Warsaw History Facts and Timeline

(Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland)

Warsaw's history began pretty late in the game, when some Mazovian dukes built a castle here in the 14th century. The unification of Poland and Lithuania was actually a good thing for Warsaw, as its gained capital status.

A wave of conquest from the Swedes, Napoleon's French, the Russians and finally Nazi Germany created four centuries of uncertainty and destruction. The city is on the ascendency once again, however, enjoying a steady period of economic growth and stability.

The Dukes of Mazovia

Around 1300 AD, the Mazovian Prince Boleslaw II founded a permanent settlement on the site where modern-day Warsaw now stands. The Dukes of Mazovia liked this spot and kept their base of operations here through the 14th and 15th centuries, until the duke's lineage was incorporated into the new Polish Crown based in Krakow in 1526.

The City's Turn at the Helm

When Poland and Lithuania united for a period in 1569, the new parliament voted to move its forum from Krakow to Warsaw, due to the city's more central location. Some 30 years later, Polish King Zygmunta III Wazy relocated his entire capital here, marking a new peak in the history of Warsaw.

Foreign Invasion

Between 1655 and 1660, Warsaw suffered several attacks from Swedish and Transylvanian armies. In the aftermath, however, the city quickly recovered with a passion. As the rest of Poland fell into decline during the 18th century, this city actually enjoyed its greatest era of prosperity.

Churches and palaces were built and the local society's artistic expression flourished. The last Polish king, Stanislaw II August, was instrumental in this golden period, transforming Warsaw into a centre of culture that gained it the nickname 'Paris of the East'.

Poland is Broken Apart

The city took another beating at the end of the 18th century, when Poland was partitioned to the Kingdom of Prussia. Napoleon offered a brief hope when he passed through the city in 1806 en route to crushing Russia. By 1815, the city, along with the rest of Poland, fell back under the control of the Russians, who ruled Warsaw for more than a century.

Warsaw didn't completely suffer under the Russians. The city enjoyed a prosperous period towards the end of the 19th century, when it received its first sewerage and water systems, and saw the arrival of modern street-lights and trams. In 1897, it became the Russian Empire's third-largest city, with more than 600,000 residents.

History of the World Wars

Following WWI, Warsaw was made capital of Poland once again and enjoyed a brief period of industrialisation and urban development. More than 1.3 million people lived in the city in 1939, just under a third of which were Jews. The bombs of Nazi Germany began raining down on the first day of September 1939, and Warsaw fell just weeks later.

History remembers how the Nazis terrorised the population of Warsaw, particularly the Jews, who were herded into a ghetto and eventually shipped out to the concentration camps. Though the city rebelled against the German occupation twice (in April 1943 and again in August 1944), both revolts were crushed.

By the end of WWII, over half of Warsaw's population had lost their lives and the city lay in ruins. It is estimated that some 750,000 residents died here during the German occupation, more than the total military losses for the US and UK combined. Once the dust settled, Warsaw began rebuilding itself under communist rule, and today has remerged as Poland's capital, with a new verve towards claiming the future prosperity and autonomy of the Polish nation.