National holiday: Constitution Day, May 3.
Nature and climate: In the south the Sudeten and Carpathian Mountains forms a natural border to the Czech republic and Slovakia, with a highest peak, Rysy, reaching 2499 m.a.s.l. North of these mountains are vast plains, a part of the Northern European Plains.
The natural vegetation in Poland has been devastated mainly by agriculture, but also by environmental pollution. Most of the wild animals disappeared along with the forests.
The climate is continental with an average temperature between -2 and -5°C in January and 18°C in July.
Percipitation between 500 and 700 mm.
People:98% Polish, with small minorities of Germans, Ukrainian and Belorussians.
Economy: 27% of the labour force is occupied in agriculture, 36% in industry and trade and 21% in different services.
Most farms are small and even during the communist regime 4/5th of the land was privately owned.
Most important crops are grains, potatoes, sugar beats, tobacco, flax and oil seeds.
Stockraizing is very extensive and Poland is one of the world's biggest exporters of meat.
Fishing is also important.
Poland have many minerals such as coal, sulphur, copper, iron, zinc, silver, lead, oil and natural gas.
Heavy industry is concentrated in the southern parts. There is a big and varied manufacturing of vehicles, rail equipments and by the Baltic Sea there are many big ship yards.
Chemical and electronical industry is advanced.
Food processing, textiles and clothing are extensive.
History: There are several remnants of settlements from prehistoric times in Poland.
In the 5th century BC the Huns ruled Poland for a short time and the Nordic Vikings visited the area and founded trade stations between 800 and 1050 AD.
In the late 10th century the area was united in one kingdom by Mieszko I of the Piast dynasty. The kings were rather weak in the 12th and 13th centuries and Poland lost some territory to the German Order.
In 1386 Poland came into a personal union with Lithaunia and in the late 15th century Poland conquered a vast area and finally controlled land from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
In 1491 Poland and Hungary were united in a personal union and became one of the most powerful nations in Europe. During the 16th century Poland was one of the most important tradecenters of Europe.
In 1572 the monarchy became elective and the nobility was very large - about 10% of the population - and in the mid 17th century the "Polish parliament" was created: Every member of the parliament had a veto and that stopped every sane proposal and decision in the parliament.
In the mid 17th century the cosachs of Ukraine established an independent country, Prussia established an independent country and Poland was involved in several wars, gained some small areas, but lost other and bigger areas. During these wars about 45% of the population died and economy was ruined. In the middle of the 18th century anarchy ruled in Poland and in 1772, 1793 and 1795 the country was divided between the neighbours Prussia, Russia and Austria.
The Polish nobility and people hoped that Napoleon would give them the chance to establish an independent country but this failed and most parts of Poland came under Russia. After unsuccessful uprisings in 1830 and 1863 an intense russification program started.
In World War I Poland was occupied by the Axis-powers. They allowed a new Polish independent country that was established 1918.
This republic survived to 1939 when World War II started with the German attack on Poland. Germany took the western half of the country and the Soviet Union the eastern half.
After WWII the Soviet Union enforced the creation of a communist state in Poland.
At first this communist state was extremely dependent on the Soviet Union. A Soviet general was appointed defence minister and commander in chief of the army, but from 1956 the ties were loosened.
During the following decades the moral leadership in Poland passed over to the Roman Catholic church and their Cardinal in Warzaw. In 1978 the bishop of Krakow was elected pope and his visit to Poland in 1979 was the start for a series of extraordinary events that followed in the 1980:s.
In early 1980 the communist government launched a program to stabilize Polish economy. Meat prices raised by 60% in July alone and inflation was extremely high.
This was met by strikes for wage adjustments in many parts of the Polish society and put the shipyard electrician Lech Walesa of the Lenin shipyard in GDansk in the position of national leadership.
He was elected chairman of the national coordination committee for independent labour unions, Solidarity.
Lower prices, higher wages, the right to strike, freedom for political prisoners and an end to censorship were the main demands during the strikes and soon more than 40 independent labour unions had been formed and were more or less legalized.
In early 1981 a Soviet general was appointed general secretary of the communist party and later Solidarity announced plans for a referendum on the legacy of the new regime, then martial law was declared, many of the Solidarity-leaders were prisoned, all their activities were banned and the right to strike was abolished.
But the popularity of Solidarity could not be suppressed and in 1989 it was finally legalized and in elections the same year the Solidarity candidates won a majority of the seats in parliament.
In 1990 Lech Walesa won the presidential elections.
This peaceful "Polish revolution" against communism was the start of liberalization for the whole communist sphere in Eastern Europe.
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