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Wrocław (pronounced "vrotswav"; German: Breslau, Czech: Vratislav, Latin: Vratislavia) is a city in Silesia in southwestern Poland, situated on the Odra river. Wrocław has a population (2003) of 638,666. It is the principal city of the Lower Silesia region and the administrative seat of the Lower Silesian Voivodship (since 1999), previously of Wroclaw Voivodship. The city is also a separate city-county and a site of the Wroclaw County.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Historical population
3 Universities, industry and infrastructure
4 External links
5 Books


Long existing as a trading place, it was first recorded in the 10th century as Vratislavia (the origin of its various later names) after Vratislav I, duke of Bohemia (915-921). The town was conquered by the Polish duke Mieszko I in the 990s, his son Boleslaus I the Brave founded here the Silesian bishopric in 1000. Already a place of some importance, it became the capital of the Polish splinter-duchy of Silesia in 1138, where Silesians had founded a settlement south of the river. During Mongol invasion in 1241 most of the population of the city was evacuated. Settlement was then sacked and burned by Mongols, but they had no time to siege the castle where rest of burghers found refugee.

Documents of the time refer to the town by many variants of the name, including Bresslau, Presslau, Breslau and Latin Wratislaw. The restored Breslau town was given Magdeburg city rights in 1262. The first illustration of the city was published in the Schedelsche Weltchronik in 1493.

Under direct overlordship of the Holy Roman Empire the emperors granted government positions to members of various ducal and royal dynasties. The city was a member of the Hanseatic League of northern European trading cities. In 1335 it was along with the almost entire province of Silesia incorporated into the Kingdom of Bohemia and was part of it until 1740s, from 1526 under Habsburg dynasty. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants became Protestants during the Reformation, but were forcibly suppressed during the Catholic Reformation by the Jesuits, working with the support of the Habsburg rulers.

In 1569 Silesia had made a contract with Brandenburg, that in the case that the last Silesian Piast rulers died out, the land would be united with Brandenburg. This was the case in the 17th century, but the Habsburgs kept Silesia. The Protestant churches were closed and Silesia, including Breslau, was forced to become nearly all Catholic again. Because Brandenburg-Prussia was more sympathetic to their choice of religion, many people from Silesia and Bohemia sought refuge in Brandenburg-Prussia, and particularly Berlin. The Prussian king Frederick the Great even built a church dedicated to Saint Hedwig, the patroness of Silesia, in Brandenburg and Berlin. The diocese of Berlin was attached to the archdioce of Breslau.

Annexed by the kingdom of Prussia in the 1740s, Prussia and the city became part of the German Empire in 1871. The kings of Prussia saw to it that Breslau became a major industrial centre, notably of linen and cotton manufacture, more than tripling in population in 1860-1910 to over half a million. Its municipal boundaries were greatly extended in 1928.

Many of the city's 10,000 Jews were murdered during the Nazi genocide of World War II. Damaged severely during the siege by the Soviet army in 1945, the city was given to Poland, and the Polish name for the city, Wroclaw, came into more common use.

The ethnic German population of Silesia, which had for much of its existence been part of German-ruled Central Europe, was expelled by the Soviet- installed Polish administration in 1945 after decision of the Allies, reducing the overall population count by more than half. It was replaced by Polish people expelled from territories lost by Poland to the USSR (many of them from the Lviv, former Lwow, area).

In July 1997 the city was hit by a severe flooding of the Odra.

Noble laureates from Wroclaw

Historical population

1800: 64,500 inhabitants
1831: 89,500 inhabitants
1852: 121,100 inhabitants
1880: 272,900 inhabitants
1900: 422,700 inhabitants
1925: 555,200 inhabitants

1960: 431,800 inhabitants
1970: 526,000 inhabitants
1975: 579,900 inhabitants
1980: 617,700 inhabitants
1990: ?
1999: 650,000 inhabitants
2003: 638 666 inhabitants

Universities, industry and infrastructure

Today's Wroclaw has nine universities, including Wroclaw University (Uniwersytet Wroclawski) and Wroclaw Polytechnic (Politechnika Wroclawska). Its major industries are the manufacture of railroad cars and electronics. The city has both an airport and a river port.

External links