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POLAND : GDANSK

Gdansk used to be called “Dantzig” . Historically an important seaport since the 10th century and subsequently a principal ship-building centre, Gdansk was a member of the Hanseatic League and the largest city in Poland until the partitions of the late 18th century, when the largely German-speaking city became part of Prussia, and later of the German Empire. After a period as a free city in the interwar period (1919-1939), claims to Gdansk became the pretext for Hitler's attack on Poland which began the Second World War. Following the war Gdansk again became part of Poland, and the German population was largely expelled, making the city for the first time entirely ethnically Polish.

Today’s Gdansk is the capital of Pomorskie province in Northern Poland, on a branch of the Vistula and on the Gulf of Gdansk. One of the chief Polish ports on the Baltic Sea, it is a leading industrial and communications center. The population of Gdansk is nearing half a million. It is a large centre of economic life, science, culture, and a popular tourist destination. The city lies on the southern coast of the Gdansk Bay (of the Baltic Sea), in a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdynia and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity.

With its Hanseatic tradition, it has for ages played a major role in the commercial relationships between Northern and Western Europe on the one hand, and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe on the other hand.

Its once-famous state-owned shipyard was nearly closed in 1996 but was sold in 1998 and continues shipbuilding on a smaller scale. There are two port areas; one is at Nowy Port (Neufahrwasser), a northern suburb, and the other, Port Polnocny, was completed in 1975. The port cities of Gdansk and Gdynia and the nearby resort of Sopot are administered as a single city. Gdansk has numerous educational and cultural facilities. Historic landmarks include the Gothic Church of St. Mary (1343).


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