Warsaw Poland Travel Guide and Photo Gallery

  Warsaw Travel Guide: History of Warsaw Poland
The first fortified settlements on the site of today's Warsaw were Bródno (9th/10th century) and Jazdów (12th/13th century). After Jazdów was raided in 1281 by Boleslaus II, the Duke of Płock, a new similar settlement was lodged on the grounds of a small fishing village called Warszowa. In the beginning of the 14th century it became one of the seats of the Dukes of Masovia, in 1413 becoming the capital of Masovia.

Upon the extinction of the local ducal line, the duchy was reincorporated into the Polish Crown in 1526. In 1529 Warsaw for the first time became the seat of the General Sejm, permanent since 1569. In 1573 Warsaw gave its name to the Warsaw Confederation, an agreement by the Polish gentry to tolerate different religious faiths in the Kingdom of Poland.

Due to its central location between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's capitals of Vilna and Cracow, Warsaw became the capital of the Commonwealth and at the same time of the Polish Crown in 1596, when King Sigismund III Vasa moved the capital from Cracow. Warsaw remained the capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1795, when it was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia to become the capital of the province of New East Prussia. Liberated by Napoleon's army in 1807, Warsaw was made the capital of the newly created Duchy of Warsaw.

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Following the decisions of the Congress of Vienna of 1815, Warsaw became the centre of the Polish Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy under a personal union with Imperial Russia. Following the repeated violations of the Polish constitution by the Russians, the 1830 November Uprising broke out. However, the Polish-Russian war of 1831 ended in the uprising's defeat and in the curtailment of the Kingdom's autonomy. On 27 February 1861 a Warsaw crowd protesting the Russian rule over Poland was fired upon by the Russian troops. Five people were killed. The Underground Polish National Government resided in Warsaw during January Uprising in 1863-1864. Warsaw became the capital of the newly independent Poland again in 1918.

Warsaw flourished in the late nineteenth century under Mayor Sokrates Starynkiewicz (1875–1892), a Russian-born general appointed by Tsar Alexander III. Under Starynkiewicz Warsaw saw its first water and sewer systems designed and built by the English engineer William Lindley and his son, William Heerlein Lindley, as well as the expansion and modernization of trams, street lighting and gas works.

In the course of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920, the huge Battle of Warsaw was fought on the Eastern outskirts of the city in which the capital of Poland was successfully defended and the Red Army defeated.

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Warsaw has been devastated many times in its history. Having suffered dreadful damage during the Swedish and Prussian wars of 1655–1656, it was again assaulted in 1794, when the Russian army massacred the population of the right-bank suburb of Praga. A large part of it was destroyed during the Second World War. The city would be rebuilt in the following decades.

The Second World War began when Germany invaded western Poland on 1 September 1939. On 17 September eastern Poland was invaded by the USSR. Poland capitulated after 6 weeks of fighting.

Western Poland was incorporated into the German Reich, eastern Poland into the USSR, while central Poland, including Warsaw, came under the rule of the General Government, a Nazi colonial administration. In the course of the Invasion of Poland, Warsaw was severely bombed, and in the course of the Siege of Warsaw approximately 10 to 15% of its buildings were destroyed.

Warsaw became an occupied city under the control of the Nazi Wehrmacht and SS. All higher education institutions were immediately closed and Warsaw's entire Jewish population — several hundred thousand, some 30% of the city — herded into the Warsaw Ghetto. When the order came to liquidate the Ghetto as part of Hitler's "final solution", Jewish fighters launched the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered, the Ghetto held out for almost a month. When the fighting ended, the survivors were massacred.

During 1943 and 1944 the tide of the war turned, as the USSR, which had been at war with Germany since 1941, inflicted a number of severe defeats on the German army. By July 1944 the Soviets were deep into the Polish territory, pursuing the Germans toward Warsaw. Knowing that Stalin was hostile to the idea of an independent Poland, the Polish government-in-exile based in London gave orders to the underground Home Army (AK) to try to seize the control of Warsaw from the Nazis just before the Soviets arrive. Thus, on 1 August 1944, as the Soviet army was nearing the city very fast, the Home Army and the general population started the Warsaw Uprising. Despite Stalin's hostility towards Poland, the Poles had expected that the Soviet troops would assist them against their common German enemy.

