest portion of the Polish Carpathians. Zakopane, the largest tourist and resort centre in Poland, lies at their feet. The Bieszczady Mountains—rolling, carpeted in beech woods, and sparsely inhabited—lie in the extreme southeast.

Drainage and soils
  Virtually the entire area of Poland drains to the Baltic Sea, about half via the Vistula River and a third via the Oder River. Polish rivers experience two periods of high water each year. In spring, melted snow swells the lowland rivers. The presence of ice dams (which block the rivers for one to three months) and the fact that the thaw first strikes the upper reaches of the northward-flowing rivers intensify the effect. The summer rains bring a second maximum about the beginning of July.

      There are some 9,300 Polish lakes with areas of more than 2 1/2 acres (1 hectare), and their total area is about 1,200 square miles (3,108 square km), or 1 percent of the national territory. The majority, however, are found in the northern glaciated belt, where they occupy more than 10 percent of the surface area.

      Polish soils are varied and without clearly marked regional types. The greatest area is covered by podzol and pseudopodzol types, followed by the less widely distributed brown-earth soils, which are richer in nutrients. In the south are extensive areas of fertile loess-based soils. The rendzinas, formed on limestone rocks, are a unique type. The alluvial soils of the river valleys and the peaty swamp soils found in the lake area and in poorly drained valleys are also distinctive.

      Varying types of air masses collide over Poland, influencing the character of both weather and climate. The major elements involved are oceanic air masses from the west, cold polar air from Scandinavia or Russia, and warmer, subtropical air from the south. A series of barometric depressions moves eastward along the polar front year-round, dividing the subtropical from the colder air and bringing to Poland, as to other parts of northern Europe, cloudy, wet days. In winter, polar-continental air often becomes dominant, bringing crisp, frosty weather, with still colder Arctic air following in its wake. Warm, dry, subtropical-continental air often brings pleasant days in late summer and autumn.

      The overall climate of Poland has a transitional—and highly variable—character between maritime and continental types. Six seasons may be clearly distinguished: a snowy winter of one to three months; an early spring of one or two months, with alternating wintry and springlike conditions; a predominantly sunny spring; a warm summer with plenty of rain and sunshine; a sunny, warm autumn; and a foggy, humid period signifying the approach of winter. Sunshine reaches its maximum over the Baltic in summer and the Carpathians in winter, and mean annual temperatures range from 46 °F (8 °C) in the southwestern lowlands to 44 °F (7 °C) in the colder northeast. The climate of the mountains is determined by altitude.

      The annual average precipitation is about 24 inches (610 mm), but in the mountains the figure approaches 31 to 47 inches (787 to 1,194 mm), dropping to about 18 inches (457 mm) in the central lowlands. In winter, snow makes up about half the total precipitation in the plains and almost all of it in the mountains.

Plant and animal life
      The vegetation of Poland that has developed since the last Ice Age consists of some 2,250 species of seed plants, 630 mosses, 200 liverworts, 1,200 lichens, and 1,500 fungi. Holarctic elements (i.e., those pertaining to the temperate belt of the Northern Hemisphere) are dominant among the seed plants.

      The northeastern limits of certain trees—notably beech, fir, and the variety of oak known as pedunculate—run through Polish territory. There are few endemic species; the Polish larch (Larix polonica) and the Ojców birch (Betula oycoviensis) are two examples. Some relics of tundra vegetation have been preserved in the peat bogs and mountains. More than one-fourth of the country is wooded, with the majority set aside as public property. Poland lies in the zone of mixed forests, but in the southeast a fragment of the forest-steppe vegetation zone intrudes. In the northeast there are portions of the eastern European subtaiga, with spruce as a characteristic component. In the mountains the vegetation, like the climate, is determined by elevation. Fir and beech woods give way to the spruce of the upper woods, which in turn fade into subalpine, alpine, and snow-line vegetation.

      Poland's animal life belongs to the European–West Siberian zoogeographic province, itself part of the Palearctic subregion, and is closely linked with the vegetation cover. Among the vertebrate fauna are nearly 400 species, including many types of mammals and more than 200 native birds. Deer and wild pigs roam the woods; elk inhabit the coniferous forests of the northeast; and steppe rodents, such as the brindled gopher, live in the south. Wildcats live in the mountain woods, and the chamois and marmot are found at the highest levels. Brown bears live in the Carpathian Mountains. The European bison, or wisent, which once roamed widely across the continent but became extinct in the wild following World War I, once again roams the great Białowieża (Belarusian: Belovezhskaya) Forest (Belovezhskaya Forest) in national parks on both sides of the Polish-Belarusian border, having been reintroduced by using zoo-bred animals.

The environment
      Rapid industrialization following World War II in Poland, as well as in neighbouring Czech Republic, Slovakia, and eastern Germany, severely polluted (pollution) many areas of the country. By the late 20th century, the Polish Academy of Sciences had described Poland as one of the most polluted countries in the world. Upper Silesia and Kraków, in particular, had suffered some of the highest levels of atmospheric and groundwater pollution in Europe. Several areas of central Poland, where cement is produced and brown coal (lignite) is burned, also were contaminated by air pollution.

 The country's major rivers remain badly polluted by industrial and urban effluents, and Poland's cities and larger towns are major sources of pollution. Much higher levels of respiratory disease, abnormal pregnancy, and infant mortality have been reported in areas of environmental degradation. Pollution has also reduced crop yields and adversely affected tree growth in many of the forests in the Sudeten and western Carpathians.

      The problems of environmental degradation were not officially recognized until the early 1970s and were not addressed until the Solidarity movement began agitating in the early 1980s. Significant reduction in the emission of pollutants occurred, however, as a consequence of the rapid fall in industrial production in the early 1990s, following the abandonment of communism and the introduction of economic reforms. Throughout the decade the government implemented antipollution policies, such as closing the most damaging industrial plants.

People (Poland)

Ethnic (ethnic group) groups
      Before World War II the Polish lands were noted for the richness and variety of their ethnic communities. The traditional provinces of Silesia and Pomerania were home to a significant minority of Germans. In the southeast, Ukrainian settlements predominated in the regions east of Chełm and in the Carpathian Mountains east of Nowy Sącz. In all the towns and cities, there were large concentrations of Yiddish-speaking Jews (Jew). The Polish ethnographic area stretched eastward: in Lithuania, Belarus, and western Ukraine, all of which had a mixed population, Poles predominated not only in the cities but also in numerous rural districts. There were significant Polish minorities in Daugavpils (in Latvia), Minsk (in Belarus), and Kiev (in Ukraine).

      The war, however, killed vast numbers of people, precipitated massive migrations (human migration), and radically altered borders. As a consequence, the population of Poland became one of the most ethnically homogeneous in the world. In addition, minority ethnic identity was not cultivated publicly until after the collapse of communism in 1989. Virtually all of Poland's people claim Polish nationality, with Polish as their native tongue. Now, in the 21st century, most communities of non-Poles are dispersed but reside in the border provinces, primarily in the south. Ukrainians are scattered in various southwestern and northern districts. Belarusians and Lithuanians live in areas adjoining Belarus and Lithuania, respectively. In Silesia a significant segment of the population tends to declare itself as Silesian or German according to political circumstances. Kashubians live west of Gdańsk near the Baltic Sea. Situated in the southeast are communities of Roma (Gypsy), in Małopolskie województwo (province), and Ruthenians, in Podkarpackie province. The Jewish community, now almost entirely Polonized, has been greatly reduced and can be found in major cities. There are small numbers of Slovaks, Czechs, and Armenians. Conversely, there is a large Polish diaspora, notably in the United States.

      The country's official language, Polish (Polish language) (together with other Lekhitic languages and Czech, Slovak, and Upper and Lower Sorbian (Sorbian languages)), belongs to the West Slavic branch of Slavic languages. It has several dialects that correspond in the main to the old tribal divisions; the most significant of these (in terms of numbers of speakers) are Great Polish (spoken in the northwest), Little Polish (spoken in the southeast), Mazovian, and Silesian (Śleżanie). Mazovian shares some features with Kashubian, whose remaining speakers number only a few thousand, which is a small percentage of the ethnic Kashubians in the country.

      Elsewhere, the Polish language has been influenced by contact with foreign tongues. In Silesia the inimitable regional patois contains a mixture of Polish and German elements. After 1945, as the result of mass education and mass migrations, standard Polish became far more homogeneous, although regional dialects persist. In the western and northern territories, resettled in the second half of the 20th century in large measure by Poles from the Soviet Union, the older generation came to speak a language characteristic of the former eastern provinces. Small numbers of people also speak Belarusian, Ukrainian, and German as well as several varieties of Romany.

      Literary Polish developed from the medieval period onward, on the basis of the dialects of Great Poland and Little Poland. By the 19th century Polish was well established both as a literary vehicle and as the dominant language of common speech in Poland, despite attempts of the partitioning powers to Germanize or Russify the population. Indeed, quite the opposite happened, and the Polish language became the main touchstone of national identity.

      The overwhelming majority of the Polish population is Roman Catholic (Roman Catholicism), and a large number are practicing Catholics. Though the country claims no official religion, Poland is among the most uniformly Catholic countries in the world, and the Roman Catholic Church in Poland enjoys immense social prestige and political influence.

      Following World War II, during the communist era, all religious institutions became subject to the control of the state. In practice the Roman Catholic Church wielded a full measure of independence, partly through the sheer force of the faithful and partly because in all important matters it answered to the pope in Rome and not to the government in Warsaw. Those opposed to communism within Poland were greatly encouraged by the election in 1978 of the archbishop of Kraków, Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, as Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century. The religious minorities, though encouraged by the anti-Roman Catholic policies of the communist state, were barely visible except in local areas. The influence of the Catholic Church became even greater after the fall of communism in Poland in 1989, and this led to its greater involvement in state schools and to the replacement of the country's liberal abortion law, by 1993, with much more restrictive legislation.

      The Polish National Catholic Church (Polish National Catholic Church of America), a schismatic offshoot of Roman Catholicism, never won popular support, despite strong government advocacy following World War II. Two Protestant strongholds remain in Poland—that of the Polish Lutherans in Masuria and the Evangelicals (Augsburg Confession) in Cieszyn, Silesia. An autocephalous Polish Orthodox church (Orthodox Church of Poland) is partly linked with the small Belarusian minority, and a Ukrainian Uniate community survives in southeastern districts. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Charismatics and other renewal movements arrived in Poland.

      The constitution of 1997 guarantees religious freedom. Poland has residual communities of Polish Jews, whose synagogues and religious activities were officially sanctioned by the communist government. There are nearly an equal number of Muslims in Poland, located primarily in the east, near Białystok. Small Christian groups representing fundamentalist sects such as the Seventh-day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses operate in a few cities.

Settlement patterns
      Polish society since World War II has been transformed by two interrelated great movements: the growth of a dominant urban industrialized working class and the continuing drift of peasants (peasant) from the rural areas into towns and cities. Whereas in 1946 there were nearly twice as many people in the countryside as in towns, by the late 1960s the two numbered equally. About three-fifths of the country's population is now urban. So-called peasant workers, who tended to live on the fringes of industrial regions, contrived to benefit from both movements: while one part of the family maintained the farm, other family members earned wages in local factories.

Rural settlement
      Until the mid-20th century, the pattern of rural settlement differed widely from one part of Poland to another. In the centre and east of the country, many villages were small and irregular in shape, reflecting their origin as self-sufficient clusters of cultivators and pastoralists set in forest clearings. In the mountains, villages stretched along the valleys, in some cases for several miles. In Lower Silesia they were larger and more orderly, associated with the planned settlement of the area by Teutonic people in medieval times. In the north, rural settlement was dominated by large landed estates, which had belonged to the Prussian Junkers (Junker). Many houses in the centre, east, and south were wooden. Since the 1950s, however, there have been marked changes. Some attempt has been made to retain traditional building styles in the mountains, but many older single-story houses in all parts of the country have been replaced with two- to three-story cinder-block structures. In addition, many villages have expanded, especially those close to larger cities and in regions popular with tourists.

Urban settlement
       Warsaw is the largest city in Poland, with a population twice that of Łódź, the next most populous city. Warsaw consists of a small historic core on the west bank of the Vistula River. Virtually destroyed by German Nazis during the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944, it was largely restored. This area comprises both the medieval town—Old Town (Stare Miasto)—and its 18th-century suburbs—New Town (Nowe Miasto) to the north and Krakowskie Przedmieście to the south. About 85 percent of the city's buildings, including many of those in the core, were left in ruins during World War II; much of the city therefore dates from the period since 1950. The Palace of Culture and Science, a skyscraper built in the Soviet style in the 1950s, still dominates the skyline. Many of Warsaw's inhabitants live in large unattractive blocks of flats that were built around the edge of the city in the 1960s and '70s. In the 1990s downtown Warsaw experienced a construction boom as several high-rise hotels and office buildings were added to its skyline at the same time that many single-family houses and villas were erected in the suburbs.

      Kraków (the original capital of Poland), Gdańsk, Poznań, and Wrocław (German: Breslau) share many characteristics with Warsaw, all having more or less extensive medieval and early modern cores surrounded by 19th- and, especially, 20th-century suburbs containing a mixture of manufacturing complexes and poor-quality apartment-style housing, as well as newer (post-1990) subdivisions of single-family dwellings. The historic medieval-era city centres of both Warsaw and Kraków have been designated World Heritage sites (World Heritage site) by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In contrast, Łódź, Poland's second largest city, dates from the 19th century, when it grew rapidly to become one of the most important centres of the textile industry in the Russian Empire. The other major urban area is that of southern Upper Silesia, a conurbation of mining and industrial settlements stretching some 30 miles (48 km) from Dąbrowa Górnicza to Gliwice.

Demographic trends
      The population of Poland was transformed during and immediately after World War II. Nearly 35 million people lived within the Polish frontiers in 1939, but by 1946 only about 24 million resided within the country's new borders. The decrease of some 11 million can be accounted for mainly by war losses but also in part by changes in frontiers.

      Polish war losses are the subject of some controversy. The official figure, issued in 1947, was 6,028,000 (some 3,000,000 of them Polish Jews), although it referred exclusively to losses within the postwar frontiers. As a result of the changes in frontiers, millions of Germans were forcibly expelled from 1946 to 1947. On the other hand, millions of Poles were transferred from former Polish homelands that were incorporated into the Soviet Union during the same period. An estimated 500,000 Ukrainians and Belarusians also were transferred into the Soviet Union. At the same time, there were vast internal movements into the new northern and western territories annexed from Germany.

      Population losses and movements on this scale introduced long-term distortions into demographic structures and trends. At the end of the war, there were huge deficiencies in certain categories, especially males, urban dwellers, and the educated as a whole. However, the immediate postwar generation had an unprecedented birth rate, and the population grew rapidly again, especially in the northern and western portions of the country, returning to its prewar level in 1977. The birth rate fell sharply after the early 1980s, and population growth slowed, though the death rate approximated the world average. By the early 21st century, the natural increase rate (balance of births against deaths) was virtually nil.

       emigration was a permanent feature of Polish life for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, and roughly one Pole in three lives abroad. Wave after wave of political émigrés has left Poland since the mid-18th century. By far the greatest numbers of people left, however, for economic reasons. Starting in the mid-19th century, Polish emigrants moved into the new industrial areas of Europe and later to the United States and Canada.

 Before World War II, Poland was a free-market economy based largely upon agriculture but with a few important centres of manufacturing and mining. After the initiation of communist rule in the 1940s, the country developed an increasingly industrial, state-run command economy based on the Soviet model. It operated within the rigid framework of Comecon (Council on Mutual Economic Assistance), an organization of Eastern-bloc countries dominated by the Soviet Union.

      From the mid-1970s the Polish economy struggled with limited growth, largely as a result of an antiquated industrial infrastructure, government subsidies that masked inefficient production, and wages that were artificially high relative to productivity. In the late 1980s a swelling government deficit and hyperinflation brought about economic crisis. With the fall of communism and the demise of Comecon, the Polish economy became increasingly involved in the market-oriented (capitalism) global economy, for which it was ill-suited. To try to achieve economic stability, the postcommunist government introduced an approach known as “shock therapy,” which sought both to control inflation and to expedite Poland's transition to a market economy. As part of that plan, the government froze wages, removed price controls, phased out subsidies to state-owned enterprises, and permitted large-scale private enterprise.

      As a result, in the early 1990s industrial output and gross domestic product (GDP) dropped significantly (agricultural production also fell, though largely owing to drought). Unemployment grew, affecting as many as one in seven Poles. Inflation, however, began to drop, from 250 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2000. Production and GDP also recorded dramatic turnarounds, with an average annual GDP growth of about 4 percent from 1990 to 2000. Poland's balance of payments improved (partly as the result of debt forgiveness), and the country developed one of the leading economies of the former Eastern bloc, as well as one of the fastest growing in Europe. Unemployment, which had been high at the beginning of the decade, righted itself in the late 1990s, falling to levels similar to those in western Europe in 1997–98 (i.e., to about 10 percent). The percentage of unemployed persons, however, rose once again in the early 21st century, climbing above 18 percent in 2003, when a downturn in the Polish economy was accelerated by a worldwide economic slowdown.

      Privatization of some of Poland's large industries proved to be a slow process. Under communism the principal branches of industry, services, and trade were directly owned by the state. There was, however, a surprisingly large sector of legal self-employment, and small-scale private businesses—including workshops, services, and restaurants—proliferated. Moreover, some three-fourths of Poland's farmland remained privately owned. A government collectivization campaign begun in 1949 was abandoned in 1956. After the fall of communism, both industry and agriculture became increasingly privatized. By the early 1990s, more than half the Polish economy was in private ownership, while more than four-fifths of Polish shops were privately owned.

      The privatization of larger enterprises was more complicated. A number of these were transformed into joint-stock and limited-liability companies. To distribute ownership in them, the Mass Privatization Program was introduced in 1994, which created 15 national investment funds (NIFs) to serve as joint-stock companies for more than 500 large and medium-size firms that were privatized. Poles were able to purchase shares in these funds at a nominal price. Listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, the NIFs comprised a broad range of enterprises—not just individual companies or groups of companies—and this enabled citizens to possess a diversified interest in key Polish industries. By 2001 more than 6,800 state-owned enterprises had been involved in the privatization process, and the private sector accounted for more than 70 percent of GDP.

      Development under the communist government stressed the classless and proletarian nature of society; however, the party elite enjoyed a range of privileges unavailable to ordinary workers. In postcommunist Poland, as private businesses proliferated, a small number of people became wealthy, and a middle class composed of entrepreneurs and urban professionals emerged. However, many people, in particular those on fixed incomes, suffered sharp declines in their standard of living. Crime, drug use, and corruption also increased, but such problems are not uncommon elsewhere in Europe. Also, greater wealth was found in western provinces near Germany than in eastern districts near Belarus and Ukraine.

      As it made the transition to private ownership and the market economy, Poland became increasingly involved with international economic and political organizations. In 1991 it joined the Council of Europe (Europe, Council of); in 1995 it became a member of the World Trade Organization; and in 1996 it joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Economic Co-operation and Development, Organisation for). It gained full membership in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in 1999, along with Hungary and the Czech Republic. An associate member of the European Union (EU) since 1994, Poland ascended to full membership in 2004.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
 Polish agriculture was unique in the Soviet bloc in that private farms accounted for most of total output. Most of those private farms continue to be smaller than 12 acres (5 hectares). In postcommunist Poland farm incomes declined rapidly in real terms as the prices of industrial products rose, and imported processed foods from western Europe competed strongly with lower-quality Polish products. Many state farms collapsed after 1989, as did the system of state purchase upon which much of the private sector had relied. Throughout the 1990s the percentage of people employed in agriculture declined each year, owing in part to the liquidation of state farms, the aging of agricultural workers, and the drought of the early 1990s.

      Nevertheless, Poland remains one of the world's leading producers of rye and potatoes. Other principal crops include wheat and sugar beets. Poland's largest fertile areas are Lower Silesia, the Little Poland Lowlands, the Kujawy, the Vistula delta, and the Lublin area. Soil quality varies, and the soil is somewhat poorer in large parts of central and northern Poland. Most farming is mixed, and beef cattle, dairy cows, and pigs are raised throughout the country. As Poland became increasingly integrated into the global economy during the mid-1990s, about half its agricultural exports went to the EU.

      Although timberland and fisheries still struggle with a legacy of environmental damage, improvements in natural resources could be seen throughout the 1990s. In 2000 almost one-third of Polish tree stands still had defoliation of more than 25 percent, exceeding the levels for many of Poland's European neighbours. Some four-fifths of the country's wooded land is occupied by coniferous trees, with pine, larch, and spruce the most economically important. About 918,000 cubic feet (26,000 cubic metres) of roundwood was farmed in 2001. The fishing industry in Poland is small, and the total fish catch is between 200,000 and 300,000 metric tons per year.

Resources and power
 Poland is relatively well endowed with natural resources. Its principal mineral asset is bituminous coal, although brown coal is mined as well. Most of the bituminous output is derived from the rich Upper Silesian coalfield. During the late 20th century, however, extraction costs in many mines began to exceed profits. Falling prices and the challenges of privatization have slowed production levels. Other fuel resources include small amounts of petroleum and moderately large deposits of natural gas.

      Sulfur is Poland's second most important mineral, and the republic ranks among the world leaders in both reserves and production. Other important nonmetallic minerals include barite, salt, kaolin, limestone, chalk, gypsum, and marble. The historic salt mine in Wieliczka, near Kraków, has been in continuous use since the 13th century; in 1978 it was among the first places to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Poland also has important deposits of metallic minerals such as zinc and is a major world producer of copper and silver.

      Nearly all of Poland's energy is provided by thermal plants fired by bituminous coal and lignite, though in 1998 the government declared its intention to rely more on imported natural gas. Natural gas has largely replaced manufactured gas. Poland imports almost all of its petroleum and petroleum products. In 2000 mineral fuels and lubricants constituted about one-tenth of all imports. On the other hand, about one-fifteenth of electricity generated in Poland was exported. The bulk of the country's hydroelectricity comes from the Carpathians, the Sudeten region, and the Brda and Vistula rivers.

      During the period of communist rule, remarkable advances in industrial production were overshadowed to some extent by shortcomings in quality and by problems of organization. Moreover, industrial production in Poland—governed almost solely by quantitative requirements and dependent on inexpensive raw materials provided through Comecon—was largely inefficient and poorly prepared to compete in the global marketplace. Industrial output fell dramatically after the demise of communism, especially during the first years of shock therapy. There were declines of one-third or more in almost all areas of manufacturing and mining following the freeing of prices and the collapse of Comecon.

      As Polish industry began to downsize, however, production improved, and by the mid-1990s manufacturing accounted for about two-fifths of GDP. As other sectors grew more quickly, manufacturing totaled about one-fifth of GDP by the end of the decade. The principal branches of the manufacturing sector are machinery and transport equipment, food products, metals and metal products, chemicals, beverages, tobacco, and textiles and clothing.

