The Republic of Poland is placed in Central Europe bordered by Germany, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea. The total area of Poland is 312,679 square kilometres making it the 9th largest country in Europe. Poland has a population of over 38 million people.
Poland is a member of the European Union, NATO, United Nations, World Trade Organization, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The climate is mostly temperate throughout the country. The climate is oceanic in the north and west and becomes gradually warmer and continental towards the south and east. Summers are generally warm, with average temperatures between 20 °C and 27 °C. Winters are cold, with average temperatures around 3 °C and −8 °C.
Poland is a democracy, with a President as the head of state. The government structure centres on the Council of Ministers, led by a Prime Minister. The President appoints the cabinet according to the proposals of the Prime Minister, typically from the majority coalition in the Parliment. The President is elected by popular vote every five years.
Poland, with 38,116,000 inhabitants, has the eighth - largest population in Europe and the sixth-largest in the European Union.
According to the 2002 census, 36,983,700 people, or 96.74% of the population, consider themselves Polish, while 471,500 (1.23%) declared another nationality, and 774,900 (2.03%) did not declare any nationality. The largest minority nationalities and ethnic groups in Poland are the Silesians (about 200,000), Germans (152,897 according to the census, 92% in Opole Voivodeship and Silesian Voivodeship), Belarusians (c. 49,000), Ukrainians (c. 30,000), Lithuanians, Russians, Roma, Jews, Lemkos, Slovaks, Czechs, and Lipka Tatars. Among foreign citizens, the Vietnamese are the largest ethnic group, followed by Greeks and Armenians.
The Polish language, part of the West Slavic branch of the Slavic languages, functions as the official language of Poland. Until recent decades Russian was commonly learned as a second language but has been replaced by English and German as the most common second languages studied and spoken.
The largest metropolitan areas that lie in Poland are the Silesian metropolitan area centred on Katowice and other cities of Upper Silesian Coal Basin (over 5 million inhabitants: ~4 million in Poland, ~1 million in Czech Republic); the capital, Warsaw (~3 million); Kraków (~1.3 million), Łódź (~1.2 million); the Tricity of Gdańsk–Sopot–Gdynia, Poznań and Wrocław (each about 1 million). The largest urban area is Katowice urban area (~2.7 million inhabitants). For an overview of Polish cities, see List of cities and towns in Poland.
Because of the Holocaust and the post-World War II flight and expulsion of German and Ukrainian populations, Poland has become almost uniformly Roman Catholic. Most Poles – approximately 88.4% in 2007 down 0.4% compared to 2006 – are members of the Roman Catholic Church. Though rates of religious observance, with 52% to 60% weekly mass attendance in 2008 are currently lower than they have been in the past, Poland remains one of the most devoutly religious countries in Europe.
Religious minorities include Polish Orthodox (about 506,800), various Protestants (about 150,000), Jehovah’s Witnesses (126,827), Eastern Catholics, Mariavites, Polish Catholics, Jews, and Muslims (including the Tatars of Białystok). Members of Protestant churches include about 77,500 in the largest Evangelical-Augsburg Church, and a similar number in smaller Pentecostal and Evangelical churches.
Today Poland has more than a hundred tertiary education institutions; traditional universities to be found in its major cities, as well as technical, medical, and economic institutions, employing around 61,000 workers. There are around 300 research and development institutes, with about 10,000 researchers.
In total, there are around 91,000 scientists in Poland today.
Research and development
According to Frost & Sullivan’s Country Industry Forecast the country is becoming an interesting location for research and development investments. Multinational companies such as: ABB, Delphi, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Hewlett–Packard, IBM, Intel, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Motorola, Siemens and Samsung have set up research and development centres in Poland. Over 40 research and development centers and 4,500 researchers make Poland the biggest research and development hub in Central and Eastern Europe.
Companies chose Poland because of the availability of highly qualified labor force, presence of universities, support of authorities, and the largest market in Central Europe.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Poland’s education as the 23rd best in the world, being neither significantly higher nor lower than the OECD average.
Culture - famous people
Polish culture has been influenced by both Eastern world and Western world influences. Today, these influences are evident in Polish architecture, folklore, and art. Poland is the birthplace of some world famous individuals, including Pope John Paul II, Marie Skłodowska Curie, Tadeusz Kościuszko, Kazimierz Pułaski, Józef Piłsudski, Nicolaus Copernicus and Frederick Chopin.
The character of Polish art has reflected world trends. The painter, Jan Matejko, included many significant historical events in his paintings. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz was an example of a Polish Renaissance Man, along with the playwright, painter and poet Stanisław Wyspiański.
Polish literature dates back to the 12th century and includes many famous poets and writers such as Jan Kochanowski, Adam Mickiewicz, Bolesław Prus, Juliusz Słowacki, Witold Gombrowicz, Stanisław Lem and, Ryszard Kapuściński. Writers Henryk Sienkiewicz, Władysław Reymont, Czesław Miłosz, Wisława Szymborska have each won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Also a renowned Polish-born English novelist was Joseph Conrad Many world famous Polish movie directors include Academy Awards winners Roman Polański, Andrzej Wajda, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Janusz Kamiński, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Agnieszka Holland.
Helena Modjeska and Pola Negri were World renowned actresses.
Artists from Poland, including famous composers like Chopin or Penderecki and traditional, regionalized folk musicians, create a lively and diverse music scene, which even recognizes its own music genres.
Polish cities and towns reflect the whole spectrum of European styles. Romanesque architecture is represented by St. Andrew’s Church in Kraków, and characteristic for Poland Brick Gothic by St. Mary’s Church in Gdańsk. Richly decorated attics and arcade loggias are the common elements of Polish Renaissance architecture, like in City Hall in Poznań. For some time the late renaissance, so called mannerism, most notably in Bishop’s Palace in Kielce, coexisted with the early baroque like in Church of SS. Peter and Paul in Kraków. The second half of the 17th century is marked by baroque architecture. Side towers, visible in Branicki Palace in Białystok are typical for the Polish baroque. The classical Silesian baroque is represented by the University in Wrocław. Profuse decorations of Branicki Palace in Warsaw are characteristic of rococo style. The center of Polish classicism was Warsaw under the rule of the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. The Palace on the Water is the most notable example of Polish neoclassical architecture. Lublin Castle represents the Gothic Revival style in architecture, while the Izrael Poznański Palace in Łódź is an example of eclecticism.
Polish cuisine has both influenced and been influenced by the cuisines of surrounding countries. For centuries the Polish kitchen has been the arena for competing influences from France and Italy, while it also borrowed extensively from more exotic tables: Tartar, Armenian, Lithuanian, Cossack, Hungarian and Jewish. It is rich in meat, especially chicken and pork, and winter vegetables (cabbage in the dish „bigos”), and spices, as well as different kinds of noodles the most notable of which are the pierogi. It is related to other Slavic cuisines in usage of kasza and other cereals. Generally speaking, Polish cuisine is hearty. The
traditional cuisine generally is demanding and Poles allow themselves a generous amount of time to prepare and enjoy their festive meals, with some meals (like Christmas eve or Easter breakfast) taking a number of days to prepare in their entirety.