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Five interesting facts about Gdansk.

Updated on March 9, 2013

The Historic City of Gdansk has endured a number of devastating and traumatic events in it's long and distinguished past. Ideally situated on the Northern coast of the European continent. Gdansk as a maritime trading hub flourished in the exchange of goods between Baltic harbour's and North Sea ports. The City of Gdansk is a major industrial centre and is Poland's major port for international trade.

For much of it's history, the settlement has been inhabited by many different nationalities and races. They have often lived beside each other in the interests of earning massive wealth. Some of this wealth had been reinvested in the architecture and city planning of the thriving Seaport. Due to the Second World War, the majority of these buildings and monuments were destroyed by guerrilla fighting, bombing campaigns and pitched urban combat.

Modern Gdansk with it's market.
Modern Gdansk with it's market. | Source

(1) Nazi aggression

The City of Gdansk and the treatment of Ethnic Germans was seized upon by the Nazi regime to vindicate their invasion of Poland in 1939 AD. The Treaty of Versailles humiliated Germany after The Great War, and Poland was given German territory so that it could have access to the Sea. What was known as the " Polish Corridor" was a stretch of German territory given to the Polish regime so that they could be involved in international trade. Before the Great War, Poland had shrunk in size and was in danger of been annexed by a larger nation.

Gdansk between 1919 and 1930 was effectively a shared possession of Poland and Germany. Although Poland administered much of the City, it was ethnically German and the Polish regulations were felt to be unfair on the local population. The City was the subject of massive Nazi propaganda years before it was annexed, in the early 1930's the Nazi party was able to gain substantial support in the City and the German populace supported the Nazi policies of expanding Eastwards.

(2) A German City or a Polish City?

Gdansk was called Danzig by the German's Prussia before Poland was seeded the territory after the Second World War. The City has been part of many national boundaries since it's creation in the late Tenth Century, the biggest nations to have administered the City are Poland and Germany. Although the Pole's established the First major settlement in the area, the City has been home to Slav's, Dane's, Teuton's and many other races.

The City has also been classed as a Free City State which enabled it to be administered with a high level of autonomy on several occasions throughout it's existence. The strategic location of the City has made it a prize possession for any Central European power.

A Galleon on the River.
A Galleon on the River. | Source

(3) The Hanseatic League

In the year 1358 AD the City joined the Hanseatic League, this allowed the port to trade more effectively with it's fellow Germanic merchant towns and increased it's influence throughout Northern Europe. Through it's increased activity within the Hanseatic League, it was able to be granted special privileges by the rulers of different royal houses and ruling families.

Gdansk/Danzig's power also made it a target for ambitious nobleman who wanted to remove the power of the Hanse Merchants and take the City for their own legacy. On many occasions the City found itself under siege or embargo, but with the help of its Hanseatic brethren it was able to hold out against the aggressor.

(4) Removal of Germanic influence

After the Second World War, the Polish authorities in the City wished to remove the Germanic influence from the City. Already many ethnically German citizens had left the City due to tensions and ill feeling from the War years. The Polish authorities when rebuilding the City after it's devastation from the War, decided to remove much of the Teutonic architecture and culture. Instead they concentrated on the Flemish, Italian and other Romantic styles, but were deeply mindful of the bourgeois links of these former merchant homes.

The remaining citizens of Gdansk thought poorly of the German aspects of their City's heritage and with investment from the Soviet regime Prussian style was replaced with cold and hard Marxist design. Much of the Germanic heritage of the City was demolished to make way for Soviet shipyards or associated industrial plants.

(5) Solidarity

The City was instrumental in forming the Solidarity movement against the Communist regime that ruled Poland between 1945-1989. In 1980 the Gdansk Shipyard was the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union movement, Their opposition to the current regime led to the end of Communist Party rule in Poland and in turn energized a series of protests that successfully overturned the Communist regimes of the many Eastern European states within the former Soviet bloc.

Gdansk will forever be remembered as the location where freedom and Polish independence flourished. The leader of the Solidarity movement then went on to become President of a free and democratic Poland.


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