Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country in Central Europe. Warsaw is the nation's capital and largest metropolis. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin. Poland's territory extends from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Sudeten and Carpathian Mountains in the south. The country is bordered by Lithuania and Russia to the northeast, Belarus and Ukraine to the east, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to the south, and Germany to the west. Poland also shares maritime boundaries with Denmark and Sweden. The history of human activity on Polish soil spans thousands of years. Throughout the late antiquity period it became extensively diverse, with various cultures and tribes settling on the vast Central European Plain. However, it was the Polans who dominated the region and gave Poland its name.
The establishment of Polish statehood can be traced to 966, when the pagan ruler of a realm coextensive with the territory of present-day Poland embraced Christianity and converted to Catholicism. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025 and in 1569 cemented its longstanding political association with Lithuania by signing the Union of Lublin. The latter led to the forming of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest and most populous nations of 16th and 17th-century Europe, with a uniquely liberal political system that adopted Europe's first modern constitution, the Constitution of 3 May 1791. With the end of the prosperous Polish Golden Age, the country was partitioned by neighbouring states at the end of the 18th century. It regained its independence in 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles and the victory in the Polish–Soviet War restored its key role in European politics. In September 1939, the German-Soviet invasion of Poland marked the beginning of World War II, which resulted in the Holocaust and millions of Polish casualties. As a member of the Eastern Bloc, the Polish People's Republic proclaimed forthwith was a chief signatory of the Warsaw Pact amidst global Cold War tensions. In the wake of anti-communist movements in 1989, notably through the emergence and contributions of the Solidarity movement, the communist government was dissolved and Poland re-established itself as a democratic republic. The country has 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 15 of which are cultural.