The composition of the population changed radically in connection with the Second World War. Prior to that, minority groups made up nearly 30 percent of the population. In the latest census in 2011, only a few percent of the residents defined themselves as anything other than Poles.
Only small groups of the population cultivate their ethnic characteristics, such as language, dialect or traditions. Minorities consist of Silesians, Kashubians, Germans, Ukrainians, Belarusians (Belarusians), Romans, Jews, Slovaks and Lithuanians. There are also two Tatar villages after ancient Tatar settlements.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Poland, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
During World War II, Poland lost almost a fifth of its population. About six million Polish citizens, including about three million Polish Jews, lost their lives.
A small group of Jews remain
The Jewish minority, which at the end of the 1930s was 3.5 million people or nearly 10 percent of the population, was mostly killed in Nazi extermination camps. Of the half million Jews who survived the war, most emigrated to Israel in 1945–1949 and after 1956. Some tens of thousands emigrated in connection with fighting with anti-Semitic elements in the ruling Communist Party in 1968. There are an unknown number, perhaps 20,000, of Poles with Jewish roots.. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in Poland’s Jewish history, with recurring cultural events.
Through the post-war borders, large parts of Poland’s Ukrainian, Belarusian and Lithuanian minorities ended up in Soviet territory, today parts of Ukraine, Belarus (Belarus) and Lithuania. The German population in the areas that came to belong to Poland fled the Red Army or were forced to move west. There, instead, settled Poles who were forced to leave areas that Poland exited in the east.
Polish minorities are located in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There are also significant groups of Poles in former Soviet Central Asia, mainly in Kazakhstan, where they were deported by Soviet leader Josef Stalin in the 1930s. As a result of emigration, especially before and during the Second World War, about ten million Poles, or people with Polish roots, live in the western world. Of these, 6.5 million live in the United States.
In connection with Poland’s EU accession in 2004, Poles began to seek work in the UK and Ireland, primarily. Some have settled in these countries for good, others commute due to low cost flights. Some returned to their homeland in the wake of the economic crisis in 2008, but in 2016, almost one million Polish-born people were permanently residing in the United Kingdom and were estimated to constitute the largest immigrant group. Since the British voted to leave the EU, some relocation, or relocation to other EU countries, has taken place, in particular Germany. In Sweden, there are 50,000 to 100,000 people of Polish origin.
The homeland has its largest population density in Małopolska (Lesser Poland, with Kraków as its main place) and Śląsk (Silesia) in southern Poland. In 1945, over two-thirds of Poles lived in the countryside. This changed rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s when many people moved into the cities. In the mid-2010s, about six out of ten residents lived in the cities.
Polish is the official language of the country. It is a West Slavic language written with the Latin alphabet. Its oldest records are from the 1100s. Until the Renaissance, the Poles wrote mainly in Latin. The language and the alphabet strengthen the Poles’ image of themselves as a people belonging to the West, unlike the East Slavic Russian written with the Cyrillic alphabet.
The largest minority languages are Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Belarusian and German.
Polish pronunciation guide
Ą ą, Ę ę = nasal sound, much like “steam” / “meadow” (or French on / in)
C = ts, Ć ć / Cz = both are similar to “tj” in “lattjo” (however, there is some difference on ć and cz)
Ł ł = as an English w
Ń ń = nj
G = always hard as in street
O = å
Ó = as a Swedish o in “sun”
Ś ś / Sz = both are “sch-sound”, but ś has a pull for “k” as in “kiss”
Z = toning s, Ź / Ż = both are toning sch sounds, a Swedish has difficulty hearing the difference
W = as Swedish v
ch = as in German “laugh”
rz = a thick “rzj”, hard to reproduce in writing
Łódź ≈ wodzj, Wałęsa ≈ vawengsa, Szczecin ≈ Schtjetsin, Śląsk ≈ Shlångsk
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Poles 91.6%, dual ethnic identity (Poles and, for example, Silesians, Kashubians, German, Ukrainians, Belarusians or Jews) 2.2%, non-Poles 1.4%, proportion who do not give any ethnic identity 4.8% (census 2011, based on how the respondents define themselves)
Number of residents
37 975 841 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
60.1 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
10.1 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
10.2 per 1000 residents (2016)
0.0 percent (2017)
1.3 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
51.7 percent (2017)
77 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
82 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
74 years (2016)
Polish is the official language; Among the minority languages are German, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian
Russian gas supply contracts
Improved relations between Poland and Russia after the air crash in April contribute to a new agreement on the supply of Russian gas to Poland until 2022.
Komorowski is elected president
Former Solidarity member and PO candidate Bronisław Komorowski wins the presidential election. In the second round, he defeats Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the opposition PiS and twin brother of the injured Lech Kaczyński.
Murdered priest is blessed
The Catholic Church blames pastor Jerzy Popiełuszko, a critic of the Communist regime murdered by the security police in 1984. About 150,000 Poles, including the country’s head of government and the President of the European Parliament, attend the ceremony in Warsaw.
State leadership wiped out in air disaster
President Lech Kaczyński is killed in a plane crash in Russian Smolensk along with his wife and 94 other people, including the country’s top military, the governor of the central bank and several members of the Sejm. Parliament Speaker Bronisław Komorowski takes over the duties of the Head of State temporarily.