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Past and Present Regions of Poland
Contemporary regions of Poland or ones over which Poland has had suzarainity at some point during its history.
Polish names are given preference. The English equivalents are given in parenthesis.
Currently used names for regions within Poland's borders are written in red.
Lands currently encompassed by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Lithuania is a name that has a strong historical association with Poland, because from the 14th until the late 18th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was joined with Poland in, first a dynastic and then a federal union. Currently, 7% of Lithuania's population is ethnically Polish. Names of other regions of the Baltics over which Poland had at one time suzerainty include Courland, Inflanty, Livonia, Kurlandia, Semigalia, Samogitia, and ŻmudĽ. The term "Baltics" itself is one of recent vintage and it was never applied, as such, to lands under Polish suzerainty. Links

Białoru¶ (Belarus, Byelorussia, White Ruthenia)
One of the earliest areas settled by the Slavs. After the 1200s, it became part of Lithuania. During the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Russia took control of eastern Byelorussia. The central area was taken during the Second Partition in 1793, and the remaining section was taken during the Third Partition in 1795. During the inter-war period, eastern Bialorus became part of Poland. In 1945, in the wake of WWII and the Yalta agreement, the western part of Bialorus became part of the Soviet republic which has since become Belarus.

Bukowina (Bukovina)
A territory southwest of the Dniestr River consisting of a segment of the northeastern Carpathian Mountains and the adjoining plain, once part of Moldawia. Bukovina acquired its own name and identity in 1775, when it was ceded to Austria by the Ottoman Empire, who then controlled Moldavia. Austria, which regarded Bukovina as a strategic link between Transylvania and Galicia, administered it first as a part of Galicia (1786-1849) and then as a duchy and a separate crown land. In the inter-war period of 1918-1939 it was part of Rumania. In 1945, in the wake of WWII, the northern part of Bukowina was incorporated into the Soviet Socialist Ukrainian Republic.

Galicja (Galicia)
The name given in the late 18th century by Austria to the Austrian province created by the partitions of Poland. The use of the term "Galicja" remained in use in common parlance with reference to the territories previously held by Austria even after Poland regained its independence in 1918. The name had Centuries earlier, the name had been that of a principality centered on the town of Halicz and sometimes referred to by that name (Galicia is its Latin rendering). It became independent in 1087, united with Wołyń (Volhynia, Lodomeria) in 1200 and became part of Poland in 1349 during the reign of Casimir the Great. In 1945, following WWII, the eastern part of what had been the Austrian province of Galicja became part of the Ukraine.

Inflanty (Livonia)
Lands currently encompassed by Latvia northeast of the Dvina River and southern Estonia. The Livs, a Finno-Ugric tribe, made their home in the Gauja River and Baltic coast area. Northern Livonia was incorporated into Poland and was renamed Inflanty Polskie in 1561. Southern Livonia was divided into the Duchy of Kurlandia (under Polish rule) and Semigalia. In 1629 the Swedes conquered the area north of the West Dvina River and held it until 1721, when the Russian Empire seized control of the area.

Kresy (Borderlands)
Poland's Eastern Borderlands. A term used in an almost mythical fashion to describe the lands which were once part of Poland and lay between the Bug and Narew rivers to the west and the Dnepr and Dvina rivers to the east. The term encompasses Wilno and the regions of Lithuania, Polesie, Białoru¶, Podole, and Wołyń.

Kurlandia (Courland)
Lands currently encompassed by Latvia southwest of the Dvina River. The Kur and Lett tribes occupied the area of the Venta and Lielude Rivers and the mouth of the Dvina River by the 9th century.  Courland was part of Inflanty until 1561, when it became an independent duchy of Poland.  During the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, the region was annexed by the Russian Empire.

