Toruń (Thorn, , Thorunium, see also: other names) is a city in northern Poland, on the Vistula River, with population over 207,190 as of 2006, making it the second largest city of the Kujawy-Pomerania Province, after Bydgoszcz. The medieval old town of Toruń is a birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus. It was inscribed onto the World Heritage List of UNESCO as World Heritage Site in 1997.
Previously it was a capital of Toruń Voivodeship (1975-98) and Pomeranian Voivodeship (1921-45). Since 1999 Toruń has been a seat of the self-government of Kujawy-Pomerania Province and, as such, one of its two capitals (together with Bydgoszcz). The cities and neighbouring poviats form the Bydgoszcz-Toruń bipolar metropolitan area. In September 2004, Bydgoszcz Medical School joined Toruń's Nicolaus Copernicus University as its Collegium Medicum.
The Teutonic Knights built a castle there in the years 1230-31. The town was granted city rights by the Polish Crown in 1233. In 1236 it was relocated to the present site of the Old Town. In 1263 Franciscan monks settled in the city, followed in 1239 by Dominicans. In 1264 the nearby New Town was founded. In 1280, the city (actually both cities) joined the mercantile Hanseatic League soon turned into an important medieval trade centre.
The First Peace of Thorn ending the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War (1409-1411) was signed in the city in February 1411. In 1440 the gentry of Thorn formed the Prussian Confederation and rose with the Confederation against the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights in 1454. Also, after almost 200 years of coexistence, New and Old Town amalgamated in 1454. The resulting Thirteen Years' War ended in 1466 with the Second Peace of Thorn, in which the Teutonic Order ceded their control over western Prussia (Royal Prussia). Thorn/Toruń became an autonomous subject under the protectorate of the Kingdom of Poland.
The city adopted Protestantism in 1557 during the Protestant Reformation, while most Polish cities remained Roman Catholic. During the time of the mayor Heinrich Stroband (1586-1609), the city became centralised and its administrative power went into the hands of the city council. In 1595, Jesuits arrived in order to promote the Counter-Reformation, taking control of the Church of St. John. Protestant city officials tried to limit the influx of the Catholic population into the city, as Catholics (Jesuits and Dominican Order monks) already controlled most churches, leaving only St. Mary to the Protestant citizens.
In 1677, the Prussian historian and educator Christoph Hartknoch was invited to be director of the Thorner Gymnasium, a post which he held until his death in 1687. Hartknoch wrote histories of Prussia, including the cities of Royal Prussia.
In the second half of the 17th century, tensions between Catholics and Protestants grew leading to events known as the Tumult of Thorn. In 1793 the city was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia following the Second Partition of Poland. In 1807, the city became part of the Duchy of Warsaw created by Napoleon and ruled by King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, although Prussia took it over again upon Napoleon's defeat in 1814. In 1870, French prisoners of war taken during the Franco-Prussian War built a chain of forts surrounding the town. In the following year, the city, along with the rest of Prussia, became part of the new German Empire. During this period it became one of centers of resistance to Germanisation and Kulturkampf by Poles, who established a Polish-language newspaper called "Gazeta Toruńska". In 1875 a Polish Science Society was established and in 1884 a secret organisation dedicated to restoration of Poland.
According to the Treaty of Versailles signed after World War I in 1919, it was part of the Polish Corridor assigned to Poland. Only now officially Toruń, it became the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship. In 1925 the Baltic Institute was established in the city, with the task of documenting Polish heritage in Pomerania. In general, the interwar period was a time of significant urban development in Toruń. Major investments were completed in areas like transportation (new streets, tramway lines and the Piłsudski Bridge), residential constructions (many new houses, particularly in Bydgoskie Przedmieście) and public buildings.
The city was annexed by Nazi Germany after the Invasion of Poland in 1939 and administered as part of Danzig-West Prussia. During World War II, the chain of forts were used by the Germans as POW camps, collectively known as Stalag XX-A. The city, quite fortunate to avoid significant destruction during the war, was liberated from the Nazis in 1945 by the Soviet Red Army and returned to Polish administration by the Potsdam Conference. The remaining German population was expelled to West Germany between 1945 and 1947.
After World War II, the population increased more than twofold and industry developed significantly. However, one of the most important events of the post-war era was the founding of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in 1945. Over the years, it has become one of the best universities in Poland. Its existence has influenced the life of the city enormously, as well as its perception by non-locals.
