Poland (Polish: Polska), officially the Republic of Poland (Polish: Rzeczpospolita Polska), is a country in Central Europe. Poland is bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north. The total area of Poland is 312,679 km² (120,728 sq mi), making it the 69th largest country in the world and 9th in Europe. Poland has a population of over 38.5 million people, which makes it the 33rd most populous country in the world.
The establishment of a Polish state is often identified with the adoption of Christianity by its ruler Mieszko I in 966 (see Baptism of Poland), when the state covered territory similar to that of present-day Poland. Poland became a kingdom in 1025, and in 1569 it cemented a long association with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by uniting to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth collapsed in 1795. Poland regained its independence in 1918 after World War I but lost it again in World War II, occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Poland lost over six million citizens in World War II, and emerged several years later as a communist country within the Eastern Bloc under the control of the Soviet Union. In 1989 communist rule was overthrown and Poland became what is constitutionally known as the "Third Polish Republic". Poland is a unitary state made up of sixteen voivodeships (Polish: województwo). Poland is also a member of the European Union, NATO and OECD.
|Annual data||2007(a)||Historical averages (%)||2003-07|
|Population (m)||38.1||Population growth||-0.1|
|GDP (US$ bn; market exchange rate)||421.9||Real GDP growth||5.1|
|GDP (US$ bn; purchasing power parity)||621.0||Real domestic demand growth||5.6|
|GDP per head (US$; market exchange rate)||11,068||Inflation||2.0|
|GDP per head (US$; purchasing power parity)||16,291||Current-account balance (% of GDP)||-2.8|
|Exchange rate (av) Zl:US$||2.8||FDI inflows (% of GDP)||4.1|
Real GDP growth was 6.6% in 2007, up from 6.2% in 2006, but is forecast to slow to 5.4% in 2008 and to an average of around 4.3% per year in 2009-12.
Inflation is rising and price pressures are strengthening. Consumer price inflation is forecast to rise to an average of 4.2% in 2008, but assuming that the National Bank of Poland (NBP, the central bank) continues to raise interest rates, it should return to the NBP’s target of 2.5% by 2011.
Despite continued economic expansion, the previous government’s cuts in social security contributions and increases in social spending are likely to keep the budget deficit relatively high in 2008.
The current government is more positive than its predecessor about Poland’s entry to European economic and monetary union (EMU). However, it will not want the zloty to enter the EU’s exchange-rate mechanism (ERM2) until it is sure that Poland can meet the other Maastricht criteria, and 2012 appears to be the earliest feasible date for the euro to replace the zloty. www.economist.com
The recent surge in demand for workers coupled with the massive scale of labour migration to EU countries has led to shortages of skilled workers in many sectors. As a result, wage pressures increased significantly. The average gross monthly wage jumped by 8% in 2007 compared to a year ago. We should expect further acceleration in wage growth to around 10%. www.polishmarket.com
Poland is considered to have one of the healthiest economies of the post-communist countries, with GDP growing by 6.1% in 2006. Since the fall of communism, Poland has steadfastly pursued a policy of liberalising the economy and today stands out as a successful example of the transition from a state-directed economy to a primarily privately owned market economy.
The privatisation of small and medium state-owned companies and a liberal law on establishing new firms have allowed the development of an aggressive private sector. As a consequence, consumer rights organizations have also appeared. Restructuring and privatisation of "sensitive sectors" such as coal, steel, railways, and energy has been continuing since 1990. Between 2007 and 2010, the government plans to float twenty public companies on the Polish stock market, including parts of the coal industry. To date (2007), the biggest privatisations have been the sale of the national telecoms firm Telekomunikacja Polska to France Telecom in 2000, and an issue of 30% of the shares in Poland’s largest bank, PKO Bank Polski, on the Polish stockmarket in 2004.
Poland has a large number of private farms in its agricultural sector, with the potential to become a leading producer of food in the European Union. Structural reforms in health care, education, the pension system, and state administration have resulted in larger-than-expected fiscal pressures. Warsaw leads in the Central Europe in foreign investment. GDP growth had been strong and steady from 1993 to 2000 with only a short slowdown from 2001 to 2002.
|Agriculture in Poland - source|
The prospect of closer integration with the European Union has put the economy back on track, with growth of 3.7% annually in 2003, a rise from 1.4% annually in 2002. In 2004, GDP growth equaled 5.4%, in 2005 3.3% and in 2006 6.2%. For 2007, the government has set a target for GDP growth at 6.5 to 7.0%.