      During the communist era, all financial institutions were owned by the state beginning in 1944–45 and formed an integral part of centralized economic planning after 1949. The National Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski) acted as the main agent of the government's financial policy, managing everything from the currency and money supply to wages and prices, credit, investment, and the detailed business of all state enterprises. In the late 1980s and early '90s, the banking industry was reorganized. The National Bank became an independent central bank, with responsibility for regulating the banking sector and the currency. By 2000 there were about 75 private banks, though the state retained the controlling interest in about one-tenth of them.

      Until 1990, internal monetary operations were conducted in inconvertible local currency, while external operations were conducted either in foreign currency, especially U.S. dollars, or, for the Soviet bloc, in special units of account such as convertible rubles. Exchange rates against foreign hard currency were flexible according to the needs of the state bank. In 1990, as part of a government program to move the Polish economy toward a free-market system, the exchange rate of the złoty, Poland's currency, was allowed to be set freely on the international currency markets. In 1995 a new, devalued złoty was introduced; it equaled 10,000 of the old złotys. After joining the EU in 2004, Poland prepared to also enter the EU's economic zone and to adopt the euro as its currency.

      Poland established a stock exchange in 1991 in Warsaw, and, by the end of 2001, some 230 companies were listed on it. A derivatives market was begun in 1998. At the turn of the century, more than 50 insurance companies were in operation, the largest of which was Polish National Insurance (Powszechny Zakład Ubezpieczeń). In the first decade of the postcommunist era, Poland received more foreign direct investment than any other former socialist country of Europe, rising from $89 million in 1990 to $10.6 billion in 2000.

      The fall of communism greatly affected Poland's trade, which prior to the demise of the Soviet bloc was conducted within Comecon, including the export of coal and machinery to the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. In 1990, however, Germany edged out the Soviet Union as Poland's primary trading partner, and by 2001 Germany accounted for one-fourth of Poland's imports and one-third of its exports. Italy and France are also important to Polish trade. Machinery, metals, textiles and clothing, coal, and food account for the bulk of exports, and machinery, chemicals, and fuels are the major imports. Germany is the largest market for almost all categories of exports, while Russia remains by far the most important source of energy imports, and Germany and Italy serve as the chief sources of foreign machinery and chemicals.

      The service industry greatly expanded in the final decade of the 20th century, at a rate of about 4 percent of GDP per year. Growth was pronounced in the sectors of financial services, retail, and travel and leisure. By the turn of the 21st century, the service industry accounted for about two-thirds of the country's GDP and employed just less than one-half of the Polish workforce. In 2005 tourism contributed about $6 billion to the Polish economy, with most foreign tourists arriving from Germany and the Czech Republic.

Labour and taxation (organized labour)
      Under the communist system, unions, organized by individual industries, had to be approved by the state and party. Inasmuch as the government was a monopoly employer in all important branches of industry and because the trade union organization was run by the party, it can be argued that the trade unions were employer unions. Links between employees in different trades or different enterprises were not possible, and the rights to organize freely and strike were denied until the advent of the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity (Niezależny Samorząd Związków Zawodowych Solidarność), better known simply as Solidarity. Founded in September 1980, shortly after widespread strikes organized by the Interfactory Strike Committee, Solidarity broke the monopoly of the official party unions, quickly gained mass support (even among party members), and extended its activities far beyond narrow syndicalist concerns. Widespread labour unrest during 1981 resulted in a government declaration of martial law in December and the arrest and detention of Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa and others. Solidarity and its satellite organizations, such as Rural Solidarity (Wiejska Solidarność), were officially suppressed, and the leaders of the independent labour movement were denounced as “criminals.” The party ordered its managers and ministers to create new trade unions affiliated with the government-sponsored All Poland Trade Unions Alliance (Ogólnopolskie Porozumienie Związków Zawodowych; OPZZ) that would operate along the old lines of party control. Much of the membership of the re-created unions consisted of former Solidarity sympathizers, however, and the new unions were not entirely uncritical of party policy. In addition, despite its illegal status, Solidarity continued to have influence as an underground organization.

      In 1988 renewed labour unrest and nationwide strikes forced negotiations between the government and Solidarity (held in early 1989) that resulted in the legalization of Solidarity and in Poland's first free elections since World War II. From the 1990s both Solidarity and OPZZ were directly involved in politics, becoming core members of major political alliances, the Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność; AWS) and the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej; SLD), respectively. Following the political legitimization of Solidarity, Wałęsa, who had received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1983, became Poland's first directly elected president (1990–95).

      Poland overhauled its system of taxation in the early 1990s, primarily via legislation passed in January 1993 that replaced a turnover tax with a type of value-added tax (VAT). Under that tax, fees accrued for the final purchaser with each transaction during a product's development. Small businesses and some taxpayers were exempt from paying this VAT, and it was not applied to certain foodstuffs, medicines, and exports. Also in 1993, an excise duty was introduced, with higher rates applied to alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and automobiles. In 1994 Poland unveiled three levels of personal income tax (21 percent, 33 percent, and 45 percent; in 2000 reduced to 19 percent, 30 percent, and 40 percent), attempting to offset the new burden with a simultaneous program of investment tax relief. Moreover, the extant corporate tax rate of 40 percent was reaffirmed (but reduced to 19 percent in 2003), and an import tax on foreign goods was initiated. Property tax laws in Poland allow tax breaks for owners of farms or forested lands.

Norman Davies Andrew Hutchinson Dawson Krzysztof Jasiewicz

Transportation and telecommunications
      The communications system in Poland developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the country was divided between Russia, Germany, and Austria. The three areas thus developed in different economic and political conditions, and the main railway (railroad) lines were centred on the capitals of the three empires. The density of the railway networks in the three sectors was uneven. In 1918 independent Poland took over the railroad system and redesigned and rebuilt it according to the standard European gauge. Among the most important railway lines built after that date were those linking Warsaw with Poznań and Kraków and a coal trunk line linking Upper Silesia with the newly built seaport of Gdynia.

      After the devastation of World War II, the railway system was reconstructed once again, and the most heavily used lines were converted to electric power. Because of the location of the country, Polish lines were important in the carriage of transit freight among the socialist countries of eastern Europe, notably between the Soviet Union and East Germany and between Czechoslovakia and Poland's ports.

      Demand for rail transport fell sharply, however, after the communist era, for both freight and passengers. In the last decade of the 20th century, there was a 41 percent drop in railway tonnage and a 58 percent decrease in passenger trips by rail. The railways, administered by the Polish State Railways (Polskie Koleje Państwowe), began the process of privatization in the early 21st century. Light rail is available to commuters in more than a dozen cities.

      The highway system originally showed disproportions similar to those of the railways; that is, the densest network was on land belonging to Germany and the least dense on land belonging to Russia. An attempt to remedy this situation was made between 1918 and 1938 and again, though more intensively, after 1945. Modern multilane highways designed for high traffic volumes have been built in Warsaw, and projects have been undertaken to link Warsaw to provincial centres, but the road system in general is of low quality. About two-thirds of its 263,000 miles (424,000 km) is paved. In the 1990s the government began construction of limited-access highways built to European standards.

      The middle course of the main Polish river, the Vistula, contains many navigational hazards, and the river is thus a less-important waterway than the smaller Oder (Oder River). The modern Gliwice Canal links the Oder to the Upper Silesian industrial region and carries coal to the port of Szczecin. The Oder basin is also linked to the lower Vistula by the Bydgoszcz Canal. Inland navigation is of little importance in Poland, however, with less than 1 percent of Polish freight being carried on rivers and canals. On the other hand, shipping is well developed, and there are three large seaports—Szczecin (the largest), Gdynia, and Gdańsk—as well as smaller fishing and coastal navigation ports.

Air transport
      Passenger air traffic has more than doubled since the collapse of Polish communism. Domestic and international air transport is provided by LOT (from Polskie Linie Lotnicze), a state-owned enterprise that completed negotiations for partial privatization in 1999. There are numerous international routes centred on the airport at Warsaw. Other airports are located in Kraków, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Katowice, Poznań, and Szczecin.

      At the start of the 21st century, Poland had 11.4 million main telephone lines and more than 10 million cellular telephone users. In online communications the number of Internet users (3.8 million) slightly exceeded the number of personal computers (3.3 million), reflecting the presence of multiple users per terminal and of public computer stations. Televisions and radios were ubiquitous in Poland, with 15 and 20 million units, respectively.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      The constitution of Poland's postwar socialist state, the Polish People's Republic, took effect in 1952 but was amended numerous times, most significantly in early 1989, when constitutional reforms worked out between the government and Solidarity were passed by the Sejm (legislature). Among the changes were the replacement of the Council of State by the office of president (a position that had been eliminated in 1952) and the reinstatement of the Senate, which had been abolished in 1946 in an allegedly rigged national referendum. The existing Sejm, with 460 members, became the lower house of the new legislature, and the Senate, or the upper house, was assigned 100 members. Additional reforms passed later in 1989 by the legislature included the guarantee of free formation of political parties and the return of the state's official name to the Republic of Poland.

      The new constitution of 1997, which replaced a 1992 interim constitution, was adopted in April by the National Assembly (Zgromadzenie Narodowe; as the Sejm and the Senate are referred to when they meet in a joint session to debate constitutional issues), approved in a national referendum in May, and promulgated in October. The constitution confirmed the mixed presidential-parliamentary (president) form of government that had been established during the period 1989–92. Under its provisions the president is directly elected to not more than two five-year terms. The president serves as commander in chief of the armed forces, has the power (albeit restricted) to declare martial law or a state of emergency, and can veto an act of the Sejm (which in turn can override that veto with a three-fifths majority vote).

      The president nominates the prime minister and, on the prime minister's recommendation, the cabinet, subject to the Sejm's approval, but the president cannot dismiss the government. Deputies in the Sejm and senators are popularly elected to four-year terms. Laws must be adopted by both houses. The Senate has the right to amend or reject a law passed by the Sejm. The Sejm may override the Senate's decision with a majority vote. The Sejm appoints the members of the Constitutional Tribunal, the commissioner for civil rights protection (the ombudsman), the chairman of the Supreme Chamber of Control (the state audit commission), and the president of the Bank of Poland. The main executive power is vested in the prime minister and the Council of Ministers, who are responsible to the Sejm. The government can be terminated by the Sejm only by a constructive vote of no confidence. The prime minister has a role comparable to that of a chancellor in the German political system.

Local government
      Local government in Poland is organized on three levels. The largest units, at the regional level, are the województwa (provinces), which were consolidated and reduced in number from 49 to 16 in 1999. At the next level are some 300 powiaty (counties or districts), followed by about 2,500 gminy (towns and rural communes). The last are the fundamental territorial units within Poland. The status of the capital city of Warsaw is regulated by a special legislation. Both powiaty and gminy are governed by councils, elected to four-year terms. These councils in turn elect the heads of local administration. The representatives to the sejmiki wojewódzkie (provincial legislature) also are elected to four-year terms. The head of provincial administration, the wojewoda, is nominated by the prime minister.

      The constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary. The supreme representative of the judiciary is the National Judiciary Council. Poland has a Supreme Court and other special judicial bodies (including the High Administrative Court, military courts, and industrial tribunals) as well as general courts, comprising appellate, provincial, and district courts. General courts deal with criminal, civil, and family matters; commercial courts deal with civil law disputes between businesses. The Constitutional Tribunal provides judicial review of legislation. The Tribunal of State reviews violations of the constitution and other laws by the top state officials.

Political process
      Beginning in 1948, Poland was governed by the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP; Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza), the country's communist party, which was modeled on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The postwar government was run as a dual system in which state organs were controlled by parallel organs of the PUWP. The executive branch of government, therefore, was in effect the PUWP, with the party's first secretary acting as the de facto head of state and the most powerful authority. The party's Political Bureau, or Politburo, operated as the central administration, and the party ensured its control over all offices and appointments by use of the nomenklatura, a list of politically reliable people.

      Two other parties, the United Peasant Party (Zjednoczone Stronnictwo Ludowe; ZSL) and the Democratic Party (Stronnictwo Demokratyczne; SD), were permitted to exist but only as entirely subservient allies of the PUWP. However, in 1989 economic and political problems obliged the government to recognize the independent trade union Solidarity (which had been banned not long after it came into being in 1980) and allow it to contest at least some seats in a general election. The PUWP and its allies were guaranteed 65 percent of the seats in the Sejm, but Solidarity won all the rest and all but one of those in the Senate, going on to form Poland's first postcommunist government with the support of the SD and the ZSL, which broke their alliance with the PUWP. In 1990 the Polish communist party voted to replace the PUWP with two social democratic parties, the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland and the Social Democratic Union. In the same year, Lech Wałęsa (Wałęsa, Lech), the leader of Solidarity, was elected president.

      Thereafter, however, as Poles experienced the costs of economic reform, support for Solidarity waned, and the party split into several smaller groups. In the first completely free elections, in 1991, no party obtained more than one-eighth of the vote, which led to a succession of short-lived coalition governments. In 1993 the postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej; SLD) and the Polish Peasant Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe; PSL, as the ZSL was renamed) won a majority of seats and formed a coalition government. In the presidential election of 1995, Wałęsa was defeated by a former communist, Aleksander Kwaśniewski (Kwaśniewski, Aleksander), who was reelected in 2000. Nevertheless, there was no fundamental change in economic and political policy: all postcommunist governments gave high priority to the integration of Poland into the EU and NATO.

      Before the 1997 parliamentary election, the fragmented political right united under the banner of the Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność; AWS), which was later reorganized as the Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right (AWSP). In the decade following, other leading political parties were the SLD, the PSL, the leftist Union of Labour (Unia Pracy; UP), the liberal-democratic Freedom Union (Unia Wolności; UW), and the centre-right Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość; PiS) and Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska; PO) parties. Poland grants universal suffrage at age 18.

      Poland's armed forces consist of three services—the army, the air force, and the navy. They are divided into the four military districts of Warsaw, Pomerania, Kraków, and Silesia. Under the communist government the armed forces were highly politicized. The military command was controlled by the party's Main Political Administration, which also oversaw the political indoctrination and supervision of all units. Most officers were party members. Senior officers normally graduated from Soviet academies. One of the founding members of the Warsaw Pact, a mutual-defense organization dominated by the Soviet Union, Poland supplied the second largest contingent to its forces. After the organization dissolved in 1991, Poland's forces were depoliticized in preparation for joining NATO. Poland, along with the Czech Republic and Hungary, joined NATO on March 12, 1999. That year compulsory military service was reduced from 18 months to 12 months; beginning in 1988, conscientious objectors were allowed to perform a civilian alternative to conscription.

      The regular defense of Poland's frontiers is provided by the border guard. The Office of the Protection of the State (UOP), established in 1990, was charged with the country's intelligence services. In 2002 it was replaced by the Internal Security Agency (ABW). Normal civilian police services are under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Under the communist government, police services were undertaken by the Citizens' Militia—of which the Motorized Detachments of the Citizens' Militia (ZOMO) acted as a mobile paramilitary riot squad—and the Security Service (SB), a secret political police force. In the early 1980s ZOMO played a key role in enforcing martial law and controlling demonstrations. The paramilitary nature of the Policja (“Police”), as they became known after 1990, has diminished.

Health and welfare
      Health care in Poland has been handled largely by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, which oversees the health departments of the regional governments. Facilities include clinics; hospitals; sanatoriums, rest homes, and spas; and ambulance services. Private medical and dental practices proliferated after the fall of communism, and the pharmaceutical industry also was privatized. In general, the health care system was in a state of transition during the 1990s, and medical services were seriously strained during periods of general economic crisis. In 1999 the government launched a major reform of the universal health care system.

      Under communism, social insurance for health services provided for free treatment for all workers and the members of their families, as well as for pensioners, invalids, students, and others. In addition, there was a social service whose purpose was to ensure a suitable means of support for the elderly and invalids. Services for the unemployed were established as a part of the 1989–90 economic reforms. During the mid-1990s, however, a number of laws were enacted that reduced the formerly comprehensive coverage of the unemployment program. In 1990–2000 the incidence of many diseases, including measles, mumps, venereal disease, and salmonella infections, fell precipitously, but other diseases, such as influenza and mental and behavioral disorders, rose during this period.

      As a result of the program of urbanization that began in the 1940s, Polish cities became overwhelmed by migrant workers from the countryside, and the demand for housing vastly exceeded supply. In urban areas, various cooperative housing schemes were put into operation by the local government authorities, but the standard apartment was inadequate for many families. As a result of the low priority placed on the creation of housing during communist rule, housing shortages were extreme in the 1980s and '90s. In postcommunist Poland private ownership of housing increased significantly. In 2001 some 106,000 dwellings were completed, slightly more than were built in the five-year period from 1991 to 1995 (101,000).

      Schools of all types and on all levels are free; the system of schooling is standard; and attendance from age 7 to 18 is compulsory. The system, reformed in 1999, contains nursery, primary (six grades), and secondary schools. There are two levels of secondary schools, the gimnazjum (grades 7 through 9) and the liceum (two to four additional years). Several types of the upper-level secondary schools offer vocational training, technical training, and general college-preparatory education. In general, all schools are subject to the Ministry of National Education, but medical schools and colleges are subject to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, army colleges to the Ministry of National Defense, and higher schools of art to the Ministry of Culture and Arts. A substantial number of private schools of all levels (including colleges) emerged in the 1980s and '90s.

      Prominent universities include the University of Warsaw (founded 1818), the Jagiellonian University (1364) in Kraków, Adam Mickiewicz University (1919) in Poznań, and the Catholic University of Lublin (1918; from 1945 to 1989 the only private university in the Soviet bloc). The highest academic institution is the Polish Academy of Sciences, which has numerous research institutes and represents Polish learning abroad.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
 The culture of Poland has been nurtured by a great variety of folk traditions, with influences and borrowings from France, Scandinavia, Russia, and, more recently, the United States. Poland's strong connections to the Roman Catholic Church, dating to the 10th century, brought it into close orbit with western Europe. This gave Poland access to cultural developments that had a lesser impact on some of its neighbours. Unlike Russia, Poland was deeply immersed in all the great movements of Western culture—such as humanism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism—and its cultural identity was already strong before the series of partitions of Polish territory began in 1772. Because of its loss of political independence, Poland in the 19th and 20th centuries was characterized by an unrelenting struggle to preserve its national culture and values from foreign impositions and government policy.

      The Roman Catholic Church (Roman Catholicism) in Poland has played a social and cultural role far beyond the religious sphere. After World War II and the arrival of state socialism, catechism lessons—conducted with great zeal in the parishes—exposed children to a nonofficial view of the world. Church-sponsored societies, such as the Catholic Intellectual Clubs, provided adults with a unique forum for free public discussion. Parish halls provided shelter for a wide variety of uncensored exhibitions, plays, films, and meetings. And the work and example of Pope John Paul II lent support to the popular movement that resulted in Poland's transition from communist satellite to independent, democratic nation in the last years of the 20th century.

Daily life and social customs
      Because of rapid industrialization and urbanization, as well as a certain distrust of rural conservatism during the years of communist rule, Poland's traditional folk culture has been seriously undermined since World War II. Regional dress, regional dialects and forms of speech, peasant arts and crafts, and religious and folk festivals have all been swamped by mass culture from the cities and the media. In an effort to compensate, the Roman Catholic Church has tried to preserve the religious elements of folk culture, notably in the large annual pilgrimages to shrines such as Częstochowa, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (a UNESCO World Heritage site), Lanckorona, and Piekary Śląskie. Similarly, the communist authorities supported folk music and folk dancing. The colourful and stylized repertoire of the State Folk Ensemble, Mazowsze, for example, won international acclaim. Several regional communities, including the Górale (“Highlanders”) of Podhale, the Kurpie in the northeast, and the inhabitants of Łowicz, near Warsaw, have created an authentic blend of the old and the new culture.

      Classical music festivals also are quite popular, particularly those commemorating Romantic pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin (Fryderyk Franciszek Szopen), though the music of Beethoven is celebrated in Kraków in spring and that of Mozart in Warsaw in summer. Traditional Polish cuisine includes hearty dishes such as duck soup (czarnina), red beet soup (barszcz), dumplings (pierogi), smoked salmon and eel, sausages and sauerkraut, and pork and poultry dishes, the latter often served with a sweet sauce. The products of both gardens and forests, such as horseradish, currants, cabbages, gooseberries, and mushrooms, figure in many Polish dishes, such as bigos, which makes use of cabbage and freshly harvested mushrooms, and the traditional soup called grzybowa. Pączki are fruit-filled deep-fried pastries served on the Christian feast days prior to the Lenten season of fasting.

      The national flag of Poland (Poland, flag of), which was adopted in 1919, comprises a white horizontal band above a red horizontal band. The Polish coat of arms features a white eagle on a red background. The national anthem is "Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła" (“Poland Has Not Yet Perished”). Major holidays either are Christian in nature (Easter, Christmas, Feast of the Assumption, Corpus Christi, and All Saints' Day) or commemorate nation building, such as Constitution Day on May 3 and Independence Day on November 11. Traditional holidays include Topienie Marzanny (March 23), when children throw dolls symbolizing winter into newly flowing rivers.

The arts
       Polish literature developed long ago into the main vehicle of national expression. For many Poles, literature and religion stand as the twin pillars of their heritage. Literature provides one of their most cherished links with Western civilization and is one of the main safeguards of their national identity. The close relationship between local political events and literary trends, however, together with a necessary resort to elaborate allegories, allusions, and symbols during the communist period, rendered many excellent Polish works inaccessible to the foreign public.

  The first half of the 19th century produced the three most renowned Polish poets: Adam Mickiewicz (Mickiewicz, Adam), Juliusz Słowacki (Słowacki, Juliusz), and Zygmunt Krasiński (Krasiński, Zygmunt). During the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, great Polish prose writers—including Bolesław Prus (Prus, Bolesław), Eliza Orzeszkowa (Orzeszkowa, Eliza), Stefan Żeromski (Żeromski, Stefan), and the Nobel Prize winners Henryk Sienkiewicz (Sienkiewicz, Henryk) (1905) and Władysław Reymont (Reymont, Władysław Stanisław) (1924)—were active, some of whom were part of the Young Poland movement. To this number should be added the outstanding novelist Joseph Conrad (Conrad, Joseph) (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski), whose mature writings were in English but who brought a distinctly non-English tragic sensibility into English literature. The underground literature that began during World War II but was not appreciated until the 1950s and '60s is exemplified by the reception accorded Bruno Schulz, a short-story writer killed by the Nazis in 1942. Important poets of the postwar period included Zbigniew Herbert (Herbert, Zbigniew), Tadeusz Różewicz (Różewicz, Tadeusz), and the Nobel Prize winners Czesław Miłosz (Miłosz, Czesław) (1980) and Wisława Szymborska (Szymborska, Wisława) (1996). In the latter part of the 20th century, playwrights Witold Gombrowicz (Gombrowicz, Witold) and Sławomir Mrożek (Mrożek, Sławomir), science-fiction author Stanisław Lem (Lem, Stanisław), and reporter and essayist Ryszard Kapuściński earned international reputations, as did the expatriate novelist Jerzy Kosinski (Kosinski, Jerzy), and the expatriate Nowa fala (New Wave) poet Adam Zagajewski gained notice. Written at the margins of Europe during most of the 20th century, Polish literature has been recognized as an exceptionally vital force not only in the cultural life of its nation but also in world letters generally. (For further discussion, see Polish literature.)

