Monday, February 13, 2006

History of Poland

History of Poland. This is a brief overview to the history of the European nation of Poland.

Wikipedia notes, "The Republic of Poland (Polish: Rzeczpospolita Polska) is a country located in Central Europe, between Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and the Baltic Sea, Lithuania, and Russia (in the form of the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave) to the north."

From the site:

Poland's written history begins with the reign of Mieszko I, who accepted Christianity for himself and his kingdom in AD 966. Poland had hardly begun to play a part in history when it acquired extraordinary power. This was in the reign of the famous Boleslaw Chrobry (992-1025), the eldest son of the first Polish ruler. His dominions included all the lands from the Baltic to the country beyond the Carpathians, and from the River Oder to the provinces beyond the Vistula. He had at his command, ready for instant service, a well-equipped army of 20,000 men. In spite of his great power, Boleslaw continued to pay the customary tribute to Germany. By his discreet diplomacy he was successful in obtaining the consent of the pope, as well as of the German emperor, to the erection of an archiepiscopal see at Gnesen, and thus the Polish Church was relieved of its dependence upon German archbishops. To emphasize Poland's independence of Germany, Boleslaw assumed the title of king, being crowned by the newly created archbishop of Gnesen in 1024. The clergy in Poland were at that time exclusively of foreign birth; intimate relations between them and the people were therefore impossible. The latter did not become enthusiastic about the new religion, nor yet did they return to paganism, for severe penalties, such as knocking out the teeth for violating the precept of fasting, maintained obedience to the clergy among the people.

After the death of Chrobry disaster befell the Poles. Their neighbours attacked them on all sides. The son of Boleslaw, Mieczyslaw II (1025-34), unable to cope with his enemies, yielded allegiance to the emperor and lost the title of king. After his death there was an interregnum (1034-40) marked by a series of violent revolutions. Hosts of rebellious peasants traversed the country from end to end, furiously attacked castles, churches, and convents, and murdered noblemen and ecclesiastics. In Masovia paganism was re-established. Casimir, a son of Mieczyslaw II, surnamed the Restorer, recovered the reins of government, with the aid of Henry VIII, restored law and order, and rooted out idolatry. At his death the sovereignty devolved upon his son, Boleslaw II, Smialy (1058-79). This ruler was favoured by fortune in his warlike undertakings. His success at last led him to enter upon a conflict with the emperor. Conditions at the time were favourable to his securing political independence. The Emperor Henry IV was engaged in a struggle for supremacy with Pope Gregory VII, who allied himself with the vassal princes hostile to the emperor, among them Boleslaw Smialy, to whom he sent the kingly crown. Poland revolted from the empire, and the Polish Church began a reform in accordance with Gregory's decrees. By the leading nobles Boleslaw was thoroughly hated as a despot; the masses of the people murmured under the burden of incessant wars; the clergy opposed the energetic reformation of the Church, which the king was carrying on, their opposition being particularly directed against Gregory's decree enforcing the celibacy of the clergy. The dissatisfied elements rose and placed themselves under the protection of Bohemia, Bishop Stanislaw even placed the king under the ban of the Church, while the king declared the bishop guilty of high treason for allying himself with Bohemia and the emperor. The king's sentence was terribly executed at Cracow, where the bishop was done to death and hewn in pieces. In the civil war which ensued Boleslaw was worsted and compelled to take refuge in Hungary.

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