Since joining the European Union, many workers have left to work in other EU countries (particularly Ireland and the UK) because of high unemployment, which was the second-highest in the EU (14.2% in May 2006). However, with the rapid growth of the salaries, booming economy, strong value of Polish currency, and quickly decreasing unemployment (8% in March 2008) exodus of Polish workers seems to be over. In 2008 people who came back outnumbered thoses leaving the country.
|Leopard sport-style car designed and produced in Poland - source|
Commodities produced in Poland include: electronics, cars (including the luxurious Leopard car), buses (Autosan, Jelcz SA, Solaris, Solbus), helicopters (PZL Świdnik), transport equipment, locomotives, planes (PZL Mielec), ships, military engineering (including tanks, SPAAG systems), medicines (Polpharma, Polfa), food, clothes, glass, pottery (Bolesławiec), chemical products and others.
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 ATS pober between the 14th and 16th centurie, scoring milibary successes against the (Germanic) Knights of the Teutonic Order, the Russians, and the Ottoman Turks.
|Albert of Prussia receives the Ducal Prussia in fief from the King Sigismund I of Poland in 1525 - source|
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.
|German Troops In Warsaw - source|
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 frontier. 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).
|Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp - source|
A new constitution in 1952 made Poland a "people’s democracy" of the Soviet type. In 1955, Poland became a member of the Warsaw Pact and its foreign policy identical to that of the USSR. The government undertook persecution of the Roman Catholic Church as a remaining source of opposition. Wladyslaw Gomulka was elected leader of the United Workers (Communist) Party in 1956. He denounced the Stalinist terror, ousted many Stalinists, and improved relations with the church. Most collective farms were dissolved, and the press became freer. A strike that began in shipyards and spread to other industries in Aug. 1980 produced a stunning victory for workers when the economically hard-pressed government accepted for the first time in a Marxist state the right of workers to organize in independent unions.
Led by Solidarity, an independent union founded by an electrician, Lech Walesa, workers launched a drive for liberty and improved conditions. A national strike for a five-day workweek in Jan. 1981 led to the dismissal of Prime Minister Pinkowski and the naming of the fourth prime minister in less than a year, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. Martial law was declared on Dec. 13, when Walesa and other Solidarity leaders were arrested, and Solidarity was outlawed. Martial law formally ended in 1984 but the government retained emergency powers. Increasing opposition to the government because of the failing economy led to a new wave of strikes in 1988. Unable to quell the dissent entirely, the government relegalized Solidarity and allowed it to compete in elections.
Solidarity members won a stunning victory in 1989, taking almost all the seats in the Senate and all of the 169 seats they were allowed to contest in the Sejm. This gave them substantial influence in the new government. Tadeusz Mazowiecki was appointed prime minister. Lech Walesa won the presidential election of 1990 with 74% of the vote. In 1991, the first fully free parliamentary election since World War II resulted in representation for 29 political parties. Efforts to turn Poland into a market economy, however, led to economic difficulties and widespread discontent. In the second democratic parliamentary election of Sept. 1993, voters returned power to ex-Communists and their allies. Solidarity’s popularity and influence continued to wane. In 1995, Aleksander Kwasniewski, leader of the successor to the Communist Party, the Democratic Left, won the presidency over Walesa in a landslide.
|The Sejm building in Warsaw - source|
In 1999, Poland became part of NATO, along with the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Poland was a staunch supporter of the United States and Britain during the Iraq war and sent 200 troops to Iraq (60 were combat soldiers). In Sept. 2003, Poland became the leader of a 9,000-strong multinational stabilizing force in Iraq. It contributed 2,000 of its own soldiers. In April 2005, Poland announced it would withdraw all troops from Iraq at the end of the year.
On May 1, 2004, Poland joined the EU. Prime Minister Leszek Miller resigned on May 2, 2004. His popularity had plummeted to 10% because of the country’s economic troubles and a number of corruption scandals. Former finance minister Marek Belka succeeded him.
