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Poland's history as a state begins near the middle of the 10th century. By the mid-16th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ruled a vast tract of land in central and eastern Europe. During the 18th century, internal disorders weakened the nation, and 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 with over ten million members. Free elections in 1989 and 1990 won Solidarity control of the parliament and the presidency, bringing the Communist era to a close. A "shock therapy" program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe. 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.


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Geography

Location
Central Europe, east of Germany

Geographic coordinates
52 00 N, 20 00 E

Map references
Europe

Area World Ranking: 70
Total 312,685 sq km
Land 304,255 sq km
Water 8,430 sq km

Area - comparative
Slightly smaller than New Mexico

Land boundaries
Total 3,047 km
Border countries
Belarus 605 km, Czech Republic 615 km, Germany 456 km, Lithuania 91 km, Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) 432 km, Slovakia 420 km, Ukraine 428 km

Coastline
440 km

Maritime claims
Territorial sea 12 nm
Exclusive economic zone
Defined by international treaties

Climate
Temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation; mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers

Terrain
Mostly flat plain; mountains along southern border

Elevation extremes
Lowest point Near Raczki Elblaskie -2 m
Highest point Rysy 2,499 m

Natural resources
Coal, sulfur, copper, natural gas, silver, lead, salt, amber, arable land

Land use
Arable land 40.25%
Permanent crops 1%
Other 58.75% (2005)

Irrigated land
1,160 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources
63.1 cu km (2005)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Total 11.73 cu km/yr (13%/79%/8%)
Per capita 304 cu m/yr (2002)

Natural hazards
Flooding

Environment - current issues
Situation has improved since 1989 due to decline in heavy industry and increased environmental concern by post-Communist governments; air pollution nonetheless remains serious because of sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and the resulting acid rain has caused forest damage; water pollution from industrial and municipal sources is also a problem, as is disposal of hazardous wastes; pollution levels should continue to decrease as industrial establishments bring their facilities up to EU code, but at substantial cost to business and the government

Environment - international agreements
Party to
Air Pollution, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
Signed, but not ratified
Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94

Geography - note
Historically, an area of conflict because of flat terrain and the lack of natural barriers on the North European Plain


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  Poland (Warsaw):


  GPS points from Poland (Warsaw)

Peremyshl' Subcarpathian Voivodeship

Drawsko Kreuz (pl50)

Woszczyce Silesian Voivodeship

Kesy Masovian Voivodeship

Wilczorude Masovian Voivodeship

Lubicz (pl51)

Nowiny-raclawickie Lesser Poland Voivodeship

Dubielewo (pl68)




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