Poland Paid High Price for Freedom

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), May 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Poland Paid High Price for Freedom


Poles belong to the Slavonic group of nationalities located in the Central and Eastern part of Europe. Name of the Polish statehood was derived from name of ``Polanie''-most mighty group among Slavonic tribes living on the territory of present Poland.

Poland has been finally founded as a country in the half of 10th Century. According to historic data's Polanian prince Mieszko had been baptized (966-marriage with Czech princess Dubrawka) and christianized Poland in the Rome rite of Catholic Church. From this time Poland has been traditionally seen as a ``catholic country''.

Poland under reign of early Piast dynasty consisted of provinces of ``Great Poland'' (the nest of Polish statehood), ``Little Poland'' (Cracow region), Silesia (Wroclaw region), Pomerania, and Mazovia (where Warsaw - present Poland's capital is located). During 12th & 13th centuries Kingdom of Poland got weak due to increasing division of many local duchies.

Many provinces were incorporated in fact to Holy Empire of the German Nation and partly germanized (as Silesia or west Pomerania). Poland restored successfully its integrity and power - especially during the reign of the last king from Piast dynasty Kazimierz Wielki (Casimirus the Great, died 1374).

Due to marriage of the young Polish queen Jadwiga to Lithuenian Grand Prince Jagiello Poland concluded an union with Grand Duchy of Lithuenia (1386) and Jagiello had been elected as a Polish king Wladyslaw II-founder of new Jagiellonian dynasty on the Polish throne. Under reign of king Wladyslaw II Jagiello (1386-1434) Poland united with Lithuania and became the largest country in Europe, from the Baltic to Black Sea. In 1410 joint Polish-Lithuanian army (supported as well by Russian and Czech regiments) defeated at one of the largest battles in Middle Ages history over Teutonic Order army near village of Grunwald. Threat of the Teutonic Order aggression was definitely broken in 1525 when last Great Master paid homage to Polish king Zygmunt Stary (Sigismundus the Old) and had dissolved the Order.

Grunwald's victory and many inter-dynasty marriages strengthened the power of Poland. King Jagiello's successors were continuing of such a policy (partly successfully) and made a real effort in foundation of the system of the democracy (for nobility) sharing its power with Parliament with two houses (created in 1493).

Law adopted in 1430 ``Neminem captivabimus...'' (Polish ``Habeas Corpus Act'') guaranteed personal immunity to the gentry-nobody could be apprehended without legal permission from the court.

In 1505 Parliament adopted constitution ``Nihil Novi'' which enacted that nothing new could be decided without Parliament's consent.

The 15th and 16th centuries have been called the ``Golden Age'' in Polish history.

It was a period of research activity of many famous scientist as Mikolaj Kopernik (Copernicus) who discovered that Earth revolves around Sun and others scholar, writers, artists or architect (including foreigners attracted to Poland from many European countries).

During this period of religion diversion in the Christianity and painful persecution Poland became a ``Kingdom without stakes''. The spirit of the deep tolerance was figured perfectly out by last Jagiellonian dynasty king Zygmunt August (Sigismundus Augustus) saying ``I am the king of the people-not the judge of their consciences''.

Poland and Lithuania concluded also new, more appropriate union in Lublin (1569)-formed a state called the Polish Commonwealth, known as ``The Republic of Dual Nation''.

After death of the last Jagiellonian king, Polish nobility had decided to elect new monarch-so last period of the existence of Poland before partitions has been called ``The Elected Monarchy''. ``Free election'' of the king became one of the essential privileges of the Polish nobility. …

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