Poland country profile


A nation with a proud cultural heritage, Poland can trace its roots back over 1,000 years. Positioned at the centre of Europe, it has known turbulent and violent times.

There have been periods of independence as well as periods of domination by other countries. Several million people, half of them Jews, died in the Second World War.

A new era began when Poland became an EU member in May 2004, five years after joining Nato and 15 years after the end of communist rule.

It was the birthplace of the former Soviet bloc's first officially recognised independent mass political movement when strikes at the Gdansk shipyard in August 1980 led to agreement with the authorities on the establishment of the Solidarity trade union.


Republic of Poland

Capital: Warsaw

  • Population 38.3 million

  • Area 312,685 sq km (120,728 sq miles)

  • Major language Polish

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 74 years (men), 82 years (women)

  • Currency zloty

Getty Images


President: Andrzej Duda

Image source, Getty Images

Andrzej Duda of the conservative, Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party, scored a surprise win in the 2015 election, beating the incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski of the centrist Civic Platform in the closest presidential contest in Poland's history.

Born in 1972 and a law lecturer by profession, Mr Duda has been active in conservative politics since the early 2000s, rising to work in the Presidential Chancellery under Lech Kaczynski in 2008-2010.

Prime Minister: Mateusz Morawiecki

Image source, Getty Images

Finance Minister Morawiecki took over as head of the conservative Law and Justice party government in December 2017, replacing Beata Szydlo, who moved to the post of deputy prime minister.

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski dropped Mrs Szydlo in what Polish political analysts see as a move to repair the country's poor relations with the European Union, and prepare the party for a series of elections.

The Western-educated economist Mr Morawiecki has a more polished manner than his predecessor, but shares her strong support for Mr Kaczynski's moves to limit the power of the judiciary, promote a conservative Catholic social agenda, and oppose European Union demands to accept Muslim refugees.


Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Presidential hopefuls engaging in a TV debate

Poland's broadcasting market is the largest in Eastern and Central Europe. TV is the leading medium.

Many non-state media are owned by foreign companies.

Critics cried foul when the newly-elected conservative Law and Justice government introduced a bill in 2015 to allow ministers to appoint the heads of the public broadcasters TVP and Polish Radio.

Facebook is the leading social network.


Some key dates in Poland's history:

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A view of the Royal Castle square in Warsaw

1918 - After more than a century of foreign rule, an independent Polish state is restored after the end of the First World War.

1939-45 - Nazi Germany invades, starting the Second World War. Germany and the Soviet Union divide Poland between them and treat Poles with extreme brutality. Germany builds concentration camps whose names - Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek - become synonymous with the Holocaust.

1945 - Soviet forces drive German forces from Poland, whose borders are set by Potsdam conference; Poland loses territory to the Soviet Union but gains some from Germany.

1947 - Poland becomes a Communist People's Republic after Soviet-run elections and subsequently joins the Soviet-run Warsaw Pact military alliance.

1978 - Karol Wojtyla, Cardinal of Krakow, is elected Pope.

1980 - Disturbances at the shipyard in Gdansk lead to the emergence of the Solidarity trade union under Lech Walesa, and the imposition of martial law.

1989 - Round-table talks between Solidarity, the Communists and the Catholic Church pave the way for fall of communism in Poland. Partially free elections see landslide win for Solidarity, which helps form coalition government. Tadeusz Mazowiecki becomes the first non-Communist Polish prime minister since 1946.

1990 - Lech Walesa elected president. Market reforms, including large-scale privatisation, are launched.

1991 - First parliamentary elections since fall of communism. Soviet troops start to leave.

2004 - Poland is one of 10 new states to join the EU.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
'Solidarnosc' (Solidarity) trade union leader Lech Walesa addresses striking workers at the Gdansk shipyard in 1988

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