Lower Silesia (Polish: Dolny ?l?sk; Czech: Dolní Slezsko; Latin: Silesia Inferior; German: Niederschlesien; Silesian German: Niederschläsing; Silesian: Dolny ?l?nsk) is the northwestern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia; Upper Silesia is to the southeast.
Throughout its history Lower Silesia has been under the control of the medieval Kingdom of Poland, the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy from 1526. In 1742 nearly all of the region was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia and became part of the German Empire in 1871, except for a small part which formed the southern part of the Lower Silesian Duchy of Nysa and had been incorporated into Austrian Silesia in 1742. After 1945 the main part of the former Prussian Province of Lower Silesia fell to the Republic of Poland, while a smaller part west of the Oder-Neisse line remained within East Germany and historical parts of Austrian Lower Silesia (Jesenicko, Opavsko regions) remained as a part of Czechoslovakia.
The southern border of Lower Silesia is mapped by the mountain ridge of the Western and Central Sudetes, which since the High Middle Ages formed the border between Polish Silesia and the historic Bohemian region of the present-day Czech Republic. The Bóbr and Kwisa rivers are considered being the original western border with the Lusatias, however, the Silesian Duchy of ?aga? reached up to the Neisse river, including two villages (Pechern and Neudorf) on the western shore, which became Silesian in 1413.
The later Silesian Province of Prussia further comprised the adjacent lands of historic Upper Lusatia ceded by the Kingdom of Saxony after the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, its westernmost point could be found as far west as the small village of Lindenau (now belonging to the German state of Brandenburg). To the north, Lower Silesia originally stretched up to ?wiebodzin and Krosno Odrza?skie, which was acquired by the Margraves of Brandenburg in 1482. The Barycz river forms the border with historic Greater Poland in the northeast, the Upper Silesian lands lie to the southeast.
Administratively Polish Lower Silesia is shared between Lower Silesian Voivodeship (except for the Upper Lusatian counties of Luba? and Zgorzelec, and former Bohemian K?odzko), the southern part of Lubusz Voivodeship (i.e. the counties of Krosno Odrza?skie, Nowa Sól, ?wiebodzin, ?aga? and Zielona Góra with the city of Zielona Góra, as well as western Opole Voivodeship (the counties of Brzeg, Namys?ów and Nysa).
The tiny part of the former Duchy of ?aga? on the western shore of the Neisse is today part of the Krauschwitz municipality in the Görlitz district of Saxony, the larger Upper Lusatian parts of Prussian Silesia ("Silesian Upper Lusatia") west of the Neisse comprised the town of Görlitz and the former district of Hoyerswerda, which today forms the northern part of the Saxon Görlitz and Bautzen districts as well as the southern part of the Oberspreewald-Lausitz district in Brandenburg. The southern part of the former Duchy of Nysa, which fell to Austrian Silesia in 1742, namely the Jeseník District and He?manovice, Mnichov and ?elezná, as well as parts of Vrbno pod Prad?dem in the Bruntál District, today belongs to the Czech Republic.
The Sudetes are a geologically diverse mountain range that stretches for 280 kilometres (170 miles) from the Lusatian Highlands in the west and to the Moravian Gate in the east. They are topographically divided into Western, Central and Eastern Sudetes.
The Lower Silesian section of the Sudetes comprises the Jizera Mountains (highest peak: Wysoka Kopa, 1,126 metres or 3,694 feet), where the tripoint with Upper Lusatia and Bohemia is located near the Smrk summit, along with the adjacent Karkonosze Krkono?e (German: Riesengebirge, also known as in English: Giant's Mountains) (highest: border peak of Snka ?nie?ka - highest mountain of Czech Republic, 1,602 m or 5,256 ft); Rudawy Janowickie (Skalnik, 945 m or 3,100 ft); Owl Mountains (Wielka Sowa, 1,015 m or 3,330 ft); Stone Mountains (Waligóra 936 m or 3,071 ft); Wa?brzych Mountains (Borowa 853 m or 2,799 ft) and the Kaczawskie Mountains (Skopiec, 724 m or 2,375 ft) with Ostrzyca, 501 m or 1,644 ft - they surround the Jelenia Góra valley, 420-450 m or 1,380-1,480 ft; ?la Massif (Mount ?la 718 m or 2,356 ft), massive of Orlické hory, Králický Snník south of historical Kladsko Polish: Klodzsko), Rychlebské hory and Jeseníky (German: Totesgebirge English: Ashes mountains (Prad?d, 1,492 m or 4,895 ft) .
