Poles (Polacy): Cultures Of The World

This Western Slavic group gives the nation of Poland its name.



The Poles are a West Slavic group native to Poland, who have traditionally occupied a number of historic regions. Namely, these are ‘Greater’ Poland, ‘Lesser’ Poland, Malopolska, Mazovia, Silesia, and Pomerania, among others. There has also been a European-wide, and indeed world-wide, Polish diaspora through the generations. This diaspora has seen Poles spread throughout countries such as Germany, France, Britain, Russia, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, the Ukraine, and even across the Atlantic in the United States. In fact, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. had the world’s second largest urban Polish population in the 1960s after Warsaw, Poland. However, today the largest concentration is in Poland itself, in Katowice, the largest district in the so-called "Silesian Metropolis", with a population of over 2,700 million.


In Poland, around 60% of people live in towns and cities today, most within one of the three broad types of Polish city forms.The ‘socialist’ type spread quickly after World War II to accommodate country people coming to work in industry. Theirs buildings and layouts were influenced by Soviet models, with broad streets, large public spaces, and housing consisting largely of four and five-story apartment blocks. The ‘capitalist’ type was built during the 19th and Early 20th Centuries, and was more influenced by Western European architectural styles, with interior spaces being less standardized. Many older, larger cities have "medieval" cores as well, though many of these sustained extensive damage during World War II.


Polish cuisine is very similar to that of other Slavic countries being, largely based on the such fare as meats, breads, and potatoes. Vegetarianism is still in its infancy in the country, and to most Poles a dinner without meat is not a complete meal at all! Nonetheless, vegetables such as beets, carrots, cabbage and various legumes are almost always cooked and served to accompany meats in Polish dishes. Some of the most popular, traditional Polish dishes include Kotlet schabowy, breaded pork cutlets, Zrazy zawijane, and beef rolls (often in a spicy source and stuffed with bacon, gherkins, red onions, peppers). Another unique dish, Golonka w piwie, are pork knuckles served in a beer-based sauce.

Cultural Significance

The Poles have made a great contribution to the arts and sciences over the centuries. Born at Torun in 1478, Nicolas Copernicus is regarded as the father of modern astronomy, being the first to suggest that the earth and the other planets revolved around the sun. In the graphic arts, Fifteenth Century sculptor Wit Stwosz still draws tourists to the Church of the Virgin Mary in Cracow to see his wooden altar triptych. Meanwhile, in music, composer and pianist Frederick Chopin has been called the ‘poet of the piano.’ Today, post-New Wave, Trance, electronica, and Heavy Metal are all popular forms of music, while traditional folk tunes and Classical pieces are also common sounds throughout the country. The Poles have a highly developed sense of drama and movies and theatre are immensely popular. Basketball, soccer, hockey, and volleyball are the most popular team sports. As with most other former Eastern Bloc countries, individual sports are especially heralded as well, such as gymnastics, boxing, track and field, wrestling, weightlifting, swimming, fencing, and motor sports.


In the past century, the Nazi Germans invaded Poland, and threatened the Polish people as they targeted them as part of their genocidial extermination programs. More recently, studies have concluded that among the most major concerns to the Polish people is their military's preparedness to counter prospective Russian expansion into their territory, and the fear of the country being overwhelmed by an influx of thousand of Ukrainians fleeing their own war-torn country. Fears over military preparedness are understandable, given Poland’s historic experiences of invasion and partition, and particularly so as the country constitutes NATO’s eastern flank, facing the Russian Federation. Other Poles believe the country already has a dangerous internal foe in the shape of the Right-wing Law and Justice Party, whose unilateral changing of the constitution brought thousands of Poles onto the streets in January 2016. The group also supports increased military expenditures and social stances closely aligned with those of the Catholic Church, and some feel it marginalizes certain portions of the population and threatens their civil rights.

Who are the Poles?

The Poles are a West Slavic group native to Poland, who have traditionally occupied areas in and around what is today known as Poland.


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