Background: Poland achieved independence in 1918. However, it was invaded by Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II. The country became a Soviet satellite after the war, remaining a comparatively tolerant and progressive state. Labor unrest in 1980 led to the formation of the independent Solidarity trade union, which after some time became a powerful political force and in 1990 won the parliamentary and presidential elections. Complete freedom came only in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR. The “shock therapy” program in the early 1990s. turned the Polish economy into one of the fastest growing economies in Central Europe, creating the prerequisites for future accession to the European Union. Poland joined NATO in 1999.
Location: Central Europe, east of Germany. See franciscogardening.com to know more about Poland Geography.
Geographical coordinates: 52° 00′ N. latitude, 20° 00′ E
Reference map: Europe.
Area: total: 312,685 km2; land surface area: 304,465 km2; water surface area: 8,220 km2
Comparative area: slightly smaller than the state of New Mexico.
Land borders: total: 2,888 km; with neighboring states: with Belarus 605 km, with the Czech Republic 658 km, with Germany 456 km, with Lithuania 91 km, with Russia (Kaliningrad region) 206 km, with Slovakia 444 km, with Ukraine 428 km.
Coastline: 491 km.
Maritime claims: exclusive economic zone: defined by international treaties; territorial waters: 12 nautical miles.
Climate: temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation; summer – with frequent rains and thunderstorms.
Terrain: mostly flat plain; mountains along the southern borders.
Maximum and minimum heights: lowest point: Rachki Elblonski -2 m; highest point: Risi peak 2,499 m.
Natural resources: coal, sulfur, copper, gas, silver, lead, salt, arable land.
Land use: arable land: 47%; cultivated land: 1%; pastures: 13%; forests and plantations: 29%; others: 10% (1993 est.).
Irrigated land: 1,000 km2 (1993 est.).
Natural Hazards: no data.
Current environmental issues: since 1989 the situation has improved as a result of the decline of heavy industry and the interest of the post-communist government in environmental issues; despite this, air pollution remains a serious problem due to sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and the resulting acid rain that damages dogs; a serious problem is water pollution by industrial and municipal enterprises, as well as the problem of hazardous waste disposal.
International agreements on environmental protection: party to: Air pollution, Antarctica – environmental protection protocol, Conservation of marine life in Antarctica, Antarctic seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate change, Endangered species, Environmental change, Hazardous waste, Law of the sea, Marine pollution, Nuclear test ban, Protection of the ozone layer, Marine pollution from ships, Wetlands; signed but not ratified: Air Pollution o-nitrogen oxides, Air Pollution – Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution – Sulfur 1994, Kyoto Protocol.
Note to the Geography section: Historically, the territory of Poland has always been an arena of conflicts due to its flat landscape and the absence of natural barriers on the North European Plain.
Population: 38,633,912 (July 2001 est.).
Age structure: under 14: 18.39% (male 3,640,451; female 3,463,604); 15 to 64 years old: 69.17% (male 13,288,471; female 13,434,753); over 65: 12.44% (male 1,836,816; female 2,969,817) (2000 est.)
Population growth: -0.03% (2000 est.).
Birth rate: 10.2 newborns / 1000 people. (2000 est.).
Mortality: 9.98 deaths / 1000 people. (2000 est.).
Migration: -0.49 people / 1000 people (2000 est.).
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male/female; under 15: 1.05 male/female; 15 to 64 years old: 0.99 male/female; over 65: 0.62 male/female; for the general population: 0.94 male/female (2001 est.);
Child mortality: 9.39 deaths/1000 live births (2001 est.).
Life expectancy: for the general population: 73.42 years; men: 69.26 years; women: 77.82 years (2001 est.).
General birth rate: 1.37 children/wives. (2001 est.).
Proportion of the adult population infected with HIV: no data available.
Number of people infected with HIV: no data.
AIDS deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Pole; adjective: Polish.
Ethnic groups: Poles 97.6%, Germans 1.3%, Ukrainians 0.6%, Belarusians 0.5% (1990 est.).
Believers: Catholics 95% (about 75% of active believers), adherents of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Protestants and other 5%.
Literacy: definition: persons over the age of 15 who can read and write; for the general population: 99%; men: 99%; women: 98% (1978 est.).
Common long form: Republic of Poland;
conventional short form: Poland; local long form: Rzeczpospolita Polska local short form: Polska
State structure: republic.
Administrative divisions: 16 voivodeships: Warminsko-Mazury, Wielkopolskie, Dolnoshchlenskoe, Zakhodnopomorskie, KuyavskouPomorskie, Lodzskoe, Lubepskie, Lubuskie, Mazowieckie, Malopolskie, Opolskie, Podkarpackie, Podpaskie, Pomeranian, Sventokrzyszkoe, Shlenskoe.