 Polish music, like Polish literature, has a continuous tradition reaching back to the Middle Ages. As the least overtly political of the arts, it suffered less from official constraints. The native characteristics of this music founded on the inimitable rhythms and melodies of folk music—the krakowiak, mazurka, and polonaise—developed early, and a distinctive school of Polish church music had become well established by the Renaissance. The first major Polish opera, Cud mniemany, czyli Krakowiacy i Górale (“The Pretended Miracle, or Krakovians and Highlanders”) by Jan Stefani and Wojciech Bogusławski (Bogusławski, Wojciech), was staged in 1794. In the 19th century Stanisław Moniuszko wrote a series of popular operas, including Halka, Straszny dwór (“The Haunted Manor”), and Hrabina (“The Countess”).

 Frédéric Chopin (Chopin, Frédéric) is considered to have created the quintessence of Polishness in music. In addition to his renown as one of the supreme master composers, he was the first of a constant stream of instrumentalists from Polish lands who have won international acclaim. Pianists such as Ignacy Paderewski (Paderewski, Ignacy Jan) and Artur Rubinstein (Rubinstein, Artur) and violinists such as Henryk Szeryng (Szeryng, Henryk) attest to the vitality of Polish musical life. Contemporary Polish composition has been dominated by Karol Szymanowski (Szymanowski, Karol), Witold Lutosławski (Lutosławski, Witold), Henryk Górecki, and Krzysztof Penderecki (Penderecki, Krzysztof). All branches of classical music—opera, symphony, chamber, and choral—are well represented in Poland, and several orchestras and choirs appear regularly on the international circuit. Popular music in Poland derives largely from Western styles, although Polish jazz, officially suppressed during the first two decades of communist rule, has earned a reputation for experiment and excellence, in part owing to the pioneering work of musicians such as Michał Urbaniak, Tomasz Stanko, and Leszek Możdżer. Well-attended festivals such as the Warsaw Jazz Jamboree and Jazz on the Oder draw performers and spectators from around the world.

  Many fine examples of medieval Romanesque (Romanesque art) and Gothic (Gothic art) architecture, both secular and religious, have been preserved, together with outstanding sculptures, among which the wooden altar of Veit Stoss (Stoss, Veit) (Wit Stwosz), in St. Mary's Church (Kościół Mariacki) in Kraków, is the most famous. The vast red-brick castle of Malbork (Marienburg), once the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights (Teutonic Order), is among the most impressive in Europe; the well-restored castle was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997. The architecture and sculpture of the Renaissance and Baroque periods were formed under Italian influence but nevertheless developed individual Polish forms, as seen in the town hall of Poznań or the decorated granaries at Kazimierz Dolny. Zamość, a model Renaissance city built in the 1580s, has survived virtually intact. Like the medieval town of Toruń, it was designated a World Heritage site. The best-preserved urban architecture of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance is that of the Old Town and the Wawel Castle in Kraków. The classicism of the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century left its most valuable monuments in some of the great palaces, such as that of the Radziwiłłs at Nieborów or at Łazienki in Warsaw. Moreover, there are many examples of imperial German and Russian architecture from the 19th century, notably Lublin Castle.

      Polish painting attained its greatest development in the second half of the 19th century, encompassing western European styles but again with specific national characteristics. Henryk Siemiradzki, Jan Matejko (the creator of monumental romantic historical canvases), and a number of landscape and genre painters achieved the widest fame. Great sensitivity was shown in portraits by Stanisław Wyspiański (Wyspiański, Stanisław), a painter who was active in drama and design. With her woven sculptures, Magdalena Abakanowicz (Abakanowicz, Magdalena) brought fibre arts to the forefront in the late 20th century.

Theatre and motion pictures
      The Polish national theatre, as distinct from the performance of earlier religious, court, and foreign plays that had circulated since the Middle Ages, dates from the end of the 18th century. The great pioneer was Wojciech Bogusławski (Bogusławski, Wojciech), an actor, director, and playwright. Political conditions during the period of partition (1772–1918) inhibited theatrical development, however, and most of the Romantic (Romanticism) masterworks of Mickiewicz or Słowacki, who wrote drama in addition to poetry, were never staged during their lifetimes. The comedian and satirist Aleksander Fredro (Fredro, Aleksander) earned a less-exalted but no-less-lasting reputation. Kraków, in Austrian Galicia, became a centre of lively theatre at the turn of the century. Between World Wars I and II, Juliusz Osterwa in Warsaw and Leon Schiller in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), Warsaw, and Łódź (after 1945) launched the experimental tradition. After 1956, once the era of Socialist Realism had passed, the avant-garde came into its own. The Theatre of the Absurd (Absurd, Theatre of the) was explored alongside the revival of the classical repertoire. During the 1960s the Laboratory Theatre of Jerzy Grotowski (Grotowski, Jerzy) (whose theories and methods emphasized the nonverbal aspects of theatre) gained international acclaim, and his work had a broad impact, especially in the United States. Henryk Tomaszewski's Pantomime Theatre experienced parallel success. Tadeusz Kantor, a painter, designer, and director, also has been an important influence.

 The origins of Polish cinema date to 1909. The communist government supported war films and themes connected with the Nazi occupation but allowed and subsidized projects on a wide range of contemporary issues. Many artists critical of the communist regime expressed themselves in innovative documentary films. Historical epics have also enjoyed great popularity. During the late 1950s Polish films began to attract worldwide attention. Just as the State Film School at Łódź earned high standing in the filmmaking profession, so did the work of individual directors who broke free of official preferences. Undoubtedly, the leading figure was Andrzej Wajda (Wajda, Andrzej), whose films and theatre productions set precedents for independence and excellence in exploring the conflicts in Polish society. Roman Polanski (Polanski, Roman), who worked internationally, won an Academy Award for his direction of The Pianist (2002). Krzysztof Kieślowski (Kieślowski, Krzysztof), known for his trilogy of films, Trzy kolory (“Three Colours”), also worked outside Poland. Among other distinguished directors are Andrzej Munk, Aleksander Ford, Tadeusz Konwicki (Konwicki, Tadeusz), Wojciech Has, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Krzysztof Zanussi, and Agnieszka Holland.

Cultural institutions
      Poles have made great efforts to preserve and cherish the records and artifacts of the past. Archives and museums of art, ethnography, archaeology, and natural history can be found in many Polish cities. The Czartoryski Museum in Kraków dates to the beginning of the 19th century, the Archaeological Museum in Poznań to 1857, and the National Museum in Warsaw to 1862. After World War II, official policy concentrated on the creation of new regional museums in cities recovered from German occupation, on museums connected with the history of the communist movement, on former private palaces and collections acquired by the state, and on sites connected with Nazi war crimes, such as the concentration and extermination camps at Oświęcim ( Auschwitz) or Majdanek. The government also supported traditional museums and galleries of modern art (e.g., the Zachęta State Art Gallery in Warsaw, established 1900). The Roman Catholic Church is active in preserving and exhibiting the art treasures and records connected with Poland's religious heritage. The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, were built for Protestants in Silesia in the 17th century.

Sports and recreation
      Team sports and spectator sports thrive in Poland. Professional football (soccer) teams attract large crowds in the towns, and local authorities provide facilities for athletics (track and field) and swimming. Skiing and mountaineering in the Tatras and sailing on the Baltic or the Masurian Lakes are popular. In addition, many Poles enjoy cycling, horseback riding, and spelunking. There are a large number of recreation clubs devoted to football, volleyball, table tennis, athletics, basketball, and martial arts.

      Since 1924 Poland has participated in all Summer and Winter Olympic Games, with the exception of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, boycotted by the communist regime along with other Soviet-bloc governments. Among Poland's most accomplished Olympians were Irena Kirszenstein-Szewińska (Kirszenstein-Szewińska, Irena), who participated in the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1980 and won seven medals (three gold) in track and field; Józef Szmidt, a triple jumper who dominated the event for six years and won two gold medals; and Robert Korzeniowski, who at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, became the first man to win both race-walking events. The Polish national football team won the Olympic gold medal in 1972 and earned third place at the 1974 World Cup. In 1982 the team, led by star forward Zbigniew Boniek, again reached the World Cup semifinals.

Media and publishing
      Under the communist government, the Main Office for the Control of the Press, Publications, and Public Performances (GUKPIW), headquartered in Warsaw, controlled the media, publishing, films, theatres, exhibitions, advertising, and related activities. The bureau maintained an office in all television and radio stations, press and publishing houses, film and theatre studios, and printing establishments throughout the country. Authorization was required even for such printed items as wedding invitations, obituary notices, and stationery. The government closely controlled access to photocopiers and printing machines, and all purchases of paper in bulk required a permit. censorship of foreign mail was routine. No sphere of information was immune, however distant from immediate political concerns; censors attempted not only to suppress material but also to mold all information at its source.

      The Polish press included the official organs of the party and state, such as Trybuna Ludu (“People's Tribune”), the organ of the PUWP, and a variety of less closely controlled semiparty newspapers and journals, such as Życie Warszawy (“Warsaw Life”), Polityka (“Politics”; a lively weekly), and Twórczość (“Creativity”; an intellectual monthly). Despite the official controls, speech was not generally suppressed in Poland, and the highly literate Poles became masters at writing and reading “between the lines.” Moreover, alternative perspectives were offered in the respected independent Kraków publication Tygodnik Powszechny (“Universal Weekly”), in the Roman Catholic journals Znak (“The Sign”) and Więż (“The Link”), and in the underground “free sector.” The latter developed in the 1970s and 1980s into a vast network, publishing everything from books banned by the regime to academic journals and local newssheets.

      Restrictions on the media eased in 1989, and Solidarity supporters began publishing numerous journals and newspapers, including the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza (“Voters Daily”; Eng. ed. Gazeta International). In 1990 the state abandoned censorship of the press, and this led to the appearance of a wide range of new publications. Though in the 1990s the number of newspaper titles was reduced by half, the number of books and magazines doubled. The private sector in both broadcast and print media has grown rapidly, in great part owing to foreign investments. It includes television and radio stations, national and regional newspapers and magazines, and publishing houses. Many communities publish local newsletters and bulletins. Rzeczpospolita (“The Commonwealth”) is a semiofficial newspaper of record.

Jerzy A. Kondracki Norman Davies Andrew Hutchinson Dawson Krzysztof Jasiewicz


The Piast monarchy
The early state
 The terms Poland and Poles appear for the first time in medieval chronicles of the late 10th century. The land that the Poles, a West Slavic people, came to inhabit was covered by forests with small areas under cultivation where clans grouped themselves into numerous tribes. The dukes (dux) were originally the commanders of an armed retinue (drużyna) with which they broke the authority of the chieftains of the clans, thus transforming the original tribal organization into a territorial unit. Two tribes, the Polanie—based around the fortified settlement (castrum) of Gniezno—and the Wiślanie—who lived near Kraków—expanded to bring other tribes under their control.

      Exposed to some missionary activities linked with St. Methodius (Cyril and Methodius, Saints), the state of Wiślanie fell under the rule of Great Moravia (Moravia)—which was destroyed by the Magyar (Hungarian) invasion of the early 10th century—and came eventually under the rule of Mieszko I, the first ruler of the Polanie to be mentioned in written records. He is regarded as the founder of the Piast Dynasty, the beginnings of which are clouded in legend, though the names of three of his predecessors are known. Creating what a contemporary Spanish-Jewish traveler, Ibrāhīm ibn Yaʾḳūb, described as the most powerful of the existing Slav states, Mieszko accepted Roman Catholicism via Bohemia in 966. A missionary bishopric directly dependent on the papacy was established in Poznań. This was the true beginning of Polish history, for Christianity was a carrier of Western civilization with which Poland was henceforth associated.

      Facing the crucial problem of Poland's relationship to the two pillars of medieval Christendom, the Germanic Holy Roman Empire and the papacy, Mieszko battled the expansive tendencies of the former—a record that dates from 963 refers to a struggle with the German dukes—while he sought reliance on Rome, to which he subordinated his state in a curious document, the Dagome iudex (c. 991). Poland alternately competed and cooperated with neighbouring Bohemia and Hungary as well as with the principality of Kievan Rus (Kiev). At Mieszko's death the Polish state stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Carpathian Mountains, resembling in shape post-World War II Poland.

      Because the principle of primogeniture (primogeniture and ultimogeniture) was unknown in the country, every succession led to internal strife. Mieszko's successor was Bolesław I (the Brave). Commanding a huge military force, he sought hegemony in east-central Europe. In 1000 he received the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, who dreamed of restoring a universal Roman empire and who recognized the sovereign status of the Polish duke. Moreover, Otto agreed to an independent Polish ecclesiastical organization that added an archbishopric in Gniezno and bishoprics in Kraków, Wrocław, and Kołobrzeg to the already extant bishopric in Poznań. Given the role of the church in medieval statehood, this was a great achievement. Paying their respects to St. Adalbert (Adalbert, Saint) (Vojtěch (Adalbert, Saint))—the former bishop of Prague slain by the pagan Prussians and later elevated to sainthood—the two rulers sought to coordinate their missionary activities in the pagan Slav lands between the Elbe and Oder rivers. This area, home of the so-called Polabian Slavs, formed a kind of buffer between the two states and was the object of their respective expansion.

      The successors of Otto pursued German objectives rather than imperial mirages and struggled with Bolesław, who briefly occupied Bohemia and intervened in Kievan Rus. Polish-German strife continued intermittently until 1018. In 1025 Bolesław assumed the royal crown, which made him the equal of the other monarchs of Europe.

Collapse and restoration
 The virtual collapse of the state under Bolesław's son Mieszko II (Mieszko II Lambert), who was even obliged to renounce his kingly status, showed how much the political fortunes of a state were bound to the personality of its ruler. Mieszko's successor, Casimir I, had to flee the country, which was torn by internal strife. A pagan reaction against Christianity combined with revolt against fiscal and administrative burdens to bring about a popular uprising. Casimir had to be restored by the emperor, Conrad II, who wished to preserve a balance of power in the region. Known later as “the Restorer,” Casimir eventually succeeded in bringing under his sway most of the Polish lands, reviving the ecclesiastical organization, and making Kraków his capital instead of Gniezno or Poznań, which had been devastated by the Czechs.

 Casimir's son and successor, Bolesław II (the Bold), sought to revive the great power designs of the first Bolesław. Skillfully exploiting the great Investiture Controversy between the empire and the papacy that affected most of Europe, Bolesław II sided with Rome and gained the royal crown in 1076. Bolesław was later drawn into a conflict with Stanislaus (Stanislaus of Kraków, Saint) (Stanisław), the bishop of Kraków, whom the king ordered killed in 1079 under circumstances still debated by historians. Bolesław then fled to Hungary, where he died. The cult of St. Stanislaus (Stanislaus of Kraków, Saint), who was canonized in 1253, became widespread in Poland and was invoked to defend the freedom of religion against the state and ethics against power.

      Under Bolesław's brother and successor, Władysław I Herman, claims to the royal crown and a more ambitious foreign policy were abandoned. Efforts by the palatine, Sieciech, to maintain centralized power clashed with the ambitions of the rising magnate class. Following a period of internal conflict, Bolesław III (the Wry-Mouthed) emerged as the sole ruler (reigned 1102–38). Promoting Christianity, he expanded his influence over Western Pomerania, whose towns and harbours, such as Wolin, Kołobrzeg, and Szczecin, were already important centres of trade and crafts. Eastern, or Gdańsk, Pomerania came under direct Polish administration. After an invasion by Emperor Henry V was repelled, peace prevailed with the empire, and Bohemia renounced its claims to Silesia.

The period of divisions

Collapse of Bolesław's governing system
      The awareness of centrifugal trends and external dangers led Bolesław III to establish in his testament of 1138 a system meant to ensure greater stability. He divided the state among his sons; the oldest became the senior duke, whose domain included the capital in Kraków and who had general powers over military, foreign, and ecclesiastical matters. By the early 13th century, however, the efforts of the grand duke to exert real controls had come to naught. The entire system was characterized by disputes, subdivisions, and fratricidal strife into which the neighbouring powers were frequently drawn.

      During the period of divisions, lasting almost 200 years (until the rule of Casimir III), Poland underwent transformation in almost every sphere of life. The centrally controlled early Piast monarchy had been based on a system of fortified settlements from which an official called the castellan tended to the ruler's domain and acted as administrator, military commander, judge, and tax collector. Around some settlements there arose so-called service villages, in which artisans produced objects needed by the dukes and their retinues. The emerging social pyramid positioned the duke and his officials and leading warriors on top, with various categories of freemen, part-freemen, and slaves at the bottom. Between the 10th and the 12th century, this system slowly began to break down. Improved cultivation methods (notably the three-field system) enhanced the value of the land with which the ruler endowed the church and compensated his nobles, warriors, and officials. Estates cultivated by a semiserf population grew significantly. The old drużyna changed into a smaller personal guard, the armed force being composed of nobles performing military service as landholders.

Cultural developments, 11th–13th century
      The church was the principal proponent of learning and art. Romanesque (Romanesque art) and then Gothic (Gothic art) architecture made their way into Poland. Religious orders such as the Benedictines (Benedictine) arrived in the 11th century, the Cistercians (Cistercian) in the 12th century, and the Dominicans (Dominican) and the first nuns in the 13th century. Cathedral and, later, parish schools appeared. During this time the earliest historical chronicles (chronicle) appeared. The first was compiled in the early 12th century by a Benedictine monk known as Gallus Anonymous. The second was completed by Wincenty Kadłubek at the beginning of the 13th century.

Social and economic developments
      The 13th century marked a turning point in the history of medieval Poland. The agricultural boom was accompanied by the development of salt mining in Little Poland and of silver and gold mining in Silesia. The Polish lands were brought more fully into the European economy, participating in the west-east trade as well as in that of the Baltic region in the north and that along the Danube River in the south. The growth of large landed estates was partly the cause and partly the consequence of surplus production that could be sold on the market. It became profitable to have free tenant farmers, rather than serfs, cultivate the land, which attracted large groups of settlers from as far away as the Rhineland and the Low Countries. Demographic trends in western Europe facilitated this “colonization.” The settlers—assured of personal freedom, fixed rents, and some measure of self-administration and operating under the so-called German Law—founded new villages and towns or reorganized old ones. Towns received formal charters (Wrocław in 1242, Poznań in 1253, Kraków in 1257) that provided for autonomy and self-government modeled on that of the German city of Magdeburg—hence the term Magdeburg Law.

      Although the burgher population became largely German (Germanic peoples) or German-speaking, the extent of settlement by Germans was restricted except in Silesia and Pomerania. Otherwise, most of the countryside remained Polish. Another alien group, however, began to play an important role in the country's economy—namely, the Jews (Jew) escaping persecution in the west. Bolesław V (the Chaste) of Great Poland granted to the Jews the Kalisz Privilege (1264), which provided personal freedom, some legal autonomy, and safeguards against forcible baptism.

      Economic and social transformation led to some forms of feudalism and organization of estates. A system in which the entire state structure was based on contractual personal arrangements between superiors and inferiors (lords and vassals)—with land (fiefs) being the traditional means of reward for services—did not really prevail in Poland. Nor did a typical feudal pyramid exist. Nevertheless, vassalage of sorts and customs of chivalry and knighthood developed. In view of the weakening of the rulers, the landowners, both ecclesiastical (the church in the 12th century) and lay (the nobility in the 13th century), succeeded in obtaining so-called immunities—i.e., exemptions for their estates from taxes, services, and the legal jurisdiction of the state.

      During that period the church functioned as the only structure that transcended the divisions. Although the Silesian duchies gravitated toward Germany, the archbishopric of Gniezno continued to include the diocese of Wrocław. Several archbishops were active proponents of reunification of Poland, notably Jakób Świnka. The concepts of Corona Regni Poloniae, as divorced from the actual ruler, and of gens polonica—an early form of nationalism that identified the state with the Polish people and implied its indivisibility—began to make their appearance.

The arrival of the Teutonic Knights (Teutonic Order)
      The chances of reunification were dim, as the various branches of the Piast dynasty pursued their vested interests and further subdivided their lands. Western Pomerania, with its native dynasty, and Eastern Pomerania were already largely severed from Poland and threatened by the aggressive and expansive margravate of Brandenburg (Brandenburg). In the north the pagan Lithuanians, Prussians, and Jatvingians were harassing Mazovia. In 1226 Conrad of Mazovia called in the German crusading order, generally known as the Teutonic Order, provided them with a territorial base, and assumed that after a joint conquest of the Prussian lands (later known as East Prussia) they would become his vassals. The Teutonic Knights, however, tacitly secured imperial and papal recognition and forged Conrad's acquiescence to their independent status. After a series of ruthless campaigns, Prussia was conquered and resettled by Germans—the old Prussian population having been virtually wiped out. It became a powerful state of the Teutonic Knights. While German historians have traditionally stressed the civilizing and organizational achievements of the Knights, the Poles have emphasized their ruthlessness and aggressiveness. The arrival of the Teutonic Knights changed the balance of forces in that part of Europe and marked the beginning of the rise of Prussia as a great power.

      In 1241 Little Poland and Silesia experienced a disastrous Mongol ( Tatar) invasion. The duke of Silesia, Henry II (the Pious), who had been gathering forces to reunite Poland, perished in the Battle of Legnica (Liegnitz) in 1241, and the devastation wrought by the Mongols may have contributed to the above-mentioned colonization.

Revival of the kingdom (Přemysl, house of)

The Czech dynasty
 In the late 13th century, Bohemia emerged as the leading country in east-central Europe, and King Otakar II (Přemysl Otakar II) even tried to gain the imperial crown. His son Wenceslas II profited from the chaos prevailing in the Polish duchies—a bid for unification by Przemysł II of Great Poland (crowned king in 1295) was cut short by his assassination—to become king of Poland in 1300. Establishing an administration based on provincial royal officials (starosta)—a permanent feature of Polish administration in the centuries to come—he temporarily pacified the country. Wenceslas's grandiose plans to rule all of east-central Europe ended with his death in 1305, which was followed a year later by the assassination of his son Wenceslas III. This meant the end of the native Czech Přemyslid dynasty, and John of Luxembourg (John) claimed the thrones of Bohemia and Poland. His pursuit of the latter was opposed by one of the minor dukes, Władysław the Short (Władysław I), who had earlier battled the two Wenceslases and their supporters. Allying himself with the new king of Hungary, Charles I, Władysław withstood the enmity of Bohemia, the Teutonic Knights, rival Polish dukes, and the mainly German patriciate of Kraków. At one point the struggle assumed the character of a Polish-German national conflict.

