Area Handbook Series. Poland: A Country Study.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC FEDERAL RESEARCH DIV
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A NEW ERA BEGAN for the nation of Poland in 1989, when the last communist regime ended unexpectedly and the Poles began to explore the potentials and pitfalls of true independence. That exploration process, which was accompanied by a firm commitment to democratic government, proved more chaotic and ambiguous than most Poles expected it meant recovering long-dormant political and social traditions and reshaping them to meet Polands needs as a capitalist member of post-Soviet Europe. It also meant inventing a political structure to accommodate the numerous interest groups that emerged from behind the communist monolith. The cultural heritage of Poland, and the sense of nationhood that accompanies that heritage, evolved in a continuous process that began before the year A.D. 1000. Over the same period, the nations history was a long series of dramatic shifts that included changes of dynasties, drastic realignment of frontiers, foreign invasion and occupation, and repeated partition by more powerful neighbors. Especially in the era that followed the collapse of Polands 400-year federation with neighboring Lithuania at the end of the eighteenth century, the political and physical geography of Europe played a key role in Polands fate. For the next two centuries, Poland was surrounded and often dominated by powerful expansionist Austrian, German, and Russian states. Polands flat topography and central location invited invasion and made it strategically important during the many wars among European powers.
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