Poland has been conquered many times. Yet the Polish people have kept their national identity, or sense of what makes them a nation. Their attachment to the land has helped them keep their national identity. So has their religion. Ninety-five percent of the people are Roman Catholic.Poland was a multiethnic country before World War II. Three million Jews lived in Poland. During the war, the Nazis forced Jews to live in ghettoes, city areas where minorities must live. Later the Nazis built six major concentration camps, or prison camps, in Poland. People from many countries, especially Jews, were murdered in these camps. By the end of the war, about 6 million Poles had been killed in concentration camps. Half of them were Jews. In all, the Nazis mur- dered more than 6 million European Jews. This destruction of human life is called the Holocaust.
After the war, a Communist govern- ment supported by the Soviet Union con- trolled Poland. It tried to do away with religion, but the Roman Catholic Church remained strong.
During the 1980s, a Polish labor union called Solidarity began to demand economic reforms and more freedom. Poland finally held free elec- tions in 1989. After communism ended, it was hard to turn state-controlled businesses into private business- es. Prices rose quickly. Many peo- ple lost their jobs. By the mid- 1990s, the economy started to improve.


1 - What helped Poles keep their national identity?
2 - Map Skills Why do you think Gdan ́sk is an important city?


The Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians share historical links with Western Europe. But their countries have major differ- ences.
After World War I, Czecho- slovakia became a new nation with two main groups—Czechs and Slovaks. After World War II, the Soviet Union placed a Communist government in Czechoslovakia. In the late 1980s, Czechoslovakia ended Communist rule. In 1993, it divided peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic— also called Slovakia. The Czech Republic began privatiza- tion, or selling government businesses to private companies. The country has many industries, but many factories are old, and pollution is a serious problem.
Slovakia has a mixed economy of man- ufacturing and farming. The Communists turned private farms into collective farms, where farmers were paid by the government and shared profits. Slovakia is now trying to return farms to private owners. Slovakia has political problems as well as a struggling economy.About 90 percent of Hungarians are Magyars. Hungary became a nation in the year 1000. It fought off many foreign rulers but could not drive out the Soviet- backed Communist government. In 1990, Hungarians elected their first democratic government in over forty years. It began to return businesses to private companies.
The fertile farm region east of the Danube River in Hungary is called “the breadbasket of Europe.”


3 - What united these countries in the years after World War II?
4 - Map Skills What river forms part of the border between Slovakia and Hungary?


The Balkan Peninsula was ruled by the Turks for 500 years. After World War I, the region broke up into small unfriendly countries. This event led to a new word— balkanize. Communists controlled the Balkans after 1948. In the late 1980s, these countries began to overthrow their Communist governments.Under communism, Romania had seri- ous economic problems. Several leaders promised reform, but the economy grew worse. A United States soft drink maker has helped entrepreneurs start shops to sell soft drinks. Entrepreneurs are people who start and build businesses.
Bulgaria has fertile soil and mild weath- er. It is known as the garden of Eastern Europe. Bulgaria has a democratic govern- ment, but Communists still play a large role. By the mid-1990s, Bulgaria had found foreign markets for its goods and was welcoming tourists to its Black Sea resorts. Albania’s Communist leaders kept the country isolated. It became one of the poorest coun- tries in Europe. Since it became democractic in the early 1990s, companies from other countries have opened factories in Albania because wages are low After World War I, Yugoslavia became a new country with many ethnic groups that did not get along. After Communist ended, four of its republics declared inde- pendence. Only Serbia and Montenegro stayed in Yugoslavia (however the name was dropped in 2003 and Montenegro gained independence in 2006). Fighting began between the newly independent countries and among their ethnic groups. The worst fighting was in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

5 - What does the word balkanize mean?
6 - Chart Skills How many countries have been created since Yugoslavia broke up?


The Baltic states and border nations along Russia’s western edge were once republics within the Soviet Union. After 1991, these republics became independent nations.
Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are mainly flat with fertile plains. The Baltic Sea has brought both trade and invasion. Soviet forces invaded in 1939 and annexed, or formally added, the Baltic states to the Soviet Union.
Since independence, the Baltic states have privatized industries and encouraged foreign invest- ment and trade. They have also begun to diversify, or increase the variety of, their industries.
Ukraine was where the first Russian state began over 1,000 years ago. Under Communist Soviet rule, Ukrainians were forced to work on collec- tive farms. Ukrainians protested by burning crops. In response, Soviet forces seized all grain. As a result, 5 to 8 million Ukrainians starved to death. In 1986, an explosion destroyed a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, causing severe damage to human life and the environment.
Ukraine has large fertile plains and huge coal resources. The export of its many farm products has helped the econo- my. But outdated machinery, lack of for- eign investment, and the need to import oil hold Ukraine back from economic prosperity.Unlike other former republics, Belarus favors its close ties with Russia. It has strong industrial and service industries, as well as oil, but it must import most of the resources needed for its industries.
Moldova is the most densely populated of the former republics. It was once ruled by Romania, and Romanian is now the language used in schools.


7 - What have the Baltic states done since independence to improve their economies?
8 - Chart Skills What is the largest nation in the Baltic states and border nations region? What is the smallest?