Władysław I
 Władysław was crowned king of Poland in 1320, but he no longer controlled Silesia—whose dukes opted for John and which henceforth came under the Bohemian crown—and the Teutonic Knights seized Eastern Pomerania. The massacre the Knights perpetrated in Gdańsk in 1308 entered Polish folklore. Thus, the reunited Polish kingdom was deprived of two of its most developed provinces—Silesian Wrocław then had some 20,000 inhabitants—and was effectively cut off from the Baltic Sea. Cooperating closely with Hungary, Władysław sought unsuccessfully to regain Pomerania through lawsuits and papal arbitration, but the Knights ignored the verdicts. A major battle with the invading Knights fought at Płowce in 1331 was a Pyrrhic victory for Władysław.

Casimir the Great
      Under Władysław's son Casimir III (the Great), the only Polish ruler to bear this epithet, peace was made with John of Luxembourg, who gave up his claims to the Polish crown at the meeting of the kings of Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia at Visegrád, Hungary, in 1335. Casimir's simultaneous renunciation of Silesia was somewhat equivocal, and he sought later to regain the Silesian duchies by diplomacy and force. In 1343 Poland signed a peace treaty with the Teutonic Knights through which it recovered some land but retained only formal suzerainty over Pomerania. That policy of compromise was a tactical necessity on the part of a state still much weaker than the Teutonic Knights, Bohemia, or Hungary. Between 1340 and the 1360s, however, Poland expanded by roughly one-third, acquiring a larger part of Halicz, or Red, Ruthenia (the future eastern Galicia), which Hungary and Lithuania also coveted. That acquisition marked an expansion beyond ethnic Polish territory. Casimir's international prestige was evidenced by his acting as arbiter between the Luxembourgs, the Angevins, and the Habsburgs and subsequently hosting an international conference in Kraków in 1364 that dealt with general European issues. The sumptuous banquet given to the visiting rulers by the Kraków burgher Nicholas Wierzynek passed into popular lore.

      The domestic achievements of Casimir may be subsumed under the slogan “One king, one law, one currency.” His rule uncontested, Casimir presided over a process of unification and codification of laws in the mid-14th century for Great and Little Poland that is often called the Statute of Wiślica. In need of trained lawyers, he founded a university in Kraków (1364) modeled largely on that of Bologna. It was the second university east of the Rhine River and north of the Alps.

      The introduction of a new currency, the Kraków grosz, stimulated the economy and assisted the development of international trade. Many brick and stone structures arose in the country, as well as a large number of fortified castles. The population and its density increased. In view of a new wave of Jewish (Jew) immigrants, the 1264 privilege was extended throughout the kingdom, and the town of Kazimierz, adjacent to Kraków, became a Jewish centre. The privileged condition of the Jews, although they were resented as competitors by the burghers (who staged anti-Jewish riots), eventually resulted in Poland's becoming the home of the largest Jewish population in Christendom.

      Casimir designated as his successor his nephew Louis I (the Great) of Hungary, who gained the support of influential nobles by granting them certain privileges in 1355. Louis's rule in Poland (1370–82), with his mother acting as regent, proved disappointing. Despite earlier promises, he definitely abandoned Silesia and Pomerania and sought to make Halicz Ruthenia directly dependent on Buda in Hungary. Eager to secure the succession to the Polish crown for one of his daughters, he granted privileges to the Polish nobility in the Pact of Koszyce (Koszyce, Pact of) (Hungarian: Kassa) in 1374. Among those privileges was the guarantee of a minimum tax, which meant that any future increase would have to be negotiated with the nobles as an estate. Thus, the principle of representation was established, but it did not become operative for decades to come.

The marriage of Jadwiga
 After Louis's death the lords of Little Poland selected his younger daughter, Jadwiga (Hungarian: Hedvig), over her sister Maria (the wife of King Sigismund of Hungary). Preventing Jadwiga's marriage to Wilhelm Habsburg, the lords chose for her husband Władysław II Jagiełło (Lithuanian: Jogaila (Władysław II Jagiełło)), the grand duke of Lithuania (Lithuania, grand duchy of). This momentous act opened a new chapter in Polish history by linking the relatively small kingdom with a huge and heterogeneous Lithuania (Lithuania, grand duchy of), which then comprised most of Ukraine and Belarus. The threat posed by the Teutonic Knights to both Poland and Lithuania, and the aspiration of the Poles to achieve status as a great power, figured prominently in the calculations. The church and Jadwiga, who was later beatified, attached great importance to the extension of Christianity. The prospects of opening vast regions in the east for trade and settlement appealed to the lords and merchants of Kraków. In 1385 the negotiations were finalized through the Union of Krewo. Jagiełło accepted Roman Catholicism for himself and Lithuania proper—the other duchies were already Christian (Eastern Orthodox)—and promised to join (applicare) his Lithuanian and Ruthenian lands to the Polish crown. He became the king of Poland under the name of Władysław II Jagiełło upon marrying Jadwiga, with whom he at first ruled jointly.

The states of the Jagiellonians (Jagiellon dynasty)
The waning of the Middle Ages

The rule of Jagiełło
      The Polish clergy played a major role in the long process of Christianization—the bishopric of Wilno (Lithuanian: Vilnius) was set up in 1387—and Polish knights assisted Lithuania in its military campaigns; nevertheless, the Lithuanians were determined not to tolerate Polish interference, landowners, or troops. It was obvious that a simple incorporation of Lithuania into Poland was not possible. Jagiełło's cousin Vytautas (Vytautas the Great) (Polish: Witold), who eventually controlled the various duchies that constituted the Lithuanian state before its union with Poland, assumed the title of grand duke and made Lithuania a virtually independent state. He even aimed at a royal crown for himself. The defeat he suffered at the hands of the Tatars at Vorskla River (Vorskla River, Battle of the) in 1399, however, destroyed his plans. The union with Poland was renegotiated on the basis of partnership of two sovereign states under the reign of Władysław II, king and supreme duke.

      The continuing struggles with the Teutonic Knights seeking to master eastern Lithuanian Samogitia (Polish: Żmudź)—on the pretext of Christianizing its inhabitants—led to the great war in which Poland and Lithuania joined forces. The result was a crushing defeat of the Knights at Tannenberg (Tannenberg, Battle of) (Grunwald) in 1410. The victory had no immediate sequel, for the Knights ceded only Samogitia (temporarily), but it marked the beginning of their decline; the Prussian nobles and towns secretly opposed the ruthless rule of the Teutonic Order. Polish tolerance was manifest at the Council of Constance (Constance, Council of) (1414–18), where the prominent theologian and rector of Kraków University Paweł Włodkowic (Paulus Vladimiri) denounced the Knights' policy of conversion by the sword and maintained that the pagans also had their rights. Similarly, the Poles were sympathetic to Jan Hus (Hus, Jan) of Bohemia, who was condemned as a heretic by the council, and lent discreet support to his followers, the Hussites (Hussite), in their struggles against the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy.

      Because of his concerns over dynastic succession, Władysław II, who had no children with Jadwiga, granted new privileges to the szlachta (all those of noble rank). Called neminem captivabimus (comparable to habeas corpus), the measure guarded against arbitrary arrest or confiscation of property and distinguished between the executive and the judiciary. The Polish example also began to affect the internal evolution of magnate-dominated Lithuania. The lesser boyars, envious of the position of their Polish counterparts, favoured closer unity. At the Union of Horodło in 1413, Polish nobles offered their coats of arms to a number of Lithuanians as a gesture of solidarity.

      Only Władysław's fourth wife, Sophia Holszańska, bore him male children. One of their sons, Władysław III Warneńczyk, ruled Poland (1434–44) under the regency of the powerful Zbigniew Cardinal Oleśnicki (Oleśnicki, Zbigniew); the other son, Casimir, was the grand duke of Lithuania. Largely because of Oleśnicki, Władysław III was elected king of Hungary, became active in Crusades against the Turks (Ottoman Empire), and, after initial victories, died at the Battle of Varna (Varna, Battle of) in 1444. Casimir subsequently became the ruler of both Poland and Lithuania.

      The long and brilliant reign of Casimir IV Jagiellonian (Casimir IV) (1447–92) corresponded to the age of “new monarchies” in western Europe. By the 15th century Poland had narrowed the distance separating it from western Europe and become a significant factor in international relations. The demand for raw materials and semifinished goods stimulated trade (producing a positive balance) and contributed to the growth of crafts and mining. Townspeople in Poland proper constituted about 20 percent of the population—roughly the European average. Divisions between the nobles, the burghers, and the peasants were still somewhat fluid. Coexistence of the ruler and the estates was relatively smooth and stable.

      Cultural progress was striking, with the reconstituted and enlarged University of Kraków playing a major role. Humanist (humanism) trends found a promoter at Kraków in the Italian scholar Filippo de Buonacorsi, known as Callimachus. From the pen of Jan Długosz (Długosz, Jan) came the first major history of Poland.

      Casimir's foreign policy centred on the conflict with the Teutonic Knights and succession in Hungary and Bohemia. When the rebellious Prussian towns and nobility turned to Casimir, he decreed an incorporation of the Knights' state into Poland (1454). Unable to decisively defeat the Teutonic Order during the Thirteen Years' War (1454–66), he had to sign the compromise Treaty of Toruń in 1466. Gdańsk Pomerania, renamed Royal Prussia and endowed with far-reaching autonomy, became Polish once again. This opened the route to the Baltic. The other territories (most of the future East Prussia), with the capital at Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia), remained with the Knights, albeit as a Polish fief.

      Casimir's dependence on the noble levies in wartime enabled the szlachta to extract new concessions. They culminated in the Privilege of Nieszawa (1454), which gave the provincial diets (sejmiki) the right to declare the levies and raise new taxes. In 1493–96 a bicameral general diet (Sejm) marked the beginning of Polish parliamentarism. The representatives of the sejmiki formed the lower house, while the king's appointees constituted the senate.

      The question of succession in Bohemia and Hungary was resolved toward the end of the 15th century when one of Casimir's sons, Vladislas II, was elected to the throne of Bohemia in 1471 and Hungary in 1490. His other sons John I Albert and Alexander succeeded each other in Poland and Lithuania from 1492 to 1506. A Jagiellonian bloc (Jagiellon dynasty) had come into existence, but its effectiveness was marred by the fact that the four countries were guided by divergent interests and faced different problems.

The golden age of the Sigismunds

Political developments
 Under the last two Jagiellonians, Poland reached its apogee. The king was the source of law (usually in tandem with the Sejm, though some decrees did not require the Sejm's assent), supreme judge, chief executive, and supreme commander, free to declare war and peace. He ruled Lithuania as a hereditary domain. Royal administration was quite effective, and Casimir's youngest son, Sigismund the Old (Sigismund I) (reigned 1506–48), tried to improve the nation's finances and taxation. An inadequate financial base and an undersized standing army limited the actual power of the king.

 Domestic politics under Sigismund—and even more so under his son and successor, Sigismund II Augustus (reigned 1548–72)—centred on a contest between the fast-growing magnate oligarchy and the dynamic gentry, with the rulers generally favouring the former. The option of relying on the burghers, as was done by western European rulers, was not available because the towns (Gdańsk and some Royal Prussian towns excepted) allowed themselves to be eliminated from political struggles. The reformers among the lesser nobles (aristocracy) focused on the program of the “execution” (enforcement) of laws that prohibited the transfer of crown lands and the accumulation of offices that profited the oligarchy. Wishing to emancipate itself from the magnates' political tutelage, the gentry strove for real partnership in government.

      The Nihil Novi constitution (constitutional law) (1505) achieved some of these aims, but it also stipulated that no new laws could be passed without the consent of the Sejm. The way was opened for parliamentary dominance that would eventually undermine the existing system of checks and balances. The growing political and economic power of the landowners had pernicious effects on the lot of the peasantry. Beginning with edicts issued in 1496 and repeatedly throughout the 16th century, the peasants' mobility was curtailed, labour obligations ( corvée) were increased, and subjection to the lord's jurisdiction was affirmed. The degree of evasion of these burdens, however, was probably high. The impoverishment of the peasantry from the late 16th century became pronounced, while the barriers between the burghers and the szlachta became more rigid.

      Sixteenth-century foreign policies had to take into consideration an alliance between the Habsburgs (Habsburg, House of), Moscow (Moscow, Grand Principality of), and the Teutonic Order that was directed against Poland. Muscovite (Moscow, Grand Principality of) expansion threatened Lithuania, and only a major victory at Orsza in 1514 averted a catastrophe. The victory allowed Sigismund I to detach the Habsburgs (Habsburg, House of) from Moscow through the Vienna accords of 1515. Providing for dynastic marriages, the accords opened the way for Habsburg succession in Bohemia and Hungary should the Jagiellonians die out. Eleven years later Louis II, the Jagiellonian king of Hungary and Bohemia, perished at Mohács (Mohács, Battle of) fighting the Turks. Thus ended the Jagiellonian bloc.

      One year before Mohács, however, the matter of the Teutonic Knights (Teutonic Order) had found a controversial resolution. The grand master of the order, Albert Hohenzollern (Albert), became a Lutheran and, isolated from the empire and papacy, offered to secularize his state as a vassal of the king of Poland. His act of homage in 1525 seemed a realistic arrangement that left the way open for the eventual absorption of Ducal Prussia (as East Prussia was thereafter called) into Poland. However, subsequent concessions to the Hohenzollerns (Hohenzollern Dynasty) allowed them to rule both Prussia and Brandenburg, on the flanks of the “corridor (Polish Corridor)” that provided Polish access to the Baltic.

      Polish concern with Baltic issues led to the creation of a small navy and to wars (Livonian War) with Muscovy over Livonia (present-day Latvia and Estonia), which was controlled by the Knights of the Sword (Brothers of the Sword, Order of the) and coveted by the Muscovite tsar Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV). Eventually the region was partitioned. The union of 1561 brought the southern part to Poland and Lithuania and established a duchy of Courland, ruled as a Polish fief by the former grand master of the secularized Knights of the Sword. Meanwhile, Sweden expanded in the north.

      Since Sigismund Augustus was childless, the future of the Polish-Lithuanian union became a paramount issue. Lithuanian socioeconomic, legal, and administrative structures came to resemble those of Poland, but the Lithuanians still opposed a simple incorporation. Their gentry, wishing to share in the privileges of the Polish szlachta, wanted a real union, but the powerful magnates opposed it. Fear of discrimination on religious grounds on the part of the Orthodox gentry (in Ukraine and the region that would become modern-day Belarus) was dispelled by granting them equality. The opposition of the magnates was finally broken by the king, who detached Podlasie, Volhynia, and the Kiev and Bracław regions from Lithuania and incorporated them into Poland. Facing the threat of complete annexation, the Lithuanian opposition gave in. The Union of Lublin (Lublin, Union of) (1569) established a federative state of two nations with a jointly elected mutual king–grand duke and legislature (a unique feature in Europe) and a customs union but with separate territories, laws, administrations, treasuries, and armies.

Social and cultural developments
 Polish culture, highly praised by Desiderius Erasmus (Erasmus, Desiderius) of Rotterdam, continued to flourish. Renaissance art and architecture, promoted by Sigismund I's wife Bona Sforza, became the style for numerous churches and castles. From Kraków University came Nicolaus Copernicus (Copernicus, Nicolaus), who revolutionized astronomical concepts. After 1513 a large number of books were printed in Polish, including translations of the Bible. During the 16th century the writings of Mikołaj Rej, the father of Polish literature, and of the great poet Jan Kochanowski (Kochanowski, Jan) helped establish the period as the golden age of Polish literature. The Renaissance and the Reformation had a major impact on Lithuania, marking its absorption into western European culture.

      Under the tolerant policies of Sigismund II, to whom John Calvin (Calvin, John) dedicated one of his works, Lutheranism spread mainly in the cities and Calvinism among the nobles of Lithuania and Little Poland. The Sandomierz Agreement of 1570, which defended religious freedom, marked the cooperation of Polish Lutherans and Calvinists. The Polish Brethren (known also as Arians and Anti-Trinitarians) made a major contribution by preaching social egalitarianism and pacifism. In 1573 the szlachta concluded the Compact of Warsaw (Warsaw, Compact of), which provided for the maintenance of religious toleration. These victories for the Reformation, however, were gradually canceled by the Catholic Counter-Reformation (Counter-Reformation) under the leadership of Stanisław Cardinal Hozjusz (Stanislaus Hosius (Hosius, Stanislaus)). In the 1560s the Jesuits (Jesuit) arrived in Poland (their greatest preacher was Piotr Skarga (Skarga, Piotr)), and their network of schools and colleges included the future University of Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), founded in 1579.

The Commonwealth
Báthory and the Vasas

Social and political structure
 The dual Polish-Lithuanian state, Respublica, or “Commonwealth” (Polish: Rzeczpospolita), was one of the largest states in Europe. While Poland in the mid-16th century occupied an area of about 100,000 square miles (260,000 square km), with some 3.5 million inhabitants, the Commonwealth at its largest point in the early 17th century comprised nearly 400,000 square miles and some 11 million inhabitants. As such, it was a multiethnic country inhabited by Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians (Ruthenian), Germans, Jews, and small numbers of Tatars, Armenians, and Scots. It was also a multifaith country, with Roman Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Jews, and Muslims living within its boundaries. Certain communities lived under their own laws; the Jews, for example, enjoyed self-administration through the Council of the Four Lands.

      The term Poland was used for both the entire state and the strictly Polish part of it (though the latter was officially called the Crown). This could be confusing. A supranational term like “British” was missing. The Commonwealth gradually came to be dominated by the szlachta, which regarded the state as an embodiment of its rights and privileges. Ranging from the poorest landless yeomen to the great magnates, the szlachta insisted on the equality of all its members. As a political nation it was more numerous (8–10 percent) than the electorate of most European states even in the early 19th century.

      Throughout most of Europe the medieval system of estates evolved into absolutism, but in the Commonwealth it led to a szlachta democracy inspired by the ideals of ancient Rome, to which parallels were constantly drawn. The szlachta came to see in its state a perfect constitutional model, a granary for Europe, and a bulwark against eastern barbarism. Its inherent weaknesses in finance, administration, and the military were ignored.

      The end of the Jagiellonian dynasty meant the beginning of unrestricted election to the throne. The first king elected viritim (i.e., by direct vote of the szlachta) was Henry of Valois (Henry III), the brother of the king of France. On his accession to the throne (reigned 1573–74), which he quickly abandoned to become Henry III of France, he accepted the so-called Henrician Articles and Pacta Conventa. Presented henceforth to every new king as a contract with the noble nation, the former document provided for free election (but not during the reigning monarch's lifetime), religious peace, biennial meetings of the Sejm (with a standing body of senators active in the interval), and the right to renounce the allegiance to the king should he break the contract.

 In 1576 the prince of Transylvania, Stephen Báthory (Stefan Batory), became king. A brilliant soldier, he closely cooperated with Jan Zamoyski (Zamoyski, Jan), chancellor of the Crown and grand hetman (commander in chief). The most spectacular achievement of Báthory's reign was a series of military victories (1579–81) over Ivan the Terrible of Russia. Yet it is likely that the king's eastern policies were inspired by the ultimate goal of liberation of Hungary, which was not necessarily a Polish concern.

 The long reign of his successor, Sigismund III Vasa (1587–1632), raised hopes of a union with Sweden (Vasa, House of) that would strengthen Poland's standing in the north. Sigismund was the grandson of the legendary Swedish ruler Gustav I Vasa, but, as an ardent Roman Catholic and champion of the Counter-Reformation, he was unable to hold on to the crown of Lutheran Sweden, and a 10-year succession struggle ensued. His attempts to secure the throne involved Poland in a series of wars with Sweden. Although one of Lithuania's great military commanders, Jan Karol Chodkiewicz (Chodkiewicz, Jan Karol), triumphed at Kirchholm (1605), and the Gdańsk-based navy defeated the Swedish fleet near Oliwa (1627), the truce that followed was inconclusive. The same was true for most settlements in foreign and domestic affairs.

 Although Poland remained neutral in the Thirty Years' War (1618–48), Sigismund stealthily supported the Habsburgs, a policy that contributed to a war with Turkey. Poland suffered a major defeat at Cecorą in 1620 but was victorious at Chocim (now in Khotyn, Ukraine) and negotiated peace a year later. The victory at Chocim was memorialized by poet Wacław Potocki (Potocki, Wacław) a half century later.

      There was, however, no real peace with Muscovy, then going through its Time of Troubles (Troubles, Time of). The support extended by some Polish magnates to the False Dmitry (Dmitry, False) (who claimed to be the son of Ivan the Terrible) eventually embroiled Poland in hostilities. The victory at Klushino in 1610 by Hetman Stanisław Zółkiewski resulted in a Polish occupation of Moscow and the election by Moscow's boyars (boyar) of Sigismund's son Władysław as tsar. Sigismund's veto wasted this opportunity and instead left a residue of Russian hatred of Poland.

      Suspicions that Sigismund's policies were guided by his dynastic interests contributed to a domestic confrontation: the 1606–08 rokosz (“rebellion (Zebrzydowski Rebellion)”). Accusing the king of absolutist designs, the rokosz brought together sincere reformers (who demanded the “execution” of the laws), Roman Catholics, and Protestants, as well as magnates pursuing their own ends. Although the royal forces triumphed in battle, both the king and the reformers were losers in the political realm to the magnates posing as defenders of freedom.

Władysław IV
  Władysław IV Vasa (reigned 1632–48) continued his father's policy of strengthening the monarchy and of insisting on the rights to the Swedish throne. Some of the bellicose plans he formulated to increase his power were thwarted by the Sejm and by international circumstances. The anti-Turkish crusade he planned, however, in which Cossacks were to play a major role, contributed to the upheaval that shook the Commonwealth between 1648 and 1660—the uprising in Ukraine and war in the northeast.

      Transferred as a result of the Union of Lublin from the grand duchy of Lithuania to the more ethnically homogeneous Crown, Ukraine was “colonized” by both Polish and Ukrainian great nobles. Most of the latter gradually abandoned Orthodoxy to become Roman Catholic and Polish. These “little kings” of Ukraine controlled hundreds of thousands of “subjects” and commanded armies larger than those of the regular Crown troops. In 1596 the Union of Brest-Litovsk (Brest-Litovsk, Union of) subordinated the Eastern Orthodox church (Eastern Orthodoxy) of the Commonwealth to the papacy by creating the Eastern rite (Uniate) church (Eastern rite church).

