Polish people are the sixth largest national group in the European Union. Estimates vary depending on source, though available data suggest a total number of around 60 million people worldwide (with roughly 21 million living outside of Poland, many of whom are not of Polish ethnicity, but Polish nationals). There are almost 38 million Poles in Poland alone. There are also Polish minorities in the surrounding countries including Germany, and indigenous minorities in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus. There are some smaller indigenous minorities in nearby countries such as Moldova and Latvia. There is also a Polish minority in Russia which includes indigenous Poles as well as those forcibly deported during and after World War II; the total number of Poles in what was the former Soviet Union is estimated at up to 3 million.
The map depicts countries by number of citizens who reported Polish ancestry (based on sources in this article)
More than 1 million
More than 500 thousand
More than 100 thousand
The term "Polonia" is usually used in Poland to refer to people of Polish origin who live outside Polish borders, officially estimated at around 10 to 20 million. There is a notable Polish diaspora in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. France has a historic relationship with Poland and has a relatively large Polish-descendant population. Poles have lived in France since the 18th century. In the early 20th century, over a million Polish people settled in France, mostly during world wars, among them Polish émigrés fleeing either Nazi occupation or later Soviet rule.
In recent years, since joining the European Union, many Polish people have emigrated to countries such as Ireland, where an estimated 200,000 Polish people have entered the labor market. It is estimated that over half a million Polish people have come to work in the United Kingdom from Poland. Since 2011, Poles have been able to work freely throughout the EU and not just in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden where they have had limited rights since Poland's EU accession in 2004. The Polish community in Norway has increased substantially and has grown to a total number of 120,000, making Poles the largest immigrant group in Norway.
Over time, Polish culture has been greatly influenced by its ties with the Germanic, Latinate and other ethnic groups and minorities living in Poland. The people of Poland have traditionally been seen as hospitable to artists from abroad (especially Italy) and open to cultural and artistic trends popular in other European countries. Owing to this central location, the Poles came very early into contact with both civilizations – eastern and western, and as a result developed economically, culturally, and politically. A German general Helmut Carl von Moltke, in his Poland. A historical sketch (1885), stated that Poland prior to her partitions was "the most civilized country in Europe".
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Polish focus on cultural advancement often took precedence over political and economic activity, experiencing severe crisis, especially during World War II and in the following years. These factors have contributed to the versatile nature of Polish art, with all its complex nuances.
Poland is the most linguistically homogeneous European country; nearly 97% of Poland's citizens declare Polish as their mother tongue. Elsewhere, ethnic Poles constitute large minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. Polish is the most widely used minority language in Lithuania's Vilnius County (26% of the population, according to the 2001 census results) and is found elsewhere in southeastern Lithuania. In Ukraine it is most common in the western Lviv and Volyn oblast (provinces), while in Western Belarus it is used by the significant Polish minority, especially in the Brest and Grodno regions and in areas along the Lithuanian border.
The geographical distribution of the Polish language was greatly affected by the border changes and population transfers that followed World War II. Poles settled in the "Recovered Territories" in the west and north, which had previously been mostly German-speaking. Some Poles remained in the previously Polish-ruled territories in the east that were annexed by the USSR, resulting in the present-day Polish-speaking minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, although many Poles were expelled or emigrated from those areas to areas within Poland's new borders. Meanwhile the flight and expulsion of Germans, as well as the expulsion of Ukrainians and resettlement of Ukrainians within Poland, contributed to the country's linguistic homogeneity.
Polish-speakers use the language in a uniform manner throughout most of Poland, though numerous languages and dialects coexist alongside the standard Polish language. The most common dialects in Poland are Silesian, spoken in Upper Silesia, and Kashubian, widely spoken in the north.
Education has been of prime interest to Poland's rulers since the early 12th century. The catalog of the library of the Cathedral Chapter in Kraków dating from 1110 shows that Polish scholars already then had access to western European literature. In 1364, King Casimir III the Great founded the Cracow Academy, which would become one of the great universities of Europe. The list of famous scientists in Poland begins with the polymathNicolaus Copernicus.
After the third partition of Poland, in 1795, no Polish state existed. The 19th and 20th centuries saw many Polish scientists working abroad. The greatest was Maria Skłodowska-Curie, a physicist and chemist living in France. Another noteworthy one was Ignacy Domeyko, a geologist and mineralogist who worked in Chile.
Today Poland has over 100 institutions of post-secondary education — technical, medical, economic, as well as 500 universities — which are located in most major cities such as Gdańsk, Kraków, Lublin, Łódź, Poznań, Rzeszów and Warsaw. They employ over 61,000 scientists and scholars. Another 300 research and development institutes are home to some 10,000 researchers. There are, in addition, a number of smaller laboratories. All together, these institutions support some 91,000 scientists and scholars.
