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GoPoland!: History of Poland: Rise to Glory

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Yet his heir, a nephew from Hungary, did not last long. Louis I was quickly tossed over for his 10 year old daughter Jadwiga who was then wedded to the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ladislaus Jagiello. Like all royal marriages, the personal union solidified a political one: the Poland-Lithuania alliance of 1386 created a multinational state that would thrive for some time to come. Although Jadwiga died in her early 20's, Jagiello went on to rule Poland for the next 4 decades and his dynasty lasted until 1572.

Under his dynasty, Poland progressed militarily, culturally, and politically. Its military strength grew sufficient to decisively defeat the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald in 1410 - the largest medieval battle in history - weakening their hold over the north and allowing Poland to regain limited power over Danzig. But as that now familiar threat receded, a second developed to the East as Poland became increasingly engaged with the up-and-coming Muscovite czars. The balancing act between the East and the West had begun in earnest, and was to continue until the present day.

Culturally, Poland welcomed the Renaissance as did the rest of Europe, and its strong ties with Italy left their mark. Even today, Italianate architecture survives in Poland, the reminders of a time passed when Polish nobles learned in Italian universities, and Italian artisans thrived in Polish cities like Zamosc. At that time, a quarter of the population could read and write, a literacy rate which was unmatched in the rest of Europe. Enhancing these intellectual advances, the Reformation left Poland more religiously tolerant than ever. Its already growing number of non-Catholics swelled, making it one of the most diversely populated countries of that time. Politically, Poland also marched ahead. Again giving voice to its faith in the individual, it enfranchised the nobility and established the first representative body in Europe. The Sejm of 1493 was further strengthened in 1505 with a constitutionally organized two house system and its power grew sufficient to take the reins when the last Jagiellonian king died without an heir in 1572.

Short History of Poland
Beginning of Nation
Rise to Glory
First Republic & Partitions
Erased But Not Forgotten
Rise from Ashes: Second Republic
Black Clouds Again: Second World War
Under Communist Yoke

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