Basic Polish vocabulary with pronunciation and information about Poland
Warsaw city centre
Wroclaw main train station Wroclaw city centre

History of Poland

History of Poland

- The name Poland comes from Polanie. This was a tribe of people living near Gniezno city, which became Poland's first capital.
- Between 9th and 10th century people living nearby were united by Polanie and the first dynasty came into existence. This dynasty was called Piast dynasty.
- The first prince of this dynasty was called Mieszko I and his son Bolesław Chrobry became the first king of Poland in 1025.

- Mieszko I picture is present at the bill of 10 Polish zloty and Bolesław Chrobry is at 20 zloty bill.

logo - Poland 10 zloty mieszko 1 logo - Poland 20 zloty boleslaw chrobry
- Mieszko I was baptised in 966 and that was the year of Christianisation of Poland.
- Gniezno was the first Polish capital, but 1038 it was moved to Kraków.
- Many centuries later Warsaw became Poland's capital.
- Important period of Polish history is the union of Poland and Lithuania. It started when queen Jadwiga in 1386 got married with the grand duke of Lithuania, Władysław Jagiełło. From this moment until 1572 the Jagiellonian dynasty reigned Poland. And the 16th century is called the 'golden age' of Poland.
- After the end of Jagiellonian Dynasty, the elective monarchy began. The internal rivalry caused the weakness of the state.
- This weakness resulted in 3 Polish partitions.
- The first took place in 1772, when 30% of Poland was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria.
- This gave motivation to Poles and on 3 May 1791 the Constitution of Poland was established - the first one in Europe
- However Poland was divided the second time in (1793) and the third time in 1795.
- From this moment for the next 123 years Poland disappeared from the map of the world.

- After the second partition of Poland a very important uprising took place: Kościuszko Uprising. However it was defeated and then followed by the third partition of Poland. With this partition, the independent Polish state ceased to exist.

- In Kościuszko Uprising the biggest battle was battle of Racławice.

logo - battle of raclawice bitwa pod raclawicami "Battle of Racławice" painted by Jan Matejko

logo - tadeusz kosciuszko by kossak



Tadeusz Kościuszko by Kossak. Led the 1794 Kościuszko Uprising against Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Prussia as Supreme Commander of the Polish National Armed Forces.






- The battle of Racławice was painted by Jan Styka and Wojciech Kossak in a monumental (15 × 114 meter) cycloramic painting called The Racławice Panorama (Polish: Panorama Racławicka). You can see the painting in Wrocław, address: ul. Jana Ewangelisty Purkyniego 11, 50-155 Wrocław. For more info visit www.panoramaraclawicka.pl
- During 19th century there were also many uprising against the occupants, especially during 1830-1831 and 1863-1864.
- But it was the year 1918 which brought Poland independence, the First World war.
- Second republic was then established.
- It lasted only until 1st September 1939 when Poland was invaded by Germany, and afterwards Soviet troops on the 17th September invaded Poland from the east.
- The country was partitioned again, and later - completely occupied by Germany and Russia.
- The government was in exile.

- And even though there was the strong underground resistance movement, Germans stayed in Poland for many years and killed millions of people in extermination camps or in forced labor camps in Germany.
- During this time particularly Polish Jews were persecuted.
- After the war Poland was under the influence of the Soviet Union.
- In 1952 Poland was proclaimed a people's republic and that was the moment when communism began.
- Poles tried to get rid of communism and organised strikes, among which the most important took place in 1970 and 1980. An independent trade union Solidarity (Solidarność) was established in 1980 and this was Solidarność which played a huge role in the fall of communism in Poland. logo - Polish border Schengen Cieszyn
- In 1989 the communism fell and the Third Polish Republic was established.
- The leader of Solidarność Lech Wałęsa received the peace Nobel Prize in 1983 and afterwards in 1990 became the first non-communist president.
- In 1999 Poland became part of NATO
- Afterwards in 2004 Poland joined the European Union.

- Poland joined Schengen on 21st December 2007. Since then people who have schengen visa can visit Poland and all other Schengen countries with just one visa.



"The Struggle and the Triumph: An Autobiography" by Lech Wałęsa

The is an extensive autobiography of Lech Wałęsa, the first non-communist president of Poland who was elected in 1990. The book describes his rise from the Gdańsk shipyard, where he was working, to the first freely elected president of Poland, and the events that brought Poland into a new age.





"Strike for Freedom: The Story of Lech Walesa and Polish Solidarity" by Robert Eringer










"Lech Walesa: The Road to Democracy (Great Lives. 20th Century Politics and Government)" by Rebecca Stefoff

Lech Wałęsa - the man who was working as a shipyard electrician and became the leader of Poland's Solidarity trade union movement, and who was later elected as the first Polish non-communism president.


This video shows how Polish borders have changed during the centuries





Metal Paperweight - Solidarność

Solidarność - a Polish trade union federation, was founded in 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyard. It was the first non-communist trade union in a communist country of the 80s. Solidarność formed a large anti-communist social movement that was repressed by the communist government. Finally in 1989 after long and numerous negotiations between the union and the government semi-free elections took place. Lech Wałęsa became the first President of free non-communism Poland.





"The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History of the Poles and Their Culture" by Adam Zamoyski

This 422 pages book describes Polish history and culture. It includes also information about painting, music, architecture, literature and law. Numerous maps, genealogies and photographs will help you to understand Polish history. Very useful is also a Polish pronunciation guide, that will help you to pronounce Polish names, surnames and names of the cities correctly.







"A Concise History of Poland (Cambridge Concise Histories)" by Jerzy Lukowski and Hubert Zawadzki

This book describes Polish history until 2005. From a dominant force in central and eastern Europe until 1795, when Poland disappeared from the map of the world, because of the partition between Russia, Prussia and Austria. It regained the independence in 1918, only to be again occupied by Germans and Russians during World War II. It became a satellite of the Soviet Union, but in the 1980 the Solidarność movement started the fight for freedom from communism. In 1989 the communism was defeated. Third Polish republic was born and the country joined the European Union in 2004.



This video is a beautiful dream how the world WOULD be if the 2nd World Word ended up in a different way (only in Polish, no translation, if sb is interested I may write the translation, let me know)




You might be also interested in reading a blog about Polish history