The origin of Polish music can be traced as far back as the 13th century, from which manuscripts have been found in Stary Sącz, containing polyphonic compositions related to the Parisian Notre Dame School. Other early compositions, such as the melody of Bogurodzica, may also date back to this period. The first known notable composer, however, Mikołaj z Radomia, lived in the 15th century.
During the 16th century, mostly two musical groups—both based in Kraków and belonging to the King and Archbishop of Wawel—led the rapid innovation of Polish music. Composers writing during this period include Wacław z Szamotuł, Mikołaj Zieleński, and Mikołaj Gomółka. Diomedes Cato, a native-born Italian who lived in Kraków from about the age of five, became one of the most famous lutenists at the court of Sigismund III, and not only imported some of the musical styles from southern Europe, but blended them with native folk music.
In addition, a tradition of operatic production began in Warsaw in 1628, with a performance of Galatea (composer uncertain), the first Italian opera produced outside Italy. Shortly after this performance, the court produced Francesca Caccini's opera La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d’Alcina, which she had written for Prince Władysław three years earlier when he was in Italy. Another first, this is the earliest surviving opera written by a woman. When Władysław was king (as Władysław IV) he oversaw the production of at least ten operas during the late 1630s and 1640s, making Warsaw a center of the art. The composers of these operas are not known: they may have been Poles working under Marco Scacchi in the royal chapel, or they may have been among the Italians imported by Władysław.
The late 17th and 18th century saw a decline of Poland, which also hindered the development of music. Some composers attempted to create a Polish opera (such as Jan Stefani and Maciej Kamieński), others imitated foreign composers such as Haydn and Mozart.
Polishfolk music was collected in the 19th century by Oskar Kolberg, as part of a wave of Polish national revival. With the coming of the world wars and then the Communist state, folk traditions were oppressed or subsumed into state-approved folk ensembles. The most famous of the state ensembles are Mazowsze and Śląsk, both of which still perform. Though these bands had a regional touch to their output, the overall sound was a homogenized mixture of Polish styles. There were more authentic state-supported groups, such as Słowianki, but the Communist sanitized image of folk music made the whole field seem unhip to young audiences, and many traditions dwindled rapidly.
Polish dance music, especially the mazurka and polonaise, were popularized by Frédéric Chopin, and they soon spread across Europe and elsewhere. These are triple time dances, while five-beat forms are more common in the northeast and duple-time dances like the krakowiak come from the south. The polonaise comes from the French word for Polish to identify its origin among the Polish aristocracy, who had adapted the dance from a slower walking dance called chodzony. The polonaise then re-entered the lower-class musical life, and became an integral part of Polish music.
Polish literature is the literary tradition of Poland. Most Polish literature has been written in the Polish language, though other languages, used in Poland over the centuries, have also contributed to Polish literary traditions, including Latin, Yiddish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, German and Esperanto.
Almost nothing remains of Polish literature prior to the country's Christianization in 966. Poland's pagan inhabitants certainly possessed an oral literature extending to Slavic songs, legends and beliefs, but early Christian writers did not deem it worthy of mention in the obligatory Latin, and so it has perished.
The first recorded sentence in the Polish language reads: "Day ut ia pobrusa, a ti poziwai" ("Let me grind, and you take a rest") — a paraphrase of the Latin "Sine, ut ego etiam molam." The work, in which this phrase appeared, reflects the culture of early Poland. The sentence was written within the Latin language chronicle Liber fundationis from between 1269 and 1273, a history of the Cistercian monastery in Henryków, Silesia. It was recorded by an abbot known simply as Piotr (Peter), referring to an event almost a hundred years earlier. The sentence was supposedly uttered by a Bohemian settler, Bogwal ("Bogwalus Boemus"), a subject of Bolesław the Tall, expressing compassion for his own wife who "very often stood grinding by the quern-stone." Most notable early medieval Polish works in Latin and the Old Polish language include the oldest extant manuscript of fine prose in the Polish language entitled the Holy Cross Sermons, as well as the earliest Polish-language Bible of Queen Zofia and the Chronicle of Janko of Czarnków from the 14th century, not to mention the Puławy Psalter.
The literature in the period of Polish Baroque (between 1620 and 1764) was significantly influenced by the great popularization of Jesuit high schools, which offered education based on Latinclassics as part of a preparation for a political career. The studies of poetry required the practical knowledge of writing both Latin and Polish poems, which radically increased the number of poets and versifiers countrywide. On the soil of humanistic education some exceptional writers grew as well: Piotr Kochanowski (1566–1620) gave his translation of Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered; Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski, a poet laureate, became known among European nations as Horatius christianus (Christian Horace) for his Latin writings; Jan Andrzej Morsztyn (1621–1693), an epicurean courtier and diplomat, extolled in his sophisticated poems the valors of earthly delights; and Wacław Potocki (1621–1696), the most productive writer of the Polish Baroque, unified the typical opinions of Polish szlachta with some deeper reflections and existential experiences. Notable Polish writers and poets active in this period include:
Due to partitions carried out by the neighboring empires – which ended the existence of the sovereign Polish state in 1795 – Polish Romanticism, unlike Romanticism elsewhere in Europe, was largely a movement for independence against the foreign occupation, and expressed the ideals and the traditional way of life of the Polish people. The period of Romanticism in Poland ended with the Tsarist suppression of the January 1863 Uprising, marked by public executions by the Russians and deportations to Siberia.
