Lech, Czech, and Rus


960 Jan 1
, Poland

The roots of Polish history can be traced to ancient times, when the territory of present-day Poland was settled by various tribes including Celts, Scythians, Germanic clans, Sarmatians, Slavs and Balts. However, it was the West Slavic Lechites, the closest ancestors of ethnic Poles, who established permanent settlements in the Polish lands during the Early Middle Ages. The Lechitic Western Polans, a tribe whose name means "people living in open fields", dominated the region and gave Poland - which lies in the North-Central European Plain - its name.

According to Slavic legend, the brothers Lech, Czech, and Rus were hunting together when each of them headed to a different direction where they would later settle and establish their tribe. Czech went westward, Rus to the east while Lech went north. There, Lech spotted a beautiful white eagle that seemed fierce and protective towards its cubs. Behind this wondrous bird that spread its wings, appeared the red- golden sun and Lech thought that this is a sign to stay at this place which he named Gniezno. Gniezno was the first capital of Poland and the name meant “home” or “nest” while the white eagle stood as a symbol of power and pride.

Duke Mieszko I

Poland State established

963 Jan 1
, Poland

Poland was established as a state under the Piast dynasty, which ruled the country between the 10th and 14th centuries. Historical records referring to the Polish state begin with the rule of Duke Mieszko I, whose reign commenced sometime before 963 and continued until his death in 992. Mieszko converted to Christianity in 966, following his marriage to Princess Doubravka of Bohemia, a fervent Christian. The event is known as the "baptism of Poland", and its date is often used to mark a symbolic beginning of Polish statehood. Mieszko completed a unification of the Lechitic tribal lands that was fundamental to the new country's existence. Following its emergence, Poland was led by a series of rulers who converted the population to Christianity, created a strong kingdom and fostered a distinctive Polish culture that was integrated into the broader European culture.

Christianization of Poland A.D. 966. by Jan Matejko

Christianization of Poland

966 Jan 1
, Poland

The Christianization of Poland refers to the introduction and subsequent spread of Christianity in Poland. The impetus to the process was the Baptism of Poland, the personal baptism of Mieszko I, the first ruler of the future Polish state, and much of his court. The ceremony took place on the Holy Saturday of 14 April 966, although the exact location is still disputed by historians, with the cities of Poznań and Gniezno being the most likely sites. Mieszko's wife, Dobrawa of Bohemia, is often credited as a major influence on Mieszko's decision to accept Christianity.

While the spread of Christianity in Poland took centuries to finish, the process was ultimately successful, as within several decades Poland joined the rank of established European states recognised by the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. According to historians, the baptism of Poland marks the beginning of Polish statehood. Nevertheless, the Christianization was a long and arduous process, as most of the Polish population remained pagan until the pagan reaction during the 1030s.

Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor, bestowing a crown upon Bolesław at the Congress of Gniezno. An imaginary depiction from Chronica Polonorum by Maciej Miechowita, c. 1521

Reign of Bolesław I the Brave

992 Jan 1 - 1025
, Poland

Mieszko's son, Duke Bolesław I the Brave (r. 992–1025), established a Polish Church structure, pursued territorial conquests and was officially crowned the first king of Poland in 1025, near the end of his life. Bolesław also sought to spread Christianity to parts of eastern Europe that remained pagan, but suffered a setback when his greatest missionary, Adalbert of Prague, was killed in Prussia in 997. During the Congress of Gniezno in the year 1000, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III recognized the Archbishopric of Gniezno, an institution crucial for the continuing existence of the sovereign Polish state. During the reign of Otto's successor, Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, Bolesław fought prolonged wars with the Kingdom of Germany between 1002 and 1018.

Casimir I the Restorer

Overstretch and Recovery

1039 Jan 1 - 1138
, Poland

Bolesław I's expansive rule overstretched the resources of the early Polish state, and it was followed by a collapse of the monarchy. Recovery took place under Casimir I the Restorer (r. 1039–58). One of his reforms was the introduction, to Poland, of a key element of feudalism: the granting of fiefdoms to his retinue of warriors, thus gradually transforming them into medieval knights.

Casimir's son Bolesław II the Generous (r. 1058–79) became involved in a conflict with Bishop Stanislaus of Szczepanów that ultimately caused his downfall. Bolesław had the bishop murdered in 1079 after being excommunicated by the Polish church on charges of adultery. This act sparked a revolt of Polish nobles that led to Bolesław's deposition and expulsion from the country. Around 1116, Gallus Anonymus wrote a seminal chronicle, the Gesta principum Polonorum, intended as a glorification of his patron Bolesław III Wrymouth (r. 1107–38), a ruler who revived the tradition of military prowess of Bolesław I's time. Gallus' work remains a paramount written source for the early history of Poland.

Fragmentation of the realm


1138 Jan 1
, Poland

After Bolesław III divided Poland among his sons in his Testament of 1138, internal fragmentation eroded the Piast monarchical structures in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1180, Casimir II the Just, who sought papal confirmation of his status as a senior duke, granted immunities and additional privileges to the Polish Church at the Congress of Łęczyca. Around 1220, Wincenty Kadłubek wrote his Chronica seu originale regum et principum Poloniae, another major source for early Polish history.

Janusz III of Masovia, Stanisław and Anna of Masovia, 1520

Duchy of Masovia

1138 Jan 2
, Masovian Voivodeship

During the 9th century Mazovia was perhaps inhabited by the tribe of Mazovians, and it was incorporated into the Polish state in the second half of 10th century under the Piast ruler Mieszko I. As a result of the fragmentation of Poland after the death of Polish monarch Bolesław III Wrymouth, in 1138 the Duchy of Mazovia was established, and during the 12th and 13th centuries it joined temporarily various adjacent lands and endured invasions of Prussians, Yotvingians, and Ruthenians. To protect its northern section Conrad I of Mazovia called in the Teutonic Knights in 1226 and granted them the Chełmno Land.

The historical region of Mazovia (Mazowsze) in the beginning encompassed only the territories on the right bank of Vistula near Płock and had strong connections with Greater Poland (through Włocławek and Kruszwica). In the period of the rule of the first Polish monarchs of the Piast dynasty, Płock was one of their seats, and on the Cathedral Hill (Wzgórze Tumskie) they raised palatium. In the period 1037–1047 it was the capital of the independent, Mazovian state of Masław. Between 1079 and 1138 this city was de facto the capital of Poland.

Konrad I of Masovia, invited the Teutonic Knights to help him fight the Baltic Prussian pagans

Teutonic Knights invited

1226 Jan 1
, Chełmno

In 1226, one of the regional Piast dukes, Konrad I of Masovia, invited the Teutonic Knights to help him fight the Baltic Prussian pagans, allowing the Teutonic Knights use of Chełmno Land as a base for their campaign. This resulted in centuries of warfare between Poland and the Teutonic Knights, and later between Poland and the German Prussian state. The first Mongol invasion of Poland began in 1240; it culminated in the defeat of Polish and allied Christian forces and the death of the Silesian Piast Duke Henry II the Pious at the Battle of Legnica in 1241.


Growth of towns

1242 Jan 1
, Wrocław

In 1242, Wrocław became the first Polish municipality to be incorporated, as the period of fragmentation brought economic development and growth of towns. New cities were founded and existing settlements were granted town status per Magdeburg Law. In 1264, Bolesław the Pious granted Jewish liberties in the Statute of Kalisz.

"Casimir III the Great" (1864) by Leopold Löffler

Late Piast Monarchy

1295 Jan 1
, Poland

Attempts to reunite the Polish lands gained momentum in the 13th century, and in 1295, Duke Przemysł II of Greater Poland managed to become the first ruler since Bolesław II to be crowned king of Poland. He ruled over a limited territory and was soon killed. In 1300–05 King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia also reigned as king of Poland. The Piast Kingdom was effectively restored under Władysław I the Elbow-high (r. 1306–33), who became king in 1320. In 1308, the Teutonic Knights seized Gdańsk and the surrounding region of Pomerelia.

King Casimir III the Great (r. 1333–70), Władysław's son and the last of the Piast rulers, strengthened and expanded the restored Kingdom of Poland, but the western provinces of Silesia (formally ceded by Casimir in 1339) and most of Polish Pomerania were lost to the Polish state for centuries to come. Progress was made in the recovery of the separately governed central province of Mazovia, however, and in 1340, the conquest of Red Ruthenia began, marking Poland's expansion to the east. The Congress of Kraków, a vast convocation of central, eastern, and northern European rulers probably assembled to plan an anti-Turkish crusade, took place in 1364, the same year that the future Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest European universities, was founded. On 9 October 1334, Casimir III confirmed the privileges granted to Jews in 1264 by Bolesław the Pious and allowed them to settle in Poland in great numbers.

Coronation of Louis I of Hungary as King of Poland, 19th-century depiction

Union of Hungary and Poland

1370 Jan 1
, Poland

After the Polish royal line and Piast junior branch died out in 1370, Poland came under the rule of Louis I of Hungary of the Capetian House of Anjou, who presided over a union of Hungary and Poland that lasted until 1382. In 1374, Louis granted the Polish nobility the Privilege of Koszyce to assure the succession of one of his daughters in Poland. His youngest daughter Jadwiga assumed the Polish throne in 1384.

