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GDANSK, POLAND

Gdansk is the city at the center of the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Poland.[1] It is Poland's principal seaport as well as the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship. It is also historically the largest city of the Kashubian region.

The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay (of the Baltic Sea), in a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdynia and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity (Trójmiasto), with a population of over 800,000. Gdańsk itself has a population of 458,053 (2006), making it the largest city in the Pomerania region of Northern Poland.


Gdańsk is situated at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, whose waterway system waters 60% of the area of Poland and connects Gdańsk to the national capital in Warsaw. This gives the city a unique advantage as the center of Poland's sea trade. Together with the nearby port of Gdynia, Gdańsk is also an important industrial center. Historically an important seaport and shipbuilding center, Gdańsk was a member of the Hanseatic League.











The city was the birthplace of the Solidarity movement which, under the leadership of Gdańsk political activist Lech Wałęsa, played a major role in bringing an end to communist rule across Central Europe. It is also the home and birthplace of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is of Kashubian origin.














According to archaeologists, a stronghold was built at Gdańsk in the 980s by Mieszko I of Poland, after a series of wars against the local tribes. Modern day Poles have come to regard this as the founding of Gdańsk; in 1997 the city celebrated the millennial anniversary of the year 997 when Saint Adalbert of Prague baptized the inhabitants of the settlement on behalf of Boleslaw the Brave of Poland.












Gdańsk soon became the main centre of a splinter duchy known as Pomerelia, meaning the land by the sea. In 1224/25, Germans established Danzig in the area of the earlier fortress. In 1226, the town was granted an autonomy charter by Swantipolk II, similar to that of Lübeck. Danzig gained great importance in the Baltic area as a city of merchants and trade and as a port city. Being a city with its own statute, it was clearly separate from the surrounding - then still Slav - surrounding territory, but it soon became a starting point for the German settlement of the largely fallow Vistula land.













Hostel in Gdansk,Poland With friends from Korea and Japan in Hostel in Gdansk,Poland YouHostel in Gdansk,Poland the Youth Hostel in Gdansk,Poland
By 1308 the city had become a flourishing trading port with some 10,000 inhabitants when, together with Pomerelia, Danzig was invaded by the Teutonic Order. This led to a series of wars between the Order and the Kingdom of Poland, ending with the Treaty of Kalisz (1343) when the Order acknowledged that it would hold all of Pomerania as an alm from the Polish king. Although it left the legal basis of the Order's possession of the province in some doubt, the city thrived as a result of increased exports of grain (especially wheat), timber, potas, tar, and other goods of forestry from Poland via the Vistula River trading routes. While under the control of the Teutonic Order, the city and its trade prospered, German migration increased, and the city became a full member of the Hanseatic League in 1361.














A new war broke out in 1409, ending with the Battle of Grunwald (1410), and the city came willingly under the control of the Kingdom of Poland . A year later, with the first First Peace of Thorn, it returned to the Teutonic Order. In 1440, the city participated in the foundation of the Prussian Confederation which led to the Thirteen Years' War of independence from the Teutonic Order (1454-1466).













This intermittent warfare ended on May 25, 1457, when the city came under the protective sovereignty of the Crown of Poland while maintaining its rights and independence as an autonomous city. Gaining free access for the first time to Polish markets, the seaport prospered while simultaneously trading with the other Hanseatic cities. After the Second Peace of Thorn (1466) and the incorporation of Royal Prussia by the Kingdom of Poland the warfare between the Polish crown and the Teutonic Order ended permanently, and the city continued to enjoy a large degree of internal autonomy (reconfirmed in 1577). The 16th and 17th centuries were a Golden Age for trade and culture of the city. Beside the German majority, the city was home to a large number of Poles, Jews, and Dutch. In addition, a number of Scotsmen took refuge or immigrated to and received citizenship in the city. During the Protestant Reformation, the German inhabitants adopted Lutheranism.













The city suffered a slow economic decline due to the wars of the 18th century, when it was taken by the Russians after the Siege of Danzig in 1734. Danzig was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1793, only to be broken off by Napoleon as as a pseudo-independent free city from 1807-1814. Returned to Prussia after France's defeat in the Napoleonic Wars, the city became the capital of Regierungsbezirk Danzig within the province of West Prussia from 1815. The city's longest serving Regierungspräsident was Robert von Blumenthal, who held office from 1841, through the revolutions of 1848, until 1863. The city became part of the German Empire in 1871.