Poland is a democracy, with a President as a Head of State, whose current constitution dates from 1997. The government structure centres on the Council of Ministers, led by a prime minister. The president appoints the cabinet according to the proposals of the prime minister, typically from the majority coalition in the Sejm. The president is elected by popular vote every five years. The current president is Lech Kaczyński, the current prime minister is Donald Tusk.
Polish voters elect a bicameral parliament consisting of a 460-member lower house (Sejm) and a 100-member Senate (Senat). The Sejm is elected under proportional representation according to the d’Hondt method, a method similar to that used in many parliamentary political systems. The Senate, on the other hand, is elected under a rare plurality bloc voting method where several candidates with the highest support are elected from each constituency. With the exception of ethnic minority parties, only candidates of political parties receiving at least 5% of the total national vote can enter the Sejm. When sitting in joint session, members of the Sejm and Senate form the National Assembly (the Zgromadzenie Narodowe). The National Assembly is formed on three occasions: when a new President takes the oath of office; when an indictment against the President of the Republic is brought to the State Tribunal (Trybunał Stanu); and when a President’s permanent incapacity to exercise his duties due to the state of his health is declared. To date, only the first instance has occurred.
The judicial branch plays an important role in decision-making. Its major institutions include the Supreme Court of Poland (Sąd Najwyższy); the Supreme Administrative Court of Poland (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny); the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland (Trybunał Konstytucyjny); and the State Tribunal of Poland (Trybunał Stanu). On the approval of the Senate, the Sejm also appoints the Ombudsman or the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) for a five-year term. The Ombudsman has the duty of guarding the observance and implementation of the rights and liberties of Polish citizens and residents, of the law and of principles of community life and social justice
Last national elections 2007
Last European Parliament election June 2009 See: • http://www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/archive/elections2009/en/poland_en.html • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2009_(Poland) • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/5477196/European-elections-2009-Polands-governing-party-enjoys-easy-victory.html
Today Poland has more than a hundred tertiary education institutions; traditional universities to be found in its major cities of Białystok, Bydgoszcz, Gdańsk, Katowice, Kraków, Lublin, Łódź, Olsztyn, Opole, Poznań, Rzeszów, Szczecin, Toruń, Warsaw, Wrocław and Zielona Góra as well as technical, medical, economic institutions elsewhere, employing around 61,000 workers. There are also around 300 research and development institutes, with about 10,000 more researchers. In total, there are around 91,000 scientists in Poland today.
According to Frost & Sullivan’s Country Industry Forecast the country becoming an interesting location for research and development investments. Multinational companies such as: ABB, Delphi, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Hewlett–Packard, IBM, Intel, LG Electronics and Microsoft, set up their R&D centres in Poland. Motorola in Kraków, Siemens in Wrocław and Samsung in Warszawa are one of the largest owned by those companies. Over 40 R&D centres, and 4,500 of researchers makes Poland biggest R&D hub in the Central and Eastern Europe. Companies chose Poland because of the availability of highly qualified labor force, presence of universities, support of authorities, and the largest market in Central Europe.
According to KPMG report 80% of Poland’s current investors are contented with their choice and willing to reinvest. In 2006 Intel decided to double the number of employees in its R&D centre.
Poland’s current voivodeships (provinces) are largely based on the country’s historic regions, whereas those of the past two decades (to 1998) had been centred on and named for individual cities. The new units range in area from less than 10,000 km² (Opole Voivodeship) to more than 35,000 km² (Masovian Voivodeship). Administrative authority at voivodeship level is shared between a government-appointed voivode (governor), an elected regional assembly (sejmik) and an executive elected by that assembly.
|Division of Poland into voivodeships and powiats - source|
The voivodeships are subdivided into powiats (often referred to in English as counties), and these are further divided into gminas (also known as communes or municipalities). Major cities normally have the status of both gmina and powiat. Poland currently has 16 voivodeships, 379 powiats (including 65 cities with powiat status), and 2,478 gminas
Religion in Poland has changed throughout centuries, however Christian Faith, particularly Roman Catholicism has dominated polish cociety (see also historical demography of Poland). Currently most Poles, adhere to the Christian faith, more than 90% are Roman Catholic (according to church baptism statistics) with 80% counting as practising Catholics (regularly attending Church). The rest of the population consists mainly of Eastern Orthodox (about 509 500), Jehovah’s Witnesses (about 123 034) and various Protestant (about 86 880 in the largest Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland and about as many in smaller churches) religious minorities.