Jagiellonian dynasty

Jagiellonian Dynasty

1386 Jan 1
, Poland

In 1386, Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania converted to Catholicism and married Queen Jadwiga of Poland. This act enabled him to become a king of Poland himself, and he ruled as Władysław II Jagiełło until his death in 1434. The marriage established a personal Polish–Lithuanian union ruled by the Jagiellonian dynasty. The first in a series of formal "unions" was the Union of Krewo of 1385, whereby arrangements were made for the marriage of Jogaila and Jadwiga. The Polish–Lithuanian partnership brought vast areas of Ruthenia controlled by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into Poland's sphere of influence and proved beneficial for the nationals of both countries, who coexisted and cooperated in one of the largest political entities in Europe for the next four centuries. When Queen Jadwiga died in 1399, the Kingdom of Poland fell to her husband's sole possession.

In the Baltic Sea region, Poland's struggle with the Teutonic Knights continued and culminated in the Battle of Grunwald (1410), a great victory that the Poles and Lithuanians were unable to follow up with a decisive strike against the main seat of the Teutonic Order at Malbork Castle. The Union of Horodło of 1413 further defined the evolving relationship between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Casimir IV, 17th-century depiction bearing a close resemblance

Władysław III and Casimir IV Jagiellon

1434 Jan 1 - 1492
, Poland

The reign of the young Władysław III (1434–44), who succeeded his father Władysław II Jagiełło and ruled as king of Poland and Hungary, was cut short by his death at the Battle of Varna against the forces of the Ottoman Empire. This disaster led to an interregnum of three years that ended with the accession of Władysław's brother Casimir IV Jagiellon in 1447.

Critical developments of the Jagiellonian period were concentrated during Casimir IV's long reign, which lasted until 1492. In 1454, Royal Prussia was incorporated by Poland and the Thirteen Years' War of 1454–66 with the Teutonic state ensued. In 1466, the milestone Peace of Thorn was concluded. This treaty divided Prussia to create East Prussia, the future Duchy of Prussia, a separate entity that functioned as a fief of Poland under the administration of the Teutonic Knights. Poland also confronted the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Tatars in the south, and in the east helped Lithuania fight the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The country was developing as a feudal state, with a predominantly agricultural economy and an increasingly dominant landed nobility. Kraków, the royal capital, was turning into a major academic and cultural center, and in 1473 the first printing press began operating there. With the growing importance of szlachta (middle and lower nobility), the king's council evolved to become by 1493 a bicameral General Sejm (parliament) that no longer represented exclusively top dignitaries of the realm.

The Nihil novi act, adopted in 1505 by the Sejm, transferred most of the legislative power from the monarch to the Sejm. This event marked the beginning of the period known as "Golden Liberty", when the state was ruled in principle by the "free and equal" Polish nobility. In the 16th century, the massive development of folwark agribusinesses operated by the nobility led to increasingly abusive conditions for the peasant serfs who worked them. The political monopoly of the nobles also stifled the development of cities, some of which were thriving during the late Jagiellonian era, and limited the rights of townspeople, effectively holding back the emergence of the middle class.

Nicolaus Copernicus formulated the heliocentric model of the solar system that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at its center

Polish Golden Age

1548 Jan 1 - 1572
, Poland

In the 16th century, Protestant Reformation movements made deep inroads into Polish Christianity and the resulting Reformation in Poland involved a number of different denominations. The policies of religious tolerance that developed in Poland were nearly unique in Europe at that time and many who fled regions torn by religious strife found refuge in Poland. The reigns of King Sigismund I the Old (1506–1548) and King Sigismund II Augustus (1548–1572) witnessed an intense cultivation of culture and science (a Golden Age of the Renaissance in Poland), of which the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) is the best known representative. Jan Kochanowski (1530–1584) was a poet and the premier artistic personality of the period. In 1525, during the reign of Sigismund I, the Teutonic Order was secularized and Duke Albert performed an act of homage before the Polish king (the Prussian Homage) for his fief, the Duchy of Prussia. Mazovia was finally fully incorporated into the Polish Crown in 1529.

The reign of Sigismund II ended the Jagiellonian period, but gave rise to the Union of Lublin (1569), an ultimate fulfillment of the union with Lithuania. This agreement transferred Ukraine from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to Poland and transformed the Polish–Lithuanian polity into a real union, preserving it beyond the death of the childless Sigismund II, whose active involvement made the completion of this process possible.

Livonia in the far northeast was incorporated by Poland in 1561 and Poland entered the Livonian War against the Tsardom of Russia. The executionist movement, which attempted to check the progressing domination of the state by the magnate families of Poland and Lithuania, peaked at the Sejm in Piotrków in 1562–63. On the religious front, the Polish Brethren split from the Calvinists, and the Protestant Brest Bible was published in 1563. The Jesuits, who arrived in 1564, were destined to make a major impact on Poland's history.

The Republic at the Zenith of Its Power, the Royal Election of 1573

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

1569 Jan 2
, Poland

The Union of Lublin of 1569 established the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, a federal state more closely unified than the earlier political arrangement between Poland and Lithuania. Poland–Lithuania became an elective monarchy, in which the king was elected by the hereditary nobility. The formal rule of the nobility, who were proportionally more numerous than in other European countries, constituted an early democratic system ("a sophisticated noble democracy"), in contrast to the absolute monarchies prevalent at that time in the rest of Europe.

The beginning of the Commonwealth coincided with a period in Polish history when great political power was attained and advancements in civilization and prosperity took place. The Polish–Lithuanian Union became an influential participant in European affairs and a vital cultural entity that spread Western culture (with Polish characteristics) eastward. In the second half of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, the Commonwealth was one of the largest and most populous states in contemporary Europe, with an area approaching one million square kilometres and a population of about ten million. Its economy was dominated by export-focused agriculture. Nationwide religious toleration was guaranteed at the Warsaw Confederation in 1573.

Henry III of France in Polish hat | ©Étienne Dumonstier

First elective kings

1573 Jan 1
, Poland

After the rule of the Jagiellonian dynasty ended in 1572, Henry of Valois (later King Henry III of France) was the winner of the first "free election" by the Polish nobility, held in 1573. He had to agree to the restrictive pacta conventa obligations and fled Poland in 1574 when news arrived of the vacancy of the French throne, to which he was the heir presumptive. From the start, the royal elections increased foreign influence in the Commonwealth as foreign powers sought to manipulate the Polish nobility to place candidates amicable to their interests. The reign of Stephen Báthory of Hungary followed (r. 1576–1586). He was militarily and domestically assertive and is revered in Polish historical tradition as a rare case of successful elective king. The establishment of the legal Crown Tribunal in 1578 meant a transfer of many appellate cases from the royal to noble jurisdiction.

Gdańsk in the 17th century

Warsaw Confederation

1573 Jan 28
, Warsaw

The Warsaw Confederation, signed on 28 January 1573 by the Polish national assembly (sejm konwokacyjny) in Warsaw, was one of the first European acts granting religious freedoms. It was an important development in the history of Poland and of Lithuania that extended religious tolerance to nobility and free persons within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and is considered the formal beginning of religious freedom in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Although it did not prevent all conflict based on religion, it did make the Commonwealth a much safer and more tolerant place than most of contemporaneous Europe, especially during the subsequent Thirty Years' War.

Sigismund III Vasa enjoyed a long reign, but his actions against religious minorities, expansionist ideas and involvement in dynastic affairs of Sweden, destabilized the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth under Vasa Dynasty

1587 Jan 1
, Poland

A period of rule under the Swedish House of Vasa began in the Commonwealth in the year 1587. The first two kings from this dynasty, Sigismund III (r. 1587–1632) and Władysław IV (r. 1632–1648), repeatedly attempted to intrigue for accession to the throne of Sweden, which was a constant source of distraction for the affairs of the Commonwealth. At that time, the Catholic Church embarked on an ideological counter-offensive and the Counter-Reformation claimed many converts from Polish and Lithuanian Protestant circles. In 1596, the Union of Brest split the Eastern Christians of the Commonwealth to create the Uniate Church of the Eastern Rite, but subject to the authority of the pope. The Zebrzydowski rebellion against Sigismund III unfolded in 1606–1608.

Seeking supremacy in Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth fought wars with Russia between 1605 and 1618 in the wake of Russia's Time of Troubles; the series of conflicts is referred to as the Polish–Muscovite War or the Dymitriads. The efforts resulted in expansion of the eastern territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, but the goal of taking over the Russian throne for the Polish ruling dynasty was not achieved. Sweden sought supremacy in the Baltic during the Polish–Swedish wars of 1617–1629, and the Ottoman Empire pressed from the south in the Battles at Cecora in 1620 and Khotyn in 1621. The agricultural expansion and serfdom policies in Polish Ukraine resulted in a series of Cossack uprisings. Allied with the Habsburg monarchy, the Commonwealth did not directly participate in the Thirty Years' War.Władysław's IV reign was mostly peaceful, with a Russian invasion in the form of the Smolensk War of 1632–1634 successfully repelled. The Orthodox Church hierarchy, banned in Poland after the Union of Brest, was re-established in 1635.

Entrance of Bohdan Khmelnytsky to Kyiv, Mykola Ivasyuk

Decline of the Commonwealth

1648 Jan 1 - 1761
, Poland

During the reign of John II Casimir Vasa (r. 1648–1668), the third and last king of his dynasty, the nobles' democracy fell into decline as a result of foreign invasions and domestic disorder. These calamities multiplied rather suddenly and marked the end of the Polish Golden Age. Their effect was to render the once powerful Commonwealth increasingly vulnerable to foreign intervention.