When Poland regained its independence after World War I with access to the sea as promised by the Allies on the basis of Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points", the Poles hoped the city's harbour would also become part of Poland. However, since a 1919 census determined that the city's population was 98% German, it was not placed under Polish sovereignty, but, according to the terms of the Versailles Treaty, became the Free City of Danzig, an independent quasi-state under the auspices of the League of Nations with its external affairs largely under Polish control. This led to a large degree of tension between the city and the surrounding Republic of Poland. The Free City had its own constitution, national anthem, parliament (Volkstag), and government (Senat). It issued its own stamps as well as currency.














The majority of the Free City of Danzig's population favored reincorporation into Germany. In the early 1930s the local Nazi Party capitalized on these pro-German sentiments and in 1933 garnered 38% of vote in the parliament. Thereafter, the Nazis under Gauleiter Albert Forster achieved dominance in the city government, which was still nominally overseen by the League of Nations' High Commissioner. The Nazis demanded the return of Danzig to Germany along with an exterritorial highway for land-based access to the Third Reich through the area of the Polish Corridor. However, when the German Nazi Government secured Soviet approval for aggression against Poland, a decision was made to launch a full-out offensive regardless of any Polish willingness to negotiate successions. On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany attacked Poland, triggering the outbreak of World War II.













World War II began in Danzig, with a bombardment of Polish positions at Westerplatte by the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein, and the landing of German infantry on the peninsula. Polish defenders at Westerplatte resisted for seven days before running out of ammunition. Meanwhile, after a fierce daylong fight, defenders of Polish Post office were shot dead and buried on the spot in the Danzig quarter of Zaspa. To celebrate surrender of Westerplatte, NSDAP organized a night parade on Sep 7th along Adolf-Hitlerstrasse that was inadvertently attacked by a Polish hydroplane taking off from Hel Peninsula. The city was officially annexed by Nazi Germany and incorporated into the Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia.















Most of the Jewish community in Danzig were able to escape from the Nazis shortly before the outbreak of war. Nazi secret police had been observing Polish communities since 1936, compiling information which in 1939 served to prepare lists of Poles to be captured in Operation Tannenberg. On the first day of the war, approximately 1,500 ethnic Poles were arrested, some because of their participation in social and economic life, others because they were activists and members of various Polish organizations. On 2 September 1939, 150 of them were deported to the Stutthof concentration camp some 30 miles from Danzig, and murdered. Many Poles living in Danzig were deported to Stutthof or executed in the Piaśnica forest.














In 1941, the Nazi Regime ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union, eventually causing the fortunes of war to turn against it. As the Soviet Army advanced in 1944, German populations in Central and Eastern Europe took flight, resulting in the beginning of a great population shift. After the final Soviet offensive began in January, 1945, hundreds of thousands of German refugees, many of whom had fled to Danzig on foot from East Prussia (see evacuation of East Prussia), tried to escape through the city's port in a large-scale evacuation involving hundreds of German cargo and passenger ships. Some of the ships were sunk by the Soviets, including the Wilhelm Gustloff after an evacuation was attempted at neighboring Gdynia. In the process, tens of thousands of refugees were killed.













The city also endured heavy Allied and Soviet bombardment by air. Those who survived and could not escape encountered the Soviet Army, which captured the city on March 30, 1945 and largely destroyed it. In line with the decisions made by the Allies at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, the city was returned to Poland after 152 years














The remaining German residents of the city who survived the war fled or were expelled to postwar Germany, and the city was repopulated with ethnic Poles, including many from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union who were deported by the Soviets in two major waves from the eastern portion of pre-war Poland.













The historic old city of Gdańsk, which had suffered large-scale destruction at the hands of the Soviet Army, was rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s. Boosted by heavy investment in the development of its port and three major shipyards, Gdańsk became the major shipping and industrial center of the Communist People's Republic of Poland.














As part of German-Polish reconciliation policies driven by West German Chancellor Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, German territorial claims on Gdańsk were renounced, and the city's full incorporation into Poland was recognized in the Treaty of Warsaw in 1970. This was confirmed by a reunited Germany in 1990 and 1991.














In 1970, Gdańsk was the scene of anti-regime demonstrations which led to the downfall of Poland's communist leader Władysław Gomułka. Ten years later the Gdańsk Shipyard was the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union movement, whose opposition to the Communist regime led to the end of Communist Party rule in 1989, and sparked a series of protests that successfully overturned the Communist regimes of the former Soviet bloc. Solidarity's leader, Lech Wałęsa, a native of Gdańsk, became President of Poland in 1990. Gdańsk native Donald Tusk became Prime Minister of Poland in 2007.













Today Gdańsk is a major shipping port and tourist destination and has been the setting for a number of major open air concerts, including Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Jean Michel Jarre. The Rock band Queen are staging a concert in the Shipyard in October 2008.
















November 2007

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