Poznań plays an important role as one of Poland's oldest cities, making it a significant historical center. It was the capital of Greater Poland, the cradle of the Polish state and was also Poland's capital in the mid-10th century during the early Piast dynasty. Poznań Cathedral is the oldest church in the country, containing the tombs of the first Polish rulers, Duke Mieszko I and King Boleslaus the Brave.
Today the city is a vibrant center for trade, industry, and education. Poznań is Poland's fifth largest city and fourth biggest industrial center. It is also the administrative capital of the Greater Poland Voivodship.
From the 2nd partition of Poland in 1793 until 1806, Poznań was in South Prussia (part of Prussia). From 1806 to 1815, Poznań was part of the Duchy of Warsaw. After Napoleon's defeat, the city once again became part of Prussia, functioning as the capital of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Poznań. After 1830, the Grand Duchy of Poznań became semi-autonomous and by 1846, in the midst of revolutions across the European continent, its autonomy was revoked. In 1871, Poznań, along with the whole of Prussia, became part of the German Empire. After Germany's defeat in World War I and as part of the Treaty of Versailles, the Second Polish Republic was created. The Allied decision was influenced in part by the Great Poland Uprising that lasted from 1918 to 1919. Despite six years of Nazi rule during World War II, Poznań has remained a part of Poland ever since.
The first settlements in what is now Poznań can be traced to the late period of the Stone Age. Later various cultures developed here in the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
The first stronghold was built in the 8th-9th century AD on the Ostrów Tumski - an island in the forks of Warta and Cybina rivers. Subsequently it was surrounded by various settlements on the islands and on both banks of Warta River. In 10th century Poznań and Gniezno were the main sites of Polish dukes, and centres of the developing Polish state. In 968 the first Polish bishoprics and the first Polish cathedral were founded here (first bishop was Jordan). First Polish monarchs of the Piast dynasty Mieszko I, Boleslaus I the Brave and Mieszko II Lambert are buried in the Poznań cathedral.
Poznań became first seat of bishop Jordan, who after the conversion of Mieszko I to Christianity, was the missionary bishop of Poland (968 - 982). The Diocese of Poznań was created in 999, formally in 1000 at the Congress of Gniezno, under jurisdiction of archbishopric of Gniezno, with emperor Otto and Boleslaw I agreeing to create the independent diocese, subordinated directly to the pope. Possibly bishop Unger of Poznań was imprisoned in Magdeburg and released when he recognized the jurisdiction of Magdeburg, perhaps Unger was disappointed with not being chosen for new archbishop of Poland (since he was missionary bishop to the Poland before 1000, after Jordan's death). After Unger's death and the religious upheavals the diocese of Poznańwas disputed between the Gniezno diocese and the Archbishops of Magdeburg, with Poznań being part of Gniezno church province. In 1133 Poznań was attached by the pope to the archbishop of Magdeburg. However in 1136 a pope again confirmed that Poznań was suffragan of Gniezno.
During the internal fighting and the Bohemian Czech invasion of Bretislaus I in 1038, Poznań and Gniezno were destroyed and lost their capital cities status to Kraków under Casimir I the Restorer (1039-1058). The two cities and bishoprics were rebuilt by the king Boleslaus II the Generous (1058-1079).
Capital of Great Poland (1138-1295)
Since the feudal fragmentation of Poland began in 1138, Poznań was the capital of Greater Poland division and the main site of the local duke's dynasty started by Mieszko III the Old. The city was developing quickly and in 12th century it was surrounded by trade-and-crafts settlements of St. Gotard, St. Martin, St. Adalbert on the left bank of the Warta river and Śródka of the right bank.
In ca. 1230 the dukes founded in Śródka an autonomous municipality based on Teutonic law, and in 1253 dukes Przemysł I and Boleslaus the Pious founded the city in St.Gotard settlement, in the present place of Old Market Square, based on Magdeburg law. The first mayor of the local government was Thomas of Guben/Gubin, and in the following years he brought many German settlers to the city.
Przemysł II, son of Przemysł I, built a castle on the so called "Przemysł hill" and surrounded the city with a wall. In 1295 Przemysł II was crowned king of Poland. After Przemysł's death in 1296 there were four competitors for the Polish throne and the control of Poznań: Ladislaus of Kuyavia, Henry I of Glogow, Wenceslaus II of Bohemia, and Boleslaus of Opole.
Poznań in the Kingdom of Poland (1295-1793)
With the unification of Poland Poznań become the main political, cultural, academic and economic center. It was the site of the royal Governor General for Greater Poland, and the main trading center between Ruthenia and Lithuania with western Germany. In 1519 Lubrański Academy was founded (the second institute of higher education in Poland, after Kraków's Jagiellon University) and in 1573 another school, Jesuits' College (rector: Jakub Wujek).