The Cossack Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648–1657 engulfed the south-eastern regions of the Polish crown; its long-term effects were disastrous for the Commonwealth. The first liberum veto (a parliamentary device that allowed any member of the Sejm to dissolve a current session immediately) was exercised by a deputy in 1652. This practice would eventually weaken Poland's central government critically. In the Treaty of Pereyaslav (1654), the Ukrainian rebels declared themselves subjects of the Tsardom of Russia.

The Second Northern War raged through the core Polish lands in 1655–1660; it included a brutal and devastating invasion of Poland referred to as the Swedish Deluge. During the wars the Commonwealth lost approximately one third of its population as well as its status as a great power due to invasions by Sweden and Russia. According to Professor Andrzej Rottermund, manager of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the destruction of Poland in the Deluge was more extensive than the destruction of the country in World War II. Rottermund claims that Swedish invaders robbed the Commonwealth of its most important riches, and most of the stolen items never returned to Poland. Warsaw, the capital of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, was destroyed by the Swedes, and out of a pre-war population of 20,000, only 2,000 remained in the city after the war. The war ended in 1660 with the Treaty of Oliva, which resulted in the loss of some of Poland's northern possessions.

The large-scale slave raids of the Crimean Tatars also had highly deleterious effects on the Polish economy. Merkuriusz Polski, the first Polish newspaper, was published in 1661.

Sobieski at Vienna by Juliusz Kossak

John III Sobieski

1674 Jan 1 - 1696
, Poland

King Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki, a native Pole, was elected to replace John II Casimir in 1669. The Polish–Ottoman War (1672–76) broke out during his reign, which lasted until 1673, and continued under his successor, John III Sobieski (r. 1674–1696). Sobieski intended to pursue Baltic area expansion (and to this end he signed the secret Treaty of Jaworów with France in 1675), but was forced instead to fight protracted wars with the Ottoman Empire. By doing so, Sobieski briefly revived the Commonwealth's military might. He defeated the expanding Muslims at the Battle of Khotyn in 1673 and decisively helped deliver Vienna from a Turkish onslaught at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Sobieski's reign marked the last high point in the history of the Commonwealth: in the first half of the 18th century, Poland ceased to be an active player in international politics. The Treaty of Perpetual Peace (1686) with Russia was the final border settlement between the two countries before the First Partition of Poland in 1772.

The Commonwealth, subjected to almost constant warfare until 1720, suffered enormous population losses and massive damage to its economy and social structure. The government became ineffective in the wake of large-scale internal conflicts, corrupted legislative processes and manipulation by foreign interests. The nobility fell under the control of a handful of feuding magnate families with established territorial domains. The urban population and infrastructure fell into ruin, together with most peasant farms, whose inhabitants were subjected to increasingly extreme forms of serfdom. The development of science, culture and education came to a halt or regressed.

War of the Polish Succession

Under Saxon Kings

1697 Jan 1 - 1763
, Poland

The royal election of 1697 brought a ruler of the Saxon House of Wettin to the Polish throne: Augustus II the Strong (r. 1697–1733), who was able to assume the throne only by agreeing to convert to Roman Catholicism. He was succeeded by his son Augustus III (r. 1734–1763). The reigns of the Saxon kings (who were both simultaneously prince-electors of Saxony) were disrupted by competing candidates for the throne and witnessed further disintegration of the Commonwealth.

The personal union between the Commonwealth and the Electorate of Saxony did give rise to the emergence of a reform movement in the Commonwealth and the beginnings of the Polish Enlightenment culture, the major positive developments of this era.

Crossing of the Düna, 1701

Great Northern War

1700 Feb 22 - 1721 Sep 10
, Northern Europe

The Great Northern War (1700–1721) was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. This period is seen by the contemporaries as a temporary eclipse, may have been the fatal blow that brought down the Polish political system. Stanisław Leszczyński was installed as king in 1704 under Swedish protection, but lasted only a few years. The Silent Sejm of 1717 marked the beginning of the Commonwealth's existence as a Russian protectorate: the Tsardom would guarantee the reform-impeding Golden Liberty of the nobility from that time on in order to cement the Commonwealth's weak central authority and a state of perpetual political impotence. In a resounding break with traditions of religious tolerance, Protestants were executed during the Tumult of Thorn in 1724. In 1732, Russia, Austria and Prussia, Poland's three increasingly powerful and scheming neighbors, entered into the secret Treaty of the Three Black Eagles with the intention of controlling the future royal succession in the Commonwealth.

Augustus III of Poland | ©Pietro Antonio Rotari

War of the Polish Succession

1733 Oct 10 - 1735 Oct 3
, Lorraine

The War of the Polish Succession was a major European conflict sparked by a Polish civil war over the succession to Augustus II of Poland, which the other European powers widened in pursuit of their own national interests. France and Spain, the two Bourbon powers, attempted to test the power of the Austrian Habsburgs in Western Europe, as did the Kingdom of Prussia, whilst Saxony and Russia mobilized to support the eventual Polish victor. The fighting in Poland resulted in the accession of Augustus III, who in addition to Russia and Saxony, was politically supported by the Habsburgs.

The war's major military campaigns and battles occurred outside of Poland. The Bourbons, supported by Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia, moved against isolated Habsburg territories. In the Rhineland, France successfully took the Duchy of Lorraine, and in Italy, Spain regained control over the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily lost in the War of the Spanish Succession, while territorial gains in northern Italy were limited despite bloody campaigning. Great Britain's unwillingness to support Habsburg Austria demonstrated the infirmity of the Anglo-Austrian Alliance.

Although a preliminary peace was reached in 1735, the war was formally ended with the Treaty of Vienna (1738), in which Augustus III was confirmed as king of Poland and his opponent Stanislaus I was awarded the Duchy of Lorraine and Duchy of Bar, then both fiefs of the Holy Roman Empire. Francis Stephen, the duke of Lorraine, was given the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in compensation for the loss of Lorraine. The Duchy of Parma went to Austria whereas Charles of Parma took the crowns of Naples and Sicily. Most of the territorial gains were in favor of the Bourbons, as the Duchies of Lorraine and Bar went from being fiefs of the Holy Roman Empire to that of France, while the Spanish Bourbons gained two new kingdoms in the form of Naples and Sicily. The Austrian Habsburgs, for their part, received two Italian duchies in return, though Parma would soon revert to Bourbon control. Tuscany would be held by the Habsburgs until the Napoleonic era.

The war proved disastrous for Polish independence, and re-affirmed that the affairs of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including the election of the King himself, would be controlled by the other great powers of Europe. After August III, there would only be one more king of Poland, Stanislas II August, himself a puppet of the Russians, and ultimately Poland would be divided up by its neighbors and cease to exist as a sovereign state by the end of the 18th century. Poland also surrendered claims to Livonia and direct control over the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, which, although remaining a Polish fief, was not integrated into Poland proper and came under strong Russian influence which only ended with the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917.

Stanisław August Poniatowski, the "enlightened" monarch

Czartoryski Reforms and Stanisław August Poniatowski

1764 Jan 1 - 1792
, Poland

During the later part of the 18th century, fundamental internal reforms were attempted in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as it slid into extinction. The reform activity, initially promoted by the magnate Czartoryski family faction known as the Familia, provoked a hostile reaction and military response from neighboring powers, but it did create conditions that fostered economic improvement. The most populous urban center, the capital city of Warsaw, replaced Danzig (Gdańsk) as the leading trade center, and the importance of the more prosperous urban social classes increased. The last decades of the independent Commonwealth's existence were characterized by aggressive reform movements and far-reaching progress in the areas of education, intellectual life, art and the evolution of the social and political system.

The royal election of 1764 resulted in the elevation of Stanisław August Poniatowski, a refined and worldly aristocrat connected to the Czartoryski family, but hand-picked and imposed by Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, who expected him to be her obedient follower. Stanisław August ruled the Polish–Lithuanian state until its dissolution in 1795. The king spent his reign torn between his desire to implement reforms necessary to save the failing state and the perceived necessity of remaining in a subordinate relationship to his Russian sponsors.

Following the suppression of the Bar Confederation (a rebellion of nobles directed against Russia's influence), parts of the Commonwealth were divided up among Prussia, Austria and Russia in 1772 at the instigation of Frederick the Great of Prussia, an action that became known as the First Partition of Poland: the outer provinces of the Commonwealth were seized by agreement among the country's three powerful neighbors and only a rump state remained.

Rejtan – The Fall of Poland, oil on canvas by Jan Matejko, 1866, 282 cm × 487 cm (111 in × 192 in), Royal Castle in Warsaw

First Partition of Poland

1772 Jan 1
, Poland

The First Partition of Poland took place in 1772 as the first of three partitions that eventually ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth by 1795. The growth of power in the Russian Empire threatened the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg monarchy (Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and Kingdom of Hungary) and was the primary motive behind the First Partition.

Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, engineered the partition to prevent Austria, which was envious of Russian successes against the Ottoman Empire, from going to war. Territories in Poland were divided by its more powerful neighbours (Austria, Russia and Prussia) to restore the regional balance of power in Central Europe among those three countries.

With Poland unable to defend itself effectively and foreign troops already inside the country, the Polish Sejm ratified the partition in 1773 during the Partition Sejm, which was convened by the three powers.