Litwa (Lithuania)
Currently the name of a country sharing Poland's northeast border. The country shares the name with the historic Grand Duchy of Lithuania a vast country with origins in the same lands as today's Lithuania, (Lietuva in Lithuanian), but one that in the era of its greatest expansion encompassed also the territory of today's Belarus and much of contemporary Ukraine, Its capital was Wilno and its official language was Belarusian. Joined by a dynastic union to Poland, in 1569 it united with the Polish Kingdom formally in a federation. as the Rzeczpospolita obu Narodow (Commonwealth of the Two Nations), It ceased to exist as the Commonwealth was partitioned by the Russians, Germans and Austrians in the late 18th century. At the end of WWI and two renascent nations formed separate countries. During WWII, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR and it remained thus until it again regained its independence in 1990-1991.

ŁódĽ (Łódzkie) Province
The province is situated in the center of both Europe and Poland. Some of its specific cultural heritage derives from the province having been inhabited by people of several nations: the Poles, Russians, Germans and Jews. Traces of these different cultures can still be found in many parts of the region. The population of the ŁódĽ province is approximately 1.2 million people and 68.8% of these people inhabit the province's capital - ŁódĽ. Though the province has beautiful river valleys, with the Warta and Pilica valleys exhibiting interesting landscapes, and though it boast 85 nature reserves and 7 landscape parks, the region is best known as an industrial powerhouse. During the 19th century it became one of the largest textile centers in Europe and was one of the most famous and largest industrial regions in the country. Although today textiles remains one of the principal industries of the province, other industries, such as the chemical, machinery and food-processing, have developed in there in recent years. Links

Lubuskie / Ziemia Lubuska (Lubuski Land)
The mid-western part of Poland called Lubuskie Province was formed in 1998 from two former provinces: the Province of Gorzow and Zielonogorskie Province. The total area of the Province is 13,888 sq km and the population is 1,020,000 people. 65% of the people in Lubuskie Province live in towns. 45% of the land is covered by forests. The main routes connecting Eastern and Western Europe cross the land. Links

Mazowsze (Mazovia)
The great central plain that lies around Warsaw, Poland's capital since 1596. A part of the country at its inception, it became a separate principality that was incorporated back into Poland in 1529. It is one of Poland's 16 provinces.

Małopolska (Little Poland)*
The Vistulans, a Slavic tribe, lived along the upper Vistula River basin near Kraków. Kraków itself became the Poland's capital in 1038. The royal residence was on Wawel hill overlooking the town. On it still stand the remains of a 10th century church. Additionally, archeological evidence indicates that under the foundations of the 10th century Church of St. Wojciech (Adalbert) in the town's main square are the remains of a pagan temple, evidence of an even earlier settlement of the town. Although Małopolska is one of Poland's 16 administrative provinces, historically the area associated with this name is significantly larger stretching from Czestochwa in the west to Lublin in the east and encompassing the land between this line and the mountain ranges forming Poland's southern border. It is a region of gently rolling hills and green valleys. During the periods of the partitions, Małopolska was part of Galicja, the Austrian province. Austrian rule being more relaxed than either that of the Prussian/Germans or the Russians, Małopolska became the location where Polish patriotism found expression easiest.

Moldawia (Moldavia)
A region bordered on the northeast by the Dniestr River and by the Danube river on the south. A Polish fief from 1387 to 1478. It became part of the Ottoman Empire after 1478 and till the end of the 17th century a region of intense rivalry between Poland and the Ottoman Empire. It included Bukowina which became an Austrian province in 1775. and Besarabia, the area between the Dniestr and Prut rivers which became a Russian possession in 1811 and later a Soviet Republic within the USSR. It is now the independent republic of Moldava situated between Romania and the Ukraine.

