Coat of arms

Gdańsk, formerly Danzig, is a city on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, the biggest city and capital of Eastern Pomerania region, north-western Poland, and a county-status city of Pomeranian Voivodship with a population of 460,000 (2002). It is the main city of the Kashubian region, where is called Gduńsk, and the biggest seaport of Poland since 997 (when it was first mentioned as Gyddanyzc). The city was formerly known by the German name of Danzig, reflecting the presence over many centuries of a German-speaking population in the Hanseatic capital, thriving due to extended trade to Netherlands and England of products delivered through the Vistula river. Alternative spellings from medieval and early modern documents are Gyddanyzc, Kdansk, Gdanzc, Dantzk, Dantzig, Dantzigk, Dantiscum and Gedanum.

The city is situated at the Motława river (from Old Prussian language in German, Mottlau, in old Polish Gdania, from which the name of the city is derived), near the swampy area in the delta of the Vistula river. Its location at the mouth of the Vistula, whose waterway system connects 60% of the area of Poland, gives Gdańsk a unique advantage as the center of Poland's sea trade. In the past Gdańsk made the most of this advantage and was Poland's largest city until 1770.

The Motława River in Gdańsk (2002)

A major regional port since the 14th century and subsequently a principal ship-building centre, today's Gdańsk remains an important industrial centre despite the development in the 1920s of the nearby port of Gdynia. The two cities, along with the nearby spa town of Sopot, constitute a metropolitan area of 977,400 people called the Tricity.

Table of contents
1 Economy
2 Education
3 Geographic location
4 Population
5 History
6 Culture
7 Further reading
8 External links


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Altogether: number of universities: 10 (2001) Number of students: 60,436 (2001) Number of graduates: 10,439 (2001)

many others universities and schools

Geographic location

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Modern division into neighbourhoods

The City of Gdansk is divided into 30 quarters.

See here for the list, area and population each of them.
area in km2
1 Osowa 8053 13,6 592
2 Oliwa 22431 18,5 1209
3 Żabianka, Jelitkowo 23145 2,1 10923
4 Przymorze Małe 18017 2,3 7786
5 Przymorze Wielkie 36260 3,3 10840
6 VII Dwór 4879 3,2 1 507
7 Strzyża 6569 1,2 5 571
8 Zaspa-Młyniec 16471 1,3 13144
9 Zaspa-Rozstaje 15118 1,9 7833
10 Brzeźno 16514 2,7 6123
11 Matarnia 5613 14,9 376
12 Brętowo 7944 7,4 1074
13 Wrzeszcz 65427 9,9 6622
14 Letnica 2024 4,5 452
15 Nowy Port 12913 2,3 5603
16 Piecki-Migowo 23593 3,8 6224
17 Suchanino 12937 1,3 9812
18 Siedlce 17584 2,6 6684
19 Wzgórze Mickewicza 2578 0,6 4268
20 Aniołki 6774 2,3 2949
21 Młyniska 4551 4,0 1136
22 Stogi z Przeróbką 19866 16,9 1173
23 Śródmiecie 39770 5,5 7219
24 Krakowiec-Górki Zachodnie 2301 8,8 261
25 Wyspa Sobieszewska 3570 34,3 104
26 Kokoszki 4659 20,0 233
27 Chełm i Gdańsk Południe 43264 30,8 1404
28 Orunia-w.Wojciech-Lipce 20317 19,7 1032
29 Olszynka 3514 7,7 458
30 Rudniki 2104 14,5 145


ca.1000: 1,000 inhabitants
ca.1235: 2,000 inhabitants

ca.1600: 40,000 inhabitants
ca.1650: 70,000 inhabitants
ca.1700: 50,000 inhabitants
ca.1750: 46,000 inhabitants
1793: 36,000 inhabitants
1800: 48,000 inhabitants
1825: 61,900 inhabitants
1840: 65,000 inhabitants
1852: 67,000 inhabitants
1874: 90,500 inhabitants
1880: 108,500 inhabitants
1900: 140,600 inhabitants
1910: 170,300 inhabitants
1920: city+rural areas = 360,000 inhabitants (85-90% Germans, 10-15% Poles)
1925: 210,300 inhabitants
1939: 250,000 inhabitants

1946: 118,000 inhabitants
1950: ? inhabitants
1960: 286,900 inhabitants
1970: 365,600 inhabitants
1975: 421,000 inhabitants
1980: 456,700 inhabitants
1990: ? inhabitants
1994: 464,000 inhabitants
2000: ? inhabitants
2002 : 460,000 inhabitants

See also: Population of the
Tricity metropolitan area (Gdańsk, Gdynia, Sopot).


