United Arab Emirates
Polish • Kashubian • Silesian
Christianity: Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Other West Slavs: Silesians, Kashubs, Czechs, Slovaks, Moravians,
Sorbs, Hanoverian Wends(†), Obotrites(†), Veleti(†)
Poles (Polish: Polacy, pronounced [pɔˈlat͡sɨ]; singular
masculine: Polak, singular feminine: Polka), commonly referred to as
the Polish people, are a nation and West Slavic ethnic group native to
Poland who share a common ancestry, culture, history and are native
speakers of the Polish language. The population of self-declared Poles
Poland is estimated at 37,394,000 out of an overall population of
38,538,000 (based on the 2011 census), of whom 36,522,000 declared
Polish diaspora (the Polonia) exists throughout Europe,
the Americas, and in Australasia. Today the largest urban
Poles are within the
Warsaw and Silesian
Poland's history dates back over a thousand years, to c. 930-960 CE,
when the Polans – an influential West Slavic tribe in the Greater
Poland region, now home to such cities as Giecz, Gniezno, and Poznań
– united various Lechitic tribes under what became the Piast
dynasty, thus creating the Polish state. The subsequent
Christianization of Poland, in 966 CE, marked Poland's advent to the
community of Western Christendom.
Poles have made important contributions to the world in every major
field of human endeavor. Notable Polish émigrés – many of them
forced from their homeland by historic vicissitudes – have included
Marie Skłodowska Curie
Marie Skłodowska Curie and Joseph Rotblat, mathematician
Stanisław Ulam, pianists
Fryderyk Chopin and Arthur Rubinstein,
Helena Modjeska and Pola Negri, novelist Joseph Conrad,
Tadeusz Kościuszko and Casimir Pulaski, U.S.
National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, politician Rosa
Samuel Goldwyn and the Warner Brothers,
cartoonist Max Fleischer, and cosmeticians
Helena Rubinstein and Max
3.2 Science and technology
3.3.1 17th–18th centuries
3.3.2 Traditional music
3.4.1 Middle Ages
3.4.8 Restored independence (1918–39)
3.4.9 After 1945
4 Theatre and cinema
7.1 Central Poles
7.2 Greater Poles
7.4 Lesser Poles
7.6 Northern Poles
7.9 Eastern Kresy
7.10 National minorities
8 See also
10 External links
Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum
Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (1073) by Adam
of Bremen, containing the name "Polans": "trans Oddaram sunt Polanos"
Slavs have been in the territory of modern
Poland for over 1500 years.
They organized into tribal units, of which the larger ones were later
known as the Polish tribes; the names of many tribes are found on the
list compiled by the anonymous
Bavarian Geographer in the 9th
century. In the 9th and 10th centuries the tribes gave rise to
developed regions along the upper
Vistulans within the
Great Moravian Empire sphere), the
Baltic Sea coast and in Greater
Poland. The last tribal undertaking resulted in the 10th century in a
lasting political structure and state, Poland, one of the West Slavic
The concept which has become known as the
Piast Idea, the chief
proponent of which was Jan Ludwik Popławski, is based on the
statement that the
Piast homeland was inhabited by so-called "native"
Slavs and Slavonic
Poles since time immemorial and only
later was "infiltrated" by "alien" Celts, Germans, Baltic peoples and
others. After 1945 the so-called "autochthonous" or "aboriginal"
school of Polish prehistory received official backing in
Poland and a
considerable degree of popular support. According to this view, the
Culture which archaeologists have identified between the Oder
Vistula in the early Iron Age, is said to be Slavonic; all
non-Slavonic tribes and peoples recorded in the area at various points
in ancient times are dismissed as "migrants" and "visitors". In
contrast, the critics of this theory, such as Marija Gimbutas, regard
it as an unproved hypothesis and for them the date and origin of the
westward migration of the
Slavs is largely uncharted; the Slavonic
connections of the Lusatian
Culture are entirely imaginary; and the
presence of an ethnically mixed and constantly changing collection of
peoples on the Middle European Plain is taken for granted.
Polish people are the sixth largest national group in the European
Union. Estimates vary depending on source, though available data
suggest a total number of around 60 million people worldwide (with
roughly 21 million living outside of Poland, many of whom are not of
Polish ethnicity, but Polish nationals). There are almost 38
Poland alone. There are also Polish minorities in the
surrounding countries including Germany, and indigenous minorities in
the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, northern and eastern Lithuania,
western Ukraine, and western Belarus. There are some smaller
indigenous minorities in nearby countries such as Moldova. There is
also a Polish minority in
Russia which includes indigenous
well as those forcibly deported during and after World War II; the
total number of
Poles in what was the former
Soviet Union is estimated
at up to 3 million.
The map depicts countries by number of citizens who reported Polish
ancestry (based on sources in this article)
More than 1 million
More than 500 thousand
More than 100 thousand
The term "Polonia" is usually used in
Poland to refer to people of
Polish origin who live outside Polish borders, officially estimated at
around 10 to 20 million. There is a notable
Polish diaspora in the
United States, Brazil, and Canada.
France has a historic relationship
Poland and has a relatively large Polish-descendant population.
Poles have lived in
France since the 18th century. In the early 20th
century, over a million Polish people settled in France, mostly during
world wars, among them Polish émigrés fleeing either Nazi occupation
or later Soviet rule.
In the United States, a significant number of Polish immigrants
settled in Chicago, Ohio, Detroit, New Jersey, New York City, Orlando,
Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and New England. The highest concentration of
Polish Americans in a single
New England municipality is in New
Britain, Connecticut. The majority of
Polish Canadians have arrived in
Canada since World War II. The number of Polish immigrants increased
between 1945 and 1970, and again after the end of Communism in Poland
in 1989. In
Brazil the majority of Polish immigrants settled in
Paraná State. Smaller, but significant numbers settled in the states
of Rio Grande do Sul,
Espírito Santo and São Paulo (state). The city
Curitiba has the second largest
Polish diaspora in the world (after
Chicago) and Polish music, dishes and culture are quite common in the
A recent large migration of
Poles took place following Poland's
accession to the
European Union and opening of the EU's labor market;
with an approximate number of 2 million, primarily young,
up jobs abroad. It is estimated that over half a million Polish
people have come to work in the
United Kingdom from Poland. Since
Poles have been able to work freely throughout the EU and not
just in the United Kingdom,
Sweden where they have had
full working rights since Poland's EU accession in 2004. The Polish
Norway has increased substantially and has grown to a
total number of 120,000, making
Poles the largest immigrant group in
An ethnic highlander (Góral) with bagpipes in Lesser Poland
Culture of Poland
The culture of
Poland has a history of 1000 years. Poland, located
in Central Europe, developed a character that was influenced by its
geography at the confluence of fellow Central European cultures
(Austrian, Czech, German, Hungarian, and Slovak) as well as from
Western European cultures (French, Spanish and Dutch), Southern
European cultures (Italian and Greek), Baltic/Northeastern cultures
(Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian), Eastern European cultures
(Belarusian and Ukrainian) and Western Asian/Caucasian cultures
(Ottoman Turkish, Armenian, and Georgian). Influences were also
conveyed by immigrants (Hungarian, Slovak, Czech, Jewish, German and
Dutch), political alliances (with Lithuania, Hungary, Saxony, France
and Sweden), conquests of the Polish-Lithuanian state (Ukraine,
Romania and Latvia) and conquerors of the Polish
lands (the Russian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg
monarchy, later to be known as the Austrian Empire or
Polish culture has been greatly influenced by its ties with
the Germanic, Hungarian, and
Latinate world and other ethnic groups
and minorities living in Poland. The people of
traditionally been seen as hospitable to artists from abroad
(especially Italy) and open to cultural and artistic trends popular in
other European countries. Owing to this central location, the Poles
came very early into contact with both civilizations – eastern
and western, and as a result developed economically, culturally, and
politically. A German general Helmut Carl von Moltke, in his Poland. A
historical sketch (1885), stated that "
Poland of the fifteenth century
was one of the most civilised states of Europe."
