About Poland

  1. Geographical Location
  2. Climate
  3. Population and Language
  4. Political System
  5. Country of Regions (Interactive Map of Regions)
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1.   Geographical Location

Poland lies in Central Europe, on the Baltic Sea. It is the ninth-largest country in Europe, and the sixth-largest in the European Union (312,679 sq. kilometres), extending 649 km from north to south and 689 km from east to west. The capital of Poland is Warsaw.

The entire Polish border is 3505 km long. On the west Poland shares a 489-kilometre border with Germany, running along the Odra (Oder) and Nysa Łużycka (Lusatian Neisse) rivers. To the north is 395-kilometre seashore of the Baltic with two major gulfs – of Pomerania and of Gdańsk. The remaining 232-kilometre border is with an isolated sliver of Russia – the Kaliningrad district. On the east, there is a 104-kilometre border with Lithuania, and then 418 kilometres and 535 kilometres with Belarus and Ukraine respectively. On the south, the Sudeten and the Carpathian mountains run along the 790-kilometre Czech and 541-kilometre Slovak border. Upon Poland’s accession to the European Union on 1 May 2004, the Polish over one thousand kilometre long border with Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Kaliningrad District became the eastern border of the EU.

Most of the country – over 90% – is flat and crossed by a dense network of rivers. With fertile soil, favourable climate and topography Poland has been for centuries an important producer of food and agricultural products. As early as the thirteenth century, a very efficient system of selling agricultural products was developed. They were rafted down the rivers (the longest Polish river, the Vistula, in the first place) to the harbour city of Gdańsk and across the Baltic Sea to other European countries. Poland has some of the most extensive forests in Europe, like Puszcza Białowieska on the border with Belarus – a part of the unique primeval woods in Europe. It is inhabited by a variety of wildlife, including the only remaining wild herd of the European bison.

With the majority of the country being lowland (in Poland, the average elevation above see level is 173 metres), the Polish landscape is all the same relatively diversified. The retreating glaciers of the glacial periods left beautiful lake districts in the north of the country, like the biggest Pomeranian and Mazurian Lake Districts, today’s favourite holiday spots not only for Poles but also for visitors from many countries.

Further south we encounter more and more upland plains and finally mountains, the Sudeten and the Carpathians being the largest. In the Carpathians, there are the Tatra Mountains with the highest point – Rysy Peak (2499 metres above sea level). Winter sports in the winter and tourists routes with mountain climbing and biking opportunities in the summer attract numerous Polish visitors.

2.   Climate
Poland is largely a country with a temperate climate. The confrontation of different air masses, the warm and humid sea air from over the Atlantic and the dry continental air from the Eurasian continent give rise to frequent daily and annual changes of weather.

Generally, temperate sea climate dominates in the northern and western part of Poland, with mild, moist winters and cool summers, as well as high precipitation. The eastern part of Poland experiences more continental features of its climate with severe winters and hotter and dryer summers.

The warmest regions include the Silesian Lowland in the southwest and the western part of the Sandomierz Valley in the southeast, the coldest region being the Suwalki Region (Suwalszczyzna) in the northeast of the country.

The winters in Poland, mostly warm and humid, can at times be quite frosty, with temperatures dropping to below -10oC. In January the average temperature ranges from -1oC in the west to -4.5oC in the east and -5.5oC in the northeast. The summers are rather mild, with frequent rainfalls and thunderstorms. In July, the temperatures average 17oC in the north and 20oC in the south.

The highest annual rainfalls are in the mountains and on the upland plains. Maximum rainfall is recorded in the summer months.

3.   Population and Language

With a population amounting to 38,125,000 (31.12.2006), Poland is ranked 33rd in the world (0.6% of the world population), 9th in Europe (5.3% of the population of the continent), 6th in the European Union (8.4% of the EU-25). The average population density is 122 inhabitants per sq. kilometre.

A dominant share of the population (61.3%) lives in towns and cities. The biggest of them is the capital of Warsaw, with 1,702,100 inhabitants (4.5% of the country's total population). Other major cities include Lodz (760,300), Krakow (756,300), Wroclaw (634,600), Poznan (564,900), Gdansk (456,700), Szczecin (409,100), Bydgoszcz (363,500), Lublin (353,500) and Katowice (314,500).

Males account for 48% of the Polish population, while females for 52%. The average male life expectancy is 70.5 years, while that for females is 78.9 years. Poland is a homogenous country in terms of ethnicity. Minorities account for less than 2% of the population. The most numerous are Germans, Roma, Ukrainians and Belarussians; there are also Jews, Lithuanians, Slovaks and other ethnic minorities. Roman Catholicism is by far the dominant religion in Poland (some 90%). The official language is Polish.

4.   Political System

In accordance with the Constitution of 2 April 1997, the state governing authorities are:
  • Legislative: the Sejm (Parliament) and the Senate of the Republic of Poland,
  • Executive: the President of the Republic of Poland and the Council of Ministers,
  • Judiciary: an independent court system.
The Sejm, the lower chamber of the Parliament, is elected to a four-year term of office in general, equal, direct and proportional vote. It consists of 460 deputies. Subordinate to the Sejm is the Supreme Chamber of Control – the State’s highest auditing body. The bodies of the Sejm include the Presidium of the Sejm, the Council of Seniors and parliamentary committees. Parliamentary caucuses are the main form of the political organisation of deputies within the Sejm.

The Senate, the upper chamber, is together with the Sejm elected to a four-yearterm of office in general elections. The Senate consists of 100 senators. Constitution specifies major issues on which the Sejm and the Senate, acting together as the National Assembly, debate on sessions presided over by the Marshal (Speaker) of the Sejm.

In October 2007, general elections to the Sejm and Senate took place in Poland, won by the right wing. The largest number of votes was received by the Civic Platform (PO) which formed a majority coalition with the Polish Peasant Party (PSL). The President is elected to a five-year-term of office in general, equal and direct vote, and can be re-elected only once. He is the supreme representative of the state, monitoring the observance of the Constitution and the security of the state. The President appoints the Prime Minister and, upon the motion of the latter, the ministers. The executive body for the President is the Chancellery. Since 23 December 2005, the President of Poland was Mr Lech Kaczyński till tragic airplane accident of April 10th, 2010.  Curretly the President of Poland is Mr. Bronislaw Komorowski.

The Council of Ministers consists of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (the Prime Minister) as its head, Deputy Prime Ministers, and ministers. The Government is responsible for the domestic and foreign policy of the state. In particular, it secures the implementing of legal acts, controls the government administration, draws up the budget and supervises its execution. The Sejm gives a vote of confidence for the government.