Poland is a mostly temperate country, warm in summer and cool in winter. Along the Baltic coast temperatures rarely exceed the mid-20s even in the height of summer, but will frequently fall to negative temperatures in winter.
Some of history’s most famous scientists were Polish. Among them were astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who first proposed the heliocentric universe; and Marie Curie, whose achievements the development of the theory of radioactivity, and the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, for which work she won two Nobel Prizes.
Poland is also associated with the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during World War II. Hitler’s invasion of Poland was the event that triggered the war, and Germany subsequently established six concentration camps across Poland. The Nazis killed well over 3.5 million people in the camps, including Jewish and Roma people, and Soviet prisoners of war.
The Polish state was established around 966, upon the conversion to Christianity of then-ruler Mieszko I. In 1109, Poland’s reigning monarch divided Poland’s territories amongst his sons, a move that fragmented the country for centuries. Several successive Polish dynasties attempted to reunify the country, and finally in 1320, Wladyslaw I was able to seize the throne and achieve this objective.
During the Middle Ages Poland was involved in conflicts with Sweden and Russia, and in the 17th century, was invaded by Cossacks and later by Swedish forces. Famine and disease killed nearly a third of the country’s population, and forced Poland into serious decline.
Taking advantage of Poland’s weakened state, Austria, Prussia, and Russia each seized multiple Polish territories, and it was not until after World War I that Poland regained independence.
After several years of German occupation during World War II, however, the country was devastated once more. When the war was over, rigged elections forced Poland into communist rule until 1989 when a new democratic government was elected.
Poland’s moderate climate makes it somewhat unique in Central Europe, as this climate is what has allowed for the evolution of a highly diverse group of plants and animals. Around 30% of the country is covered by forests, with large swathes of coniferous forests comprised mainly of pine, and deciduous forests of elm, beech, and birch. Poland’s forests are unique, as they include some of the last remaining sections of the primeval forests that once covered much of Europe, with immense trees that are hundreds of years old.
Land mammals include the wild boar; the brown bear; the wisent, or European bison; the European lynx; the European elk; and the grey wolf. Poland is one of the few remaining European countries with the large and diverse forests that are needed to support grey wolves in large numbers. The grey wolf population numbers around 800, and most live in the Carpathian Mountains, and in forests in the western region of Poland.
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