Why is Poland less developed than Germany, Sweden and Russia despite historically always having been in the middle of the three?
I answered this question on Quora here, and got 13,000 views and more than 100 upvotes, so there must be something in my answer that appeals, so here is what I wrote
“I moved to Poland 26 years ago, and have recently become a citizen.
This answer is about Poland’s level of development rather than a comparison Poland with the three other countries mentioned in the question.
In some ways Poland is very well developed.
A lot of the Western media portrayals of Poland are unfairly negative.
For example read about the BBC’s portrayal of Poland’s football fans here. The BBC’s Chris Rogers - the presenter for the programme - was extraordinarily anti-Polish, even as he was reportedly filmed pretending to be a Nazi . A detailed description of the Panorama programme and the resulting fall out is here . Roger’s boss Tom Giles was neither sacked nor disciplined and kept his job, publishing a blog post claiming he had done nothing wrong.
Rrstaurant critic Giles Coren caused consternation and was reported to the Press Complaints Commission in the UK for an article that was published in the Times where he stated:
“We Corens are here (in the UK) , now, because the ancestors of these Poles now going home used to amuse themselves at Easter by locking Jews in the synagogue and setting fire to it… My sympathy for the plight of the modern Polack is thus limited, and if England is not the land of milk and honey it appeared to them three or four years ago, then, frankly, they can clear off out of it.” He also accused Poles of responsibility for The Holocaust. More details are published here in the Krakow Post.
This commentary here reflects the reality of British anti-Polish sentiment. “ Too many in Western circles, especially the BBC Panorama team, seem incapable of grasping the complexities and nuances of the Polish situation. It should not be a surprise. The prejudices towards retrograde ex-Eastern Bloc countries are too ingrained, and the need to demonstrate moral superiority too strong, for clear-sightedness to emerge.
‘Patronising’ is Jonathan Ornstein’s term for the prevailing Western attitude to Poles and Ukrainians. Ornstein leads the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow.
Rabbi Schudrich gave a great talk at TEDxWarsaw here about modern Polish Jewish relations.
It’s important to think what “developed” means.
The state is strong here, without being repressive, and much more efficient that it is given credit for. It’s quite bureaucratic, but is improving all the time.
People have strong opinions, and like to argue.
Little small gains - like in the queuing systems in Post Offices, being able to check on line when passport applications have been processed, happen all then time, and add up to make a big difference to the quality of life.
Most people are patriotic, without being nationalistic. At the beginning of the school year kids swear an oath to be good citizens. The ‘nasty’ anti-foreigner nationalism that exists in Poland is not dominant here, and sadly is present in many countries.
Other answers have referred to the impact of the Second World War, and Soviet imposed communism, and 19th century imperialism. All have left their mark.
In particular Poland missed out on the post-Second World War boom in the market economies of Western Europe.
Poland is growing faster than most European countries, and is taking steps to address the demographic crisis. In 25 years time Poland will have overtaken many European countries.
I am not trying to say that Poland is perfect. Few Poles believe that anyway. We live in troubled times. Poland has come a long long way in the last 28 years. Poland has a lot further to go - unless the country is let down by poor leadership.
If you want to hear more about innovation and entrepreneurship in modern Poland try my Podcasts - Project Kazimierz and blog Richard Lucas business and social entrepreneurship blog