Scene after the battle of Zieleńce 1792, Polish withdrawal; painting by Wojciech Kossak

Second Partition of Poland

1793 Jan 1
, Poland

The 1793 Second Partition of Poland was the second of three partitions (or partial annexations) that ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth by 1795. The second partition occurred in the aftermath of the Polish–Russian War of 1792 and the Targowica Confederation of 1792, and was approved by its territorial beneficiaries, the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. The division was ratified by the coerced Polish parliament (Sejm) in 1793 (see the Grodno Sejm) in a short-lived attempt to prevent the inevitable complete annexation of Poland, the Third Partition.

Tadeusz Kościuszko's call for a national uprising, Kraków 1794

End of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

1795 Jan 1
, Poland

Radicalized by recent events, Polish reformers were soon working on preparations for a national insurrection. Tadeusz Kościuszko, a popular general and a veteran of the American Revolution, was chosen as its leader. He returned from abroad and issued Kościuszko's proclamation in Kraków on March 24, 1794. It called for a national uprising under his supreme command. Kościuszko emancipated many peasants in order to enroll them as kosynierzy in his army, but the hard-fought insurrection, despite widespread national support, proved incapable of generating the foreign assistance necessary for its success. In the end, it was suppressed by the combined forces of Russia and Prussia, with Warsaw captured in November 1794 in the aftermath of the Battle of Praga.

In 1795, a Third Partition of Poland was undertaken by Russia, Prussia and Austria as a final division of territory that resulted in the effective dissolution of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. King Stanisław August Poniatowski was escorted to Grodno, forced to abdicate, and retired to Saint Petersburg. Tadeusz Kościuszko, initially imprisoned, was allowed to emigrate to the United States in 1796.

The response of the Polish leadership to the last partition is a matter of historical debate. Literary scholars found that the dominant emotion of the first decade was despair that produced a moral desert ruled by violence and treason. On the other hand, historians have looked for signs of resistance to foreign rule. Apart from those who went into exile, the nobility took oaths of loyalty to their new rulers and served as officers in their armies.

"Battle of Racławice", Jan Matejko, oil on canvas, 1888, National Museum in Kraków. 4 April 1794

Third Partition of Poland

1795 Jan 2
, Poland

The Third Partition of Poland (1795) was the last in a series of the Partitions of Poland–Lithuania and the land of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth among Prussia, the Habsburg monarchy, and the Russian Empire which effectively ended Polish–Lithuanian national sovereignty until 1918. The partition was the result of the Kościuszko Uprising and was followed by a number of Polish uprisings during the period.

The death of Józef Poniatowski, Marshal of the French Empire, at the Battle of Leipzig

Duchy of Warsaw

1807 Jan 1 - 1815
, Warsaw

Although no sovereign Polish state existed between 1795 and 1918, the idea of Polish independence was kept alive throughout the 19th century. There were a number of uprisings and other armed undertakings waged against the partitioning powers. Military efforts after the partitions were first based on the alliances of Polish émigrés with post-revolutionary France. Jan Henryk Dąbrowski's Polish Legions fought in French campaigns outside of Poland between 1797 and 1802 in hopes that their involvement and contribution would be rewarded with the liberation of their Polish homeland. The Polish national anthem, "Poland Is Not Yet Lost", or "Dąbrowski's Mazurka", was written in praise of his actions by Józef Wybicki in 1797.

The Duchy of Warsaw, a small, semi-independent Polish state, was created in 1807 by Napoleon in the wake of his defeat of Prussia and the signing of the Treaties of Tilsit with Emperor Alexander I of Russia. The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw, led by Józef Poniatowski, participated in numerous campaigns in alliance with France, including the successful Austro-Polish War of 1809, which, combined with the outcomes of other theaters of the War of the Fifth Coalition, resulted in an enlargement of the duchy's territory. The French invasion of Russia in 1812 and the German Campaign of 1813 saw the duchy's last military engagements. The Constitution of the Duchy of Warsaw abolished serfdom as a reflection of the ideals of the French Revolution, but it did not promote land reform.

Architect of the Congress System, Prince von Metternich, chancellor of the Austrian Empire. Painting by Lawrence (1815)

Congress Poland

1815 Jan 1
, Poland

After Napoleon's defeat, a new European order was established at the Congress of Vienna, which met in the years 1814 and 1815. Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, a former close associate of Emperor Alexander I, became the leading advocate for the Polish national cause. The Congress implemented a new partition scheme, which took into account some of the gains realized by the Poles during the Napoleonic period.

The Duchy of Warsaw was replaced in 1815 with a new Kingdom of Poland, unofficially known as Congress Poland. The residual Polish kingdom was joined to the Russian Empire in a personal union under the Russian tsar and it was allowed its own constitution and military. East of the kingdom, large areas of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth remained directly incorporated into the Russian Empire as the Western Krai. These territories, along with Congress Poland, are generally considered to form the Russian Partition. The Russian, Prussian, and Austrian "partitions" are informal names for the lands of the former Commonwealth, not actual units of administrative division of Polish–Lithuanian territories after partitions. The Prussian Partition included a portion separated as the Grand Duchy of Posen. Peasants under the Prussian administration were gradually enfranchised under the reforms of 1811 and 1823. The limited legal reforms in the Austrian Partition were overshadowed by its rural poverty. The Free City of Cracow was a tiny republic created by the Congress of Vienna under the joint supervision of the three partitioning powers. Despite the bleak from the standpoint of Polish patriots political situation, economic progress was made in the lands taken over by foreign powers because the period after the Congress of Vienna witnessed a significant development in the building of early industry.

The capture of the Warsaw arsenal at the beginning of the November Uprising of 1830

November Uprising of 1830

1830 Jan 1
, Poland

The increasingly repressive policies of the partitioning powers led to resistance movements in partitioned Poland, and in 1830 Polish patriots staged the November Uprising. This revolt developed into a full-scale war with Russia, but the leadership was taken over by Polish conservatives who were reluctant to challenge the empire and hostile to broadening the independence movement's social base through measures such as land reform. Despite the significant resources mobilized, a series of errors by several successive chief commanders appointed by the insurgent Polish National Government led to the defeat of its forces by the Russian army in 1831. Congress Poland lost its constitution and military, but formally remained a separate administrative unit within the Russian Empire.

After the defeat of the November Uprising, thousands of former Polish combatants and other activists emigrated to Western Europe. This phenomenon, known as the Great Emigration, soon dominated Polish political and intellectual life. Together with the leaders of the independence movement, the Polish community abroad included the greatest Polish literary and artistic minds, including the Romantic poets Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Cyprian Norwid, and the composer Frédéric Chopin. In occupied and repressed Poland, some sought progress through nonviolent activism focused on education and economy, known as organic work; others, in cooperation with the emigrant circles, organized conspiracies and prepared for the next armed insurrection.

Polish Emigrants in Belgium, a 19th-century graphic

Great Emigration

1831 Jan 1 - 1870
, Poland

The Great Emigration was the emigration of thousands of Poles and Lithuanians, particularly from the political and cultural élites, from 1831 to 1870, after the failure of the November Uprising of 1830–1831 and of other uprisings such as the Kraków uprising of 1846 and the January Uprising of 1863–1864. The emigration affected almost the entirety of political elite in Congress Poland. The exiles included artists, soldiers and officers of the uprising, members of the Sejm of Congress Poland of 1830–1831 and several prisoners-of-war who escaped from captivity.

Attack of the Krakusi on Russians in Proszowice during the 1846 uprising. Juliusz Kossak painting.

Uprisings during the Spring of Nations

1846 Jan 1 - 1848
, Poland

The planned national uprising failed to materialize because the authorities in the partitions found out about secret preparations. The Greater Poland uprising ended in a fiasco in early 1846. In the Kraków uprising of February 1846, patriotic action was combined with revolutionary demands, but the result was the incorporation of the Free City of Cracow into the Austrian Partition. The Austrian officials took advantage of peasant discontent and incited villagers against the noble-dominated insurgent units. This resulted in the Galician slaughter of 1846, a large-scale rebellion of serfs seeking relief from their post-feudal condition of mandatory labor as practiced in folwarks. The uprising freed many from bondage and hastened decisions that led to the abolition of Polish serfdom in the Austrian Empire in 1848. A new wave of Polish involvement in revolutionary movements soon took place in the partitions and in other parts of Europe in the context of the Spring of Nations revolutions of 1848 (e.g. Józef Bem's participation in the revolutions in Austria and Hungary). The 1848 German revolutions precipitated the Greater Poland uprising of 1848, in which peasants in the Prussian Partition, who were by then largely enfranchised, played a prominent role.

Bolesław Prus (1847–1912), a leading novelist, journalist and philosopher of Poland's Positivism movement

Modern Polish nationalism

1864 Jan 1 - 1914
, Poland

The failure of the January Uprising in Poland caused a major psychological trauma and became a historic watershed; indeed, it sparked the development of modern Polish nationalism. The Poles, subjected within the territories under the Russian and Prussian administrations to still stricter controls and increased persecution, sought to preserve their identity in non-violent ways. After the uprising, Congress Poland was downgraded in official usage from the "Kingdom of Poland" to the "Vistula Land" and was more fully integrated into Russia proper, but not entirely obliterated. The Russian and German languages were imposed in all public communication, and the Catholic Church was not spared from severe repression. Public education was increasingly subjected to Russification and Germanisation measures. Illiteracy was reduced, most effectively in the Prussian partition, but education in the Polish language was preserved mostly through unofficial efforts. The Prussian government pursued German colonization, including the purchase of Polish-owned land. On the other hand, the region of Galicia (western Ukraine and southern Poland) experienced a gradual relaxation of authoritarian policies and even a Polish cultural revival. Economically and socially backward, it was under the milder rule of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and from 1867 was increasingly allowed limited autonomy. Stańczycy, a conservative Polish pro-Austrian faction led by great land owners, dominated the Galician government. The Polish Academy of Learning (an academy of sciences) was founded in Kraków in 1872.