However, after the Red Army captured the right-bank Warsaw, the Soviet offensive was abruptly stopped, while the Germans went on to ruthlessly suppress the uprising. Although the insurgency, planned to last 48 hours, held out for 63 days, eventually the Home Army fighters were forced to capitulate. They were transported to the POW camps in Germany, while the entire civilian population was expelled. Hitler, ignoring the negotiated terms of the capitulation, ordered the entire city to be razed to the ground, and the library and museum collections robbed or burned. When on 17 January 1945 the Soviets crossed the Vistula and entered through the left-bank, they found a Warsaw that had almost ceased to exist; 85% of the city had been destroyed, including the historic Old Town and the Royal Castle. The surviving Home Army fighters were rounded up by the NKVD and either murdered or deported to Siberia.

The city was once considered a shining metropolis, but due to total destruction, it has lost its baroque tinge. Although many of the destroyed significant historical buildings were restored, little remains of the resplendence of Warsaw baroque.

After the war, Boleslaw Bierut's puppet regime set up by Stalin made Warsaw the capital of the communist People's Republic of Poland, and the city was resettled and rebuilt. Large prefabricated housing projects were erected in Warsaw to address the housing shortage. Few of the inhabitants of the pre-war Poland returned: Hundreds of thousands were dead, thousands more in exile from the new regime. Nonetheless, the city resumed its role as the capital of Poland and the country's centre of political and economic life. Many of the historic streets, buildings, and churches were restored to their original form. In 1980, Warsaw's historic Old Town was inscribed onto UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Warsaw Travel Guide: History of Warsaw: Timeline

Warsaw has existed for more than 700 years. The exact date of the origin of the town is not known, since there is no written document preserved about it.

About 12000 years BC: first human life sightings in the area of today Warsaw

700-400 years BC: cemetery of Luzycka Culture in Grochow

X century AD: castle on Brodno existed. Archeologists have ascertained that by the 10th century a fortress built of wood and earth existed in Brodno, where one of Warsaw's housing estates is now situated. On both banks of the Vistula, burial grounds from the Paleolithic age were discovered. The first ever mention of the trading post, Kamion, on the right bank of the river dates back to 1065. A settlement on the left bank was named Solec

1065: Boleslaw Smialy gives the village Kamion to Benedictians from Mogilno

1262: attack on the duke's castle in Jazdow (today Ujazdow).

1281: Bolesaw II attacks Jazdow

1289: the oldest entry mentioning the Warsaw town refers to the founding of St. George's Church

1339: the trial between the Polish king Casimir the Great and the Teutonic Order was held in Warsaw before a papal tribunal, from February 4 to August 15. The Teutonic Knights had been accused of the illegal capture of Pomerania and the Chelm district

1408: foundation of New Warsaw, north from the city walls - New Town

1413: Warsaw became the capital of Mazovia

1526: death of the last duke of Mazovia

1526: the act of incorporation of Warsaw into Polish Crown together with Mazovia

1529: Warsaw's first Sejm Walny takes place

1569: Sejm of Polish and Lithuanian Kingdom takes place

1569-1574: building of first bridge on Vistula River, directed by Erazm Czioto (Giotto) from Zakroczym

1573: Warsaw became the place of Polish and Lithuanian royal elections

1578: Stefan Batory receives tribute from Jerzy Fryderyk

1578: premiere of first polish tragedy/drama/play "Odprawa Poslow Greckich" written by Jan Kochanowski takes place on the grounds of Ujazdow

1596: Warsaw became the capital of the federation of the Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth)

1606-1607: construction of the first city sewer system with collectors on Nalewka Street

1611: triumphant entry to Warsaw of Hetmana Stefana Zolkiewskiego after victorious war with Moscow. Tzar Wasyl Szujski and his brothers were brought as captives

1621: building of Zygmunt's military structures

eight-month-long plague

1638-1843: building of Rzeczpospolita's Arsenal

1644: the Column, a monument to Sigismund III Vasa was erected by his son Ladislaus IV

1648: founding of Praga, a district of Warsaw on the east bank of Vistula River

1655: capitulation of city -- Swedish occupation causes a huge demolition of the city.

