Photo: Fototeka Filmoteki Narodowej/www.fototeka.fn.org.pl. The flashing pictures are captioned below.
You probably think that learning the history of Poland in a mere 10 minutes is impossible, even insane. Give Culture.pl 10 minutes to prove you wrong.1. Baptism: The Beginning of the Polish State
In the middle of the 10 th century Duke Mieszko I (Mee-esh-cko), who ruled several Western Slavic tribes, decided to consolidate his power by being baptised in the Latin Rite and marrying Doubravka. a princess of Bohemia. This is symbolically regarded as the creation of the state of Poland. By this means Poland became a Christian country, permanently joined Western culture, and moved under the pope’s protection.
Mieszko’s son completed the process of forming the country by conquering a considerable amount of territory and spreading Christianity among those who remained unimpressed by Mieszko’s baptism. He was rewarded for his efforts with the throne, and became the first legitimate king in Poland’s history, however, only a few years before his death. Nevertheless, Poland became a kingdom in 1025 .2. Union with Lithuania and the Golden Age
The royal line of Mieszko ruled Poland until the end of the 14 th century, when they died out. This forced Poland to look for their new king elsewhere, and after a brief political romance with Hungary, the Polish queen Jadwiga (Yah-dvee-gah) married the Grand Duke of Lithuania, thereby giving rise to long-lasting union between the two nations. The alliance eventually evolved into creation of one country: thePolish-Lithuanian Commonwealth .
The 150 or so years between the beginning of the 16 th century and the first decades of the 17 th century went down in history as the Polish Golden Age. The country’s political system evolved into an early democratic monarchy and became one of the first multicultural states in history, with minorities’ rights protected by the Union’s laws. The Commonwealth was one of the biggest political entities in Europe as well as one of the most influential, both culturally and politically.3. The Deluge
In the mid-17 th century, this huge political organism started to weaken. The upsurge of the Tsardom of Russia, the Kingdom of Prussia, and Sweden, as well as the Ukrainian Cossacks’ pursuit of independence, resulted in the Commonwealth’s territory and political significance gradually shrinking. Prolific conflicts between nobles resulted in domestic order destabilising and exacerbated the country’s vulnerability.
100 years of warfare gravely diminished the country’s wealth, vastly reduced its population, and regressed culture and science. The Swedish Deluge – devastating Swedish invasions in 1655-1660 – as well as neighbouring countries’ policy of using internal conflicts to maintain domestic disorder resulted in Poland’s very existence being seriously endangered.4. Reforms and Constitution of 1791
The only way out for the Polish state was to undergo fundamental reforms. In 1764 Stanisław August Poniatowski was elected as the new king, however, with great support from Catherine the Great of Russia. The new Polish monarch was well educated and aware of the state’s fragility, hence he started shifting back and forth between the demands of various groups of Polish-Lithuanian nobles and his dominant Russian ally.
His policies brought much improvement in the fields of economy, culture and science, but due to discord among the magnates, it didn’t manage to prevent theFirst Partition of Poland. and the country's outer provinces were appropriated by its three neighbours: the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and and the Habsburg Austrian Empire.
The very last attempt to carry out the necessary state reform was to adopt the Constitution of 3 rd May in 1791, the second such act in history! The document aimed to re-establish the relationship between the king and the nobles, and put a stop to the magnates’ ambition-driven anarchy but…
…it didn’t quite work out like that. Catherine the Great of Russia was deeply concerned about the direction of the reforms and, with the support of some of the Polish-Lithuanian nobility, forcefully stopped it by invading and conducting the Second Partition of Poland.
Soon, the surviving reformers decided it was time for their last resort and gathered under the lead of aveteran of the American Revolution – Tadeusz Kościuszko. The insurrection they started was an act of great bravery and desperation, yet it was doomed to failure from the very beginning. The overwhelmingly superior military forces of the neighbouring powers brutally suppressed the rising and divided the remnants of Polish territory between themselves during the Third Partition of Poland. Thus in 1795, Poland ceased to exist.5. Poland vanishes from maps for 123 years
Each of the invaders implemented a policy of denationalising Polish citizens. A vast part of the intelligentsia went into political exile or resigned from public political activity. However, the idea of Poland as an independent state was not lost. Polish units were formed during the Napoleonic Wars. and clandestine Polish organisations started two major uprisings (both were unsuccessful) and tried joining the Spring of Nations in 1848 (again, unsuccessfully).
After the merciless strangulation of the last major insurrection – the Uprising of January (1863 -1864) – Polish political activists turned back to grassroots work. Instead of trying to regain independence forcefully they started organising unofficial education centres that taught Polish language and history (the language was forbidden in some districts), watchfully fostered social reform, and continued advocating the ‘Polish case’ at the courts of the enemies of the invaders of Poland.6. Regaining Independence: The Second Polish Republic
The outbreak of World War I and the major subsequent changes to Europe’s political map was the moment that Polish activists had long been waiting for. Throughout the war around 2 million Polish soldiers fought on the fronts of WWI, supporting the armies of the Triple Entente, whilst the Polish political elite sought the endorsement of the French-Russian-British alliance for Poland’s independence. Thanks to these efforts as well as thanks to many favourable events (such as revolutions in Russia and Germany) Poland regained independence on 11 th November 1918.
