History of Poland
The history of Poland has its roots in the migrations of Slavs, who established permanent settlements in the Polish lands during the Early Middle Ages. The first ruling dynasty, the Piasts, emerged by the 10th century AD. Duke Mieszko I is considered the de facto creator of the Polish state and is recognized for the adoption of Western Christianity that followed his baptism in 966. Mieszko's duchy of Poland was formally reconstituted as a medieval kingdom in 1025 by his son Bolesław I the Brave, known for military expansion under his rule; the most successful of the Piast kings was the last one, Casimir III the Great, who presided over a brilliant period of economic prosperity and territorial aggrandizement before his death in 1370 without male heirs. The period of the Jagiellonian dynasty in the 14th–16th centuries brought close ties with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a cultural Renaissance in Poland and continued territorial expansion that culminated in the establishment of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.
In its early phases, the Commonwealth was able to sustain the levels of prosperity achieved during the Jagiellonian period, while its political system matured as a unique noble democracy. From the mid-17th century, the huge state entered a period of decline caused by devastating wars and the deterioration of its political system. Significant internal reforms were introduced during the part of the 18th century in the Constitution of 3 May 1791, but neighboring powers did not allow the reform process to advance; the independent existence of the Commonwealth ended in 1795 after a series of invasions and partitions of Polish territory carried out by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy. From 1795 until 1918, no independent Polish state existed, although strong Polish resistance movements operated. After the failure of the last military uprising against the Russian Empire, the January Uprising of 1863, the nation preserved its identity through educational initiatives and a program of "organic work" intended to modernize the economy and society.
The opportunity to regain independence only materialized after World War I, when the three partitioning imperial powers were fatally weakened in the wake of war and revolution. The Second Polish Republic, established in 1918, existed as an independent state until 1939, when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union destroyed it in their invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II. Millions of Polish citizens perished in the course of the Nazi occupation of Poland between 1939 and 1945 as Germany classified ethnic Poles and other Slavs and Romani as subhuman. Nazi authorities targeted the last two groups for extermination in the short term, deferring the extermination and/or enslavement of the Slavs as part of the Generalplan Ost conceived by the Nazi régime. A Polish government-in-exile nonetheless functioned throughout the war and the Poles contributed to the Allied victory through participation in military campaigns on both the eastern and western fronts; the westward advances of the Soviet Red Army in 1944 and 1945 compelled Nazi Germany's forces to retreat from Poland, which led to the establishment of a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union, known from 1952 as the Polish People's Republic.
As a result of territorial adjustments mandated by the victorious Allies at the end of World War II in 1945, Poland's geographic centre of gravity shifted towards the west and the re-defined Polish lands lost their historic multi-ethnic character through the extermination and migration of various ethnic groups during and after the war. By the late 1980s, the Polish reform movement Solidarity became crucial in bringing about a peaceful transition from a communist state to a capitalist economic system and a liberal parliamentary democracy; this process resulted in the creation of the modern Polish state: the Third Polish Republic, founded in 1989. In prehistoric and protohistoric times, over a period of at least 500,000 years, the area of present-day Poland was intermittently inhabited by members of the Homo genus, it went through the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age stages of development, along with the nearby regions. The Neolithic period ushered in the Linear Pottery culture, whose founders migrated from the Danube River area beginning about 5,500 BC.
This culture was distinguished by the establishment of the first settled agricultural communities in modern Polish territory. Between about 4,400 and 2,000 BC, the native post-Mesolithic populations would adopt and further develop the agricultural way of life. Poland's Early Bronze Age began around 2300–2400 BC, whereas its Iron Age commenced c. 700–750 BC. One of the many cultures that have been uncovered, the Lusatian culture, spanned the Bronze and Iron Ages and left notable settlement sites. Around 400 BC, Poland was settled by Celts of the La Tène culture, they were soon followed by emerging cultures with a strong Germanic component, influenced first by the Celts and by the Roman Empire. The Germanic peoples migrated out of the area by about 500 AD during the great Migration Period of the European Dark Ages. Wooded regions to the north and east were settled by Balts. According to mainstream archaeological research, Slavs have resided in modern Polish territories for over 1500 years. Recent genetic studies, determined that people who live in the current territory of Poland include the descendants of people who inhabited the area for thousands of years, beginning in the early Neolithic period.
Slavs on the territory of Poland were organized into tribal units, of which the larger ones were known as the Polish tribes.