Early times

Before Gdansk was established, the vicinity was inhabited by populations belonging to the various archealogical cultures of the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. Settlements existed in the area for several centuries before the birth of Christ. The coast was called 'Gothiscandza' by Jordanes; Tacitus also referred to it in his Germania. Both historians believed the area to be populated.

It is not sure whether its early inhabitants, the Kashubians developed here or migrated to the area, but it is sure they were already there by the year 600. There are traces of a crafts and fishing settlement from 8th-9th, and -in the 10th century - an important strongold of the Pomeranian dukes and at least 1.000 inhabitants.

Foundation of the City

Although there were already wooden structures, the year 997 has in recent years been considered to be the date of the foundation of the city itself, as the year in which Saint Adalbert of Prague (sent by the Polish king Boleslav the Brave to baptize his new subjects in Prussia) travelled through the castle of Gdańsk (Gyddanyzc): in 1997 Poland celebrated the millennium of Gdańsk's foundation by Mieszko I, Duke of Poland to compete with the ports of Szczecin and Wolin on the Oder River.

In 1000 Gdańsk belonged to the Pomeranian province of Poland, and to the bishopric in Kolobrzeg, from ca 1015 to the Pomeranian bishopric in Kruszwica, and in 1124 the town had been assigned to the diocese of Wloclawek (Cuiavia and Pomerania), while several crusades were ordered by the popes, to 'christianize' the pagan Prussians.

Spellings of the name from medieval and early modern documents are Gyddanzyc, Kdansk, Gdanzc, Dantzk, Dantzk, Dantzig, Dantzigk, Dantiscum and Gedanum.

Capital of the Pomeranian Duchy (1138-1294/1308)

In the 12th century, Poland was divided into several provinces under the overlordship of the High-duke of Cracow. In reality the duchy of Pomerania was gaining more and more independence. Gdańsk was the capital of an entire dynasty of the dukes, the most famous being Mestwin I (1207-1220) Swantipolk II the Great (1215-1266) and Mestwin II (1271-1294)

In ca. 1235 the city had some 2.000 inhabitants and was granted a charter (by the duke Swantipolk) incorporating the Lübeck rights. More and more merchants from the Hansa cities of Lübeck and Bremen settled in the city. Gdansk rose to become one of the more important trading and fishing ports along the Baltic Sea coast.

In 1282/1294 Mestwin II, the last duke of Eastern Pomerania ceded all his lands including Gdansk to Duke (later King) Przemysl II of Poland. After his assassination in 1296, the city was temporary ruled by the kings of Bohemia and Poland, Wenceslaus II and his son Wenceslaus III.

Occupation by the Teutonic Knights (1308-1454)

At the beginning of the 14th century, the region was plunged into war involving Poland and Brandenburg to the west. Brandenburg's claim to the Gdansk Pomerania was based on a treaty of August 8, 1305 between Brandenburg's rulers and Wenceslaus III, promising the Meissen territory to the Bohemian crown in exchange for Gdansk Pomerania (the contract was not made).

During the course of the war, Gdansk was seized (November 1308) by the Teutonic Knights, called in by Wladislaw Lokietek of Poland. All the inhabitants of the city, both Polish and German, were brutally slaughtered. The Teutonic Order continued its invasion of the Polish lands, incorporating them into its domains. In September 1309, Margrave Waldemar of Brandenburg sold his claim to the territory to the Teutonic Order for 10,000 marks. At this time the city became known under its German name of Danzig. This was also the start of a series of conflicts between Poland and the Teutonic Order. The massacre is sometimes disputed by some, but nevertheless after the supposed event there was some stagnation and even reversal in development of Danzig, which could confirm it.