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Polish focus on cultural
advancement often took precedence over political and economic
activity, experiencing severe crises, especially during World War II
and in the following years. These factors have contributed to the
versatile nature of Polish art, with all its complex nuances.
Poland was for centuries a refuge to many
Jews from all over Europe;
in the twentieth century, a large number emigrated to Israel. Several
prominent Israeli statesmen were born in Poland, including Israel's
founder David Ben-Gurion, former President of
Israel Shimon Peres, and
Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin.
Book of Henryków. Highlighted in red is the earliest known sentence
written in the Old Polish language
Knowledge of the
Polish language within Europe
Main article: Polish language
Polish language (Polish: język polski) is a West Slavic language
and the official language of Poland. Its written form uses the Polish
alphabet, which is the
Latin alphabet with the addition of a few
Poland is the most linguistically homogeneous European country; nearly
97% of Poland's citizens declare Polish as their mother tongue.
Poles constitute large minorities in Germany,
Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Hungary, northeast Lithuania
Belarus and Ukraine. Polish is the most widely used
minority language in Lithuania's
Vilnius County (26% of the
population, according to the 2001 census results) and is found
elsewhere in northeastern and western Lithuania. In
Ukraine it is most
common in the western
Lviv and Volyn oblast (provinces), while in
Belarus it is used by the significant Polish minority,
especially in the Brest and
Grodno regions and in areas along the
The geographical distribution of the
Polish language was greatly
affected by the border changes and population transfers that followed
World War II.
Poles resettled in the "Recovered Territories" in the
west and north. Some
Poles remained in the previously Polish-ruled
territories in the east that were annexed by the USSR, resulting in
the present-day Polish-speaking minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and
Ukraine, although many
Poles were expelled or emigrated from those
areas to areas within Poland's new borders. Meanwhile, the flight and
expulsion of Germans, as well as the expulsion of
Ukrainians within Poland, contributed to the country's
Polish-speakers use the language in a uniform manner throughout most
of Poland, though numerous languages and dialects coexist alongside
the standard Polish language. The most common dialects in
Silesian, spoken in Upper Silesia, and Kashubian, widely spoken in the
Science and technology
Education has been of prime interest to
Poland since the early 12th
century. The catalog of the library of the Cathedral Chapter in
Kraków dating from 1110 shows that Polish scholars already then had
access to literature from all over Europe. In 1364 King Casimir III
the Great founded the
Kraków Academy, which would become Jagiellonian
University, one of the great universities of Europe.
The list of early famous scientists in
Poland begins with the
Vitello and includes the polymath and astronomer Nicolaus
Copernicus, who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun
rather than the Earth at its center; the publication of Copernicus'
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the
Celestial Spheres) just before his death in 1543 is considered a major
event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution
and making an important contribution to the Scientific Revolution. In
Stanisław August Poniatowski
Stanisław August Poniatowski established the Commission of
National Education, the world's first ministry of education.
After the 1795 third partition of Poland, no free Polish state
existed. The 19th and 20th centuries saw many Polish scientists
working abroad. The greatest was Maria Skłodowska Curie
(1867–1934), a physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering
research on radioactivity and was the first woman to win a Nobel
Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person
to win twice in multiple sciences, and was part of the Curie family
legacy of five Nobel Prizes. Another notable Polish expatriate
Ignacy Domeyko (1802–89), a geologist and mineralogist
who lived and worked in South America, in Chile.
Kazimierz Funk (1884–1967), whose name is commonly anglicized as
"Casimir Funk", was a Polish biochemist, generally credited with being
among the first to formulate (in 1912) the concept of vitamins, which
he called "vital amines" or "vitamines".
In the first half of the 20th century,
Poland was a world center of
mathematics. Outstanding Polish mathematicians formed the Lwów School
of Mathematics (including Stefan Banach, Hugo Steinhaus, Stanisław
Warsaw School of Mathematics (including Alfred Tarski,
Kazimierz Kuratowski, Wacław Sierpiński).
World War II
World War II pushed many
of them into exile; Benoit Mandelbrot's family left
Poland when he was
still a child. An alumnus of the
Warsaw School of Mathematics was
Antoni Zygmund, a shaper of 20th-century mathematical analysis.
Vitello (c. 1230 – c. 1314), philosopher and scientist specializing
in optics, whose treatise Perspectiva influenced
Roger Bacon and made
basic contributions to the psychology of vision.
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), polymath and astronomer whose
heliocentric model of the Solar System, placing the Sun rather than
the Earth at the center, contributed to the advent of the Scientific
Michael Sendivogius (1566–1636), chemistry pioneer, who discovered
oxygen and developed methods of extracting metals and synthesizing
acids and other substances.
Ignacy Łukasiewicz (1822–82), pharmacist and petroleum-industry
pioneer who built the world's first oil refinery, invented the modern
kerosene lamp, and introduced the first modern street lamp in Europe.
Ludwik Zamenhof (1859–1917), ophthalmologist and creator of the
international language, Esperanto.
Marie Skłodowska Curie
Marie Skłodowska Curie (1867–1934), pioneer radioactivity (she
coined the term) researcher, double
Nobel laureate (physics,
chemistry), and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Wacław Sierpiński (1882–1969), mathematician noted for outstanding
contributions to set theory (research on the axiom of choice and the
continuum hypothesis), number theory, theory of functions, and
Stefan Banach, one of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th
century; a principal founder of modern functional analysis.
