Poznań is a city on the Warta river in west-central Poland, the region called Wielkopolska (Greater Poland). The city population is about 550,000, while the continuous conurbation with Poznan County, several other communities (Oborniki, Skoki, Szamotuły i Śrem) and students, is inhabited by almost 1.1 million people. The Larger Poznań Metropolitan Area (PMA) is inhabited by 1.3-1.4 million people and extends to such satellite towns as Nowy Tomyśl, Gniezno and Wrzesnia. According to this delimitation PMA is fourth largest in Poland.
Poznań is among the oldest cities in Poland and was one of the most important centers in the early Polish state in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The first center city was Ostrów Tumski, the natural island on the Warta river-very similar to the Île de la Cité in Paris. The first rulers were buried in Poznań's cathedral on the island. It also served as the capital for a short time in the 13th century, hence the official name: The capital city of Poznan.
Poznań is one of the biggest cities in Poland. It is the historical capital of the Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) region and is currently the administrative capital of the province called Greater Poland Voivodeship. Poznań is today one of the largest Polish centers of trade, industry, sports, education, technology, tourism and culture. It is particularly important academic center, with about 130,000 students and the third biggest Polish university - Adam Mickiewicz University. It is also the residence of the oldest Polish diocese, now being one of the most populous archdioceses in the country.
The city hosts regular international trade fairs and was the host city for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2008, a key stage in the creation of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Poznań was one of the host cities for the association football tournament UEFA Euro 2012. The city also hosts a number of rowing world cup events by the Malta lake (for example "ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships" in 1990, 2001, and again in 2010). Also, a great number of various international festivals takes place in the city - Transatlantyk – Poznań International Film and Music Festival, "Malta International Theater Festival", "ANIMATOR (festival)" and Maski Festival to name just a few. In addition, the International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, the oldest violin competition in the world, is held in Poznań every five years.
In 2012, the Poznań's Art and Business Center "Stary Browar" won a competition organized by National Geographic Traveller and was given the first prize as one of the seven "New Polish Wonders". Poznań has been rated highly, often coming first for Poland, as a city with a very high quality of life. The city has also won many times a prize awarded by "Superbrands" for a very high quality brand of city of Poznań. Poznań was classified in 2010 as high sufficiency city by Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
The official patron saints of Poznań are Saint Peter and Paul of Tarsus, the patrons of the cathedral. As a patron of the city is regarded as well the patron of the main street Święty Marcin - Martin of Tours.
For centuries before the Christianization of Poland, Poznań (consisting of a fortified stronghold between the Warta and Cybina rivers, on what is now Ostrów Tumski) was an important cultural and political centre of the Polan tribe. Mieszko I, the first historically recorded ruler of the Polans, and of the early Polish state which they dominated, built one of his main stable headquarters in Poznań. Mieszko's baptism of 966, seen as a defining moment in the establishment of the Polish state, may have taken place in Poznań.
Following the baptism, construction began of Poznań's cathedral, the first in Poland. Poznań was probably the main seat of the first missionary bishop sent to Poland, Bishop Jordan. The Congress of Gniezno in 1000 led to the country's first permanent archbishopric being established in Gniezno (which is generally regarded as Poland's capital in that period), although Poznań continued to have independent bishops of its own. Poznań's cathedral was the place of burial of the early Piast monarchs (Mieszko I, Boleslaus I, Mieszko II, Casimir I), and later of Przemysł I and King Przemysł II.
The pagan reaction that followed Mieszko II's death (probably in Poznań) in 1034 left the region weak, and in 1038 Bretislaus I of Bohemia sacked and destroyed both Poznań and Gniezno. Poland was reunited under Casimir I the Restorer in 1039, but the capital was moved to Kraków, which had been relatively unaffected by the troubles.
In 1138, by the testament of Bolesław III, Poland was divided into separate duchies under the late king's sons, and Poznań and its surroundings became the domain of Mieszko III the Old, the first of the Dukes of Greater Poland. This period of fragmentation lasted until 1320. Duchies frequently changed hands; control of Poznań, Gniezno and Kalisz sometimes lay with a single duke, but at other times these constituted separate duchies.
