Poland is a country in Central Europe, bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north. The total area of Poland is 312,679 sq km (120,726 sq mi), making it the 69th largest country in the world.
Before World War II, Poland's industrial base was concentrated in the coal, textile, chemical, machinery, iron, and steel sectors whereas today it extends to motor vehicles, fertilizers, petrochemicals, machine tools, electrical machinery, and electronics. Polish industry suffered widespread damage during World War II, and many resources were directed toward reconstruction after the war.
Poland today is ethnically almost homogeneous (97% Polish), in contrast with the World War II period, when there were significant ethnic minorities--4.5 million Ukrainians, 3 million Jews, 1 million Belarusians, and 800,000 Germans. The majority of the Jews were murdered during the German occupation in World War II, and many others emigrated in the succeeding years.
Poland is the only EU country that didn't suffer a recession in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It has benefited from its relatively large domestic market, supported by fiscal stimulus in the early stages of the global downturn, and exports made more competitive by a depreciating currency.
The trade weighted average tariff rate is low at 1.4 percent as in other members of the European Union, but layers of non-tariff barriers increase the cost of trade. Certain areas of investment require government approval, and the regulatory system is not particularly efficient. Foreign and domestic investors are generally treated equally. The financial sector consists mainly of private banks, and capital markets are expanding.
The legal system protects the acquisition and disposition of property, but the judiciary is slow to resolve cases and susceptible to political interference. There can be unexpected changes in laws and regulations. Piracy of intellectual property continues despite government efforts to improve protection. Bribery and abuse of public office are punishable under the criminal code, but systemic corruption remains a cause for concern.
Poland still has a huge farming sector - agriculture accounts for about 60 per cent of the country's total land area - which is unwieldy and very inefficient. Poverty is particularly widespread in rural areas.
A nation with a proud cultural heritage, Poland can trace its roots back over 1,000 years. Positioned at the centre of Europe, it has known turbulent and violent times.
Great (north) Poland was founded in 966 by Mieszko I, who belonged to the Piast dynasty. The tribes of southern Poland then formed Little Poland. In 1047, both Great Poland and Little Poland united under the rule of Casimir I the Restorer. Poland merged with Lithuania by royal marriage in 1386. The Polish-Lithuanian state reached the peak of its power between the 14th and 16th centuries, scoring military successes against the (Germanic) Knights of the Teutonic Order, the Russians, and the Ottoman Turks.
Poland, a country the size of New Mexico, is in north-central Europe. Most of the country is a plain with no natural boundaries except the Carpathian Mountains in the south and the Oder and Neisse rivers in the west. Other major rivers, which are important to commerce, are the Vistula, Warta, and Bug.
Poland’s roots go back to the turn of the first millennium, leaving a thousand years of twists and turns and kings and castles to explore. History buffs of the WWII vintage are well served. Tragically, Poland found itself in the middle of that epic fight, and monuments and museums dedicated to its battles – and to Poland’s remarkable survival – can be seen everywhere.