“”Once a society of hunter-gatherers, where the men stalked wild berries and the women died collecting buffalo from the field, the nation of Poland is better known today for a number of cultural achievements, including the screen-door submarine, the glass-bottom locomotive, and the cordless extension cord.
|—Our Dumb World|
Europe's punching bag a country in Central Europe situated between the Baltic Sea in the north and the Sudetes and Carpathian mountain ranges in the south. Its largest city and its capital is Warsaw (Polish: Warszawa), but historically the capital of the Kingdom of Poland has been Krakow (Polish: Kraków), now the second largest city in Poland. The Piast-dynasty prince Mieszko I invented Poland as an (un)official state in the second half of the 10th century.
- 1 History
- 2 Language
- 3 Economy
- 4 Society
- 5 Politics
- 6 Local conspiracy theories
- 7 Cool Polish stuff
- 8 Uncool Polish stuff
- 9 Weird stuff that's not actually true
- 10 Notes
- 11 Przypisy
Throughout its history, Poland has been at war with Germany, the Ottoman Empire, Austria, Russia, Sweden and just about every other country that could get there, which has resulted in abnormally high concentrations of toughness in the surviving populace.[note 1] Even Shakespeare has Denmark at war with Poland in Hamlet. The end of the 18th century saw Poland pull a Houdini: neighbouring superpowers disappeared it from the map.
One hundred twenty-three years, several uprisings, and a minor incident in the Balkans later, it's back, putting the pieces back together and uniting three vastly different former imperial provinces that were former Polish territories. The party was crashed by Nazis and Soviets in 1939, who made all previous miseries look like minor inconveniences. Twenty percent of Poland's citizens died over the next six years, and the country was the location of several concentration camps under Nazi occupation, of which Auschwitz and Treblinka are perhaps the most notorious. Poles really, really dislike calling them "Polish death camps"—it's like calling 9/11 an American terrorist attack.
Since World War II and the imposition of a communist government by the Soviets, with all the great advantages it brings,[note 2] Poland has been (relatively) at peace, apart from anti-government protests and riots in the fifties, seventies and eighties. Eventually the Communists, after holding power for 45 years, saw sense and agreed to share power with other parties in 1989. Though intended to maintain their control over the government, it turned into a peaceful revolution that effectively initiated a collapse of other communist regimes and contributed to the combustion of the Soviet bloc. Lech Wałęsa, leader of the trade union Solidarity that was the driving force behind reforms and ultimately the regaining of full independence, became President and won the Nobel Prize for peace. Then he up and lost the next election to a post-communist candidate, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, after trying to micromanage politics and encouraging power plays at the highest echelons of power.
Polish is very hard to learn due to its complex grammar and a proliferation of unpronounceable consonant clusters.[note 3] Nouns have one of five grammatical genders and inflect by seven cases, adjectives inflect by six cases and seven genders, and numerals have an extra mixed-gender form. Verbs have one of two aspects, conjugate by gender, person, number, tense and mood, and have four different participle forms, with the full conjugation table sometimes containing over 100 entries. On the other hand, word stress is very consistent, falling on the penultimate syllable with just a few exceptions. There are also no long vowels or tones. Unlike English, it is possible to determine the pronunciation of almost all words from how they are written using just a few intuitive rules. Unlike German, it is usually easy to guess the grammatical gender of a noun based on consistent patterns.
Although the Polish alphabet is ordinary Latin with diacritics, the pronunciation is somewhat different. For example, the city of Łódź is actually pronounced /wuːt͡ɕ/, Wrocław is pronounced "Vrotswav", and kiełbasa is pronounced "kyewbasa". Somewhat annoyingly, the accepted standard for Latinizing Polish words is to drop all diacritics, which loses information—"ł" and "ż" sound nothing like "l" and "z". An egregious case is "łaska", meaning "grace" or "mercy", which after Latinization becomes "laska"—which can mean "cane", "babe", or "blowjob". The Latinized sentence "Zrob mi laske" can therefore mean either the mildly sarcastic "Zrób mi łaskę" ("Do me a favor") or the very direct "Zrób mi laskę" ("Give me a blowjob").
Like other Slavic languages, Polish has a very diverse vocabulary of vulgarities (though perhaps to a lesser extent than Russian), and it's possible to meaningfully communicate with sentences that are composed almost exclusively of swearwords.
The economy of Poland underwent a fairly successful transition from a centrally-planned to a market one, following a course known as "shock therapy"; however, the social costs of this transformation were very high, leading to the creation of a large underclass of people with little prospects for employment. It is now classified by the OECD as a high income economy. Poland recorded a positive GDP growth for every year and every quarter since 2003, and while the 2008 financial crisis brought a slowdown, it was the only European country not to experience recession.
The structure of the economy is similar to other countries of the European Union. The highest value exports are cars and automotive parts, most of them produced at plants belonging to foreign companies. The differentiating aspects are a strong agricultural sector specializing in poultry, milk and fruit products, and the extremely profitable government-controlled company KGHM, responsible for the development of Poland's vast copper and silver deposits.
