The ancestors of most of the inhabitants of Poland today belonged to Slavic tribes that began occupying the area about 2000 B.C. In about the fifth century A.D. Germanic tribes from the west began attempts to subdue the Slavs and convert them to Christianity. Mieszko, of the Piast family and head of the Polani tribe, united several of the west Slavic tribes in 963 for protection. At this time, Mieszko's people came to be known as Poles, and he became king.

Important dates in Poland
A.D. 800's Slavic tribes in what is now Poland united under the Polane.
1025 Boleslaw I was crowned the first king of Poland.
1386 The Jagiellonian dynasty was founded.
1500's The Polish empire reached the height of its power.
1772 Austria, Prussia, and Russia partitioned Poland.
1793 Prussia and Russia partitioned Poland.
1795 The third partition of Poland ended its existence as a separate state.
1918 Poland proclaimed itself an independent republic.
1939 Germany and the U.S.S.R. invaded and partitioned Poland.
1945 A Communist-dominated government was formed, and Poland's present-day boundaries were established.
1989 Poland held its freest election since the Communists took control. Non-Communist candidates received great support in the elections.
1990 Poland's Communist Party was dissolved.
1997 A new constitution went into effect.
1999 Poland became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance of Western nations.

Important dates in Poland

Despite the union, the Poles were unable to stop German attacks. In 966 Mieszko converted to Roman Catholicism and his subjects soon followed his example. As a result, the German attacks gradually declined. The conversion led to strong cultural ties with western Europe, rather than with other Slavic groups, most of which had converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Mieszko was succeeded in 992 by his son, Boleslaw I. Boleslaw concluded agreements with Holy Roman Emperor Otto III and Pope John XIX that secured their recognition of the Piast family as the ruling dynasty of Poland.