One Thousand Fifty Years
of The Statehood of Poland
In this year, 2016, the Poles and the Government of Poland celebrate a very important anniversary – one thousand and fifty years of the emergence of Poland as an independent state that was the result of the unification of the main Polish tribes around Prince Mieszko, and the formal acceptance of Christianity in the territory governed by him.
This is a very important event. Many of us remember the worldwide celebration of the first thousand years of both the statehood and Christianity of Poland in 1966. That anniversary was solemnly celebrated among all the Poles in Poland, despite the influence of communism, and also by the Poles in the diaspora all over the world.
Indicating the year of 966 as the beginning of Statehood, we speak of a State in formation, because the beginning of the Polish State goes back at the very least by a century and a half. Unfortunately, this beginning is lost in prehistoric obscurity.
The trustworthy tradition enumerates the three first Polish monarchs of the House of Piast. Their names do not tell us much. What is certain, is that one after the other worked at the unification of the Polish tribes, and that they left to the fourth, named Mieszko, an already considerable State.
Mieszko was a very far-sighted statesman. He wanted to secure for the Kingdom of Poland not only the central territory, but also Poland’s access to the Baltic Sea. In fact, he succeeded in subjecting to his authority Pomerania, the inhabitants of which were closely related to the Poles. In his efforts, however, Mieszko was always under heavy pressure and political rivalry, not only from the Germans to the West, but also from the Danes to the North.
To avoid that rivalry and pressure, especially under the pretext of Christian propaganda on the part of the Germans, Mieszko understood that it was necessary to adopt immediately and voluntarily the Christian faith. It was his desire to consolidate his relations with the Latin West. In 965 he married Dubravka, a Bohemian Princess, thus allying himself with that Slavic neighbor, already a Christian state. In 966 he was baptized, himself, along with all his subjects.
By this very act, Mieszko gave all of his territory into the hands of the Holy See, and thus placed it under pontifical protection.
As a counterbalance for his act of submission to the Holy See, Mieszko gave his young State the best possible guarantee for its independence and security. This close tie with the Holy See was to serve Poland as a solid support in the gravest crises through which she passed. It helped to ensure the integrity of Polish frontiers in various periods of time, and influenced her national character. It was also an external expression of a principle of the spiritual order which is visible throughout the whole of Polish history.
Let’s celebrate! The next thousand years and forever!
By Jan Napoleon Saykiewicz,
Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland
(This article first appeared in the POLISH JOURNEY –
Newsletter of the Polish Cultural Council – Vol. 14 – Spring 2016)
Reprinted with permission from Polish Cultural Council of Pittsburgh, PA