Located in the heart of Europe, Poland has undergone massive social, economic, and political change since the collapse of communism in 1989. It joined the EU in 2004.
Geography: Lowlands, part of the North European Plain, cover most of the country. The Tatra Mountains run along the southern border.
Climate: Rainfall peaks during the hot summers. Cold winters with snow, especially in mountains.
People and Society: Ethnic homogeneity masks a number of tensions. Secular liberals criticize the semi-official status of the Roman Catholic Church, and emerging wealth disparities are resented by those not profiting from the free market. The German minority in the west is growing more assertive.
The Economy: Foreign investment reflects the country’s large potential market. Rapid privatization. Heavy industries dominate, though services growing. Plans to join euro in 2012.
Insight: Wild wisent (European bison) live in the Bialowieza Forest straddling the Poland–Belarus border
Official Name: Republic of Poland
Date of Formation: 1918
Population: 38.1 million
Total Area: 120,728 sq. miles (312,685 sq. km)
Density: 324 people per sq. mile
Religions: Roman Catholic 93%, other and nonreligious 5%, Orthodox Christian 2%
Ethnic Mix: Polish 97%, other 2%, Silesian 1%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Zloty = 100 groszy