The former national capital and current capital of the Wielkopolska region, Poznań is situated in western Poland along the river Warta. Its location, resting on a line which runs from Paris to Moscow, has made it a historically successful trade centre.
In AD 966, Duke Mieszko I was baptised, bringing Poland as a nation into the realm of Western culture and religion. This event took place at Poznań, previously a minor fortified village, which subsequently became the episcopal see and capital of the country. Poznań was home to the first two Polish kings and to the nation’s first cathedral, constructed in 968. Although the capital was moved to nearby Gniezno in 992, the city remained capital of the region and developed rapidly. In 1253 the town was given its charter. Growth increased steadily, reaching its highpoint during the Renaissance period following the departure of the Teutonic Knights from Prussia (1454).
The Second Partition of Poland (AD 1793) brought Poznań under Prussian control and began a process of Germanization which was to continue throughout the nineteenth century. Attempts to suppress the resident Poles demographically and culturally were enacted by Otto von Bismark in the 1870s, resulting in many of Poznań’s citizens emigrating to America. Co-operative credit agreements made by Polish residents were effective in preventing total colonization, and after World War I Poznań was returned to Polish hands.
The onset of World War II and the German invasion of Poland brought destruction to the city and the mass murder or deportation of its inhabitants. After the war, the country fell under a strict communist regime which was increasingly challenged. On 28 June 1956, Poznań was the site for an important pro-democracy strike. The city’s 50,000 industrial workers’ demands for bread and freedom were initially rebuked with military action, resulting in 53 deaths. The action nevertheless persuaded the Polish United Worker’s Party that significant changes had to be made, softening and ultimately ending the country’s communist rule.
Poznań’s economy incorporates extensive foreign investment, with roughly 1,000 city-based companies benefiting from foreign participation. It is also, after Warsaw, Poland’s second largest centre for banking. Since 1921, the city has been host to the Poznań International Fair, which organises over 30 specialized international trade-related events each year. Manufacturing forms a great part of the city’s employment (the city has the lowest unemployment rate in the country), with main industries including metallurgy, the production of ship engines, railway cars, textiles, tele-transmission equipment and fertilizers. Poznań’s Ławica airport handles domestic and international flights, whilst its railway system has excellent connections to Polish and other European destinations.
Places of Interest
The city is a leading cultural centre, with numerous educational institutions, several operatic and dance centres, and a number of theatres. It is also home to the country’s oldest zoological garden. The cathedral, on an island on the river Warta, was the original seat of Mieszko’s bishopric and stands near the Archdiocesan museum, which houses a fine collection of medieval through to modern art.