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name originates with the western Slavic tribe called the Polanie. This tribe was
likely named after the lands they occupied, which were large flat fields; the word
for field being pole.
Poland stretches a great distance in Europe and due to the southern mountains, the
northern plains of the country have been bypassed by people for centuries. This
flat land made the region ideal for settlement, trade, and wars, but more importantly,
an incredible variety of people over time. Eventually it was the Slavs who made
the lands home.
The Slavic Poles have ruled the lands for some time, but the borders of Poland have
also regularly changed. The similarities in all these regions is that in the south
there are mountains and in the north the Baltic Sea reached by the plains. These
plains meant historically the people made a living through agriculture and the raising
of animals. However, the easy pathway east and west, meant trade soon took over.
Poland became a land of outside influences as thoughts, ideas, and technology swept
across the lands, both originating in Poland and arriving there. Trade expanded
as did communication and technology. One of these outside influences that has created
the modern culture of Poland came in the form of Catholicism. This religion changed
life and priorities in Poland, while also forging new allies. Even today Catholicism
is incredibly important to the Pole as most people attend mass on a daily basis
and refrain from eating meat on Fridays.
Another incredibly important outside influence came with the immigration of Jews
to the country. Over time this population grew and introduced numerous cultural
aspects to the people, from foods and lifestyle to business.
Over time the size and power of Poland grew and shrank, but the culture remained
tied to their roots as many people lived off the land and Catholicism was perhaps
the most important and central aspect of life. However, being lost politically as
the country was taken over by the neighboring countries of Russia, Prussia, and
Austria, Poland gained further outside influences and foods.
In more recently history the country has returned from political obscurity as it
regained statehood, then was engulfed in World War II. WWII changed the culture
forever as most of the country's Jewish population was killed or fled the country.
After the war, the country fell under communist rule, again limiting the cultural
growth. However, with the election of a Polish pope in Pope John Paul II, the country
maintained ties to the west and their culture relied heavily dependent on Catholicism
as the communist influences were rejected and few stuck after the fall of this
government in 1989.
Today Poland remains tied to its past culturally as Catholicism remains at the core
of the people. Many people are still dependent on the lands as farming and agriculture
are popular throughout the country. However, the cities are surging in population
as the youth are becoming more educated and urbanized, with many cities becoming,
or continuing their role as cultural and creative hubs. The country's recent
entry into the European Union has also changed the economy, education, and population
as many young people are moving abroad for higher paying jobs, but domestic salaries
are quickly rising to catch up.
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