Poland profile - Timeline

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Warsaw's Castle SquareImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Poland's capital Warsaw rose to prominence in the late 16th Century when it became home to the royal court

A chronology of key events:

966 - Duke Mieszko I, the historically recognised founder of the Polish state, adopts Catholic Christianity.

1025 - Boleslaw I proclaims the Kingdom of Poland.

1569 - Poland signs Union of Lublin with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to establish the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a major power in Europe unusual for its powerful parliament of noblemen and its elected kings.

1772 - The Commonwealth is subjected to the first of three major partitions by its neighbours Prussia, Russia and Austria following an anti-Russian revolt.

1791-1793 - A programme of political and social reform culminates in the 3 May Constitution in 1791, which promises civil rights to the urban and peasant population of the Commonwealth. Russia invades to prevent liberal change. Prussia also sends in troops, and the two powers carry out a second partition in 1793.

Independence lost

1794-1795 - Reformers lead an armed uprising against the partitioning powers. Following its failure the Commonwealth is finally partitioned among Prussia, Russia and Austria. Independent Poland disappears from the map of Europe.

1807 - Napoleon creates the Duchy of Warsaw as a client state to rally Polish support for his cause.

1815 - The Congress of Vienna creates a rump Kingdom of Poland, ruled by Russia.

1830-1831 - Military revolt in protest at Russian erosion of the Kingdom's political autonomy and civil liberties.

1863-1864 - Another revolt against Russian rule is defeated and the Kingdom annexed to Russia.

1864-1914 - The Polish national movement in Russia, Prussia and Austria focuses on strengthening the grassroots through education, culture and political parties.

Independence restored

1918 - After more than a century of foreign rule, an independent Polish state is restored after the end of World War One, with Marshal Jozef Pilsudski as head of state.

1920 - Soviet Red Army offensive repulsed.

1926 - Pilsudski stages a military coup, which leads to nine years of autocratic rule.

1932 - Poland concludes non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

1934 - Poland signs similar 10-year pact with Nazi Germany.

1935 - Pilsudski dies. The military regime continues.

Invasion and subjugation

1939 - Nazi Germany invades Poland. Beginning of World War Two as the United Kingdom and France declare war on Germany in response. USSR invades from the east. Germany and the Soviet Union divide Poland between them and treat Polish citizens with extreme brutality. Germany begins systematic persecution of the large Jewish population.

1940 - Soviet secret police carry out systematic massacre of about 22,000 Polish army officers, professionals and civil servants mainly in a forest near Katyn in Russia's Smolensk region. The Soviet Union attributed the crime to the Nazis until acknowledging responsibility in the late 1980s.

1941 - Germans start to build concentration camps in Poland. Their names - Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek - become synonymous with the Holocaust.

1943 - Warsaw ghetto uprising against German attempts to transport the remaining Jewish inhabitants to concentration camps. Resistance lasts nearly four weeks before the ghetto is burned down. The Germans announce the capture of more than 50,000 Jews.

1944 - Polish resistance forces take control of Warsaw in August. The Germans recapture the city in October and burn it to the ground.

1945 - Soviet forces capture Warsaw in January. All German forces are driven from Poland by March. Poland's borders are set by the post-war Potsdam conference; Poland loses territory to the Soviet Union but gains some from Germany.

Communist rule

1947 - Poland becomes a Communist People's Republic after Soviet-run elections, under the Stalinist leadership of Boleslaw Bierut.

1955 - Poland joins the Soviet-run Warsaw Pact military alliance.

1956 - More than 50 people killed in rioting in Poznan over demands for greater freedom. Liberal Communist leader Wladislaw Gomulka takes over.

1970 - Food price riots in Gdansk. The protests are suppressed, hundreds are killed. Edward Gierek becomes party leader.

1970s - Poland enjoys relative economic prosperity based on foreign loans. Successive US presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter visit Poland.

1978 - Karol Wojtyla, Cardinal of Krakow, elected Pope.

1980 - Disturbances at the shipyard in Gdansk lead to the emergence of the Solidarity trade union under Lech Walesa.

1981 - Martial law imposed. Many of Solidarity's leaders, including Walesa, are imprisoned.

1983 - Martial law lifted.

Success for Solidarity

1989 - Round-table talks between Solidarity, the Communists and the Catholic Church pave the way for fall of communism in Poland. Partially free elections see landslide win for Solidarity, which helps form coalition government. Tadeusz Mazowiecki becomes Poland's first non-Communist prime minister since 1946.

1990 - Walesa elected president of Poland. Market reforms, including large-scale privatisation, are launched.

1991 - First parliamentary elections since fall of communism. Soviet troops start to leave Poland.

1993 - Reformed Communists enter coalition government. They pledge to continue market reforms.

1994 - Poland joins Nato's Partnership for Peace programme.

1995 - Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Communist, narrowly beats Lech Walesa to become president.

1997 - Polish parliament adopts a new constitution. General election is won by the Solidarity grouping AWS. Jerzy Buzek forms a coalition government.

Towards EU membership

1998 - The EU opens talks on Polish membership.

1999 - Poland joins Nato.

2000 - Aleksander Kwasniewski re-elected as president.