Tadeusz Reichstein, succeeded in synthesizing vitamin C in what is now
Reichstein process and received the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine.
Marian Rejewski, mathematician and cryptologist who in 1932
reconstructed the German Enigma cipher machine and, with Henryk
Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki, invented methods and machines to break
the ciphers, jump-starting Britain's
Ultra operation that was crucial
to winning World War II.
Joseph Rotblat, physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, then
shared with the Pugwash Conferences that he headed, the 1995 Nobel
Peace Prize "for efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms
in international affairs and, in the longer run, to eliminate such
Stanisław Ulam, mathematician; he participated in America's Manhattan
Project, originated the Teller–Ulam design of thermonuclear weapons,
discovered the concept of cellular automaton, invented the Monte Carlo
method of computation, and suggested nuclear pulse propulsion.
Hilary Koprowski, virologist and immunologist, and the inventor of the
world's first effective live polio vaccine.
Leonid Hurwicz, the first economist to recognize the value of game
theory and the oldest Nobel Laureate, having received the prize at the
age of 90.
Benoit Mandelbrot, recognized for his contribution to the field of
fractal geometry, as well as developing a theory of "roughness and
self-similarity" in nature.
Alfred Tarski, logician and mathematician; known for work on the
foundations of modern logic, and the formal notion of truth, regarded
as one of the greatest logicians in history
Aleksander Wolszczan, astronomer, conducted pioneering astronomical
observations and co-discovered the first extrasolar planets and pulsar
Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, chemist, inventor of atom transfer radical
polymerization (ATRP), a method of polymer synthesis that has
revolutionized macromolecule production.
Marian Rejewski (1905–80), a Polish mathematician, in December 1932
solved the plugboard-equipped Enigma machine, the main cipher device
used by Nazi Germany. The cryptologic successes of Rejewski and his
Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski, over six
and a half years later, jump-started British reading of Enigma in the
Second World War; the intelligence so gained, code-named Ultra,
contributed, perhaps decisively, to the defeat of Germany.
Józef Rotblat (1908–2005), a Polish physicist, who left the
Manhattan Project on grounds of conscience. His work on nuclear
fallout was a major contribution toward the ratification of the 1963
Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A signatory of the Russell–Einstein
Manifesto, he was secretary-general of the Pugwash Conferences on
Science and World Affairs from their founding until 1973. He shared,
with the Pugwash Conferences, the 1995
Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize for efforts
toward nuclear disarmament.
Hilary Koprowski (1916 – 2013) was a Polish virologist and
immunologist, and the inventor of the world's first effective live
polio vaccine. While in the United States, he authored or co-authored
over 875 scientific papers and co-edited several scientific journals.
Aleksander Wolszczan (born 1946), a Polish astronomer, is the
co-discoverer of the first extrasolar planets and pulsar planets.
Poland has over 100 institutions of post-secondary education –
technical, medical, economic, as well as 500 universities – located
in major cities such as Gdańsk, Kraków, Wrocław, Lublin, Łódź,
Rzeszów and Warsaw. They employ over 61,000 scientists and
scholars. Another 300 research-and-development institutes are home to
some 10,000 researchers. There are also a number of smaller
laboratories. Altogether, these institutions support some 91,000
scientists and scholars.
Main article: Music of Poland
The origin of
Polish music can be traced as far back as the 13th
century, from which manuscripts have been found in Stary Sącz,
containing polyphonic compositions related to the Parisian Notre Dame
School. Other early compositions, such as the melody of Bogurodzica,
may also date back to this period. The first known notable composer,
however, Mikołaj z Radomia, lived in the 15th century.
During the 16th century, mostly two musical groups—both based in
Kraków and belonging to the King and Archbishop of Wawel—led the
rapid innovation of Polish music. Composers writing during this period
include Wacław of Szamotuły, Mikołaj Zieleński, and Mikołaj
Gomółka. Diomedes Cato, a native-born Italian who lived in Kraków
from about the age of five, became one of the most famous lutenists at
the court of Sigismund III, and not only imported some of the musical
styles from southern Europe, but blended them with native folk
Pożegnanie Ojczyzny (Farewell to Country)
Polonaise by Ogiński
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In the last years of the 16th century and the first part of the 17th
century, a number of Italian musicians were guests at the royal courts
Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa and his son Władysław IV. These included
Luca Marenzio, Giovanni Francesco Anerio, and Marco Scacchi. Polish
composers from this period focused on baroque religious music,
concertos for voices, instruments, and basso continuo, a tradition
that continued into the 18th century. The best-remembered composer of
this period is Adam Jarzębski, known for his instrumental works such
as Chromatica, Tamburetta, Sentinella, Bentrovata, and Nova Casa.
Other composers include Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki, Franciszek Lilius,
Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński and Marcin
In addition, a tradition of operatic production began in
1628, with a performance of Galatea (composer uncertain), the first
Italian opera produced outside Italy. Shortly after this performance,
the court produced Francesca Caccini's opera La liberazione di
Ruggiero dall'isola d’Alcina, which she had written for Prince
Władysław three years earlier when he was in Italy. Another first,
this is the earliest surviving opera written by a woman. When
Władysław became king (as Władysław IV) he oversaw the production
of at least ten operas during the late 1630s and 1640s, making Warsaw
a center of the art. The composers of these operas are not known: they
may have been
Poles working under Marco Scacchi in the royal
chapel, or they may have been among the Italians imported by
The late 17th century and the 18th century saw
sociopolitical decline, which hindered the development of music. Some
composers (such as Jan Stefani and Maciej Kamieński) attempted to
create a Polish opera; others imitated foreign composers such as Haydn
The most important development in this time, however, was the
polonaise, perhaps the first distinctively Polish art music.
Polonaises for piano were and remain popular, such as those by Michał
Kleofas Ogiński, Karol Kurpiński, Juliusz Zarębski, Henryk
Wieniawski, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Józef Elsner, and, most famously,
Fryderyk Chopin. Chopin remains very well known, and is regarded for
composing a wide variety of works, including mazurkas, nocturnes,
waltzes and concertos, and using traditional Polish elements in his
pieces. The same period saw Stanisław Moniuszko, the leading
individual in the successful development of Polish opera, still
renowned for operas like
Halka and The Haunted Manor.
Michał Kleofas Ogiński
Michał Kleofas Ogiński composed his polonaise Pożegnanie Ojczyzny
(Farewell to My Homeland) on emigrating after the failure of the
Frédéric Chopin, whose innovations in style, musical form and
harmony, and his association of music with nationalism, were
influential throughout the Romantic period.
Stanisław Moniuszko, wrote many popular art songs and operas, and his
music is filled with patriotic folk themes of the peoples of the
former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Henryk Wieniawski, violinist and composer.