In reunited Poland, and later in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Poznań was the seat of a voivodeship. The city's importance began to grow in the Jagiellonian period, due to its position on trading routes from Lithuania and Ruthenia to western Europe. It would become a major centre for the fur trade by the late 16th century. Suburban settlements developed around the city walls, on the river islands and on the right bank, with some (Ostrów Tumski, Śródka, Chwaliszewo, Ostrówek) obtaining their own town charters. However the city's development was hampered by regular major fires and floods. On 2 May 1536 a blaze destroyed 175 buildings, including the castle, the town hall, the monastery and the suburban settlement called St. Martin. In 1519 the Lubrański Academy had been established in Poznań as an institution of higher education (but without the right to award degrees, which was reserved to Kraków's Jagiellonian University). However a Jesuits' college, founded in the city in 1571 during the Counter-Reformation, had the right to award degrees from 1611 until 1773, when it was combined with the Academy.
In the second half of the 17th century and most of the 18th, Poznań was severely affected by a series of wars (and attendant military occupations, lootings and destruction) – the Second and Third Northern Wars, the War of the Polish Succession, the Seven Years' War and the Bar Confederation rebellion. It was also hit by frequent outbreaks of plague, and by floods, particularly that of 1736, which destroyed most of the suburban buildings. The population of the conurbation declined (from 20,000 around 1600 to 6,000 around 1730), and Bambergian and Dutch settlers (Bambrzy and Olędrzy) were brought in to rebuild the devastated suburbs. In 1778 a "Committee of Good Order" (Komisja Dobrego Porządku) was established in the city, which oversaw rebuilding efforts and reorganized the city's administration. However in 1793, in the Second Partition of Poland, Poznań, came under the control of the Kingdom of Prussia, becoming part of (and initially the seat of) the province of South Prussia.
The Prussian authorities expanded the city boundaries, making the walled city and its closest suburbs into a single administrative unit. Left-bank suburbs were incorporated in 1797, and Ostrów Tumski, Chwaliszewo, Śródka, Ostrówek and Łacina (St. Roch) in 1800. The old city walls were taken down in the early 19th century, and major development took place to the west of the old city, with many of the main streets of today's city centre being laid out.
In the Greater Poland Uprising of 1806, Polish soldiers and civilian volunteers assisted the efforts of Napoleon by driving out Prussian forces from the region. The city became a part of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, and was the seat of Poznań Department - a unit of administrative division and local government. However in 1815, following the Congress of Vienna, the region was returned to Prussia, and Poznań became the capital of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Posen.
The city continued to expand, and various projects were funded by Polish philanthropists, such as the Raczyński Library and the Bazar hotel. The city's first railway, running to Stargard in Pommern (now Stargard Szczeciński), opened in 1848. Due to its strategic location, the Prussian authorities intended to make Poznań into a fortress city, building a ring of defensive fortifications around it. Work began on the citadel (Fort Winiary) in 1828, and in subsequent years the entire set of defences (Festung Posen) was completed.
A Greater Poland Uprising during the Revolutions of 1848 was ultimately unsuccessful, and the Grand Duchy lost its remaining autonomy, Poznań becoming simply the capital of the Prussian Province of Posen. It would become part of the German Empire with the unification of German states in 1871. Polish patriots continued to form societies (such as the Central Economic Society for the Grand Duchy of Poznań), and a Polish theatre (Teatr Polski, still functioning) opened in 1875; however the authorities made efforts to Germanize the region, particularly through the Prussian Settlement Commission (founded 1886). Germans accounted for 38% of the city's population in 1867, though this percentage would later decline somewhat, particularly after the region returned to Poland.
