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.
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
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.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
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