Witold Lutosławski, one of the major European composers of the 20th
century, and one of the preeminent Polish musicians during his last
Andrzej Panufnik, one of the leading Polish composers responsible for
the re-establishment of the
Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra after World
Henryk Górecki, became a leading figure of the Polish avant-garde
during the post-Stalin cultural thaw and achieved great commercial
Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4
Giorgi Latso, piano
Waltz in D-flat major, Op. 64, No. 1 (so-called Minute Waltz)
Muriel Nguyen Xuan, piano
Étude Op. 10, No. 12 (so-called Revolutionary)
Martha Goldstein playing an 1851 Érard piano
Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 in D-flat major
Giorgi Latso, piano
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Polish folk music was collected in the 19th century by Oskar Kolberg,
as part of a wave of Polish national revival. With the coming of
the world wars and then the Communist state, folk traditions were
oppressed or subsumed into state-approved folk ensembles. The most
famous of the state ensembles are Mazowsze and Śląsk, both of which
still perform. Though these bands had a regional touch to their
output, the overall sound was a homogenized mixture of Polish styles.
There were more authentic state-supported groups, such as Słowianki,
but the Communist sanitized image of folk music made the whole field
seem unhip to young audiences, and many traditions dwindled rapidly.
Polish dance music, especially the mazurka and polonaise, were
popularized by Frédéric Chopin, and they soon spread across Europe
and elsewhere. These are triple time dances, while five-beat forms
are more common in the northeast and duple-time dances like the
krakowiak come from the south. The polonaise comes from the French
word for Polish to identify its origin among the Polish aristocracy
and nobility, who had adapted the dance from a slower walking dance
called chodzony. The polonaise then re-entered the lower-class
musical life, and became an integral part of Polish music.
Main article: Polish literature
Polish literature is the literary tradition of Poland. Most Polish
literature has been written in the Polish language, though other
languages, used in
Poland over the centuries, have also contributed to
Polish literary traditions, including German, Hungarian, Slovak,
Czech, Latin, Yiddish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Esperanto.
Almost nothing remains of
Polish literature prior to the country's
Christianization in 966. Poland's pagan inhabitants certainly
possessed an oral literature extending to Slavic songs, legends and
beliefs, but early Christian writers did not deem it worthy of mention
in the obligatory Latin, and so it has perished.
The first recorded sentence in the
Polish language reads: "Day ut ia
pobrusa, a ti poziwai" ("Let me grind, and you take a rest") – a
paraphrase of the
Latin "Sine, ut ego etiam molam." The work, in which
this phrase appeared, reflects the culture of early Poland. The
sentence was written within the
Latin language chronicle Liber
fundationis from between 1269 and 1273, a history of the Cistercian
monastery in Henryków, Silesia. It was recorded by an abbot known
simply as Piotr (Peter), referring to an event almost a hundred years
earlier. The sentence was supposedly uttered by a Bohemian settler,
Bogwal ("Bogwalus Boemus"), a subject of Bolesław the Tall,
expressing compassion for his own wife who "very often stood grinding
by the quern-stone." Most notable early medieval Polish works in
Latin and the Old
Polish language include the oldest extant manuscript
of fine prose in the
Polish language entitled the Holy Cross Sermons,
as well as the earliest Polish-language Bible of Queen Zofia and the
Janko of Czarnków
Janko of Czarnków from the 14th century, not to mention
In the early 1470s, one of the first printing houses in
Poland was set
Kasper Straube in
Kraków (see: spread of the printing press).
In 1475 Kasper Elyan of Glogau (Głogów) set up a printing shop in
Breslau (Wrocław), Silesia. Twenty years later, the first Cyrillic
printing house was founded at
Schweipolt Fiol for Eastern
Orthodox Church hierarchs. The most notable texts produced in that
period include Saint Florian's Breviary, printed partially in Polish
in the late 14th century; Statua synodalia Wratislaviensia (1475): a
printed collection of Polish and
Latin prayers; as well as Jan
Długosz's Chronicle from the 15th century and his Catalogus
With the advent of the Renaissance, the
Polish language was finally
Poland on an equal footing with Latin. Polish art and
culture flourished under the Jagiellonian Dynasty, and many foreign
poets and writers settled in Poland, bringing new literary trends with
them. These writers included
Kallimach (Filippo Buonaccorsi) and
Mikołaj Rej and
Jan Kochanowski laid the foundations
for the Polish literary language and modern Polish grammar. The first
book written entirely in the
Polish language appeared in this period:
a prayer-book by Biernat of
Lublin (ca. 1465 – after 1529), Raj
duszny (Hortulus Animae, Eden of the Soul), printed in
Kraków in 1513
at one of Poland's first printing establishments, operated by Florian
Ungler (originally from Bavaria).
Many Polish writers studied abroad and at the
Kraków Academy (now
Jagiellonian University), which became a melting pot for new ideas and
currents. In this period (as she had had earlier, and would also have
in the future),
Poland had notable philosophers, including Nicolaus
Copernicus, Sebastian Petrycy, Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, Wawrzyniec
Jan Jonston (a Briton),
Jan Amos Komensky
Jan Amos Komensky (a
Stanisław Leszczyński (a Polish king).
In 1488 the world's first literary society, the Sodalitas Litterarum
Vistula Literary Society) was founded in Kraków.
Notable members included Conrad Celtes, Albert Brudzewski, Filip
Callimachus, and Laurentius Corvinus.
Jan Andrzej Morsztyn
Baroque literature (1620–1764) was influenced by the
Jesuit secondary schools, which offered an education
Latin classics as part of a preparation for a career in
politics. The study of poetry required practical skill in writing both
Latin and Polish poems, and radically increased the numbers of poets
and versifiers countrywide. Some exceptional writers grew up as well
in the soil of humanistic education: Piotr Kochanowski (1566–1620)
produced a translation of Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered; poet
Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski
Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski became known throughout Europe,
Latin writings, as Horatius christianus ("the Christian
Jan Andrzej Morsztyn
Jan Andrzej Morsztyn (1621–1693), epicurean courtier and
diplomat, extolled in his sophisticated poems the value of earthly
Wacław Potocki (1621–96), the most productive writer
of the Polish Baroque, united typical Polish szlachta (nobility) views
with deeper reflections and existential experiences. Notable Polish
poets and prose writers of the period included:
Mikołaj Sęp Szarzyński (1550–1581), Rymy
Kasper Miaskowski (1550?–1622)
Daniel Naborowski (1573–1640)
Hieronim Morsztyn (1581–1623)
Szymon Starowolski (1588–1656)
Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski
Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski (1595–1640)
Józef Bartłomiej Zimorowic (1597–1677)
Samuel Twardowski (1600?–1661)
Szymon Zimorowic (1608?–1629), Roksolanki
Krzysztof Opaliński (1611–1655)
Łukasz Opaliński (1612–1666)
Jan Andrzej Morsztyn
Jan Andrzej Morsztyn (1621–1693), leading
Wacław Potocki (1621–1696), Wojna Chocimska
Zbigniew Morsztyn (Morstyn, 1628?–1689)
Stanisław Grochowski (1633–1645)
Jan Chryzostom Pasek
Jan Chryzostom Pasek (1636–1701), Pamietniki (memoirs)
Kasper Twardowski, "Lekcyje Kupidynowe" (church-banned erotica)
Sebastian Grabowiecki (1543–1607)
Piotr Kochanowski (1566–1620)
Jan z Kijan (Dzwonowski?, early 1600s)
The period of
Polish Enlightenment began in the 1730s–40s and peaked
in the second half of the 18th century during the reign of Poland's
last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski. It went into sharp
decline with the Third and final Partition of
Poland (1795), followed
by political, cultural and economic destruction of the country, and
leading to the
Great Emigration of Polish elites. The Enlightenment
ended around 1822, and was replaced by
Polish Romanticism at home and
abroad. The crowning achievements of
Polish Enlightenment include
the adoption of the Constitution of May 3, 1791, Europe's oldest
written constitution as well as the creation of the Commission of
National Education, the world's first ministry of education.