The biggest problems of Poland's economy are low wages, despite long working hours and high labor productivity, and significant administrative obstacles to business. It was ranked 45th on the Doing Business 2014 ranking and 42nd on the Index of Economic Freedom. Furthermore, despite being the largest net recipient of European Union structural funds, Poland still suffers from relatively poor infrastructure.
Approximately 92% of electricity in Poland comes from coal. This causes the politicians to frequently endorse global warming denial and fight CO2 emission reduction initiatives at the European level.
Fully 93.52% of the population in Poland is ethnically Polish, thus making Poland one of Europe's most homogeneous countries. Slovaks, Hungarians, and Ukrainians are among the nation's most populous minority groups (which makes sense considering the fact all these nations border/are relatively close).
The majority of Poles identify with the Roman Catholic Church (whether practicing or by cultural background), and the late Pope John Paul II was Polish. However, Poles have a very unusual relationship with religion. There is a strong social pressure to receive Catholic sacraments (baptism, initiation, confirmation and marriage) and celebrate Catholic holidays, but little pressure to actually follow Church teaching. As a consequence, political influence of religion is considerably greater than its actual social influence.
Mirroring Western trends of falling religiosity, the Church is slowly losing popularity in Poland. The number of people who are devoutly religious is falling, as is regular church attendance. Perhaps most worryingly, a string of suicides among priests brings into question the ability of the Church to meet the needs of its own clergy. The authorities are apparently losing their grip on reality, as is the case with a high profile embarrassment by the leader of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
The exact number of Roman Catholics in Poland is unknown, as statistics are based on the number of people who have been baptized, regardless of whether they still believe or not. This is further complicated by the fact that there is a much stronger cultural pressure to receive Catholic sacraments (baptism, communion, marriage, etc.) than to actually believe and follow Church teaching. Based on church attendance and baptism records, the Polish Episcopal Conference estimates that on an average Sunday, 40% of Polish Catholics go to church, and 16% of them receive communion.
There were historically large numbers of Jews and Eastern Orthodox in Poland, and a much smaller number of Protestants. The Holocaust has virtually eradicated Jewish culture in Poland, and the change of borders and population transfers after World War II significantly reduced the Russian minority. Polish Jews who emigrated in time to avoid the Holocaust have been important in Israeli politics and culture—major Israeli figures such as David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres were born in Poland.
Religion in Polish law
Catholicism is de facto a state religion in Poland. Jesus Christ was even named King of Poland.
Although the Polish constitution says that the state "is neutral in the matters of religion and worldview", this is purely a legal fiction. The Catholic Church receives direct public funding, which in 2015 amounted to 118 million PLN ($31 million). This does not include subsidies for the renovation of historical churches and the salaries of religious teachers in public schools; the latter costed 1,34 billion PLN ($357 million) in 2014. Yes, you read that right—the law permits religious instruction in public schools as a regular subject, with grades awarded for adherence, ostensibly at the request of parents. The instructors are usually nuns and priests, but can also be laypeople. In practice, these lessons are usually not opt-in, but opt-out, and in smaller towns and villages children who have been opted out from them by their parents face discrimination. Official school ceremonies very often include a mass at the local church. After a cross was clandestinely put in 1997 in the main hall of the parliament by a group of highly religious MPs, it was not removed, and repeated legal attempts by left-wing parties to remove it were blocked.
Unlike most European countries, Poland has a blasphemy law. It allows suing people for a vaguely defined"'insult of religious feelings", and the possible punishments include jail time. Article 196 of the Polish Penal Code states that "Whoever offends the religious feelings of other persons by publicly disrespecting an object of religious worship or a place intended for performing public religious ceremonies shall be punished by fine, community service or jail time up to 2 years." In practice, the law is used by religious fundamentalists to legally harass people who publicly demonstrate their disregard for Catholicism; no one was ever prosecuted for insults against any other religion. When a pop star called the authors of the Bible heavy drinkers and potheads, she faced prison for up to two years, though it ended with a 5000 PLN (roughly $1500) fine. On the other hand, the leader of the metal band Behemoth tore apart a Bible during a concert, calling it a book of lies, and was found not guilty. The constitutional court, which was at the time lead by a Catholic activist that was rewarded with a papal medal for his efforts, ruled in 2015 that blasphemy law is in agreement with the constitution.
Apostasy from the Catholic Church does not result in being removed from Church records. The Polish Episcopate, i.e. the Church itself, determines the official procedure. The pre-2016 procedure used to be quite complicated, requiring the petitioner to have two adult witnesses. There have been cases of harassing apostates during the process. The apparent motivation for this is to swell the number of Catholics in the statistics, so that Church leaders can claim to represent the vast majority of the Polish population. The Supreme Administrative Court recently ruled that apostasy can only happen according to whatever procedure the Church invents, contradicting its earlier judgements.
Hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs
Although Poland contains almost no Muslims (save the Tatar minority), there has been an increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hate in recent years in Poland and Central Europe in general, primarily mediated through social media and far right hate sites on the Internet. This has already resulted in instances of hate crimes, such as beatings, arson and attempted desecration. In Białystok, unidentified perpetrators set fire to the door of a flat occupied by a Chechen refugee family. In Warsaw, a woman entered a mosque (one of only two in a city of almost 1.8 million inhabitants) and littered it with severed pig heads, apparently believing that this would render the mosque permanently unsuitable for worship. In Poznań, a Syrian was surrounded, insulted and brutally beaten on the street; ironically, he was a Christian.
