Warsaw (Polish:Warszawa, vär-shä'vä), Poland, the country's capital and largest city. Warsaw lies on the Vistula River in east-central Poland about 325 miles (523 km) east of Berlin, Germany. The city covers 172 square miles (445 km2). Winters are relatively mild and summers are cool; temperatures average 25° F. (-4° C.) in January and 65° F. (18° C.) in July. The average annual rainfall is 22 inches (560 mm).
Warsaw, a city of 1,300,000 people in 1939, was almost completely destroyed during World War II. In reconstructing the old part of city, traditional styles of architecture were used; historic buildings and monuments were rebuilt in their original forms. The rest of the city was rebuilt in modern architectural styles.
Warsaw is the political and administrative center of Poland and the seat of the Roman Catholic primate of Poland. It is also the country's main financial, commercial, and industrial center. Major manufactured products include motor vehicles, machinery, steel, electrical equipment, textiles, and pharmaceuticals and other chemicals.
Railway lines connect Warsaw with Poland's other major cities and with Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Kiev, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. Many of Poland's highways converge on Warsaw. Okecie International Airport, located outside the city, provides domestic and international service. Warsaw is an important river port.
Among Warsaw's notable buildings are the Zamek Krolewski (Royal Castle), located on Castle Square; Namiestnikowski Palace, now the seat of government; and Staszic Palace, which houses part of the Polish Academy of Science. Lazienki Park contains theaters, old royal villas, monuments, and gardens. Also outstanding is the medieval Old Town (Starego Miasta), built around the market square (Rynek). Within the square are the column of King Sigismund III Vasa and the 14th-century Cathedral of St. John.
Warsaw plays an important role in the country's cultural life. The National Museum has fine collections of ancient, medieval, and modern art. The 37-story Palace of Culture and Science, a gift from the Soviet Union, has theaters, numerous exhibition rooms, and sports facilities. The National Philharmonic Hall is the home of the national symphony orchestra. The major theaters are the National Theater and the Polish Theater. Chief of Warsaw's many institutions of higher learning is the University of Warsaw, founded in 1818.
Warsaw was probably founded in the ninth century. It became a fortress city and the home of the dukes of Mazovia. In the 16th century, when Poland and Lithuania were united, the city was chosen as the royal residence, and then succeeded Kraków as capital of Poland. Warsaw fell to the Swedes in 1655 and 1702 and to the Russians in 1764 and 1794. It went to Prussia when Poland was partitioned in 1795.
The city was occupied by Napoleon's army early in the 19th century and was made the seat of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. After Napoleon's defeat, it was again taken by Russia. Revolts against Russian rule broke out in 1830 and 1863, but they were harshly put down.
German troops conquered the city during World War I. After the war Warsaw became the capital of a restored and independent Poland. At the outbreak of World War II, Warsaw again was taken by Germany. The Nazis forced all Jewish residents into a ghetto in 1939 and in 1942 began deporting them to concentration camps. In 1943 the remaining Jews rebelled, but the revolt was crushed. Warsaw suffered tremendous damage during the war. The city was taken by the Soviets in 1945. Since 1945, Warsaw has been largely rebuilt and the historic Old Town district has been restored to its former splendor.