The interwar period (1918-1939) was entirely devoted to the painstaking and tormented process of rebuilding and reuniting the devastated and terribly divided country (which had been 3 different countries for the previous 123 years). It was marked with vehement political mayhem, including the assassination of the first president and a coup d’etat as well as huge unrest on the eastern borders of Poland.7. World War II
On the eve of World War II, Poland was far from ready to confront Nazi Germany, which had been preparing for war for years. Hitler’s invasion in September 1939, backed by Stalin’s army from the east, erased Poland from the map in 27 days. The government fled to Great Britain but continued working as a government-in-exile. Polish armies and units still fought alongside the troops of the Western allied forces, such as contributing considerably to victory in the Battle of Britain and breaking the Enigma code. Poles organised the biggest underground army in Europe’s history – the Home Army .
Even though Poland ended the war on the winning side and was re-established as a state, it fell under the influence of the Soviet Union and was forced to adopt communism as its political system and a satellite government, strongly dependant on its sponsors in Moscow.8. People’s Republic of Poland
Warsaw, December 1981. The First day of Martial Law. Kino Moskwa screens Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now", photo: Chris Niedenthal, press material
World War II devastated Poland. 5 million inhabitants of pre-war Poland were killed. many of these casualties were the result of the deliberate extermination of the Jewish and Polish elite. Warsaw – the capital of the Second Republic – was virtually burned to ground. As a result of post-war peace conferences, Poland lost the majority of its eastern territories but was compensated with some industrial regions of pre-war Germany on the west – it literally moved around 100-150 kilometres westwards, which brought on the necessity of resettling 2 million people!
Poland was to be rebuilt yet again, this time under a severely anti-democratic communist regime with an inefficient economic system. This, accompanied by robust political and cultural isolation, made Poland’s reconstruction much slower than those of Western European countries.
Constant economic stagnation, shortages in the supplies of basic goods, and a lack of political freedom and free media, as well as the frequent abuses of power of the political elites, marked the communist period with great social unrest and protests, always brutally suppressed by the establishment.9. Workers protests: Solidarity
In the beginning of the 1980s, the deteriorating economic situation and Poland’s inability to pay its international debts forced communist leaders to raise consumer prices. Society, already living in very difficult conditions, reacted immediately. A wave of strikes started in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, followed by occupational strikes in many other factories and mines, paralysed the country’s economy. It was the beginning of the final struggle between the communist regime and Polish society.
Solidarity / Solidarność. a social movement that at its peak had over 9 million members (approx. 25% of the Poland’s population), managed to survive it being disbanded and the introduction of martial law as well as its leaders being persecuted. The growing weakness of the Soviet Union, the gendarme of communist side of the Iron Curtain, enabled further strikes in the late 1980s and eventually led to the peaceful revolution that freed Poland from Soviet dominance and started the revolutions of 1989 – a series of historical events that dismantled the Soviet Bloc and ended the Cold War.10. The Third Polish Republic
The democratic opposition that took power at the turn of ages decided to refer to the tradition of the Second Polish Republic and renamed the country the Third Polish Republic. Poland immediately embarked on a path of fundamental reform, rapidly switching from a one-party system to political pluralism. from a state-controlled economy to a free market as well as changing its international orientation from being a part of Soviet bloc to joining NATOin 1999 and the European Union in 2004.
Over 25 years of sustained peace and development has let Poland make up for much of the backlog of communist times. Poland has become widely recognised as a role model for countries that experienced a political transformation after the revolutions of 1989, and is again regarded as a strong political entity in the region.
2016 marks the 1050th anniversary of the baptism and Polish state. which is being celebrated with a series of special events such as concerts and exhibitions.The last step: test your knowledge!
The Poles who were West Slavic people established Poland in the late 5th century. History was first written in the 10th century about Poland when the Polish nation changed into Christianity in 966. Prince Mieszko I was the first ruler and his son, Boleslaw I, was the first king of Poland. This established the Piast dynasty that lasted from 966 to 1370. During the Piast dynasty there where Piast kings with a lot of rivalries from nobility and Bohemian and Germanic invasions that made Poland a very troubled country. The last king of the dynasty was Casimir III, crowned in 1333. He extended Polish influence eastward to Lithuania and Russia. He acquired Pomerania from the Teutonic Knights and shifted borders between Poland and Germany. During his 37-year reign a university was established, laws were made more organized, castles grew strong, and minority groups were given protection (Grolier).
