(Republic of Poland, Rzeczpospolita Polska)
- Location: Europe
- Capital: Warsaw
- Language: Polish
- Population: 38,186,860 million
- Total Area: 312.685 km sq
- Currency: Zloty
Poland has not always been a unified country. In the 19th century, it was divided between Prussia, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It finally gained independence, like so many European countries, after the First World War. For a while during the twenties, they prospered, particularly in the arts, but the outbreak of the Second World War brought an immediate closure to what many regard as their golden period. They were of course the first country that the Nazis invaded and suffered greatly under German occupation- the German systematically destroyed a majority of Warsaw. By the end of the war, Communism seemed their best option and they became a major part of the Soviet Bloc. Today they are again a democratic country though they are still recovering from the impact communism had on their society.
Poland is one of Europe’s most religious countries- and one can only imagine the effects Communism had on such a large Catholic community. In fact, 75 % of the population claims to be practicing Catholics, meaning they attend church every Sunday, at least. This statistic is helped by the fact they are one of the most ethnically homogenous countries in the world with 96.7 % of the population said to be native Polish. In addition, the 26-year reign of Polish born Pope John Paul II, gave them all great pride.
After the death of Josef Stalin in 1956, Eastern and Central Europe, for a while, became far more liberal. The Polish film school is one of the best examples of these times. Polanski, Wadja and Kieslowski all nominated for academy awards and all graduates from the film school in Lodz. Their films, which bravely criticized the Communist regime, became the template for Eastern European and Central European film movements in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Russia. In addition Polish film posters during this period are some of the most influential of all time- the originals now sell for a lot of money.
With Warsaw virtually destroyed during the Second World War, Poland’s second largest city Krakow has proved the country’s greatest attraction. Even if Warsaw had stayed largely intact, Krakow would still arguably be the more beautiful of the two. Krakow was home to the Polish royal family for 500 years and the Wawel castle is one of the city’s crown jewels. In addition, the gothic architecture of the old town and the areas around it is quite stunning, a backdrop for the festivals and art events celebrated all year round.
Interesting Facts on Poland
- Of all the post-communist states, Poland is the most populous with a population of almost 39 million.
- There are 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country.
- With an almost 92% of the population being Polish, it is one of the homogenous societies in the world.
- The great astronomer and scientist, Nicolaus Copernicus is from the country.
- Poland is also home to one of the greatest labor leaders of all time, Lech Walesa.
- The map of Poland is roughly circular.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Poland and between 1974 and 1986, people regarded the polish national team as one of the best in the world. After winning the 1972 Olympics, they surprised most people by first qualifying for the 1974 world cup at the expense of England and then reached the semi-finals. They repeated the feat in 1982 and people regarded them as contenders for the 1986 world cup before England knocked them out in the second round. They do not have such an impressive record in domestic completion though Legia Warsaw did reach the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1970.
Story By World By Shotglass
©2012 World By Shotglass. All Rights Reserved
Special thanks to our contributors:
Simon Arms (Berlin, Germany) for story editing