Independence: from November 11, 1918 (an independent republic was proclaimed).
National holiday: Constitution Day, May 3 (1791); Independence Day, November 11 (1918).
Constitution: entered into force October 16, 1997; adopted by the National Assembly on April 2, 1997; approved by national referendum on May 23, 1997
Legal system: mixture of continental (Napoleonic) civil law and remnants of communist legal theory; changes are gradually being introduced as part of a broad process of democratization; limited judicial review of legislative acts, although under the new constitution a Constitutional Tribunal has been established since October 1999; judgments can be challenged before the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg.
Suffrage: from 18 years old; universal.
head of state: President Alexander KWASNIEWSKI (since December 23, 1995);
head of the government: Prime Minister Jerzy BUZEK (since October 31, 1997), Deputy Prime Ministers Janusz STEINHOFF (since June 12, 2000), Longin KOMOLOWSKI (since October 19, 1999) G.);
government: the Council of Ministers is responsible to the Prime Minister and the Seimas; the Prime Minister proposes, the President appoints, and the Seimas approves the Council of Ministers; elections: the president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term; the first round of elections took place on November 5, 1995, the second round took place on October 8, 2000 (the next elections are to be held in October 2005); the prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the president and approved by the Seimas; election results: Aleksander Kwaśniewski re-elected president; distribution of votes – Aleksander KWASNIEWSKI 53.9%, Andrzj OLECHOWSKI 17.3%, Marian KRZAKLEWSKI 15.6%, Lech WALESA 1%.
Legislature: the bicameral National Assembly (Zgromadzenie Narodowe) consists of the Sejm (460 seats; members are elected by a complex system of proportional representation for a four-year term) and the Senate (100 seats; members are elected by a majoritarian system by provinces for a four-year term); elections: Seimas elections were last held on 21 September 1997 (next to be held in September 2001); Senate – September 21, 1997 (next expected September 2001); election results: Saeima – vote distribution by parties – RS-AWS 33.8%, SLD 27.1%, UW 13.4%, PSL 7.3%, ROP 5.6%, MNSO 0.4%, others 12 ,four%; distribution of seats between parties – AWS 201, SLD 164, UW 60, PSL 27, ROP 6, MNSO 2; Senate – distribution of votes by parties – no data; distribution of seats between parties – AWS 51, SLD 28, UW 8, ROP 5, PSL 3, independents 5; note – seats by party in the Saeima as of February 2001: AWS 175, SLD 161, UW 49, PSL 26, RR 6, KdP 7, ROP-RS 4, independent 31, one seat vacant; note: two seats are reserved for ethnic minority parties.
Judiciary: High Court, whose judges are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the State Council of Justice for an indefinite term; The Constitutional Tribunal, whose judges are elected by the Seimas for a nine-year term.
Political parties and leaders: Coalition for Poland (KdP) (GRABOWSKI [GRABOWSKI]); Confederation for Independent Poland-Patriotic Camp (KPN-OP) (KPN-Fatherland [KPN-O] is a small group within KPN-OP) (Michal JANISZEWSKI]); Democratic Left Alliance (Polish Social Democracy) (SLD) (Leszek MILLER); Freedom Union (UW) (Bronislaw GEREMEK); Lower Silesian German Minority (MNSO) (Henryk KROLL); Movement for the Revival of Poland (ROP-PC) (Jan OL-SZEWSKI); Polish Consent (PP) (Jan LOPUSZANSKI]); Polish Peasant Party (PSL) (Jaroslav KALINOWSKI [Jaroslaw KALINOWSKI]); Polish Socialist Party (PPS) (Piotr IKO-NOWICZJ); electoral action “Solidarity” (AWS) (includes RS-AWS and “Solidarity”) (Marian KRZAKLEVSKIJ]);
Political pressure groups and their leaders: All-Polish Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ) (trade union); Roman Catholic Church; “Solidarity” (trade union).
Participation in international organizations: ACCT (observer), Australia Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS, CCC, CE, CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MINURSO, MONUC, NAM (guest), NATO, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNDOF, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNIKOM, UNMEE, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNOMIG, UPU, WCL, WEU ( associate), WFRJ, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC.
Diplomatic representation in the USA: head of mission: Ambassador Przemyslaw GRUDZINSKI [Przemyslaw GRUDZINSKI]; office: 2640 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; phone:  (202) from 234-3800 to 3802; fax: [\] (202) 328-6271; consulates general: Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
US Mission: Chief of Mission: Ambassador Christopher R. HILL; embassy: Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31 00-054, Warsaw P1; mailing address: American Embassy Warsaw, US Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-5010; phone:  (22) 628-30-41; fax:  (22) 628-82-98; consulates general: Krakow.
Description of the flag: two equal horizontal stripes of white (top) and red; similar to the flags of Indonesia and Monaco, which also have two stripes: red (top) and white.