Tuesday, October 26, 2021

History Of Poland

EuropePolandHistory Of Poland

Early history

The earliest towns in modern-day Poland, Kalisz and Elblg on the Amber Trail to the Baltic Sea, were recorded by Roman authors in the first century AD, while the first Polish settlement in Biskupin goes back much earlier, to the seventh century BC.

Poland became a nation in the first part of the tenth century, and Catholicism was established as the official religion in 966 AD. The original capital was Gniezno, but it was transferred to Kraków a century later, where it stayed for half a millennium.

From the 14th through the 16th centuries, Poland enjoyed its golden era under King Casimir the Great and the Jagiellonian dynasty, whose dominion stretched from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic seas. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was Europe’s largest country in the 16th century, attracting many immigrants, including Germans, Jews, Armenians, and Dutch, due to the state’s freedom of confession and the atmosphere of religious tolerance, which was exceptional in Europe at the time of the Holy Inquisition.

In 1596, the capital was relocated to Warsaw under the reign of the Vasa dynasty. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the aristocracy established its independence from the king, which, coupled with many grueling wars, severely undermined the Commonwealth. Poland was the first nation in Europe (and the second in the world, after the United States) to adopt a constitution in response to the need for change. The constitution of May 3, 1791 was the pivotal reform in a series of progressive but tardy efforts to strengthen the nation in the second half of the 18th century.

Partitions and regaining independence

The earliest towns in modern-day Poland, Kalisz and Elblg on the Amber Trail to the Baltic Sea, were recorded by Roman authors in the first century AD, while the first Polish settlement in Biskupin goes back much earlier, to the seventh century BC.

Poland became a nation in the first part of the tenth century, and Catholicism was established as the official religion in 966 AD. The original capital was Gniezno, but it was transferred to Kraków a century later, where it stayed for half a millennium.

From the 14th through the 16th centuries, Poland enjoyed its golden era under King Casimir the Great and the Jagiellonian dynasty, whose dominion stretched from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic seas. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was Europe’s largest country in the 16th century, attracting many immigrants, including Germans, Jews, Armenians, and Dutch, due to the state’s freedom of confession and the atmosphere of religious tolerance, which was exceptional in Europe at the time of the Holy Inquisition.

In 1596, the capital was relocated to Warsaw under the reign of the Vasa dynasty. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the aristocracy established its independence from the king, which, coupled with many grueling wars, severely undermined the Commonwealth. Poland was the first nation in Europe (and the second in the world, after the United States) to adopt a constitution in response to the need for change. The constitution of May 3, 1791 was the pivotal reform in a series of progressive but tardy efforts to strengthen the nation in the second half of the 18th century.

World War II

The Soviet Union launched a concerted assault on Poland’s frontiers from the east, while Nazi Germany launched an invasion from the west and north. Only a few days before the war began, the Soviet Union and Germany signed a secret non-aggression agreement calling for the re-division of central and eastern European countries. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and the Soviet Union attacked Poland on September 17, 1939, kicking off the fourth partition. The re-established Polish Republic was destroyed as a result of these coordinated assaults. Hitler exploited the Danzig (Gdansk) problem as an excuse to attack Poland in the same way that he used the “Sudetenland Question” to capture Czechoslovakia.

Many of World War II’s most notorious war crimes were perpetrated on Polish soil by the Nazis and Soviets, with the former perpetrating the overwhelming bulk of them. Civilians in Poland who resisted either side’s authority were brutally picked up, tortured, and murdered. Nazi Germany built concentration and extermination camps on Polish territory, where many millions of Europeans were killed, including about 90 percent of Poland’s long-standing Jewish population and thousands of indigenous Romanies (Gypsies); Auschwitz being the most notorious of them. The Nazis murdered approximately three million Polish Jews and approximately the same number of Polish non-Jews — not only people who actively opposed the Nazi occupation, but also people who were arbitrarily rounded up and shot, gassed, or taken prisoner for slave labor in concentration camps under intentionally life-threatening conditions. As part of the Nazi plan to destroy the Polish intelligentsia and possible future leadership in order to assimilate Poland into Germany, hundreds of Polish Catholic priests and intellectuals were ruthlessly executed. In the Katy Massacre of 1940, the Soviets gathered up and murdered the cream of the crop of Polish leadership in the portion of Poland they controlled. The massacre, which was authorized by the Soviet Politburo, including Stalin and Beria, killed about 22,000 Polish military and political leaders, business owners, and intellectuals.

