The Polish people, or Poles, (Polacy ) are a Western Slavic ethnic group of Central Europe, living predominantly in Poland. Poles are sometimes defined as people who share a common Polish culture and are of Polish descent. Their religion is predominantly Roman Catholic. The Poles can also be referred to as the inhabitants of the Republic of Poland and Polish emigrants irrespective of their ethnicity. A wide-ranging Polish diaspora exists throughout Western and Eastern Europe, the Americas and Australia.

There is no commonly accepted definition of the Polish people. According to the preamble of the Constitution of Poland, the Polish Nation consists of all citizens of Poland. However, like in most European countries, many people limit the group to native speakers of the Polish language, people that share certain traditions, or people who share a common ethnic background originating from Poland. As to its origins, the name of the nation comes from a western Slavic ethnic group of Polans primarily associated with Poland and the Polish language. Poles belong to the Lechitic subgroup of these ethnic people. The Polans of Giecz, Gniezno, and Poznań were one of the most influential tribes of Greater Poland and managed to unite many other West Slavic tribes in the area under the rule of what became the Piast dynasty, thus giving birth to a new state. The Polish word for a Polish person is Polak (male) and Polka (female), however, when this common noun is used verbatim in the English language (usually spelled as Polack) it is always offensive.


Poles or Polish are the sixth largest national group in Europe. Estimates vary depending on source, though available data suggests a total number around 60 million people worldwide (with approx. 21 million living outside of Poland). There are almost 39 million Poles in Poland alone. There are also autochthonous Polish minorities in the surrounding countries including Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus. There are some smaller minorities in nearby countries such as Moldova and Latvia. There is also a Polish minority in Russia which included autochthonous Poles as well as those forcibly deported during and after World War II; the total number of Poles in what was the former Soviet Union is estimated at up to 3 million.

The term "Polonia" is usually used in Poland to refer to people of Polish origin who live outside Polish borders, officially estimated at around 10-12 to 20 million. There is a notable Polish diaspora in the United States (Polish-Americans), Canada, (Polish-Canadians) and Brazil (Polish-Brazilians). France has a historic relationship with Poland and has a relatively large Polish-descendant population. Poles lived in France since the 1700s. In the early 20th century, over a million Polish people settled in France, mostly during world wars, among them Polish émigrés fleeing either Nazi occupation and later Soviet rule.

In the United States a significant number of Polish immigrants settled in Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Orlando, and Buffalo. The majority of Polish Canadians arrived to Canada since World War II, the number of Polish immigrants increased between 1945 – 1970, and again since the fall of Communism in 1989. In Brazil the majority of Polish immigrants settled in Paraná State, the city of Curitiba has the second largest Polish diaspora in the world (after Chicago) and Polish music, dishes and culture are quite common in the region. In recent years, since joining the European Union, many Polish people have emigrated to countries such as Ireland; where an estimated 200,000 Polish people have entered the labour market. It is estimated that over half a million Polish people have immigrated to the United Kingdom. The Polish community in Norway has increased dramatically and has grown to a total number of 120,000, making Poles the largest immigrant group in Norway.

Polish tribes

The following is the list of Polish tribes - tribes which constituted the lands of Poland in the early Middle Ages, at the beginning of the Polish state. Some of them have remained a separate ethnicity while others have been assimilated into the culture of Poland.
  • Dziadoszanie
  • Golęszyce
  • Goplans
  • Lędzianie
  • Opolanie
  • Kujawianie
  • Pyrzyczanie
  • Ślężanie
  • Trzebowianie
  • Vistulans
  • European Union

    (for ethnic Poles living abroad see Polonia, for those living and working in the United Kingdom see Polish British)

    A survey carried out by the CBOS public opinion institute, between March 30 and April 2, 2007, found that 86% of Poles felt that EU membership had had a positive effect, with only 5% of the respondents speaking against it, down from 22 percent in 2004. The institute also found that 55% of those surveyed prefer the EU to remain a union of sovereign states, while 22% supported the idea of a "United States of Europe". Principal areas of Polish life that have been improved by EU membership, are agriculture (according to 75% of those surveyed), the environment (61%), productivity (57%) and unemployment (56%).

    Among the ten new EU members, of which eight are Central or Eastern European, Poles are the most mobile, with considerable numbers of Polish migrants found in almost all ‘old’ EU countries, filling numerous vacancies on the European labour market, especially in areas where indigenous workforce is insufficient. According to Franck Duvell of Oxford, some countries, like Germany and Austria, missed on that opportunity by discriminating against mobile Europeans, granting them freedom of movement without freedom of employment, which resulted in the increase of numbers of illegal migrant workers there. “In fact, the EU accession process, and namely the Polish experience could possibly serve as a paradigm for easing some of Europe’s migration dilemma,” Duvell suggested.


    See also

  • Polish Germans
  • Polish minority in the Czech Republic
  • Polish minority in Lithuania
  • Polish minority in Romania
  • Polish minority in the Soviet Union
  • Demographics of Poland
  • European ethnic groups
  • Genetic history of Europe
  • Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA)
  • Name of Poland (etymology of the demonym)
  • External links

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