Toruń (, , see also: ) is an ancient city in northern Poland, on the Vistula River. Its population is 205,934 as of June 2009. Toruń is one of the oldest cities in Poland. The medieval old town of Toruń is the birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
In 1997 the medieval part of the city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2007 the Old Town in Toruń was added to the list of Seven Wonders of Poland. National Geographic Polska rated the old town market and the Gothic town hall as one of the "30 Most Beautiful Places in the World." In 2010 Forbes magazine ranked Toruń as number one of the "Polish Cities Attractive for Business". In 2009 it was listed as one of the "Best Cities to Live in Poland", in a ranking published by Przekrój.
Previously it was the capital of the Toruń Voivodeship (1975–98) and the Pomeranian Voivodeship (1921–45). Since 1999, Toruń has been a seat of the self-government of the Kujawy-Pomerania Province and, as such, is one of its two capitals (together with Bydgoszcz). The cities and neighboring counties form the Bydgoszcz-Toruń twin city metropolitan area. In September 2004, Bydgoszcz Medical School joined Toruń's Nicolaus Copernicus University as its Collegium Medicum.
The first settlement in the vicinity is dated by archaeologists to 1100 BC (Lusatian culture). During early medieval times, in the 7th-13th centuries, it was the location of an old Slavonic settlement, at a ford in the Vistula river.
The Teutonic Knights built a castle in the vicinity of the Polish settlement in the years 1230-31. On 28 December 1233, the Teutonic Knights Hermann von Salza and Hermann Balk signed the foundation charters for Thorn and Chełmno. The original document was lost in 1244. The set of rights in general is known as Kulm law. In 1236, due to frequent flooding, it was relocated to the present site of the Old Town. In 1263 Franciscan monks settled in the city, followed in 1239 by Dominicans. In 1264 the nearby New Town was founded. In 1280, the city (or as it was then, both cities) joined the mercantile Hanseatic League, and thus became an important medieval trade centre.
The First Peace of Thorn ending the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War was signed in the city in February 1411. In 1440, the gentry of Thorn formed the Prussian Confederation, and in 1454 rose with the Confederation against the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights in the Thirteen Years' War. After almost 200 years, New and Old Town amalgamated in 1454. The Poles destroyed the Teutonic castle. The Thirteen Years' War ended in 1466 with the Second Peace of Thorn, in which the Teutonic Order ceded their control over western provinces, henceforth Royal Prussia. Toruń became part of Kingdom of Poland.
In 1677 the Prussian historian and educator Christoph Hartknoch was invited to be director of the Thorn Gymnasium, a post which he held until his death in 1687. Hartknoch wrote histories of Prussia, including the cities of Royal Prussia.
During the Great Northern War (1700–21), the restoration of Augustus the Strong as King of Poland was prepared in the town by Russian Tsar Peter the Great. In the second half of the 17th century, tensions between Catholics and Protestants grew, similarly to religious wars throughout Europe. In the early 18th century about 50 percent of the populace, especially the gentry and middle class, were German-speaking Protestants, while the other 50 percent were Polish speaking Roman Catholics. Protestant influence was subsequently pushed back after the Tumult of Thorn of 1724.
In 1793 the Kingdom of Prussia annexed the city following the Second Partition of Poland. In 1807 Napoleon conquered part of the territory and made the city part of the Duchy of Warsaw. It was ruled by King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, but Prussia regained control after Napoleon's defeat in 1814. In 1870 French prisoners of war taken during the Franco-Prussian War were directed to build a chain of forts surrounding the town. The following year the city, along with the rest of Prussia, became part of the new German Empire.
Nazi Germany annexed the city after the Invasion of Poland in 1939, and administered it as part of Danzig-West Prussia. Poles and Jews were classified as untermenschen by German authorities, with their fate being slavery and extermination. During World War II, the Germans used the chain of forts as POW camps, known collectively as Stalag XX-A. The city escaped significant destruction during the war. In 1945 it was taken by the Soviet Red Army. As before the war, it was returned to Poland. The remaining ethnic German population was expelled, primarily to East Germany, between 1945 and 1947.
After World War II, the population increased more than twofold and industry developed significantly. The founding of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in 1945 was significant. Over the years, it has become one of the best universities in Poland. The university has strongly influenced the intellectual, artistic and cultural life of the city, as well as its perception by non-locals. The university was founded by Polish professors formerly associated with the University of Wilno. After the war, they were forced to move to post-1945 Poland.
Since 1989, when local and regional self-government was gradually reintroduced and the market economy was introduced, Toruń, like other cities in Poland, has undergone deep social and economic transformations. Locals debate whether the changes have been as successful as they had hoped for, but Toruń has recently reclaimed its strong position as a regional leader, together with Bydgoszcz.