“”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.
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. Even though the invasion of Poland is largely considered the start of World War 2, it was not liberated from foreign invaders at its conclusion. The Nazis were ousted sure, but the Soviets had invaded at the same time and they were now running the show. Soviet forces did not leave the country until 1993.
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. Leaders of the opposition correctly calculated that their best bet was to reorient themselves towards western Europe, and accordingly consciously stopped attempting to influence the east; this meant giving up the old visions of Poland-Lithuania (which included what is now Belarus), which had Polish as the high culture of a polyglot region, and the vision Józef Piłsudski had of recreating it in the 1920s. 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 for English speakers due to its complex grammar and a proliferation of challenging to pronounce 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 except for words ending in yka. 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. On the other hand, despite being very phonemic, the Polish alphabet and orthography make zero graphical[note 4] and morphological[note 5] sense.
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—"ą" and "ż" sound nothing like "a" 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). Ethnic cleansing after WWII (which was a theme at that time in eastern Europe) played a major role in this, as Germans in western Poland and Ukrainians in southern Poland were rather viciously hunted down and either killed or forced to flee.
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. There are also some Polish Muslims as well; Islam first arrived in the area in the 1300s from Tatars and Arab traders, whose descendants comprise the majority of Muslims today, though some Muslims are more recent immigrants from the Middle East as well.
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. Nevertheless, during the October 2020 Polish protests against further abortion restrictions, online searches for apostasy increased, together with slogans telling the Catholic Church to "fuck off", breaking one of Poland's biggest taboos in challenging the authority of the Catholic Church.
Hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs
Although Muslims are around 0.2% of the population, 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 her health. 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 anti-abortion 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 legalize 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.
Such restrictions haven't stopped over 100,000 Polish women from traveling abroad yearly to seek abortions. In a moment of awesome in 2020, Polish feminists stormed churches after the Polish courts further restricted abortions in the case of fetal defects, leading to further protests against the PiS government and Catholic Church, and increased online searches for Apostasy from the Catholic Church. Jarosław Kaczyński responded by channeling communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski in a furious speech and called for PiS supporters to "defense of the churches, Poland and patriotism at all costs".
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.
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 and mushrooms. Items better known abroad include pierogi (crescent-shaped dumplings with savoury or sweet fillings), pączki (deep-fried donuts), and kiełbasa (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 and coalitions have MPs as of 2021:
- Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS, Law and Justice[note 6]): The Cancer. An authoritarian nationalist party with xenophobic tendencies that includes many outright paranoiacs and Catholic fanatics. It can be best described as a personality cult of Jarosław Kaczyński (It went so far, that the public TV transmitted a mass in memory of his mother, despite her never doing anything remarkable for the country). 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. The party also seized almost complete control of the judiciary and used the Constitutional Court to enforce an almost complete ban on abortion without pushing a bill in the Sejm. The bad news is that, despite them being involved in dozens of scandals that should've already put them out of power, their popular support is still relatively stable thanks to a generous welfare system and ultraconservative tendencies in Polish society, so it's unclear how long they will stay in charge. 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. He didn't assume any public office until 2020, when he became a deputy prime minister. Their policies have resulted in the worst case of autocritization in the world.
- Koalicja Obywatelska (KO, Civic Coalition): The boring moderates. A coalition of liberal and pro-european parties centered around Platforma Obywatelska (PO, Civic Platform), which ruled the country between 2007 and 2015, during which time Poland had the fastest-growing economy in Europe. It currently remains the largest faction in opposition, despite having almost no programme other than wanting to defeat PiS, having very little genuinely charismatic politicians and being ridiculously ineffective in general. Despite being far more liberal than PiS, they are still socially conservative and when they declare support for more progressive policies, they tend to do so in a dishonest and opportunistic manner, desperately trying to get support from leftist voters. The future of the coalition seems unclear, as more members are becoming critical of its' leadership and even decide to join other political parties, such as newly formed Polska 2050. However it is strongly unlikely for it to simply disappear, due to its' popularity among Poland's middle class urban population.
- 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. Now they're the leading party of Koalicja Polska or the Polish Coalition, which also includes the Union of European Democrats and used to include Kukiz 15 before November 2020. Barely passed the electoral threshold in 2015, to the dismay of practically everyone except PSL members. While they've got a slightly better score in 2019, they still remain much stronger in local elections.
- Lewica (The Left): The Dying Hope. A decentralized alliance of the only few genuinely progressive parties in Poland, which includes the old social democrats of SLD (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, Democratic Left Alliance), as well as newer, more progressive and youth-oriented groups such as Razem ("Together") and Wiosna ("Spring"). It is perhaps the only faction in the Polish parliament which sincerely aims to separate the Church from the state, react to climate change, guarantee LGBT rights, protect labor laws and combat negative consequences of rampant privatization. Their popularity peaked during the 2019 elections, where they got almost 11% of the popular vote and became the third major political faction in Poland. This, however, didn't last long - during the 2020 presidential elections they endorced a weak and uncharismatic candidate, which ended up only getting 2% of the general vote. It's likely that voters have lost trust in the coalition and decided to vote for more center-leaning candidates who were more likely to win the elections and take power away from PiS. Speaking of the Devil...
