Background: Poland is an ancient nation that was conceived near the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation. In a series of agreements between 1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland among themselves. Poland regained its independence in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. It became a Soviet satellite state following the war, but its government was comparatively tolerant and progressive. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity" that over time became a political force and by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency. A "shock therapy" program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, but Poland still faces the lingering challenges of high unemployment, underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure, and a poor rural underclass. Solidarity suffered a major defeat in the 2001 parliamentary elections when it failed to elect a single deputy to the lower house of Parliament, and the new leaders of the Solidarity Trade Union subsequently pledged to reduce the Trade Union's political role. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country largely completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of Euro-Atlantic organizations.
Location: Central Europe, east of Germany
Area land: 304,255 sq km
Area water: 8,430 sq km
Coastline: 440 km
Country name conventional long form: Republic of Poland
Country name conventional short form: Poland
Country name former: Republic of Poland
Population: 38,441,588 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.7% (male 2,910,324/female 2,748,546); 15-64 years: 71.6% (male 13,698,363/female 13,834,779); 65 years and over: 13.7% (male 2,004,550/female 3,245,026) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: -0.062% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 10.01 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 10.17 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.47 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.061 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.62 male(s)/female; total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.54 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 7.25 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 5.79 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.05 years; male: 72.1 years; female: 80.25 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 1.3 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.1%; 0.1% note - no country specific models provided (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 27,000 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 200 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Pole(s); adjective: Polish;
Ethnic groups: Polish 96.7%, German 0.4%, Belarusian 0.1%, Ukrainian 0.1%, other and unspecified 2.7% (2002 census);
Religions: Roman Catholic 89.8% (about 75% practicing), Eastern Orthodox 1.3%, Protestant 0.3%, other 0.3%, unspecified 8.3% (2002);
Languages: Polish (official) 97.8%, other and unspecified 2.2% (2002 census);
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 99.8%; male: 99.8%; female: 99.7% (2003 est.);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $725.2 billion (2010 est.); $698.6 billion (2009 est.); $687 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $470 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 3.8% (2010 est.); 1.7% (2009 est.); 5.1% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $18,800 (2010 est.); $18,200 (2009 est.); $17,800 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 3.9%; industry: 31.8%; services: 63% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 17% (2003 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3%; highest 10%: 27.2% (2005);
Labor force: 17 million (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 17.4%; industry: 29.2%; services: 53.4% (2005);
Unemployment rate: 11.8% (2010 est.); 11% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $91.23 billion; expenditures: $128.4 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, textiles;
Industrial production growth rate: 6.5% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 149.1 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 129.3 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - exports: 9.703 billion kWh (2008);
Electricity - imports: 8.48 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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(Liberal communist monthly), Poznan
(Daily tabloid), Warsaw
(Supplement of Zycie Warszawy), Warsaw
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Andrzej Niewiadowski, writing for Warsaw's centrist Rzeczpospolita, asks Slovaks how they feel 10 years after gaining independence from Czechoslovakia.
A growing numbe of Germans have begun to speak out about the wrongs they suffered as a result of the population transfers after World War II.
Czeslaw Milosz, a poet from Poland and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize, reflects on what the terrorist attacks on the United States will mean for the world.
Adam Michnik, former dissident and current editor in chief of Warsaw's Gazeta Wyborcza, reacts to the terrorist attacks on the United States