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Poland Travel

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History of Poland

History of PolandHumans arrived in Poland in prehistoric times and history of Poland began with it. As the time progressed Poland went through several phases and many Polish monarchy came here. First Polish monarch of sat on the throne in 1024. Then came the Jagiellon Era. Constitutional Polish monarchy ran from 1370-1493. Period of 1569 to 1795 is known as the era of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Then came the times of decline and partition. In the aftermath of World War first Poland emerged as a republic. Free elections were held in Poland in 1989. Thereafter Poland underwent great change from Cummunism to Capitalism.

Given under is brief history of Poland.

Pre Historic Poland
This period comprises the period from arrival of humans in what is today's Poland to the establishment of the Polish state. The Stone Age Era covers five hundred thousand years and invloves three different human species. The period covers the humans using early primitive tools to the times when they learnt making stone tools, basic fortifications and copper metallurgy. Then came Early Bronze Age which began around 2400/2300BC. Iron Age began around 750/700BC.

First Polish Monarchy State
Poland is the original Slav homeland. With the course of time, Slavs expanded into other territories. West Slavs division of the race settled in what is now modern Poland. This division also met with different fates. Czechs and Moravians merged into Czech kingdom, Slovaks started residing in Hungary, while Lusatians and Veleti were absorbed by German expansion. Remaining tribes which included Polanie, Wislanie, Pomorzanie and the Mazovians formed the Polish state with journey of time. First Polish monarchy state was born in 966. Formal coronation of the first monarch Boleslaw Chrobry was done in 1024. An independent Polish church organisation was also established.

Jagiellon Era
Hereditary Polish monarchy ended after the death of Casmir the Great. Thereafter a constitutional Polish monarchy (1370-1493) was established. Poland formed a union with Lithuania, which helped the Polish state to expand its power to the east. During the 13th century, the Jews were suffering persecution in Western Europe. In such condition, Poland offered safety and religious freedom to Jews. This resulted in increasing number of Jews in Poland. The Jews enjoyed the patronship of the kings and nobles. However, they did not find favour with common peasants and Roman Catholic Church.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Period of 1569 to 1795 is called the era of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During this period the king was elected by hereditary nobility. He served until death after which the state would have another election. First Polish elections were held in 1573. After 1569 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth suffered a series of Tatar invasions, motive of which was to loot, pillage and capture slaves. Several Cossack uprisings also took place.

Decline and Partition
Continuous strife left Poland devastated. Its population decreased by a third. The parliamentary system became ineffective. Influence of central Polish monarchy authority declined and the state gradually became a protectorate of Russia. It became a battlefield between Russia and Sweden. Both the countries tried to set up a proxy government in Poland. Sixty-six years of Saxon rule, from 1697 - 1763, drove Poland to the brink of anarchy. An anti-Russian rising known as 1768-1772 was known as 'Confederation of Bar' was crushed by the Russians. Prussia, Russia and Austria decided to annex weakened Poland in 1772. The commonwealth lost 23% of its former territory. The three countries divided the territory among themselves. Russia took the largest, but least important area. Prussia annexed the smallest, but economically best region. Austria occupied the most heavily populated areas. Poland even suffered further partitions. The second and third partitions, in 1793 and 1795 respectively, wiped off whatever was left of Poland.

Aftermath of Partitions
Napoleon Bonaparte was the rising power in Europe in the 18th century. The people of Poland felt that they could regain freedom by assisting Napoleon. Dabrowski is the leader of Polish freedom struggle. One of his poems has been adopted as the Polish National Anthem. Napoleon created the Dutchy of Warsaw comprising lands the Prussians had taken after the second partition. However Napoleon used Duchy as a pawn in his political game. Jozef Poniatowski was a great Polish figure of this period. After the defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 converted most part of the Grand Duchy into a Kingdom of Poland governed by the Russian Tsar. However quench for freedom in the Polish nationalists could not be subdued.

Second Republic
World War I saw the defeat or retreat of occupying powers in Poland. Polish independence was eventually declared on November 3, 1918 and later confirmed by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Eastern borders of Poland were drawn by Polish victory in the Polish-Soviet War. Józef Pilsudski, the politically-moderate war hero who had engineered the defeat of Soviet forces, controlled Polish government from mid 1920s to mid 1930s. However Great Depression hit Poland hard. Constant threat from Germany forced Poland to forge a military alliance with Britain and France.

World War II
Nazi Germany and Soviet Union attacked Poland from two sides and divided the country into Nazi and Soviet-controlled zones. However after Germany invaded Russia in June 1941, German forces occupied all of Poland. However the Polish government in exile continued to command resistance to occupying forces. Poland suffered heavy destruction at the hands of the occupiers. Thousands of them were slaughtered and lakhs were sent to torture camps.

People's Republic of Poland
A Polish Provisional Government of National Unity was formed after the Yalta Conference in June 1945. Elections were held in January 1947 and the communists emerged victorious. They established a totalitarian regime in Warsaw. However continuous economic strife and changing political situation in Moscow resulted in the downfall of Soviet Government in late 1980s.

Republic of Poland
Free elections were held in Poland in 1989. Poland underwent great change from Cummunism to Capitalism. The country embraced free market system and manufacturing industry was privatized. Poland adopted constitution in 1997.

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