Since 1989, when local and regional self-government was gradually reintroduced and the market economy set in, Toruń, like other cities in Poland, has undergone deep social and econonomic transformation. There is some debate among locals as to whether this time has been really spent as successfully as it should have been, but the fact is that Toruń has recently reclaimed its strong position as a regional leader, together with Bydgoszcz.
When Toruń became a royal city, subject to the kings of Poland, Latin documents and coins usually spelled it Thorun, Thorunium, civitas Thorunensis, or civitas Torunensis, and after the 15th century, the current Polish name Toruń.
Listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1997, Toruń has many monuments of architecture beginning from the Middle Ages, including 200 military structures. The city is famous for having preserved almost intact its medieval spatial layout and many Gothic buildings, all built from brick, including monumental churches, the Town Hall and many burgher houses. The most interesting monuments are:
An important fact is that Toruń, unlike many other historic cities in Poland, avoided significant destruction during World War II. In particular, the Old Town was left intact, so all its important monuments of architecture are original ones - not rebuilt after destruction.
Major renovation projects have been undertaken in recent years to improve the condition and external presentation of the Old Town. Besides the renovation of various buildings, projects such as the reconstruction of the pavement of the streets and squares (reversing them to their historical appearance), and the introduction of new plants, trees and objects of 'small architecture', are underway.
The most spectacular, though, is the illumination of the Old Town at night. Numerous buildings and other constructions, including the city walls along the boulevard, are illuminated at night, creating an impressive effect - probably unique among Polish cities with respect to the size of Toruń's Old Town and the scale of the illumination project itself.
The most recent statistics show a decrease in the population of the city, to ca. 208,007 at the end of 2006. This is mainly because quite a large number of citizens have been moving to nearby communities, adjacent to the formal administrative area of Toruń, but still outside it. As a result Toruń is surrounded by a belt of densely-populated settlements, whose inhabitants work, shop and entertain in the city proper, but do not officially live there.
In recent years, a discussion has been taking place as to whether or not these surrounding communities should be incorporated into the city's administrative area. This seems rather inevitable in the longer term, though many say Toruń has almost reached the limit of its development within the city's boundary.
Inside the city itself, most of the population is concentrated on the right (northern) bank of the Vistula river. Two of the most densely populated areas are Rubinkowo and Na Skarpie, housing projects built mostly in the 1970s and 80s, recently located between the central and easternmost districts; their total population is about 70,000.
Toruń and Bydgoszcz together make up a bipolar metroplex which, including those cities' counties and a number of smaller towns, may have a population of as much as 800,000. Thus the area contains about one third of the population of the Kuyavia-Pomerania region (which has about 2.1 million inhabitants).
Some groups of Japanese, Ukrainian and Vietnamese people live in Toruń now. The Japanese diaspora is the largest visible minority in the city, it comes from the management of local manufactures opened in the last years by Japanese companies such as SHARP. Additional to Japanese managers, engineers, translators and their families there are some Japanese language teachers working at the local university and language schools, and people who are married to a Pole and stayed in Toruń.
The mass transit system is composed of 5 tram lines and about 40 bus lines, covering the city and some of the neighbouring communities.
Toruń is situated at a major road junction, one of the most important in Poland. The A1 highway reaches Toruń, and a southern beltway surrounds the city. Besides these, the European route E75 and a number of domestic roads (numbered 10, 15, and 80) run through the city.
With three main railway stations (Toruń Główny, Toruń Miasto and Toruń Wschodni), the city is a major rail junction, with two important lines crossing there (Warszawa - Bydgoszcz and Wrocław - Olsztyn). Also two other lines stem from Torun, towards Malbork and Sierpc.
The rail connection with Bydgoszcz is run under a name of BiT City, as a "metropolitan rail", its main purpose being to allow traveling between and within these cities for just one ticket. A joint venture of Toruń, Bydgoszcz, Solec Kujawski and the voivodeship, it is considered as important in integrating Bydgoszcz-Toruń metropolitan area. A major modernization of BiT City railroute, as well as a purchase of completely new vehicles to serve the line, is planned for 2008 and 2009. Technically, it will allow to travel between Toruń-East and Bydgoszcz-Main stations at a speed of 120 km/h in a time of approximately half an hour.
Two bus depots serve to connect the city with other towns and cities in Poland.
As of 2008, a small sport airfield exists in Toruń; however, a modernization of the airport is seriously considered with a number of investors interested in it. Independently of this, Bydgoszcz-Szwederowo airport, located about 50 km from Toruń city center, serves the whole Bydgoszcz-Toruń metropolitan area, with a number of regular flights to European cities.
