Name of Poland The origin of the name "Poland" derives from the West Slavic tribe of Polans Polanie that inhabited the Warta river basin of the historic Greater Poland region starting in the 6th century. The origin of the name "Polanie" itself derives from the early Slavic word "pole" field. In some languages, such as Hungarian, Lithuanian, Persian and Turkish, the exonym for Poland is Lechites Lechici , which derives from the name of a semi-legendary ruler of Polans, Lech I.
During this time, the Lusatian culture , spanning both the Bronze and Iron Ages, became particularly prominent. The most famous archaeological find from the prehistory and protohistory of Poland is the Biskupin fortified settlement now reconstructed as an open-air museum , dating from the Lusatian culture of the early Iron Age, around BC. Throughout the Antiquity period, many distinct ancient ethnic groups populated the regions of what is now Poland in an era that dates from about BC to AD.
Also, recent archeological findings in the Kujawy region, confirmed the presence of the Roman Legions on the territory of Poland. The exact time and routes of the original migration and settlement of Slavic peoples lacks written records and can only be defined as fragmented. Up until the creation of Mieszko's state and his subsequent conversion to Christianity in AD, the main religion of Slavic tribes that inhabited the geographical area of present-day Poland was Slavic paganism.
However, the transition from paganism was not a smooth and instantaneous process for the rest of the population as evident from the pagan reaction of the s. Poland's first historically documented ruler, Mieszko I , accepted Christianity with the Baptism of Poland in , as the new official religion of his subjects. The bulk of the population converted in the course of the next few centuries. The significance of the event was documented by Gallus Anonymus in his chronicle.
In , Konrad I of Masovia , one of the regional Piast dukes, invited the Teutonic Knights to help him fight the Baltic Prussian pagans; a decision that led to centuries of warfare with the Knights. In , the Statute of Kalisz or the General Charter of Jewish Liberties introduced numerous right for the Jews in Poland, leading to a nearly autonomous "nation within a nation".
His son, Casimir III reigned —70 , has a reputation as one of the greatest Polish kings, and gained wide recognition for improving the country's infrastructure.
He built extensively during his reign, and reformed the Polish army along with the country's civil and criminal laws, — The Golden Liberty of the nobles began to develop under Casimir's rule, when in return for their military support , the king made a series of concessions to the nobility, and establishing their legal status as superior to that of the townsmen.
When Casimir the Great died in , leaving no legitimate male heir, the Piast dynasty came to an end. During the 13th and 14th centuries, Poland became a destination for German, Flemish and to a lesser extent Walloon, Danish and Scottish migrants.
The Black Death , a plague that ravaged Europe from to did not significantly affect Poland, and the country was spared from a major outbreak of the disease. Jagiellon dynasty Battle of Grunwald was fought against the German Order of Teutonic Knights , and resulted in a decisive victory for the Kingdom of Poland , 15 July The partnership brought vast Lithuania -controlled Rus' areas into Poland's sphere of influence and proved beneficial for the Poles and Lithuanians, who coexisted and cooperated in one of the largest political entities in Europe for the next four centuries.
In the Baltic Sea region the struggle of Poland and Lithuania with the Teutonic Knights continued and culminated in the Battle of Grunwald , where a combined Polish-Lithuanian army inflicted a decisive victory against the Teutonic Knights, allowing for territorial expansion of both nations into the far north region of Livonia.
The Jagiellon dynasty at one point also established dynastic control over the kingdoms of Bohemia onwards and Hungary. Some historians estimate that Crimean Tatar slave-raiding cost Poland-Lithuania one million of its population between the years of and The royal residence is an early example of Renaissance architecture in Poland. Poland was developing as a feudal state, with a predominantly agricultural economy and an increasingly powerful landed nobility.
The Nihil novi act adopted by the Polish Sejm parliament in , transferred most of the legislative power from the monarch to the Sejm, an event which marked the beginning of the period known as "Golden Liberty", when the state was ruled by the "free and equal" Polish nobility. Protestant Reformation movements made deep inroads into Polish Christianity, which resulted in the establishment of policies promoting religious tolerance, unique in Europe at that time.
Another major figure associated with the era is the classicist poet Jan Kochanowski. History of Poland in the Early Modern era — , Crown of the Kingdom of Poland , Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth , and Sarmatism The Warsaw Confederation passed by the Polish national assembly Sejm Konwokacyjny , extended religious freedoms and tolerance in the Commonwealth, and was the first of its kind act in Europe, 28 January The Union of Lublin established the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth , a more closely unified federal state with an elective monarchy , but which was governed largely by the nobility, through a system of local assemblies with a central parliament.
