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Black death in poland

The meaning of «black death in poland»

The Black Death (Polish: Czarna śmierć), a major bubonic plague pandemic, is believed to have spread to Poland in 1351.[1] The region, along with the Czech Republic, the northern Pyrenees and Milan,[2] is often believed to have been minimally affected by the disease compared to other regions of Europe.

During the mid-14th century, the Kingdom of Poland was ruled by Casimir III the Great. This period was largely marked by military and legal reform, extensive Jewish migration, and eastern expansion into Galicia–Volhynia. Previously in a weakened state, the reign of Casimir III largely allowed Poland to prosper during a time of relative instability and hardship for the rest of the continent.

It is traditionally believed that the Black Death spread into Europe via Genoese traders in their Black Sea port of Kaffa in the year 1347. As the story goes, Golden Horde troops besieging the city catapulted diseased carcasses into the walls of the city in an act of early biological warfare. This then spread into the city of Genoa itself from fleeing ships, and then throughout Italy where it gained a foothold into Europe.[3]

During the Black Death, the Kingdom of Poland was a landlocked country, largely surrounded by plague-infected areas.[4] Poland was affected by the plague. Although it lost a large number of people, in comparison to most other regions of Europe it came out relatively unscathed, only losing a quarter of its existing population compared to a much larger population decrease in the rest of Europe.[5] Though disputed, the country's lack of depopulation was largely evidenced in a 2019 study, citing the stable amount of cereal grain pollen in the region. Dr. Piotr Guzowski of the University of Bialystok noted "In the cores we have analyzed so far, no significant decreases in the share of pollen of cereals, weeds or other plants related to human activity are recorded, which means that there was no depopulation."[6]

The spread of the Black Death had a large impact on Polish society, particularly demographically. Many Jews in Europe were discriminated against during this period as they were blamed for the plague's spread.[7] With existing large Jewish communities within Poland's borders, particularly in Poznań and Kraków,[8] Casimir III the Great at the time welcomed an influx of Jews into this population, encouraging this settlement and even giving them personal protection as "people of the king".[9] This largely bolstered existing Jewish communities and greatly increased their numbers, to a point where for centuries afterward Poland was home to the largest Jewish community in the world (see Golden Age of Jews in Poland).

Jews in Poland may have contributed to resistance to the disease. Jews brought religious practices of hygienics, in particular handwashing in a practice known as נטילת ידיים‎ (netilat yadayim) which was not only encouraged but mandatory for members of the faith.[10][11] During the close of Casimir's reign, attitudes towards Jews in Poland soured. Blood libel against Jews became a growing phenomenon and initial tolerance was disturbed, although interfaith relations were still fairly tame compared to other European nations. The first pogrom in Poland was recorded in the city of Poznań during 1367, near the end of the Black Death.[12] This trend of hysteria afterwards largely continued into the Jagiellonian era, with further discrimination going into the 15th century.[citation needed]

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