Poland lost about 20% of its people as a result of World War II, the Polish economy was totally devastated, and virtually all major cities were destroyed. Following the Yalta and Potsdam agreements between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, Poland was compelled to become a Soviet satellite nation after the war. Many Poles still see these events as an act of treachery by the Allies. At the cost of defeated Germany, Poland’s territory was substantially reduced and moved westward to the Oder-Neisse Line. The native Polish inhabitants from the former Polish lands in the east, now seized by the Soviet Union, were forcibly removed and replaced the similarly expelled German populations in the country’s west and north. This resulted in the forced relocation of nearly ten million people and the postponement of Polish-German reconciliation.

Communism (People’s Republic of Poland)

Poland was compelled to become a socialist country after WWII. Between 1945 and 1953, pro-Stalinist officials carried out purges on a regular basis. Members of the Polish Home Army and other partisan groups that had fought both Soviet and German dominance in Poland were particularly targeted. There were additional pogroms following the war, the most infamous of which being the 1946 Kielce pogrom, which was reportedly instigated by Joseph Stalin’s NKVD secret police, despite being based on the customary Christian blood libel against Jews and receiving only mild condemnation from Polish bishops. As a consequence of the pogroms and the communist government’s following antisemitic actions, the majority of Jewish survivors of Nazi persecution fled, essentially ending centuries of strong Jewish presence in Poland’s cultural and ethnic fabric.

Poland was moderate and progressive in contrast to other Eastern Bloc nations after the brutal Stalinist period of 1945-1953. However, rapid economic development in the postwar era was punctuated by severe recessions in 1956, 1970, and 1976, resulting in labor unrest due to significant inflation and shortages of commodities. If you ask older Poles about the poor Poland of the Communist period, you’ll frequently hear tales of bare shop shelves where the only item available to buy was vinegar. You’ll hear tales of people making backroom deals to obtain meat or bread, such as exchanging items at the post office to get ham for a special meal.

In 1978, there was a short respite from this history. Karol Wojtya, the then-archbishop of Kraków, was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, adopting the name John Paul II. This had a significant effect on Poland’s mostly Catholic populace, and John Paul II is still highly respected in the nation.

In 1980, the anti-communist trade union “Solidarity” (Polish: Solidarno) emerged as a key driving force in a powerful opposition movement, organizing labor strikes and demanding press freedom and democratic representation. From 1981 to 1983, the communist government reacted by establishing martial rule. Thousands of people were detained during this period, phone calls were monitored by the government, independent organizations not aligned with the Communists were deemed illegal and members were arrested, access to roads was restricted, borders were sealed, ordinary industries were placed under military management, and workers who failed to comply were fired.

Solidarity was the most well-known of the criminalized groups, and its members faced the prospect of losing their jobs and being imprisoned. However, the Communist Party’s position was severely undermined by the heavy-handed persecution and ensuing economic catastrophe. Solidarity was ultimately legalized again, leading to the country’s first free elections in 1989, in which the communist regime was finally deposed. This sparked a wave of nonviolent anti-communist uprisings throughout the Warsaw Pact bloc.

Contemporary Poland (Third Republic of Poland)

Poland is now a democratic nation with a stable and strong economy. It has been a NATO member since 1999 and a member of the European Union since 2004. The fact that the terrible deaths of the President and a significant number of political, commercial, and civic figures in a plane accident had no discernible negative impact on the Polish currency or economic prospects recently highlighted the country’s stability. Poland has also joined the Schengen accord, with open borders to Germany, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and is on course to adopt the Euro currency in a few years. Poland’s goal of rejoining Europe as an independent country living in peace and mutual respect with its neighbors has finally come true.