The adjacent Silesian Lowland includes the Silesian Lowlands and the Silesian-Lusatian Lowlands. These two lowlands are separated with each other by Dolina Kaczawy, and from the Sudetes by a steep morphological edge located along the Sudeten Marginal Fault, extended from Boles?awiec (the Northwest) to Z?oty Stok (the Southeast). The southern part of the Lowland includes The Sudeten Foreland, consisting of quite low Wzgórze Strzegomskie, 232 m or 761 ft, Grupa ?ly (Mount ?la, 718 m or 2,356 ft), and Wzgórza Niemcza?sko-Strzeli?skie (Gromnik Mountain, 392 m or 1,286 ft). Lower hills occur also in areas of Obni?enie Sudeckie, ?widnik, and Kotlina Dzier?oniowska. The eastern part of Silesian Lowland consists of the wide Silesian Lowlands, located along banks of the Oder River. The eastern part includes also Równina Wroc?awska with its surrounding lands: Równina Ole?nicka, Wysoczyzna ?redzka, Równina Grodkowska and Niemodli?ska. Dolina Dolnej Kaczawy (Kotlina Legnicka) separates the Silesian Lowlands from the Silesian-Lusatian Lowlands, which includes Wysoczyzna Lubi?sko-Chocianowska, Dolina Szprotawy, and wide areas of Bory Dolno?l?skie, located to the north from the Boles?awiec-Zgorzelec road. From the North, the lowlands are delimited by Wa? Trzebnicki, consisting of hills that are 200 km (120 mi) long and over 150 m (490 ft) high, in comparison to neighboring lowlands, Kobyla Mountain, 284 m (932 ft). The range of hills includes Wzgórza Dalkowskie, Wzgórza Trzebnickie, Wzgórza Twardogórskie, and Wzgórza Ostrzeszowskie. Obni?enie Milicko-G?ogowskie, with Kotlina ?migrodzka and Milicka, is located in the northern part, within the hills.
The region of the lowlands is coated with a thick layer of glacial elements (sand, gravel, clay) that covers more diverse relief of the older ground. Generally flat and wide bottoms of the valleys are padded with river settlements. Slopes of the hills over 180-200 m (590-660 ft) are coated with fertile clays and therefore, to begin with the Paleozoic era, they became the lands for people to settle and cultivate intensively. Later form of economy caused almost complete deforestation of the slopes. Not only fertile grounds, but also the mild climate is conductive to development of agriculture and market gardening. The annual average temperature of the Wroc?aw area is 9.5 °C (49.1 °F). Average temperature of the hottest month (July) is 19 °C (66 °F), and -0.5 °C (31.1 °F) of the coldest month (January). The average amount of rainfall is 500-620 millimetres (20-24 inches), with its maximum in July and minimum in February. The snow layer disappears after 45 days. The winds, similar to those appearing in the West side of Poland, are West and Southwest.
Sudeten rivers are characterized by changeable water rates, and high pollution resulting from large industrialization of the area. The greatest rivers are Nysa K?odzka, which is the source of drinking water for Wroc?aw (the water is drawn by special channel); Stobrawa, O?awa, ?l?za, Bystrzyca with its tributaries--Strzegomka and Pi?awa; Widawa, ?redzka Woda, Kaczawa with Nysa Szalona and Czarna Woda. There is also the largest right-bank tributary of the area, Barycz. The other quite large rivers, Bóbr, Kwisa, and Lusatian Neisse, flow into Oder River beyond Lower Silesian borders. The majority of the rivers is regulated and their basins are improved, which is conductive to the proper water economy. The characteristic feature of the landscape of the lowland is the lack of lakes. The region of Legnica is the only place where a dozen or so of small lakes survived, but the majority of them is already disappearing. The largest one is Jezioro Kunickie (95 hectares or 230 acres), Jezioro Koskowickie (50 ha or 120 acres), Jezioro Ja?kowickie (24 ha or 59 acres) and Tatarak (19.5 ha or 48 acres). In contrast to the number of lakes, there are large groups of artificial ponds founded in Barycz basin, in the Middle Ages. Their total area amounts around 80 square kilometres (31 square miles), and the largest ponds (Stary Staw, ?osiowy Staw, Staw Niezgoda, Staw Mewi Du?y, and Grabownica) come to 200-300 ha (490-740 acres).