      Politically, this was intended to cement the cohesion of the state vis-à-vis Moscow; instead it led to internal divisions among the Orthodox. The new Eastern rite church became a hierarchy without followers, while the forbidden Eastern Orthodox church was driven underground. Władysław's recognition of the latter's existence in 1632 may have come too late. The Orthodox masses—deprived of their native protectors, who had become Polonized and Catholic—turned to the Cossacks (Cossack).

The Cossacks
      The Zaporozhian Cossacks were frontiersmen who organized themselves in a self-governing centre at modern Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, first to resist Tatar raids and then to plunder as far away as Constantinople (Istanbul) (modern Istanbul). Their prowess was recognized by Sigismund Augustus and Báthory, who “registered” a number of Cossacks for military duty. Other Cossacks and all those diverse groups of settlers or tenants whom the lords tried to turn into serfs coveted this privileged status. Even small nobles and burghers resented the heavy-handed behaviour of the “little kings,” who were bent on realizing maximum profits and employing Jews as middlemen and overseers. Growing socioeconomic antagonisms combined with religious tensions.

      In the Polish-Turkish war of 1620–21, the victory in the Battle of Chocim had been largely due to the participation of some 40,000 Zaporozhian Cossacks, whom Petro Konashevych-Sahaydachny had brought to aid the Poles. Nonetheless, some 12 years later Cossack demands to be placed on an equal footing with the szlachta were contemptuously rejected by the Sejm. The king and the magnates needed the Cossacks in wartime but feared them as an unruly and seditious group that was embroiling the Commonwealth in hostilities with Turkey and the Tatars. Complaints about the enlargement of the military register and about mistreatment led to several Cossack uprisings. After the rebellion of 1638 was put down by Polish troops, Cossack privileges were greatly curtailed.

      The undertaking of an anti-Turkish crusade opened new vistas. There was talk of massive Cossack participation, provided that some 20,000 men be “registered,” social grievances redressed, and a military border free of Polish troops established. Whatever the exact encouragements proffered by Władysław IV, the Sejm and the szlachta were adamantly opposed and frightened lest the king use the Cossacks for his own ends.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Khmelnytsky, Bohdan)
      In 1648 Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Khmelnytsky, Bohdan), whom contemporaries likened to Oliver Cromwell (Cromwell, Oliver), assumed the leadership of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and, allied with the Tatars, defeated the troops of the Commonwealth and some magnate contingents. Khmelnytsky became the master of Ukraine, and its peasant masses, many of its townsmen, and even lesser noblemen were among his followers. The city of Kiev hailed him as a prince and the defender of the Orthodox faith. His objective became the creation of a separate Ukraine under the direct rule of a king.

      In Poland, where the sudden death of Władysław IV left the country leaderless, a policy of compromise represented by the chancellor, Jerzy Ossoliński, and the last Orthodox senator, Adam Kisiel (Kysil), clashed with warlike operations of the leading “little king,” Prince Jeremi Wiśniowiecki. The nature of temporary agreements, which intervened between the Commonwealth and the Cossacks, varied depending on the changing fortunes of war. The Polish victory at the Battle of Beresteczko (Beresteczko, Battle of) in 1651 was followed by the pact of Biała Cerkiew, which the Cossacks found hard to accept.

      In 1654 Khmelnytsky submitted to Tsar Alexis (Alexis) in the Pereyaslav Agreement. Russian historiography characterizes that agreement as the reunification of Ukraine with Russia; the Ukrainians interpret it as an alliance based on expediency. At any rate, war began between Muscovy and the Commonwealth, and Alexis's armies drove deep into Lithuania. In 1655 they occupied its capital, Wilno. For the first time in nearly two centuries, an enemy invasion had taken place, and, when it was followed by a Swedish aggression, a veritable “deluge” overtook the Commonwealth.

      The belligerent and ambitious Charles X Gustav of Sweden worried lest the extension of Muscovy upset the balance of power in the Baltic, which he aimed to turn into a Swedish lake. The refusal of King John II Casimir Vasa (John II Casimir Vasa), the successor and brother of Władysław IV, to give up his claims to the Swedish crown offered a good pretext for resuming hostilities with the Commonwealth (Northern War, First). Aiming originally to seize Polish and Prussian harbours, Charles Gustav saw, after the first successes, the possibility of gaining the Polish crown and the mastery of the Commonwealth.

      The magnates and gentry of Great Poland capitulated to the Swedes in July 1655. Prince Janusz Radziwiłł (Radziwiłł family), a leading Calvinist and the greatest magnate of Lithuania, hard-pressed by the Russians, broke off the union with Poland and signed one with Sweden. His motives were a combination of Lithuanian and Protestant interests coloured by his own ambition to rule the grand duchy.

      The nearly bloodless conquest of the huge Commonwealth came as a shock to many Poles and foreigners. Yet Polish resistance to what turned out to be a regime of brutal occupation developed very quickly. The successful defense of the fortified monastery of Jasna Góra (now in Częstochowa) became a rallying point and provided a symbolic religious-ideological banner. Although the Poles were seldom a match for the Swedish professional troops, they excelled at partisan warfare and at winning minor battles. Not only the szlachta but also the peasants fought the foreigner and enemy of Roman Catholicism. Stefan Czarniecki became the hero of the war.

      Returning from exile in Silesia, John Casimir built an international coalition against the Swedes, whose successes were upsetting the balance of power. A cease-fire intervened on the Russian front, and the Cossacks were neutralized by the Tatars, while the Habsburgs, Denmark, and Brandenburg-Prussia went to Poland's aid. The Swedes were gradually driven out of the Commonwealth, despite an armed intervention on their side by Transylvania's Prince György II Rákóczi (Rákóczi, György, II), who aspired to the Polish crown. The war ended with the Treaty of Oliwa (1660), which restored the territorial status quo before the Swedish invasion and brought the final renunciation of John Casimir's claim to the crown of Sweden.

      The real winner in the conflict proved to be Frederick William, the elector of Brandenburg and duke of Prussia. Adroitly maneuvering between Sweden and Poland and extracting a price for his collaboration from both sides, the “Great Elector” finally switched his support to John Casimir and thereby received the recognition of full sovereignty over Prussia for himself and his male descendants through the treaties of Wehlau (Wehlau, Treaty of) (Welawa) and Bromberg ( Bydgoszcz) in 1657.

      Eastern wars still continued for Poland for several years. In Ukraine the Hadziacz agreement of 1658 with Khmelnytsky's successor provided for the creation of a Ukrainian state as a third member of the Commonwealth with its own offices and army, as well as mass ennoblements of Cossacks and the suspension of the Union of Brest-Litovsk. The accord was short-lived. A pro-Russian faction in Ukraine denounced and nullified the pact, which led to a renewal of hostilities with Muscovy that ended in 1667 with the Truce of Andrusovo (Andrusovo, Truce of) and was confirmed by a treaty in 1686. Restoring the occupied parts of Lithuania to the Commonwealth, the truce divided Ukraine along the Dnieper River. Together with the Treaty of Oliwa, that agreement marked the beginning of the decline of the Commonwealth's international standing.

The 17th-century crisis

Social and economic changes
 The two decades of war and occupation in the mid-17th century, which in the case of Lithuania gave a foretaste of the 18th-century partitions, ruined and exhausted the Commonwealth. Famines and epidemics followed hostilities, and the population dropped from roughly 11 to 7 million. The number of inhabitants of Kraków and Warsaw fell by two-thirds and one-half, respectively. Wilno was burned down. The Khmelnytsky uprising decimated the Jews in Ukraine, even if they recovered fairly rapidly demographically. The productivity of agriculture diminished dramatically owing to labour shortages, the destruction of many farm buildings and farming implements, and the loss of numerous cattle. The dynamic network of international trade fairs also collapsed. Grain exports, which had reached their peak in the early 17th century, could not redress the unfavourable balance of trade with western Europe. Losses of art treasures—the Swedes engaged in systematic looting—were irreplaceable.

      The Commonwealth never fully recovered, unlike Muscovy, which had suffered almost as much during the Time of Troubles. Twentieth-century Marxist historians blamed the manorial economy based on serf labour for pauperizing the masses and undermining the towns, yet the Polish economy was not unique in that respect. Moreover, some attempts to replace serfs with rent-paying tenants did not prove to be a panacea. The economic factor must therefore be treated jointly with other structural weaknesses of the Commonwealth that militated against recovery.

      The 17th-century crisis—a European phenomenon—was basically a crisis of political authority. In the Commonwealth the perennial financial weakness was the central issue. The state budget in the second half of the century amounted to 10–11 million złotys, as compared with the equivalent of about 360 million in France or 240 million in England. About nine-tenths of it went for military purposes, compared with half in Brandenburg and more than three-fifths in France and Russia. Equating a large army with royal absolutism and extolling the virtue of noble levies, the szlachta was unwilling to devise defensive mechanisms. This was true even after the chastising experience of the Swedish “deluge.” Most nobles contented themselves with invoking the special protection of St. Mary, symbolically crowned queen of Poland, as a sufficient safeguard.

Political stagnation
      Those wishing to reform the state without strengthening the monarchy wanted to make the Sejm an effective centre of power. The szlachta, however, refused to accept the notion that liberty could be better preserved in a stronger state. In 1652 the notorious and often misunderstood practice of liberum veto (free veto) appeared: a single negative vote by a member of the Sejm was considered sufficient to block the proceedings. It was argued that unanimity was essential for passing laws, for deputies, as representatives of the local sejmiki, were bound by instructions. Moreover, a majority could disregard local interests and be corrupted by the administration. Hence, liberum veto came to be regarded as the kernel of liberty and a safeguard against tyranny. In reality, the dissenting deputy was usually an instrument of a magnate or even of the king.

      The liberum veto could paralyze the functioning of the state, and in the 17th century it was used sparingly. The weakening of the Sejm meant that some of its functions, notably in matters of taxation, had to pass to local sejmiki. Without a central bureaucracy and with a dual structure of offices in the Crown and Lithuania, the fragmentation of sovereignty became increasingly ominous. The attempts at reform by John Casimir and his energetic wife, Marie Louise, may have been ill-conceived, but, given the factional strife within the oligarchy, it was difficult for the monarch to find a stable base of support. The szlachta, ever suspicious of anything that could smack of absolutism, was naturally opposed. The royal plans were defeated by a rokosz in 1665–66 led by Marshal Jerzy Lubomirski. Two years later the frustrated John Casimir abdicated and settled in France, having prophetically warned the Sejm that Poland would fall victim to its rapacious neighbours unless it reformed its ways.

Cultural changes
      The prevalent mentality in the Commonwealth in the 17th century manifested itself in Sarmatism. The name came from alleged ancestors of the szlachta (Sarmatians), and the concept served to integrate the multiethnic nobility. Representing a symbiosis of a political ideology and a lifestyle typical of a landowning, rather provincial, tightly knit, and increasingly xenophobic culture, Sarmatism extolled the virtues of the szlachta and contrasted them with Western values. An Orientalization of Polish-Lithuanian culture (including modes and manners) was occurring. Roman Catholicism was Sarmatized in its turn, assuming a more intolerant posture toward other denominations. The struggles against Lutheran Swedes and Prussians, Orthodox Russians, and Muslim Turks and Tatars strengthened the belief in Poland's mission as a Catholic bastion. The expulsion in 1658 of Polish Brethren—accused of collaboration with the Swedes—when taken together with the virtual elimination of non-Catholics from public offices, was the first harbinger of the Pole-Catholic syndrome (the notion that a true Pole must be a Catholic).

Decline and attempts at reform
      The Lubomirski rokosz was barely over and the truce with Muscovy newly signed when the Cossacks in the Polish part of divided Ukraine submitted to Turkey and called for Tatar aid against Poland. Victories won by Hetman Jan (John III) Sobieski (John III Sobieski) only temporarily forestalled the threat, and in 1672 the Commonwealth faced a major invasion by Turkey. The fall of the key border fortress Kamieniec Podolski was followed by the humiliating Peace of Buczacz. The Commonwealth lost the provinces of Podolia and Bratslav and part of Kiev, which remained under Turkish rule for more than 20 years, and it had to pay a tribute to the Sublime Porte. Sobieski's victory over the Turks at Chocim in 1673 was not exploited, because of the lack of financial means, but it paved the way for Sobieski's election to the Polish throne. His predecessor, Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki (Michael Wiśniowiecki)—who had followed John Casimir—reigned for only four years (1669–73) and proved utterly incapable.

 Sobieski, ruling as John III (1674–96), sought to improve Poland's position and at first considered conquering Prussia in alliance with France. But that plan did not succeed. With the papacy and the Habsburgs preparing for all-out war against Turkey, John reverted to an anti-Turkish policy and concluded an alliance with Austria. In 1683 he led a relief army to a Vienna besieged (Vienna, Siege of) by the Turks and, as supreme commander of the allied forces, won a resounding victory that marked the beginning of Turkish withdrawal from Europe. The Commonwealth, however, did not share in the subsequent victorious Austrian campaigns. Poland became a secondary partner, and, when the final peace with Turkey was concluded with the Treaty of Carlowitz (Carlowitz, Treaty of) in 1699, the Poles recovered only the lost Ukrainian lands. By that time John was no longer alive, and Augustus II, the elector of Saxony, had succeeded him on the throne (reigned 1697–1733).

The Saxons
 The “Saxon Era” lasted for more than 60 years and marked the lowest point in Polish history. Research since the 1980s has somewhat corrected the largely negative picture of Augustus II and Augustus III by stressing that they were operating in a context of political anarchy, dominated by factions of struggling oligarchs and subject to the meddling of neighbouring powers. The neighbouring states signed agreements among themselves to promote weakness within the Commonwealth, as for instance the Austro-Russian accord of 1675 and the Swedish-Brandenburg pacts of 1686 and 1696, which were followed by others in the 1720s.

      Foreign interlopers corrupted politicians and fomented disorder. During the reign of Augustus II, 10 out of 18 Sejms were paralyzed by liberum veto. In 1724 a Protestant-Catholic riot in Toruń resulted in Protestant officials' being sentenced to death. Prussian and Russian propagandists spoke of a “bloodbath” and used the situation as an opportunity to denounce Polish intolerance. Posing as a protector of non-Catholics, St. Petersburg was in fact using them as a political instrument. Polish politics, ways, and manners, as well as declining education and rampant religious bigotry, were increasingly pictured as exotically anachronistic. The Polish nobles became the laughingstock of Europe. Because the promises John Casimir made during the darkest days of Swedish invasion to improve the lot of the peasantry had remained empty, the oppressed peasants were largely alienated from the nation.

      A personal union with Saxony, where Augustus II was a strong ruler, seemed at first to offer some advantages to Poland. A king with a power base of his own might reform the Commonwealth, which was still a huge state and potentially a great power. But such hopes proved vain. Pursuing schemes of dynastic greatness, Augustus II involved unwilling Poland in a coalition war (Northern War, Second) against Charles XII of Sweden that proved disastrous. In 1702 Charles invaded the country, forced Augustus out, and staged an election of the youthful Stanisław I Leszczyński (Stanisław I) as king.

      The country, split between two rival monarchs, plunged into chaos. The slowly proceeding demographic and economic recovery was reversed as the looting armies and an outbreak of bubonic plague decimated the people. A crushing defeat of Sweden by Peter I (the Great) of Russia at the Battle of Poltava (Poltava, Battle of) (Ukraine, Russian Empire) in 1709 eventually restored Augustus to the throne but made him dependent on the tsar. Having failed to strengthen his position through war and territorial acquisitions, Augustus contemplated domestic reforms while his entourage played with the idea of a coup backed by Saxon troops. Peter intervened as an arbiter between the king and his noble opponents. A settlement at the “silent Sejm” surrounded by Russian troops removed Saxon contingents from Poland, but it brought about certain reforms. Subsequent attempts by Augustus to mount a coalition against the rising might of Russia foundered on the distrust of the king's motives. He was even suspected of plotting partitions of the Commonwealth. During the remaining years of his reign, Augustus's main preoccupation was to ensure the succession of his son.

 Upon Augustus's death in 1733, Stanisław I, seen this time as a symbol of Poland's independence and supported by France (his daughter, Marie Leszczyńska, married Louis XV), was elected once again. The counterelection of Augustus III followed, and Russian troops drove Stanisław out of the country. He abdicated, receiving as compensation (after the so-called War of the Polish Succession (Polish Succession, War of the)) the duchy of Lorraine.

 The reign of Augustus III (1733–63)—during which 5 out of 15 Sejms were dissolved while the remainder took no decisions—witnessed the nadir of Polish statehood. The Commonwealth no longer could be counted as an independent participant in international relations; the king's diplomacy was conducted from Dresden in Saxony. Poland passively watched the once-Polish territory of Silesia pass from the Habsburgs to Prussia as a result of the War of the Austrian Succession (Austrian Succession, War of the). Prussia, under Frederick II (the Great), whose grandfather (Frederick I) had already been recognized in 1701 as “king in Prussia” by Augustus II, was becoming a great power. During the Seven Years' War (1756–63), Austrian and Russian troops marched through Poland, and Frederick flooded the country with counterfeit money. The Commonwealth was being treated as a wayside inn.

      And yet there were also the first signs of economic recovery and population growth, the beginnings of a transition from Sarmatism to Enlightenment, and the appearance of a reformist political literature. In 1740 Stanisław Konarski (Konarski, Stanisław), a member of the Roman Catholic Piarist teaching order, founded the Collegium Nobilium, which was to train the future elite. A network of Piarist schools followed, while the ideas of the Enlightenment were being spread, often through Freemasonry. Konarski's writings, as well as those coming from the circle of Stanisław I in Lorraine, attacked the liberum veto and advocated an improvement of the lot of towns and peasantry. After the 1740s, from the medley of factions, coteries, and partisan groups, two major camps were emerging: the so-called Familia (Czartoryski family), led by the Czartoryskis, and the Republicans, with the Potockis and Radziwiłłs at their head.

Reforms, agony, and partitions

Reform under Stanisław II
 The election of Stanisław II August Poniatowski as the last king of Poland (reigned 1764–95) was the work of the powerful Familia. Rising from the middle nobility (though his mother was a Czartoryska), the candidate was handpicked by Catherine II (the Great) of Russia not only because he had been her lover but because she felt that he would be completely dependent on her. The Czartoryskis in turn saw him as their puppet. Thus, from the beginning Stanisław II—a highly intelligent man, a patron of the arts, and a reformer in the spirit of the Enlightenment—had to operate under most-difficult conditions. The magnates resented him as an upstart; the conservative szlachta viewed him as Catherine's tool and as a threat to their liberties. The king's adroitness and personal charm allowed him in time to win over some of his adversaries, but he lacked a strong will and showed none of the military inclination so cherished by the Poles.

      The reforms that accompanied the election were limited. Stanisław sought to reform the state by strengthening the monarchy; the Czartoryskis wished to reform it by strengthening the Sejm. The king embarked on a vast program of modernization, encouraging initiatives in the economic, financial, and military spheres. But above all he waged a nationwide campaign, using the press, literature, and the new National Theatre to change the conservative mentality of the szlachta. In 1765 Stanisław established the Knights' School—the first truly secular college, which promoted civil virtues and religious toleration—and criticized the treatment of towns and peasantry.

      The king's policies, however, were constantly undermined by neighbouring powers. Frederick II's view that Poland ought to be kept in lethargy was shared by St. Petersburg, which sought to isolate Stanisław by encouraging both religious dissenters (i.e., non-Catholics) and the conservative circles to form confederations. The presence of Russian troops terrorized the Sejm, and Russia formally guaranteed as immutable such principles of Polish politics as liberum veto, elective monarchy, and dominance of the szlachta.

The First Partition (Poland, Partitions of)
 In 1768 the Confederation of Bar (Bar, Confederation of) was formed. Its antiroyalist and anti-Russian program mingled patriotic and conservative overtones with religious objectives (namely, the defense of the privileged status of Roman Catholicism vis-à-vis the religious and political equality for non-Catholics advocated by Russia). Civil war erupted and lasted until 1772. Royal troops assisted the Russians—at one point the king was kidnapped by the confederates—and France and Turkey helped the confederates. The movement strengthened Polish national consciousness and produced the first martyrs sent to Siberia, but, at the same time, it created such chaotic conditions that St. Petersburg began to listen when Frederick repeatedly proposed partitioning Poland. With Russia and Austria on the brink of war over Turkish (Ottoman Empire) matters, Berlin suggested a resolution of the eastern crisis through mutually agreeable compensations at Poland's expense. Austria, which had opposed the scheme ( Maria Theresa had found it immoral), unwittingly created a precedent by annexing some Polish border areas.

      As a result of the First Partition (Poland, Partitions of) (1772), Poland lost almost one-third of its territory and more than one-third of its population. Russia received the largest but least-important area economically, in the northeast. Austria gained the densely populated Little Poland (renamed Galicia). Prussia's (Prussia) share was the smallest, but the annexation of Eastern Pomerania (although without Gdańsk) cut off Poland from the sea and allowed Frederick to put a veritable stranglehold on the Polish economy. Except for individual protests the helpless Sejm, fearing additional territorial losses, ratified the partition. Despite some British concern about Gdańsk and the Baltic trade, the European powers reacted to the partition with utmost indifference. The British political philosopher Edmund Burke (Burke, Edmund) was alone in criticizing the immorality of the act and in recognizing in it the beginning of a revolutionary change in the European balance of power.

Social and economic changes
      During the two decades that separated the First and Second Partitions, the country experienced a remarkable revival. The dissolution of the Jesuit order in 1773 allowed a complete reorganization of the Polish educational system under the Commission of National Education, one of the first ministries of education in Europe. Cut off from the Baltic, Poland reoriented its trade toward the Black Sea. Producing for the national market, early manufacturing concerns grew on both royal and magnate land. Many estates began to operate with tenant farmers rather than serfs. Banks and joint stock companies appeared, canals were built, and roads improved. The position of the towns began to change, and Warsaw with its 100,000 inhabitants became a centre radiating into the country.

      Under the king's patronage, arts and literature flourished. Learning made important strides. The satiric poet Bishop Ignacy Krasicki (Krasicki, Ignacy) headed a long list of important authors. Political literature reached its summit with the writings of Stanisław Staszic (a burgher) and Hugo Kołłątaj. There was discussion of a reform of towns (including a Jewish reform) and changes in the status of the peasantry by extending to them rights and representation as well as state protection.

      The newly created Permanent Council, a collegial body composed of five ministries, was the first executive organ for both the Crown and Lithuania. The council achieved progress in financial, police, and administrative fields, although it was seen as a channel for Russian influence and was attacked by the oligarchic opposition, who believed it strengthened the position of the king. However, because Stanisław II was convinced that only close collaboration with St. Petersburg constituted a guarantee against further partitions, reforms had to meet with Russian approval. The failure of a projected new code of laws reforming the social system and state-church relations showed the limits of tolerated reform. St. Petersburg seemed to regard its tutelage as firm enough to withdraw its troops from the country in 1780.

