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Poland facts and history in brief

Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Gdansk,(Polish; also Kashubian: Gdunsk, German: Danzig, Latin: Gedania; also other languages) is the sixth-largest city in Poland, its principal seaport, and the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodship.
The city lies on the southern coast of the Gdansk Bay (of the Baltic Sea), in a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdynia and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity with a population of over a million people.
Gdansk is, with a population of 460,524 (mid 2004), the largest city in the historical province of Eastern Pomerania.
Gdansk is situated at the mouth of the Motlawa river, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the Vistula, whose waterway system connects 60% of the area of Poland, giving the city a unique advantage as the center of Poland's sea trade.
Historically an important seaport since the 10th century and subsequently a principal ship-building centre, Gdansk was a member of the Hanseatic League and the largest city in Poland until the partitions of the late 18th century, when the largely German-speaking city became part of Prussia, and later of the German Empire.
After a period as a free city in the interwar period (1919-1939), claims to Gdansk became the pretext for Hitler's attack on Poland which began the Second World War.
Following the war Gdansk again became part of Poland, and the German population was largely expelled, making the city for the first time entirely ethnically Polish.
Today Gdansk remains an important industrial centre together with the nearby port of Gdynia, developed during the 1920s as a Polish rival to the unfriendly German-controlled Free City.
In the 1970s the modern port in Gdansk was developed, accessible for much bigger ships, including middle sized tankers.

Origins of the name
The name is thought to be meaning town located on Gdania river, the original name of the Motlawa branch the city is situated on.
Like many other European cities, Gdansk has had many different names throughout its history.
The Polish name is Gdansk and in the local Kashubian language it is known as Gdunsk.
Due to the city's German heritage the name Danzig is still used, especially when referring to the city prior to the Second World War.
The city's Latin name may be given as any of Gedania, Gedanum or Dantiscum; the variety of Latin names reflects the influence of the Polish, Kashubian, and German names.
In English the name Gdansk is usually pronounced gadansk.

Historical documents
The name of a settlement was recorded after St. Adalbert's demise in 997 A.D. as urbs Gyddanyzc and later was written as Kdanzk (1148), Gdanzc (1188), Gdansk (1236), Danzc (1263), Danczk (1311, 1399, 1410, 1414?1438), Danczik (1399, 1410, 1414), Danczig (1414), Gdansk (1454, 1468, 1484), Gdansk (1590), Gdansk (1636) and in Latin documents Gedanum or Dantiscum.
These early recordings show the Pomeranian name Gdunsk, the Polish name Gdansk and the German name Danzig.
Alternative spellings from medieval and early modern documents are Gyddanyzc, Kdansk, Gdanzc, Dantzk, Dantzig, Dantzigk, Dantiscum and Gedanum.
The official Latin name of Gedanum was used simultaneously.
On special occasions it is also known as The Royal Polish City of Gdansk; Polish: Królewskie Polskie Miasto Gdansk, German: Königliche Polnische Stadt Danzig, Latin: Regia Civitas Polonica Gedanensis, Kashubian: Królewsczi Polsczi Gard Gdunsk. The Kashubians prefer the name: Our Capital City Gdansk (=Nasz Stoleczny Gard Gdunsk) or The Kashubian Capital City Gdansk (=Stoleczny Kaszëbsczi Gard Gdunsk).