Poland has a restrictive abortion law, which allows it only in cases of rape, incest, danger to mother's life or severe fetal malformations. However, access to legal abortions even in these cases is severely restricted, since many doctors refuse to perform it—either because they are Catholic or because they are afraid of harassment by pro-life activists. As a result, illegal abortion is rife, and abortion tourism is very common, since abortion on demand is legal in all neighboring countries. The demand is high enough that some foreign clinics are creating Polish hotlines and websites. The current government intends to further restrict abortion, banning it also in cases of severe malformations. There are plans to restrict abortion yet more and force rape victims and victims of incest to carry the babies. There is also a petition by another group to legalise abortion up to 12 weeks. This petition got over 200,000 signatures. The morning-after pill will require a doctor's prescription, giving doctors the means to punish patients for their sex lives. This will be especially hard on rape victims and women and girls living in remote areas.
There is no official recognition of LGBT rights. The Constitution restricts marriage to heterosexual couples, and the law does not recognize civil unions. Hate speech against sexual minorities is legal: the only protected categories are race, religion and nationality. Prosecution is possible on grounds of mere defamation, but it usually gets cancelled before it even begins—as most defamation accusations (unless you are a high-profile, famous person—still, even high-profile homosexuals such as Robert Biedroń can only dream about prosecuting those who offend him because of his homosexuality). Furthermore, governmental institutions actively obstruct the attempts of LGBT couples to marry abroad. However, violent crime against LGBT persons is rare, and the progressive segments of society are fairly accepting of homosexual people.
In disgusting fashion, Poland has "LGBT-ideology free zones" (Polish: Strefa wolna od ideologii LGBT), a primarily illegitimate (unenforcable by law) way to stigmatize and discriminate against LGBT people.
Interestingly, despite how religious it has been historically, Poland has never had any anti-sodomy law not related to prostitution. Homosexual prostitution was made legal in 1969. Procuring remains illegal.
The major themes of Polish cuisine are soups, breads, groats, root vegetables, cured meats, acidic preserves (usually pickled), and sweet fruit preserves. The national dish is bigos, a hunters' stew made from sauerkraut, various meats and sausages, mushrooms, and honey. Items better known abroad include pierogi (crescent-shaped dumplings with savoury or sweet fillings), pączki (deep-fried donuts), and kiełbasa (spicy smoked sausages made from coarsely ground meat). Although these are tasty enough, avoid the latter two if you wish to avoid coronaries.
Traditional Polish alcohols include vodka, alcoholic fruit infusions called nalewka (similar to Russian nastoyka), and mead. However, statistics indicate an ongoing shift in consumption from strong spirits to beer and wine. Poles consider themselves tougher drinkers than other Europeans and weaker than Russians, with many popular jokes incorporating this stereotype. However, although high in absolute numbers, average recorded alcohol consumption in Poland is in fact lower than EU average and lower than in all of its neighbours.
Poland is the place of origin of a few staple dishes of Jewish cuisine, including the bagel.
The left-wing/right-wing split in Poland is defined by social issues. The right wing is identified with Catholic social doctrine, while the left wing is identified with secularism.
The following parties have MPs after the October 2015 election:
- Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS, Law and Justice): The Cancer. Far-right, nationalistic party with xenophobic tendencies that includes many outright paranoiacs and Catholic fanatics. It can be best describes as a personality cult of Jarosław Kaczyński. Controls a large propaganda system (websites, newspapers, magazines, a TV channel and now also the entirety of public media, which were quickly purged of anyone even remotely critical of PiS). Combines extreme social conservatism matching Catholic doctrine and leftist economic policy of the wishful-thinking variety. At one point, all of its MPs voted for a total ban on abortion, and its proposal for an in-vitro fertilization bill included jail sentences for doctors. The bad news is that, with a majority in parliament, they will rule for eight years and send Poles further back in time than Marty McFly. The good thing is that no one will believe their excuses if they fuck up (and they most certainly will). Already ruled between 2005 and 2007; the term was cut short by a massive scandal related to misuse of a newly-established anti-corruption unit as political police. Jarosław Kaczyński is a de facto supreme ruler of Poland, since the president, the prime minister, and all Law and Justice MPs are completely obedient to his orders. At the same time, he did not assume any public office, leaving him completely unaccountable to the public.
- Platforma Obywatelska (PO, Civic Platform): The Boring Moderates. A centrist party with moderate positions, pro-European and promoting a non-adversarial foreign policy. Ruled between 2007 and 2015, during which time Poland had the fastest-growing economy in Europe. Now the largest party in opposition. Its downfall can be traced back to several key members leaving to take roles in European institutions; long-time leader Donald Tusk received the post of the President of the European Council, and left the party to Ewa Kopacz, an uncharismatic speaker who has patently failed to inspire voters. The party is still socially conservative, however, but less so than PiS.
