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plains dwellers, Jagiellonian dynasty, Polanie, Wisla, Odra

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Poland, officially the Republic of Poland (Polish Rzeczpospolita Polska), country in Central Europe. Communists ruled Poland from 1945 until 1989, when political and economic unrest among Poles resulted in the collapse of the regime and its replacement by a non-Communist coalition. Poland’s capital and largest city is Warsaw.

The name Polska (Poland), applied in the early 11th century, comes from an ancient Slavic tribe known as the Polanie (field or plains dwellers), who settled in the lowlands between the Odra (Oder) and Wisla (Vistula) rivers sometime after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Poland, then united with Lithuania, was one of the major European powers under the Jagiellonian dynasty. When the dynasty came to an end in 1572, Poland entered a long period of decline, culminating in the partition of the country between Russia, Austria, and Prussia in 1772, 1793, and 1795.

Poland was again established as a sovereign state after World War I (1914-1918). It was partitioned a fourth time in 1939 by Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). After World War II (1939-1945), Polish territory suffered a substantial net loss, as the land ceded to the USSR in the east was nearly double that acquired from Germany in the west.

Since the fall of Communism in Poland in 1989, democratic elections have brought a succession of unstable governments to power. Poland formally joined the European Union (EU) in 2004.


For younger readers

Adler, David A. Child of the Warsaw Ghetto. Holiday House, 1995. For readers in grades 4 to 6.

Collins, David R. Casimir Pulaski: Soldier on Horseback. Pelican, 1995. For readers in grades 4 to 8.

Grajnert, Paul. Poland. Gareth Stevens, 2002. For readers in grades 4 to 6.

Hintz, Martin Poland. Children's Press, 1998. For readers in grades 6 and up.

Kaye, Toni. Lech Walesa. Chelsea House, 1989. For readers in grades 7 and up.

Lazo, Caroline. Lech Walesa. Dillon, 1993. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Lisandrelli, Elaine Slivinski. Ignacy Jan Paderewski: Polish Pianist and Patriot. Morgan Reynolds, 1998. For middle school and high school readers.

Otfinoski, Steven. Poland. Facts on File, 1995. A history for high school to adult readers.


Biskupski, Mieczysaw B. The History of Poland. Greenwood, 2000. Especially strong coverage of recent developments. For high school through adult readers.

Curtis, Glenn E., ed. Poland: A Country Study. 3rd ed. Library of Congress, 1994.

Hoffman, Eva. Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of the Polish Jews. Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Hoffman's book is a study of the interdependence and coexistence of Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Poland.

Karafilly, Irena Friedman. Ashes and miracles: A Polish journey. Malcolm Lester, 1998. Karafilly visits cities and villages, historical sites, and natural wonders, providing a lively commentary.

Marsden, Philip. The Bronski House. Arcade, 1997. A chronicle of a Polish aristocrat's return to her family's abandoned estate written by an award-winning British writer.

Pogonowski, Iwo Cyprian. Poland: An Illustrated History. Hippocrene, 2000. A historical atlas that covers the major episodes of Polish history.

Segel, Harold. Renaissance Culture in Poland: The Rise of Humanism, 1470-1543. Cornell University Press, 1989. Polish contributions in art, science, philosophy, letters during the Renaissance period.

Stachura, Peter D. Poland Between the Wars: 1918-1939. Indiana University Press, 1989. Essays on all aspects of Polish life from independence in 1918 to World War II.

Stachura, Peter D. Poland in the Twentieth Century. St. Martin's, 1999. An exploration of major themes in Poland's history.

Zamoyski, Adam. The Polish way: A Thousand-Year History of the Poles and Their Culture. Hippocrene Books, 1993.


Sanford, George Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Bristol. Author of Polish Communism in Crisis, Democratization in Poland, and other books and articles on Poland.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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