1661: first polish periodical magazine "Merkuriusz Polski"

1666: foundation of first polish astronomical observatory in Ujazdow by Tytus Liwiusz Burattini

1670: first post office in Warsaw - on the Krzywe Kolo Street

1696: opening of Marywil - modern market halls with luxurious towers

1708: another plague

1712-1732: construction begins of the 1.5 km long Saxon Axis (Saxon Garden and Saxon Palace)

2.5 km long Calvary Road from 3 Crosses Square to Belveder

1740: the opening of the Colegium Nobilium, an exclusive military college

1745: creation of "Komisja Brukowa" with marshal Bielinski as its chairman

1747: opening of Zaluski's Library

1748: opening of first Theater -- Operalnia

1764: coronation of Stanislaw August Poniatowski at the Warsaw Cathedral

1765: creation of "Komisja Dobrego Porzadku" (a police unit)

1765: opening of National Theater

1766: foundation of Knight's School

1772: first lanterns appear on streets of Warsaw

1773: creation of "Komisja Edukacji Narodowej" - first in the world ministry of education

1788: begining of Great Sejm

1790: Powazkowski cemetery founded - first communal cemetery

1791: Sejm resolves the law of cities on April 19th, which equalizes laws of townsmen with nobilities

1791: the first democratic constitution in Europe and the second in the world was voted on May 3 by the Sejm

1794: Warsaw insurrection

1795-1806: occupation of Warsaw by Prussian army

1800: foundation of Warszawskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciol Nauk (academic foundation)

1806-1813: capital of Warsaw duchery

1815-1830: Warsaw becomes capital of "Krolestwo Kongresowe" which was a part of Russia.

1818: University of Warsaw founded

1828: foundation of Bank Polski

1830-1831: November Insurrection

1833: opening of Teatr Wielki (Great Theater) in new building

1834: constant fire brigade

1845: the inauguration of the first part of the rail-link between Warsaw and Vienna, Austria

1851: construction of sewers

1856: construction of a gas-plant

1862: opening of Szkola Glowna (central school)

1859-1864: construction of first steel bridge on Vistula River

1863-1864: January Insurrection

1865: first horse-powered tram

1877: first rail bridge

1881: start of modern filters, waterworks and city canalization

1898: opening of Politechnika Warszawska

1901: opening of Filharmonia Warszawska

1903: start of Warsaw power-station

1908: initiation of electric traction for city trams

1918: Warsaw becomes again, on November 11, the capital of Poland after regaining independence

1924: Warsaw reached a level of 1 million inhabitants

1925: first audition of Polish Radio

1927: first piano contest in the name of Fryderyk Chopin

1937: first experimental television

1939: the defense of Warsaw against the German invasion during the Second World War, lasting from September 8-26

1940: 6.II - Pabst plan "Warschau die neue deutsche Stadt" - technical plan of demolition of Warsaw by the Nazis

1940: 2.X. - creation by German occupant Jewish district

1943: 19.IV - insurrection in Warsaw Ghetto

1944: 63 days of the Warsaw Uprising which lasted from July 1 to November 2. Entire population of Warsaw left the Warsaw as Hitler planned to destroy the city

1944: 1.VIII-2.X - 63 days of Warsaw Insurrection

1944: 14.IX - liberation of Warsaw district "Praga"

1944-45: 2.X-16.I - Warsaw is completely demolished by Germans by special division of Vernichtungskommando

1945: troops of the First Polish Army entered the town on January 17. People returned to their capital en masse and proceeded to rebuilt Warsaw from ashes

17.I - divisions of the First Army of Polish Army come to right-sided Warsaw

1946: July - opening of first reconstructed bridge on river Vistula

1949: July - opening of W-Z Route with a second reconstructed bridge

1951: subway construction begins

1953: end of reconstruction of the Old Town

1956: second time in its history population exceeds 1 million of inhabitants

1971-77: reconstruction of the Royal Castle begins

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