Population: 38.6 million (July 2004).
Religions: Roman Catholic 95% (about 75% practicing), Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and other 5%.
Ethnic groups: Polish 96.7%, German 0.4%, Belarusian 0.1%, Ukrainian 0.1%, other 2.7%.
Nationality: Noun: Pole(s). Adjective: Polish.
Country name: Republic of Poland (local: Rzeczpospolita Polska).
Government type: Republic .
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.
Terrain: mostly flat plain; mountains along southern border.
Total area: 312,685 km˛.
Coastline: 491 km.
Highest point: Rysy 2,499 m.
Climate: temperate with cold, cloudy, moderately severe winters with frequent precipitation; mild summers with frequent showers and thundershowers.
Ports and harbors: Gdansk, Gdynia, Gliwice, Kolobrzeg, Szczecin, Swinoujscie, Ustka, Warsaw, Wroclaw.
Poland 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 currently suffers low GDP growth and high unemployment. 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 the European Union in 2004.
Poland is an ancient nation that was conceived around 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.
Economy - 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. The privatization of small and medium 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 structural problems, 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 privatization of Poland's remaining state sector, the reduction of state employment, and an overhaul of the tax code to incorporate the growing gray economy and farmers, most of whom pay no tax. The government's determination to enter the EU has shaped most aspects of its economic policy and new legislation; in a nationwide referendum in November 2003, 77% of the voters voted in favor of Poland's EU accession, now scheduled for May 2004. Improving Poland's export competitiveness and containing the internal budget deficit are top priorities. Due to political uncertainty, the zloty has recently depreciated in relation to the euro, while currencies of the other euro-zone aspirants have been appreciating. GDP per capita equals that of the three Baltic states.
Currency: zloty (PLN).
Industries: machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, textiles.
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