Poland

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Poland is a country in central Europe; its northern coast is the Baltic Sea, and it is bordered by Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany. Poland has a population of 38 million. Its capital and largest city is Warsaw.

History

Poland's modern history began after World War I, when the nation was re-assembled from pieces of the former Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires. Its fledgling democracy collapsed quickly, and the country was ruled by a dictatorship from 1926 to 1935. In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to divide Poland between themselves, and they conducted a joint invasion. Poland suffered terribly during World War II; its Jewish minority was massacred in Nazi death camps, and the Soviet Army killed tens of thousand of Polish officers in the Katyn forest.

After World War II, the Soviet Union installed a communist government, and the country was a member of the Warsaw Pact. In 1956, workers staged a nationwide general strike, which was suppressed by force. In 1979, Pope John Paul II became the head of the Roman Catholic church. In 1980, strikes led by Lech Walesa began the Solidarity movement. Eventually, they replaced a communist government, and ratified a democratic constitution. Walesa was elected president in 1990.

Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

Right Wing Resurgence

On February 14, 2007 a new law came into force that requires some 700,000 Poles who were in any position of authority born before June 1, 1972, including also academics, journalists and business executives, to state in writing that they did not collaborate with the communist regime. The Polish Institute for National Remembrance oversees communist-era files in Warsaw. On May 11, 2007 the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland canceled this law.

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