Poland is located in eastern central Europe. It essentially consists of lowlands, which are bordered in the southwest and south by the low mountain range of the Sudetes and Carpathians. The largest rivers, the Vistula and the Oder, play an important role as inland waterways.
The majority of the country’s population consists of Poles. The capital Warsaw is by far the largest and most important city in the country.
Agriculture is still an important economic factor in the country. The Upper Silesian industrial area in the south-east of the country is an outstanding industrial center and one of the traditional economic core areas.
Abbreviated as PL by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, Poland borders Germany in the west, the Baltic Sea in the north, the Russian region of Kaliningrad (Königsberg) and Lithuania in the northeast, Belarus and Ukraine in the east and the Slovak and Czech Republic in the south (Fig. 1).
Most of Poland belongs to the Northern European Lowlands. Almost three quarters of its territory are below 200 m.
On the Baltic coast, the Pomeranian and Gdańsk Bay encroach deep into the country. The eastern part of the coast is more subdivided than the western part by spits (Fresh Spit), peninsulas (Hela) and Haffs (Fresh Lagoon).
Large parts of the entire northern part of Poland are covered by ice age deposits (Fig. 2):
the hilly young moraine area of the Baltic ridge joins the coastal lowlands, which merges further south in central Poland into a flatter old moraine area. The lowland is subdivided by mainly northwest-southeast running lowlands, the glacial glacial valleys.
The Pomeranian and Masurian Lake District lie in the area of the young moraines of the Baltic Ridge. Most of the southern part of Poland is made up of the loess-covered table and step landscapes of the Polish Central Uplands taken. East of the Vistula, the Lublin hill country, west of the Vistula the Lesser Poland mountain and hill country belong to these landscapes.
In the far south, the Sudeten and Carpathian mountain belts form the border regions with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The highest point in the Sudetes is the Schneekoppe in the Giant Mountains at 1603 m , which still has low mountain ranges.
In contrast, the High Tatras, a massif of the Western Carpathians, has the character of a high mountain range. The highest point of the Polish High Tatras is the 2,499 m high Meeraugspitze (Polish: Rysy).
The mountain belt of the Sudetes and Carpathians is separated from the Polish low mountain range by two basin landscapes: in the west by the Upper Silesian Basin around Wroclaw, in the east by the Basin of Sandomierz.
The longest rivers are the Vistula and Oder, both of which flow into the Baltic Sea, the Vistula near Danzig and the Oder near Stettin. Both river systems are connected by tributaries and canals. The largest lake among more than a thousand is the Spirdingsee on the Masurian Lake District with 106 km².
Climate and vegetation
Poland has a humid transitional climate that becomes increasingly continental from southwest to northeast. Annual precipitation is around 700 mm in the west and drops to 550 mm in the east. In Warsaw, the mean January temperature is -3.5 °C. In July an average of 19.2 °C is reached (Fig. 6). There are much more extreme values in the mountains. On the western slopes, mean precipitation values can reach 1000 to 2000 mm per year. About a third of Poland is forested. On the mostly sandy soils, coniferous forests dominate, especially pines. Deciduous forests characterize the vegetation only in the west and along the large rivers.
A special attraction in the country is the Bialowieski National Park on the border with Belarus. With an area of more than 1200 km², it is the largest primeval forest in Europe with old oak, hornbeam and linden stands. Bison and backbred tarpans still live there.
Important data about the country
|Population density:||123 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||-0.1% / year|
(men / women)
|Form of government:||republic|
|Languages:||Polish (official language)|
|Religions:||Roman Catholic almost 96%|
|Climate:||Transitional area between humid and continental climates|
|Land use:||Arable land 45%, pasture land 13%, forest 28%|
(share of GDP, 2003)
|Agriculture 3%, industry 31%, services 66%|
|Export goods:||Machines, electrical appliances and vehicles, leather and textiles, metal products|
|Gross domestic product:||$ 209 563 million (2003)|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 5,280 per resident (2003)|
After the Second World War, Poland developed in a profound change from an agrarian to an agri-industrial country (Fig. 7).
Despite major development efforts, the planned economy based on the Soviet model led the country into a long-lasting, severe economic crisis.
At the beginning of the 1980’s, the desperate economic situation led to great social unrest. After the strikes organized by the Solidarność trade union in Gdansk, a state of emergency was declared; also to prevent the threatening invasion of Soviet troops.
In 1988 the democracy movement finally triumphed, and in October 1989 the transition to a market economy began with the gradual privatization of large state-owned companies.
Particularly in agriculture, which was 80% privately owned even under socialist conditions, there are considerable problems with the restructuring: Small farm sizes with a fragmented ownership structure, outdated machinery and a lack of fertilizers and pesticides result in low profitability in agriculture (Fig 8th).
