Many historians trace the establishment of a Polish state to 966, when Mieszko I,ruler of a territory roughly coextensive with that of present-day Poland, converted to Christianity. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025, and in 1569 it cemented a longstanding political association with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by signing theUnion of Lublin, forming the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth gradually ceased to exist in the years 1772–1795, when the Polish territory was partitioned among Prussia, the Russian Empire, and Austria. Poland regained its independence (as the Second Polish Republic) at the end of World War I, in 1918.
Two decades later, in September 1939, World War II started with the invasions of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (as part of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). More than six million Polish citizens died in the war. In 1944, a Soviet-backed Polish provisional government was formed which, after a period of conflict, falsified a referendum and an election, giving rise to a satellite state of the Soviet Union, Polish Republic (Rzeczpospolita Polska), renamed to the Peoples Republic of Poland (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa) in 1952. During the Revolutions of 1989, Polands Marxist–Leninist government was overthrown and Poland adopted a new constitution establishing itself as a democracy under the name Rzeczpospolita Polska, often referred to as the "Third Polish Republic" (III Rzeczpospolita).
Despite the vast destruction the country experienced during World War II, Poland managed to preserve much of its cultural wealth. There are 14 heritage sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage and 54 Historical Monuments and many objects of cultural heritage. Since the end of the communist period, Poland has achieved a "very high" ranking in terms of human development, as well as gradually improving economic freedom. Poland is the sixth largest economy within the European Union and among the fastest rising economic states in the world. The country is the sole member nation of the European Union to have escaped a decline in GDP and in recent years was able to create probably the most varied GDP growth in its history.
According to estimates produced by the Polish Central Statistical Office (GUS), at the end of 2007 Poland had a population of 37,115,000, which translates into an average population density of 122 people/km2 (urban 1105 per 1 km2, rural 50 per 1 km2). 61.5% of the Polish population lives in urban areas, a number which is slowly diminishing. Poland is the 33rd most populous country in the world (9th in Europe, with 5.4% of European population). Total population of Poland is almost stagnant (population growth was 0.08%). Average life expectancy was 70.5 for men and 78.9 for women. In 2009 it is expected to be 73.1 for men and 79.5 for women. Population distribution is uneven. Ethnically, Poland is a very homogeneous country, with 96.7% of population being Polish.
Transport in Poland involves air traffic, waterways, roads and railroads.
Railway: Poland is served by an extensive network of railways. In most cities the main railway station is located near a city centre and is well connected to the local transportation system. The infrastructure is operated by PKP PLK ( PKP-Polskie Linie Kolejowe : PKP-Polish Rail Lines), part of state-run PKP Group. The rail network is very dense in western and northern Poland, while eastern part of the country is less developed.
Highway: Polish public roads are grouped into categories related to administrative division. Poland has 412,264 km (256,170 mi) of public roads, of which 131,863 km (81,940 mi) are unsurfaced (2011):
1. National roads (Classes A, S, GP and exceptionally G): 18,801 km (11,680 mi), 1.9 km (1 mi) unsurfaced
Airport: The most important airport in Poland is Warsaw Frederic Chopin International Airport. Warsaws airport is the main international hub for LOT Polish Airlines and currently serves as the destination for around 75% of all major international flights into Poland. With the development, and upcoming privatisation of LOT in 2011, the airport is hoping to see yet more routes opened to destinations around the globe.
- CZECH REPUBLIC