Social activities termed "organic work" consisted of self-help organizations that promoted economic advancement and work on improving the competitiveness of Polish-owned businesses, industrial, agricultural or other. New commercial methods of generating higher productivity were discussed and implemented through trade associations and special interest groups, while Polish banking and cooperative financial institutions made the necessary business loans available. The other major area of effort in organic work was educational and intellectual development of the common people. Many libraries and reading rooms were established in small towns and villages, and numerous printed periodicals manifested the growing interest in popular education. Scientific and educational societies were active in a number of cities. Such activities were most pronounced in the Prussian Partition.

Positivism in Poland replaced Romanticism as the leading intellectual, social and literary trend. It reflected the ideals and values of the emerging urban bourgeoisie. Around 1890, the urban classes gradually abandoned the positivist ideas and came under the influence of modern pan-European nationalism.

Stanisław Masłowski Wiosna roku 1905 (Spring of year 1905). Cossack patrol escorting teenage insurrectionists.

The Revolution of 1905

1905 Jan 1 - 1907
, Poland

The Revolution of 1905–1907 in Russian Poland, the result of many years of pent-up political frustrations and stifled national ambitions, was marked by political maneuvering, strikes and rebellion. The revolt was part of much broader disturbances throughout the Russian Empire associated with the general Revolution of 1905. In Poland, the principal revolutionary figures were Roman Dmowski and Józef Piłsudski. Dmowski was associated with the right-wing nationalist movement National Democracy, whereas Piłsudski was associated with the Polish Socialist Party. As the authorities re-established control within the Russian Empire, the revolt in Congress Poland, placed under martial law, withered as well, partially as a result of tsarist concessions in the areas of national and workers' rights, including Polish representation in the newly created Russian Duma. The collapse of the revolt in the Russian Partition, coupled with intensified Germanization in the Prussian Partition, left Austrian Galicia as the territory where Polish patriotic action was most likely to flourish.

In the Austrian Partition, Polish culture was openly cultivated, and in the Prussian Partition, there were high levels of education and living standards, but the Russian Partition remained of primary importance for the Polish nation and its aspirations. About 15.5 million Polish-speakers lived in the territories most densely populated by Poles: the western part of the Russian Partition, the Prussian Partition and the western Austrian Partition. Ethnically Polish settlement spread over a large area further to the east, including its greatest concentration in the Vilnius Region, amounted to only over 20% of that number.

Polish paramilitary organizations oriented toward independence, such as the Union of Active Struggle, were formed in 1908–1914, mainly in Galicia. The Poles were divided and their political parties fragmented on the eve of World War I, with Dmowski's National Democracy (pro-Entente) and Piłsudski's faction assuming opposing positions.

Col. Józef Piłsudski with his staff in front of the Governor's Palace in Kielce, 1914

World War I and Independence

1914 Jan 1 - 1918
, Poland

While Poland did not exist as an independent state during World War I, its geographical position between the fighting powers meant that much fighting and terrific human and material losses occurred on the Polish lands between 1914 and 1918. When World War I started, Polish territory was split during the partitions between Austria-Hungary, the German Empire and the Russian Empire, and became the scene of many operations of the Eastern Front of World War I. In the aftermath of the war, following the collapse of the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Poland became an independent republic.

Polish regaining independence 1918

Second Polish Republic

1918 Nov 11 - 1939
, Poland

The Second Polish Republic, at the time officially known as the Republic of Poland, was a country in Central and Eastern Europe that existed between 1918 and 1939. The state was established in 1918, in the aftermath of the First World War. The Second Republic ceased to exist in 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the Slovak Republic, marking the beginning of the European theatre of the Second World War.

When, after several regional conflicts, the borders of the state were finalised in 1922, Poland's neighbours were Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Free City of Danzig, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and the Soviet Union. It had access to the Baltic Sea via a short strip of coastline either side of the city of Gdynia, known as the Polish Corridor. Between March and August 1939, Poland also shared a border with the then-Hungarian governorate of Subcarpathia. The political conditions of the Second Republic were heavily influenced by the aftermath of the First World War and conflicts with neighbouring states as well as the emergence of Nazism in Germany.

The Second Republic maintained moderate economic development. The cultural hubs of interwar Poland – Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Wilno and Lwów – became major European cities and the sites of internationally acclaimed universities and other institutions of higher education.

Securing Borders and Polish–Soviet War

Securing Borders and Polish–Soviet War

1919 Jan 1 - 1921
, Poland

After more than a century of foreign rule, Poland regained its independence at the end of World War I as one of the outcomes of the negotiations that took place at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The Treaty of Versailles that emerged from the conference set up an independent Polish nation with an outlet to the sea, but left some of its boundaries to be decided by plebiscites. Other boundaries were settled by war and subsequent treaties. A total of six border wars were fought in 1918–1921, including the Polish–Czechoslovak border conflicts over Cieszyn Silesia in January 1919.

As distressing as these border conflicts were, the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1921 was the most important series of military actions of the era. Piłsudski had entertained far-reaching anti-Russian cooperative designs in Eastern Europe, and in 1919 the Polish forces pushed eastward into Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine by taking advantage of the Russian preoccupation with a civil war, but they were soon confronted with the Soviet westward offensive of 1918–1919. Western Ukraine was already a theater of the Polish–Ukrainian War, which eliminated the proclaimed West Ukrainian People's Republic in July 1919. In the autumn of 1919, Piłsudski rejected urgent pleas from the former Entente powers to support Anton Denikin's White movement in its advance on Moscow. The Polish–Soviet War proper began with the Polish Kiev Offensive in April 1920. Allied with the Directorate of Ukraine of the Ukrainian People's Republic, the Polish armies had advanced past Vilnius, Minsk and Kiev by June. At that time, a massive Soviet counter-offensive pushed the Poles out of most of Ukraine. On the northern front, the Soviet army reached the outskirts of Warsaw in early August. A Soviet triumph and the quick end of Poland seemed inevitable. However, the Poles scored a stunning victory at the Battle of Warsaw (1920). Afterwards, more Polish military successes followed, and the Soviets had to pull back. They left swathes of territory populated largely by Belarusians or Ukrainians to Polish rule. The new eastern boundary was finalized by the Peace of Riga in March 1921.

Piłsudski's seizure of Vilnius in October 1920 was a nail in the coffin of the already poor Lithuania–Poland relations that had been strained by the Polish–Lithuanian War of 1919–1920; both states would remain hostile to one another for the remainder of the interwar period. The Peace of Riga settled the eastern border by preserving for Poland a substantial portion of the old Commonwealth's eastern territories at the cost of partitioning the lands of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Lithuania and Belarus) and Ukraine. The Ukrainians ended up with no state of their own and felt betrayed by the Riga arrangements; their resentment gave rise to extreme nationalism and anti-Polish hostility. The Kresy (or borderland) territories in the east won by 1921 would form the basis for a swap arranged and carried out by the Soviets in 1943–1945, who at that time compensated the re-emerging Polish state for the eastern lands lost to the Soviet Union with conquered areas of eastern Germany.

The successful outcome of the Polish–Soviet War gave Poland a false sense of its prowess as a self-sufficient military power and encouraged the government to try to resolve international problems through imposed unilateral solutions. The territorial and ethnic policies of the interwar period contributed to bad relations with most of Poland's neighbors and uneasy cooperation with more distant centers of power, especially France and Great Britain.

Piłsudski's May Coup of 1926 defined Poland's political reality in the years leading to World War II

Sanation Era

1926 May 12 - 1935
, Poland

On 12 May 1926, Piłsudski staged the May Coup, a military overthrow of the civilian government mounted against President Stanisław Wojciechowski and the troops loyal to the legitimate government. Hundreds died in fratricidal fighting. Piłsudski was supported by several leftist factions who ensured the success of his coup by blocking the railway transportation of government forces. He also had the support of the conservative great landowners, a move that left the right-wing National Democrats as the only major social force opposed to the takeover.

Following the coup, the new regime initially respected many parliamentary formalities, but gradually tightened its control and abandoned pretenses. The Centrolew, a coalition of center-left parties, was formed in 1929, and in 1930 called for the "abolition of dictatorship". In 1930, the Sejm was dissolved and a number of opposition deputies were imprisoned at the Brest Fortress. Five thousand political opponents were arrested ahead of the Polish legislative election of 1930, which was rigged to award a majority of seats to the pro-regime Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government (BBWR).