According to the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report by the U.S. Department of State, more than 96 percent of citizens were identified as Roman Catholic As of 2007 (CBOS’ probe), 55% citizens over the age of 18 declare full identification with the Roman Catholic Church; 6% declare themselves as unbelievers. (After the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005: 63% and 3%)
Polish culture has been influenced by both Eastern and Western influences. Today, these influences are evident in Polish architecture, folklore, and art. Poland is the birthplace of some world famous individuals, including Pope John Paul II, Marie Skłodowska Curie, Kazimierz Pułaski, Nicolaus Copernicus and Frederic Chopin.
|Birthplace of Marie Sklodowska-Curie - source|
The character of Polish art always reflected world trends. The famous Polish painter, Jan Matejko included many significant historical events in his paintings. Also a famous person in history of Polish art was Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. He was an example of a Polish Renaissance Man. Polish literature dates back to 1100s and includes many famous poets and writers.
Many world renowned Polish movie directors include Academy Awards winners Roman Polański, Andrzej Wajda, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Janusz Kamiński and, Krzysztof Kieślowski. The traditional Polish music composers include world-renowned pianist Frederic Chopin as well as famous composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Karol Szymanowski, and others.
Famous people of Poland
Karol Szymanowski (1882 – 1937), the world-famous composer and pianist, born in Tymoszowka, Composer, born on 3 October 1882 in Tymoszowka, died on 29 March 1937 in Lausanne.
Karol Szymanowski spent his childhood in Tymoszowka, Ukraine. He started to learn to play the piano in 1889, his father being his first teacher. Then he learned from Gustaw Neuhaus in the Elizawetgrad School of Music, and later became a student of Marek Zawirski (harmony) and Zygmunt Noskowski (counterpoint and composition) in Warsaw in 1901-05. At that time Szymanowski met Pawel Kochanski, Artur Rubinstein, Grzegorz Fitelberg, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz "Witkacy" and Stefan Zeromski
|Frédéric Chopin - source|
Frédéric Chopin (Polish: Fryderyk [Franciszek] Chopin, sometimes Szopen; French: Frédéric [François] Chopin; March 1, 1810 – October 17, 1849) was a Polish virtuoso pianist and piano composer of the Romantic period. He is widely regarded as the greatest Polish composer, and one of the most influential composers for piano in the 19th century.
Pope John Paul II
|Pope John Paul II - source|
Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II, Polish: Jan Paweł II, Spanish: Juan Pablo II) born Karol Józef Wojtyła ; 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) reigned as the 264th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City from 16 October 1978, until his death, almost 27 years later, maing his the second-longest pontificate after Pius IX’s 31-year reign. He is the only Polish pope, and was the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Adrian VI in the 1520s.
John Paul II was Pope during a period in which the Catholic Church’s influence declined in developed countries but expanded in the Third World. During his reign, the pope traveled extensively, visiting over 100 countries, more than any of his predecessors. He remains one of the most-traveled world leaders in history. He was fluent in numerous languages: his native Polish and also Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Croatian, Portuguese, Russian and Latin. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he canonized a great number of people.
Polish people enjoy greeting each other. If you find the word "cześć" (Hi!) too difficult to pronounce, you can use "Hello" instead and you’ll certainly be understood. When arriving at a meeting, Polish people shake hands. When the company is larger it’s right to shake hands with all those present. As a rule the first few minutes of any gathering are taken up with everyone greeting everyone else. This breaks the ice and makes life easier for the shy. Don’t be surprised if some people exchange embraces or even a kiss during a greeting. This indicates familiarity rather than love. In the fervour of greetings someone may even lean over to kiss visitors from abroad. If that happens, don’t panic, just return the gesture. But with moderation, a kissed greeting is in fact a delicate touch of cheeks.