The Polish government-in-exile, formally known as the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile, was the government in exile of Poland formed in the aftermath of the Invasion of Poland of September 1939, the subsequent occupation of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, which brought to an end the Second Polish Republic. Despite the occupation of Poland by hostile powers, the government-in-exile exerted considerable influence in Poland during World War II through the structures of the Polish Underground State and its military arm, the Armia Krajowa resistance. Abroad, under the authority of the government-in-exile, Polish military units that had escaped the occupation fought under their own commanders as part of Allied forces in Europe and the Middle East. After the war, as the Polish territory came under the control of the People's Republic of Poland, a Soviet satellite state, the government-in-exile remained in existence, though unrecognized and without effective power. Only after the end of Communist rule in Poland did the government-in-exile formally pass on its responsibilities to the new government of the Third Polish Republic in December 1990.
The government-in-exile was based in France during 1939 and 1940, first in Paris and in Angers. From 1940, following the Fall of France, the government moved to London, remained in the United Kingdom until its dissolution in 1990. On 17 September 1939, the President of the Polish Republic, Ignacy Mościcki, in the small town of Kuty near the southern Polish border, issued a proclamation about his plan to transfer power and appointing Władysław Raczkiewicz, the Marshal of the Senate, as his successor; this was done in accordance with Article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, adopted in April 1935. Article 24 provided as follows: In event of war, the term of the President's office shall be prolonged until three months after the conclusion of peace. Should the President's successor assume office, the term of his office shall expire at the end of three months after the conclusion of peace, it was not until 30 September 1939 that Mościcki resigned. Raczkiewicz, in Paris took his constitutional oath at the Polish Embassy and became President of the Republic of Poland.
Raczkiewicz appointed General Władysław Sikorski to be Prime Minister. After Edward Rydz-Śmigły stepped down, Raczkiewicz made Sikorski Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces. Most of the Polish Navy escaped to Britain, tens of thousands of Polish soldiers and airmen escaped through Hungary and Romania or across the Baltic Sea to continue the fight in France. Many Poles subsequently took part in Allied operations: in Norway, in France in 1940 and in 1944, in the Battle of Britain, in the Battle of the Atlantic, in North Africa, Italy, at Arnhem and elsewhere. Under the Sikorski–Mayski agreement of July 1941 Polish soldiers taken prisoner by the Soviet Union in 1939, were released to form Anders' Army, intended to fight Nazi Germany in the USSR, but instead transferred via Iran to fight with US and British forces. Berling's Army, formed in the USSR in 1944, fought under Soviet command; the Polish government in exile, based first in Paris in Angers, where Władysław Raczkiewicz lived at the Château de Pignerolle near Angers from 2 December 1939 until June 1940.
Escaping from France the government relocated to London, it was recognized by all the Allied governments. Politically, it was a coalition of the Polish Peasant Party, the Polish Socialist Party, the Labour Party and the National Party, although these parties maintained only a vestigial existence in the circumstances of war; when Germany launched a war against the Soviets in 1941, the Polish government in exile established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union against Hitlerism, but in order to help Poles persecuted by the NKVD. On 12 August 1941 the Kremlin signed a one-time amnesty, extending to thousands of Polish soldiers, taken prisoner in 1939 by the Red Army in eastern Poland, including many Polish civilian prisoners and deportees entrapped in Siberia; the amnesty allowed the Poles to create eight military divisions known as the Anders Army. They were evacuated to Iran and the Middle East, where they were needed by the British, hard pressed by Rommel's Afrika Korps; these Polish units formed the basis for the Polish II Corps, led by General Władysław Anders, which together with other, earlier-created Polish units fought alongside the Allies.
During the war from 1942 on, the Polish government in exile provided the Allies with some of the earliest and most accurate accounts of the ongoing Holocaust of European Jews and, through its representatives, like the Foreign Minister Count Edward Raczyński and the courier of the Polish Underground movement, Jan Karski, called for action, without success, to stop it. The note the Foreign Minister, Count Edward Raczynski, sent on 10 December 1942 to the Governments of the United Nations was the first official denunciation by any Government of the mass extermination and of the Nazi aim of total extermination of the Jewish population, it was the first official document singling out the sufferings of European Jews as Jews and not only as citizens of their respective countries of origin. The note of 10 December 1942 and the Polish Government efforts triggered the Declaration of the Allied Nations of 17 December 1942. In April 1943, the Germans announced that
The Sikorski–Mayski Agreement was a treaty between the Soviet Union and Poland, signed in London on 30 July 1941. Its name is taken from its two most notable signatories: Polish Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski and Soviet Ambassador to the United Kingdom Ivan Mayski. After signing the German–Soviet Nonaggression Treaty in 1939, the Soviet Union took part in the invasion of Poland and its subsequent dismemberment; the Soviet authorities declared Poland to be non-existent, all former Polish citizens from the areas annexed by USSR were treated as if they were Soviet citizens. This resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of 2 million Polish citizens by the NKVD and other Soviet authorities; when the international situation of the Soviet Union changed with the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in 1941, Stalin began to seek help from other countries opposing Germany. Encouraged by British Foreign Office diplomat Anthony Eden, Sikorski, on 5 July 1941, opened negotiations with the Soviet ambassador to London, Ivan Mayski, to re-establish diplomatic relations between Poland and the Soviet Union.