The authoritarian Sanation regime ("sanation" meant to denote "healing") that Piłsudski led until his death in 1935 (and would remain in place until 1939) reflected the dictator's evolution from his center-left past to conservative alliances. Political institutions and parties were allowed to function, but the electoral process was manipulated and those not willing to cooperate submissively were subjected to repression. From 1930, persistent opponents of the regime, many of the leftist persuasion, were imprisoned and subjected to staged legal processes with harsh sentences, such as the Brest trials, or else detained in the Bereza Kartuska prison and similar camps for political prisoners. About three thousand were detained without trial at different times at the Bereza internment camp between 1934 and 1939. In 1936 for example, 369 activists were taken there, including 342 Polish communists. Rebellious peasants staged riots in 1932, 1933 and the 1937 peasant strike in Poland. Other civil disturbances were caused by striking industrial workers (e.g. events of the "Bloody Spring" of 1936), nationalist Ukrainiansand the activists of the incipient Belarusian movement. All became targets of ruthless police-military pacification.Besides sponsoring political repression, the regime fostered Józef Piłsudski's cult of personality that had already existed long before he assumed dictatorial powers.

Piłsudski signed the Soviet–Polish Non-Aggression Pact in 1932 and the German–Polish declaration of non-aggression in 1934, but in 1933 he insisted that there was no threat from the East or West and said that Poland's politics were focused on becoming fully independent without serving foreign interests. He initiated the policy of maintaining an equal distance and an adjustable middle course regarding the two great neighbors, later continued by Józef Beck. Piłsudski kept personal control of the army, but it was poorly equipped, poorly trained and had poor preparations in place for possible future conflicts. His only war plan was a defensive war against a Soviet invasion.The slow modernization after Piłsudski's death fell far behind the progress made by Poland's neighbors and measures to protect the western border, discontinued by Piłsudski from 1926, were not undertaken until March 1939.

When Marshal Piłsudski died in 1935, he retained the support of dominant sections of Polish society even though he never risked testing his popularity in an honest election. His regime was dictatorial, but at that time only Czechoslovakia remained democratic in all of the regions neighboring Poland. Historians have taken widely divergent views of the meaning and consequences of the coup Piłsudski perpetrated and his personal rule that followed.

Invasion of Poland

Poland during World War II

1939 Sep 1 - 1945
, Poland

On 1 September 1939, Hitler ordered an invasion of Poland, the opening event of World War II. Poland had signed an Anglo-Polish military alliance as recently as the 25th of August, and had long been in alliance with France. The two Western powers soon declared war on Germany, but they remained largely inactive (the period early in the conflict became known as the Phoney War) and extended no aid to the attacked country. The technically and numerically superior Wehrmacht formations rapidly advanced eastwards and engaged massively in the murder of Polish civilians over the entire occupied territory. On 17 September, a Soviet invasion of Poland began. The Soviet Union quickly occupied most of the areas of eastern Poland that were inhabited by a significant Ukrainian and Belarusian minority. The two invading powers divided up the country as they had agreed in the secret provisions of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Poland's top government officials and military high command fled the war zone and arrived at the Romanian Bridgehead in mid-September. After the Soviet entry they sought refuge in Romania.

German-occupied Poland was divided from 1939 into two regions: Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany directly into the German Reich and areas ruled under a so-called General Government of occupation. The Poles formed an underground resistance movement and a Polish government-in-exile that operated first in Paris, then, from July 1940, in London. Polish-Soviet diplomatic relations, broken since September 1939, were resumed in July 1941 under the Sikorski–Mayski agreement, which facilitated the formation of a Polish army (the Anders' Army) in the Soviet Union. In November 1941, Prime Minister Sikorski flew to the Soviet Union to negotiate with Stalin on its role on the Soviet-German front, but the British wanted the Polish soldiers in the Middle East. Stalin agreed, and the army was evacuated there.

The organizations forming the Polish Underground State that functioned in Poland throughout the war were loyal to and formally under the Polish government-in-exile, acting through its Government Delegation for Poland. During World War II, hundreds of thousands of Poles joined the underground Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa), a part of the Polish Armed Forces of the government-in-exile. About 200,000 Poles fought on the Western Front in the Polish Armed Forces in the West loyal to the government-in-exile, and about 300,000 in the Polish Armed Forces in the East under the Soviet command on the Eastern Front. The pro-Soviet resistance movement in Poland, led by the Polish Workers' Party, was active from 1941. It was opposed by the gradually forming extreme nationalistic National Armed Forces.

Beginning in late 1939, hundreds of thousands of Poles from the Soviet-occupied areas were deported and taken east. Of the upper-ranking military personnel and others deemed uncooperative or potentially harmful by the Soviets, about 22,000 were secretly executed by them at the Katyn massacre. In April 1943, the Soviet Union broke off deteriorating relations with the Polish government-in-exile after the German military announced the discovery of mass graves containing murdered Polish army officers. The Soviets claimed that the Poles committed a hostile act by requesting that the Red Cross investigate these reports.

From 1941, the implementation of the Nazi Final Solution began, and the Holocaust in Poland proceeded with force. Warsaw was the scene of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April–May 1943, triggered by the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto by German SS units. The elimination of Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland took place in many cities. As the Jewish people were being removed to be exterminated, uprisings were waged against impossible odds by the Jewish Combat Organization and other desperate Jewish insurgents.

Home Army soldiers from Kolegium "A" of Kedyw formation on Stawki Street in the Wola District of Warsaw, September 1944

Warsaw Uprising

1944 Aug 1 - Oct 2
, Warsaw

At a time of increasing cooperation between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union in the wake of the Nazi invasion of 1941, the influence of the Polish government-in-exile was seriously diminished by the death of Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski, its most capable leader, in a plane crash on 4 July 1943. Around that time, Polish-communist civilian and military organizations opposed to the government, led by Wanda Wasilewska and supported by Stalin, were formed in the Soviet Union.

In July 1944, the Soviet Red Army and Soviet-controlled Polish People's Army entered the territory of future postwar Poland. In protracted fighting in 1944 and 1945, the Soviets and their Polish allies defeated and expelled the German army from Poland at a cost of over 600,000 Soviet soldiers lost.

The greatest single undertaking of the Polish resistance movement in World War II and a major political event was the Warsaw Uprising that began on 1 August 1944. The uprising, in which most of the city's population participated, was instigated by the underground Home Army and approved by the Polish government-in-exile in an attempt to establish a non-communist Polish administration ahead of the arrival of the Red Army. The uprising was originally planned as a short-lived armed demonstration in expectation that the Soviet forces approaching Warsaw would assist in any battle to take the city. The Soviets had never agreed to an intervention, however, and they halted their advance at the Vistula River. The Germans used the opportunity to carry out a brutal suppression of the forces of the pro-Western Polish underground.

The bitterly fought uprising lasted for two months and resulted in the death or expulsion from the city of hundreds of thousands of civilians. After the defeated Poles surrendered on 2 October, the Germans carried out a planned destruction of Warsaw on Hitler's orders that obliterated the remaining infrastructure of the city. The Polish First Army, fighting alongside the Soviet Red Army, entered a devastated Warsaw on 17 January 1945.

German refugees fleeing from East Prussia, 1945

Border Distribution and Ethnic Cleansing

1945 Jul 1
, Poland

By the terms of the 1945 Potsdam Agreement signed by the three victorious Great Powers, the Soviet Union retained most of the territories captured as a result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, including western Ukraine and western Belarus, and gained others.

Poland was compensated with the bulk of Silesia, including Breslau (Wrocław) and Grünberg (Zielona Góra), the bulk of Pomerania, including Stettin (Szczecin), and the greater southern portion of the former East Prussia, along with Danzig (Gdańsk), pending a final peace conference with Germany which eventually never took place. Collectively referred to by the Polish authorities as the "Recovered Territories", they were included in the reconstituted Polish state. With Germany's defeat Poland was thus shifted west in relation to its prewar location which resulted in a country more compact and with much broader access to the sea.The Poles lost 70% of their pre-war oil capacity to the Soviets, but gained from the Germans a highly developed industrial base and infrastructure that made a diversified industrial economy possible for the first time in Polish history.

The flight and expulsion of Germans from what was eastern Germany prior to the war began before and during the Soviet conquest of those regions from the Nazis, and the process continued in the years immediately after the war. 8,030,000 Germans were evacuated, expelled, or migrated by 1950.

Early expulsions in Poland were undertaken by the Polish communist authorities even before the Potsdam Conference, to ensure the establishment of ethnically homogeneous Poland. About 1% (100,000) of the German civilian population east of the Oder–Neisse line perished in the fighting prior to the surrender in May 1945, and afterwards some 200,000 Germans in Poland were employed as forced labor prior to being expelled. Many Germans died in labor camps such as the Zgoda labour camp and the Potulice camp. Of those Germans who remained within the new borders of Poland, many later chose to emigrate to post-war Germany.

On the other hand, 1.5–2 million ethnic Poles moved or were expelled from the previously Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union. The vast majority were resettled in the former German territories. At least one million Poles remained in what had become the Soviet Union, and at least half a million ended up in the West or elsewhere outside of Poland. However, contrary to the official declaration that the former German inhabitants of the Recovered Territories had to be removed quickly to house Poles displaced by the Soviet annexation, the Recovered Territories initially faced a severe population shortage.

Many exiled Poles could not return to the country for which they had fought because they belonged to political groups incompatible with the new communist regimes, or because they originated from areas of pre-war eastern Poland that were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Some were deterred from returning simply on the strength of warnings that anyone who had served in military units in the West would be endangered. Many Poles were pursued, arrested, tortured and imprisoned by the Soviet authorities for belonging to the Home Army or other formations, or were persecuted because they had fought on the Western front.