Horses continue to play a major role in agriculture.
The necessary adaptation of Polish agriculture to EU standards led to the disappearance of many small farms that lacked the necessary means for modernization. Farms that are farmed as a sideline and primarily serve self-sufficiency will be particularly affected.
But the conversion of the large-scale farms that have emerged from state-owned companies, which generate around half of all agricultural products, devours considerable funding from the European Union.
In contrast, small and medium-sized enterprises that can invest in technical equipment with government support have better opportunities.
Many of these businesses in the metropolitan area are already specializing in intensive horticulture, which is reasonably profitable. Polish agriculture mainly produces rye, potatoes, fodder crops and wheat, as well as sugar beets and oil seeds. Most of the farms are mixed farms with arable and livestock farming. In cattle breeding, dairy cows, pig breeding and poultry breeding dominate, especially fattening geese for export.
Mining and industry
Still playing mining an extraordinarily important role economically. Hard coal has been mined in Upper Silesia for centuries. Large deposits of lignite are being exploited in south-western Poland and in the greater Lodz area. The conversion of lignite into electricity in outdated large power plants has caused considerable environmental damage. For example, the forests in the west and south-west of Poland are severely damaged by the smoke gas emissions from the power plants.
Copper ore is mined and smelted in Lower Silesia. Lead, zinc and iron ores as well as salt are also mined.
The sulfur camps discovered in 1953 near Tarnobrzeg and southeast of Kielce are among the largest in Europe. In the Subcarpathian region, oil and natural gas are produced.
For Poland’s industry, the Upper Silesian Industrial Area (GOP = Górnośląski Okręg Przemysłowy) plays a role comparable to that of the Ruhr area in Germany.
Silver, lead, iron and zinc have been mined there since the 12th century. The mining of the rich hard coal deposits and the associated development of heavy industry made Upper Silesia one of the most important industrial areas in Europe. Iron works and steel works were built near the coal mines. Hard coal soon also became the most important energy source and an important export good.
Machine and vehicle construction, non-ferrous metallurgy and the chemical industry all settled in the 20th century.
In the 1970’s, the gigantic Nowa Huta plant was built in the north-east of the area , replacing some of the outdated and extremely environmentally harmful steelworks. Nevertheless, the environmental damage in Upper Silesia is serious. The GOP is still one of the most important industrial areas in Poland today. The share of industrial production in Poland is declining due to the one-sided focus on large-scale heavy industry. In this respect, the comparison with the Ruhr area also lags. A similar structural crisis could be overcome by the timely conversion from mining and heavy industry to the processing and consumer goods industries. In addition to the traditional industrial locations – Warsaw, Upper Silesia, Lodz (textile industry), Gdansk (shipbuilding) and Stettin created many new industrial centers, e.g. B. in Czestochowa (iron and steel industry), Płock (oil processing) and Thorn (chemistry).
The most important trading partners are the other EU countries with Germany first, the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well. Ukraine and Russia are also important trading partners for Poland.
The main tourist destinations are the High Tatras with the famous winter sports resort Zakopane and the other mountains in the south, the Masurian Lakes and the seaside resorts on the coast. The latter, however, suffer from the high pollutant inputs from the Vistula and Oder into the Baltic Sea. The main destinations for city tourism are Warsaw, the old royal city of Krakow, Gdansk and Wroclaw.
The main carrier of freight transport is the state railway. The road network is also well developed. Inland navigation on the Oder, Vistula, Warthe and Gleiwitz Canal has an efficient network, but is becoming less and less important. The most important sea ports have Szczecin with the outer ports Swinoujscie, Gdansk and Gdynia.
around 600: Slavs colonize the area after the Germanic peoples have been driven out.
966/967: The Piast Duke MIESZKO I converts to Christianity.
1320: Poland finally becomes an independent kingdom.
1410: Battle of Tannenberg, in which the Polish army defeated the knight army of the Teutonic Order and restored Poland’s independence
1697: AUGUST THE STRONG Elector of Saxony becomes King of Poland.
1772, 1793, 1795: The three partitions of Poland (Fig. 11): Poland loses its existence as an independent state and is divided among the major European powers Russia, Austria and Prussia.
1918: The Polish Marshal Piłsudski establishes the Republic of Poland as an independent state.
1939: The German attack on Poland on September 1, 1939 triggers World War II.
1947: Poland becomes a People’s Republic, part of the Eastern Bloc, and the transition to a central socialist planned economy begins.
1970: Warsaw Treaty with the FRG
1989: overwhelming victory of the opposition in the first free elections, reintroduction of the state designation “Republic of Poland” and beginning of the transformation of the economy through market-oriented reforms
1990: Border treaty with Germany, which defines the Oder-Neisse line as the final German-Polish border
2004: Poland becomes a member of the EU.