July 21, 2014

1157 POLAND - The map and the flag of the country

Located between Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) and Lithuania, Poland is an almost unbroken plain reaching from the Baltic Sea in the north, to the Sudetes and Carpathian Mountains in the south. Within that plain, terrain variations run in bands east to west. The Baltic coast has two natural harbors (Gdańsk Bay and Bay of Pomerania), and the northeastern region, with more than 2,000 lakes, is densely wooded and sparsely populated. Its capital and largest city is Warsaw, established on the Vistula River at about 1300 by the Płock prince Bolesław II of Masovia, known as the city of palaces, royal gardens and grand parks.

Throughout Late Antiquity, many distinct ethnic groups populated the regions of what is now Poland, their ethnicity and linguistic affiliation being hotly debated. Many historians trace the establishment of a Polish state to 966, when Mieszko I, ruler of a territory roughly coextensive with that of present-day Poland, converted to Christianity. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025, and played an important role in the region in the following centuries, under the Piast dynasty. Beginning with the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila (Władysław II Jagiełło), the Jagiellonian dynasty (1386-1572) formed the Polish-Lithuanian union, cemented in 1569 by signing the Union of Lublin, which marked the birth of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It gradually ceased to exist in the years 1772-1795, when the Polish territory was partitioned among Prussia, the Russian Empire, and Austria.

Poland regained its independence (as the Second Polish Republic) at the end of WWI, in 1918. In September 1939 WWII started with the invasions of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Since 1945 the Soviet Union instituted a communist government in country, analogous to much of the rest of the Eastern Bloc. During the Revolutions of 1989, the Marxist-Leninist government was overthrown and Poland adopted a new constitution establishing itself as a democracy under the name Rzeczpospolita Polska, often referred to as the Third Polish Republic.

Poland, with a climate mostly temperate, belongs to three Palearctic Ecoregions of the continental forest spanning Central and Northern European temperate broadleaf and mixed forest ecoregions as well as the Carpathian montane conifer forest. Many animals that have since died out in other parts of Europe still survive in Poland, such as the wisent, the brown bear, the gray wolf, the Eurasian lynx, the moose, and the beaver. It is also the most important breeding ground for a variety of European migratory birds. Despite the vast destruction the country experienced during WWII, Poland managed to preserve much of its cultural wealth. There are 14 heritage sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage and 54 Historical Monuments and many objects of cultural heritage.

Poland is a unitary state divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, named voivodeships (provinces), largely based on the country's historic regions: Greater Poland, Kuyavian-Pomeranian, Lesser Poland, Łódź, Lower Silesian, Lublin, Lubusz, Masovian, Opole, Podlaskie, Pomeranian, Silesian, Subcarpathian, Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross), Warmian-Masurian, and West Pomeranian. Poland's high-income economy is considered to be one of the healthiest of the post-Communist countries and is one of the fastest growing within the EU.

The flag of Poland consists of two horizontal stripes of equal width, the upper one white and the lower one red. A variant of the flag with the national coat of arms in the middle of the white stripe is legally reserved for official use abroad and at sea. White and red were officially adopted as national colors in 1831. They are of heraldic origin and derive from the tinctures (colors) of the coats of arms of the two constituent nations of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, i.e. the White Eagle of Poland and the Pursuer of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a white knight riding a white horse, both on a red shield. The national flag was officially adopted in 1919. The symbol of an eagle appeared for the first time on the coins made during the reign of Bolesław I (992-1025), initially as the coat of arms of the Piast dynasty. Its recent shape, accepted in 1927, was designed by professor Zygmunt Kaminski and was based on the eagle's form from the times of Stefan Batory's reign.

About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting All Saints Collegiate Church in Sieradz, is part of the series Polish Cities, about which I wrote here. The second is part of the series Signs of the Zodiac, about which I wrote here.

Poland - Wikipedia

sender: Agnieszka
sent from Gdańsk (Pomerania / Poland), on 23.05.2014

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