The primeval flora has been transformed significantly as a result of deforestation and cultivation. The largest forest complexes are Bory Dolno?l?skie (3,150 km2 or 1,220 sq mi), Bory Stobrawskie in Stobrawa and Widawa areas, and smaller fragments of forests in Barycz and Oder River valleys. These forests are kind of multi-species deciduous forests, occurring in fertile grounds. The Oder River valley is reach in groups of mixed forests (beech, oak, hornbeam, sycamore maple, and pine). These forests, with protected status, are: Zwierzyniec, Kanigóra near O?awa, Dublany, K?pa Opatowicka near Wroc?aw, Zabór near Przedmo?cie, and Lubi. The other forest areas are The Natural Park in Orsk, the areas of Jod?owice, Wzgórze Joanny near Milicz, and Gola near Twardogóra. Such types of forest like those which are the mainstay for wild game or nurseries, are inaccessible because of permanent fire hazard. Territories partly accessible (marked specially) are located in areas of Góra ?l?ska, Oborniki ?l?skie, Wo?owa, in the Oder River valley, and in Wzgórza Niemcza?sko-Strzeli?skie.
The flora of Lower Silesia is specific and different for each zone. From the bottoms to the top, plants form groups that are arranged in wide or narrow belts, called floral zones. Subsequently, these zones are divided into narrower belts, called vegetation belts.
The zone of mountain forest is divided into two belts: subalpine and lower subalpine forest. Above, there is a forestless zone divided into the subalpine belt with dwarf pine, and the alpine belt without shrubs. This vegetation is glacial; the former vegetation--from the Tertiary--was destroyed by the climate of the Ice Age. Along with glaciation from the North, some tundra plants appeared, for example downy willow (Salix lapponum) and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). The flora of Lower Silesia is strongly influenced by geological and climatic history. The vegetation is formed by species deriving from various geographic regions. Particular regions are represented by:
Lower subalpine forest (Polish: Regiel Dolny), 450-1,000 m (1,480-3,280 ft), is characterized by deciduous or mixed forest. The fragments of forests similar to natural complexes of pine-fir-beech with admixture of larch, sycamore maple and lime occur near the Szklarski waterfall, in the Jagni?tkowski complex, and Chojnik Mountain. Particular species of trees have different climatic requirements. The lowest parts are covered with oak and ash, up to 500 m (1,600 ft). On the level of 500-600 m (2,000 ft) occurs pine; in the higher parts, up to 800 m (2,600 ft), there occurs European larch; and above 800 m, fir and beech.
Despite of transformation of the basic tree vegetation, the same form of undergrowth survived. There occurs: daphne mezereum, red elderberry, hazel, platanthera bifolia, sweet woodruff, Herb Paris, cranberry, wood sorrel, chickweed wintergreen, Common Cow-wheat and lily of the valley. The parts over 800 m are mainly covered with grasses, purple small-reeds, cranberries, and willow gentian.
In highlighted places, on meadows, and along roads, there occurs: spotted orchid, bugleweed, yellow archangel, arnica montana, sword-leaved helleborine, rosebay willowherb, groundsel, and foxglove. Along riversides, there occurs white butterbur.
Pine forests are rich in spruces, which are permanently weakened by atmospheric factors. Frayed roots are easily infected by harmful fungus and insects. The most damaging is honey mushroom, with edible specimen, which grows in pulp, between the bark and timber, causing the death of tree. The other damaging fungus is bracket fungus, which destroys roots and trunks from the inside. The honey mushroom devastates the tree within a few months, and the bracket fungus, within a few years, as a result of mechanic changes in wood-structure.
At the close of the Ice Age, the first man appeared at the Silesian Lowland. In the Mesolithic (7,000 years ago), the first nomadic people settled in Lower Silesia, living in caves and primitive chalets. They were collectors, hunters, and fishers, and used weapons and other tools made of stone and wood. In the Upper Paleolithic, the oldest human remains of the nomadic people, which were 40,000 years old, were found in a tomb in Tyniec on the river ?la.
