Early history

  • 966: Poland is established as a sovereign state, with Mieszko I as its first recorded ruler.
  • 1025: Bolesław I the Brave becomes the first king of Poland.
  • 1385: Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, signs a document known as the Union of Krewo shortly before his marriage to Poland's Queen Jadwiga.
  • 1569: The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is established, officially uniting the two nations. At its peak, the Commonwealth was the largest country in Europe and one of its most powerful.
  • 1648–1666: The Commonwealth is invaded by Sweden and Russia in a period of military campaigns known as the Deluge. During this time, the Commonwealth loses its status as a powerful political entity and a third of its population. The material damage is extensive, with more than 300 towns and cities razed by Swedish troops.
  • 1772: The First Partition of Poland takes place, with Russia, Prussia and Austria dividing and annexing significant portions of the country. The Commonwealth loses a third of its territory and another third of its population.
  • 1793: The Second Partition of Poland takes place, with Russia and Prussia taking over and dividing over half of the remaining Polish territory.
  • 1795: The Commonwealth is entirely erased from the map, with its little remaining territory divided among Russia, Prussia, and Austria.
  • 1807: In an effort to rally support among the Polish, Napoleon creates the Duchy of Warsaw, a client state of France, from some of the partitioned Polish territories.
  • 1815: After Napoleon's exile, the Duchy of Warsaw is once more divided among Russia, Prussia and Austria, with the bulk falling under Russian rule. Russia establishes the Congress Kingdom of Poland, a theoretically semi-independent state, entirely under the control of Russia in practice.
  • 1848: The Poznań Uprising occurs in the Prussian Partition in reaction to the Prussian leadership's growing anti-Polish rhetoric, wilful erasure of Polish culture and language, and attempts to Germanise the Polish public. The rebellion ends when its leaders are captured and jailed.
  • 1863: One of many rebellions against Russian leadership, the January Uprising, is partitioned Poland's longest-lasting insurgency. Reprisals from Russia are harsh, including execution and exile. Despite an end to the overt rebellion, underground Polish society continues to foster change at a grassroots level through political involvement and other initiatives to retain the Polish language and culture.

20th century

  • 1918: Poland regains independence and forms the Second Polish Republic following the end of World War I and the collapse of the Russian Empire.
  • 1939: Germany invades Poland, marking the start of World War II. Shortly afterwards, the Soviet invasion of Poland begins. The two invading powers divide up the country as they had agreed in the secret provisions of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, signed between Stalin and Hitler in August 1939.
  • 1939: The Siege of Warsaw takes place as German forces attack Poland's capital, resulting in significant damage and numerous casualties. Despite fierce resistance, Warsaw eventually surrenders, leading to German occupation.
  • 1940: Stalin approved a series of mass executions of nearly 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia, which became known as the Katyn massacre, named after the Katyn Forest, where German forces first discovered the mass graves. The Soviet Union has denied responsibility for the massacres until 1990 when it officially acknowledges them and condemns the NKVD killings and the subsequent cover-up by the Soviet government.
  • 1941: Operation Reinhard, a secret German plan for the mass murder of the Jewish people, is put into action as 'extermination centres' are built throughout German-occupied Poland. By the war's end, approximately 3 million Jewish Poles lost their lives.
  • 1944: The Warsaw Uprising, a major operation by the Polish resistance, aims to liberate Warsaw from German occupation but ultimately fails. The city suffers massive destruction, and thousands of lives are lost in the process.
  • 1945: World War II ends, with Poland's total fatality rate estimated at 5 million. Post-war Poland becomes a communist state under Soviet control. 
  • There are significant changes to Poland's borders after the war. Large parts of eastern Poland are ceded to the Soviet Union and today form part of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. Poland is instead given large sections of East Germany.
  • 1956: Protests and uprisings against the communist government occur, including the Poznań 1956 protests.
  • 1978: Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyła is elected as Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in over 450 years. His papacy inspires hope and contributes to Poland's eventual transition away from communism.
  • 1980: The Solidarity movement forms as a trade union and social movement that becomes a key player in the fall of the communist government.
  • 1981–1983: In response to growing political opposition, martial law is instituted by the communist government.
  • 1989: The Round Table Talks, negotiations between the communist government and the opposition, lead to the first partially free elections in Poland since World War II. This marks the beginning of the end of communist rule in the country.
  • 1999: Poland joins Nato.

21st century

  • 2004: Poland joins the European Union.
  • 2010: The Smolensk air disaster occurs when a Polish aircraft carrying President Lech Kaczyński and other top officials crashes near Smolensk, Russia, killing all on board. The tragedy has a significant impact on Polish politics and society.
  • 2015: Andrzej Duda is elected as President of Poland, marking a shift in Poland towards right-wing populism.
  • 2020: Poland's first case of Covid-19 is identified. Over the next few years, the pandemic sweeps across the nation, infecting more than 6 million and killing 119,000. Lockdowns are instituted throughout the pandemic, and the economy experiences significant setbacks.
  • 2020–2021: Large-scale protests erupt in Poland as the government tightens already restrictive abortion laws. The demonstrations reveal deep social and political tensions and spark a debate on women's rights in the country.
  • 2022: Over 10 million Ukrainian refugees flee to Poland following Russia's renewed invasion and land grab in Ukraine. Poland becomes one of Ukraine's most vocal supporters within the EU.

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