Mazury (Masuria)
A gently undulating, forested, lightly inhabited area with an amazing number of postglacial lakes - perhaps as many as 30,000. It is a favorite destination for Poles in summer. In the early Middle Ages it was populated by a Western Baltic people who went by the name "Prussians." In their effort to convert the natives to Christianity at the end of a sword, the German Teutonic Knights depopulated the area which became part of their state. Later, as Royal Prussia, the area became a vassal of the Polish Crown but the population was predominately German, in time becoming the East Prussian province of Germany. It reverted to Poland in 1945. Currently with Ermland it forms the province of Warmia and Mazury (Ermland and Masuria).Links

Opole (Opolskie Province)
A province in southwestern Poland. The larger region in which the Povince of Opole is located is Silesia (¦l±sk) which, in terms of the current administrative division of Poland, also encompasses the Provinces of Silesia itself as well as Lower Silesia (Dolny¶l±sk). Originally the province was a Slavic settlement, and Opole, the capital of the region, was the seat of the dukes of Opole of the Piast dynasty (1163-1532). Later in the 16th century, the province became a part of Prussia but was incorporated into Poland again in 1945. Opole province is the smallest province in Poland. It is located in the southeastern part of the country, on the trade routes leading from Germany to Ukraine. The advantages of the region include its accessibility, the beauty of natural environment, its high quality of soil and others. There are a number of outstanding historical monuments in the province, most of them located in the towns of Opole, Nysa, Paczkow and Brzeg. Links

A region of Poland as small as it is delightfully picturesque. Lying on the Slovak border east of the Podhale region and north of the Tatras, the Pieniny mountains extend for some 22 miles in a narrow range rising to 1,000 feet. These old limestone mountains have weathered in many wonderful ways. The mountain range is transected by the narrow gorge of the Dunajec River. Rafting down the Dunajec is one of the most popular tourist attractions of southern Poland. Links

A highland area some 40 miles long from east to west lying between the Tatra Mountains to the south and the Western Beskid Mountains to the north. Its principal cities are Zakopane and Nowy Targ. The name Podhale is rendered into English as "below the mountain glen." Possessing some of Poland's most beautiful landscapes, the region encompasses two of Poland's most popular national parks and it has a highly developed tourist industry. It is a region inhabited by the Górale or Highlanders. It encompasses Spisz, an area that for centuries was under Hungarian suzerenity. Links

One of Poland's 16 voivodships located in the far southeastern area of Poland and bordering with Ukraine to the east and bordered to the south by the Carpatian Mountains (Podkarpacie means Below the Carpathians) on the other side of which lies Slovakia. The northern part of the province contains plains with the rolling plateaus of the Sandomierska Valley, the middle part - the Carpathian Plateau - site of the region's capital, Rzeszow (pop.: 161,000), and a sparsly populated, heavily forested southern part encompassing a number of national and landscape parks and the mountains of the Beskid Niski and the Bieszczady. Links

Poland's northeasternmost province, it divides Poland from Lithuania and Belarus. Heavily wooded (Podlasie literally means The Land Close to the Forest), it contains the Bialowierza Forest and National Park, the sole habitat of the European bison. The southeastern area of the province has a significant Belarusian population. Tartars settled in the region in the 17th century, giving the area a Muslim touch. Before WWII it also was one of the areas with the highest Jewish population. It is one of the areas of Poland with the lowest density of population. Links

An area which, at the time of the Poland's union with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, constituted the far southeastern province of the Polish Crown's lands. Bordered to by the Dniestr river to the south, the Seret river to the west and the Boh river to the north. In the 17 century, it was the site of major battles with the Ottoman Turks. During the interwar period, part of western Podole was part of Poland. Currently the region lies entirely within Ukraine.

An area corresponding to the lowlands streching east by northeast of Lublin along the course of the Prypeć river and its tributaries to the Dnieper (Dnepr) River. It is characterized by its many marshes. During the interwar period, the region formed a Polish province, currently most of the region lies in Belarus. Links.

Prusy Pogańskie (Pagan Prussia)
Originally the lands inhabited by a the Prussians, a Western Baltic people settled in a littoral area between the mouth of the Vistula on the west and the Lithuanian lands on the east. The Prussians were pagan and warlike. One of the first recorded events in Polish history was their murder, in the vicinity of present-day city of Gdansk of a missionary bishop, Wojciech (Adalbert), who became as the result of his martyrdom, Poland's patron Saint. Because of continuing troubles with the Prussians, Conrad, Duke of Mazovia, invited the Teutonic Knights, a military monastic order to take up residence in the area, pacify and convert the Prussians.