The 16th century is called "the Golden Age" in the city's history. The population grew to 20.000 and Poznań was one of the biggest cities in Poland. This was ended with the Swedish invasion in 1655 which started a series of wars, epidemics and catastrophes. They led to slow economic decline and significant depopulation (3,000).
Economic boom started again after 1780 during activities of the Good Order Council. In years 1719-1753 Poznań absorbed several waves of rural settlers from Bamberg (Bambrzy) invited by the city authorities. They were also significant groups of Dutch settlers (Olędrzy). Both groups have added new cultural elements to the city.
Poznań in the Kingdom of Prussia (1793-1918)
With the second partition of Poland in 1793, the city fell to Kingdom of Prussia and was made the capital of the province of South Prussia. During the Napoleonic Wars in 1806 the city was liberated by the Polish troops under gen. J.H. Dąbrowski and in years 1806-1815 it was the capital of Poznań department belonging to the Duchy of Warsaw.
After the fall of Napoleon in 1815, according to the Vienna peace congress, Poznań fell to Prussia, and was made the capital of the Grand Duchy of Poznań (1815-1846). At this time Poznań was the site of the royal Governor, Duke Antoni Henryk Radziwiłł.
About the time of the 1848 revolutions, the duchy was renamed the Province of Posen (Provinz Posen, 1846-1918) of the Prussian state, governed by the royal Over-President. With the unification of Germany by the Prussian king, the duchy became part of the German Empire (1871-1918) and the city became an imperial residence city. In 1910 large neoromanesque imperial castle was built west of the city center, as well as a park, the new city theater, and the headquarters for the Settlement Commission.
The population of Poznań was half Polish, half German, and the proportion of Germans increasing up to the peak of 1848 to 60%. When industrialisation attracted people from the countryside, the proportion of Germans gradually decreased (see also Ostflucht). Polish population organized themselves around economic, cultural and scientific activities: 1829 Raczyński Library, 1857 Poznań Society of Friends of Arts and Sciences, 1861 Central Economic Society, 1875 Polish Theatre.
In addition to its early religious and state roles, Poznań was a military, commercial, rail-and-water transportation, and postal center for the region.
Transformation from Stadt Posen ("Poznań city") to Festung Posen ("Poznań Stronghold" - Polish: Twierdza Poznań) started in 1828 when the citadel Fort Winiary was built on the hillock north of the old town (for some time it was a political prison). This gave the military command supremacy over the local civil government. Several estates to the north were converted into the "Truppenübungsplatz Warthelager" ("Warthe barracks and troop practice fields") and firing ranges were scattered around the surrounding countryside. Later, other fortifications were built - Poznań became a town inside a polygonal fortress (works were finished in 1851). In 1876 a modernization of the Festung was begun. A ring of 18 forts were built, 9 major, and 9 minor. Poznań had become a major military post, headquarters for the Fifth Army Corp of the German army. The polygonal fortifications remained until 1900. In the early 1900s, zeppelins and biplanes were a common site, as support for the army.
Considerable commerce floated by on the river Warta (German: Warthe), which separated the old town on the western left bank from the channelled island (Chwaliszewo), and right bank peninsula with the cathedral (today, like in Middle Ages, island, called Ostrów Tumski). The railroad was built in 1846-1848 and the first train from Szczecin (German: Stettin) arrived on 8 August 1848, and left Poznań (returning to Szczecin) on 10 August. The first station was located in the western Jeżyce suburb as dictated by the military administration of Festung Posen. A large new main train station was built closer to the west side of the city in 1879, with regional administrative offices and maintenance buildings. The tracks were laid north/south, but split to the east and west north of the town, forming a "T" shape. The eastern branch had another station and a spur that serviced the slaughterhouse district north of the Jewish quarter in the northeastern corner, where the Cybina river flows into the Warta (exactly to branch of Warta called Cybina or Eastern Ulga Channel which separates Ostrów Tumski from right bank).
As a regional center, the postal service had its administrative headquarters here (Oberpostdirektion) across the street from the Imperial Residence. Also nearby were the offices of the Settlement Commission (German: Ansiedlungskommission). Teachers and clerics were trained here.
Poznań in the Second Polish Republic (1919-1939)
At the end of World War I, the Great Poland Uprising (1918-1919) promised to restore Great Poland and its capital as a Polish nation. According to the Versailles peace treaty, signed on June 28, 1919, most of Posen province was ceded to Poland, and organized into Poznań Voivodship. German inhabitants of the region and city were given an option to stay or leave but most of them left to Germany - also because of discrimination, and those who stayed made some 10% of the city population.