Initially the new rulers tried to reduce the economic significance of Gdansk, by abolishing the local government and the priviledges of the Lubeck traders, but later they had to accept the fact that Gdansk was the biggest seaport of the region. Subsequently the city flourished, benefiting from major investment and economic prosperity in Poland, which stimulated trade along the Vistula. The city became a full member of the Hanseatic League by 1361, but its merchants remained resentful at the barriers to the trade up the Vistula river to Poland, along with the lack of political rights in a state ruled in the interest of the Order's religiously-motivated knight-monks.

Possesion of Gdansk by the Teutonic Order was questioned all the time by the Polish kings Ladislaus the Short and Casimir the Great what led to a series of bloody wars and legal-suits in the papal court in 1320 and 1333. Finally in 1343 peace was concluded when the Teutonic Knights accepted that they control Gdansk Pomerania as an alm or gift of Polish kings, and they also acknolegded the fuedal overlordship of Poland. Polish rights to Pomerania were no longer questioned and the Polish kings retained the title Duke of Pomerania.

Leader of Royal Prussia (1454/66-1793)

In 1440, Gdansk joined the nearby Hanseatic cities of Elblag and Torun to form the Prussian Confederation, which was supported by Casimir IV of Poland in its rebellion (February 1454) against the Teutonic Order's rule. The resulting "War of the Cities" or Thirteen Years' War ended with the Order's defeat and its surrender to the Polish crown (Second Treaty of Thorn, October 1466) of its rights in Gdansk Pomerania and the rest of the area subsequently known as Polish or Royal Prussia.

The 15th and 16th centuries brought changes to the city's cultural heritage. These changes could be seen in the arts, language, and in Gdansk contributions to the world of science. In 1471, a refurbished sailing ship under Gdansk captain Paul Beneke brought the famous altar painting titled: Latest Judgement (Jüngste Gericht) by artist Hans Memling to Gdansk. Around 1480-1490, tablets were installed at St. Mary's church, depicting the Ten Commandments (1) in the Low German language. In 1566, the official language of the city's governing institutions was changed from the Low German used throughout the Hanseatic cities to High German.

Georg Joachim Rheticus visited the mayor of Gdansk in 1539, while he was working with Nicolaus Copernicus in nearby Frombork. The mayor of Gdansk gave Rheticus financial assistance for the publication of the Narratio Prima, published by the Gdansk printer Rhode in 1540 and to this day considered the best introduction to the Copernican theory. While in Gdansk, Rheticus, who was also a cartographer and navigational instrument maker, interviewed Gdansk pilots as to their navigational needs. He presented the Tabula chorographica auff Preusse to Duke Albert of Prussia in 1541.

The Danzig printer Andreas Hünefeld(t) (Hunsfeldus) (1606-1652) printed a Danzig edition of the Rosicrucian Manifestos. Later on, he published the poems of Martin Opitz. The famous poet Opitz had died in 1639 and his friend, the pastor of Gdansk, known as Bartholomaeus Nigrinus, together with two associates edited the Opitz poems for the Hünefeld printing house.

In 1606 a distillery named Der Lachs (the Salmon) was founded , which produced one of Danzig's most famous products, a liqueur named Danziger Goldwasser ("Danzig gold water"), made from herbs and with small 22-carat gold flakes floating in the bottle. The recipe for this went with those expelled in 1945 to western Germany, where it continued to be produced.

From the 14th century until the mid-17th century Gdansk experienced rapid growth, becoming the largest city on the Baltic seaboard by the 16th century owing to its large trade with the Netherlands and its handling of most of Poland's seaborne trade, trasported via the Vistula river. The city's prosperity was severely damaged, however, by the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) and the Second Northern War (1655-1660), and it suffered an epidemic of bubonic plague in 1709.

Gdansk took part in all Hanseatic League conferences until the last one in 1669. By that time the United Provinces and other long-distance overseas commercial powers had overtaken the Baltic trade centres such as Danzig.

In 1743 a Danzig Research Society (Naturforschende Gesellschaft in Danzig) was formed by Daniel Gralath.

