History and Geography of Poland

Facts About Population, Economy, and Climate

Poland's flag fluttering in the wind
The Poland flag has two equal horizontal bands of white (top) and red; similar to the flags of Indonesia and Monaco which are red (top) and white.

Stockbyte / Getty Images

Poland is a country located in central Europe to the east of Germany. It lies along the Baltic Sea and today has a growing economy centered on industry and the service sector.

Fast Facts: Poland

  • Official Name: Republic of Poland
  • Capital: Warsaw
  • Population: 38,420,687 (2018)
  • Official Language: Polish
  • Currency: Zlotych (PLN)
  • Form of Government: Parliamentary republic
  • Climate: Temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation; mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers
  • Total Area: 120,728 square miles (312,685 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Rysy at 8,199 feet (2,499 meters) 
  • Lowest Point: near Raczki Elblaskie at -6.6 feet (-2 meters)

History of Poland

The first people to inhabit Poland were the Polanie from southern Europe in the seventh and eighth centuries. In the 10th century, Poland became Catholic. Shortly thereafter, Poland was invaded by Prussia and became divided. Poland remained divided among many different peoples until the 14th century. At this time it grew due to a union by marriage with Lithuania in 1386. This created a strong Polish-Lithuanian state.

Poland maintained this unification until the 1700s when Russia, Prussia, and Austria again divided the country several times. By the 19th century, however, the Polish had a revolt due to the foreign control of the country and in 1918, Poland became an independent nation after World War I. In 1919, Ignace Paderewski became Poland's first prime minister.

During World War II, Poland was attacked by Germany and Russia and in 1941 it was taken over by Germany. During Germany's occupation of Poland, much of its culture was destroyed and there were mass executions of its Jewish citizens.

In 1944, the government of Poland was replaced with the communist Polish Committee of National Liberation by the Soviet Union. The provisional government was then established in Lublin and members of Poland's former government later joined to form the Polish Government of National Unity. In August 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin, and Britain's Prime Minister Clement Attlee worked to shift Poland's borders. On August 16, 1945, the Soviet Union and Poland signed a treaty that shifted Poland's borders west. In total, Poland lost 69,860 square miles (180,934 square kilometers) in the east, although it gained 38,986 square miles (100,973 square kilometers) in the west.

Until 1989, Poland maintained a close relationship with the Soviet Union. Throughout the 1980s, Poland also experienced a large amount of civil unrest and strikes by industrial workers. In 1989, the trade union Solidarity was granted permission to contest government elections and in 1991, under the first free elections in Poland, Lech Walesa became the country's first president.

Government of Poland

Today, Poland is a democratic republic with two legislative bodies. These bodies are the upper Senate, or Senat, and a lower house called the Sejm. Each of the members for these legislative bodies are elected by the public. Poland's executive branch consists of a chief of state and a head of government. The chief of state is the president, while the head of government is the prime minister. The legislative branch of Poland's government is the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Tribunal.

Poland is divided into 16 provinces for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Poland

Poland currently has a successfully growing economy and has practiced a transition to more economic freedom since 1990. The largest economies in Poland are machine building, iron, steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, and textiles. Poland also has a large agricultural sector with products that include potatoes, fruits, vegetables, wheat, poultry, eggs, pork, and dairy products.

Geography and Climate of Poland

Most of Poland's topography is low lying and makes up a part of the North European Plain. There are many rivers throughout the country, the largest being the Vistula. The northern part of Poland has a more varied topography and features many lakes and hilly areas. Poland's climate is temperate with cold, wet winters and mild, rainy summers. Warsaw, Poland's capital, has an average January high temperature of 32 degrees (0.1 C) and a July average high of 75 degrees (23.8 C).

More Facts about Poland

• Poland's life expectancy is 74.4 years.
• The literacy rate in Poland is 99.8 percent.
• Poland is 90% Catholic.


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Briney, Amanda. "History and Geography of Poland." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, thoughtco.com/geography-of-poland-1435384. Briney, Amanda. (2021, July 30). History and Geography of Poland. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/geography-of-poland-1435384 Briney, Amanda. "History and Geography of Poland." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/geography-of-poland-1435384 (accessed March 20, 2023).