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(kră`kou, Pol. krä`ko͞of), Ger. Krakau, city (1994 est. pop. 751,500), capital of Małopolskie prov., S Poland, on the Vistula. A river port and industrial center, it has varied manufactures including metals, machinery, textiles, and chemicals, and is also an outsourcing center. One of E Europe's largest iron and steel plants is near the city. Founded c.700 and made a bishopric c.1000, Kraków became (1320) the residence of the kings of Poland. The Kraków fire (1595) caused the transfer (1596) of the royal residence to Warsaw, but the kings were still crowned and buried in Kraków until the 18th cent. The city passed to Austria in the third partition of Poland (1795) and was included (1809) in the grand duchy of Warsaw. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna made the city and its vicinity into the republic of Kraków, a protectorate of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and in 1846 it was included in Austria. The city reverted to Poland in 1919. Kraków has many historic landmarks and national relics. Jagiellonian Univ., founded in 1364 by Casimir the Great, has long been a leading European center of learning; Copernicus was one of its students. The city has some 50 old churches, many of which contain works of art. Standing on a hill, the Wawel, are the royal castle (rebuilt 16th cent. in Italian Renaissance style) and the Gothic cathedral (rebuilt in the 14th cent.), which contains the tombs of great Poles. The Rynek [market] square is noted for the Church of Our Lady (13th cent.), which has carvings by Veit Stoss; the 14th-century cloth hall; and the remaining tower of the 14th-century town hall.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Cracow), the third largest city in Poland, located in the southern part of the country along the upper reaches of the Vistula River. Population, 585,000 (1970). The administrative center of Kraków Województwo, the city has been administered separately since 1957. Kraków is a major railroad junction (Poland’s second largest in freight turnover after the Silesian-Dabrowa conurbation) and a river port (at the metallurgical combine). During the years of popular rule, the city has become a major industrial center. In 1970, 113,000 persons were employed in industry, including 30,600 in machine building, metalworking, and electrical engineering; 25,600 in ferrous metallurgy; 12,600 in the food and condiment industry; 11,300 in the textile, garment, and footwear industries; and 10,400 in the chemical industry. The principal branches of the machine-building industry are the production of equipment for the petroleum, chemical, and food-processing industries and articles of weak-current electrical engineering. Ferrous metallurgy is represented by the V. I. Lenin Combine, the largest in the country (it produced 5.5 million tons of steel in 1970). Near the combine, 12 km east of the center of Krakow, is the new residential and industrial district of Nowa Huta. The chemical industry manufactures coke and coke-oven by-products, soda, and pharmaceuticals. Tobacco products and confectionery goods are produced by the food and condiment industry. Cables and reinforcement rods are also manufactured.

Kraków is Poland’s most important cultural and scientific center next to Warsaw. Among its educational and scientific institutions are the University of Kraków, the country’s oldest university, the School of Mining and Metallurgy, and the Kraków Astronomical Observatory. It is also a major tourist center.


Kraków arose on the site of a settlement of the Wislanie tribe of the eighth through tenth centuries and was the capital of the Polish state from the 11th to the 16th centuries. During the Middle Ages the city was a major handicraft and trading center, but in the early 18th century it declined as a result of Swedish invasions, fires, and epidemics. From 1795 to 1809 and again from 1846 to 1918, Kraków was ruled by the Hapsburgs. Between 1809 and 1815 it was part of the Duchy of Warsaw, and from 1815 to 1846 it was the capital of the Kraków Republic. The Polish Uprising of 1794, led by T. Kosciuszko, began in Kraków, and a revolt known as the Kraków Uprising occurred there in 1846. In the late 19th and early 20th century the city was the center of the revolutionary movement in Galicia. From 1912 to 1914, V. I. Lenin lived and worked in Kraków and nearby Poronin. In November 1923 a workers’ uprising broke out in Krakow, and in 1936–37 a series of strikes and workers’ demonstrations were held. From 1939 to 1944 it was the capital of the Hitlerite Gouvernement Général. Kraków was one of the centers of the Polish Resistance Movement, and such groups as the People’s Guard, the People’s Army, and the Home Army operated in the city. It was liberated by the Soviet Army on Jan. 19, 1945.


The historical nucleus of Kraków consists of Wawel hill on the left bank of the Vistula and the Old City (Stare Miasto), adjoining it on the north. The complex of buildings on Wawel hill dating from the tenth to the 17th century includes the pre-Romanesque chapel-rotunda of the Virgin Mary (second half of the tenth century), the royal castle (13th to 17th centuries), and the Gothic cathedral (first half of the 14th century). In the heart of the Old City is the Market Square (Rynek), surrounded by a regular network of streets. Only fragments of the city’s fortifications, dating from the late 13th and 14th centuries, have been preserved, including the gate towers and the Barbican (1498–99). Among the city’s many historic buildings are the Romanesque Church of St. Andrew (c. 1090); the Gothic Church of St. Mary (c. 1360–1548), containing stained-glass windows of the late 14th century, an altar triptych by W. Stwosz (V. Stoss, 1477–89), and paintings by J. Matejko (1889–91); and the Gothic Holy Cross Church, dating from the 14th to early 16th century and decorated with early 15th-century frescoes. Another architectural masterpiece, the hall of the drapers’ guild (Sukiennice), was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and converted in 1555–59 to the Renaissance style by the architect G. M. Padovano; a groundlevel facade gallery was added in 1875–79. Also noteworthy is the 15th-century Collegium Maius, the former building of the Jagiellonian University. There are many houses in the Renaissance style with decorative attics, sculptured portals, and arcaded interior courtyards. Krakow’s baroque churches are noted for their splendid sculptural decoration, for example, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (1605–19; architect, G. Trevano), the Bernardine Church in Stradom (1670–80; architect, K. Mieroszewski), and the Church of St. Ann (1689–95; architect, Tylman de Gameren).

In the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, new districts were laid out, radiating from the ring of promenades (planty ) that had replaced the Old City walls. Splendid public buildings were erected in the old and the new sections: the Polish Academy of Sciences (1857–64; architect, F. Pokutyński; pseudo-Renaissance), the J. Słowacki Theater (1889–93; architect, J. Zawiejski; eclectic), the Old Theater (1904–06, architects, T. Stryjenski and F. Maczyński; art nouveau), the Jagiellonian library (1939; architect, W. Krzyzanowski; functionalism). Among buildings constructed since 1945 are the House of Students (1964; architects, W. Bryzek and others), the Higher Agricultural School (1963; architect, S. Juszczyk), the Institute of Physics and Mathematics (1965; architect, S. Juszczyk), the Cracovia Hotel (1965; architect, W. Cękiewicz), and the multistory buildings on Dietl and Falat streets, built in the 1960’s by the architects M. Ingarden and J. Ingarden.

Kraków is the site of the National Museum, the art collections in Wawel Castle, and the Ethnographic Museum. Since 1961 the All-Polish Festival of Film Shorts has been held in Kraków, and since 1966, the biennial International Art Exhibit of Graphics.



Kraków: Studio nad rozwojem miasta. Kraków [1957].
Kraków: Jego dzieje i sztuka. Warsaw, 1965.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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