One of the leading
Polish Enlightenment poets was Ignacy Krasicki
(1735–1801), known as "the Prince of Poets" and Poland's La
Fontaine, author of
Fables and Parables
Fables and Parables as well as the first Polish
The Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom
The Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom (Mikołaja
Doświadczyńskiego przypadki); he was also a playwright, journalist,
encyclopedist and translator from French and Greek. Another prominent
writer of the period was
Jan Potocki (1761–1815), a Polish nobleman,
Egyptologist, linguist, and adventurer, whose travel memoirs made him
legendary in his homeland. Outside
Poland he is known chiefly for his
novel, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, which has drawn comparisons
to such celebrated works as the
Decameron and the Arabian Nights.
Another notable literary figure from this period is Piotr Skarga, a
Polish Jesuit, preacher, hagiographer, polemicist, and leading figure
Counter-Reformation in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. His
greatest works include
The Lives of the Saints
The Lives of the Saints (Żywoty świętych,
1579), which was for several centuries one of the most popular books
Polish language and the
Sejm Sermons (Kazania Sejmowe, 1597), a
political treatise, which became popular in the second half of the
19th century, when Skarga was seen as the "patriotic seer" who
predicted the partitions of Poland.
Due to the three successive Partitions carried out by three adjacent
empires—ending the existence of the sovereign Polish state in
1795—Polish Romanticism, unlike
Romanticism elsewhere in Europe, was
largely a movement for independence from foreign occupation, and
expressed the ideals and traditional way of life of the Polish people.
The period of
Poland ended with the Russian Empire's
suppression of the January 1863 Uprising, culminating in public
executions and deportations to Siberia.
The literature of
Polish Romanticism falls into two distinct
sub-periods, each ended by an insurgency: the first, circa 1820–30,
ending with the November 1830 Uprising; and the second, 1830–64,
giving rise to Polish Positivism. In the first Romantic sub-period,
Polish Romantics were heavily influenced by other European Romantics:
their work featured emotionalism and imagination, folklore, and
country life, in addition to the aspiration for independence. The
sub-period's most famous writers were Adam Mickiewicz, Seweryn
Goszczyński, Tomasz Zan, and Maurycy Mochnacki.
In the second Romantic sub-period, after the November 1830 Uprising,
many Polish Romantics worked abroad, driven from
Poland by the
occupying powers. Their work became dominated by the aspiration to
regain their country's lost sovereignty. Elements of mysticism became
more prominent. Also, the concept of the
Three Bards (trzej wieszcze)
developed. The wieszcz functioned as spiritual leader to the
suppressed people. The most notable poet of the Three Bards, so
recognized in both Polish Romantic sub-periods, was Adam Mickiewicz.
The other two national bards were
Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt
Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, President of the Polish National Government
during the November 1830 Uprising, and a romantic poet.
Aleksander Fredro, whose fables, prose, and especially plays belong to
the canon of Polish literature.
Adam Mickiewicz, a principal figure in Polish Romanticism, widely
regarded as one of the greatest Polish and European poets of all time.
Zygmunt Krasiński, one of the
Three Bards who influenced national
consciousness during Poland's political bondage.
Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, author of An Ancient Tale, who produced over
200 novels and 150 novellas.
Juliusz Słowacki, a major figure of Polish Romanticism, and father of
modern Polish drama. His most popular works include
Cyprian Kamil Norwid, a nationally esteemed poet, sometimes considered
to be the "Fourth Bard".
In the wake of the failed January 1863 Uprising against Russian
occupation, a new period of thought and literature, Polish
"Positivism", proceeded to advocate level-headedness, skepticism, the
exercise of reason, and "organic work". "Positivist" writers argued
for the establishment of equal rights for all members of society; for
the assimilation of Poland's Jewish minority; and for defense of
western Poland's population, in the German-occupied part of Poland,
against the German
Kulturkampf and the displacement of the Polish
populace by German colonization. Writers such as
Bolesław Prus sought
to educate the public about a constructive patriotism that would
enable Polish society to function as a fully integrated social
organism, regardless of external circumstances. Another
influential Polish novelist active in that period was Henryk
Sienkiewicz who received the
Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature in 1905. The
Positivist period lasted until the turn of the 20th century and the
advent of the Young
The modernist period known as the Young
Poland movement in visual
arts, literature and music, came into being around 1890, and concluded
with the Poland's return to independence (1918). The period was based
on two concepts. Its early stage was characterized by a strong
aesthetic opposition to the ideals of its own predecessor (promoting
organic work in the face of foreign occupation). Artists following
this early philosophy of Young
Poland believed in decadence,
symbolism, conflict between human values and civilization, and the
existence of art for art's sake. Prominent authors who followed this
trend included Joseph Conrad, Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Stanisław
Przybyszewski and Jan Kasprowicz.
Restored independence (1918–39)
Literature of the
Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic (1918–1939) encompasses a
short, though exceptionally dynamic period in Polish literary
consciousness. The socio-political reality has changed radically with
Poland's return to independence. In large part, derivative of these
changes was the collective and unobstructed development of programs
for artists and writers. New avant-garde trends had emerged. The
period, spanning just twenty years, was full of notable
individualities who saw themselves as exponents of changing European
civilization, including Tuwim, Witkacy, Gombrowicz, Miłosz,
Dąbrowska and Nałkowska (PAL).
