Poland

Poland

Poland (in Polish: Polska), officially the Republic of Poland, is located in Central Europe and bordered by Germany to the west, by the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, by Ukraine, Belarus to the east, and by the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, and Lithuania to the north.

The total area of Poland is 120,726 square miles (312,679 square kilometers), making it the 69th largest country in the world and the 9th largest in Europe. With a population of more than 38.5 million people, Poland is the 34th most populous country in the world and the sixth most populous member of the European Union.

Historians trace the establishment of a Polish state to 966, when Mieszko I, ruler of a territory roughly coextensive with that of present-day Poland, converted to Christianity. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025. In 1569 it cemented a longstanding political association with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by signing the Union of Lublin, forming the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. When the Polish territory was partitioned among the Kingdom of Prussia in 1795, the Russian Empire, and Old Austria, the Commonwealth ceased to exist. Poland regained independence in 1918  as the Second Polish Republic at the end of World War I.

Twenty years later, in September 1939, World War II started with the Nazi Germany and Soviet Union invasions of Poland. More than six million Polish citizens died in the war. Poland became a client state of the Soviet Union in 1944 and was accordingly renamed the People’s Republic of Poland in 1952. During the Revolutions of 1989, Poland’s communist government was overthrown, and Poland adopted a new constitution establishing itself as a democracy with the name of “Third Polish Republic.”

Despite the vast destruction the country experienced during World War II, Poland managed to preserve much of its cultural wealth. There are currently 14 heritage sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in Poland and 54 historical monuments.