Prusy Zakonne (Monastic Prussia)
In 1226, the Teutonic Knights, accepted the invitation extended by Conrad, the Duke of Mazovia, and secured charters from both the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope to the lands of the Prussians and any that they might conquer subsequently. A rebellion by the Prussians in 1261-1283 resulted in their virtual extermination. The Order's repeated incursions on Poland and Lithuania led to the order's defeat, but not its elimination, at the 1410 Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg), arguably the largest battle of the middle ages.

Prusy Królewskie (Royal Prussia)
As a result of a 13 year-long war, 1454-1466, Poland gained part of the Teutonic state (including the cities of Gdańsk and Toruń) , hereafter called Royal Prussia. During the subsequent centuries, Royal Prussia gave Poland access to the sea. Restoration of its major part to Poland in 1920 by the Treaty of Versailles caused deep resentment among the Germans who coined the term Polish Corridor for it since it divided East Prussia from the rest of Germany. It was the issue, or at least the apparent pretext, over which World War II began.

Prusy Ksi±żęte (Ducal Prussia)
In 1525, after yet another war with Poland, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Albert of Hohenzollern, agreed to dissolve the Order (having anyway been converted to the Lutheran faith) and for the state to henceforth become, the Duchy of Prussia, his hereditary fiefdom of the Polish Crown. When Albert's son and successor, Albert Frederick, died sonless in 1618, the duchy passed to his eldest daughter's husband, the Hohenzollern elector of Brandenburg, John Sigismund. Brandenburg was the German state directly east of Royal Prussia. The union of Ducal Prussia with Brandenburg was fundamental to the rise of the Hohenzollern monarchy to a great power. The further steps In this process were first, the agreement, in 1657, by Poland's King, Jan Kazimierz, to free John Sigismund's grandson and heir, Frederick William, the Elector of Brandenburg of his vassalage to the Polish crown in respect to Ducal Prussia.

Prusy - Królestwo (The Kingdom of Prussia)
On Jan. 18, 1701, Frederic III, Elector of Brandenburg crowned himself King of Prussia. The ceremony took place in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia), then the capital of Ducal Prussia. This gave the now King of Prussia room to maneuver for, unlike Brandenburg, Ducal Prussia was not a vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor and part of the Reich, the latter an assemblage of many small states. Expansion of the power and territory of the Kingdom followed including notably the wresting by 1742 of Selesia from Austria It was this powerful state which, under the leadership Frederic the Great, King of Prussia planned and participated in Poland's first partition in 1773. By the time the third partition of Poland had taken place in 1795, 19% of Poland's territory was annexed to Prussia.

Prusy Wschodnie (East Prussia)
A province of inter-war (1919-1939) Germany separated from the contiguous German provinces by the 70 mile-wide Polish province of Pomorze. After WWII the bulk of East Prussia became part of Poland, the rest, including Królewiec (Königsberg in German, Kaliningrad in Russian) part of Russia.

Rzeczpospolita Polska (Poland)
Rzeczpospolita is a term used with reference to Poland from the 15th century, and popularized during the Renaissance. Derived directly from the Latin term Res Publica Rzeczpospolita is rendered in English by both the terms "Commonwealth" and "Republic". This entity, the existence of which ended with Poland's third partition in 1795, is referred to as the Frist Repblic. The use of the term Res Publica was symbolic of the primacy of the nation over the government. However, during the period of the First Republic the nation was equated with the noble class (szlachta) which, though more numerous than in any other European country, numbered but 15% of the country's population. For this reason the First Republic is referred to as Rzeczpospolita Szlachecka of the Republic of the Nobles. After Poland regained its independence in 1918, universal suffrage characterized the Second Republic which existed, in Poland, until the begging of WWII in 1939, and in exile till 1952 when the Stalin's Constitution resulted in the creation of the People's Republic (Polska Republika Ludowa or PRL). In December 1989, Poland's parliament reestablish the Rzeczpospolita which is currently referred to as the Third Republic.