- Kukiz'15: The Madhouse. Self-styled as a "citizen's movement" rather than a political party, this group won almost 9% of the vote despite not having any political program. The leader, Paweł Kukiz, is a former rockman with an explosive temper and very inconsistent views. Because the party is highly disorganized, their electoral lineup was a true curiosity gallery and featured a gangsta rapper, anti-vax activists and open neo-Nazis. Nine of his elected MPs signed a "National Contract" requiring them to uphold "cultural and ethnic integrity" and support "militarization of the Nation".
- .Nowoczesna (.N, .Modern): The Robber Barons. Neoliberal party formed by prominent economist Ryszard Petru. Supports tax breaks for businesses, flat tax, privatization and abolishing the government subsidy for political parties. Also supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (PSL, Polish People's Party): Power-Thirsty Farmers. An agrarian party that represents Poland's small farmers. Unfortunately, it often does so to the detriment of large farmers, who produce a far larger share of the crops. They have a reputation for rampant nepotism and a lack of standards—they'll enter a coalition with pretty much anyone. Barely passed the electoral threshold in 2015, to the dismay of practically everyone except PSL members. Remains much stronger in local elections.
The following notable parties have no MPs:
- Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (SLD, Democratic Left Alliance): The Jaded Commies. Left-wing party formed on the basis of the PZPR communist party that ruled Poland up to 1989. Recently far more interested in internal struggles and holding on to their dwindling political power than convincing someone to vote for it. Ruled between 2001 and 2005, when it was involved in several corruption scandals, such as the Rywin affair and the Orlen affair. Most of its members are anticlerical, but not as anticlerical as Your Movement. In the 2015 election, formed a coalition with TR and the Greens, which means its parliamentary threshold was 8% instead of 5%. This might have seemed like a good idea to blackmail voters to vote for them at the expense of Razem, but ultimately resulted in a parliament without any left-wing parties and absolute power for the PiS.
- Koalicja Odnowy Rzeczypospolitej Wolność i Nadzieja (KORWiN, Coalition for the Restoration of the Republic—Freedom and Hope): Crazy Fogey's One-Man Show. Headed by Janusz Korwin-Mikke, who is very much like Poland's Ron Paul, including fanatical online supporters known as korwiniści (Korwinists) or kuce (referring to ponytail hairdoes associated with the group; the word also means "ponies" in Polish) and associations with fascists. Policy-wise, he is a radical conservative libertarian. The party is so much a one-man show that it says so even in the name. Janusz can't even describe his grocery shopping without mentioning Hitler (he says "Hitler" more often than an average Pole says "kurwa"), rape, paedophilia, insulting the interviewer or doing something similarly controversial. He has a passionate hatred of communists and "leftists", blaming "socialist ideology" for every crime ever committed. This includes the Holocaust, since he considers Hitler a socialist (though at the same time he claims Hitler didn't know about the Holocaust and that Poles had it better under Nazi German occupation than now). He is a fan of Ayn Rand, having called her "the greatest American political writer". We could go on, but the guy is so crazy he merits a separate article.
- Razem (Together): A New Hope. Social-democratic party in the style of Western Europe. Managed to win 3.9% of the vote despite being formed just a few months before the election and having no wealthy sponsors (unlike .Modern, which was formed in a similar timeframe but was bankrolled by prominent businessmen). Its flagship postulates are the strengthening of labor-law protections, support for a deeply progressive income tax with a top bracket of 75%, government investment in housing for rent (equivalent to council houses in the UK) and social equality. Formally leaderless. Its support received a large last-minute boost after its member decisively won a debate that included the representatives of all eight nationwide electoral committees. The mainstream accuses it of radicalism and driving the support for the SLD-TR-Greens coalition below the parliamentary threshold.
The following parties were notable in the past, but no longer:
- Samoobrona RP (Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland): coalition partners of PiS in 2005–2007. Completely imploded after 2007. It's not clear why they even bother existing anymore. The charismatic leader, former deputy PM Andrzej Lepper, committed suicide.
- Kongres Nowej Prawicy (KNP, Congress of the New Right): conservative libertarians, similar to the Republican Party in the U.S. Former one-man show of Janusz Korwin-Mikke, who was ousted as the leader shortly after the party won four seats in the European Parliament (despite publicly declaring that it wants to destroy the European Union as a "leftist" organization). Shortly afterwards the party imploded, which they should have seen coming from miles away since the voting base of KNP was composed mainly of members of Korwin-Mikke's online personality cult.
- Liga Polskich Rodzin (LPR, League of Polish Families): ultraconservative party of the religious right, coalition partner of PiS between 2005 and 2007. Like Samoobrona, it imploded after the PiS government it formed a part of collapsed, not reaching the government-subsidy threshold. Former leader Roman Giertych became a PO member.
- Twój Ruch (TR, Your Movement), formerly Ruch Palikota (Palikot's Movement): But You Wield One Dildo … A left-wing party with economically liberal positions, also borrowing some elements from Green ideology. Included the first gay and transgender Polish MPs, which attracted intense loathing from the far right; the gay MP has since been elected the town mayor of Słupsk and the trans one joined the Greens. Most people still associate it with controversial public "performances" of its leader, Janusz Palikot, a former member of PO. The most popular one involved bringing a gun and a dildo to a press conference to draw attention to the case of a woman raped during interrogation. Unfortunately, after a breakthrough success in 2011, Palikot squandered most of his political capital by attention-whoring, acting like an asshole and associating too much with SLD. As of 2018, the party is functionally in standby mode, Palikot himself having resigned from politics, with Barbara Nowacka and Robert Biedron remaining semi-relevant as a pro-choice protester and as mayor of Slupsk respectively.
