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(vrôts`läf), Ger. Breslau, city (1993 est. pop. 644,000), capital of Dolnośląskie prov., SW Poland, on the Oder (Odra) River. A railway center and river port, the city is also an industrial center with manufactures of heavy machinery, electronics, computers, iron goods, textiles, copper, and food products. Wrocław probably was a Slavic settlement when it was made (c.1000) an episcopal see subordinate to the archbishop of Gniezno. It became (1163) the capital of the duchy of Silesia, ruled by a branch of the Polish PiastPiast
, 1st dynasty of Polish dukes and kings. Its name was derived from that of its legendary ancestor, a simple peasant. The first historic member, Duke Mieszko I (reigned 962–92), began the unification of Poland and introduced Christianity.
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 dynasty. Sacked by the Mongols in 1241, the city was rebuilt by German settlers and developed as a trade center. Passing (1335) to Bohemia, it became a member (1368–1474) of the Hanseatic League. It was ceded to the Hapsburgs in 1526 and to Prussia in 1742. The city grew considerably in the 19th cent., both in commercial and industrial importance, and was the site of two large semiannual trade fairs. Its university was founded in 1811, when it absorbed the university formerly at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. Wrocław was badly damaged during a Soviet siege in World War II. After 1945 the German inhabitants were expelled and replaced by Poles. Historic buildings include a 13th-century cathedral, several Gothic churches, and a Gothic town hall that houses a historical museum.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in southwestern Poland, located on the Odra (Oder) River. Population, 523,000 (1970). Administrative center of Wroclaw Wojewodztwo.

Wroclaw (its old Slavic name was Breslavl’) is first mentioned in historical sources in 980. Since 1000 it has been an episcopal see. After 1163 the city was the seat of the Silesian Piasts, and it became a major center of commerce and crafts. In 1335, Wroclaw became part of the Kingdom of Bohemia (the Czech name for the city is Bratislav), and in 1526 it fell under Hapsburg rule together with the rest of Silesia. During the War of the Austrian Succession the city was captured by Prussian troops, and after 1742 it was under Prussian rule (the German name for the city is Breslau). In 1848 Wroclaw was one of the centers of the revolutionary movement. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th the city was subjected to considerable Germanization. During World War II (1939-45) the city suffered heavy damage. In February 1945, Soviet Army troops began a siege of Wroclaw, within which considerable Hitlerite military forces were concentrated. On May 6, 1945, the fascist German troops surrendered. Along with other western Polish lands Wroclaw was reunited with Poland in 1945.

During the postwar period Wroclaw, after being raised from its ruins, became one of the most important economic and cultural centers in the country. Wroclaw is a major transport junction (with nine railroad lines) and a river port. There is a labor force of 88,000 (1967). The main branch of Wroclaw’s industry is machine building (48,000 workers), and the principal products are electric locomotives and rail-road cars, generators for steam power plants, computers, precision engineering articles, lathes, road-building equipment, riverboats, pumps, and refrigerators. In Wroclaw there are also a secondary nonferrous metal plant and a chemical industry (synthetic fibers, phosphate fertilizers, varnishes, paints, and dyes), as well as food, garment, wool textile, and printing industries. The city has a steam power plant and a gasworks.

There are several higher educational institutions in Wroclaw (before the war there was only one). The city has an opera theater and a zoo. The historical nucleus of Wroclaw—“Tumski Island” on the right bank of the Odra and the Old Town on the left bank—was restored to its original form after 1945. Around the old parts of the city, which are surrounded by broad boulevards, are the residential and industrial quarters, dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. Architectural landmarks include the Gothic Town Hall (from the second half of the 13th century to the beginning of the 16th) and a number of churches—the Church of St. John the Baptist (from the 13th century to the 15th), the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (mid-14th century), and the Church of St. Wojciech (from the beginning of the 13th century to the 15th). There are houses dating from the 14th century to the 17th, and buildings in the baroque style include the Jesuit College (now the university; 1726-32) and the Ossolineum Library (late 17th and early 18th centuries). Another important monument is Century Hall, now the House of the People (1911-13). Buildings built after 1945 include the complex of buildings of the Exhibition of the Recovered Lands, the Millennium School, the clinic of the Higher School of Agriculture, and new residential sections, such as Gajowice.

Wrocław has the Silesian Museum (with artistic and historical monuments) and the Archaeological Museum.


Maleczynski, K. [et al.]. Wroclaw: Rozwoj urbanistyczny. Warsaw, 1956.
Sztuka Wroclawia. Wroclaw-War saw-Krakow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


an industrial city in SW Poland, on the River Oder: passed to Austria (1527) and to Prussia (1741); returned to Poland in 1945. Pop.: 647 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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