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History of Warsaw

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Of all European capitals, Warsaw is one of the youngest ones as it was in the 16th century that Warsaw gained the status of Poland's capital city. The origins of the city go back as far as the 10th century when the earliest settlements are believed to have been established here. However, building a castle by Boleslaw II, one of the Mazovian dukes, is regarded as the founding of Warsaw in the late 13th century. His residence was situated in the area called the Old Town nowadays. Two centuries later Duke Janusz I Starszy contributed to the city's fast development. Until the death of the last of the Dukes of Mazovia in 1526, Warsaw was a seat of this dynasty descended from the Polish Piasts.

Afterwards, Warsaw was in the king's hands. The growing status of the city and its geographical location in the heart of Poland encouraged King Zygmunt III Waza to move the Parliament from Cracow, the previous capital of the country, and establish his residence in Warsaw in 1596, making Warsaw the capital city of Poland. During his reign the city flourished: monastic orders built their monasteries in Warsaw, whereas well-off aristocratic families erected their palaces.

However, this golden Waza period was interrupted by the Swedish invasion of 1655, popularly known as ''the Deluge''. The city suffered great damage, but subsequent rebuilding works helped Warsaw regain its splendour. King Jan III Sobieski's reign marked another crucial era in the history of Warsaw.
This king, mainly famous for his 1683 Vienna victory, brought Dutchman Tylman of Gameren to Warsaw who designed such impressive buildings like Wilanow Palace, the Krasinski Palace and St. Casimir's Church.

After the reign of the next two kings from the Wettin dynasty, who from their courts in Dresden ruled Poland, the last Polish King Stanislaw August Poniatowski helped Warsaw to grow. As a patron of arts, he contributed to making the city a cultural centre of Europe. The end of the 18th century saw difficult times as, though the industry developed well, Warsaw was first under the Prussian, then under the Russian rules (the Partitions of the Polish Commonwealth). It was after World War I that Poland regained its independence with Warsaw re-established as its capital. However, Warsaw could not enjoy its freedom for long.

The city suffered most during such dramatic events of the 20th century as: the Nazis' occupation of Warsaw, the 1943 Jewish Ghetto Uprising and the 1944 Warsaw Rising. The city was massively devastated (in almost 80 %) and needed reconstruction. Most of historical buildings and monuments were restored to its former beauty. One of the most crucial events that followed was the 1989 elections, the first democratic ones in the postwar history of Warsaw, which marked the end of the Communist era. Nowadays Warsaw is reputed as a fast developing educational, economic, political and cultural centre of Poland , and one of the major capital cities of Europe.

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