In the Neolithic (4000-1700 BC), began the process of transformation into a settled way of life. The first rural settlements were made, as people began to farm and breed animals. Mining, pottery, and weaving are dated to this period. Serpentinite quarries came into existence, of which Silesian hatchets were made, and near Jordanów ?l?ski, people extracted nephrite that was transformed into diverse tools. In the Bronze Age (1700-1500 BC), the evolution of different cultures developed to the existence of Unetice culture that affected the existence of Trzciniec culture. In the next periods since c. 750 BC, it encompasses all of Europe.
In the La Tène culture period, Lower Silesia was inhabited by the Celts, who had their main place of cult on the Mount ?la. Their stony statues situated on and around this hill were later worshipped by the Slavic tribes that came here around the sixth century BC. Magna Germania (second century) records that between the Celtic and the Slavic period, Lower Silesia was inhabited by a number of Germanic tribes. Among them, are the Vandals, the Lugii, and the Silingi, who might have given the Silesia region its name, though it is unclear and thus disputed. With the Germanic tribes leaving westward during the Migration Period, a number of new peoples arrived in Silesia from Sarmatia, Asia Minor, and the Asian steppes from the beginning of the sixth century.
The Bavarian Geographer (c. 845) referred to the West Slavic ?lanie (the other possible source of the region's ?l?sk and later Silesia name), centered on Niemcza, and Dziadoszanie tribes, while a 1086 document issued by Bishop Jaromir of Prague listed the Zlasane, Trebovane, Poborane, and Dedositze. At the same time, Upper Silesia was inhabited by the Opolanie, Lupiglaa, and Golenshitse tribes. In the late 9th century, the territory was subject to the Great Moravian realm of Prince Svatopluk I and from about 906 came under the rule of the P?emyslid duke Spytihnev I of Bohemia and his successors Vratislaus I, the alleged founder of Wroc?aw (Czech: Vratislav), and Boleslaus the Cruel.
Meanwhile, the West Slavic Polans had established the first duchy under the Piast dynasty in the adjacent Greater Polish lands in the north. About 990 Silesia was conquered and incorporated into the first Polish state by the Piast duke Mieszko I, who had gained the support of Emperor Otto II against the Bohemian duke Boleslaus II.
In 1000 his son and successor Boles?aw I Chrobry founded the Diocese of Wroc?aw, which, together with the Bishoprics of Kraków and Ko?obrzeg, was placed under the Archbishopric of Gniezno in Greater Poland, founded by Emperor Otto III at the Congress of Gniezno in the same year. The ecclesial suzerainty of Gniezno over Wroc?aw lasted until 1821. After a temporary shift to Bohemia in the first half of the 11th century, Lower Silesia continued to be an integral part of the Polish state until the end of its fragmentation period when all Polish claims on this land were finally renounced in favour of the Bohemian kingdom in 1348.
The Duchy of Silesia was first split into lower and upper parts in 1172 during the period of Poland's feudal fragmentation, when the land was divided between two sons of former High Duke W?adys?aw II. The elder Boles?aw the Tall ruled over Lower Silesia with his capital in Wroc?aw (then known as Vratislav, Wrotizla, or Prezla), and younger Mieszko Tanglefoot ruled over Upper Silesia with his capital at first in Racibórz, from 1202 in Opole. Later Silesia was divided into as many as 17 duchies. The duchies of Lower Silesia in the 14th century (German names in italics):
With the 1335 Treaty of Trentschin and the 1348 Treaty of Namslau, most of the Silesian duchies were ruled by the Silesian Piast dukes under the feudal overlordship of the Bohemian kings, and thus became part of the Crown of Bohemia. In 1476 the Crossen district became part of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, when the widow of the Piast ruler, Barbara von Brandenburg, daughter of Elector Albert Achilles, inherited Crossen. In 1526 Silesia was acquired by Austria's Habsburg Monarchy after the death of King Louis II of Bohemia. Brandenburg contested the inheritance, citing a treaty made with Frederick II of Legnica, but Silesia largely remained under Habsburg control until 1742.
Most of Lower Silesia, except for southern part of the Duchy of Nysa, became part of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1742 after the First Silesian War by the 1742 Treaty of Breslau. In 1815 it became part of the Prussian Silesia Province, which was divided into the two Lower Silesian administrative regions (Regierungsbezirke) of Liegnitz and Breslau (sometimes also referred to as Middle Silesia), and Upper Silesian Oppeln (including the Lower Silesian districts of Nysa and Grodków). The western Liegnitz region had been enlarged by the incorporated Upper Lusatian districts of Lauban, Görlitz, Rothenburg and Hoyerswerda, all seized from Saxony after the Napoleonic Wars.