In the Kingdom of Prussia (1793-1806, 1815-1919)

In the first of the late 18th century Partitions of Poland (1772), German-speaking inhabitants of Danzig, as it was usually called, fought fiercely to stay in Poland while the majority of Polish Pomerania fell to the Kingdom of Prussia. Danzig was surrounded by the Prussian territories until 1793, when it was incorporated into the Prussian kingdom as part of the province of West Prussia, reverting under Napoleon Bonaparte to direct Prussian rule after a second brief period (1807-14) as a free city.

The feeling of grief felt by the citizens of Danzig when their city was incorporated into the state of Prussia was reflected in the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. From the first partition of Poland, the city lost its function as the principal port for Polish exports via the Baltic, and ceased to be the region's largest port as it experienced a prolonged economic and demographic slump.

From 1824 until 1878, East and West Prussia were combined as a single province under the Prussian kingdom. But although Danzig was a part of Kingdom of Prussia, it was never a member of the 1815-66 German Confederation (Deutsche Bund). After the Confederation's dissolution, the city was included in the newly created German Empire in 1871.

Free City (1920-1939)

Following Germany's defeat in World War I, the Allied power in the Treaty of Versailles (1919), decided to create Free City of Danzig (under a commissioner appointed by the League of Nations) covering the city itself, the seaport, and a small surrounding territory. The League of Nations rejected the citizens' petition to have their city officially named as the Free Hanseatic city of Danzig (Freie Hansastadt Danzig). However, the League recognized them as citizens of Danzig, and thus no longer possessors of German citizenship.

The strategic aim of Poland was to return to the relationship Poland had with its main port in Gdansk before 1772. However, at the crucial time of Polish-Soviet war, when Soviet army tried to capture Warsaw, Danzig workers went on strike to block delivery of ammunition to the Polish army. This move set both sides in the conflict that marks the history of the Free City of Danzig.

A customs union with Poland was created and gave the Danzig Westerplatte port to the Polish republic, as the Polish military transit depot. The separation of the Danzig port, post office and customs office under the treaty was said to be justified by Poland's need for direct access to the Baltic Sea. Poland then stationed small squad of troops at Westerplatte. Directly next to Danzig, Poland began building a large port in Gdynia.

Due to Polish-German trade war 1925-1934, Poland was more focused then ever in history on the international trade. For example, the new railway line was build to connect Silesia with the coast and the new tariffs made it very cheap to send goods through Polish ports rather then German ones. Danzig and Gdynia became the biggest ports on the Baltic sea. The splendid time for economy was badly used by Gdansk, since leaders of the city were keen on showing their nationalistic views rather then development of peaceful and friendly relations with Poland.

The Free City of Danzig - (Polish: Wolne Miasto Gdańsk; German Freie Stadt Danzig) issued its own stamps and currency (the Gulden). Many examples of stamps and coins, bearing the legend Freie Stadt Danzig, survive in collections. The desire to rescind the Allied Powers' decision on the status of the city's 400,000 citizens, the majority of them local Kasub descents. Nevertheless, it is believed, that 96 percent of them were believers in uncompromised German patriotism, and saw no other future then reunification with Germany. This culminated in the election of a Nazi Party government in Danzig's elections of May 1933.

German incorporation of Danzig was one of nationalistic territorial claims that every government of the Weimar Republic put on its agenda. When the Nazi government came to power in Germany in 1933, it had the government in Danzig stage a military incident in Danzig in 1934. Both countries were on edge of war, but since Poland had showed its strength and united political will, Germany decided to compromise.

A Polish-German non-aggression agreement was signed and the Free City's government was ordered by the Nazis to stop making problems between Poland and Danzig. Poland and Danzig entered brief period of good economic cooperation and prosperity. Neverthless, a totalitarian society was being constructed, and being a member of minority -- either Polish or Jewish -- required stamina in the face of everyday acts of violence and persecutions.

In 1939 the Jewish community decided that all members should leave, not only Danzig, but the whole region, as they realised it would be soon in the hands of Nazis. This was successfully achieved.

