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|Republic of Poland|
Rzeczpospolita Polska (Polish)
Pole / Polish
$800.934 billion (2012)
$513.821 billion (2011)
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The Republic of Poland (Polish: Rzeczpospolita Polska; Kashubian: Pòlskô Repùblika), more often referred to simply as Poland (Polish: Polska), is a country located in Central Europe. It is bordered the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia and Lithuania to the north, Belarus and Ukraine to the east, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, and Germany to the west. It also has coastlines on the Baltic Sea to the north.
Human life in Poland and the remainder of north Central Europe has existed for quite some time. During the Neolithic period, the first settled agricultural communities in Poland were established. The Lusatian culture was prominent in the area of Poland during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age, and during a later period of the Iron Age La Tène culture Celts began to arrive. They were soon followed by Germanic cultures influenced by the Celts to the west and the Roman Empire to the south. By about 500 AD, the Germanic people migrated out of Poland and then Slavic peoples settled into the territory, organizing into tribal units.
Mieszko I (c. 940–992) of the Piast dynasty, a member of the Polans tribe, effectively unified many of the peoples living in what is now Poland at some point during his reign. As such, today he is commonly attributed as the de facto founder of the Polish state. Under the rules of Mieszko and his successors, much of the Polish people were converted to Christianity and integrated Poland into the European culture. In 1025, during the later life of Bolesław I Chrobry (967–1025), Bolesław established the first Kingdom of Poland. Disputes over the successor of Bolesław III Wrymouth (1086–1138) prompted him to divide Poland among his five sons. This fragmentation, as well as conflicts with the Teutonic Knights, Prussia, and Mongols, left Poland weakened for several decades. The first King of Poland since the fragmentation, Przemysł II (1257–1296), was coronated in 1295. He made efforts to reunite the Polish lands, but was assassinated in 1296, shortly after his reign began, and was ultimately unable to achieve his goal. After his death, the Přemyslid dynasty of Bohemia briefly ruled until Władysław I the Elbow-high (1261–1333) emerged as King, restoring the Piast dynasty and finally reunifying Poland. After Władysław died, his son, Casimir III (1310–1370), significantly expanded and strengthened the country over an extensive 37-year reign. Casimir's nephew, Louis I of Hungary (1326–1382), a member of the Capetian House of Anjou, succeeded the former, bringing an end to the Piast rule and forming a union between the Kingdom of Poland and the Kingdom of Hungary. After Louis' death, his daughter, Jadwiga (1373/4–1399) continued as the second (and final) Polish monarch of the House of Anjou.
In 1385, Grand Duke Władysław II Jagiełło (1351/1362–1434) of Lithuania married Jadwiga and reigned alongside her, thus forming a union between their respective nations. This partnership proved beneficial for both the Poles and Lithuanians, and relations between the two groups greatly improved during the period. When Jadwiga died in 1399, Władysław II began ruling independently as the monarch, starting the reign of the Jagiellonian dynasty in Poland. Royal Prussia was incorporated by Poland in 1454, and as a result, the Thirteen Years' War (1454–1466) with the Teutonic state occurred. Poland ultimately won this conflict, and the 1466 Peace of Thorn divided the Prussia region in favor of the Poles. Eventually, in 1525, the Duchy of Prussia would be founded as a separate entity, a Teutonic Order fief of Poland. Poland emerged as a powerful state ruled by an influential monarchy, and confronted the Ottoman Empire and Crimean Khanate to the south, and aided the Lithuania in its fights with the Grand Duchy of Moscow to the east. Also, Poland was developing as a feudalistic state, having a predominantly agricultural economy and an dominant landed nobility. With the growing importance of the nobility, the king's council became in 1493 a bicameral general sejm (parliament) that was not exclusive to the dignitaries residing in the kingdom. Eventually, the 1505 Nihil novi act transferred much of the legislative power from the king to the sejm, which led to some increasingly abusive conditions for serfs, slowed development of cities, and limited the rights of commoners. During the Jagiellionian period, the Protestant Reformation movements made inroads into Polish Christianity, resulting in unique policies of religious tolerance that attracted persecuted peoples from other European lands to Poland. Also, cultural and scientific revolutions were promoted in the country. The area of Livonia in what is now Estonia and Latvia was incorporated by Poland in 1561 and Poland entered the Livonian War (1558–1583) against the Tsardom of Russia and its allies. The Union of Lublin of 1569 transferred Ukraine from Lithuania to Poland, which would transform the Polish-Lithuanian polity into a real union. Sigismund II Augustus (1520–1572), having died without an heir, served as the final ruler of the Jagiellionian dynasty.
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