The constitution of 1791
      A Russo-Turkish war (Russo-Turkish wars) that began in 1787 created a situation that both the king and the magnate opposition tried to exploit. With Prussia proposing an alliance with the Poles (signed in 1790) and Austria becoming preoccupied with the French Revolution, the so-called Great Sejm, which met in 1788, embarked on sweeping reforms. The king aspired to constitutional monarchy, and the “patriots” preferred a republic presided over by a monarch, while the die-hard conservatives (“false patriots”) opposed all modernization and change. It took the Sejm four years of heated debates, in the course of which the example of the American Revolution was frequently invoked, to demolish the old system and enact a new one. The king, although fearful that the Sejm would go too far and antagonize Russia, eventually joined with the patriots in approving, on May 3, 1791, the first modern written constitution in Europe.

      The new constitution was a revolutionary document that created a constitutional (constitutional law) parliamentary monarchy and gave a new meaning to the term political nation. It combined Polish traditions with the ideas of the Enlightenment. Dynasties, not individuals, would henceforth be elected, beginning with the house of Wettin (Wettin Dynasty). The king's decrees had to be countersigned by ministers responsible to the Sejm, which was partly elected on the basis of property qualifications. Since burghers gained some political rights and the poorest gentry—clients of the magnates—lost some of theirs, birth alone would no longer be a determinant of citizenship. The liberum veto was abolished, as was discrimination on religious grounds. An army 100,000 strong was to be raised. Royal towns recovered their autonomy, but the peasantry was only taken under the protection of the law. Additional laws applying to social and economic problems were to follow.

 Although the constitution was passed through a quasi-coup (1791–92), Stanisław gained for it the approval of most of the sejmiki. It was, however, unacceptable to Russia and Prussia, both of which were fearful lest a revived, strong Poland reclaim its lost lands. Driven by pride and doctrine, a number of die-hard conservatives—among them high dignitaries such as Stanisław Szczęsny Potocki, Seweryn Rzewuski, and Ksawery Branicki—formed the Confederation of Targowica (in St. Petersburg) to overthrow the May constitution. Acting as guarantor of the old Polish regime, Catherine ordered her armies to invade Poland in 1792. There they fought the outnumbered Polish troops under Prince Józef Poniatowski (Poniatowski, Józef Antoni) and General Tadeusz Kościuszko (Kościuszko, Tadeusz), a hero of the American Revolution.

The Second and Third Partitions
      Intimidated, the king and the government capitulated; the May constitution was abolished; and leading patriots emigrated. All this did not prevent Russia and Prussia from further diminishing Poland's territory with the Second Partition in 1793. In 1794 Kościuszko, returning from abroad, raised the banner of insurrection in the rump Commonwealth. It may have been a hopeless undertaking, but the Poles could not see their state destroyed without making a last stand. Kościuszko, assuming the title of chief (naczelnik), ignored the king, but crowds in Warsaw, inspired by the example of revolutionary France, summarily executed a number of Targowica leaders. Offering emancipation measures to the peasants, Kościuszko brought a large number of them under his banner. After winning the battle of Racławice and capturing Warsaw and Wilno, the insurrectionists were defeated by Russian and Prussian forces. The wounded Kościuszko was taken prisoner, and Aleksandr Suvorov (Suvorov, Aleksandr Vasilyevich, Graf Rimniksky, Knyaz Italiysky, Reichsgraf)'s Russian army carried out a wholesale massacre of the population in the Warsaw suburb of Praga.

      The Third Partition followed in 1795, and, as in the preceding cases, the Polish Sejm was obliged to give its consent. Stanisław abdicated and left for St. Petersburg, where he died. In the final count Russia annexed 62 percent of Poland's area and 45 percent of the population, Prussia 20 percent of the area and 23 percent of the population, and Austria 18 and 32 percent, respectively. The three monarchs engaged themselves not to include Poland in their respective titles and thus obliterated its very name. But, while Poland disappeared, the “Polish question,” as the controversy over Poland's status was called, was born, affecting both European diplomacy and the growth of Polish nationalism.

Partitioned Poland
The legions and the duchy of Warsaw
 The 123 years during which Poland existed only as a partitioned land had a profound impact on the Polish psyche. Moreover, major 19th-century developments such as industrialization and modernization were uneven in Poland and proved to be a mixed blessing. Growing Polish nationalism was by necessity that of an oppressed nation and displayed the tendency of “all or nothing.” Compromise became a dirty word, for it implied collaboration with the partitioners; a distrust of authority grew. The tradition of the Polish nobles' republic militated against submission and engendered an attitude of revolutionary defiance.

      Beginning with the Kościuszko Insurrection, the Poles staged uprisings in 1806, 1830, 1846, 1848, and 1863 and a revolution in 1905. Defeats were followed by “organic work” that aimed at strengthening the society and its economy by peaceful means. This other major trend of nationalist aspiration was linked with Positivism, while the insurrectionary tradition became closely connected with Romanticism, but it is an oversimplification to identify the former with realism and the latter with idealism.

 The survival of the Polish nation, which during the 19th century absorbed the peasant masses, was due in no small degree to a culture that continued to be all-Polish and dedicated to the Roman Catholic Church, whose role in maintaining “Polishness” was very important. Numerous writers, from the Romantic poets to Henryk Sienkiewicz (Sienkiewicz, Henryk), winner of the 1905 Nobel Prize for Literature, shaped the Polish mentality. For a stateless nation, ideas and imponderables acquired special importance. A rebirth of statehood, however, could be achieved only under the conditions of a major European upheaval, which would mean a collapse of the partitioning powers; this did not happen until 1918.

      Proud and politically conscious Poles never reconciled themselves to the loss of independence. Conspiracies and attempts to exploit the differences between the partitioning powers arose. Émigrés looked to revolutionary France for assistance, and General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski (Dąbrowski, Jan Henryk) succeeded in 1797 in persuading Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I), then waging his Italian campaign, to create auxiliary Polish legions. In their headquarters the future Polish national anthem— "Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła" (“Poland Has Not Yet Perished”)—was sung for the first time.

      Hopes placed on a French victory over Austria that would open the Polish question were, however, quashed by the Treaty of Campo Formio (Campo Formio, Treaty of). In subsequent struggles Polish legionnaires were employed to fight French battles (French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars) in Germany and in Santo Domingo, but Poland gained no political commitments. Yet the Poles' struggles did have a meaning in the long run, keeping a democratic Polish spirit alive and furnishing cadres to a future Polish army under Napoleon.

 The pro-French military option had a counterpart in the ideas and policies of Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski (Czartoryski, Adam Jerzy, Prince). Appointed Russian foreign minister by Tsar Alexander I (Alexander I), the prince advocated redrawing the map of Europe to take into account national feelings and reconstitute Poland in union with Russia. This approach failed when Alexander committed himself to a struggle against France on the side of Prussia.

      After Napoleon's victories over Prussia in 1806, French troops entered the Prussian part of Poland. Responding to somewhat vague promises by Napoleon, Dąbrowski called on the Poles to rise and organize armed units. In the campaigns that followed, Polish troops played a significant role, and Napoleon could not avoid making some gesture toward the Poles. In 1807, as a result of the compromise peace with Alexander at Tilsit (Tilsit, Treaties of), Prussia (now Sovetsk, Russia), a small state was created out of the Prussian shares in the First and Second Partitions and called the duchy of Warsaw (Warsaw, Duchy of). Its ruler was the king of Saxony, Frederick Augustus I. Gdańsk was made a free city.

      The duchy of Warsaw, so named in order not to offend the partitioners, appeared to the Poles as a nucleus of a revived Poland. Doubled in size after a victorious war against Austria in 1809, it numbered more than four million people and had within its borders Warsaw, Kraków, and Poznań. The constitution imposed by Napoleon was comparable to his other authoritarian constitutions but took into account Polish traditions and customs. The ruler was absolute but used his powers with discretion and later delegated them to his ministers. The Napoleonic Code was introduced, and the constitution abolished “slavery.” But this was interpreted to imply only the personal emancipation of the peasants without transferring to them the land they cultivated. Hence, servile obligations for those who stayed on the land continued in practice.

      Napoleon regarded the duchy as a French outpost in the east, which required the maintenance of a disproportionately large army. The costs of maintaining it, together with the adverse effects of the Continental System, brought the duchy's economy to the brink of ruin. The emperor then took some Polish troops on his payroll, and they fought in Spain, where the charge of the light horse guards at Somosierra in 1808 passed into national legend.

      Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, in which nearly 100,000 Polish soldiers participated, seemed to promise the re-creation of Poland. Napoleon encouraged the Poles to proclaim the restoration of their country but did not commit himself to that goal. In reality, the emperor waged war not to destroy Russia but to force the tsar back into a policy of collaboration with France. Only in his exile at St. Helena did Napoleon speak of the key importance of Poland. His defeat in Russia brought the victorious Russian troops into the duchy of Warsaw. While other allies of Napoleon were abandoning the sinking ship, Prince Józef Poniatowski (Poniatowski, Józef Antoni), who commanded the Polish army, remained loyal and died fighting at the Battle of Leipzig (Leipzig, Battle of) (1813) as a marshal of France.

From the Congress of Vienna (Vienna, Congress of) to 1848
 The victory of the anti-Napoleonic coalition led to a redrafting of the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna (Vienna, Congress of) (1814–15). The Congress paid lip service to Poland by enjoining the partitioning powers to respect the national rights of their Polish subjects (insofar as was compatible with the partitioners' state interests) and by providing for free trade and communications within the borders of the old Commonwealth. The latter turned out to be a dead letter. The territorial issue caused dissent among the powers, but eventually a compromise arrangement left the former duchy of Warsaw, minus Poznania (which went to Prussia) and Kraków (made a free city), to Tsar Alexander under the name of the Kingdom of Poland (Congress Kingdom of Poland). The tsar now controlled about two-thirds of the old Commonwealth—both the area commonly called Congress Kingdom, or Congress Poland, and the former Commonwealth (Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian) provinces that had been annexed during the partitions.

Early Russian rule
 Endowed with a liberal constitution, which was increasingly violated in practice, the settlement satisfied neither the Poles nor the Russians. The former hoped for the kingdom to be united with the eastern “lost lands” and to become a junior partner of the empire. Alexander, who played with the idea, abandoned it under the pressure of Russian circles that were unwilling to give up any of the annexed provinces. The Wilno (Vilnius) educational district (education), which comprised most of them, originally had been chaired by Czartoryski and had been seen as a model for educational reform in Russia. The university in Wilno was the largest in the empire. In 1823 it came under attack; students accused of sedition were jailed or exiled. One of the victims was the great Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz (Mickiewicz, Adam). Thus, basic disagreement about the territorial question was augmented by the anomalous union of an autocratic empire with a liberal kingdom. In the long run a confrontation may have been inevitable, but it was hastened by a gradual deterioration of the position of the Poles.

      The post of viceroy did not go to Prince Czartoryski, by then estranged from Alexander, but went to a servile political nonentity, General Józef Zajączek. The tsar's brother Constantine (Constantine, Veliky Knyaz), the brutal and neurotic grand duke, was made commander in chief. Together with a special representative of the tsar, the intriguing and unscrupulous Nikolay Novosiltsev (Novosiltsev, Nikolay Nikolayevich, Count), they dominated the kingdom while usually at odds with one another. Alexander, autocratic by temperament, was revolted by the phenomenon of a liberal opposition in the Sejm, which he regarded as ingratitude.

      Out of Freemasonry, which the tsar at first patronized, there grew a secret Polish Patriotic Society whose aims could hardly be qualified as treason. Nevertheless, its leader, Major Walerian Łukasiński, became a national martyr when he was thrown into prison, where he languished half-forgotten for more than 40 years until his death. Other conspiracies of more radical character began to spread. The economy of the kingdom, however, developed, and its finances were put in order by the able though heavy-handed Prince Ksawery Drucki-Lubecki (Lubecki, Ksawery Drucki). He showed that Congress Poland was not a burden on the empire.

      The Decembrist uprising (Decembrist) in Russia in 1825, which accompanied the succession to the throne of Nicholas I, had repercussions in Congress Poland. A public trial exonerated the Polish leaders of complicity but made Russo-Polish relations tense. The outbreak of revolutions (1830, Revolutions of) in Belgium and France in 1830 (1830, Revolutions of) hastened the arrival of the November Insurrection. After its inception as a conspiratorial act at the cadet school in Warsaw (November 29, 1830), this uprising developed into a national revolt, marked by the dethronement of the Romanovs (Romanov Dynasty) in Poland and the onset of a full-fledged Russo-Polish war. Hostilities spread into Lithuania and lasted until September 1831.

      Russian victory was followed by severe reprisals, confiscations, arrests, and deportations. The kingdom's constitution was suspended, which meant the end of a separate Polish Sejm, government, and army. The University of Warsaw (founded 1817) was closed, as was the University of Wilno. Cultural Russification in the empire's former Polish provinces involved the liquidation of the Uniate church (Eastern rite church) in 1839 and the abolition of the statute that had preserved the Lithuanian code of law. The Uniate church continued to exist only within the Congress Kingdom (until 1875) and in Galicia (until 1945).

emigration and revolt
      Several thousand Poles, including the political and intellectual elite, emigrated. When they passed through Germany, these émigrés were hailed as champions of freedom, and many of them came to believe in the idea of the solidarity of nations. The émigrés, settling mainly in France, splintered into many factions but grouped mainly around two figures: the moderate conservatives followed Prince Czartoryski (Czartoryski, Adam Jerzy, Prince), and the leftists were led at first by the great historian Joachim Lelewel (Lelewel, Joachim). Later these leftists took a more radical stance as the Polish Democratic Society. Czartoryski concentrated on seeking the support of Britain and France for the Polish cause against Russia. The democrats, distrusting governments and blaming the conservatives for the defeat of the November Insurrection, preached a national and social revolution in cooperation with other peoples that would emancipate the peasantry. The Polish Democratic Society, whose program was embodied in the Poitiers Manifesto of 1836, became the first democratically run, centralized, and disciplined political party of east-central Europe. Karl Marx (Marx, Karl) regarded its concept of agrarian revolution as a major Polish contribution to European revolutionary thought.

 Political and philosophical writings and belles lettres of the émigrés were imbued with an intense patriotic message. The three greatest Polish Romantic poets—Mickiewicz (Mickiewicz, Adam), Juliusz Słowacki (Słowacki, Juliusz), and Zygmunt Krasiński (Krasiński, Zygmunt)—were the national “bards” (wieszcz) who influenced entire generations of Poles. They were followed by the much-later-discovered poet Cyprian Norwid (Norwid, Cyprian). In music the emigration was epitomized by the compositions of Frédéric Chopin (Chopin, Frédéric). A messianic conception of the Polish nation arose, which in its most extreme and mystical form characterized Poland as the Christ of nations, redeeming all oppressed peoples through its suffering and transcendence.

      In partitioned Poland émigré emissaries inspired conspiratorial activities. After the failure of several other attempts, an uprising was planned for 1846. Stanched by arrests in Poznań, it got off the ground only in Kraków (where a national government was proclaimed) and in the neighbouring districts of western Galicia. The Kraków rising was put down by Austrian troops, and the city was annexed; elsewhere peasant antagonism toward the landowners was channeled by Austrian officials against the mostly noble rebels. A Jacquerie (peasant revolt) developed, in the course of which many manors were burned down and landowners killed. This came as a shock to Polish democrats, who had extolled the people (lud) as the backbone and the hope of the nation, and to conservatives, who had warned against a social upheaval.

      The liberal and democratic Revolutions of 1848 (1848, Revolutions of), which spread over most of Europe, raised hopes for the revival of the Polish cause. Poles were in the forefront of numerous struggles, and General Józef Bem (Bem, Józef Zachariasz) became a hero of the Hungarian Revolution. While the tsar threatened to punish the revolutionaries in Germany and in the Habsburg monarchy, liberals in Berlin and Vienna saw the advantage of a Polish buffer state against Russia. In Prussian Poland the authorities tolerated the emergence of a virtual Polish takeover of Poznania, including the formation of an armed militia. However, when the Russian danger receded, Polish nationalism appeared as the main threat, and Prussian troops crushed the militia. The Germans had opted for “healthy national egoism,” which meant that henceforth the Polish strife with the Prussian officialdom would become a nationalist German-Polish struggle.

      Some circles in revolutionary Vienna seemed to consider the possibility of giving up Galicia to a revived Poland. The governor of Galicia was interested mainly in ensuring control over the province. Forestalling Polish plans, he abolished serfdom and used the nascent Ruthenian-Ukrainian movement in eastern Galicia to oppose national aspirations. A limited Polish resistance was broken by bombardments of Kraków and Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine).

      After the Revolutions of 1848, which revealed the sharpness of national conflicts, the Poles began to realize that a Poland within the prepartitions borders—a smaller Polish state was out of the question not only for Poles but also for Marx and Friedrich Engels (Engels, Friedrich)—might have to be a federation of distinct nationalities and no longer a unitary country. The emancipation of the peasantry (peasant) in Galicia (already emancipated under Prussia some two decades earlier) made the peasant question a central issue—namely, whether the peasants could be absorbed into the Polish national fabric or whether their first loyalty would be to the partitioning monarchs. The issue became acute in the Russian partition, which had remained passive in 1848.

The January 1863 uprising and its aftermath
      After humiliating defeats in the Crimean War, the Russian Empire under Tsar Alexander II embarked on major liberal reforms. For Congress Poland (Congress Kingdom of Poland) this meant political amnesty, conciliatory measures in cultural and religious matters, and the creation of the Agricultural Society to tackle the peasant question. Simultaneously, Alexander II warned the Poles against political “daydreaming.” The Agricultural Society, a union of reformist landowners headed by the popular Hrabia (count) Andrzej Zamoyski, debated changes in the agrarian sector but found it hard to avoid politics. A patriotic movement later known as the Whites grew around and partly out of the society. It included landowners and members of the bourgeoisie (often of German or Jewish origin), such as the banker Leopold Kronenberg. At this time a Polish-Jewish dialogue promoted close cooperation.

      On the other side of the political spectrum, there developed a number of conspiratorial groups composed of students, younger army officers, artisans, and members of the lesser gentry. Subsequently called the Reds, these radicals acted as a pressure group on the Agricultural Society and staged demonstrations commemorating Polish patriots or historic events. In 1861, the year of the peasant emancipation decree in the Russian Empire, demonstrators in Warsaw clashed with Russian troops, and several were killed or wounded.

 The Russians, determined to be firm with the radicals, sought a dialogue with the upper classes. But Zamoyski, worried lest he appear subservient to the Russians, demanded a return to the guarantees of the 1815 constitution. Such demands were rejected, and Zamoyski was eventually ordered to leave the country. The Russian viceroy turned to Zamoyski's rival, Margrabia (margrave) Aleksander Wielopolski (Wielopolski, Count Aleksander), whose program of limited concessions (Polonization of education, restoration of local self-government, transformation of the peasants into tenants, and emancipation of the Jews) was acceptable to St. Petersburg. Wielopolski's contempt for public opinion and high-handed methods—especially the disbanding of the Agricultural Society and a showdown with the Roman Catholic Church—estranged him from the Poles. Tension grew after a massacre of demonstrators near the castle square.

      Wielopolski, appointed the head of government in 1862, introduced reforms that were not insignificant but did not include peasant emancipation. He was viewed as an enemy by both the Reds, who created an underground National Committee, and the Whites, who also set up a clandestine organization. Wielopolski decided to break the Reds by drafting large numbers of them into the Russian army. In January 1863 the National Committee, left with no choice but to take up the challenge, called on the peoples of Poland, Lithuania, and Rus (Ukraine) to rise, decreed peasant emancipation, and appealed for support from the Jews (“Poles of Mosaic faith”).

      Thousands responded to the call; however, because the insurgents (January Insurrection) had failed to capture any town or compact territory, the National Committee, transformed into the National Government, had to operate anonymously underground. In the spring the Whites joined the uprising, contributing finances and international contacts but also seeking to control the movement. Fighting extended into Lithuanian and Belarusian lands but not into Ukraine. In some instances the peasantry participated in the struggle, and in others they cooperated with the Russians. France proffered encouragement and hinted that the blood of the insurgents would mark the boundaries of an independent Poland. But in practice France, Britain, and Austria did not go beyond joint diplomatic démarches in St. Petersburg. Prussia sided with Russia. The insurgents, equipped with primitive weapons, fought doggedly as partisans in small detachments and succeeded in keeping the rising going until the autumn of 1864, when its last and most prominent leader, Romuald Traugutt, was captured and executed.

      The decades that followed the January Insurrection opened a new phase in the history of partitioned Poland. Harsh reprisals in the kingdom—now called the Vistula Land—were designed to reduce it to a mere province of Russia, denied even the benefits of subsequent reforms in Russia proper. Large garrisons and emergency legislation kept the Poles down. Many individuals involved in the rising were executed or deported to Siberia; thousands of landed estates were confiscated. The Uniate church was abolished, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy was harassed. A huge Orthodox church emerged in the centre of Warsaw.

      The government believed that it could resolve the Polish question by winning over the peasantry (peasant) (emancipated in 1864) and pitting them against the szlachta and the Catholic Church, as well as by eradicating the historical ties between the “western provinces” and Poland. Catholics could no longer buy land there. In Lithuania the brutal governor Mikhail Muravyov was nicknamed “the hangman.” The post-1863 period marked the beginning of a final parting of the ways between the Poles and the Lithuanians and Ukrainians (the latter also were undergoing a national revival), but in the long run Russian policies did not accomplish their aims.

      The emancipated peasantry, coming into direct contact with the Russian officialdom and antagonized by anti-Catholic and Russification policies, became more self-consciously Polish. The dispossessed gentry moved to towns, transmitting their values to a growing intelligentsia, which assumed national leadership. As the Industrial Revolution penetrated Congress Poland, the growth of a bourgeoisie and of an industrial proletariat was accelerated.

      The fastest and greatest development was in textiles and was centred on Łódź—the Polish Manchester—the population of which increased 10-fold between 1865 and 1897. Mining, metallurgy, and food-processing industries followed suit. Vistula Land became the most developed part of the Russian Empire, but its development was uneven and its modernization partial. Moreover, its reliance on the eastern markets made the country dependent on Russia.

      Socioeconomic progress contrasted with political stagnation. The Polish question largely disappeared from the European agenda after 1870. Blaming romantic idealism for the catastrophic uprising, people rejected political activities and extolled the value of “organic work,” progress, and modernization. Warsaw Positivism, deriving its name and inspiration from the thought of Auguste Comte (Comte, Auguste), provided the rationale for these views.

