Let’s Look at Poland

Let’s Look at Poland

The original

So far in this investigation of Polish/German genetics, we’ve focused almost entirely on the German side of the picture, so today I’d like to pause and learn a bit about Poland.

I have a certain fondness for Poland, born of Polish-American friends and Polandball comics.

Humans have been living in [the area that is now-called] Poland for longer than H. sapiens has been around. (H. erectus and neanderthalis lived there, first.)

We’re not sure exactly what language(s) were spoken by the various tribes in [what is now] Poland, [henceforth refererd to as “Poland” for simplicity’s sake,] during the Bronze Age and before, simply because they left no written records and had very little contact with the literate peoples of Greece and Rome, who could have written about them.

Recreation of the Biskupin fort, Lusatian Culture, Poland

As we’ve discussed before, the idea that everyone outside of Classical Greece and Rome lived in rude barbarism is probably a bit wrong; pre-literate, bronze-age Europe had long-distance trade, pleasant villages, art, and luxury goods.

One of the more prominent goods produced local area was amber, gathered on the shores of the Baltic and traded to places like Greece, Rome, and Spain in exchange for copper and tin (necessary for making bronze.)

We’re still not sure exactly when and how the Indo-European languages spread to Europe, but the Corded Ware Culture, culturally and genetically Indo-European, appeared in Poland (and elsewhere) around 3,000 BC. It was later replaced by various other cultures like the Lusatians, who probably also spoke Indo-European languages.

The Slavic languages appear to have started differentiating around 2,800 BC in modern Ukraine and proceeded to spread out from there. The modern Slavic languages are divided into East (Russian, Belarussian, Ukrainina,) West (Polish, Czech, Slovak,) and South (Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Bosnian, Bulgarian, etc.)

According to Wikipedia:

Western historians refer to the period of migrations that separated Antiquity from the Middle Ages in Europe as the Great Migrations or as the Migrations Period. …

The first phase, from 300 to 500, saw the movement of Germanic, Sarmatian and Hunnic tribes and ended with the settlement of these peoples in the areas of the former Western Roman Empire. …

The second phase, between 500 and 900, saw Slavic, Turkic and other tribes on the move, re-settling in Eastern Europe and gradually making it predominantly Slavic.

Back row: A. Piccard, E. Henriot, P. Ehrenfest, E. Herzen, Th. de Donder, E. Schrödinger, J.E. Verschaffelt, W. Pauli, W. Heisenberg, R.H. Fowler, L. Brillouin;
Middle Row: P. Debye, M. Knudsen, W.L. Bragg, H.A. Kramers, P.A.M. Dirac, A.H. Compton, L. de Broglie, M. Born, N. Bohr;
Front Row: I. Langmuir, M. Planck, M. Skłodowska-Curie, H.A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, P. Langevin, Ch.-E. Guye, C.T.R. Wilson, O.W. Richardson

In other words–and I wager this is probably a pretty controversial claim–archaeologists think there may have been Germanic-speaking tribes in Poland prior to the fall of the Roman Empire, and Slavic-speaking tribes moved into the area.

Poland itself is named for the Polans, a Slavic tribe that inhabited the area in the 700s.

In 1867, double-Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie was born in Warsaw. (The Curie family has collectively won 5 Nobels, though one of these was a Peace Prize, meaning the Curie family alone has won more Nobel prizes than the majority of countries in the world.)

Modern Poland is a lovely country stocked with the survivors of some of the 20th century’s worst atrocities:

Under the two occupations, Polish citizens suffered enormous human and material losses. It is estimated that about 5.7 million Polish citizens died as a result of the German occupation and about 150,000 Polish citizens died as a result of the Soviet occupation. Ethnic Poles were subjected to both the Nazi and Soviet persecution. The Jews were singled out by the Germans for a quick and total annihilation and about 90% of Polish Jews.(close to three million people) were murdered. …

About 16 of Polish citizens lost their lives in the war,[44][45] most of the civilians targeted by various deliberate actions. The German plan involved not only the annexation of Polish territory, but also a total destruction of Polish culture and the Polish nation (Generalplan Ost).

The long-term Nazi plan, as I understand it, was to kill all the Slavs.

After WWII, about 12 million ethnic Germans fled or were kicked out of eastern Europe (no real surprise). As for Poland:

A 2005 study by the Polish Academy of Sciences estimated that during the final months of the war, 4 to 5 million German civilians fled with the retreating German forces, and in mid-1945, 4.5 to 4.6 million Germans remained in the territories under Polish control. By 1950, 3,155,000 had been transported to Germany, 1,043,550 were naturalized as Polish citizens and 170,000 Germans still remained in Poland.[123]:455–60,466

This is depressing material, but obviously relevant to our original question of Polish-German genetic similarity, as such flight/expulsions are likely to drive the existing populations apart. But we’ll look closer at the genetics in the next post.

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