In 1919 Poznań University was opened, in 1921 Poznań Trade Fairs, from 1925 Poznań International Fair (Miedzynarodowe Targi Poznańskie). In the following years Poznań has become a leading economic, scientific and cultural centre of Second Polish Republic.
Poznań in Nazi Germany (1939-1945)
With the outbreak of the World War II Poznań was annexed by Germany and briefly reorganized into the Reichsgau Posen and then as the Reichsgau Wartheland (Warta province) for the duration of the war.
The German army, police and administration started a programme of 're-germanisation of Poznań', and some 100,000 of inhabitants were expelled to central Poland General Government. Many people were murdered as well in the notorious state-sponsored executions, intended to prevent the creation of insurgencies. Another share of the population was sent to central Germany as slave workers. Others were conscripted to the German army.
The Polish and Jewish population was replaced by the Volksdeutsche resettled from Baltic States, Eastern Europe and central Germany. They were granted the property confiscated from the expelled Poles and Jews.
Despite (and probably in many cases because of) the rounding up and execution of local leaders and potential leaders, some remaining Poles organized themselves into guerilla groups under the leadership of Home Army (Armia Krajowa).
As the Red Army advanced into Poland in January, 1945 Poznań was declared a 'festung' by Hitler, but without the extensive defensive works of genuine fortresses in essence the city garrison was abandoned and ordered to fight to the last man. The local Gauleiter, Arthur Greiser, quickly fled but not before forbidding the evacuation of any civilians, an order that was not overturned until January 20, much too late.
See also: Battle of Poznań (1945)
The 1st Guards Tank Army reached Poznań on January 25, their commander, Mikhail Katukov, pushed straight on and Poznań was left to the following 8th Guards Army under Vasily Chuikov, noted for his experience of city fighting from the "Stalingrad Academy of street-fighting", which reached the city the following day. The Soviets gathered their strength, not beginning the ground assault until February 18, by which time the actual frontline was over 200 km to the west, the attack was preceded with nine days of artillery bombardment from almost 1,400 heavy guns. Soviet soldiers quickly penetrated the city's defences and brutal fighting lasted some days. On the night of February 22, the German commander, Ernst Gomell, committed suicide and the following morning the remaining garrison surrendered. The 8th Guards Army was aided by over 5,000 Polish civilians and a unit of 2nd Polish Army). Over 55% of the city was destroyed, over 90% of old town, during the struggle.
Poznań in People's Republic of Poland (1945-1989)
The first years after WWII (1945-1948 were the era of enthusiasm for peace and freedom, rebuilding the city from ruins, and relative political freedom. With the rigged elections of 1947 Poland was put under strict control of the communist party and the Sovietisation of the state and economy.
1950 local government is abolished
Worsening political and economic conditions led to the first Polish anti-communist protests.
In June 1956 workers from the city's Cegielski locomotive factory, the largest factory in Poland demanded talks with the Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz to protest at low wages, being cheated of overtime, unfavourable changes in taxation and enormous shortages of food. The government refused to talk and after a series of strikes on the 28th of June a protest march of between 15,000and 100,000 workers (figures vary) from the Cegielski and Stalin works was fired on by the authorities. The crowds ransacked the Communist Party Headquarters and then attacked the UB secret police headquarters where they were repulsed by police shooting into the crowd. Figures are of between 53 and 76 people dead (67 official), hundreds injured and 700 arrested. The riots continued for two days until on the second night the Government sent in the army. A two hour long procession of tanks, armored cars, field guns, and lorries full of troops went through the city and surrounded it. The riots ended.
This led to the change of Polish government to a milder communist faction.
1957-1975 City of Poznań is excluded from Poznań Voivodship and constituted as a separate administrative unit with voivodship rights.
1975-1998 as a result of local government reorganisation act Poznań is the capital of the small Poznań Voivodship
1981 Solidarity free trade union
1981 monument of Poznań June 1956 uprising is erected with participation of Lech Wałęsa
1983 first visit of the Pope John Paul II
Poznań in Third Polish Republic (after 1989)
1990 first free elections for the local government
1991 reestablishment congress of the Polish Cities Union;
1991 first Polish Economic Exhibition of the Polish Cities
1997 second visit of the pope John Paul II
1998 international meeting of the so called Weimar triangle: Helmut Kohl, chancellor of Germany, Jacques Chirac, President of France, and Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Praesident of Poland.
Capital of Greater Poland Voivodship since 1999.
First NATO base in Poland located in Poznań.