Lesser Poland

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Lesser Poland (also Little Poland, Polish Małopolska, Latin Polonia Minor) is one of the historical regions of Poland, with its capital in the city of Kraków. It forms the southeastern corner of the country, and should not be confused with the modern Lesser Poland Voivodeship, which covers only a small, southern part of Lesser Poland.[1] Historical Lesser Poland is much bigger than the current voivodeship which bears its name; stretching from Częstochowa in the west to the lands northeast of Lublin in the east.[2] In the late Middle Ages, Lesser Poland gradually became the center of Polish statehood,[3] with Kraków being the capital of the country from mid-11th century until 1596. Its nobility ruled Poland when Queen Jadwiga was too young to control the state, and the Union of Krewo with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the brainchild of Lesser Poland's szlachta.[4]

In the 17th century, the importance of Lesser Poland diminished, when Warsaw and centrally located province of Mazovia emerged as key parts of the nation. Lesser Poland's territory was divided along the Vistula river line between Austrian Empire and Russian Empire during the Partitions of Poland. Its boundaries are now often limited only to its southern, smaller part controlled throughout the 19th century by Austria as western Galicia. As a result of this long-lasting division, many inhabitants of northern part of this historic province of Poland (with such cities, as Lublin, Radom, and Kielce) have lost their Lesser Poland's identity.[5]


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