POPULATION38,415,284 (July 2012 est.)
GDP PER CAPITA$20,600 (2011 est.)
RELIGIONSRoman Catholic 89.8% [about 75% practicing], Eastern Orthodox 1.3%, Protestant 0.3%, other 0.3%, unspecified 8.3% (2002)
ALSO IN EUROPE AND RUSSIAAlbania
Bosnia and Herzegovina
AT THE CENTER
Poland has a secular government that respects religious pluralism while according special recognition to the Roman Catholic Church as a central element of Polish national identity. Though officially Catholic since 966, Poland was long known for its unique religious tolerance. The 1264 Statute of Kalisz safeguarded Jews as an autonomous entity for over five centuries. The Warsaw Confederation of 1573 formalized religious tolerance, sparing the territory from much of the Protestant-Catholic violence that devastated Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. Nazi occupation (1939-45) led to the deaths of 90% of Poland’s Jews in the Holocaust. The Church earned its place in Polish national identity through being a refuge for nationalists during periods of foreign domination, such as under atheist Soviet control (1945-90). The current Constitution grants religious freedom and equality while recognizing the historical importance of the Catholic Church. The right of minorities to establish educational and cultural institutions to protect their religious identities is also constitutionally guaranteed.