In 2006 a construction of new plants owned by Sharp corporation and other companies of mainly Japanese origin has started in neighboring community of Łysomice (about 10 km from city center). The facilities under construction are located in a newly-created special economical area. As a result of cooperation of the beforementioned companies, a vast high-tech complex is to be constructed in next few years' time, providing even as much as 10,000 jobs (prediction for 2010) at the cost of about 450 million euros. As of 2008 creation of another special economic area is considered, this time inside city limits.
Thanks to numerous monuments of architecture Toruń is visited by more than 1.5 million tourists a year (1.6 million in 2007). It makes the tourism a quite important branch of local economy, although such things like time spent in the city by individual tourists or number of hotels which can serve them are still considered as not satisfying. Anyway, major investments in renovation of monuments of architecture, building new hotels (including high standard ones), improvement in promotion, as well as launching new cultural and scientific events and facilities, give very good prospects for Toruń's tourism.
In recent years Toruń has been a site of intense building construction investments, mainly residential and in transportation network. The latter has been possible partly due to consumption of European Union funds assigned for new member states. Toruń city county generates by far the highest number of new dwellings built each year among all Kuyavian-Pomeranian counties, both relatively to its population as well as in absolute values. It has led to almost complete rebuilding of some districts. As of 2008, numerous major constructions are either under development or are to be launched soon, value of some of them exceeding 100 million euros. They include a new speedway stadium, major shopping and entertainment centers, commercial complex popularly called a "New Center of Toruń", music theater, center of contemporary art, hotels, office buildings, facilities for Nicolaus Copernicus University, roads and tram routes, sewage and fresh water delivery systems, residential projects, possibly also the very expected new bridge across Vistula, and others. Construction of A1 motorway and BiT City fast metropolitan railway also directly affect the city.
About 25,000 local firms are registered in Toruń.
Toruń has two drama theatres (Teatr im. Wilama Horzycy with three stages and Teatr Wiczy), two children's theatres (Baj Pomorski and Zaczarowany Świat), two music theatres (Mała Rewia, Studencki Teatr Tańca), and numurous other theatre groups. The city hosts, among others, the international theatre festival, "Kontakt", annually in May
The building called Baj Pomorski has recently been completely reconstructed. It is now one of the most modern cultural facilities in the city, with its front elevation in the shape of a gigant chest of drawers. It is located at the southeast edge of the Old Town.
Movies in Toruń can be enjoyed in the city's Cinema City, which has over 2000 seats, and in another five or more public cinemas.
Over ten major museums document the history of Toruń and the region. Among others, the "House of Kopernik" and the accompanying museum commemorate Nicolaus Copernicus and his revolutionary work, the university museum reveals the history of the city's academic past.
Construction of a Center of Contemporary Art (Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej - CSW) begun in summer 2006. It will be opened in June 2008 - although it organises open-air exhibitions even now - and be one of the most important cultural facilities of this kind in Poland. Its modern building is to be located in the very center of the city, adjacent to the Old Town.
The Toruń Symphonic Orchestra (formerly the Toruń Chamber Orchestra) deserves mentioning, as it is well-rooted in the Toruń cultural landscape.
Toruń is equipped with a planetarium (located downtown) and astronomical observatory (located in nearby community of Piwnice). The latter boasts the largest radiotelescope in the Eastern part of Central Europe with 32 m in diameter, second only to the Effelsberg 100 m radio telescope.
The largest institution of higher education in Toruń, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, serves over 40 thousand students and was founded in 1945, based on the Toruń Scientific Society, Stefan Batory University in Wilno, and Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov. Undoubtedly, the existence of a high-ranked and wide-profiled university with many students plays a great role both in keeping the city's position and importance in general, as well as in creating the image of Toruń's streets and clubs filled with crowds of young people. It also has a serious influence on local economy.
Other public institutions of higher education:
There are also a number of private higher education facilities:
In addition, there is a number of other healthcare facilities in the city.
of Prussian cities including Thorn
Bulwar Filadelfijski (Philadelphia Boulevard), both a 2 km long street running mostly between Vistula River and walls of the Old Town, and the boulevard itself (bearing the same name), honours sister relationship with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Ślimak Getyński (Goettingen Helix, German: Goettingen Schnecke) is one of the lanes connecting Piłsudski Bridge / John Paul II Avenue with Philadelphia Boulevard at their downtown interchange. It honours the relationship with Göttingen, its name derived from the street's half-circular shape (Polish word ślimak meaning "snail").