Meaning of POLAND in English

officially Republic of Poland, Polish Polska, or Rzeczpospolita Polska major country of eastern Europe. Poland extends about 405 miles (650 km) from south to north and about 430 miles (690 km) at its widest from west to east. It is bordered on the north by the Baltic Sea, on the northeast by Lithuania and Russia, on the east by Belarus and Ukraine, on the south by Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and on the west by Germany. The capital is Warsaw. Area 120,728 square miles (312,685 square km). Pop. (1970) 32,642,270; (1996 est.) 38,731,000. Waterfront of Gdansk, Poland, on the Motlawa River. officially Republic of Poland, Polish Polska, or Rzeczpospolita Polska, country lying at the physical centre of the European continent, approximately between latitudes 49 and 55 N and longitudes 14 and 24 E. Except for its southern mountainous regions, the country consists almost entirely of lowlands within the North European Plain. The total area of Poland is 120,728 square miles (312,685 square kilometres). Its capital is Warsaw (Warsawa). Over the past millennium, the name Poland has been applied to a shifting territorial base. At one time, in the mid-1500s, Poland was the largest state in Europe. At other times there was no Polish state at all. Its current frontiers, stretching for 2,198 miles (3,538 kilometres), were drawn in 1945. Poland is bordered to the north by the Baltic Sea, to the northeast by Russia and Lithuania, and to the east by Belarus and Ukraine. To the south the border follows the watershed of the Beskid, Carpathian, and Sudeten (Sudety) mountains, which separate Poland from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, while to the west the border with Germany is defined by the Neisse (Nysa Luzycka) and Oder (Odra) rivers. Ethnic composition Musicians in traditional dress performing in the Main Market Square, Krakw, Poland. Before World War II the Polish lands were noted for the richness and variety of their ethnic communities. In the provinces of Silesia, Pomerania, and Masuria (then in Germany) there was a significant minority of Germans. In the southeast, Ukrainian settlements predominated in the regions east of Chelm and in the Carpathians east of Nowy Sacz. In all the towns and cities there were large concentrations of Yiddish-speaking Jews. The Polish ethnographic area stretched eastward: in Lithuania, Belarus, and western Ukraine, all of which had a mixed population, Poles predominated not only in the cities but also in numerous rural districts. There were significant Polish minorities in Daugavpils (in Latvia), Minsk (in Belarus), and Kiev (in Ukraine). The war, however, killed vast numbers of people, precipitated massive migrations, and radically altered borders. As a consequence the population of Poland became one of the most ethnically homogeneous in the world. Virtually all of Poland's people claim Polish nationality, with Polish as their native tongue. Ukrainians, the largest minority group, are scattered in various northern districts. Lesser numbers of Belarusians and Lithuanians live in areas adjoining Belarus and Lithuania. The Jewish community, almost entirely Polonized, has been greatly reduced. In Silesia a significant segment of the population, of mixed Polish and German ancestry, tends to declare itself as Polish or German according to political circumstances. Language The Polish language (together with Czech-Slovak, Upper and Lower Sorbian, and other Lekhitic languages) belongs to the West Slavic branch of Slavic languages. It has several dialects that correspond in the main to the old tribal divisions; the most significant of these (in terms of numbers of speakers) are Great Polish (spoken in the northwest), Little Polish (spoken in the southeast), Mazovian, and Silesian. Mazovian shares some features with Kashubian, whose remaining speakers (fewer than 200,000) live west of Gdansk near the Baltic Sea. Elsewhere, Polish has been influenced by contact with foreign languages. In Silesia the inimitable regional patois contains a mixture of Polish and German elements. Since 1945, as the result of mass education and mass migrations, standard Polish has become far more homogeneous, although regional dialects persist. In the western and northern territories, resettled in large measure by Poles from the Soviet Union, the older generation came to speak a language characteristic of the former eastern provinces. Small numbers of people also speak Belarusian, Ukrainian, and German as well as several varieties of Romany. Literary Polish developed from the medieval period onward, on the basis of the dialects of Great Poland and Little Poland. By the 19th century Polish was well established both as a literary vehicle and as the dominant language of common speech in Poland, despite attempts of the partitioning powers to Germanize or Russify the population. Indeed, quite the opposite happened, and the Polish language became the main touchstone of national identity. Government Political parties The Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw, Poland. Beginning in 1948, Poland was governed by the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP; Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza), the country's communist party, which was modeled on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The postwar government was run as a dual system in which state organs were controlled by parallel organs of the PUWP. The executive branch of government, therefore, was in effect the PUWP, with the party's first secretary acting as the de facto head of state and most powerful authority. The party's Political Bureau, or Politburo, operated as the central administration, and the party ensured its control over all offices and appointments by use of the nomenklatura, a list of politically reliable people. Two other parties, the United Peasants' Party (Zjednoczone Stronnictwo Ludowe; ZSL) and the Democratic Party (Stronnictwo Demokratyczne; SD), were permitted to exist, but only as entirely subservient allies of the PUWP. However, in 1989 economic and political problems obliged the government to recognize the independent trade union Solidarity (which had been banned not long after it came into being in 1980) and allow it to contest at least some seats in a general election. The PUWP was guaranteed 65 percent of the seats in the lower house of the Sejm (the state legislature), but Solidarity won all the rest and all but one of those in the Senate, going on to form Poland's first postcommunist government with the support of the SD and ZSL, which broke their alliance with the PUWP. In 1990 the Polish communist party voted to replace the PUWP with two social democratic parties, the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland and the Social Democratic Union. In the same year, Lech Walesa, the leader of Solidarity, was elected president. Thereafter, however, as the costs of economic reform were felt by Poles, support for Solidarity waned and the party split into several smaller groups. In the first completely free elections, in 1991, no party obtained more than an eighth of the vote, leading to a succession of short-lived coalition governments. In 1993 the postcommunist and Peasant parties won a majority of seats, and in the presidential election of 1995 Walesa was defeated by a former communist, Aleksander Kwasniewski. There has been no fundamental change in economic and political policy: all postcommunist governments have given high priority to the integration of Poland into the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, the government of former communists has reduced the role of the Roman Catholic church in schools and eased the highly restrictive antiabortion legislation of the early 1990s. State constitution and institutions The constitution of Poland's postwar socialist state, the Polish People's Republic, took effect in 1952 but was amended numerous times, most significantly in early 1989, when constitutional reforms worked out between the government and Solidarity were passed by the Sejm. Among the changes were the replacement of the Council of State by the office of president (a position that had been eliminated in 1952) and the reinstatement of the Senate, which in 1946 had been abolished in an allegedly rigged national referendum. The existing Sejm, with 460 members, became the lower house of the new National Assembly, and the Senate, or the upper house, was assigned 100 members. Additional reforms passed later in 1989 by the National Assembly included the guarantee of free formation of political parties and the return of the state's official name to the Republic of Poland. In 1992 an interim constitution was adopted until a final document could be promulgated. This Small Constitution established a mixed presidential-parliamentary form of government. Under its provisions, the president is directly elected to not more than two five-year terms, serves as commander in chief of the armed forces, has the power to declare martial law or a state of emergency, and can veto an act of the legislature (which, in turn, can override that veto with a two-thirds majority vote). The president cannot dismiss the government but can reject nominees to the post of prime minister. All members of the National Assembly are popularly elected to four-year terms. The Council of Ministers, or government, is appointed by the prime minister (though some appointments are subject to consultation with the president). Under the Small Constitution the prime minister is less subject to the collective will of the Council of Ministers than previously. Visitors at the Jasna Gra monastery, Czestochowa, Poland, a popular pilgrimage site. The culture of Poland has been nurtured by a great variety of traditions. Until World War II, because Poland was an area of multinational settlement, it drew not only on the dominant Polish culture but also on that of the minorities, especially the Germans, Jews, and Ruthenians. The common Slavic element traditionally has been weak, but aspects of it can be identified in language, literature, and folklore. The formative experience, undoubtedly, was the adoption of Roman Catholicism in the 10th century and the resultant millennium of involvement in Western civilization. German, French, and Italian influences have been particularly strong. Unlike Russia, Poland was deeply immersed in all the great movements of Western culturesuch as humanism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Baroque, the Enlightenment, and Romanticismand its cultural identity was already strong before the series of partitions of Polish territory began in 1772. Because of the loss of political independence, the 19th and 20th centuries have been characterized by an unrelenting struggle to preserve the national culture and its values from foreign impositions and government policy. The Roman Catholic church in Poland has played a social and cultural role far beyond the religious sphere. After World War II, catechism lessons, conducted with great zeal in the parishes, exposed children to a nonofficial view of the world. Church-sponsored societies, such as the Catholic Intellectual Clubs, provided adults with a unique forum for free public discussion. Parish halls provided shelter for a wide variety of uncensored exhibitions, plays, films, and meetings. Folk culture Because of rapid industrialization and urbanization, Poland's traditional folk culture has been seriously undermined since World War II. Regional dress, regional forms of speech, peasant arts and crafts, and religious and folk festivals have all been swamped by mass culture from the new cities and the media. In an effort to compensate, the Roman Catholic church has tried to preserve the religious elements of folk culture, notably in the large annual pilgrimages to shrines such as Czestochowa, Kalwaria, Zebrzydowska, Lanckorona, or Piekary Slaskie. The communist authorities supported folk music and folk dancing. The colourful and stylized repertoire of the State Folk Ensemble, Mazowsze, for example, won international acclaim. Several regional communities, including the Grale (Highlanders) of Podhale, the Kurpie in the northeast, and the inhabitants of Lowicz, near Warsaw, have created an authentic blend of the old and the new. Additional reading Poland: A Handbook (1977; originally published in Polish, 2nd ed., 1977), is a comprehensive reference source written by Polish authors and published in Poland for readership outside the country. Glenn E. Curtis (ed.), Poland: A Country Study, 3rd ed. (1994), provides a balanced treatment. R.H. Osborne, East-Central Europe (1967), on geography, includes a chapter on Poland. Grzegorz Weclawowicz, Contemporary Poland: Space and Society (1996), discusses the changes since 1989. Zbigniew Landau and Jerzy Tomaszewski, The Polish Economy in the Twentieth Century, trans. from Polish (1985), offers an uncritical treatment. David Lane and George Kolankiewicz (eds.), Social Groups in Polish Society (1973), covers postwar ideological developments. Aspects of cultural life are dealt with in Boleslaw Klimaszewski (ed.), An Outline History of Polish Culture, trans. from Polish (1983), covering the main cultural trends from medieval times to 1982; and Stanislaw Lorentz, Guide to Museums and Collections in Poland (1974; originally published in Polish, 1971). The Polish Review (quarterly), focuses on current cultural events. Jerzy A. Kondracki Andrew Hutchinson Dawson Norman Davies

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