Another expansion of Festung Posen was planned, with an outer ring of more widely spaced forts around the perimeter of the city. Building of the first nine forts began in 1876, and nine intermediate forts were built from 1887. The inner ring of fortifications was now considered obsolete and came to be mostly taken down by the early 20th century (although the citadel remained in use). This made space for further civilian construction, particularly the Imperial Palace ("Zamek"), completed 1910, and other grand buildings around it (including today's central university buildings and the opera house). The city's boundaries were also significantly extended to take in former suburban villages: Piotrowo and Berdychowo in 1896, Łazarz, Górczyn, Jeżyce and Wilda in 1900, and Sołacz in 1907.
After World War I the Greater Poland Uprising (1918–1919) brought Poznań and most of the region under Polish control, confirmed by the Treaty of Versailles. The local populace had to acquire Polish citizenship or leave the country. This led to a significant decline of ethnic Germans, whose number decreased from 65,321 in 1910 to 5,980 in 1926 and further to 4,387 in 1934. In the interwar Second Polish Republic, the city again became the capital of Poznań Voivodeship. Poznań's university (today called Adam Mickiewicz University) was founded in 1919, and in 1925 the Poznań International Fairs began. In 1929 the fairs site was the venue for a major National Exhibition (Powszechna Wystawa Krajowa, popularly PeWuKa) marking the tenth anniversary of independence; it attracted around 4.5 million visitors. The city's boundaries were again expanded in 1925 (to include Główna, Komandoria, Rataje, Starołęka, Dębiec, Szeląg and Winogrady) and 1933 (Golęcin, Podolany).
During the German occupation of 1939–1945, Poznań was incorporated into the Third Reich as the capital of Reichsgau Wartheland. Many Polish inhabitants were executed, arrested, expelled to the General Government or used as forced labour; at the same time many Germans and Volksdeutsche were settled in the city. The German population increased from around 5,000 in 1939 (some 2% of the inhabitants) to around 95,000 in 1944. The pre-war Jewish population of about 2,000 were mostly murdered in the Holocaust. A concentration camp was set up in Fort VII, one of the 19th-century perimeter forts. The camp was later moved to Żabikowo south of Poznań. The Nazi authorities significantly expanded Poznań's boundaries to include most of the present-day area of the city; these boundaries were retained after the war. Poznań fell to the Red Army, assisted by Polish volunteers, on 23 February 1945 following the Battle of Poznań, in which the German army conducted a last-ditch defence in line with Hitler's designation of the city as a Festung. The Citadel was the last point to fall, and the fighting left much of the city, particularly the Old Town, in ruins.
The Poznań 1956 protests are seen as an early expression of resistance to communist rule. In June 1956, a protest by workers at the city's Cegielski locomotive factory developed into a series of strikes and popular protests against the policies of the government. After a protest march on June 28 was fired on, crowds attacked the communist party and secret police headquarters, where they were repulsed by gunfire. Riots continued for two days until being quelled by the army; 67 people were killed according to official figures.
The post-war years had seen much reconstruction work on buildings damaged in the fighting. From the 1960s onwards intensive housing development took place, consisting mainly of pre-fabricated concrete blocks of flats, especially in Rataje and Winogrady, and later (following its incorporation into the city in 1974) Piątkowo. Another infrastructural change (completed in 1968) was the rerouting of the river Warta to follow two straight branches either side of Ostrów Tumski.
The most recent expansion of the city's boundaries took place in 1987, with the addition of new areas mainly to the north, including Morasko, Radojewo and Kiekrz. The first free local elections following the fall of communism took place in 1990. With the Polish local government reforms of 1999, Poznań again became the capital of a larger province (Greater Poland Voivodeship). It also became the seat of a powiat ("Poznań County"), with the city itself gaining separate powiat status.
Recent infrastructural developments include the opening of the fast tram route (Poznański Szybki Tramwaj, popularly Pestka) in 1997, and Poznań's first motorway connection (part of the A2 autostrada) in 2003. In 2006 Poland's first F-16 Fighting Falcons came to be stationed at the 31st Air Base in Krzesiny in the south-east of the city.
Poznań continues to host regular trade fairs and international events, including the United Nations Climate Change Conference. It is one of the host cities for UEFA Euro 2012. Irish people have recently been flocking to the city as their football team plays there.