Polish literature written during the occupation of Poland
appeared in print only after the end of World War II, including books
by Nałkowska, Rudnicki, Borowski and others. The Soviet takeover
of the country did not discourage émigrés and exiles from returning,
especially before the advent of Stalinism. Indeed, many writers
attempted to recreate the Polish literary scene, often with a touch of
nostalgia for the prewar reality, including Jerzy Andrzejewski, author
of Ashes and Diamonds, describing the political and moral dilemmas
associated with the anti-communist resistance in Poland. His novel was
adapted into film a decade later by Wajda. The new emerging prose
writers such as
Stanisław Dygat and
Stefan Kisielewski approached the
catastrophe of war from their own perspective.
Kazimierz Wyka coined a
term "borderline novel" for documentary fiction.
In the second half of the 20th century a number of Polish writers and
poets achieved international recognition including Stanisław Lem,
Czesław Miłosz (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1980), Zbigniew Herbert,
Wisława Szymborska (Nobel Prize in Literature,
1996), Jerzy Kosiński, Adam Zagajewski, Andrzej Sapkowski, and Olga
Theatre and cinema
At present, the Polish theatre actor possibly best-known outside the
country is Andrzej Seweryn, who in the years 1984–1988 was a member
of the international group formed by
Peter Brook to work on the
staging of the Mahabharata, and since 1993 has been linked with the
Comédie Française. The most revered actor of the second half of the
twentieth century in
Poland is generally considered to be Tadeusz
Łomnicki, who died in 1992 of a heart attack while rehearsing King
During the second half of the nineties, there appeared in Polish
dramatic theatre a new generation of young directors, who have
attempted to create productions relevant to the experience and
problems of a thirty-something generation brought up surrounded by
mass culture, habituated to a fast-moving lifestyle, but at the same
time ever more lost in the world of consumer capitalism. There is no
strict division in
Poland between theatre and film directors and
actors, therefore many stage artists are known to theatre goers from
films of Andrzej Wajda, for example: Wojciech Pszoniak, Daniel
Olbrychski, Krystyna Janda, Jerzy Radziwiłowicz, and from films of
Krzysztof Kieślowski. Notable actors from
Poland include Jerzy Stuhr,
Jerzy Skolimowski and Michał Żebrowski. Polish actors
and actresses that achieved great success overseas, mostly in
Hollywood, include Bella Darvi, Pola Negri, Ross Martin, Ingrid Pitt,
Ned Glass, Lee Strasberg, Izabella Scorupco,
Paul Wesley and John
Hollywood actors and actresses of Polish descent and/or
Partial Polish descent include David Arquette,
Caroll Baker (born
Karolina Piekarski), Christine Baranski, Maria Bello, Jack Benny,
Charles Bronson, Mayim Bialik, Alex Borstein, David Burtka, Steve
Carell, Anna Chlumsky, Jennifer Connelly, Estelle Getty, Scarlett
Johansson, Harvey Keitel, John Krasinski, Lisa Kudrow, Ben Stiller,
Carole Landis, Téa Leoni, Paul Newman, Eli Wallach, Jared Padalecki,
Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Prosky, Maggie Q, William Shatner, Leelee
Loretta Swit and others.
Helena Modjeska (Modrzejewska, 1840–1909) was the reigning diva of
Polish theater before becoming a leading actress in the U.S.
Pola Negri, famous for her tragedienne and femme fatale roles
Lee Strasberg, co-founder of the New York Group Theatre, which was
hailed as "America's first true theatrical collective"
Ross Martin, portrayed Artemus Gordon on the
CBS Western series The
Wild Wild West
Andrzej Wajda, recipient of a honorary Oscar and the Palme d'Or, he
was possibly the most prominent member of the "Polish Film School"
Carroll Baker, earned her
Academy Award nomination for
Baby Doll (1956)
Roman Polanski, film director and
Academy Award winner. Known for
Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown (1974), The Pianist (2002) and Oliver Twist
Andrzej Seweryn, one of the most successful Polish theatre actors,
starred in over 50 films
Paul Wesley, known for playing Aaron Corbett in Fallen and Stefan
Salvatore in the supernatural drama The Vampire Diaries
Krzysztof Kieślowski, an influential filmmaker, his most critically
acclaimed films include Dekalog,
The Double Life of Veronique
The Double Life of Veronique and
Three Colors trilogy
Pawel Pawlikowski, Academy Award-winning film director; his films
My Summer of Love and Ida
Jerzy Skolimowski, film director, recipient of
Golden Bear Award and
Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement
Agnieszka Holland, film and television director, and screenwriter,
best known for her political contributions to Polish cinema, Holland
is one of Poland's most eminent filmmakers
Main article: Religion in Poland
Casimir III the Great
Casimir III the Great welcomes the
Poland (painting by
Poles have traditionally adhered to the Christian faith, with the
majority belonging to the
Roman Catholic Church, with 87.5% of
Poles in 2011 identifying as Roman Catholic. The remaining part of
the population consists mainly of Protestants (especially Lutherans),
Orthodox Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, those irreligious, and
Judaism (mostly from the Jewish populations in
Poland who have lived
there prior to World War II). In addition, many
Polish Tatars are
Sunni Muslims. Roman Catholics live all over the country, while
Orthodox Christians can be found mostly in north-east, in the area of
Białystok, and Protestants (mainly Lutherans) in
Warmia-Masuria. A growing Jewish population exists in major cities,
especially in Warsaw,
Kraków and Wrocław. Over two million
Polish origin reside in the United States, Brazil, and Israel.
According to Poland's Constitution freedom of religion is ensured to
everyone. It also allows for national and ethnic minorities to have
the right to establish educational and cultural institutions,
institutions designed to protect religious identity, as well as to
participate in the resolution of matters connected with their cultural
Religious organizations in the Republic of
Poland can register their
institution with the Ministry of Interior and Administration creating
a record of churches and other religious organizations who operate
under separate Polish laws. This registration is not necessary;
however, it is beneficial when it comes to serving the freedom of
religious practice laws.
Slavic Native Faith
Slavic Native Faith (Rodzimowiercy) groups, registered with the Polish
authorities in 1995, are the
Native Polish Church
Native Polish Church (Rodzimy Kościół
Polski), which represents a pagan tradition going back to Władysław
Kołodziej's 1921 Holy Circle of Worshippers of Światowid (Święte
Koło Czcicieli Światowida), and the Polish Slavic Church (Polski
Kościół Słowiański), There is also the Native Faith
Association (Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary, ZRW) and the Association for
Culture Niklot, founded in 1998.
See also: Roman Catholicism in Poland, Polish National Catholic
Church, Polish Orthodox Church, Polish Lutheran Church, Pentecostal
Church in Poland, Baptist Union of Poland, and Polish Reformed Church
See also: Lechites
Entrance of the Polish delegation to Istanbul, Ottoman Empire, 1790.