The Warsaw Confederation guaranteed religious freedom for the Polish nobility Szlachta and burgesses Mieszczanie. In , the Tsar of Russia paid homage to the King of Poland. From the middle of the 17th century, the nobles' democracy, suffering from internal disorder, gradually declined, thereby leaving the once powerful Commonwealth vulnerable to foreign intervention.
Starting in , the Cossack Khmelnytsky Uprising engulfed the south and east, eventually leaving Ukraine divided, with the eastern part, lost by the Commonwealth, becoming a dependency of the Tsardom of Russia.
This was followed by the 'Deluge' , a Swedish invasion of Poland, which marched through the Polish heartlands and ruined the country's population, culture and infrastructure—around four million of Poland's eleven million inhabitants died in famines and epidemics throughout the 17th century.
Sobieski's reign marked the end of the nation's golden era. Finding itself subjected to almost constant warfare and suffering enormous population losses as well as massive damage to its economy, the Commonwealth fell into decline. The government became ineffective as a result of large-scale internal conflicts e.
Lubomirski Rebellion against John II Casimir and rebellious confederations and corrupted legislative processes. The nobility fell under the control of a handful of magnats , and this, compounded with two relatively weak kings of the Saxon Wettin dynasty , Augustus II and Augustus III , as well as the rise of Russia and Prussia after the Great Northern War only served to worsen the Commonwealth's plight.
Despite this The Commonwealth-Saxony personal union gave rise to the emergence of the Commonwealth's first reform movement, and laid the foundations for the Polish Enlightenment. However, as a one-time personal admirer of Empress Catherine II of Russia , the new king spent much of his reign torn between his desire to implement reforms necessary to save his nation, and his perceived necessity to remain in a political relationship with his Russian sponsor.
This led to the formation of the Bar Confederation , a szlachta rebellion directed against the Polish king and his Russian sponsors, which aimed to preserve Poland's independence and the szlachta's traditional privileges. Attempts at reform provoked the union's neighbours, and in the First Partition of the Commonwealth by Prussia, Russia and Austria took place; an act which the " Partition Sejm ", under considerable duress, eventually "ratified" fait accompli.
Corporal punishment of children was officially prohibited in However, this document, accused by detractors of harbouring revolutionary sympathies, generated strong opposition from the Commonwealth's nobles and conservatives as well as from Catherine II, who, determined to prevent the rebirth of a strong Commonwealth set about planning the final dismemberment of the Polish-Lithuanian state.
Russia was aided in achieving its goal when the Targowica Confederation , an organisation of Polish nobles, appealed to the Empress for help.
The defensive war fought by the Poles ended prematurely when the King, convinced of the futility of resistance, capitulated and joined the Targowica Confederation. The Confederation then took over the government. Russia and Prussia, fearing the mere existence of a Polish state, arranged for, and in executed, the Second Partition of the Commonwealth , which left the country deprived of so much territory that it was practically incapable of independent existence.
Poles rebelled several times against the partitioners , particularly near the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. But, after the failed Napoleonic Wars , Poland was again split between the victorious powers at the Congress of Vienna of However, over time the Russian monarch reduced Polish freedoms, and Russia annexed the country in virtually all but name.
Meanwhile, the Prussian controlled territory of Poland came under increased Germanization. Throughout the period of the partitions, political and cultural repression of the Polish nation led to the organisation of a number of uprisings against the authorities of the occupying Russian, Prussian and Austrian governments.
They were joined by large segments of Polish society, and together forced Warsaw's Russian garrison to withdraw north of the city. Over the course of the next seven months, Polish forces successfully defeated the Russian armies of Field Marshal Hans Karl von Diebitsch and a number of other Russian commanders; however, finding themselves in a position unsupported by any other foreign powers, save distant France and the newborn United States, and with Prussia and Austria refusing to allow the import of military supplies through their territories, the Poles accepted that the uprising was doomed to failure.
Upon the surrender of Warsaw to General Ivan Paskievich , many Polish troops, feeling they could not go on, withdrew into Prussia and there laid down their arms. After the defeat, the semi-independent Congress Poland lost its constitution, army and legislative assembly, and was integrated more closely with the Russian Empire.