Lesser Poland, Historical Region Of Poland

Lesser Poland, often known by its Polish name Małopolska (Latin: Polonia Minor), is a historical region situated in southern and south-eastern Poland. Its capital and largest city is Kraków. Throughout centuries, Lesser Poland developed a separate culture featuring diverse architecture, folk costumes, dances, cuisine, traditions and a rare Lesser Polish dialect. The region is rich in historical landmarks, monuments, castles, natural scenery and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The region should not be confused with the modern Lesser Poland Voivodeship, which covers only the southwestern part of Lesser Poland. Historical Lesser Poland was much larger than the current voivodeship that bears its name. It reached from Bielsko-Biała in the southwest as far as to Siedlce in the northeast. It consisted of the three voivodeships of Kraków, Sandomierz and Lublin. It comprised almost 60,000 km2 in area; today's population in this area is about 9,000,000 inhabitants. Its landscape is mainly hilly, with the Carpathian Mountains and Tatra Mountain Range in the south; it is located in the basin of the upper Vistula river. It has been noted for its mighty aristocracy (magnateria) and wealthy nobility (szlachta).Between the 14th and 18th century, the Lesser Poland Province of the Polish Crown also encompassed the historical region of Red Ruthenia. In the era of partitions, the southern part of Lesser Poland became known as Galicia, which was under Austrian control until Poland regained its independence in 1918. As a result of this long-lasting division, many inhabitants of the northern part of Lesser Poland (including those in such cities as Lublin, Radom, Kielce and Częstochowa) do not recognize their Lesser Polish identity. However, while Lublin (Lubelskie) was declared an independent Voivodeship as early as 1474, it still has speakers of the Lesser Polish dialect. Across history, many ethnic and religious minorities existed in Lesser Poland as they fled persecution from other areas or countries. Poland's once tolerant policy towards these minorities allowed them to flourish and create separate self-governing communities. Some minorities still remain, but are on the verge of extinction, most notably Wymysorys-speaking Vilamovians, Halcnovians, Gorals, Lemkos, Uplanders, and once Polish Jews and Walddeutsche Germans.