City History: Gdansk

Hardly any city has such a turbulent past like the Polish town Gdansk. It’s not sure when first settlements occurred, but the official foundation goes back to 997. That’s when the Bohemian Bishop Adalbert from Gniezno arrived there and christianized Gdansk’s inhabitants. Not only in the Middle Ages, but still in the 20th century, Gdansk was a much fought-over city.

Gdansk as a major trade center and part of the Hanseatic League

In the 14th century, Gdansk was impounded by the Teutonic Order. Due to that, Gdansk soon became a major trade center and later joined on the Hanseatic League.

Important port for trade

Gdansk was an important port for trade in the past

Anyway, over 100 years later, in 1454, Gdansk’s inhabitants voted for a change of regime and thus decided to be loyal to the Polish monarch.

Gdansk and the Polish monarch

With that change, Gdansk experienced a great time in regard of its economy. Gdansk became a successful trading city and by the mid 16th century, it was the biggest city of Poland.

Gdansk was always important for the Polish economy

Gdansk was always important for the Polish economy

With the influence of international traders who settled in Gdansk, a cultural diversity was given.

Changing powers in Gdansk

Gdansk was a strong city with a great location on the sea, which recognized the Swedish Deluge as well. But not like most of the other Polish cities, Gdansk was able to withstand the Swedish. Nevertheless, this incident weakened its position. As a result, it was not too hard for the Prussians to occupy Gdansk in 1793.

Church at the end of the Stare Miasto Pedestrian Zone

In the 18th and 19th century, Gdansk was conquered several times

However, this dominion wasn’t of any long duration. Napoleon’s army together with its Polish allies displaced the Prussians. But even that didn’t last too long, as the Congress of Vienna gave Gdansk back to the Prussians in 1815. Later on, Gdansk was integrated into Germany. This was not too much of a blow for the city as the majority of the population was German anyway. During this time, Gdansk recorded economic and industrial growth.

Free City of Gdansk after WWI

Due to the Treaty of Versailles as a result of WWI, the country of Poland was defined new and Gdansk was given the status of a free city, protected by the League of Nations. Under the regime of Hitler, Gdansk was a major reason for disputes between Hitler and the Polish government. Gdansk was taken over by the Polish slowly, but safely and couldn’t really stay independent, despite the wish of the locals to be part of Germany. Nevertheless, Gdansk was occupied by the Germans in the beginning of WWII and used by Hitler as a German port.

Reconstruction of Gdansk after the War

Nowadays, Gdansk is a beautiful city with its well-known Stare Miasto. What I didn’t knew before is the fact that Gdansk was rebuilt from the ground up after WWII, which took over 20 years.

Destroyed during WWII

Destroyed during WWII

With Lech Wałęsa who was the first freely elected president of Poland, Gdansk was able to restore its role as being an industrial and administrative city. It became a popular destination for tourists and hosts some interesting cultural events till today.

Rebuilt old town

Rebuilt old town


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2 Comments on “City History: Gdansk”

  1. Pingback: Looking back on week 26 | travelux

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