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The Republic of Poland is a country in Central Europe, bordering Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and Lithuania and Russia (via the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave) to its north, as well as the Baltic Sea. Its location and accessible terrain has meant that the land has seen many wars fought over it and its borders have shifted considerably over the centuries.

Rzeczpospolita Polska
(In Detail)
National motto: Bóg, Honor, Ojczyzna (Polish: God, Honour, Homeland)
Official language Polish
Capital Warsaw
PresidentAleksander Kwasniewski
Prime ministerLeszek Miller
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 68th
312,685 km²
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 30th
 - Date
November 11, 1918
Currency Zloty
Time zone UTC +1
National anthem Mazurek Dabrowskiego
Internet TLD.PL
Calling Code48

Table of contents

History Main article: History of Poland

Poland is an ancient nation that was conceived around the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century when it was united with Lithuania and covered a large area of Europe. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation, leading to three partitions of Poland between Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1772, 1793 and 1795 that completely dissolved Poland.

During the 19th century most of Poland was ruled by the Russian tsar, but it regained its independence in November 1918 as the Second Polish Republic. This state lasted until 1939 when it was overrun by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in the start of World War II, during which Poland suffered greatly. Among all nations in the war, Poland lost the highest percentage of citizens. Towards the end of the war, the Soviet Union turned from liberators to occupiers and Poland became a Soviet satellite state after the war.

Labour turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity" that over time became a political force, slowly ending the dominance of the Communist Party, 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 European Union in 2004. Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999.

Politics Main article: Politics of Poland

Polish government structure consists of a Council of Ministers led by a prime minister. This cabinet is appointed by the president on a proposal by the prime minster, typically from a majority coalition in the bicameral legislature's lower house. The president, elected by popular vote every 5 years, is head of state.

The parliament, the National Assembly or Zgromadzenie Narodowe, consisting of 460 members of the Sejm (lower house) and 100 members of the Senate (Senat), is elected by a majority vote on a provincial basis to serve four-year terms. The current constitution dates from 1997, and stipulates that with the exception of two guaranteed seats for small ethnic parties, only political parties receiving at least 5% of the total vote can enter parliament.

The judicial branch plays a minor role in decisionmaking and its major institutions are the Supreme Court (Sad Najwyzszy) whose judges are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Council of the Judiciary for an indefinite period, and the Constitutional Tribunal (Trybunal Konstytucyjny), where judges are chosen by the Sejm for nine-year terms.

Voivodships Main article: Voivodships of Poland

Poland is divided into 16 administrative regions known as voivodships (wojewodztwa, singular - wojewodztwo):

Geography Main article: Geography of Poland

The Polish landscape consists almost entirely of the lowlands of the North European Plain[?] at an average height of 173 m, though the Carpathian Mountains (including the Tatra mountains) and the Sudeten with its part Karkonosze form the southern border, where one also finds Poland's highest point, the Rysy[?], at 2,499 m. The plains are crossed by several large rivers, such as the Vistula (Wisla), the Odra, the Warta or the (Western) Bug. Poland also contains over 9,300 lakes, predominantly in the north of the country.

The Polish climate is temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation and mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers.

Economy Main article: Economy of Poland

Poland has steadfastly pursued a policy of liberalising 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 privatisation 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 labour, inefficient small farms, and lack of investment. Restructuring and privatisation 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 privatisation 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.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Poland

Poland once contained a great variety of minorities, but the exterminations during World War II and the (forced) migrations afterwards left Poland as a far more homogenous country. Some 98% of the population considers itself Polish, though there are several minorities of Germans, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Jews and Belarussians.

The official language is Polish, a member of the Slavic languages. Most Poles (95%) adhere to the Roman Catholic faith, though only 75% are practising Catholics. The remaining 5% consists of Eastern Orthodox and Protestant religious minorities.

Culture Main article: Culture of Poland[?]

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
November 11 Independence Day Święto Niepodległości

International rankings

Miscellaneous topics

External Links

  • Poland.pl (http://www.poland.pl/index.htm) - Portal on Poland
  • KPRM (http://www.kprm.gov.pl/english/index) - Official prime ministerial site
  • Prezydent (http://www.prezydent.pl/dflt/en_index.php3) - Official presidential site
  • Sejm (http://www.sejm.gov.pl/english) - Official site of the Sejm
  • Senat (http://www.senat.gov.pl/indexe.htm) - Official site of the Senate
  • Sad Najwyzszy (http://www.sn.pl/english/index) - Official site of the Supreme Court
  • Trybunal Konstytucyjny (http://www.trybunal.gov.pl/eng/index.htm) - Official site of the Constitutional Tribunal

European Union:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Ireland
Italy  |  Luxembourg  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on May 1, 2004:
Cyprus  |  Czech Republic  |  Estonia  |  Hungary  |  Latvia  |  Lithuania  |  Malta  |  Poland  |  Slovakia  |  Slovenia

Countries of the world  |  Europe

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