Officially known as the Republic of Poland, the country is seated in central Europe. It has a landmass of 120,733 square miles, where approximately 38.5 million Poles live. First established in 966 AD, Poland has transformed from a communist country into one of the world’s most developed nations.
1. The country’s name was derived from the Polans/Polanie tribe.
The nation’s name can be traced to the Lecithic tribe of Polans/Polanie, who occupied the Warta River Basin in the middle of the 6th century. The term Polanie, meanwhile, was derived from the Proto-Slavic word that means ‘field’, an interesting fact about Poland.
As for the Persian, Turkish, Hungarian, and Lithuanians, they believe that Poland’s name was inspired by the term Lendians – also known as Lędzianie or Lachy. They inhabited Lesser Poland during the 7th to 11th centuries.
2. Poland has a High Development Index.
Also known as HDI, it pertains to the four levels of human development. The higher the score, the more ‘developed’ the country is. HDI utilizes several indicators, including per capita income, life expectancy, and education. In 2019, it ranked 32nd out of 189 countries.
Poland has an HDI of 0.872 as a result of the following scores: an average life expectancy of 78.5 years, expected schooling at 16.4 years, average years of schooling at 12.3, and a gross national income per capita of $27,626.
Apart from a high HDI, Poland takes pride in its free university education, universal health care system, and social security system. Because of this, the country enjoys the status of a high-income economy – thereby giving its people high standards of living, economic freedom, safety, and life quality.
3. It has the largest stock market in East-Central Europe.
A fun fact about Poland is that it is the home of the Warsaw Stock Exchange, which has a market value of 319 billion Euros. The rough roots of the equity market can be traced back to the 17th century when western and southern Europeans settled in Warsaw to trade currencies and bills.
May 1817 saw the establishment of the Warsaw Mercantile Exchange, which was the first state-organized trade in the country. It gave birth to the Warsaw Money Exchange, which closed for some time during the First World War. Following the fall of Communism, the Warsaw Stock Exchange was re-established – and it became one of the largest share markets in Europe.
4. Poland is home to 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
UNESCO defines world heritage sites as areas of ‘outstanding cultural or natural importance’ vital to human legacy. A total of 16 can be found in Poland, and they include the following: the Historic Center of Krakow, Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines, Auschwitz Birkenau, German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp, Białowieza Forest, Historic Center of Warsaw, Old City of Zamość, Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, Medieval Town of Toruń, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park, Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica, Wooden Churches of Southern Lesser Poland, Muskauer Park, Centennial Hall, Wooden Tserkvas of Carpathian Region, Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine, and the Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region.
5. The Polish Territory was established in the 10th century under the Piast Dynasty.
The first documented ruler of the nation was Mieszko I, who established the Piast Dynasty during the 10th century. Under his rule, much of the Polish people were converted as Christians. Mieszko’s son Bladislaw the Brave continued his father’s policy, creating the dioceses of Kraków, Kołobrzeg, and Wrocław along the way.
The kingdom was divided into several duchies until the arrival of Władysław I, who became the first king of reunified Poland. His son Casimir III is regarded as one of the best kings of Poland. He helped improve the nation’s infrastructures and encouraged the immigration of educated Jews who helped him administer the courts.
6. The Second Polish Republic, which lasted from 1918 to 1939, was also known as Interwar Poland.
At the end of World War I, US President Woodrow Wilson gave his consent for the reconstitution of Poland. This paved the way for the Second Polish Republic, which is also known by the name ‘Interwar Poland.’ During this rule, the country was able to reunite its three partitions. Infrastructures such as railways and seaports were built as well. This independence was short-lived though, as Poland fell onto the hands of the German Nazis when they invaded the country on September 1, 1939.
7. Poland is the unwilling home of 6 Nazi Extermination Camps.
Between 1941 to 1945, the German Nazis constructed six extermination camps in occupied Polish territory. These became the locations of the “Final Solution,” which was the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews, as well as Gypsies and Soviet Prisoners of War.
The most infamous extermination camp remains to be Auschwitz-Birkenau, where approximately 1.3 million prisoners were killed. Some may have died due to harsh camp conditions, a sad fact about Poland.
Treblinka saw the death of 870,000 people, while Belzec became the killing center of 600,000 prisoners. Approximately 250,000 people died at Sobibor, and the same figure was seen in Majdanek. As for Chelmno, the numbers remain unclear. Historians estimate that approximately 150,000 to 300,000 prisoners were executed there.
8. It was once a communist country.
In 1947, the Polish People’s Republic was established. It followed a unitary Marxist-Leninist communist government, which became a lasting legacy of its former Soviet occupants. The movement was initially popular due to its land reform projects. However, economic difficulties, repressions, and lack of freedoms finally brought an end to communist rule in 1989.
9. Poland is currently a parliamentary republic government.
In 1989, Poland finally had its first partially free and democratic parliamentary voting. Lech Wałęsa became president, and under his rule, the country shifted to a market economy. Although it suffered an economic decline following communist rule, the market was able to bounce back a few years after, an interesting fact about Poland.
Apart from economic improvement, one of the best gifts of the republic was the restoration of human rights, freedom of speech, and internet freedom, which were limited, if not banned, under former communist rule.
Poland has a rich history that was unfortunately marred with Nazi genocide and communism. Despite these hurdles, the country has prospered into one of the most developed countries in Europe – and the entire world.
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