|c. 60 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
| Poland 38,080,000|
| United States||10,600,000|
| United Kingdom||1,020,000|
| South Africa||30,000|
| Czech Republic||20,305|
| United Arab Emirates||14,500|
| New Zealand||2,166|
|Polish • Kashubian • Silesian|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Czechs, Gorals, Kashubians, Moravians, Silesians, Slovaks, Sorbs|
The Poles (Polish: Polacy, pronounced [pɔˈlat͡sɨ]; singular masculine: Polak, singular feminine: Polka), commonly referred to as the Polish people, are a nation and Lechitic (West Slavic) ethnic group native to Poland in Central Europe who share a common ancestry, culture, history, and are native speakers of the Polish language. The population of self-declared Poles in Poland is estimated at 37,394,000 out of an overall population of 38,538,000 (based on the 2011 census), of whom 36,522,000 declared Polish alone.
A wide-ranging Polish diaspora (the Polonia) exists throughout Europe, the Americas, and in Australasia. Today, the largest urban concentrations of Poles are within the Warsaw and Silesian metropolitan areas.
Poland's history dates back over a thousand years, to c. 930–960 AD, when the Western Polans – an influential tribe in the Greater Poland region, now home to such cities as Poznań, Gniezno, Kalisz, Konin and Września – united various Lechitic clans under what became the Piast dynasty, thus creating the first Polish state. The subsequent Christianization of Poland by the Catholic Church, in 966 CE, marked Poland's advent to the community of Western Christendom. However, throughout its existence, the Polish state followed a tolerant policy towards minorities resulting in numerous ethnic and religious identities of the Poles, such as Polish Jews.
Poles have made important contributions to the world in every major field of human endeavor, among them Copernicus, Marie Curie, Joseph Conrad, Fryderyk Chopin and Pope John Paul II. Notable Polish émigrés – many of them forced from their homeland by historic vicissitudes – have included physicist Joseph Rotblat, mathematician Stanisław Ulam, pianist Arthur Rubinstein, actresses Helena Modjeska and Pola Negri, military leaders Tadeusz Kościuszko and Casimir Pulaski, U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, politician Rosa Luxemburg, painter Tamara de Lempicka, filmmakers Samuel Goldwyn and the Warner Brothers, cartoonist Max Fleischer, and cosmeticians Helena Rubinstein and Max Factor.
Slavs have been in the territory of modern Poland for over 1500 years. They organized into tribal units, of which the larger ones were later known as the Polish tribes; the names of many tribes are found on the list compiled by the anonymous Bavarian Geographer in the 9th century. In the 9th and 10th centuries the tribes gave rise to developed regions along the upper Vistula (the Vistulans within the Great Moravian Empire sphere), the Baltic Sea coast and in Greater Poland. The last tribal undertaking resulted in the 10th century in a lasting political structure and state, Poland, one of the West Slavic nations.
The concept which has become known as the Piast Idea, the chief proponent of which was Jan Ludwik Popławski, is based on the statement that the Piast homeland was inhabited by so-called "native" aboriginal Slavs and Slavonic Poles since time immemorial and only later was "infiltrated" by "alien" Celts, Germans, Baltic peoples and others. After 1945 the so-called "autochthonous" or "aboriginal" school of Polish prehistory received official backing in Poland and a considerable degree of popular support. According to this view, the Lusatian Culture which archaeologists have identified between the Oder and the Vistula in the early Iron Age, is said to be Slavonic; all non-Slavonic tribes and peoples recorded in the area at various points in ancient times are dismissed as "migrants" and "visitors". In contrast, the critics of this theory, such as Marija Gimbutas, regard it as an unproved hypothesis and for them the date and origin of the westward migration of the Slavs is largely uncharted; the Slavonic connections of the Lusatian Culture are entirely imaginary; and the presence of an ethnically mixed and constantly changing collection of peoples on the Middle European Plain is taken for granted.