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Europe, Poland

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland (Polish Rzeczpospolita Polska), country in Central Europe. Communists ruled Poland from 1945 until 1989, when political and economic unrest among Poles resulted in the collapse of the regime and its replacement by a non-Communist coalition. Poland's capital and largest city is Warsaw.

The name Polska (Poland), applied in the early 11th century, comes from an ancient Slavic tribe known as the Polanie (field or plains dwellers), who settled in the lowlands between the Odra (Oder) and Wisla (Vistula) rivers sometime after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Poland, then united with Lithuania, was one of the major European powers under the Jagiellonian dynasty. When the dynasty came to an end in 1572, Poland entered a long period of decline, culminating in the partition of the country between Russia, Austria, and Prussia in 1772, 1793, and 1795.

Poland was again established as a sovereign state after World War I (1914-1918). It was partitioned a fourth time in 1939 by Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). After World War II (1939-1945), Polish territory suffered a substantial net loss, as the land ceded to the USSR in the east was nearly double that acquired from Germany in the west.

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