Accommodation with the ruling governments
      Uprisings also were condemned as folly by conservatives in Galicia, where the Kraków historical school critically reinterpreted Poland's history. The conservatives were willing to cooperate with Vienna in exchange for concessions, and, as the Habsburg monarchy transformed itself into a dual Austro-Hungarian Empire (Austria-Hungary) in 1867, Galicia obtained local autonomy. From the 1860s the province was largely Polonized. Persecuted elsewhere, Polish culture could flourish there; the Universities of Kraków and Lwów (Lemberg) and the Academy of Arts and Sciences became cultural beacons radiating across the partition borders. There was less progress in the socioeconomic field. Ruled by conservative landowners, Galicia remained a poor and backward province. In its eastern part nascent Ukrainian nationalism clashed with that of the Poles.

      The situation for Poles in Prussia at times appeared critical. German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (Bismarck, Otto von)'s anti-Polish policies culminated in the Kulturkampf, designed to strengthen the cohesion of the newly created German Empire. In addition, policies of cultural and linguistic Germanization and German settlement in the provinces continuously threatened the Polish and Roman Catholic character of Poznania and West Prussia. A colonization commission was set up in 1886. Eight years later a society for the promotion of German interests in the east came into being. The Poles called it Hakata, after the initials of its founders. The Polish response took the form of credit unions, cooperative associations, and self-help institutions. Showing great solidarity and organizational talents, working hard, and raising socioeconomic standards, Prussian Poles developed characteristics that distinguished them from their countrymen under Russian or Austrian rule.

      In the post-1863 decades, prevailing political attitudes took the form of Triple Loyalism, the belief that material and cultural progress in each part of divided Poland was predicated on loyalty to the ruling governments. This policy seemed to produce beneficial results only under Austria. The pursuit of riches was being represented as essentially patriotic even if realized under the harsh conditions of early capitalism. For the masses, with their rapid population growth, living conditions were deplorable. This led to their radicalization on the one hand and to a sizable emigration on the other. In the period 1870–1914, about 3.6 million people, mostly peasants, emigrated from Polish lands to the United States.

      A reaction to that situation developed in the 1890s that had both a nationalist and a socialist character. The National Democratic movement originated with a Polish League organized in Switzerland; by 1893 the organization had transformed into the clandestine National League, based in Warsaw. It stressed its all-Polish character, rejected loyalism, and promoted national resistance, even uprisings, when opportune. Its nationalist ideology tinged with populism gradually evolved into “integral” nationalism, which placed national interest and national egoism above everything else. Affected by social Darwinist (social Darwinism) theories of survival of the fittest and natural selection, Polish nationalism advocated a struggle not only against the partitioning powers but also against the Ukrainians and the Jews, whose interests were seen as opposed to those of the Poles. The father of this integral nationalism was Roman Dmowski (Dmowski, Roman), whose writings stressed the need to create a modern Polish nation deriving its strength from the ethnically Polish masses.

 Polish socialism, which in its early manifestations was purely a class movement with an emphasis on internationalism, began by the 1890s to stress an indissoluble connection between social revolution and Poland's independence. At a conference held in Paris in 1892, the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) came into existence. Illegal under Russian rule, it had a counterpart in Galicia in the Polish Social Democratic Party led by Ignacy Daszyński (Daszyński, Ignacy). The dominant figure in the PPS was Józef Piłsudski (Piłsudski, Józef), who saw the historic role of socialism in Poland as that of a destroyer of reactionary tsardom.

 Doubly oppressed (nationally and socially), the Polish proletariat was to be the force to carry the struggle for social justice and national liberation. Opposing such views was the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, the forerunner of Polish communism. Its leading theorist, Rosa Luxemburg (Luxemburg, Rosa), argued that national independence would not promote the interests of the proletariat, who were integrated economically into the three partitioning states.

      The outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 created a tense atmosphere and sharpened the basic differences between the major political trends. While Dmowski and his supporters sought to extract concessions from the tsarist regime, Piłsudski promoted revolutionary nationalistic tactics. Both politicians went to Tokyo, where they presented their opposite programs to the Japanese. At the beginning of 1905, just as the revolution began to sweep Russia, Congress Poland responded to events with a school strike and a general workers' strike, while Piłsudski's PPS squads battled with Russian troops and police. The government offered limited concessions to the Poles in Congress Poland and the western provinces. Dmowski's larger hopes, bound with the creation of the Russian Duma (Duma)—in which the Poles were mainly represented by National Democrats—proved unfounded. The PPS, in turn, suffered internal splits, Piłsudski moving increasingly in an insurrectionary (national), as opposed to a revolutionary (social), direction.

      During the first decade of the 20th century, a mass political culture developed in Polish lands. The Russian Revolution of 1905 contributed to the growth of a civil society in Congress Poland (with legal political parties and trade unions), though it was constantly undermined by Russian rule. In Austria the introduction of universal manhood suffrage in 1907 widened the political involvement of the masses. The Polish peasant movement that had risen in Galicia in the 1890s was beset by schisms. In 1913 there emerged from it the Polish Peasant Party led by Wincenty Witos (Witos, Wincenty). In the German partition a Polish national revival in Upper Silesia led by Wojciech Korfanty (Korfanty, Wojciech) and one on a lesser scale in East Prussia affected for the first time regions that had not been part of the prepartition Commonwealth.

Poland in the 20th century
The rebirth of Poland
 With the outbreak of World War I, (World War I) two major political trends emerged among the Poles. Józef Piłsudski, distancing himself from socialist politics, became a military leader and commander of a brigade that fought on the Austrian side. His cooperation with the Central Powers was tactical, part of his pursuit of the goal of complete independence. Expecting a collapse of the three partitioners, he prepared for a Polish fait accompli. In 1915 the Germans and the Austrians drove out the Russians from Congress Poland, and on November 5, 1916, they issued the Two Emperors' Manifesto proclaiming the creation of the Polish kingdom. Its status and borders remained undefined, but the document internationalized the Polish question. Piłsudski, who refused to raise Polish troops without binding political commitments from the Central Powers, came into conflict with them and in 1917 was imprisoned in Magdeburg, Germany.

      Roman Dmowski's alternative policy of linking the Polish cause with the Franco-Russian alliance appeared promising when the first formal offer of Polish autonomy and unification came from the Russian commander in chief, Grand Duke Nicholas (Nicholas), on August 14, 1914. Subsequent moves by the Russian government, however, revealed the hollowness of such promises. Russian concessions to the Poles, culminating in the tsar's Christmas Day 1916 order, were made only in reaction to the Central Powers' initiatives and victories.

      The chances of Polish independence increased radically in 1917 when the United States entered the war and two revolutions (Russian Revolution of 1917) shook Russia. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (Wilson, Woodrow), to whom the great Polish patriot and pianist Ignacy Paderewski (Paderewski, Ignacy Jan) had gained access through Colonel Edward M. House (House, Edward M.), already spoke of a united and autonomous Poland in a January 1917 address. The Russian Provisional Government, somewhat ambiguously, and the Petrograd (St. Petersburg) Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, more explicitly, declared their recognition of Poland's right to independence in March 1917.

      At the Brest-Litovsk conference (Brest-Litovsk, treaties of) (December 22, 1917–March 3, 1918), the Bolsheviks (Bolshevik) denounced the Central Powers' handling of the Polish question. On January 8, 1918, Wilson's Fourteen Points appeared. Point 13 declared that an independent Polish state should be erected, to be composed of indisputably Polish inhabitants and with a secure access to the sea. The Inter-Allied conference (June 1918) endorsed Polish independence, thus crowning the efforts of Dmowski (Dmowski, Roman), who had promoted the Polish cause in the West since 1915. In August 1917 he had set up a Polish National Committee in Paris, which the French viewed as a quasi-government. Under its aegis a Polish army composed mainly of volunteers from the United States was placed under the command of General Józef Haller.

 With the end of the war on November 11, 1918, Piłsudski, released by the German revolutionaries, returned to Warsaw. The German-appointed Regency Council handed over its powers to him, and Piłsudski successfully negotiated a German evacuation of the kingdom. A leftist government in Lublin headed by Daszyński resigned in his favour, but Dmowski's Polish National Committee, representing the Polish political right, did not. The danger of two rival governments was avoided through the mediation of Paderewski. Under a compromise implemented in January 1919, Piłsudski remained chief of state and commander in chief; Paderewski, who became premier and foreign minister, and Dmowski represented Poland at the Paris Peace Conference.

      At that stage the Polish government controlled only Congress Poland and western Galicia. In the east the Ukrainians, having proclaimed their own republic, battled the Poles. Farther east the Poles clashed with the Bolsheviks (Bolshevik), who were advancing into Belarusian and Lithuanian lands. A Polish uprising in Poznania led to a partial seizure of the province, but the fate of Prussian (Prussia) Poland lay in the hands of the peacemakers, who had also the last word about the territorial settlement.

From the Treaty of Versailles to the Treaty of Riga
 The Polish program at the Paris Peace Conference was affected by the Piłsudski-Dmowski dualism. Piłsudski's approach was “federalist,” Dmowski's “incorporationist.” The former strove to establish a bloc of states corresponding to prepartition Poland, but he was flexible on the issue of the borders of those states. The latter postulated a centralized Polish state, with its eastern border determined by the Second Partition but also including Upper Silesia and parts of East Prussia transferred from Germany in the west. France favoured strengthening Poland at Germany's expense, but Britain opposed that approach. Wilson occupied a middle position.

      The borders drawn under the Treaty of Versailles (Versailles, Treaty of) (June 1919) roughly corresponded to Polish-German frontiers before the partitions, except that Gdańsk became the free city of Danzig, and plebiscites were held in parts of East Prussia and Upper Silesia to determine which nation these regions wished to join. The East Prussian plebiscite of July 1920 (at the height of the Russo-Polish War) was won by Germany. In the Silesian plebiscite of March 1921—preceded and followed by three Polish uprisings—682 communes voted for Poland and 792 for Germany. The region was formally divided in October 1921.

      The drawing of the southern border under the Treaty of Saint-Germain (Saint-Germain, Treaty of) (September 1919) was preceded by an armed Czech-Polish clash in January 1919 in the duchy of Cieszyn (Teschen). In July 1920 the area was divided, leaving a sizable Polish minority in Czechoslovakia. As for the embattled eastern Galicia, the Allies authorized a Polish administration and military occupation in 1919. Final recognition of Polish sovereignty came only in 1923, the delay being due to the Russian situation.

      An armed struggle between the Bolsheviks and Poland (Russo-Polish War) resulted from Russian attempts to carry the revolution westward and from Piłsudski's federalist policy. The Great Powers failed to pursue either an all-out intervention against the Bolsheviks or a policy of peace. An Allied proposal for a temporary border between Bolshevik Russia and Poland (called the Curzon Line) was unacceptable to either side. Except for an alliance in April 1920 with the Ukrainian leader Symon Petlyura (Petlyura, Symon), whose troops accompanied the Poles as they captured Kiev in May, Poland fought in isolation. An offensive by the Red Army drove the Poles back to the outskirts of Warsaw, but Piłsudski's counterattack on August 16 (the “Miracle of the Vistula”) saved the country from catastrophe. In the compromise Peace of Riga (March 1921), the Bolsheviks abandoned their plans to communize Poland, but the Poles had to abandon their federalist concepts. The new border, which corresponded roughly to the 1793 frontier, cut across mixed Ukrainian and Belarusian territories. In the north it included Wilno, captured by General Lucjan Żeligowski, a move that opened a chasm between Lithuania and Poland.

The Second Republic
      With an area of about 150,000 square miles (389,000 square km) and more than 27 million inhabitants (more than 35 million by 1939), interwar Poland was the sixth largest country in Europe. Devastated by the years of hostilities, the state had to be reconstructed of three parts with different political, economic, and judicial systems and traditions. More than three-fifths of the population was dependent on agriculture that was badly in need of structural change: agrarian reform and redistribution of land that would relieve the demographic pressure (e.g., hidden unemployment) and modernization of production that could alleviate the disparity between agrarian and industrial prices (“the price scissors”). Industrialization was essential, but local capital was insufficient, and foreign investors did not always operate in Poland's interests.

      Nonetheless, the Polish economy made important strides in the mid-1920s through the reforms of Władysław Grabski (Grabski, Władysław). The Great Depression of the 1930s had a crippling effect on Poland's economy, but it began to recover under the guidance of Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski, whose earlier achievements included the building of a new port and town of Gdynia.

      Pressing political problems, such as the issue of minorities, exacerbated economic difficulties. Ukrainians (some 16 percent of the total population, according to estimates), Jews (Jew) (about 10 percent), Belarusians (about 6 percent), and Germans (about 3 percent) lived in a state that, although multiethnic, was based on a single-nation ideology. The Ukrainians never fully accepted Polish rule, and Ukrainian extremists engaged in terrorism to which the Poles responded with brutal “pacifications.” In the case of the large and unassimilated Jewish population, concentrated in certain areas and professions, anti-Semitism was rampant, especially in the 1930s, though Poland never introduced anti-Jewish legislation.

      Interwar politics centred to a large extent on the search for a constitutional model that would reconcile traditional Polish strivings for liberty with the need for a strong government. Piłsudski gave up his provisional powers to a Sejm elected in January 1919 but continued as the head of state under a provisional “Little Constitution.” The Sejm quickly became an arena of interparty strife, with the right grouped around the National Democrats, the left grouped around the PPS and radical Populists, and the centre represented mainly by the Polish Peasant Party. The illegal Communist Party, formed in 1918, was of marginal importance. The constitution of 1921 made the parliament supreme vis-à-vis the executive. The proportional system of universal suffrage (which included women) necessitated coalition cabinets, and, except at times of national crisis, the left and the right hardly cooperated. In 1922 a nationalist fanatic assassinated the first president of the republic, Gabriel Narutowicz, an event that underscored the extent of blind partisanship.

      In May 1926 Piłsudski (who had held the title of marshal since 1920) came out of his three-year retirement. Demanding moral and political cleansing (sanacja), he staged an armed demonstration intended to force President Stanisław Wojciechowski (Wojciechowski, Stanisław) to dismiss the government. Fighting in Warsaw ensued and ended in victory for Piłsudski. His candidate, Ignacy Mościcki (Mościcki, Ignacy), became president and remained in office until World War II. Piłsudski rejected fascism and totalitarianism but promoted an authoritarian regime in which his former legionnaires played a key role. Worshiped by his supporters and hated by his opponents, he became a father figure for large segments of the population. The pro-Piłsudski Non-Party Bloc of Cooperation with the Government (BBWR) became his political instrument, used at first against the opposition rightist National Democrats. In 1930 Piłsudski responded to the challenge of the centre-left opposition (Centrolew) by ordering the arrest and trial of its leaders, including three-time premier Witos. The brutal Brześć affair (named for the fortress in which the politicians involved were imprisoned) was seen as a blot on the Piłsudski regime, even though the sentences were light and some of the accused were permitted to emigrate.

      Following the 1930 elections, the BBWR had a majority in the Sejm. In April 1935 it was able to push through a new constitution, which placed the president above all other branches of government. An electoral law undercut the political parties that boycotted the 1935 parliamentary elections. In May Piłsudski (Piłsudski, Józef) died, leaving the country as a dictatorship without a dictator. His legend could not be bequeathed. A decomposition of the sanacja regime ensued. Attempts to pass on Piłsudski's mantle to the new commander in chief, Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz, were unsuccessful, as was the artificial creation of a governmental party—the Camp of National Unity. The peasant parties (now united); the increasingly chauvinist National Party (as the National Democrats were by then known), with its fascist splinter party, the National Radical Camp; and the socialists all opposed the regime and achieved success in municipal elections. Socioeconomic tension was translated into peasant strikes in the countryside and riots in towns.

      Political and socioeconomic difficulties contrasted with the richness of intellectual, artistic, and scholarly life of the period. Twenty years of independence had given the Poles a new confidence that proved essential in the trials of World War II. Poland's international position between an inimical and revisionist Germany (which constantly denounced the “corridor” (Polish Corridor) separating it from East Prussia) and the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was dangerous from the start. The tasks of Polish diplomacy during the interwar period were exceedingly difficult. The only option was to remain neutral in regard to its two giant neighbours while concluding alliances (in 1921) with France and Romania. An alliance with Czechoslovakia, which might have strengthened both countries, foundered on basic differences of approach to international relations, particularly when Colonel Józef Beck (Beck, Józef) became Piłsudski's foreign minister in 1932.

      In 1932 Poland succeeded in signing a nonaggression pact with Soviet Russia, and in 1934 it made a declaration of nonaggression with Nazi Germany (Nazi Party). The enmity of the Nazis for the Soviets seemed to preclude a rapprochement (such as the Russo-German agreement at Rapallo, Italy, in 1922). Poland maintained its alliance with France, though the treaties of Locarno (Locarno, Pact of) (1925) and subsequent Franco-German cooperation diminished the value of the alliance. Warsaw vainly sought to encourage Paris—through defiant gestures in Danzig and vague war-prevention overtures—to adopt a strong line against Nazi Germany. But the French did not react forcibly even to the German remilitarization of the Rhineland (1936).

 Poland continued its policy of balance, but, in profiting from the German action against Czechoslovakia by gaining the disputed part of Cieszyn (October 1938), it gave the impression of being in collusion with Adolf Hitler (Hitler, Adolf). However, when confronted with German demands for an extraterritorial road through the “corridor” and the annexation of Danzig, as well as with an invitation to join the Anti-Comintern Pact, Beck knew that his country's independence was at stake. Accepting British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Chamberlain, Neville)'s guarantee of March 1939 and turning it into a full-fledged alliance with Britain, Warsaw rejected German demands. On September 1, 1939, Hitler, having secured Soviet cooperation through the German-Soviet (Molotov-Ribbentrop) Nonaggression Pact (German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact) a week earlier, launched an all-out attack against Poland.

 The Poles, fighting alone against the Wehrmacht's overwhelming might, particularly in air power and armour, were doomed. On September 17, 1939, the Red Army invaded Poland from the east, and on September 28 Hitler and Joseph Stalin (Stalin, Joseph) agreed on a final partition, the Soviets taking eastern Galicia and lands east of the Bug River (i.e., more than half of the country, where the Poles constituted about two-fifths of the population). After farcical plebiscites in October and November, these territories were incorporated into Soviet Ukraine and Belorussia. Between 1940 and 1941 about 1.5 million people were deported to the U.S.S.R. Wilno was handed over to Lithuania (Lithuania, grand duchy of), which by 1940 had become one of the Soviet republics. While the Soviets singled out class enemies, the Germans—who split the area they occupied into a central region called the General Government and territories annexed to the Reich—emphasized race.

      The Holocaust claimed the lives of some three million Polish Jews, herded into ghettoes and killed in extermination camps, of which Auschwitz (Oświęcim) was but one. Thousands of Jews died fighting, as in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. The Nazis also engaged in mass terror, deporting and executing non-Jewish Poles in an attempt to destroy the intelligentsia and extinguish Polish culture. Priests and politicians were killed; children of prominent citizens were kidnapped; and many Poles were forced into hard labour.

 From 1939 a Polish underground (resistance), one of the largest in occupied Europe, resisted the Nazis through a veritable secret state and a Home Army (AK) loyal to the Polish government-in-exile. The latter was a legal successor of the government that on September 17, 1939, had crossed into Romania and was interned there. Set up in Paris and moved to London after the collapse of France, it was led by the premier and commander in chief, General Władysław Sikorski (Sikorski, Władysław). Under his command Polish troops, organized in the west, fought in all theatres of war in Europe and North Africa. Polish pilots played a disproportionately large role in the Battle of Britain (Britain, Battle of) (1940–41), and the small Polish navy also distinguished itself. A major Polish contribution to the war effort lay in discovering and passing on to the Allies the secret of the German ciphering machine Enigma.

      The German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 changed Poland's position drastically, for one of its foes now became a member of the Grand Alliance. Under British pressure the Polish government-in-exile reestablished relations with the Soviet Union through the Sikorski-Maysky accord, accepting the annulment of the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty without an explicit Soviet renunciation of annexed Polish territory. The Soviets promised to release the deported Poles—more than 230,000 Poles had been prisoners of war since 1939—and agreed to the creation of a Polish army under the command of General Władysław Anders (Anders, Władysław). Difficulties appeared almost from the start, however. The Soviets sought British and U.S. approval for their territorial gains. Friction developed regarding the Polish army in Russia, which in 1942 was evacuated to the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Soviets were promoting Polish communist activity both in the U.S.S.R. and in occupied Poland, where a Polish Workers' Party (PPR) emerged in 1942 with its own small People's Guard, though this force was much smaller than the AK.

      British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Churchill, Winston), not appreciating fully Stalin's hegemonic designs, believed that timely territorial concessions to the U.S.S.R. would preserve the internal independence of postwar Poland. During three visits to Washington, D.C. (1941–42), Sikorski outlined his ideas about postwar security in east-central Europe, including a Czechoslovak-Polish confederation; however, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Roosevelt, Franklin D.) regarded Polish issues as secondary. For him, as for Churchill, the importance of the Soviet Union as an ally was crucial, and neither leader was prepared to see relations with Stalin founder on the Polish rock.

      This became apparent when they were undeterred by the German announcement on April 13, 1943, of the discovery in the Katyn Forest of mass graves (Katyn Massacre) of more than 4,000 Polish officers who had been captured by the Red Army. The Polish search for some 15,000 missing men had previously met with a Soviet profession of complete ignorance as to their fate. Stalin accused the Sikorski government—which had asked the International Red Cross to investigate—of complicity in Nazi propaganda and severed diplomatic relations with the government-in-exile. Only in 1992 did postcommunist Moscow publicly acknowledge its guilt and furnish to Warsaw supporting documents, which also indicated the locations of other mass executions.

      Sikorski's death in a mysterious plane crash in Gibraltar (July 1943) was a great blow to the Poles at a time when Soviet offensives after the victories of Stalingrad (Stalingrad, Battle of) and Kursk (Kursk, Battle of) had brought the Red Army closer to the prewar Polish borders. The new prime minister and Peasant Party leader, Stanisław Mikołajczyk (Mikołajczyk, Stanisław), could not rival Sikorski's standing and was at odds with the new commander in chief, General Kazimierz Sosnkowski. The Soviets demanded, as the price for reestablishing relations with the Polish government, territorial concessions and the dismissal of several of its members. The Soviets also provided support for Polish communist organizations such as the Union of Polish Patriots in Moscow and the National Committee of the Homeland, headed by Bolesław Bierut (Bierut, Bolesław) and set up in Poland in December 1943. At the Tehrān Conference late in 1943, Churchill's proposal that the Soviet-Polish border coincide with the Curzon Line (roughly similar to the Ribbentrop-Molotov line) and that Poland be compensated at Germany's cost was accepted by Roosevelt and Stalin. The Mikołajczyk government, which was opposed to such a territorial deal, was not informed.

