Warsaw is the capital city and also the largest city in Poland. Located near the Baltic Sea, the Carpathian Mountains and on the Vistula River, Warsaw is number 7 on the list of most populous cities in the European Union. The city is a huge tourist destination mostly because it has survived so many wars of the centuries. For instance, the city suffered a lot of damage in World War 2 from which many buildings were destroyed which demanded that the city had to be built up again. There are numerous tourists streaming in from many countries worldwide, just to see Warsaw, the city that was and still is today.
Warsaw has been inhabited for not less than 1400 years. This fact can be supported by archeological findings which can be back dated to those times. In the year 1529, Warsaw was the seat of General Sejm. The year 1572 saw the death of Sigismund II Augustus who was the last king of the Jagiellon dynasty. In 1573, it was passed that Polish Kings could now be elected from gentry. In the same year, the Warsaw Confederation was passed whereby religious freedoms were established. The first election was held in April and May in the year 1573. In the year 1575 the second elections where held whereby Stephen Bathory was chosen as a Polish King. Notable elections following the first two were held in 1575 and 1587 where there were disputes among nobles. In the year 1596, Warsaw was chosen as the capital of the Common Wealth and also the capital of the Polish Crown. It was at this time that King Sigismund III Vasa moved the court to Warsaw from Krakow. In 1576, a permanent bridge was built on Vistula which was destroyed in the year 1603 following an ice flow. Between the years 1655 and 1658, Warsaw was under siege from the Swedish, Transylvanian and Brandenburgian forces.
After the death of King John III, the Kingdom of Poland started declining. In the year 1697, the Saxon Prince Elector Frederic Augustus was elected and he also took up the name Augustus II. Russian and Sweden rulers, Peter I the Great and Charles XII respectively, started extending their territories and extending their reach. The year 1700 was met with the Great Northern War and Poland joined forces with Russia. In the year 1702, Warsaw was besieged by Swedish troops from which it suffered a lot. In 1704, Augustus II was dethroned and a new King Voivod Stanislaw Leszczynski was elected. In the year 1704, Warsaw was retaken by the Saxon Army led by Augustus. He lost it again after the battle of 1705 where in October 1705, Stanislaw Leszczynski was crowned king. In 1701, Russian Troops entered Warsaw and after two months they removed. The king, Stanislaw reigned till the year 1709 when Sweden was defeated by Russia in the battle of Poltava, whereby the Swedish army was forced out of Warsaw. Augustus II became the king of Poland again and he later died in 1733 and Stanislaw was elected again to throne. However this election didn’t match the political interests at that time and two months later Augustus II’s son, Augustus III was elected to throne. The War of the Polish Succession started due to the conflict of interest between the followers of Leszczynski and those of Augustus III. Warsaw was occupied and was the centre of the battle. After the war, Augustus III remained the King and Leszczynski fled to France. This is the period referred to as the Saxon Period in Warsaw which also marked the development of the city apart from the battles.
For instance, in the year 1747, the Zaluski Library was built. In 1740, the Collegium Nobilium, which was a university for the sons of noblemen, was built. In 1742, the City Committee which was responsible for building pavements and the sewage system in Warsaw was established. The year 1764 saw the election of a Russian King, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, which made Poland a Russian Protectorate. In 1765, the King, established a Korpus Kadetow, the first secular school in Warsaw and in 1773, the first ministry of education was established. In the year 1772, a new bridge on the Vistula was built which was in existence till the year 1794. Warsaw had changed considerably with living standards being higher and the economy being developed. In 1788, the Sejm, gathered and started discuss on how to improve the political climate at that time and also how to gain independence. In May 1791, the Constitution was passed in Warsaw which was effected for a year. In the year 1794, the Warsaw Uprising started which was an insurrection whereby the Russian were being thrown off the control of the Polish Capital. At the end of the battle of Maciejowice, the Russians captured Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who reached the outskirts of Warsaw in November 1794. Though it lasted for 4 hours, the Polish forces were completely defeated which lead to total destruction of the city of Warsaw by the Russian forces. The slaughter of Praga, is a name coined from the deaths which occurred as a result of the destruction of Warsaw city in November 1794. There was a partition which saw Warsaw become the capital Province of South Prussia.
Warsaw was liberated from South Prussia in the year 1806 by Napoleon’s army. In 1815, Warsaw was the center of the Congress of Poland which was a constitutional monarchy. Warsaw was under the rule of Alexander 1 who was a Russian Emperor, and during this time, the city was well developed. The November uprising, started in 1830 immediately after the death of Alexander 1, due to violation of the Constitution. This led to the Polish Russian war in 1831 which led to dissolving of the Sejm. In the year 1845, a railway in Congress Poland territory and in the Russian empire was opened. This started the remarkable development of the Warsaw city again. This was followed by changes such as railway bridges, road bridges, stone supports etc. During the reign of Mayor Sokrates Starynkiewics (during the year 1875 – 1892) the city flourished with sewage and water systems being built, cemeteries, power plants and bridges etc. This was met by numerous disturbances by the Russian authorities who went ahead and closed Polish schools and built Orthodox churches instead. This was opposed by so many people which led to serious riots which lasted to the year 1905.
In 1915, Germans entered Warsaw and the Russians started retreating in the meanwhile destroying all of the bridges in Warsaw, looted factory equipment etc. The World War 1 began in Praga. In 1918, there was a revolution in Germany and the German authorities who had occupied Warsaw left. November 1918, marked Warsaw’s independence especially after German authorities left on November 8 the same year. Warsaw became the capital of Poland. In 1920, the Polish – Bolshevik war broke which also saw the Battle of Warsaw where the Red Army was defeated. In 1922, the first President of Poland, Gabriel Narutowicz was assassinated after being elected 5 days earlier. On September 1939, during the World War II, Warsaw was hit by the first bombs. Events that followed include the invasion by the Soviets, closure of the German encirclement was closed in Warsaw, the burning of the Royal Castle and the power plant and also the surrender of Warsaw city to Germans who later invaded Warsaw. The arrest of President Starzynski and deportation to Dachau Concentration Camp, also led to his death. During the second World War, Warsaw and the whole of Central Poland was ruled by the Nazis who killed people in concentration camps each day. A huge number of the Warsaw Jewish population was killed mercilessly by the Nazis. The Germans demolished Warsaw and ruined it to the ground. In the year 1945, Warsaw was basically ruined and in rubbles. However, rebuilding started and Warsaw started its slow upgrade into the city we know today.
Some of the changes which have been experienced in Warsaw ever since the destruction from the war started after the visits of Pope John Paul II in 1979 and in 1983 which start the anti-communist fever. First, the Pope celebrated Mass in the Victory Square and urged people to renew Poland. This encouraged a democratic spirit. Serious changes in the government started in the year 1989 with new development being experienced in the years thereafter. For instance, the Warsaw Metro was opened in 1995 and Poland entered into the European Union. Today, Warsaw is experiencing an economic boom, which is largest in the country so far. However, the biggest recovery of the torn down Warsaw city will be experienced with the hosting of Euro 2012 which will make the world look at the simple city which has grown from worse to the best!