Territories on both sides of the new Polish-Ukrainian border were also "ethnically cleansed". Of the Ukrainians and Lemkos living in Poland within the new borders (about 700,000), close to 95% were forcibly moved to the Soviet Ukraine, or (in 1947) to the new territories in northern and western Poland under Operation Vistula. In Volhynia, 98% of the Polish pre-war population was either killed or expelled; in Eastern Galicia, the Polish population was reduced by 92%. According to Timothy D. Snyder, about 70,000 Poles and about 20,000 Ukrainians were killed in the ethnic violence that occurred in the 1940s, both during and after the war.

According to an estimate by historian Jan Grabowski, about 50,000 of the 250,000 Polish Jews who escaped the Nazis during the liquidation of ghettos survived without leaving Poland (the remainder perished). More were repatriated from the Soviet Union and elsewhere, and the February 1946 population census showed about 300,000 Jews within Poland's new borders. Of the surviving Jews, many chose to emigrate or felt compelled to because of the anti-Jewish violence in Poland.

Because of changing borders and the mass movements of people of various nationalities, the emerging communist Poland ended up with a mainly homogeneous, ethnically Polish population (97.6% according to the December 1950 census). The remaining members of ethnic minorities were not encouraged, by the authorities or by their neighbors, to emphasize their ethnic identities.

Communist aspirations were symbolized by the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw

Under Stalinism

1948 Jan 1 - 1955
, Poland

In response to the February 1945 Yalta Conference directives, a Polish Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in June 1945 under Soviet auspices; it was soon recognized by the United States and many other countries. The Soviet domination was apparent from the beginning, as prominent leaders of the Polish Underground State were brought to trial in Moscow (the "Trial of the Sixteen" of June 1945). In the immediate post-war years, the emerging communist rule was challenged by opposition groups, including militarily by the so-called "cursed soldiers", of whom thousands perished in armed confrontations or were pursued by the Ministry of Public Security and executed. Such guerillas often pinned their hopes on expectations of an imminent outbreak of World War III and defeat of the Soviet Union.

Although the Yalta agreement called for free elections, the Polish legislative election of January 1947 was controlled by the communists. Some democratic and pro-Western elements, led by Stanisław Mikołajczyk, former prime minister-in-exile, participated in the Provisional Government and the 1947 elections, but were ultimately eliminated through electoral fraud, intimidation and violence. After the 1947 elections, the communists moved towards abolishing the post-war partially pluralistic "people's democracy" and replacing it with a state socialist system. The communist-dominated front Democratic Bloc of the 1947 elections, turned into the Front of National Unity in 1952, became officially the source of governmental authority. The Polish government-in-exile, lacking international recognition, remained in continuous existence until 1990.

The Polish People's Republic (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa) was established under the rule of the communist Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). The ruling PZPR was formed by the forced amalgamation in December 1948 of the communist Polish Workers' Party (PPR) and the historically non-communist Polish Socialist Party (PPS). The PPR chief had been its wartime leader Władysław Gomułka, who in 1947 declared a "Polish road to socialism" as intended to curb, rather than eradicate, capitalist elements. In 1948 he was overruled, removed and imprisoned by Stalinist authorities. The PPS, re-established in 1944 by its left wing, had since been allied with the communists. The ruling communists, who in post-war Poland preferred to use the term "socialism" instead of "communism" to identify their ideological basis, needed to include the socialist junior partner to broaden their appeal, claim greater legitimacy and eliminate competition on the political Left. The socialists, who were losing their organization, were subjected to political pressure, ideological cleansing and purges in order to become suitable for unification on the terms of the PPR. The leading pro-communist leaders of the socialists were the prime ministers Edward Osóbka-Morawski and Józef Cyrankiewicz.

During the most oppressive phase of the Stalinist period (1948–1953), terror was justified in Poland as necessary to eliminate reactionary subversion. Many thousands of perceived opponents of the regime were arbitrarily tried and large numbers were executed. The People's Republic was led by discredited Soviet operatives such as Bolesław Bierut, Jakub Berman and Konstantin Rokossovsky. The independent Catholic Church in Poland was subjected to property confiscations and other curtailments from 1949, and in 1950 was pressured into signing an accord with the government. In 1953 and later, despite a partial thaw after the death of Stalin that year, the persecution of the Church intensified and its head, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, was detained. A key event in the persecution of the Polish Church was the Stalinist show trial of the Kraków Curia in January 1953.

Władysław Gomułka addressing the crowd in Warsaw in October 1956

The Thaw

1955 Jan 1 - 1958
, Poland

In March 1956, after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow ushered in de-Stalinization, Edward Ochab was chosen to replace the deceased Bolesław Bierut as first secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party. As a result, Poland was rapidly overtaken by social restlessness and reformist undertakings; thousands of political prisoners were released and many people previously persecuted were officially rehabilitated. Worker riots in Poznań in June 1956 were violently suppressed, but they gave rise to the formation of a reformist current within the communist party.

Amidst the continuing social and national upheaval, a further shakeup took place in the party leadership as part of what is known as the Polish October of 1956. While retaining most traditional communist economic and social aims, the regime led by Władysław Gomułka, the new first secretary of the PZPR, liberalized internal life in Poland. The dependence on the Soviet Union was somewhat mollified, and the state's relationships with the Church and Catholic lay activists were put on a new footing. A repatriation agreement with the Soviet Union allowed the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Poles who were still in Soviet hands, including many former political prisoners. Collectivization efforts were abandoned—agricultural land, unlike in other Comecon countries, remained for the most part in the private ownership of farming families. State-mandated provisions of agricultural products at fixed, artificially low prices were reduced, and from 1972 eliminated.

The legislative election of 1957 was followed by several years of political stability that was accompanied by economic stagnation and curtailment of reforms and reformists. One of the last initiatives of the brief reform era was a nuclear weapons–free zone in Central Europe proposed in 1957 by Adam Rapacki, Poland's foreign minister.

Culture in the Polish People's Republic, to varying degrees linked to the intelligentsia's opposition to the authoritarian system, developed to a sophisticated level under Gomułka and his successors. The creative process was often compromised by state censorship, but significant works were created in fields such as literature, theater, cinema and music, among others. Journalism of veiled understanding and varieties of native and Western popular culture were well represented. Uncensored information and works generated by émigré circles were conveyed through a variety of channels. The Paris-based Kultura magazine developed a conceptual framework for dealing with the issues of borders and the neighbors of a future free Poland, but for ordinary Poles Radio Free Europe was of foremost importance.

Photograph of a Soviet T-54 in Prague during the Warsaw Pact's occupation of Czechoslovakia.


1968 Mar 1 - 1970
, Poland

The post-1956 liberalizing trend, in decline for a number of years, was reversed in March 1968, when student demonstrations were suppressed during the 1968 Polish political crisis. Motivated in part by the Prague Spring movement, the Polish opposition leaders, intellectuals, academics and students used a historical-patriotic Dziady theater spectacle series in Warsaw as a springboard for protests, which soon spread to other centers of higher education and turned nationwide. The authorities responded with a major crackdown on opposition activity, including the firing of faculty and the dismissal of students at universities and other institutions of learning. At the center of the controversy was also the small number of Catholic deputies in the Sejm (the Znak Association members) who attempted to defend the students.

In an official speech, Gomułka drew attention to the role of Jewish activists in the events taking place. This provided ammunition to a nationalistic and antisemitic communist party faction headed by Mieczysław Moczar that was opposed to Gomułka's leadership. Using the context of the military victory of Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, some in the Polish communist leadership waged an antisemitic campaign against the remnants of the Jewish community in Poland. The targets of this campaign were accused of disloyalty and active sympathy with Israeli aggression. Branded "Zionists", they were scapegoated and blamed for the unrest in March 1968, which eventually led to the emigration of much of Poland's remaining Jewish population (about 15,000 Polish citizens left the country).

With the active support of the Gomułka regime, the Polish People's Army took part in the infamous Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, after the Brezhnev Doctrine was informally announced.

First Secretary Edward Gierek (second from left) was unable to reverse Poland's economic decline


1970 Jan 1 - 1981
, Poland

Price increases for essential consumer goods triggered the Polish protests of 1970. In December, there were disturbances and strikes in the Baltic Sea port cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia, and Szczecin that reflected deep dissatisfaction with living and working conditions in the country. To revitalize the economy, from 1971 the Gierek regime introduced wide-ranging reforms that involved large-scale foreign borrowing. These actions initially caused improved conditions for consumers, but in a few years the strategy backfired and the economy deteriorated.

Edward Gierek was blamed by the Soviets for not following their "fraternal" advice, not shoring up the communist party and the official trade unions and allowing "anti-socialist" forces to emerge. On 5 September 1980, Gierek was replaced by Stanisław Kania as first secretary of the PZPR. Delegates of the emergent worker committees from all over Poland gathered in Gdańsk on 17 September and decided to form a single national union organization named "Solidarity".

In February 1981, Defense Minister General Wojciech Jaruzelski assumed the position of prime minister. Both Solidarity and the communist party were badly split and the Soviets were losing patience. Kania was re-elected at the Party Congress in July, but the collapse of the economy continued and so did the general disorder.

At the first Solidarity National Congress in September–October 1981 in Gdańsk, Lech Wałęsa was elected national chairman of the union with 55% of the vote. An appeal was issued to the workers of the other East European countries, urging them to follow in the footsteps of Solidarity. To the Soviets, the gathering was an "anti-socialist and anti-Soviet orgy" and the Polish communist leaders, increasingly led by Jaruzelski and General Czesław Kiszczak, were ready to apply force.