Ru¶ (Russian states)
Early Polish chronicle refer to areas past Poland's eastern region as Ru¶ [pronounced as Roosh], much as some English language historical atlases have labeled in an undifferentiated fashion that region as Russian States. The Rus are considered by some authorities to be an ancient people who gave their name to the land of Russia. In later Polish historical references the term Ru¶ is usually qualified by an adjective that tends to differentiate which geographical area is under consideration. For instance, Ru¶ Biala, or White Rus, is the name that was used for area corresponding to the northeastern half of contemporary Belarus (Bialoru¶ in Polish) while the southwestern half of contemporary Belarus was called Ru¶ Czarna or Black Rus. The principalities of Halicz, Wlodzimierz and Kiev were referred to as Ru¶ Halicaka, Ru¶ Wlodzimierska and Ru¶ Kijowska, respectively

Ru¶ Czerwona (Red Ruthenia)
Name used in reference to what used to be Eastern Galicja prior to WWI. In the inter-war period (1919 - 1939) this corresponded to the Poland's provinces of Tarnopol, Stanislawow and Lwow east of the River San. Most of this area is currently part of western Ukraine, although Poland is left with a rump of region extending along the Ukarainian border from Zamo¶ć in the north to the Bieszczady National Park in the south. The most populous inhabitants of the area Ruthenians, a term applied for the most part to Ukrainans who lived in areas controlled by Austria prior to WWI and by Poland in the inter-war period, but also to the Lemkos who live in Poland today. Links

Ru¶ Zakarpacka (Ruthenia, Subcarpatian Ru¶)
The Polish name is rendered in English as Transcarpathian Ru¶. It refers to an area south of the Carpathian Mountains which was until 1938 the easternmost part of Czechoslovakia, then became part of Hungary and since 1945 is part of the Ukraine. The primary inhabitants of the area are Carpatho-Rusyns or simply Rusyns. In Poland those belonging to this ethnic group go by the name Lemkos.

Sl±sk (Silesia)
An area of southwestern Poland stretching along the Czech border. An area that was in part of Poland up to the 14th century after which it passed successively into Czech, Austrian, Prussian and eventually German hands. Traditionally the region, through the length of which flows the Odra River, is divided into Lower and Upper Silesia, Lower Silesia being the westward section which is further down river. With the passage of time, the Polish-speaking population of the region became increasingly Germanized, the more so the further West. Upper Silesia's rich in deposits of coal have resulted in the area becoming highly industrialized. At the time Poland regained its independence, the Poles of Upper Silesia staged two uprisings in an effort to have the region become part of Poland. In accord with the decision of the Peace Congress held in Paris and Versailles, a plebiscite was held there in March 1921. The overall majority voted in favor of union with Germany. However, the more industrialized eastern area voted overwhelmingly for union with Poland and following yet another uprising in May 1921, this was accomplished. Following the end of WWII, all of Silesia was apportioned to Poland in exchange for the country's eastern regions, as had been decided at the Yalta conference. Currently, Silesia is administratively divided into three provinces: Lower Silesia, Opole and Silesia.

Swiętokrzyskie (Holy Cross Province)
Swiętokrzyskie province is located in central southeastern Poland. The province takes its name from the Swiętokrzyskie Mountains (Holy Cross Mountains), said to be Europe's oldest, the central part of the Kielece Upland. The province has many unique scenic and tourist attractions, including beautiful caves and rock climbing opportunities in the mountains. Links

Tatry (Tatra Mountains)
The highest mountains of the Carpathian Range. Most are 6500-8000 feet high and thus the highest mountains between the Alps and the Urals. Their height however belies their magnificence. Alpine in nature, these mountains, with towering peaks, steep rocky slides, and mountain lakes hundreds of feet down, are as beautiful as any mountain range in northern Europe. Marking the border between Poland and Slovakia, those on the Polish side (about a third of the total) are part of the Tatras National Park. Though the range is only 40 miles long and 10 miles across, millions visit them and Zakopane, the town at their feet, each year. Links

