The history of Gdańsk
First references to the borough by the Motlawa River comes from about 980. In 997 the bishop and missionary Adalbert of Prague visited the site, baptised many pagans and soon became a saint. He was killed by the Old Prussians, his death was described in many publications. In the second half of the 10th century the defensive and urban complex started to form under the dynasty of Pomeranian princes rule. It was the time when the merchants and craftsmen from the west were coming to Gdańsk in large numbers.
Under the rule of Prince Świętopełek II Wielki Gdańsk obtained town privileges. His son Mściwoj II, the last prince of Gdańsk Pomerania, handed over his land to Przemysł II, the Prince of Wielkopolska, under the conditions from the act signed in 1282 in Kępno. It enabled unification of the Polish lands in the period of the chaos in Gdańsk after the death of Wacław II.
The Teutonic Order came to Gdańsk and in 1308 exterminated many people. The event was named “rzeź Gdańska” (“Gdańsk Slaughter”).
For many years the citizens of Gdańsk aimed at freedom from the Teutonic rule. In the meantime the Order contributed to construction of the Radunia River Canal and the Great Mill (the biggest of the secular buildings in Gdańsk at that time), which still exists.
The affiliation to The Hanseatic League (1361-1669) had many benefits for Gdańsk – both in the period of the Teutonic Order rule and after the Second Peace of Thorn.
After the defeat of the Teutonic Order in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, Gdańsk declared itself in favour of Polish King. In 1415 the Teutonic rule in Gdańsk ended and the Order was driven away.
The Polish King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk gave many privileges to the citizens of Gdańsk, the city was enriched by great property of the Order. The authorities of Gdańsk and local merchants received many entitlements. The Royal Crown of Jagiellonian Dynasty appeared in the city emblem.
In the 16th century the Reformation appeared in Gdańsk and changed its religious face. Wealthy and very significant in Europe Gdańsk became extremely tolerant towards religious dissenters, different cultures and became a cradle of diversity.
Facing the danger of Swedish attack, the city offered firm resistance. In 1734 Gdańsk was besieged by Russians and Saxons, but also came to defence of the Polish honour and throne of the King Stanisław Leszczyński.
After the Second Partition of Poland, the city could no longer resist Prussian annexation. Next forty years were referred to as the time of the great crisis, decline and economic disaster of the city.
In June 1919, pursuant to the Treaty of Versailles, the Free City of Gdańsk was created under the authority of the High Commissioners of the League of Nations. On the 1st of September 1939 at dawn shots fired from the battleship Schelzwig-Holstein reached Polish military crew on the Westerplatte peninsula and the Second World War started. On March 1945 Gdańsk was conquered by 2nd Belorussian Front forces and completely destroyed. After the end of the war, it took many years to restore the previous form of Gdańsk.
For the entire postwar period Gdańsk has been a synonym of Polish liberation pursuits and aspirations. In December 1970 the authorities used the weapons against the striking workers. To commemorate victims of that event “The Monument to the fallen Shipyard Workers 1970” next to the gates of the Gdańsk Shipyard was built.
The next extremely important point in the history of Gdańsk were strikes in August 1980, that started the decay of the postwar order. Mass strikes in many cities ended with famous “August Agreements” signed in Gdańsk Shipyard. From that time Gdańsk is associated with the “Solidarity Movement” and the laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize- Lech Wałęsa, whose name was given to the airport in Gdańsk.
In 1997 Gdańsk has its millennium and celebrated its patron Saint Adalbert of Prague. On the big coat of arms of Gdańsk there is a Latin inscription “Nec temere, nec timide”, meaning “Neither rashly nor timidly”. This sentence perfectly suits this city and its residents.
Present Gdańsk is bursting with life, as it did before and it is still creating its own identity, never forgetting the past.