Sikorski was the architect of the agreement reached by the two governments, signed on 30 July 1941. A further military alliance was signed in Moscow on 14 August 1941; that year, Sikorski went to Moscow with a diplomatic mission. Stalin agreed to declare all previous pacts he had with Nazi Germany null and void, invalidating the September 1939 Soviet-German partition of Poland and releasing tens of thousands of Polish prisoners-of-war held in Soviet camps. Pursuant to an agreement between the Polish government-in-exile and Stalin, the Soviets granted "amnesty" to many Polish citizens on 12 August 1941, from whom a 40,000-strong army was formed under General Władysław Anders; the whereabouts of thousands more Polish officers, would remain unknown for two more years, when it would weigh on subsequent Polish-Soviet relations. Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union Polish contribution to World War II Polish Government in Exile Text of the treaty Polish-Soviet Union Agreements: July 30, 1941
History of Poland (1945–1989)
The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of Soviet dominance and communist rule imposed after the end of World War II over Poland, as reestablished within new borders. These years, while featuring general industrialization and urbanization and many improvements in the standard of living, were marred by social unrest, political strife and severe economic difficulties. Near the end of World War II, the advancing Soviet Red Army, along with the Polish Army formed in the Soviet Union, pushed out the Nazi German forces from occupied Poland. In February 1945, the Yalta Conference sanctioned the formation of a provisional government of Poland from a compromise coalition, until postwar elections. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, manipulated the implementation of that ruling. A communist-controlled Provisional Government of National Unity was formed in Warsaw by ignoring the Polish government-in-exile based in London since 1940. During the subsequent Potsdam Conference in July–August 1945, the three major Allies ratified the colossal westerly shift of Polish borders and approved its new territory between the Oder–Neisse line and Curzon Line.
Following the destruction of the Polish-Jewish population in the Holocaust, the flight and expulsion of Germans in the west, resettlement of Ukrainians in the east, the repatriation of Poles from Kresy, Poland became for the first time in its history an ethnically homogeneous nation-state without prominent minorities. The new government solidified its political power over the next two years, while the Polish United Workers' Party under Bolesław Bierut gained firm control over the country, which would become part of the postwar Soviet sphere of influence in Central and Eastern Europe; the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic was promulgated in July 1952 and the state became the Polish People's Republic. Following Stalin's death in 1953, a political "thaw" in the Soviet sphere allowed a more liberal faction of the Polish communists, led by Władysław Gomułka, to gain power. By the mid-1960s, Poland began experiencing increasing economic as well as political difficulties, they culminated in the 1968 Polish political crisis and the 1970 Polish protests, when a consumer price hike led to a wave of strikes.
The government introduced a new economic program based on large-scale borrowing from the West, which resulted in a rise in living standards and expectations, but the program meant growing integration of Poland's economy with the world economy and it faltered after the 1973 oil crisis. In 1976, the government of Edward Gierek was forced to raise prices again and this led to the June 1976 protests; this cycle of repression and reform and the economic-political struggle acquired new characteristics with the 1978 election of Karol Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II. Wojtyła's unexpected elevation strengthened the opposition to the authoritarian and ineffective system of nomenklatura-run state socialism with the pope's first visit to Poland in 1979. In early August 1980, a new wave of strikes resulted in the founding of the independent trade union "Solidarity" led by electrician Lech Wałęsa; the growing strength and activity of the opposition caused the government of Wojciech Jaruzelski to declare martial law in December 1981.
