Flag of Poland

map (opens in new window)


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 amongst 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.


Central Europe, east of Germany

Geographic coordinates:

52 00 N, 20 00 E


total: 312,685 sq km
land: 304,465 sq km
water: 8,220 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 2,788 km
border countries: Belarus 407 km, Czech Republic 658 km, Germany 456 km, Lithuania 91 km, Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) 206 km, Slovakia 444 km, Ukraine 526 km


491 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: defined by international treaties


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


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, sulphur, copper, natural gas, silver, lead, salt, amber, arable land

Land use:

arable land: 40.25%
permanent crops: 1%
other: 58.75% (2005)

Irrigated land:

1,000 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:


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

Geography - note:

historically, an area of conflict because of flat terrain and the lack of natural barriers on the North European Plain


38,536,869 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 15.9% (male 3,142,811/female 2,976,363)
15-64 years: 70.8% (male 13,585,306/female 13,704,763)
65 years and over: 13.3% (male 1,961,326/female 3,166,300) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 37 years
male: 35.1 years
female: 39 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

-0.05% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

9.85 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

9.89 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-0.46 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.06 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 (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 7.22 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.44 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 74.97 years
male: 70.95 years
female: 79.23 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.25 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.1% ; note - no country specific models provided (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

14,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

100 (2001 est.)


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)


Roman Catholic 89.8% (about 75% practicing), Eastern Orthodox 1.3%, Protestant 0.3%, other 0.3%, unspecified 8.3% (2002)


Polish 97.8%, other and unspecified 2.2% (2002 census)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.8%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.7% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Poland
conventional short form: Poland
local long form: Rzeczpospolita Polska
local short form: Polska

Government type:




Administrative divisions:

16 provinces (wojewodztwa, singular - wojewodztwo); Dolnoslaskie, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Lodzkie, Lubelskie, Lubuskie, Malopolskie, Mazowieckie, Opolskie, Podkarpackie, Podlaskie, Pomorskie, Slaskie, Swietokrzyskie, Warminsko-Mazurskie, Wielkopolskie, Zachodniopomorskie


11 November 1918 (independent republic proclaimed)

National holiday:

Constitution Day, 3 May (1791)


adopted by the National Assembly 2 April 1997, passed by national referendum 25 May 1997, effective 17 October 1997

Legal system:

mixture of Continental (Napoleonic) civil law and holdover Communist legal theory; changes being gradually introduced as part of broader democratization process; limited judicial review of legislative acts, but rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal are final; court decisions can be appealed to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

bicameral legislature consisting of an upper house, the Senate or Senat (100 seats; members are elected by a majority vote on a provincial basis to serve four-year terms), and a lower house, the Sejm (460 seats; members are elected under a complex system of proportional representation to serve four-year terms); the designation of National Assembly or Zgromadzenie Narodowe is only used on those rare occasions when the two houses meet jointly
elections: Senate - last held 25 September 2005 (next to be held by September 2009); Sejm elections last held 25 September 2005 (next to be held by September 2009)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PiS 49, PO 34, LPR 7, SO 3, PSL 2, independents 5; Sejm - percent of vote by party - PiS 27%, PO 24.1%, SO 11.4%, SLD 11.3%, LPR 8%, PSL 7%, other 11.2%; seats by party - PiS 155, PO 133, SO 56, SLD 55, LPR 34, PSL 25, German minorities 2
note: two seats are assigned to ethnic minority parties in the Sejm only

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Council of the Judiciary for an indefinite period); Constitutional Tribunal (judges are chosen by the Sejm for nine-year terms)

Economy - overview:

Poland has steadfastly pursued a policy of economic liberalization throughout the 1990s and today stands out as a success story among transition economies. Even so, much remains to be done, especially in bringing down the unemployment rate - currently the highest in the EU. The privatization of small- and medium-sized state-owned companies and a liberal law on establishing new firms has encouraged the development of the private business sector, but legal and bureaucratic obstacles alongside persistent corruption are hampering its further development. Poland's agricultural sector remains handicapped by surplus labor, inefficient small farms, and lack of investment. Restructuring and privatization of "sensitive sectors" (e.g., coal, steel, railroads, and energy), while recently initiated, have stalled. Reforms in health care, education, the pension system, and state administration have resulted in larger-than-expected fiscal pressures. Further progress in public finance depends mainly on reducing losses in Polish state enterprises, restraining entitlements, and overhauling the tax code to incorporate the growing gray economy and farmers, most of whom pay no tax. The previous Socialist-led government introduced a package of social and administrative spending cuts to reduce public spending by about $17 billion through 2007, but full implementation of the plan was trumped by election-year politics in 2005. The right-wing Law and Justice party won parliamentary elections in September, and Lech KACZYNSKI won the presidential election in October 2005, running on a state-interventionist fiscal and monetary platform. Poland joined the EU in May 2004, and surging exports to the EU contributed to Poland's strong growth in 2004, though its competitiveness could be threatened by the zloty's appreciation. GDP per capita roughly equals that of the three Baltic states. Poland stands to benefit from nearly $23.2 billion in EU funds, available through 2006. Farmers have already begun to reap the rewards of membership via booming exports, higher food prices, and EU agricultural subsidies.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$489.8 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$242.7 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