- ONR (Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny, English: National Radical Camp): A far-right, extremist, Polish ultranationalist organization founded in 1993 (four years after the dissolution of the communist government) that is the continuation of the 1933-1934 party of the same name, that was delegalized during the interwar period. The original ONR was founded by former members of Camp of Great Poland (Polish: Oboz Wielkiej Polski) a predecessor group with similar views which included the likes of Henryk Rossman, Tadeusz Gluzinski and Jan Mosodorf as well as right-wing nationalists such as Boleslaw Piasecki, the ONR of 1933–1934 was very much fascist combining the ultra Political Catholicism of Spanish Falangism (specifically the Falanga faction separate from the ABC one) and religious fundamentalism of Romanian Iron Guard Legionarism with the anti-Semitism and anti-Communism of the German Nazi Party and the ideology of the Italian Fascist Party. The modern day ONR on the other hand happens to have Islamophobic, white nationalist and anti-Semitic undertones. ONR is best known for a 60,000 Independence Day rally in Warsaw where protestors chanted "We Want God", "White Europe", "Europe will be white or uninhabited", "Death to enemies of the homeland", "Catholic Poland, not secular", "Clean Blood" reminiscent of Neo-Nazi slogans in America.
- All-Polish Youth (Mlodziez Wszechpolska): Like the ONR they are a fascist, far-right Polish organization that is a continuation of an older pre-World War II organization. The modern day incarnation holds rallies as well.
Local conspiracy theories
A major theme in Polish culture is the distrust of the state and politicians. This is partially a consequence of Poles living for many decades first under the rule of foreign empires, then under a communist regime in a Soviet satellite state. This creates a fertile ground for political conspiracy theories, which seem to have particular appeal to the right-wingers.
Civilization of death
"Civilization of death" or "culture of death" (cywilizacja śmierci) is a term coined in the encyclicals of John Paul II, referring to the countries of Western Europe, which according to the late Pope have rejected family values and the belief in the sanctity of life. Far from being a new concept, it's essentially a repackaging of the aggressive Catholic ideology that was present in Poland during the Interbellum period.
In Polish public discourse, "civilization of death" is a snarl phrase used by the religious right and the pro-life movement to label supporters of things which contradict Catholic Church's social teaching. These include legal access to abortion on demand, euthanasia and assisted suicide, same-sex unions and adoption, premarital sex, sexual education in schools, broader access to contraceptives, in-vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell research. Serious crimes such as murder, genocide and pedophilia are also claimed to be a product of the "civilization of death", demagogically implying a moral equivalence between rejecting the Catholic worldview and supporting these crimes. The term tends to be used in a way that invokes conspiratorial thinking and implies that supporters of any of the aforementioned things are in fact furthering a broader anti-Christian agenda, possibly under the influence of Satan. There is also an antonymic term, "civilization of life", which is used to describe Catholic fundamentalists approvingly.
A related slogan is "abortion industry", an entity which is supposedly financing pro-choice activists.
The period between 2005 and 2007 parliamentary elections under the Law and Justice government witnessed the overtake of politics by a virulent form of conspiratorial thinking and paranoia. The ruling party devoted significant attention to tracking down "the pact" (układ), an alleged conspiracy of intelligence officers, former communist secret police operatives, criminals, businessmen, and liberal and postcommunist politicians. This group was thought to have gained significant influence after the fall of communism in 1989, and was accused of working to undermine the Polish state for its own benefit. Political failures of the government and unfavorable coverage of its actions were routinely blamed on interference from this group.
In the end, no members of "the pact" were ever conclusively identified, and no solid evidence for its existence was ever found. In early January 2009, Law and Justice dropped "fighting the pact" from its program.
The theories about "the pact" are clearly inspired by theories about the "group in power", an alleged conspiracy of Democratic Left Alliance politicians and media business interests. This group was claimed to exist by Lew Rywin, a film producer and actor involved in the eponymous Rywin affair. The affair involved an attempt to trade a change in law that would further the interests of the media conglomerate Agora for a favorable portrayal of the government and SLD in said conglomerate's media outlets. The neutral consensus appears to be that Rywin was most likely acting on his own, but due to power games the parliament voted to accept a report that identified several high-ranking SLD politicians as belonging to the group.
On 10 April 2010, a plane carrying the President and some 90 other top Polish officials crashed at an airport near Smolensk, Russia, while travelling to the 70th-anniversary commemoration of the Katyn Massacre, killing all on board. This event is probably one of the most important ones in Polish history after the collapse of the communist government, and is commonly referred to as the "Smolensk catastrophe" (katastrofa smoleńska).
Reports of the Russian and Polish investigations, although differing in details, essentially agree that the crash was caused by a combination of bad weather, error on part of the pilots and bad technical state of the Smolensk airport. Despite this, Law and Justice is absolutely convinced that the plane was sabotaged by the Russians. A variety of means are proposed, ranging from artificial fog created with the help of liquid helium to an explosion of a thermobaric weapon above the aircraft.