According to archeologists, the Gdansk stronghold was constructed in the 980s by Mieszko I of Poland; however, the year 997 has in recent years been considered to be the date of the foundation of the city itself, as the year in which Saint Adalbert of Prague (sent by the Polish king Boleslaus the Brave) baptized the inhabitants of Gdansk (urbs Gyddanyzc).
In the following years Gdansk was the main centre of a Polish splinter duchy ruled by the dynasty of Dukes of Pomerania. The most famous of them, Swantipolk II, granted a local autonomy charter in ca. 1235 to the city, which had some 2,000 inhabitants.
Gdansk became a flourishing trading city with some 10,000 inhabitants by the year 1308.
In this year it was occupied and demolished by the Teutonic Knights (the Gdansk massacre of November 13, 1308).
This led to the city's decline and to a series of wars between the rebellious Knights and the Polish kings, ending with the Peace of Kalisz in 1343 when the Knights acknowledged that they would keep Pomerania as "an alm" from the Polish king.
This left the legal basis of their possession of the province in some doubt. The agreement permitted the foundation of the municipality in 1343 and the development of increased trade in export of grain from Poland via the Vistula river trading routes.
Gdansk became a full member of the Hanseatic League by 1361.
When a new war broke out in 1409 and ended with the Battle of Grunwald (1410) the city accepted the direct overlordship of the Polish kings, but with the Peace of Torun (1411) it returned to the Teutonic Knights' administration.
In 1440 Gdansk participated in the foundation of the Prussian Union which led to the Thirteen Years War (1454-1466) and the incorporation of Royal Prussia to the direct rule of the Polish Crown.
Thanks to the Royal charters granted by the king Casimir IV the Jagiellonian and the free access to all Polish markets, Gdansk became a large and rich seaport and city.
The 16th and 17th centuries were a Golden Age for trade and culture in Gdansk.
Inhabitants from various ethnic groups (Germans, Poles, Jews, and the Dutch being the largest) contributed to Gdansk's identity and rich culture of the period.
The city suffered a slow economic decline due to the wars in the 18th century, which ended with the Partitions of Poland from 1772-1795.
Gdansk was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1793 and, again in 1815, after a short period as the Free City of Danzig (1807-1815) under Napoleon.
In contrast to the independent period, under the Prussian administration Gdansk became a relatively unimportant city dominated by the military garrison and the administration officials. As part of Prussia, it became part of the German Empire in 1871.
After World War I, Poland became independent, and the Poles hoped to receive Gdansk to provide the "free access to the sea," which they had been promised by the Allies on the basis of Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points."
However, the city was not placed under full Polish sovereignty, but was made into the Free City of Danzig, an independent free city under the auspices of the League of Nations, governed by its largely German-speaking residents but with its external affairs largely under Polish control.
Because the German authorities in Gdansk obstructed Polish trade and restricted Poles from settling in the city, the Polish government decided to build the nearby seaport of Gdynia, which in the following years took the majority of total Polish exports.
Meanwhile, the independent Free City with its surrounding district, which included the seaside spa of Zoppot (Sopot), issued its own stamps and currency bearing the legend, "Freie Stadt Danzig" and symbols of the city's maritime orientation and history.
Tensions arising from quarrels between Germany and Poland over control of the Free City served as a pretext for the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 and the outbreak of World War II.
The Nazis' capture of the city resulted in its annexation into Nazi Germany and its incorporation into the Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen.
The city was occupied by Polish and Soviet forces on March 30, 1945 after a fierce battle with defending Germans which left 90% of the old city reduced to ruins.
At the Yalta and the Potsdam conferences, Gdansk was transferred to Poland along with the whole territory of the Free City.
According to the terms of the Potsdam conference, Germans remaining in the city were expelled.
Out of the Free City's pre-war population of 385,000, 285,000 lived in exile in Germany after the post-war migrations were over.
Many Poles impressed with Gdansk's historic prosperity came to rebuild the city from throughout Poland, especially from the regions of eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union.
The Old City was rebuilt from its ruins during the 1950s and 1960s.
Because of the development of its port and 3 major shipyards, Gdansk was a major shipping and industrial center of the Communist People's Republic of Poland.
Gdansk was the scene of anti-government demonstrations which led to the downfall of Poland's communist leader Wladyslaw Gomulka in December 1970.
Ten years later the Gdansk Shipyard was the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union movement, whose opposition to the government led to the end of communist party rule (1989).
Solidarity's leader Lech Walesa became the Polish president in 1990.
Today Gdansk remains a major industrial city and shipping port.

The city's industrial kaleidoscope is dominated by traditional lines of shipbuilding, the petrochemical and chemical industry, and food processing.
The share of more high-tech sectors such as electronics, telecommunications, IT engineering, or cosmetics and pharmaceuticals is on the rise.
Amber processing for the local economy is also prominent.

Gdansk was once an important center of culture.
In the 16th century it hosted Shakespearean theater on foreign tours.
Currently, there is a Fundation Theatrum Gedanensis aimed at rebuilding the Shakespeare theater building on its traditional site in Gdansk.
It is expected that Gdansk will have a permanent English language theater, as at present it is only an annual event.

The city boasts many fine Hanseatic league buildings.
The St Mary's Church (Marienkirche/Bazylika Mariacka), a municipal church built in Gdansk in the 15th century, is one of the largest brick churches in the world.
On the Motlawa river the museum ship SS Soldek is anchored.

Politics of Gdansk Contemporary Gdansk is the capital of the Pomeranian province and is one of the major centres of economic and administrative life in Poland. Many important agencies of the state and local government levels have their main offices here.

There are 10 universities in Gdansk, as well many elementary, high and tertiary and technical educational institutions.

External links

This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gdansk) in July, 2005
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Gdansk was the second Polish city Hui Chin and I visited during our 2005 trip in Europe.
Very interesting and colourful city and history.

Some of my photos of Gdansk.

You can click on these photos for an enlargement

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Gdansk buses

Gdansk buses

Gdansk trams

Gdansk trams

Gdansk trains

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Gdansk trains Gdansk trains

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