The Polish nobility selected Jagello as grand duke of Lithuania in 1836, to rule by arranging his marriage to the Polish Princess Jadwiga. The initial personal union with Lithuania was formalized only 200 years later by the Union of Lublin in 1569 and it produced a state that extended from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south (Grolier).
Poland’s Golden Age started when Poland won the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410 against the Teutonic Order. The Polish would deal very well with threats from other countries. It was slowly devolving to rule under nobility that led the state to its disintegration (Grolier).
The Polish Renaissance of the 16th century produced a flourishing of arts and intellectual life. Some examples are the scientific work of Copernicus and the lyric poetry of Jan Kochanowski. Protestantism grew in Poland during this time and the Jewish community, which has been around Poland since the 14th century, won the right of self-government. The economic wealth at this time was based on grain exports (Grolier).
The Jagello dynasty ended in 1572, with the death of Sigismund II. The power was then transferred from aristocracy to the broader class of nobility called the szlachta. From 1573 to the last partition of Poland in 1795 the Republican Commonwealth was organized by a system of elective monarchy and of a Sejm (Parliament), meaning each noble had a vote. Even though the kings had to follow the idea of szlachta rule, they still used their own idea.
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. e the best. Two examples are the fall of Jan Olszewski, because he tried making a list of former high ranking communist collaborators, and the first women to be Prime Minister, Hanna Suchocka, who lost by a no-confident vote. The people split in groups and accused Walesa and the roundtable negotiators to sell out to communist when it was they that could help if the economy falls (Szczepkowski).
In 1995, Walesa was beat by Aleksander Kwasniewski, whose campaign asked people to look into the future and forget about the past, for presidency. The church suffered because it made many efforts to influence politics and tried to influence Poland to become a post communist society, but sometimes backfired (Szczepkowski).
Culture in People’s Poland. Ed. Tadeusz Galinski.
Poland: a Country of Study. Ed. Glenn E. Curtis 3rd ed. Lanham:
Bernan Press, 1994.
“Poland.” Britannica Online. 2001. Encyclopedia Britannica. 12
November 2001 <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=115127&tocid=0&query=poland>
“Poland.” 1998 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM.
Danbury: Grolier Interactive Inc. 1998.
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Poland, a country the size of New Mexico, is in north-central Europe. Most of the country is a plain with no natural boundaries except the Carpathian Mountains in the south and the Oder and Neisse rivers in the west. Other major rivers, which are important to commerce, are the Vistula, Warta, and Bug.Government
Great (north) Poland was founded in 966 by Mieszko I, who belonged to the Piast dynasty. The tribes of southern Poland then formed Little Poland. In 1047, both Great Poland and Little Poland united under the rule of Casimir I the Restorer. Poland merged with Lithuania by royal marriage in 1386. The Polish-Lithuanian state reached the peak of its power between the 14th and 16th centuries, scoring military successes against the (Germanic) Knights of the Teutonic Order, the Russians, and the Ottoman Turks.
Lack of a strong monarchy enabled Russia, Prussia, and Austria to carry out a first partition of the country in 1772, a second in 1792, and a third in 1795. For more than a century thereafter, there was no Polish state, just Austrian, Prussian, and Russian sectors, but the Poles never ceased their efforts to regain their independence. The Polish people revolted against foreign dominance throughout the 19th century. Poland was formally reconstituted in Nov. 1918, with Marshal Josef Pilsudski as chief of state. In 1919, Ignace Paderewski, the famous pianist and patriot, became the first prime minister. In 1926, Pilsudski seized complete power in a coup and ruled dictatorially until his death on May 12, 1935.
Despite a ten-year nonaggression pact signed in 1934, Hitler attacked Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Soviet troops invaded from the east on Sept. 17, and on Sept. 28, a German-Soviet agreement divided Poland between the USSR and Germany. Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz formed a government-in-exile in France, which moved to London after France's defeat in 1940. All of Poland was occupied by Germany after the Nazi attack on the USSR in June 1941. Nazi Germany's occupation policy in Poland was designed to eradicate Polish culture through mass executions and to exterminate the country's large Jewish minority.
The Polish government-in-exile was replaced with the Communist-dominated Polish Committee of National Liberation by the Soviet Union in 1944. Moving to Lublin after that city's liberation, it proclaimed itself the Provisional Government of Poland. Some former members of the Polish government in London joined with the Lublin government to form the Polish Government of National Unity, which Britain and the U.S. recognized. On Aug. 2, 1945, in Berlin, President Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin, and Prime Minister Clement Attlee of Britain established a new de facto western frontier for Poland along the Oder and Neisse rivers. (The border was finally agreed to by West Germany in a nonaggression pact signed on Dec. 7, 1970.) On Aug. 16, 1945, the USSR and Poland signed a treaty delimiting the Soviet-Polish border. Under these agreements, Poland was shifted westward. In the east, it lost 69,860 sq mi (180,934 sq km); in the west, it gained (subject to final peace conference approval) 38,986 sq mi (100,973 sq km).
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