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History of Poznan

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The history of Poznan, one of the oldest Polish cities, is closely connected with the history of Poland as the city used to be the capital of the state in the middle of the 10th century. The traces of the earliest settlements date back to the Stone Age, whereas the origins of oldest part of the city can be found on Ostrow Tumski where the first stronghold was erected in the 8th and 9th centuries.

A century later Poznan became one of the major sites of the Polish state. It was a seat of the Polish dukes and Polish bishops with the first Polish bishoprics established here in 968. Around that time the first Polish cathedral was erected here. As a result of internal disputes and the Bohemian Czech invasion at the beginning of the 11th century, Poznan suffered damage and lost its status of a capital city.

The year 1138 brought the feudal fragmentation of Poland. It was then that Poznan became capital of Greater Poland division and a seat of the local dukes. The city started to flourish as trade-and-crafts settlements were being established on both banks of the Warta River. One of them, founded by the dukes: Przemysl I and Boleslaus the Pious, was situated at the site of the present day Old Market Square.

At the end of the 12th century Przemysl I's son, Przemysl II – the later King of Poland, made Poznan a fortified city by building a castle and a wall all around the city. Upon Poland becoming unified, Poznan continued to develop (the trade flourished, educational institutions were founded, etc) and became a significant economic, academic and political centre of the Kingdom of Poland. More and more people settled in Poznan making it one of the biggest Polish cities. However, the economic boom of the 16th century was halted by the 1655 Swedish invasion.

The epidemics, wars and other tragic events that followed led to the economic slump and the city's depopulation. An important period in the history of Poznan was the 18th century. It is then that poor Catholic farmers from the district of Bamberg (in Bavaria, Germany) were invited to come and settle in the villages deserted after the 1700-1721 Northern War and a plague. Those who came, called ''bambers'', quickly assimilated into the local community.

The year 1793 marked the Prussian rule over Poznan as a consequence of the second partition of Poland the city became part of Kingdom of Prussia. Fortunately, not for long as thirteen years later Poznan was incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw in the course of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1815 Poznan came again under the Prussian rule first as the capital city of the Grand Duchy of Poznan and then renamed as the Province of Posen. In the years to follow the city flourished to become a significant trade, transportation and military centre. Starting from 1828 Poznan was turned into a polygonal fortress with the Fort Winiary citadel and a ring of 18 forts, thus, the seat of the Fifth Army Corp of the German Army. When Poland regained independence after World War I, the majority of the Prussian-German Province of Poznan was turned into the Poznan Voivodship. The Germans, who used to inhabit the region, were given an option of either staying or leaving. Most of them left for Germany.

The 1920's marked a crucial period in the cultural and economic history of Poznan as as that time Poznan became known as an academic (Poznan University) and trade (Poznan International Trade Fairs) centre of the Second Polish Republic. With the German annexation of Poznan upon the oubreak of World War II , the re-Germanization of the city began. Lots of the inhabitants were expelled to central Poland, whereas German settlers were brought into the city. Poznan became severely damaged in the course of the 1945 fights attampted at liberating the city. Almost 90 % of the Old Town was in ruin, whereas nearly the half of the whole city area was destroyed . Poznan became a Polish city again. The people expelled from the previously Polish territories (Vilnius, Lvov) began settling in Poznan.

The first post-war years saw the rebirth of political freedom and enthusiasm needed for rebuilding the badly damaged city. Soon afterwards, however, the communist times started. Of the whole communist regime period, the anti-communist riots of June 1956 are the most crucial for the history of Poznan and Poland. The protests of workers from Cegielski Locomotive Company, the largest factory in Poland at that time, led to a protest march of June 28th during which between 53 to 76 people were killed and about 700 people were arrested. This was an important step in the fight for the fall of communism The first free elections for local authorities in Poznan marked a new era in the history of Poznan. Since then the city has flourished to become a thriving economic, cultural and academic centre.

 

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