Poland to the Turks and Arabic nations was known as Lahestān
(Persian: لهستان), derived from Lechia, the original name of
Poles were referred to as Lehs.
Among exonyms for "Pole", not native to the Polish people or language,
is лях (lyakh), used in East Slavic languages. Today the word Lachy
("Poles") is used in Belorussian, Ukrainian (but now considered
offensive and replaced by the neutral поляк, polyak), and
Russian. Foreign exonyms also include: Lithuanian Lenkai; Hungarian
Lengyelek; Turkish Leh; Armenian: Լեհաստան Lehastan; and
Persian: لهستان (Lahestān).
Main articles: Dialects of Polish, Polish historical regions, Culture
of Poland, and Ethnic minorities in Poland
Łęczyca Land, Wieluń Land, and Łódź
Łęczycanie live between Greater
Poland and Mazovia, and are an
intermediate group, originally closer to Greater
Poles but with
significant Mazur influences. Sieradzanie on the other hand, are
surrounded by Greater Poland, Lesser
Poland and Silesia, and have been
under strong influences of all three provinces. They lost much of
their original distinctness. The main city in this region is Łódź,
but it originated during the Industrial Revolution, being just a small
town before that.
Main articles: Greater Poland, Pałuki, Polans (western), and Grand
Duchy of Posen
Poles (Wielkopolanie) inhabit more or less the original
territory of the tribe of Polans (from which the names
Poles are derived), as well as other areas where Wielkopolanie and
their dialect expanded throughout history. Greater
Poland is where the
Polish statehood emerged during the 9th and 10th centuries. With
places such as Gniezno,
Giecz and Ostrów Lednicki, it is the oldest
province of Poland.
Poznań is its main city. We can distinguish
smaller ethnographic subdivisions among Greater Poles, for example the
Pałuczanie, Biskupianie (near Krobia),
Bambrzy and Hanobrzy
(descended from Polonized German settlers from the areas of Bamberg
and Hanover), Kaliszacy,
Wieleń Mazurs, Szamotulanie, Gostynianie,
and others. Due to past migrations and shifting borders of historical
regions, also two Silesian ethnographic groups live in the territory
of Wielkopolska - Hazacy, who inhabit the area of Rawicz; and
Chwalimiacy, who live around Chwalim,
Nowe Kramsko and Stare Kramsko.
Main articles: Kujawy, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, Goplans, and
Duchy of Inowrocław
Some linguists and ethnographers counted Cuiavians as a subdivision of
Greater Poles, but most recognize their distinct culture and identity.
They inhabit the areas from Lake
Gopło in the south to
in the north-west, and to
Vistula River in the north-east. Toruń,
listed on the UNESCO list of
World Heritage Sites
World Heritage Sites since 1997, is
located on the border between Kujawy,
Chełmno Land and Dobrzyń Land.
Other important cities include Bydgoszcz,
Włocławek and Inowrocław.
See also: Cheese § Origins
Men dressed as
Main articles: Lesser Poland, Krakowiacy, Gorals, and Galicia (Eastern
Małopolanie (Southern Poles) can be divided into several major
Krakowiacy (in the historical Land of Kraków), Lasowiacy,
Sandomirians, Górale (Gorals, Polish Highlanders), Lachy, Posaniacy,
Lubliniacy and inhabitants of
Podkarpacie (Subcarpathia), such as Dolinianie, Rzeszowiacy, Polish
Uplanders or Deaf Germans.
Krakowiacy live to the north of Gorals, to
the east of Silesians, to the west of Sandomirians, in the north they
extend as far as
Częstochowa and Kielce. This group can be further
subdivided into smaller ethnographic regions.
Among Lesser Poles, especially strongly differentiated are the Gorals,
who can be further divided into Beskid Gorals, Podhalanie, Kliszczacy,
Spiszacy, Oravians, and several smaller groups. In the east,
Gorals have Ruthenian-speaking
Lemkos, Hutsuls) and
Rusyns as their neighbours. There is overlap
Gorals in the south. Sandomirians extend in the
north as far as
Skaryszew and Iłża, in the west beyond Chęciny.
Lubliniacy live to the east of Sandomirians, around Lublin, Chełm,
Zamość, Tomaszów Lubelski,
Janów Lubelski and Biłgoraj.
Kurpie from Masovia
Main articles: Mazovia, Masurians, Kurpie, and Warmiak
Mazurs (Masovians) consist of proper Mazurs, known also as Central
Mazurs, who live from the area between
Sierpc and Płock, up to the
Wieprz River. Between Central Mazurs and Podlasie is the
homeland of Eastern Mazurs, and in southern parts of
the homeland of Lutheran, Prussian Mazurs, descended from Central
Mazurs who settled there in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, and
assimilated remnants of Baltic-speaking Old Prussian population.
Another Medieval expansion of Mazurs, to the east, into former
Yotvingian (ethnically West Baltic) territories, led to the emergence
Poles and of Podlasie Mazurs (in the areas around
Węgrów, Siedlce, Puławy, Łuków, Sokołów Podlaski, Włodawa, as
Biebrza River). Another group descended from a mix of Poles
(mostly Mazurs) and West Balts are the Kurpie, who live primarily in
Puszcza Zielona and
Puszcza Biała (the Green Forest and the White
Forest). Yet another subdivision of Mazurs, which developed a very
rich folk culture thanks to having special privileges and prosperity,
are Łowiczanie (around Łowicz). Another group are Poborzanie in the
Mława and Zawkrze.
The capital of Poland, Warsaw, is located in the land of Central
Mazurs. However, as any large city it has always been a melting pot of
people from all regions of
Poland and foreigners from abroad. It is
home to the largest Jewish community in Poland, as well as the
cultural centre of Polish Karaims. Citizens of
Warsaw are called
Varsovians. In the Early Middle Ages,
Płock was the main city in
Mazovia. Along the eastern border of Poland, between Podlasie and
Lubelszczyzna, we can find some people who identify as Poleshuks.
In Suwalszczyzna and Podlasie, we can find dispersed communities of
Polish Tatars and Starovers, as well as settlements of
Lithuanian and Belarusian minorities.
Chełmno Land, Dobrzyń Land, Krajna, and Royal Prussia
Groups intermediate between Greater
Poles and Mazurs (but closer to
Greater Poles), are Chełmniacy and Dobrzyniacy (who live in the lands
Chełmno and Dobrzyń), as well as Lubawiacy (in the land of
Lubawa). Another intermediate group, but closer to Mazurs, are
Catholic Warmiaks in the East Prussian region of Warmia. From the
Middle Ages onwards, Pomerania was under strong Polish
(especially Greater Polish and Cuiavian) influences. From the mixture
Kashubians and Greater Poles, emerged an ethnographic group called
Borowiacy Tucholscy, who live in the
Tuchola Forest region, between
Świecie and Starogard. Borowiacy are intermediary,
whereas another mixed group - Krajniacy - have a mostly Greater Polish
character, with relatively minor Kashubian influences. They live in
the region of Krajna. Two other ethnographic group in Northern Poland
are Powiślanie (whose homelands are the areas around Sztum, Kwidzyń
and Malbork) and Kosznajdrzy.