It goes without saying that the conspiracy theories make Occam cry: None of these theories is supported by concrete evidence, there does not appear to be any credible motivation for the Russians or gains to be made. The primary proponent of these conspiracy theories is Antoni Macierewicz, who founded his own parliamentary commission to "debunk" official reports. The commission has since lost credibility when it turned out that the science experts it relied on were experts in fields unrelated to aircraft or aircraft crashes. Their expertise lied in building model planes, using airlines for travel, or observing explosions in sheds. The most hilarious moment came when a conference organized to publicize the results of the commission's "investigations" included completely absurd material, such as photos of broken beer cans and swollen sausages, as evidence for sabotage.
Jarosław Kaczyński is frequently accused of exploiting the national tragedy for scoring political points, although ultimately he failed to gather enough support to be elected the next President or to form a ruling coalition after the 2011 parliamentary election. The party has since then turned increasingly towards the right, courting wingnuts and entertaining conspiracy theories, particularly those about a government effort to kill them off. In 2015 they returned to power, after blaming the Civic Platform party for failing to properly investigate the crash. Jarosław Kaczyński promised a new inquiry: he had already decided that an explosion had caused the plane to disintegrate before impact. The nonsense flies ever higher.
Following the Smolensk catastrophe, there were three widely reported suicides. These included Andrzej Lepper, former deputy PM; general Sławomir Petelicki, the creator and former leader of the special forces unit JW GROM; and Remigiusz Muś, a technician of a Yak-40 plane that landed at Smolensk before the presidential aircraft crashed. This gave rise to a conspiracy theory that they were murdered and their suicides staged in order to prevent them from acting as witnesses that could confirm Smolensk sabotage. They were named "victims of the serial suicider", which is a humorous way of suggesting that they were the targets of political murders. The list of "victims" was later expanded with several other people who either committed suicide or died in unexplained circumstances and whose deaths would be in any slightest way convenient for PO.
Naturally, this theory is supported only by very weak circumstantial evidence, and ignores that most of the deaths are not mysterious—for instance, Lepper's political career was faltering, and Petelicki was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The best counter-evidence for any conspiracy is that several of the "victims" are rather obscure and the benefits from killing them very vague, while the best known proponents of Smolensk sabotage, such as Antoni Macierewicz, are still alive and well. The phenomenon of copycat suicides is not taken into account either.
The slogan "Russo-German condominium" (kondominium rosyjsko-niemieckie) denotes the belief that Polish politics, and in particular the Civic Platform party, are controlled by Russian and German influence, which is working to reduce Poland to the status of a satellite or puppet state. Specifically, PO is accused of practicing "servilism" towards Russia and "clientism" towards Germany. The term was coined by Jarosław Kaczyński in September 2010 in relation to what he perceived as irregularities surrounding the investigation of the Smolensk plane crash. Since then, this thought pattern was heavily promoted in the media of Tadeusz Rydzyk (see below) and expanded to include xenophobic themes of forced assimilation into European Union. It is also implicitly endorsed by right-wing periodicals.
Shortly after the head of the Catholic Church in Poland, archbishop Józef Michalik, made a public statement that blamed cases of priestly pedophilia on divorce and 'children looking for love', he identified the primary cause of the sexual abuse of children: 'gender ideology', which is supposedly promoted by "the most aggressive Polish feminists, who for years have been ridiculing the Church and traditional ethics". This 'ideology' supposedly also includes "extinguishing the sense of shame" in children and "teaching them about the possibility of enjoying carnal pleasures, against natural ethics".
Of course, there is no such thing as "gender ideology". That did not stop Catholic fundamentalists and right-wingers from eagerly embracing this brainturd. "Gender ideology" not only plays into the Christian persecution complex and satisfies a need for an external enemy, which the Catholic Church in Poland is severely lacking since the fall of communism, but also constitutes a dog whistle term. As documented by several journalists, most opponents of "gender ideology" have absolutely no idea what they are opposing.
After a large blunder during local elections in 2014, where a critical piece of software being prepared at the last minute by the lowest bidder (who actually farmed out the work to a student) failed to work, PiS started claiming that the elections were falsified and that members of electoral commissions were surreptitiously adding extra marks on voting cards to invalidate them. Strangely, PiS suddenly forgot about this when it won the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015. Were they suddenly silent because they started using these techniques themselves, or was the whole thing bullshit from the start? We will never know.
Polish Holocaust or "Polocaust" conspiracy theories hold that Nazi Germany pursued a deliberate policy of extermination against Polish inhabitants of Poland similar to the one the Nazis conducted against the Jews. Insofar as it seeks to minimise the uniqueness or significance of the Holocaust, such a theory is a form of Holocaust denial. Central to the myth is the claim that there was a Nazi facility in Warsaw called Death Camp KL Warschau (aka Gęsiówka, after the street in which it was located), where proponents claim 200,000 Polish gentiles were deliberately killed; in reality, more reputable historians suggest that around 20,000 people, many of them Polish Jews and non-Polish Jews, were killed there in what was formerly a Polish prison. It is also claimed that a tunnel under Józef Bem Street was closed off to be used as a gas chamber for gassing Poles, but wartime surveillance photographs show that it was used as a road tunnel during the war. Other claims have been similarly debunked: buildings allegedly devoted to mass extermination were in use for other purposes or not built until after the war; areas allegedly used as secret killing zones were freely accessible to Poles; alleged witnesses describe details from fictional television programs rather than historically accurate events. Despite the absence of evidence, anybody who disagrees with the conspiracy theory is dismissed as either a Jew or a communist, and either way an enemy of the Polish people.