      Roosevelt suggested to Mikołajczyk, visiting Washington, D.C., in June 1944, that the AK show its goodwill by cooperating with the Red Army. Such cooperation, however, when attempted in areas that had been part of prewar eastern Poland, was followed by arrests and deportation or conscription into the Soviet-sponsored Polish Kościuszko Division commanded by General Zygmunt Berling. On August 1, 1944, just as Mikołajczyk, prompted by the British, went to Moscow, the AK, under the supreme command of General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, rose in Warsaw against the retreating Germans.

      The Warsaw Uprising constitutes one of the most tragic and controversial events of the war. The AK planned to capture the capital and act on behalf of Mikołajczyk's government as host to the entering Red Army. It was assumed that the Soviets would not dare to disregard this demonstration of the Polish right to self-determination. In the absence of Soviet military assistance, the rising was doomed, yet, had the AK not risen, it would have been accused of inactivity by the communists. The insurgents fought alone for 63 days, because the Soviets not only halted their own offensive but also refused to allow Allied planes to help resupply the AK. When Warsaw capitulated, the city had been almost totally destroyed, and 200,000 civilians and more than 10,000 combatants had perished.

      Stalin had no interest in assisting the Polish underground and did not hesitate to defy world public opinion when, in March 1945, he had 16 leaders of the underground arrested and tried in Moscow. Their elimination was linked to the process of building a communist-dominated Polish state. In July 1944 a Polish Committee of National Liberation was set up in Moscow (“officially” in Chełm), issued its Lublin Manifesto (July 22), and signed a secret territorial accord with the U.S.S.R. Mikołajczyk, caught between British pressure and the resistance of his government, resigned in November 1944.

      Ignoring the socialist Tomasz Arciszewski, who succeeded Mikołajczyk as premier, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed with Stalin at the Yalta Conference (February 1945) to create a Provisional Polish Government of National Unity. Its core was the Lublin Polish Committee of National Liberation (already recognized by Stalin as the government), to which some politicians from Poland and abroad were added. Britain and the United States recognized that government on July 5, 1945, simultaneously withdrawing recognition from the government in London. A large Polish political emigration emerged as a voice of a free Poland and remained active during the next 40 years.

 The postwar Polish republic, renamed in 1952 the Polish People's Republic, occupied an area some 20 percent smaller than prewar Poland, and its population of almost 30 million rose to nearly 39 million in the following four decades. The Holocaust, together with the expulsion of several million Germans and population transfers with the U.S.S.R., left Poland virtually homogeneous in its ethnic composition. The expulsion of the Germans was approved by the Potsdam Conference, but the final decision regarding the new German-Polish border along the Oder-Neisse Line (Oder–Neisse Line) was left to a future peace conference. The U.S.S.R. cleverly capitalized on its status as the sole guarantor of this border, which gave Poland a long seacoast, with such harbours as Szczecin and Gdańsk, and such natural resources as coal and zinc in Silesia.

      Despite the potential for wealth established by the redrawn borders, the fact remained that the war had devastated Poland. Warsaw, Wrocław, and Gdańsk lay in ruins, and social conditions bordered on chaos. Huge migrations, mainly to the ex-German “western territories,” added to the instability. Fighting against the remnants of the Ukrainian Liberation Army was followed by the mass relocation of the Ukrainians (Operation Vistula) in 1947. Persecutions of the AK and political opponents (the National Party was outlawed) by the communists led to armed clashes that continued for several years. It was under these conditions that a Jewish pogrom occurred in Kielce in June 1946, claiming more than 40 lives.

      Bierut, who was formally nonpartisan but in fact was an old communist, assumed the presidency. In a cabinet headed by a socialist and dominated by communists and fellow travelers, Mikołajczyk (Mikołajczyk, Stanisław) became deputy prime minister. He successfully re-created a genuine Polish Peasant Party (PSL), which was larger than the PPR and its socialist and democratic satellite parties (the PPS and the SD, respectively). Supported by all enemies of communism, Mikołajczyk sought to challenge the PPR in the “free and unfettered” elections stipulated by the Yalta accords. His opponents included the ruthless secretary-general of the PPR, Władysław Gomułka (Gomułka, Władysław), a “home communist,” and the men in charge of security (Jakub Berman) and of the economy (Hilary Minc), who had returned from Russia.

      The Sovietization of Poland, accompanied by terror, included the nationalization of industry and the expropriation of privately owned land parcels larger than 125 acres (50 hectares). Yet in some areas (namely, matters concerning the church and foreign policy), the communists trod lightly during this transition period. The test of strength between Mikołajczyk and the PPR first occurred during the referendum of 1946—the results of which, favourable to Mikołajczyk, were falsified—and then in the general elections of 1947, which were hardly “free and unfettered.” Mikołajczyk, fearing for his life, fled the country. The victorious communists completed their monopoly of power in 1948 by absorbing the increasingly dependent PPS to become the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP).

 Over the next few years the Bierut regime in Poland closely followed the Stalinist model in politics (adopting the Soviet-style 1952 constitution), economics (emphasizing heavy industry and collectivization of agriculture), military affairs (appointing the Soviet Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky (Rokossovsky, Konstantin Konstantinovich) as commander of Polish forces and adhering to the Warsaw Pact of 1955), foreign policy (joining the Communist Information Bureau, the agency of international communism), culture, and the rule of the secret police. Political terror in Poland, however, did not include, as elsewhere, show trials of fallen party leaders—Gomułka, denounced as a “Titoist (Tito, Josip Broz)” and imprisoned in 1951, was spared such a trial. Moreover, the primate of Poland, Stefan Wyszyński (Wyszyński, Stefan), could still negotiate a modus vivendi in 1950, though, as the pressure on the church increased, he was arrested in September 1953 (by which time he had been named a cardinal).

      The death of Stalin in March 1953 opened a period of struggle for succession and change in the U.S.S.R. that had repercussions throughout the Soviet bloc. The interlude of liberalization that followed culminated in the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeyevich)'s denunciation (Khrushchev's secret speech) of Stalinism at the 20th Party Congress in February 1956. With the sudden death of Bierut, anti-Stalinists in Poland raised their heads; a violently suppressed workers' strike (Poznań Riots) in Poznań in June 1956 shook the whole country. Gomułka, who believed in a “Polish road to socialism,” became a candidate for the leadership of the party. What appeared as his confrontation with Khrushchev and other top Soviet leaders who descended on Warsaw in October and threatened intervention made Gomułka popular throughout Poland. In reality the Polish leader convinced Khrushchev of his devotion to communism and of the need for a reformist approach to strengthen its doctrine.

      Important changes followed, among them Polish-Soviet accords on trade and military cooperation (Rokossovsky and most Soviet officers left the country), a significant reduction of political terror, an end to forced collectivization, the release of Cardinal Wyszyński (followed by some concessions in the religious sphere), and increased contacts with the West, including freer travel. Gomułka's objective, however, was to bridge the gap between the people and the party, thereby legitimizing the latter. Hence, the period of reform known as “Polish October” did not prove to be the beginning of an evolution of communism that revisionists at home and politically motivated émigrés had hoped for.

      Within a decade economic reform slowed down, the activity of the church was circumscribed, and intellectuals were subjected to pressures. Demonstrations by students in favour of intellectual freedom led to reprisals in March 1968 that brought to an end the so-called “little stabilization” that Gomułka had succeeded in achieving. Ever more autocratic in his behaviour, Gomułka became involved in an “anti-Zionist” campaign that resulted in purges within the party, administration, and army. Thousands of people of Jewish origin emigrated.

      Also in 1968, Polish troops joined the Soviet-led intervention in Czechoslovakia. In 1970 Gomułka registered a foreign-policy success by signing a treaty with West Germany that involved a recognition of the Oder-Neisse border. In December 1970, however, major strikes in the shipyards at Gdańsk, Gdynia, and Szczecin, provoked by price increases, led to bloody clashes with police and troops in which many were killed. Gomułka had to step down and was replaced as first secretary by the more pragmatic head of the party in Silesia, Edward Gierek (Gierek, Edward).

      The Gierek decade (1970–80) began with ambitious attempts to modernize the country's economy and raise living standards. Exploiting East-West détente, he attracted large foreign loans and investments. Initial successes, however, turned sour as the world oil crisis and mismanagement of the economy produced huge budget deficits, which Gierek tried to cover through increased borrowing. The policy of consumerism failed to strengthen the system, and new price increases in 1976 led to workers' riots in Ursus and Radom, which once again were brutally suppressed.

      A Workers' Defense Committee (KOR) arose and sought to bridge the gap between the intelligentsia, which had been isolated in 1968, and the workers, who had received no support in 1970. The names of such dissidents as Jacek Kuroń and Adam Michnik became internationally known. Other committees appeared that claimed the legality of their activity and protested reprisals as being contrary to the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The PUWP responded with measures of selective intimidation.

 In 1978 the election of Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, the archbishop of Kraków, as Pope John Paul II (John Paul II) gave the Poles a father figure and a new inspiration. The coalition of workers and intellectuals, operating largely under the protective umbrella of the church, was in fact building a civil society. The pope's visit to Poland in 1979 endowed that society with national, patriotic, and ethical dimensions. A strike at the Gdańsk shipyard led by a charismatic electrician, Lech Wałęsa (Wałęsa, Lech), forced an accord with the government on August 31, 1980. Out of the strike emerged the almost 10-million-strong Independent Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity (Solidarność), which the government was forced to recognize. Here was an unprecedented working-class revolution directed against a “socialist” state, an example to other peoples of the Soviet bloc.

 A huge movement that sought not to govern but rather to ensure freedom through a “self-limiting revolution,” Solidarity could not have been homogeneous. The opponents of communism ranged from those who opposed the system as contrary to liberty and democracy to those who saw it as inimical to national and Christian values and to those who felt that it had not lived up to its socioeconomic promises. These three attitudes all resurfaced after the fall of communism and explain a good deal about the developments in Poland of the 1990s.

      Gierek did not politically survive the birth of Solidarity, and he was replaced by Stanisław Kania, who was followed by General Wojciech Jaruzelski (Jaruzelski, Wojciech Witold). By the autumn of 1981, Jaruzelski held the offices of premier, first secretary of the party, and commander in chief. His decision to attempt to break Solidarity through the introduction of martial law in December 1981 may well have stemmed from a conviction that the constant tug of war between Solidarity and the government was leading the country toward anarchy, which had to be ended by Polish or by Soviet hands. It is likely that he could not conceive of any Poland except a communist one.

      Martial law effectively broke Solidarity by paralyzing the country and imprisoning virtually all of the movement's leadership, Wałęsa included. It did not, however, destroy the movement. After the lifting of martial law in 1983, the government, despite its best attempts, could not establish its legitimacy. Severe economic problems worsened the political deadlock. In 1984 a popular priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, was murdered by the secret police, but, for the first time in such a case, state agents were arrested and charged with the crime.

      In 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev (Gorbachev, Mikhail) came to power as the leader of the Soviet Union, his policies of reform (glasnost and perestroika) started a process that eventually led to the collapse of communism in eastern Europe and the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. The Jaruzelski regime realized that broad reforms were unavoidable and that a revived Solidarity had to be part of them. The roundtable negotiations under the auspices of the church—Józef Cardinal Glemp succeeded Wyszyński as primate—resulted in a “negotiated revolution.” Solidarity was restored and participated in partly free elections in June 1989 that brought it a sweeping victory.

Piotr S. Wandycz

Poland after 1989
      Detaching the satellite (populist and democratic) parties from the PUWP, Wałęsa negotiated a compromise by virtue of which Jaruzelski was elected president, while Wałęsa's adviser, the noted Catholic politician Tadeusz Mazowiecki (Mazowiecki, Tadeusz), became premier. This was the first government led by a noncommunist since World War II. The tasks it faced were immense. In 1990 the government adopted a “shock therapy” program of economic reform, named the Balcerowicz Plan after its author, Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. It was meant to arrest Poland's financial and structural crisis and rapidly convert the communist economic model into a free-market system, thereby reintegrating Poland into the global economy. Although it proved a success, the social cost was high. The difficulties of redirecting trade previously linked to the Soviet bloc were great. The new government achieved, however, two major successes: a formal recognition of the Oder-Neisse border by the reunited Germany and, after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, the evacuation of Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) troops from the country in 1992.

      Poland's reentry into western Europe, from which it had been forcibly separated since the end of World War II, was a slow process. Nonetheless, by 1996 the country had become a member of the Council of Europe (Europe, Council of), established economic ties with the European Union (EU), and been admitted to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Economic Co-operation and Development, Organisation for). In 1999 Poland became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization despite Russian opposition. Russia's unsettled political situation during the 1990s cast a shadow on Polish foreign policy and complicated its options. Nevertheless, Poland signed accords with Ukraine and Lithuania and established limited regional cooperation with the formation of the Visegrad Group, whose other members were the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary.

      By the mid-1990s the Polish economy—more than half of which had been privatized—was making important strides, including significant reductions in the annual inflation rate and the budget deficit. Moreover, the annual growth rate of Poland's gross national product was the highest in Europe. But progress was uneven geographically, and economic sectors such as the coal-mining and building industries experienced slumps. The gap between the rich and the poor grew, adding to the bitterness and frustration reflected in a political life that was far less stable than expected.

      The disintegration of Solidarity, accelerated by political and personality clashes, became apparent in the 1990 election, in which Wałęsa defeated Mazowiecki for the presidency. Voters expressed their dissatisfaction by supporting the dark-horse candidate Stanisław Tyminski, a Polish émigré businessman from Canada who finished second in the balloting. The succession of cabinets in the early 1990s included one government headed by Jan Olszewski, which fell as a result of a clumsy attempt to produce a list of former high-ranking communist collaborators, and another led by Poland's first woman prime minister, Hanna Suchocka (Suchocka, Hanna), which was unexpectedly defeated by a somewhat frivolous no-confidence vote. The centrist Freedom Union (UW), which bore the brunt of the transition to democracy, failed to communicate its vision to the masses and remained largely a party of the intelligentsia. The rightists, split into several groups, accused Wałęsa and the roundtable negotiators of selling out to communists.

      Meanwhile, the communists were able to profit financially from the collapse of the economy and reorganized as the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland (SdRP). Indeed, the SdRP exploited the increased frustration over the inequalities of a capitalist economy and the political infighting of the Solidarity camp. The SdRP formed a broader coalition that included the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), a postcommunist version of the All Poland Trade Unions Alliance (OPZZ), and other smaller groups. Well-organized and disciplined, the coalition won the 1993 legislative election in alliance with the Polish Peasant Party (PSL). In November 1995 it captured the presidency when Wałęsa was defeated by the young, dynamic postcommunist Aleksander Kwaśniewski (Kwaśniewski, Aleksander), whose campaign asked voters to look to the future rather than to the past. His election may have been symptomatic of a generational change that was also visible in the attitude toward the church, whose high prestige suffered as its efforts to influence politics and to be a national rallying point in the increasingly secularized postcommunist society occasionally backfired.

      After the 1993 legislative election, the SLD-PSL coalition governments—under the premiership of Waldemar Pawlak (PSL, 1993–95), Józef Oleksy (SLD, 1995–96), and Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz (SLD, 1996–97)—continued, albeit cautiously, the pro-market policies of their predecessors. They failed, however, to reform the obsolete structures of the welfare state that had been inherited from the communist regime and were inadequate in the context of a market economy.

The constitution of 1997
      The parliament elected in 1993 concluded its term by passing the new constitution in April 1997. The constitution's content reflected the compromise between the ruling leftist coalition and the centrist UW, while addressing several concerns raised by the church. However, the extraparliamentary right, since 1996 united in a loose coalition known as the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), challenged the draft submitted by the National Assembly and called for its rejection in a national referendum. In May 1997 the referendum approved the draft by a slim margin. The constitution came into force in October 1997.

      The narrow defeat in the referendum showdown invigorated the AWS. In the September 27, 1997, legislative elections, it defeated its postcommunist foes and formed a ruling coalition with the UW. The new government of Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek of the AWS included, among others, the leader of the UW and the architect of the shock therapy reforms, Leszek Balcerowicz, as the deputy prime minister and minister of finance. Continuing the economic policies of its predecessors since 1989, the government focused on further privatization of industries and services. It also launched a series of major reforms aimed at overhauling the state administration and welfare services.

      The reform of the state structure, effective January 1, 1999, introduced a three-tier system of administration and local self-government. The health care, pension, and education systems also began undergoing reform in 1999. The policies of the government were frequently met with considerable popular opposition, as they antagonized some formerly privileged groups. Changes to agricultural policy were among the most contentious. Designed to facilitate Poland's accession to the EU, the reforms were seen by some as jeopardizing the antiquated system of farming prevalent in many regions of Poland.

      Kwaśniewski was reelected in 2000, while Wałęsa, capturing only 1 percent of the vote as the fourth most popular candidate, announced his retirement from politics. In the 2001 parliamentary elections, a coalition of candidates from the SLD and the Union of Labour (Unia Pracy; UP) were the majority winners, with Leszek Miller of the SLD becoming prime minister. In the next set of elections, the SLD fell to the centre-right party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość; PiS), with its founders, identical twins Lech (Kaczyński, Lech) and Jarosław Kaczyński, attaining the posts of president (2005) and prime minister (2006), respectively. In 2007 the PiS abandoned its coalition partners—the scandal-plagued Self-Defense Party and the League of Polish Families—and called for an early parliamentary election. In a stunning result, the PiS was defeated by the centre-right Civic Platform party, which under the premiership of Donald Tusk formed a coalition government with the PSL.

      Whether the relatively frequent changes of government would lead ultimately to the emergence of a real and responsible left, centre, and right and whether the new constitution would provide a mechanism for a smoothly functioning democracy depended in no small degree on the growing sophistication and experience of the electorate. In a nationwide referendum in 2003, the Polish electorate approved EU (European Union) membership for their country, which came into force in 2004, a testimony to its successful postcommunist transition.

Piotr S. Wandycz Krzysztof Jasiewicz

Additional Reading

Poland: A Handbook (1977), is a comprehensive reference source written by Polish authors and published in Poland for readership outside the country. Glenn E. Curtis (ed.), Poland: A Country Study, 3rd ed. (1994), provides a balanced treatment. Grzegorz Weclawowicz, Contemporary Poland: Space and Society (1996), discusses the changes since 1989. Zbigniew Landau and Jerzy Tomaszewski, The Polish Economy in the Twentieth Century, trans. from Polish by Wojciech Roszkowski (1985), offers an uncritical treatment. David Lane and George Kolankiewicz (eds.), Social Groups in Polish Society (1973), covers postwar ideological developments. Aspects of cultural life are dealt with in Bolesław Klimaszewski (ed.), An Outline History of Polish Culture, trans. from Polish by Krystyna Mroczek (1979, reissued 1984), covering the main cultural trends from medieval times to 1982; and Stanisław Lorentz, Guide to Museums and Collections in Poland, trans. by Jan Aleksandrowicz (1974; originally published in Polish, 1971). The Polish Review (quarterly) focuses on current cultural events.Jerzy A. Kondracki Andrew Hutchinson Dawson Norman Davies

The history of Poland is presented in W.F. Reddaway et al. (eds.), The Cambridge History of Poland, 2 vol. (1941–50, reissued 1971); Aleksander Gieysztor et al., History of Poland, 2nd ed., trans. from Polish by Krystyna Cekalska (1979); Norman Davies, God's Playground: A History of Poland, new ed., 2 vol. (2003; also published as A History of Poland, God's Playground, 1981); Norman Davies, Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland's Present, new ed. (2001; originally published as Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland, 1984); Adam Zamoyski, The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History of the Poles and Their Culture (1987, reissued 1994); Paul W. Knoll, The Rise of the Polish Monarchy: Piast Poland in East Central Europe, 1320–1370 (1972); J.K. Fedorowicz, Maria Bogucka, and Henryk Samsonowicz (eds.), A Republic of Nobles: Studies in Polish History to 1864, trans. from Polish (1982); Harry E. Dembkowski, The Union of Lublin, Polish Federalism in the Golden Age (1982); Jerzy Lukowski, Liberty's Folly: The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Eighteenth Century, 1697–1795 (1991); Piotr S. Wandycz, The Lands of Partitioned Poland, 1795–1918 (1974, reprinted 1984), and Polish Diplomacy, 1914–1945: Aims and Achievements, ed. by Keith Sword (1988); R.F. Leslie (ed.), The History of Poland Since 1863 (1980); Andrzej Walicki, Philosophy and Romantic Nationalism: The Case of Poland (1982, reissued 1994); Titus Komarnicki, Rebirth of the Polish Republic: A Study in the Diplomatic History of Europe, 1914–1920 (1957); Antony Polonsky, Politics in Independent Poland, 1921–1939 (1972); Jan Karski, The Great Powers & Poland, 1919–1945: From Versailles to Yalta (1985); Józef Garliński, Poland in the Second World War (1985, reissued 1987); and Jacek Jedruch, Constitutions, Elections, and Legislatures of Poland, 1493–1993: A Guide to Their History, rev. ed. (1998). George J. Lerski, Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966–1945, ed. by Piotr Wróbel and Richard J. Kozicki (1996), is a useful companion to historical readings.Communism and its collapse and aftermath are examined in these works: Jakub Karpinski, Countdown: The Polish Upheavals of 1956, 1968, 1970, 1976, 1980, trans. from Polish by Olga Amsterdamska and Gene M. Moore (1982); Jan Józef Lipski, KOR: A History of the Workers' Defense Committee in Poland, 1976–1981, trans. by Olga Amsterdamska and Gene M. Moore (1985; originally published in Polish, 1983); Michael Checinski, Poland, Communism, Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, trans. from Polish by Tadeusz Szafar (1982); Jadwiga Staniszkis, Poland's Self-Limiting Revolution, ed. by Jan T. Gross (1984); Lawrence Weschler, The Passion of Poland, from Solidarity Through the State of War (1984); Timothy Garton Ash, The Polish Revolution: Solidarity, 1980–82, 3rd ed. (2002); Neal Ascherson, The Polish August: The Self-Limiting Revolution (1982); George Blazyca and Ryszard Rapacki (eds.), Poland into the 1990s: Economy and Society in Transition (1991); Jane Leftwich Curry and Luba Fajfer (eds.), Poland's Permanent Revolution: People vs. Elites, 1956 to the Present (1996); Grzegorz Ekiert, The State Against Society: Political Crises and Their Aftermath in East Central Europe (1996); Jan Kubik, The Power of Symbols Against the Symbols of Power: The Rise of Solidarity and the Fall of State Socialism in Poland (1994); Michael H. Bernhard, The Origins of Democratization in Poland: Workers, Intellectuals, and Oppositional Politics, 1976–1980 (1993); and Raymond Taras, Consolidating Democracy in Poland (1995). Analyses of current political developments in Poland can be found in the Political Data Yearbooks, annual special issues of the European Journal of Political Research.Piotr S. Wandycz Hans Roos Kazimierz Maciej Smogorzewski Krzysztof Jasiewicz

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Universalium. 2010.

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