Żuławy Wiślane in North
Poland used to be the homeland of
Mennonites, who are considered to be either Dutch, German, or a group
on their own.
Kashubians in Gdynia
Main articles: Pomerelia, Kashubians, Kociewie, and Lauenburg and
Early Medieval Pomeranians used to inhabit the entire land located to
the north of Polans, between
Noteć and the Baltic Sea. In the west,
Pomeranians extended perhaps up to Usedom. In the east, they extended
as far as the
Vistula Lagoon, and their eastern neighbours were
Krynica Morska was the easternmost
Slavic-speaking village on the Baltic coast, but the area of Truso
(today Elbląg) to the south was ethnically Old Prussian. Most of
Pomeranians became Germanized throughout history. Only Eastern
Pomeranians preserved their Slavic ethnicity, and are commonly known
Kashubians who were under Polish rule during the
16th-18th centuries remained Roman Catholic, while those who lived in
Brandenburg-Prussia in the 1700s, became
Lutherans following the
Kashubians can be divided into many smaller subdvisisions, such as the
Slovincians. From the Early
Middle Ages onwards, Pomerania was under
strong Polish (especially Greater Polish and Cuiavian) influences,
which led to the emergence of several intermediary ethnographic
groups. Descended mainly from Greater Polish and Cuiavian settlers who
mixed with Kashubians, are
Kociewiacy in the region of Kociewie,
located between Starogard Pomorski, Tczew, Gniew,
Świecie and to the
Gdańsk in the north. The main city in Eastern Pomerania
has always been Gdańsk, located on the borderland between three
ethnographic regions: Kashubia to the west,
Kociewie to the south,
Prussia to the east.
Góral women from the
Beskidy Mountains (Żywiec) in Silesia
Main articles: Silesians, History of Silesia, Silesia, and Cieszyn
In the Early Middle Ages,
Silesia was inhabited by several Lechitic
tribes, known from written sources under their Latinised names. The
most significant tribe (which ultimately gave its name to the region)
were the Sleenzane (Slenzans; Ślężanie) who lived in areas near
Wrocław and along the
Ślęza river, as well as near mount
Ślęża. The Opolini (Opolans; Opolanie) lived in lands near
modern Opole. The Dadodesani or Dedosize (Dyadosans; Dziadoszanie)
lived in areas near modern Głogów. The
Golęszyce) dwelled near modern Racibórz,
Cieszyn and Opawa. The
Lupiglaa (Głubczyce) probably lived on the
Głubczyce Plateau, near
Głubczyce. The Trebouane (Tryebovians; Trzebowianie), mentioned by
the Prague Document (which describes the situation as of year 973 or
earlier), occupied areas near modern Legnica. The Poborane
(Bobrans; Bobrzanie) - mentioned by the same document - lived along
the lower and middle course of the
Bóbr river. The Psyovians
(Psouane; Pszowianie) lived near Pszów, to the east of the Opolans
and to the west of Kraków.
At the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries (c. AD 1000), the total
Silesia is estimated as around 250,000 people.
By the 2nd half of the 12th century (c. AD 1150-1200) the population
increased to 330,000, still in vast majority Slavic-speakers.
Following the German
Ostsiedlung (c. AD 1350-1400), the population of
Silesia was around 2/3 Slavic and 1/3 German (according to
estimates by Kokot, Karol Maleczynski and Tomasz Kamusella) while
Silesia remained 80% ethnically Polish, with the remaining 20%
split mainly between
Germans and Czechs. During the following
centuries cultural Germanization gradually shifted the ethnic
structure of Silesia, so that by the 20th century nearly all of Lower
Silesia had a German-speaking majority. But Upper
majority Polish-speaking. There have also been Moravian and Czech
Silesians can be divided into many smaller groups, such as
Cieszyn Vlachs, Lachians, Silesian Gorals,
Opolans and others. The
oldest Polish town in the USA -
Panna Maria, Texas
Panna Maria, Texas - was
Silesians in 1854. They speak the Texas Silesian
dialect of Polish.
Poles in Lithuania,
Poles in Belarus,
Poles in Ukraine,
Poles in Latvia
Poles from the former eastern territories of
Poland and other areas of
the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. From the
14th century onwards, the
expansion of Polish (mostly Mazur from Masovia, but also Greater
Polish and other) settlers towards the north-east, as well as
Polonization of local inhabitants, led to the emergence of Wilniuki
(North-East Kresowiacy) in the
Grodno Region and Vilno Region
(Wileńszczyzna), which encompasses the borderlands of northern
Lithuania and southern
Latvia (former Inflanty
Voivodeship, including Dyneburg and Ilūkste). At the same time, the
expansion of Polish settlers (mostly Lesser
Poles and Mazurs) towards
the south-east, as well as
Polonization of local inhabitants, led to
the emergence of South-East Kresowiacy in Halychna,
Red Ruthenia (with
its main city - Lvov),
Volhynia and Podolia.
See also: Kresy, Duchy of Livonia, and Red Ruthenia
Jews praying in a synagogue, Warsaw, 1941
Main article: Ethnic minorities in Poland
Traditional national and ethnic minorities within the modern borders
Poland include the Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, Belarusians,
Czechs (including Polonized descendants of the Bohemian
Brethren refugees), Slovaks, Romani people, Dutch people
(Olędrzy, most of whom were Polonized),
Armenians (there were at
least four waves of Armenian immigration to Poland, the earliest of
which took place in the 11th century) and Scots (most of Scots in
Poland have been Polonized as well). Historically, there were also
smaller communities of Hungarians,
Russians and others.
Prior to World War II, a third of Poland's population was composed of
ethnic minorities. Following the war, however, Poland's minorities
were mostly gone, due to the 1945 revision of borders, and the
Holocaust. Most notably, the population of
Jews in Poland, which
formed the largest Jewish community in pre-war
Europe at about 3
million people, was almost completely annihilated by 1945.
Demographics of Poland
List of Poles
Poland (etymology of the demonym)
Pole, Hungarian, two good friends
Poles in Germany
Poles in Lithuania
Poles in Romania
Poles in the former Soviet Union
Poles in the United Kingdom
Polish minority in France
Polish minority in Spain
Poles in Latvia
Polish nationality law
Polish New Zealanders
Sons of Poland
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8 Typically Polish Traits
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