Poland is an ancient nation that was conceived around the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation, until an agreement in 1772 between Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland. Poland regained its independence in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. It became a Soviet satellite state following the war, but its government was comparatively tolerant and progressive. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union “Solidarity” that over time became a political force and by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency. A “shock therapy” program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, but Poland currently suffers low GDP growth and high unemployment. Solidarity suffered a major defeat in the 2001 parliamentary elections when it failed to elect a single deputy to the lower house of Parliament, and the new leaders of the Solidarity Trade Union subsequently pledged to reduce the Trade Union’s political role. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and is scheduled
to accede to the European Union along with nine other states on 1 May 2004.
Central Europe, east of Germany
total: 312,685 sq km
water: 8,220 sq km
land: 304,465 sq km
total: 2,788 km
border countries: Belarus 407 km, Czech Republic 658 km, Germany 456 km,
Lithuania 91 km, Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) 206 km, Slovakia 444 km, Ukraine
temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation;
mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers.
mostly flat plain; mountains along southern border
arable land: 45.81%
permanent crops: 1.23%
other: 52.96% (1998 est.)
38,622,660 (July 2003 est.)