2001 - Poland permits citizens to apply to see the files kept on them by the secret police during the communist era.

2001 October - New coalition between the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Peasants' Party forms government with SLD leader Leszek Miller as prime minister.

2002 December - EU summit in Copenhagen formally invites Poland to join in 2004.

2003 March - Polish Peasant's Party ejected from ruling coalition over failure to vote with government on tax. Leszek Miller carries on as PM in minority government.

2003 June - Poles vote in referendum in favour of joining EU.

EU era dawns

2004 May - Poland is one of 10 new states to join the EU.

Prime Minister Miller resigns. Former finance minister Marek Belka succeeds him.

2005 September - Conservative Law and Justice party comes first in general elections.

2005 October - Law and Justice candidate Lech Kaczynski wins presidential election.

Minority government led by Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz of Law and Justice sworn in.

2006 May - Law and Justice Party reaches majority coalition agreement with Self-Defence Party and League of Polish Families.

2006 July - Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz resigns as prime minister. President Lech Kaczynski's twin brother, Jaroslaw, becomes premier.

2007 January - Recently-appointed Archbishop of Warsaw Stanislaw Wielgus resigns over revelations about his co-operation with the secret police under communist rule.

2007 April - Prosecutors bring charges against former communist leader General Jaruzelski over his role in introducing martial law in 1981.

2007 October - Liberal, pro-EU Civic Platform party wins early general election after coalition government collapses.

Defence agreement with US

2008 February - The government forges an agreement with the US in principle to host a controversial American missile defence system.

2008 September - Poland's last Communist leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, goes on trial in connection with the imposition of martial law in 1981.

2009 May - The IMF approves a one-year credit line for Poland of $20.6bn to help it weather the global economic crisis.

2010 April - President Lech Kaczynski and many other senior officials are killed in an aircraft crash travelling to a ceremony in Russia marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre during World War Two.

2010 July - Parliament Speaker and Acting President Bronislaw Komorowski of the centre-right Civic Platform defeats former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the second round of presidential elections.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton oversees amended agreement to station US missile defence shield base in Poland.

2010 December - Nigerian-born John Abraham Godson becomes first black member of Polish parliament.

2011 January - Russia's aviation authority blames Polish pilot error for the Smolensk air crash in which President Lech Kaczynski and many other officials were killed in April 2010.

2011 July - Poland takes over EU rotating presidency for first time since it joined the bloc in 2004.

2011 October - Prime Minister Donald Tusk's centre-right Civic Platform party wins parliamentary elections.

2012 January - A court gives communist-era interior minister Czeslaw Kiszczak a two-year suspended prison sentence in absentia for his role in the martial law crackdown in 1981. The Communist Party leader of the time, Stanislaw Kania, is acquitted.

2013 September - Tens of thousands of protesters march through Warsaw in one of the largest demonstrations in years, organised by trade unions, to demand more jobs and higher pay.

2014 March - Prime Minister Donald Tusk says that Russia's annexation of Crimea cannot be accepted by the international community.

2014 April - Poland asks Nato to station 10,000 troops on its territory, as a visible mark of the Alliance's resolve to defend all its members after Russia's seizure of Crimea.

2014 June - Mr Tusk's ruling coalition narrowly survives a confidence vote triggered by a scandal prompted by leaked tapes of senior government officials appearing to disparage Poland's allies.

2014 September - Prime Minister Donald Tusk resigns to take up the post of president of the European Council. Ewa Kopacz takes over as head of government.

2014 November - Poland adopts a new National Security Strategy that states the country is threatened by war and names Russia as an aggressor in Ukraine.

2014 December - Poland complains of "unprecedented" Russian military activity in the Baltic Sea region, saying Nato is being tested but is not at risk of attack.

2015 April - Poland announces purchase of US Patriot surface-to-air missiles amid rising tension with Russia.

Turn to the right

2015 May - Conservative Law and Justice candidate Andrzej Duda beats centrist incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski in presidential election.

2015 October - Law and Justice conservative, Eurosceptic party becomes first to win overall majority in Polish democratic elections.

2015 December - President Duda approves controversial reform making it harder for the constitutional court to make majority rulings, despite large protests and EU concerns at the implications for oversight of government decisions.

2016 January - European Commission investigates new media law that allows government to appoint heads of state TV and radio as potential "threat to European Union values".

2016 October - Parliament rejects private-member's bill to institute a near-total ban on abortion following mass protests. The governing Law and Justice party decides not to back the bill.

2017 April - Poland welcomes Nato troops deployed in the northeast, as part of efforts to enhance security following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

2017 May - Tens of thousands of people take part in a march in the capital, Warsaw, to protest against what they see as curbs on democracy imposed by the governing Law and Justice Party.

2017 July - President Duda vetoes controversial laws that would have given the government extensive power over the judiciary.

2017 December - Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki takes over as prime minister of the Law and Justice party government.

2018 March - A new law makes it an offence to ascribe Nazi atrocities in occupied Poland to the Polish state.

2019 October - Law and Justice party maintains its position in the lower house of parliament at general elections, but loses control of the Senate to centre and centre-left parties.