3.5% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$12,700 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 2.8%
industry: 31.7%
services: 65.5% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

17.1 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 16.1%
industry: 29%
services: 54.9% (2002)

Unemployment rate:

18.3% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

17% (2003 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 3.1%
highest 10%: 26.7% (2002)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

34.1 (2002)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

2.1% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

18.5% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $52.73 billion
expenditures: $63.22 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

47.3% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

potatoes, fruits, vegetables, wheat; poultry, eggs, pork, dairy


machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, textiles

Industrial production growth rate:

8.5% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

150.8 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - consumption:

121.3 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - exports:

15.2 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - imports:

5 billion kWh (2004)

Oil - production:

24,530 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - consumption:

476,200 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - exports:

53,000 bbl/day (2001)

Oil - imports:

413,700 bbl/day (2001)

Oil - proved reserves:

142.4 million bbl (December 2004)

Natural gas - production:

4.33 billion cu m (2004)

Natural gas - consumption:

14.97 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - exports:

44 million cu m (2004)

Natural gas - imports:

9.45 billion cu m (2004)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

154.4 billion cu m (December 2004)

Current account balance:

-$4.159 billion (2005 est.)


$92.72 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

machinery and transport equipment 37.8%, intermediate manufactured goods 23.7%, miscellaneous manufactured goods 17.1%, food and live animals 7.6% (2003)

Exports - partners:

Germany 30%, Italy 6.1%, France 6%, UK 5.4%, Czech Republic 4.3%, Netherlands 4.3% (2004)


$95.67 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and transport equipment 38%, intermediate manufactured goods 21%, chemicals 14.8%, minerals, fuels, lubricants, and related materials 9.1% (2003)

Imports - partners:

Germany 24.4%, Italy 7.9%, Russia 7.2%, France 6.7%, China 4.6% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$41.63 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$123.4 billion (30 June 2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$13.9 billion in available EU structural adjustment and cohesion funds (2004-06)

Currency (code):

zloty (PLN)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

12,292,500 (2003)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

23,096,100 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: underdeveloped and outmoded system in the process of being overhauled; partial privatization of the state-owned telephone monopoly is underway; the long waiting list for main line telephone service has resulted in a boom in mobile cellular telephone use
domestic: cable, open-wire, and microwave radio relay; 3 cellular networks; local exchanges 56.6% digital
international: country code - 48; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat, NA Eutelsat, 2 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions), and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 14, FM 777, shortwave 1 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

179 (plus 256 repeaters) (September 1995)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

366,898 (2005)

Internet users:

10.6 million (2005)


123 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 84
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 29
1,524 to 2,437 m: 41
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 3 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 39
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 21 (2005)


2 (2005)


gas 13,552 km; oil 1,772 km (2004)


total: 23,852 km
broad gauge: 629 km 1.524-m gauge
standard gauge: 23,223 km 1.435-m gauge (20,555 km operational; 11,962 km electrified) (2004)


total: 423,997 km
paved: 295,356 km (including 484 km of expressways)
unpaved: 128,641 km (2003)


3,997 km (navigable rivers and canals) (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 9 ships (1000 GRT or over) 47,931 GRT/41,074 DWT
by type: cargo 5, chemical tanker 2, passenger/cargo 1, roll on/roll off 1
registered in other countries: 106 (The Bahamas 15, Belize 2, Cayman Islands 1, Cyprus 19, Liberia 14, Malta 27, Norway 3, Panama 19, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1, Vanuatu 5) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Gdansk, Gdynia, Swinoujscie, Szczecin

Military branches:

Land Forces (includes Navy (Marynarka Wojenna, MW)), Polish Air Force (Polskie Sily Powietrzne, PSP) (2005)

Disputes - international:

as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Poland must implement the strict Schengen border rules

Illicit drugs:

major illicit producer of synthetic drugs for the international market; minor transshipment point for Asian and Latin American illicit drugs to Western Europe