However, with the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, increasing pressure from the West, dysfunctional economy, the regime was forced to negotiate with its opponents. The 1989 Round Table Talks led to Solidarity's participation in the 1989 election, its candidates' striking victory gave rise to the first of the succession of transitions from communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1990, Jaruzelski resigned from the presidency of the Republic of Poland. Before World War II, a third of Poland's population was composed of ethnic minorities. Poland had about 35 million inhabitants in 1939, but fewer than 24 million in 1946, within the respective borders. Of the remaining population over three million were ethnic minorities, such as Germans and Jews, most of whom would soon leave Poland. Poland suffered the heaviest proportionate human losses during World War II, amounting to 16–17 percent of its population, it is estimated that up to 6 million Polish citizens died from war-related causes between 1939 and 1945.
The approximate figure includes 3 million Jewish-Polish victims as part of the above total. The number of ethnically Polish victims was 2 million; the historical minorities in Poland were most affected, whereas Poland's multiethnic diversity reflected in prior national censuses was all but gone within several years after the war. The Polish educated class suffered greatly. A large proportion of the country's pre-war social and political elite perished and a large proportion were dispersed; the implementation of the immense task of reconstructing the country was accompanied by the struggle of the new government to acquire centralized authority, further complicated by the mistrust a considerable part of society held for the new regime and by disputes over Poland's postwar borders, which were not established until mid-1945. The Soviet forces present at that time engaged in plunder of the former eastern territories of Germany which were being transferred to Poland, stripping it of valuable industrial equipment and factories and sending them to the Soviet Union.
After the Soviet annexation of the Kresy territories east of the Curzon Line, about 2 million Poles were "repatriated" from these areas into the new western and northern territories east of the Oder–Neisse line, which were transferred from Germany to Poland under the Potsdam Agreement. Others stayed i
The Yalta Conference known as the Crimea Conference and code-named the Argonaut Conference, held from 4 to 11 February 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union for the purpose of discussing Germany and Europe's postwar reorganization. The three states were represented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin, respectively; the conference convened near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union, within the Livadia and Vorontsov Palaces. The aim of the conference was to shape a post-war peace that represented not just a collective security order but a plan to give self-determination to the liberated peoples of post-Nazi Europe; the meeting was intended to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. However, within a few short years, with the Cold War dividing the continent, Yalta became a subject of intense controversy. Yalta was the second of three major wartime conferences among the Big Three.
It was preceded by the Tehran Conference in November 1943, was followed by the Potsdam Conference in July 1945. It was preceded by a conference in Moscow in October 1944, not attended by President Roosevelt, in which Churchill and Stalin had carved up Europe into Western and Soviet spheres of influence; the Potsdam Conference was to be attended by Stalin and Harry S. Truman, Roosevelt's successor after his death. General Charles de Gaulle was not present at either the Potsdam conferences. De Gaulle attributed his exclusion from Yalta to the longstanding personal antagonism towards him by Roosevelt, although the Soviet Union had objected to his inclusion as a full participant, but the absence of French representation at Yalta meant that extending an invitation for De Gaulle to attend the Potsdam Conference would have been problematic. By the time of the Yalta Conference, the Western forces consisting of the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland and the governments-in-exile of France and Belgium, led by British general Bernard Montgomery and American generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley, had liberated all of France and Belgium and were advancing into Germany, leading to the Battle of the Bulge.
In the east, Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov's forces were 65 km from Berlin, having pushed back the Nazis from Poland, Romania and most of Yugoslavia. By February, Germany only had loose control over the Netherlands, Denmark, Northern Italy, Northern Yugoslavia; the initiative for calling a second'Big Three' conference had come from Roosevelt hoping to meet before the US Presidential elections in November 1944, but subsequently pressing for a meeting early in 1945 at a'neutral' location in the Mediterranean. Stalin, rejected these options, he proposed instead that they meet instead in the Crimea. Stalin's fear of flying was a contributing factor in this decision. Stalin formally deferred to Roosevelt as the'host' for the conference; each of the three leaders liberated Europe. Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the U. S. Pacific War against Japan for the planned invasion of Japan, as well as Soviet participation in the United Nations. Stalin's position at the conference was one. According to U. S. delegation member and future Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, "it was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do."Poland was the first item on the Soviet agenda.
Stalin stated that "For the Soviet government, the question of Poland was one of honor" and security because Poland had served as a historical corridor for forces attempting to invade Russia. In addition, Stalin stated regarding history that "because the Russians had sinned against Poland", "the Soviet government was trying to atone for those sins." Stalin concluded that "Poland must be strong" and that "the Soviet Union is interested in the creation of a mighty and independent Poland." Accordingly, Stalin stipulated that Polish government-in-exile demands were not negotiable: the Soviet Union would keep the territory of eastern Poland they had annexed in 1939, Poland was to be compensated for that by extending its western borders at the expense of Germany. Contrasting with his prior statement, Stalin promised free elections in Poland despite the Soviet sponsored provisional government installed by him in Polish territories occupied by the Red Army. Roosevelt wanted the USSR to enter the Pacific War with the Allies.