The idea seems to have originated with Maria Trzcińska, a jurist who first posited the existence of death camps in the 1970s while working on the communist Polish government's Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland. She published a monograph on it in 2002, identifying main sites still linked with the myth. The conspiracy theories have been dismissed by the official state body the Institute of National Remembrance, which published a book by historian Bogusław Kopka debunking the claims. Zygmunt Walkowski, an expert on the forensic analysis of photographs, spent seven years investigating and found the claims to be contradicted by numerous instances of photographic evidence, letters, and other documents. This hasn't stopped far-right and nationalists from pushing the theories, erecting monuments to the alleged victims, and holding services of remembrance. Examples online are Justice4Poland (which claims to expose crimes by "jewish bolsheviks") and the "International Research Center" (which also publishes denunciations of Jewish influence in world politics, the "Jewish lobby", and how the Holocaust has become a "substitute religion among Jews"). Trzcińska supporters have inserted the conspiracy theory to Wikipedia, where it is one of the longest running hoaxes.
Cool Polish stuff
- The world's first Wikipedia monument
- "Witkacy" Witkiewicz, the coolest drama writer ever
- One of few countries in Europe to avoid religious wars of 16th century, having formally legalized all forms of Protestantism in 1573 (Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam and Judaism were already recognized by the law)
- First country in the world to ban corporal punishment of children (1783)
- First country to introduce a universal education system and world's first ministry of education
- The only European country to never criminalise homosexuality
- 6th worldwide in English Proficiency Index
- Anna Grodzka, the world's highest ranking transgender politician.
- Battle of Wizna, which inspired this song.
- Stanisław Lem—outed by Philip K. Dick as a communist composite committee based in Kraków.
- Winged Hussars, the heavy cavalry of Europe, complete with awesome wings and panther skins. Known to obliterate numerically-superior forces such as at the Battle of Kircholm.
- Managed to actually stop the Mongols from invading further into Europe
- The Cinema of Poland
- Frederic Chopin
- Madame Marie Skłodowska-Curie[note 4]
- Nicolaus Copernicus
- Stanislaw Ulam, a mathematician who worked on both Manhattan Project and subsequent development of the hydrogen bomb.
- Pierogi and kielbasa are pretty great.
Uncool Polish stuff
- That full religious tolerance? Lasted only a couple decades. Soon a local branch of Calvinism, radically egalitarian and pacifist Polish Brethren, were scapegoated for lost war and banished (1658).
- In 1938, Poland teamed up with Hitler to rip their own piece of Czechoslovakia (and did a lot to sabotage Soviet and French efforts to support Czechoslovakia). It didn't work as well as Poland's government had hoped, though…
- Poland has a long history of antisemitism despite its formerly large Jewish population. This includes the 1946 Kielce pogrom in which rumors that Jews were kidnapping babies (a version of the medieval blood libel) led to the murder of 42 Jews in one day, including a newborn baby. Poland recently responded to accusations of antisemitism by attempting to make it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in the Holocaust, although under pressure from Israel and Jewish figures internationally they later reduced it from a criminal to a civil offense.
- Poland has its own local variety of nationalist pseudohistory, called (wait for it) Turboslavism.
- Tadeusz Rydzyk, fundamentalist Catholic priest, owner of Catholic media outlets Radio Maryja and TV Trwam, which often display prejudice against Jews and Europe (particularly Germany). Convinced that Poland is a Russo-German condominium, whose masters want to annihilate the Polish people and the Catholic Church.
- Examples of family values like Maciej Giertych and Roman Giertych.
- In January 2013, their intellectual kindred spirits threw out propositions that would allow civil unions, on the premise that gays are evil. One sixty-year-old, lonely, childless MP even went as far as claiming that same-sex couples are fruitless, barren, hedonistic, unnatural, self-destructive and, most importantly, the Church doesn't like them. Then she went on to publicly insult a transsexual MP. The worst part? She's a professor.
- An initiative for MDs to sign a Declaration of Faith has taken off . Among the more notable points of the Declaration are #2, which states that everything pertaining the human body is only subject to God's will (one might wonder why we need doctors then), #5, which rather straightforwardly states that whoever puts a signature under the declaration means to break the law whenever it comes in conflict with religion and #6, which is meant to justify all that because a physician should be free to practice according to his or her conscience. With 2488 signatures (all belonging to certified physicians) as of May 2014  (and an offering in Jasna Góra sanctuary), it poses a direct threat to the standards of medical care throughout the country. On the plus side, the patients are whipping up a glorious shitstorm.
- In the late 2010s, the government increasingly stripped its own judiciary of independence.
