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The first mention of Gdynia was of a Pomeranian (Kashubian) fishing village, in 1253. Oksywie, now part of Gdynia, was mentioned even earlier in 1209. In the years 1382–1772 Gdynia belonged to the Cistercian abbey in Oliwa.

Gdynia, as part of Eastern Pomerania, was part of the loose confederation of Slavic tribes that would later be called Poland from circa 990–1308. After the Massacre of Gdansk (1308) it became a state of the Teutonic Order (1308–1454/66), but afterwards fell to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1466–1772). At the Partitions of Poland of 1772 it was annexed into the Kingdom of Prussia (1772–1919), and as part of Prussia became part of the German Empire (1870–1919). Its name during its centuries under German rule was Gdingen.

After World War I it was assigned as part of the Polish Pomerania to Poland (1919–1945), and was reannexed by Germany at the start of World War II in 1939. The seaport was largely destroyed by the withdrawing German troops in 1945 (90% of the buildings and equipment were destroyed) and the harbour entrance was blocked by the German battlecruiser Gneisenau.

It was then reannexed by Poland in 1945.

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