Ukraina (Ukraine)
Currently a country adjoining Poland along the southern portion of its eastward border. The origin of the word from ukra - to the side and inne or innymi - other. Originally the appellation was applied to principalities on the eastern borders of Poland and Lithuania and later to the region of Lithuania east of Wolyn and Podole. Following the development of a Ukrainian nationalist movement in the 19th century, particularly in Austrian held Eastern Galicja, a West Ukrainian Republic of was unilaterally announced on November 1, 1918 in the area of Galicja east of the San River. The renascent Polish state viewed the area as historically a part of Poland. The resulting conflict continued till July 1919, concluding with restoration of Polish suzerainty to the area. Following WWII most of the area was incorporated into the Ukraine.

Warmia (Ermeland or Ermland)
This historic region in the North of Poland was ceded to Poland from Prussia in 1466 by the Teutonic Knights, later passed to Prussia in 1772, and reverted to Poland after the second World War. The population of Warmia is over 1,463,000 (in 1998) and the total area is 24,203 square kilometers. Warmia is famous for its numerous beautiful gothic castles and palaces. Together with Masuria it forms the province of Warmia and Mazury (Ermland and Masuria). Links

Wielkopolska (Greater Poland)*
The Wielkopolska region is a flat region interspersed with forests and lakes. Located in the Warta River basin, it was the home of the Polanie tribe, an ancient Slavic tribe From which arose to the Polish nation. In its center lies Gniezno, an ancient castle town built in the eighth century. Poland's first capital, Gniezno, historians believe, is where Mieszko, Poland's first historical ruler, was baptized in 966. Although the country's capital moved to Kraków in 1038, Wielkopolska remained an integral part of Poland. It was annexed by Prussia at the time of the second partition (1773), became part of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw created by Napoleon. Following the 1815 congress of Vienna it became the Prussian controlled Grand Duchy of Poznan which had some limited autonomy, but in 1849 it was again made part of Prussia. Throughout the period of the partitions it underwent intensive Germanization. Nonetheless, in 1918-1919 it was the site of a major uprising which resulted in its reincorporation into Poland. During WWII it was incorporated into the Reich and its liberation in 1945 was accompanied by much destruction. Links

Wołyń (Volhynia, Lodomeria)
An area of northwestern Ukraine between the Bug and Słucz rivers. A principality in the 10th to the 14th century with the town of Włodzimierz (Vladymir Volinskij) as its capital. After 1200 in a union with Galicja and later incorporated partly into Poland and partly into Lithuania. It remained a Polish territory until the second partition of Poland (1793) transferred most of it to Russia. After World War I and the Polish-Bolshevik conflict, the 1921 Riga Peace Treaty resulted in a significant part of it being restored to Poland. During the 1921-1931 inter-war it was the name of one of Poland's provinces. Following WWII, all of it became part of the Ukraine.

ŻmudĽ (Semigalia in Polish; Samogitia in Lithuanian)
Area corresponding to the current territory of Lithuania. Part of the 14th century Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Duchy, by virtue of the 1386 marital union of the Grand Duke, Jagiełło, with Polish Queen Jadwiga (Hedwig) was joined to Poland in a dynastic union. Later, in 1569, the two countries formally joined in a federal Commonwealth of Two Nations. Thereby these lands became part of the Polish Commonwealth and remained so until the partitions of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria in the late eighteenth century.

Rendering of Wielkopolska and Małopolska into English: given that in Polish the adjectives wielka snd mała mean great and small, respectively, it has become usual for the names of these ancestral regions of Poland to be translated as Greater or Great Poland, and as Little, or Lesser Poland, respectively. Such renditions are however misleading, both in terms of the respective size of the territories under discussion and on etymological grounds. See discussion.


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