World War II (1939-1945)

Following the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland, Germany in October 1938 urged the territory's cession to Germany. Not surprisingly, Poland refused to accept this threat and, on September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, initiating World War II. On September 2 Germany officially annexed the Free City. The Nazi regime murdered the Polish postmen defending the Polish Post Office after the COF: this was one of the first war crimes during WWII. Other Polish soldiers defending the Westerplatte stronghold surrendered after 7 days of fighting. In October 1939, Danzig, together with the rest of the Polish Pomerania to the south and west, became the German Reichsgau (administrative district) of Danzig-West Prussia (Danzig-Westpreussen).

Many Poles from Danzig were sent to concentration camps, mainly the neighbouring Stuthof. Kashub and Polish intelligentsia were killed in the Piasnica mass murder site, estimated at 60,000 victims.

At the beginning of 1945 Germany started evacuating civilians from Danzig. Most of Germans fled the city, many by seaborne evacuation to Schleswig-Holstein. This happened during winter, under the bombs and in constant danger of submarines.

On March 30, 1945 the Soviet Army seized Danzig. In the following days, Soviet soldiers were given completely free hand in the city. Danzig were scene of brutal violence, rapes, murders, and robbery, and eventually the city was set on fire.

The official German history estimates that about 100,000 Danzigers - a quarter of the city's prewar population - lost their lives in the war, including the evacuation and Soviet capture of the city.


Already before the end of World War II, the Yalta Conference had agreed to place Danzig, now once again Gdansk, under de facto Polish administration, and this decision was confirmed at the Potsdam Conference, though no peace treaty making it formal (de jure) was signed. A Communist-led Polish administration was declared in Gdansk. Nevertheless, the city were seriously devastated.

Polish sovereignty were finally recognized by Germany along the Oder-Neisse line.

After the war ended, nearly all citizens of Germany that remained in the city were recognized as a enemy aliens, citizens of an enemy country. Poles widely believed that the Danzigers' blame for triggering the WWII could not be rejected.

Most of the Germans had to face special verification committees that had to judge the personal behaviour during the German time. Many failed, even if their families' roots in Gdansk went back many centuries, or they were of Kashubian descent, but had shown their support for Germany during WWII. The commitees are often criticised, since they were established by a communist government and their members were not always competent.

Later on, questions of citizenship were the subject of judicial process. Nevertheless, if somebody was granted Polish citizenship, he was not able to emigrate to Germany on his volition. After 1948, Stalin made the Polish government close the border for those who wanted to join their families in Germany. People of German origin were repressed and had to obtain special permissions for emigration.

In the whole process, most of pre-war German citizens of Danzig left to Germany

New Polish residents were settled in Gdansk from other parts of Poland and from Polish-speaking areas east of the Curzon Line that were annexed by the Soviet Union after WWII. Many local Kasubs also moved into the city. The city was thus transformed from a city where most of people communicated using the German language - portrayed in Danzig native Günter Grass's novels The Tin Drum and Dog Years - into a city were most of people communicated using Polish.

Eventually, Polish artisans restored much of the old city's architecture, 90 percent destroyed in the war, but removed nearly all German inscriptions. All German names of streets, buildings, shipyards and districts were changed to Polish names, such as Długi Targ for Langemarkt (Long Market), the city's main pedestrian center.

Gdansk was the scene of anti-government demonstrations which led to the downfall of Poland's communist leader Wladyslaw Gomulka in December 1970, and ten years later was the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union movement, whose opposition to the government led to the end of communist party rule (1989) and the election as president of Poland of its leader Lech Walesa. It remains today a major port and industrial city.

A list of the 173 mayors of the City of Gdansk from 1347 to March 1945 was compiled by the current Gdansk city government and can be found on their recent website with the invitation for the "First World Gdańsk Reunion", which took place in May 2002. This list demonstrates the shifting ethnicity of the city's inhabitants before and after the World Wars.

Famous people born in Gdansk/Danzig

Famous people living or working in Gdansk/Danzig

  • Lech Walesa, b. 1943, trade unions activist, politician, president of Poland (1990-1995)


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Further reading

External links

Internet directories