- Konfederacja Wolność i Niepodległość (Confederation Liberty and Independence): The Tragedy and Farce. Being the vanguard of the Polish far-right, this loose coalition combines all types of right-wing radicals under the Sun, from "libertarians" and objectivists to Catholic extremists, monarchists and open, unapologetic fascists. During the COVID-19 pandemic, an uncountable amount of them also turned out to be pandemic deniers and anti-vaxxers. Their programme is aswell a bizarre mix of standard libertarian postulates, such as eliminating progressive taxation, liberalizing gun laws, decentralizing the state, combating bureaucracy etc. aswell as radically right-wing and authoritarian ones like driving Poland away from EU, criminalizing "homopropaganda", bringing back death penalty and complete, conditionless ban on abortion. The whole thing turns from ridiculous to terrifying once you realize how popular they are. Not only they crossed the electoral treshold in 2019 and put 11 of its' representatives in the Sejm, they also have enormous support among young men and their fanatical supporters can be found pretty much everywhere on the Polish Internet, often spreading fake news and hate speech.
- Polska 2050 (Poland 2050): Style Over Substance. A weird political project founded by and centered around a former journalist and TV presenter Szymon Hołownia. It became a thing soonly after Hołownia's quite successful run in the 2020 presidential elections, when he got almost 14% of the popular vote. He announced it as a "civic movement", yet it turned out to be just another centrist political party with an unremarkable programme that focuses on ecology and education reform. Because of that, the popularity of the movement (which is quite large if newest polls tell the truth) almost entirely relies on Hołownia's media personality. Also because of that, Hołownia is often accused of "stealing voters" from KO and pointlessly dividing the already disunited opposition
- Kukiz'15: The Madhouse. Self-styled as a "civic movement" rather than a political party (similarly to Polska 2050), this group won almost 9% of the vote in 2015 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 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". Used to be in a coalition with PSL, but got kicked out of it in November 2020.
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 and nationalist 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.
In late 2016, the Catholic episcopate in Poland named Jesus Christ the king of the nation at a coronation attended by Polish President Andrzej Duda. After the ceremony, a Bishop confusingly stated:
It is not a declaration of Christ the King, because he is king. It is not a declaration of Christ the King of Poland. His kingdom is not of this earth, and his dominion is over the whole universe..."
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. Despite winning parliamentary elections in 2015 PiS claimed electoral fraud . Actually some obscure persons on "Gazeta Wyborcza" internet page and President of Belarus Lukashenko claimed electoral fraud in 2020 presidential election too.
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 previously have inserted the conspiracy theory into Wikipedia, where it was one of the site's longest-running hoaxes.
Cool Polish stuff
- The world's first Wikipedia monument
- The largest number of verified Holocaust rescuers in Europe
- 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
- Olga Tokarczuk
- Zdzisław Beksiński
- Madame Marie Skłodowska-Curie[note 7]
- Nicolaus Copernicus
- Lech Wałęsa
- Stanislaw Ulam, a mathematician who worked on both Manhattan Project and subsequent development of the hydrogen bomb.
- Pierogi and kielbasa are pretty great.
- The Witcher series of books, TV series and videogames.
- Wojtek, a Syrian brown bear who was a fully fledged member of the Polish II Corps during World War II. Like most Poles, he was a fan of beer and cigarettes.
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 mechanized 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 Polish people accurately. Many people of Polish descent, in Poland and abroad, 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.
- Case in point: a single phonological feature, palatalization, is graphically represented in 4 different ways, and its representation is not even always the same for one and the same letter.
- Case in point: 60% of the letters in the adverbial ending "iście", for reasons unknown to mankind, are not part of what the ending should actually (morphologically) be (which is "ist'e").
- appropriately pronounced "piss"
- 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
- Paedophilia is caused by divorce, says Poland's top Catholic bishop as he blames parents for not bringing up children properly. Daily Mail, 8 October 2013.
- Relevant chart and article on Polish Wikipedia
- Mark Woods, Jesus Christ Has Officially Been Declared The King Of Poland. Christianity Today, 22 November 2016.
- 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)
- Pronczuk, Monika (2020-10-27). "Why a New Abortion Ban in Poland is Tearing the Country Apart". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
- 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
- Protesters storm churches in Poland on the 4th day of unrest after a court ruling tightened the country's already-strict abortion laws Insider. October 26, 2020
- Pronczuk, Monika (2020-10-27). "Why a New Abortion Ban in Poland is Tearing the Country Apart". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
- 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.
- ""TVP Info transmitted the mass in memory of Kaczyński brothers' mother."". wirtualnemedia.pl. 16 January 2021. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
- Abigail Gipson, "New report: Poland’s public media serve as propaganda tool," International Press Institute, Jul. 8, 2019, accessed Jul. 10, 2019.
- ""Poland: The Constitutional Court Repals Eugenic Abortion"". European Centre for Law and Justice. 23 October 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
- [https://v-dem.net/media/publications/dr_2022.pdf ""Democracy report 2022: Autocritization changing nature? ""]. V-Dem Institute. March 2022. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
- 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
- The Fake Nazi Death Camp: Wikipedia’s Longest Hoax, Exposed: For over 15 years, false claims that thousands of Poles were gassed to death in Warsaw were presented as fact. Haaretz reveals they are just the tip of an iceberg of a widespread Holocaust distortion operation by Polish nationalists by Omer Benjakob (03.10.2019) Haaretz.
- 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.