By the beginning of the 20th century Lower Silesia had an almost entirely German-speaking and ethnic German population, with the exception of a small Polish-speaking area in the northeastern part of the district of Namslau, Syców and Milicz and a 9% Czech-speaking minority in the rural area around Strehlen. After the First World War, Upper Silesia was divided between the German Weimar Republic, the Second Polish Republic, and the state of Czechoslovakia, while the Prussian Lower Silesia remained in Germany and was re-organized into the Province of Lower Silesia of the Free State of Prussia consisting of the Breslau and Liegnitz regions.
Following the end of World War II, all territories east of the Oder-Neisse line were placed under Polish administration according to the Potsdam Agreement, in which the Soviet Union annexed most of the eastern Poland and transferred Lower Silesia to the Republic of Poland. These border shifts were agreed on pending a final peace conference with Germany which eventually never took place. Germany retained the small portion of the former Prussian Province of Lower Silesia to the west of the Oder-Neisse line. The totality of the territory's population, being G German-speaking fled or were was expelled from the bulk of Lower Silesia east of the Neisse. Polish who had themselves been expelled from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union came to the region.
From 1945 to 1975 Lower Silesia was administered within the Wroc?aw Voivodeship. As a result of the Local Government Reorganisation Act (1975), Poland's administration was reorganized into 49 voivodeships, four of them in Lower Silesia: Jelenia Góra, Legnica, Wa?brzych, and Wroc?aw Voivodeships (1975-1998). As a result of the Local Government Reorganisation Act of 1998, these four provinces were joined into the Lower Silesian Voivodeship (effective 1 January 1999), whose capital is Wroc?aw.
In the Early Middle Ages the region was inhabited by Lechitic tribes. German settlers came to Lower Silesia during the Late Middle Ages, attracted by newly founded towns to develop the region. Over time, the Slavic population took up the German language as well. In year 1819, the Breslau Regency had 838,253 inhabitants, the majority of whom - 755,553 (90%) - were German-speakers; with a Polish-speaking minority numbering 66,500 (8%); as well as 8,900 Czechs (1%) and 7,300 Jews (1%). U.S. Immigration Commission in 1911 classified Polish-speaking Silesians as ethnic Poles. After World War II, German inhabitants that had not fled the area due to the war, were expelled, and the region was re-settled by Poles from various regions, making Polish minority majority again.
Towns with over 20,000 inhabitants (German names in brackets):
For 130 years (from 1815 to 1945) parts of formerly Saxon territories of Upper Lusatia formed the most westward part of the Prussian Province of Silesia and later of Lower Silesia. During this time Silesian culture and the Silesian German dialect spread into this region with its centre Görlitz. The expulsion of the Germans from the east of Oder Neisse line led to an additional settlement of German Silesians in this region. Due to these facts, some of the inhabitants of this region still consider themselves Silesian and cultivate Silesian customs. One of their special privileges is the right to use the Lower Silesian flag and coat of arms which is guaranteed to them by the Saxon Constitution of 1992. The Evangelical Church of Silesia in Upper Lusatia, meanwhile, merged with the one of Berlin and Brandenburg to form the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.
The main cities within the former province of Lower Silesia west of the Oder-Neisse line are (Upper Sorbian names in italics):
The main Lusatian cities within the former province of Lower Silesia east of Lusatian Neisse, now within Lower Silesian Voivodship are:
Lower Silesia is one of the most visited regions in Poland. It is famous for a large number of castles and palaces (more than 100), inter alia: Ksi Castle, Czocha Castle, Grodziec castle, Gola Dzier?oniowska Castle. There is also a lot in the Jelenia Góra valley.
The most widely visited city is Wroc?aw.
The Festival of Good Beer is held every year on the second weekend of June.
Other highlights: K?odzko Fortress, Fort Silberberg, Project Riese, Wambierzyce, Legnickie Pole, Ole?nica Ma?a, Lubi Abbey, Krzeszów, Henryków, Vang Stave Church, Churches of Peace, Mount ?la, Table Mountains, Owl Mountains, Karkonosze, The Main Trail Sudetes, Barycz Valley Landscape Park.
The most popular football club in Lower Silesia is ?l?sk Wroc?aw.
Every year in September, the capital of the province - Wroc?aw is Wroc?aw Marathon