One Soviet precondition for a declaration of war against Japan was an American official recognition of Mongolian independence from China (the Mongolian People's Republic had been the Soviet satellite s
President of Poland
The President of the Republic of Poland is the head of state of Poland. Their rights and obligations are determined in the Constitution of Poland; the president heads the executive branch. In addition the president has a right to dissolve parliament in certain cases, veto legislation and represents Poland in the international arena; the first president of Poland, Gabriel Narutowicz, was sworn in as president of the Second Polish Republic on 11 December 1922. He was elected by the National Assembly under the terms of the 1921 March Constitution. Narutowicz was assassinated on 16 December 1922. Józef Piłsudski had been "Chief of State" under the provisional Small Constitution of 1919. In 1926 Piłsudski staged the "May Coup", deposed President Stanisław Wojciechowski and had the National Assembly elect a new one, Ignacy Mościcki, thus establishing the so-called "Sanation regime". Before Piłsudski's death, parliament passed a more authoritarian 1935 April Constitution of Poland. Mościcki continued as president until he resigned in 1939 in the aftermath of the German Invasion of Poland.
Mościcki and his government went into exile into Romania. In Angers, France Władysław Raczkiewicz, at the time the speaker of the Senate, assumed the presidency after Mościcki's resignation on 29 September 1939. Following the fall of France, the president and the Polish government-in-exile were evacuated to London, United Kingdom; the transfer from Mościcki to Raczkiewicz was in accordance with Article 24 of the 1935 April Constitution. Raczkiewicz was followed by a succession of presidents in exile, of whom the last one was Ryszard Kaczorowski. In 1944–45 Poland became a part of Soviet-controlled central-eastern Europe. Bolesław Bierut assumed the reins of government and in July 1945 was internationally recognized as the head of state; the Senate was abolished in 1946 by the Polish people's referendum. When the Sejm passed the Small Constitution of 1947, based in part on the 1921 March Constitution, Bierut was elected president by that body, he served until the Constitution of the Polish People's Republic of 1952 eliminated the office of the president.
Following the 1989 amendments to the constitution which restored the presidency, Wojciech Jaruzelski, the existing head of state, took office. In Poland's first direct presidential election, Lech Wałęsa won and was sworn in on 22 December 1990; the office of the president was preserved in the Constitution of Poland passed in 1997. The President of Poland is elected directly by the people to serve for five years and can be reelected only once. Pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, the President is elected by an absolute majority. If no candidate succeeds in passing this threshold, a second round of voting is held with the participation of the two candidates with the largest and second largest number of votes respectively. In order to be registered as a candidate in the presidential election, one must be a Polish citizen, be at least 35 years old on the day of the first round of the election and collect at least 100,000 signatures of registered voters; the President has a free choice in selecting the Prime Minister, yet in practice he gives the task of forming a new government to a politician supported by the political party with the majority of seats in the Sejm.
The President has the right to initiate the legislative process. He has the opportunity to directly influence it by using his veto to stop a bill. Before signing a bill into law, the President can ask the Constitutional Tribunal to verify its compliance with the Constitution, which in practice bears a decisive influence on the legislative process. In his role as supreme representative of the Polish state, the President has power to ratify and revoke international agreements and recalls ambassadors, formally accepts the accreditations of representatives of other states; the President makes decisions on award of highest academic titles, as well as state distinctions and orders. In addition, he has the right of viz. he can dismiss final court verdicts. The President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces; the President performs his duties with the help of the following offices: the Chancellery of the President, the Office of National Security, the Body of Advisors to the President. Several properties are owned by the Office of the President and are used by the Head of State as his or her official residence, private residence, residence for visiting foreign officials etc.
The Presidential Palace in Warsaw is largest palace in Warsaw and the official seat of the President of the Republic of Poland since 1993. The first presidential tenant was Lech Wałęsa when he moved to the Palace from Belweder in 1994. Belweder, in Warsaw, was the official seat of the President until 1993, is owned by the Office of the President as the official residence of the President and is used by the President and the Government for ceremonial purposes; the palace serves as an official residence for heads of state on o