In October 1981, Jaruzelski was named first secretary of the PZPR. The Plenum's vote was 180 to 4, and he kept his government posts. Jaruzelski asked parliament to ban strikes and allow him to exercise extraordinary powers, but when neither request was granted, he decided to proceed with his plans anyway.

Martial law enforced in December 1981

Martial Law and End of Communism

1981 Jan 1 - 1989
, Poland

On 12–13 December 1981, the regime declared martial law in Poland, under which the army and the ZOMO special police forces were used to crush Solidarity. The Soviet leaders insisted that Jaruzelski pacifies the opposition with the forces at his disposal, without Soviet involvement. Almost all Solidarity leaders and many affiliated intellectuals were arrested or detained. Nine workers were killed in the Pacification of Wujek. The United States and other Western countries responded by imposing economic sanctions against Poland and the Soviet Union. Unrest in the country was subdued, but continued.

Having achieved some semblance of stability, the Polish regime relaxed and then rescinded martial law over several stages. By December 1982 martial law was suspended and a small number of political prisoners, including Wałęsa, were released. Although martial law formally ended in July 1983 and a partial amnesty was enacted, several hundred political prisoners remained in jail. Jerzy Popiełuszko, a popular pro-Solidarity priest, was abducted and murdered by security functionaries in October 1984.

Further developments in Poland occurred concurrently with and were influenced by the reformist leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union (processes known as Glasnost and Perestroika). In September 1986, a general amnesty was declared and the government released nearly all political prisoners. However, the country lacked basic stability, as the regime's efforts to organize society from the top down had failed, while the opposition's attempts at creating an "alternate society" were also unsuccessful. With the economic crisis unresolved and societal institutions dysfunctional, both the ruling establishment and the opposition began looking for ways out of the stalemate. Facilitated by the indispensable mediation of the Catholic Church, exploratory contacts were established.

Student protests resumed in February 1988. Continuing economic decline led to strikes across the country in April, May and August. The Soviet Union, increasingly destabilized, was unwilling to apply military or other pressure to prop up allied regimes in trouble. The Polish government felt compelled to negotiate with the opposition and in September 1988 preliminary talks with Solidarity leaders ensued in Magdalenka. Numerous meetings that took place involved Wałęsa and General Kiszczak, among others. The fitful bargaining and intra-party squabbling led to the official Round Table Negotiations in 1989, followed by the Polish legislative election in June of that year, a watershed event marking the fall of communism in Poland.

Wałęsa during the 1990 Polish presidential election

Third Polish Republic

1989 Jan 2 - 2022
, Poland

The Polish Round Table Agreement of April 1989 called for local self-government, policies of job guarantees, legalization of independent trade unions and many wide-ranging reforms. Only 35% of the seats in the Sejm (national legislature's lower house) and all of the Senate seats were freely contested; the remaining Sejm seats (65%) were guaranteed for the communists and their allies.

On 19 August, President Jaruzelski asked journalist and Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki to form a government; on 12 September, the Sejm voted approval of Prime Minister Mazowiecki and his cabinet. Mazowiecki decided to leave the economic reform entirely in the hands of economic liberals led by the new Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, who proceeded with the design and implementation of his "shock therapy" policy. For the first time in post-war history, Poland had a government led by non-communists, setting a precedent soon to be followed by other Eastern Bloc nations in a phenomenon known as the Revolutions of 1989. Mazowiecki's acceptance of the "thick line" formula meant that there would be no "witch-hunt", i.e., an absence of revenge seeking or exclusion from politics in regard to former communist officials.

In part because of the attempted indexation of wages, inflation reached 900% by the end of 1989, but was soon dealt with by means of radical methods. In December 1989, the Sejm approved the Balcerowicz Plan to transform the Polish economy rapidly from a centrally planned one to a free market economy. The Constitution of the Polish People's Republic was amended to eliminate references to the "leading role" of the communist party and the country was renamed the "Republic of Poland". The communist Polish United Workers' Party dissolved itself in January 1990. In its place, a new party, Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, was created. "Territorial self-government", abolished in 1950, was legislated back in March 1990, to be led by locally elected officials; its fundamental unit was the administratively independent gmina.

In November 1990, Lech Wałęsa was elected president for a five-year term; in December, he became the first popularly elected president of Poland. Poland's first free parliamentary election was held in October 1991. 18 parties entered the new Sejm, but the largest representation received only 12% of the total vote.

In 1993, the formerly Soviet Northern Group of Forces, a vestige of past domination, left Poland. Poland joined NATO in 1999. Elements of the Polish Armed Forces have since participated in the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. Poland joined the European Union as part of its enlargement in 2004. However, Poland has not adopted the euro as its currency and legal tender, but instead uses the Polish złoty.

In October 2019, Poland's governing Law and Justice party (PiS) won parliamentary election, keeping its majority in the lower house. The second was centrist Civic Coalition (KO). The government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki continued. However, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński was considered the most powerful political figure in Poland although not a member of government. In July 2020, President Andrzej Duda, supported by PiS, was re-elected.

Constitution of Poland

Constitution of Poland

1997 Apr 2
, Poland

The current Constitution of Poland was founded on 2 April 1997. Formally known as the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, it replaced the Small Constitution of 1992, the last amended version of the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic, known from December 1989 as the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. The five years after 1992 were spent in dialogue about the new character of Poland. The nation had changed significantly since 1952 when the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic was instituted. A new consensus was needed on how to acknowledge the awkward parts of Polish history; the transformation from a one-party system into a multi-party one and from socialism towards a free market economic system; and the rise of pluralism alongside Poland's historically Roman Catholic culture.

It was adopted by the National Assembly of Poland on 2 April 1997, approved by a national referendum on 25 May 1997, promulgated by the President of the Republic on 16 July 1997, and came into effect on 17 October 1997.Poland has had numerous previous constitutional acts. Historically, the most significant is the Constitution of 3 May 1791.

101, the aircraft involved in the accident, seen in 2008

Smolensk Air Disaster

2010 Apr 10
, Smolensk

On 10 April 2010, a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft operating Polish Air Force Flight 101 crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk, killing all 96 people on board. Among the victims were the president of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, and his wife, Maria, the former president of Poland in exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Polish Government officials, 18 members of the Polish Parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy, and relatives of victims of the Katyn massacre. The group was arriving from Warsaw to attend an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the massacre, which took place not far from Smolensk.

The pilots were attempting to land at Smolensk North Airport — a former military airbase — in thick fog, with visibility reduced to about 500 metres (1,600 ft). The aircraft descended far below the normal approach path until it struck trees, rolled, inverted and crashed into the ground, coming to rest in a wooded area a short distance from the runway.

Both the Russian and Polish official investigations found no technical faults with the aircraft, and concluded that the crew failed to conduct the approach in a safe manner in the given weather conditions. The Polish authorities found serious deficiencies in the organization and training of the Air Force unit involved, which was subsequently disbanded. Several high-ranking members of the Polish military resigned following pressure from politicians and the media.


References for History of Poland.

  • Biskupski, M. B. The History of Poland. Greenwood, 2000. 264 pp. online edition
  • Dabrowski, Patrice M. Poland: The First Thousand Years. Northern Illinois University Press, 2016. 506 pp. ISBN 978-0875807560
  • Frucht, Richard. Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism Garland Pub., 2000 online edition
  • Halecki, Oskar. History of Poland, New York: Roy Publishers, 1942. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993, ISBN 0-679-51087-7
  • Kenney, Padraic. "After the Blank Spots Are Filled: Recent Perspectives on Modern Poland," Journal of Modern History Volume 79, Number 1, March 2007 pp 134–61, historiography
  • Kieniewicz, Stefan. History of Poland, Hippocrene Books, 1982, ISBN 0-88254-695-3
  • Kloczowski, Jerzy. A History of Polish Christianity. Cambridge U. Pr., 2000. 385 pp.
  • Lerski, George J. Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966–1945. Greenwood, 1996. 750 pp. online edition
  • Leslie, R. F. et al. The History of Poland since 1863. Cambridge U. Press, 1980. 494 pp.
  • Lewinski-Corwin, Edward Henry. The Political History of Poland (1917), well-illustrated; 650pp online at books.google.com
  • Litwin Henryk, Central European Superpower, BUM , 2016.
  • Pogonowski, Iwo Cyprian. Poland: An Illustrated History, New York: Hippocrene Books, 2000, ISBN 0-7818-0757-3
  • Pogonowski, Iwo Cyprian. Poland: A Historical Atlas. Hippocrene, 1987. 321 pp.
  • Radzilowski, John. A Traveller's History of Poland, Northampton, Massachusetts: Interlink Books, 2007, ISBN 1-56656-655-X
  • Reddaway, W. F., Penson, J. H., Halecki, O., and Dyboski, R. (Eds.). The Cambridge History of Poland, 2 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1941 (1697–1935), 1950 (to 1696). New York: Octagon Books, 1971 online edition vol 1 to 1696, old fashioned but highly detailed
  • Roos, Hans. A History of Modern Poland (1966)
  • Sanford, George. Historical Dictionary of Poland. Scarecrow Press, 2003. 291 pp.
  • Wróbel, Piotr. Historical Dictionary of Poland, 1945–1996. Greenwood, 1998. 397 pp.
  • Zamoyski, Adam. Poland: A History. Hippocrene Books, 2012. 426 pp. ISBN 978-0781813013