In the aftermath of the failed January Uprising against the Russian occupation, the new period of Polish Positivism began to advocate skepticism and the exercise of reason. Questions addressed by the "Positivist" writers revolved around the so-called "organic work," which included the establishment of equal rights for all members of society; the assimilation of Poland's Jewish minority; and the defense of the Polish population in the German-ruled part of Poland against Kulturkampf and their violent displacement. The writers were poised to educate the public about constructive patriotism, which would enable Polish society to function as a fully integrated social organism, regardless of external circumstances. The period lasted until the turn of the 20th century and the advent of the Young Poland movement.
Literature of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939) encompasses a short, though exceptionally dynamic period in Polish literary consciousness. The socio-political reality has changed radically with Poland's return to independence. In large part, derivative of these changes was the collective and unobstructed development of programs for artists and writers. New avant-garde trends had emerged. The period, spanning just twenty years, was full of notable individualities who saw themselves as exponents of changing European civilization, including Tuwim, Witkacy, Gombrowicz, Miłosz, Dąbrowska and Nałkowska (PAL).
According to Poland's Constitution freedom of religion is ensured to everyone. It also allows for national and ethnic minorities to have the right to establish educational and cultural institutions, institutions designed to protect religious identity, as well as to participate in the resolution of matters connected with their cultural identity.
Religious organizations in the Republic of Poland can register their institution with the Ministry of Interior and Administration creating a record of churches and other religious organizations who operate under separate Polish laws. This registration is not necessary; however, it is beneficial when it comes to serving the freedom of religious practice laws.
The Slavic Rodzimowiercy groups, registered with the Polish authorities in 1995, are the Native Polish Church (Rodzimy Kościół Polski) which represents a pagan tradition that goes back to Władysław Kołodziej’s 1921 Holy Circle of Worshipper of Światowid (Święte Koło Czcicieli Światowida), and the Polish Slavic Church (Polski Kościół Słowiański), There's also the Native Faith Association (Zrzeszenie Rodzimej Wiary, ZRW), and the Association for Tradition and Culture Niklot (founded in 1998).
Among the exonyms not native to the Polish people or language are: лях (lyakh) used in East Slavic languages. Today, the word Lachy is used in Belorussian, Ukrainian (now considered offensive and is replaced by the neutral поляк (polyak)) and Russian as synonyms for "Poles". The foreign exonyms include also: LithuanianLenkai, HungarianLengyelek, TurkishLeh, Armenian: ԼեհաստանLehastan; Persian: لهستان Lahestān.
USA National Census 2010. Ancestries With 100,000 or More People in 2010. p. 5
(German) Erstmals mehr als 16 Millionen Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund in Deutschland Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland (German text about migrants in Germany)
(Polish)Raport o sytuacji Polonii i Polaków za granicą 2009. Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych 2009. p. 177, ISBN 978-83-89607-81-2
Polonia w liczbach Stowarzyszenie Wspólnota Polska
Article on Ynet news site, Hebrew (Google translator).
"Ethnic Origin (264), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3), Generation Status (4), Age Groups (10) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2011 National Household Survey".
British Office for National Statistics, Population by Country of Birth & Nationality, Jan 2009 to Dec 2009 with imigrants for 2012 ^(English) Please note: The British Office for National Statistics recorded the number of Poles who have travelled to the UK in 2006 at over 2,000,000; they are not to be mistaken for permanent residents.
http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xftp/idoszaki/nepsz2011/nepsz_orsz_2011.pdf 2011 Census of Hungary
2004 Moldovan census, including Transnistria
Central Statistical Office (January 2013). "The national-ethnic affiliation in the population – The results of the census of population and housing in 2011" (in Polish). p. 1. Retrieved 6 March 2013.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)
"Sections of North Milwaukee Avenue are Main Street for Chicago's huge Polish population (the second-largest urban concentration after Warsaw's)" [in:] Chicago for Dummies by Laura Tibert 2007. p. 125; "DID YOU KNOW? Chicago, with nearly a million residents of Polish extraction, is often cited as the world's second-largest Polish city after Warsaw." [in:] Poland by Neil Wilson, Tom Parkinson, Richard Watkins, 2005, p. 33; "In 1960, Chicago claimed 700 000 residents of Polish descent, making it the American city with the largest Polish community and, after Warsaw, the second largest aggregation of urban Poles in the world." [in:] Human development by James O. Lugo, Gerald L. Hershey, 1979