Krakow History, Poland
The area of Krakow, Poland was inhabited well before the history of the area began to be recorded. In fact, archaeological excavations have shown that a small village on Wawel Hill in Krakow even had a factory used for making stone tools. One of the first times that Krakow is mentioned in recorded history is in 965 A.D. A Spanish merchant who travelled to Krakow stated that the town was among the most important of the Slavic trade cities.
More is known about Krakow beginning in the 990’s A.D. This is when the Piast dynasty to the north added Krakow and the surrounding area to their land. The addition of this land led to the birth of the Kingdom of Poland. Shortly thereafter, in 1000 A.D., Krakow became a Bishop’s seat. In less than forty years, the dynasty made Krakow their capital city and Wawel Royal Castle became the home of the Polish royal family and many of their successors.
Around 1250, Krakow was invaded and destroyed by Mongols. This was the perfect opportunity for good changes to be made in Poland. The ruler at the time, Prince Boleslaw the Shy, used the opportunity to rebuilt Poland with self-government and more trade opportunities.
By 1500, Krakow was a busy metropolis. The Kingdom of Poland spread from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Even though Krakow remained the formal capital of Poland for some time, the political business of Poland, including the residence of the king, was moved to Warsaw in 1609. Members of the royal family, however, were still brought back to Krakow after death to be interred in Wawel Cathedral.
The 1700’s were a time of great upheaval for Krakow and all of Poland. There were numerous sieges, invasions, and lootings. Finally, during the course of the 1790’s, Poland was invaded by Prussia, Austria, and Russia and split between the three countries. Krakow fell into the hands of Austria. It was shortly before this time, in 1791, that Krakow ceased being the official Polish capital.
The Austrian Congress made Krakow into a small, independent republic in 1815; however, this republic was forced into Austria 31 years later. In 1866, Emperor Franz Joseph I gave Krakow its own municipal government and the city began to thrive again. It was soon a cultural center comparable to Athens, Greece. In 1918, Poland was again reborn with Krakow as one of its most important and stabilizing cities.
In September of 1939, Hitler’s and Stalin’s armies invaded the Republic of Poland. They split it in half and Poland was once more in tatters. During this time, the Nazi governor-general resided in Krakow. The city received very little damage during a battle with the Soviet Union in January of 1945. Once the war was over, Poland was free to rebuild yet again and Krakow remained one of the country’s most important cities.
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