Weird stuff that's not actually true
- You may have heard a story about Polish cavalry unit charging against German tanks in September 1939. It's not true. This myth was endorsed by Nazi propaganda and later by Communist historiography to denigrate the pre-war government. Belief in it among Poles themselves was once widespread enough that it was immortalized in an idiom, z szabelką na czołgi (lit. with a little saber against tanks), which means a courageous but obviously futile action or suffering from unrealistic ambition. The Polish "cavalry" was actually mounted infantry, with anti-vehicle rifles capable of downing armor, and they helped achieve a victory against the Germans at the Battle of Mokra. Poland also had some mechanical divisions, but was hampered by an unfinished mobilization of its reserves and a friendly visit from their eastern neighbours. Germany and the Soviet Union also had partly mechanised cavalry divisions and used horses for transportation where there was a shortage of fuel or vehicles.
- The infamous Polish joke—a joke made to defame Poles for stupidity and uncouth behavior—does not reflect the Polish diaspora accurately. Many people of Polish descent living elsewhere are in fact very successful. The infamous Polish joke typically reflects the ignorance and stupidity—of the person who relates it.
- Poland holds the world record for messing up Russia (disputed by the Mongols, though theirs predate the Renaissance), as in 1610 it conquered Moscow, deposed the Tsar and installed its own figurehead. The runner up is Napoleonic France, as it managed to conquer Moscow, but failed to do the rest.
- Persecution of the opposition, incarceration and outright murder of members of the underground army and state that happened to be aligned with the legal London government, not the Soviets that just years prior murdered Polish people en masse, etc.
- Case in point: the word for crime has three vowels and eight consonants in three clusters.
- This territorial claim is sometimes contested by France.
- The Onion (October 2007). Our Dumb World. "Poland" (p. 168). New York: Little, Brown and Company.
- Wiktionary: łaska
- Wiktionary: laska
- OECD: Economic Survey of Poland 2014
- World Bank Group: Doing Business in Poland
- IEA: Poland
- The Catholic Church's Fading Influence in Poland
- Relevant chart and article on Polish Wikipedia
- Polish pop star faces two years’ prison for blasphemy
- 5 tys. grzywny dla Dody za obrazę uczuć religijnych. Autorów Biblii określiła jako "naprutych winem i palących jakieś zioła" (in Polish)
- "Nergal" niewinny. Darcie Biblii "formą sztuki" (in Polish)
- Legal abortion for Polish women in all neighboring countries (in Polish)
- Millions of Women in Poland Are on Strike Today to Protest Draconian Anti-Abortion Legislation
- Polish government widely condemned over morning-after pill law
- http://queer.pl/news/194830/malzenstwa-homoseksualne-urzad-stanu-cywilnego-sad (in Polish)
- See the Wikipedia article on List of countries by alcohol consumption per capita.
- Abigail Gipson, "New report: Poland’s public media serve as propaganda tool," International Press Institute, Jul. 8, 2019, accessed Jul. 10, 2019.
- TVN24—Palikot fights with a gun and a vibrator (in Polish)
- TVN 24—"I've made that decision to definitely part ways with politics" (in Polish)
- Nowicka bankrolled by the "abortion industry"? (in Polish)
- Law and Justice won't fight the pact any more - at least according to its program (in Polish)
- Polish President Lech Kaczynski dies in plane crash - BBC News
- That was their actual testimony.
- Broken beer cans and a swollen sausage supposed to prove Tupolev explosion (in Polish)
- Will Poland every uncover the truth about the plane crash that killed its president?, The Guardian, 8 February 2016
- List of victims of the serial suicider (in Polish)
- Kaczyński: "Russo-German condominium in Poland". PO, SLD and PSL outraged, call a press conference. Everyone against PiS (in Polish)
- Divorced parents also to blame for pedophilia, Polish Archbishop Jozef Michalik says
- Archbishop Michalik on the causes of child sexual abuse: divorce, gender and feminists (in Polish)
- New York Times: The Polish Church’s Gender Problem
- Under the Railway Line, Christian Davies, London Review of Books, Vol. 41 No. 9 · 9 May 2019, pages 29-30
- Warsaw Concentration Camp, Justice4Poland, 21 July 2014
- Forgotten Holocaust: Nazi Genocide of Poles--the Untold Story, jan peczkis, International Research Center, May 7, 2017
- The Jewish Lobby in Pland;A Comprehensive Analysis of Polish-Jewish Relations to the Present. Includes Valuable Information About the Holocaust Industry, jan peczkis, International Research Center, November 22, 2016
- Wikipedia:List of hoaxes on Wikipedia
- Not. PKD was probably having a really bad day that day.
- Poland’s nationalists are burying their antisemitic past – this is dangerous, Przemysław Wielgosz, The Guardian, Mar 6, 2018
- Kielce: The Post-Holocaust Pogrom That Poland Is Still Fighting Over, Smithsonian Magazine, Jan 8, 2018
- Poland Holocaust law: Government U-turn on jail threat, BBC, Jun 27, 2018
- Pawłowicz about Grodzka
- Jan Strupczewski, "EU sues Poland for undermining independence of courts," Reuters, Sep. 24, 2018, as displayed Aug. 6, 2019.
- See the Wikipedia article on Horses in World War II.