Words and gestures
When the greetings are over the talking starts. In any group there is bound to be someone who speaks English - the most popular foreign language in Poland. The rest will wholeheartedly take it upon themselves to teach the foreigner some Polish. Someone will almost certainly suggest you repeat the tongue twister: "W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie" (say: Vuh Shchebsheshinyeh kshanshch bshmee vuh tshchynyeh), which is difficult even for Poles to say properly. The foreigner can but try - and in so doing amuse all those assembled. After this the conversation may continue in the form of unconjugated verbs and gestures.
First names, surnames and...
Bruderszaft is something like a fraternal toast. In no circumstances may you decline it, as this could be taken as an offence. Relations between people who have taken part in this ceremony turn from official to personal. From then on first names can be used, in Polish "przejść na ty" ("ty" being the informal "you" -being on first-name terms). Bruderszaft is accomplished in the following way: two people simultaneously raise a toast, after which they interlock arms and down their drinks. The last part is an exchange of kisses and a "Call me Marek," - "Call me John".
If you don’t get on to such familiarities, call your Polish interlocutor Pan (Mr) or Pani (Ms). Dropping the Mr or Ms and using only such titles as Director, President, or professions (Waiter, Driver, Cashier) is taken as impolite behaviour. Even worse is to call someone only by their surname. Saying "Kowalski, pass me that teaspoon", you may expose yourself to the suspicion that you are treating Kowalski no better than a servant. "Panie Kowalski" (Mr Kowalski) is low-brow (and in some circles downright rude); the socially accepted habit of preceding a first name with Pan or Pani is the most prevalent custom. If you say "Pani Beato" (Ms Beata), "Panie Jacku" (Mr Jacek) you can be sure that neither a hotel receptionist nor a company director will take offence. This is the polite form of address to little-known peers, people you have just met, and inferiors; superiors should be addressed "proszę pana" or "proszę pani", or by their title: "panie doktorze", "pani doktor", "panie dyrektorze" etc.
Moving to the informal "ty" makes life much easier, but it also brings certain obligations. The most important is to remember name-days (a patron saint’s day - rather than birthdays). This anniversary is important for Poles and in no other culture is it celebrated in such a special way. In order to avoid awkward situations, it is worthwhile checking the calendar and marking the appropriate date. Poles celebrate their name-day at home, sometimes in restaurants, occasionally at work - but these days only after hours.
Nature lovers will certainly enjoy the golden beaches of the Baltic Sea coast in the north and the rocky peaks of the Tatra Mountains in the south. Water sports fans will love the Great Masurian Lakes and hikers will feel happy on the Bieszczady trails, amidst the wilderness of that green mountain range. They may encounter a bison, the hikers can venture a climb to the tops of shifting dunes in the Slowinski National Park.Europe’s biggest animal, living in its natural habitat that occupies a part of the Bialowieza primeval forest; enjoy pleasures of photo-safari in the unique Biebrza River Marshes or the thrilling experience of rafting through the Dunajec Gorge. Keen
Buffs of history and historical mementoes are welcome to visit carefully restored complexes of old Polish cities, including the royal castles in Warsaw and Cracow, Poland’s former capital. They will enjoy touring old magnate residences remembering the bygone times and visiting numerous museums, including the fascinating underground galleries of the medieval salt mine in Wieliczka, or the biographical museum of Nicolaus Copernicus in the old bishops’ residence in Frombork.
Health services - better to buy insurance cover, as private treatment is expensive. There is a full range of drugs in the pharmacies. Some countries have reciprocal contracts with Poland for free treatment on the national health service for their citizens.
|Slowinski National Park - source|
Churches - it is not advised to plan visits on Sundays or religious holidays. Poles are a religious nation and during masses churches are crowded. No piictures may be taken during a service. Going into a church scantily dressed (e.g. in beachwear) is frowned upon.
Telephones - the whole country is within range for mobile telephones. Fixed-line calls, especially international ones are among the most expensive in Europe.
E-mail - you can use email in Internet cafes found in all the larger towns and cities. Most companies have email and private use is becoming more and more widespread.
Safety - crime rates are among the lowest in Europe. Better, however, not to go in the evening to places tour guides and friends have warned you about. Purse-snatching doesn’t really figure large, though it is necessary to be on the look-out for pick-pockets, especially in crowded trams, buses and trains. It is not advisable to leave radios or other valuables in your car.