History of Krakow

Early history

In the 8th and 9th century, Krakow was a trade settlement located at the foot of the Wawel Hill. By 966, the date of the first written record of the city’s name, Krakow had already grown into a busy commercial centre, thanks in part to the amber trade.
In the year 1000, the diocese was established. In 1038 Krakow became the capital of Poland, with Wawel Royal Castle becoming the residence of Polish kings. In 1257 by the king Bolesław V the Chaste introduced city rights modelled on the Magdeburg law allowing for tax benefits and new trade privileges for the citizens.
In 1320 Krakow became the coronation place of the Polish kings. The city rose to prominence in 1364, when Casimir III of Poland founded the Jagiellonian University, the third oldest university in central Europe after the University in Bologna and the Charles University in Prague.


The 15th and 16th centuries were known as Poland's "Zloty Wiek" or Golden Age. Many works of Polish Renaissance art and architecture were created, including ancient synagogues in Krakow's Jewish quarter located in the north-eastern part of Kazimierz, such as the Old Synagogue. During the reign of Casimir IV, various artists came to work and live in Krakow, and Johann Haller established a printing press in the city after Kasper Straube had printed the Calendarium Cracoviense, the first work printed in Poland, in 1473.
In 1520, the most famous church bell in Poland, named Zygmunt after Sigismund I of Poland, was cast by Hans Behem. In 1553, the Kazimierz district council gave the Jewish Qahal a licence for the right to build their own interior walls across the western section of the already existing defensive walls. The walls were expanded again in 1608 due to the growth of the community and influx of Jews from Bohemia.
In 1572, King Sigismund II, the last of the Jagiellons, died childless. The Polish throne passed to Henry III of France and then to other foreign-based rulers in rapid succession, causing a decline in the city's importance that was worsened by pillaging during the Swedish invasion and by an outbreak of bubonic plague that left 20,000 of the city's residents dead. In 1596, Sigismund III of the Swedish House of Vasa moved the administrative capital of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from Krakow to Warsaw.

Partition of Poland

After the Second Partition of Poland (1793), Krakow became a part of the Austrian province of Galicia; after 1809, it belonged to the Congress Kingdom. In the second half of the 19th century, Krakow was the centre of the Polish culture, education and art (Young Poland Movement).
At the outbreak of World War I on 3 August 1914, Jozef Pilsudski formed a small cadre military unit, the First Cadre Company—the predecessor of the Polish Legions—which set out from Krakow to fight for the liberation of Poland. The city was briefly besieged by Russian troops in November 1914. Austrian rule in Krakow ended in 1918 when the Polish Liquidation Committee assumed power. With the emergence of the Second Polish Republic, Krakow resumed its role as a major academic and cultural centre with the establishment of new universities such as the AGH University of Science and Technology and the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts, including a number of new and essential vocational schools.

Second World War

Following the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in September 1939 the city became part of the General Government, a separate administrative region of the Third Reich, and from 4 November 1939 its capital. The Nazis envisioned turning Krakow into a completely German city after removing all Jews and Poles, renamed locations and streets into German and sponsored propaganda attempting to portray it as a historically German city. In an operation called "Sonderaktion Krakau", more than 180 university professors and academics were arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen and Dachau Nazi concentration camps. The Jewish population was first confined to a ghetto in which many died of illness or starvation. Those in the Ghetto were later murdered or sent to Nazi concentration camps, including Plaszow and Auschwitz. Although looted by occupational authorities, Krakow remained relatively undamaged at the end of World War II, sparing most of the city's historical and architectural legacy. Soviet forces entered the city on 18 January 1945 and started arresting Poles loyal to the Polish government-in-exile or those who had served in the Home Army.

Modern times

After the war, under the Polish People's Republic, the intellectual and academic community of Krakow was put under total political control. The universities were soon deprived of printing rights and autonomy. The Stalinist government ordered the construction of the country's largest steel mill in the newly created suburb of Nowa Huta.The creation of the giant Lenin Steelworks (now Sendzimir Steelworks owned by Mittal) sealed Krakow's transformation from a university city to an industrial centre. The new working class, drawn by the industrialisation of Krakow, contributed to rapid population growth.

Krakow is currently the one of the most significant cultural centres in Poland, by many still considered to be the capital of Poland. It is also one of the most important tourist, cultural and historic places in Europe. The historic Old Town of Karkow has been placed on UNESCO World Heritage List. Around 3-4mln tourits visit the city every year.

This page contains a redrafted content of the Wikipedia article "History of Krakow".