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Polish Zloty

The zloty (PLN) is the official currency of Poland. The name can be roughly translated into English as meaning “golden”. Poland is an East European country, with a northern coastline on the Baltic Sea. Its recent history has involved being at the centre of European conflict and politics, certainly since the 1930s.
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It was the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 which resulted in the outbreak of World War Two. This followed an earlier non-aggression pact between the Nazis and the Soviet Union, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Under the terms of the agreement, Poland was partitioned, with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing the country in two, each occupying approximately half. This agreement was ended in 1941, when Nazi troops headed east, invading the entire country before heading for the Soviet Union itself.

As the war progressed, the Soviets returned as the German army retreated, so that at the conclusion of the war in 1945, Poland was effectively being occupied by the Russians. A new communist government was imposed, and Poland became part of the Eastern Bloc, behind the “iron curtain”, exemplified by the Berlin Wall. This situation continued until the advent of Soviet President Gorbachev’s “perestroika” policy saw the iron grip of Soviet rule begin to wane in the 1980s. Lech Walesa’s trade union based Solidarity movement increased in influence and in 1989, the new political party triumphed in the nation’s first “free” elections. Lech Walesa himself was elected president in 1990. In more recent years, Poland has become a member of the European Union, which was approved in a referendum in 2003. Poland finally joined the following year.

This has had an effect on the future prospects of the zloty. Under the terms of Polish accession to the EU, Poland is obliged to replace its own currency with the euro. But as with many countries in the newly enlarged European Union, this is a controversial matter. Although still under the obligation to join, there are no real plans to do so. The Polish government has already ruled out joining before 2020 at the very earliest, and public opinion in Poland seems firmly against any moves toward further integration. As a result, the zloty is likely to be around for a good few years yet.

The original zloty dates back to the Middle Ages, with the first proper national currency being approved by the then rulers in 1496. By the 19th Century, the influence of its giant neighbour Russia meant that the currency was replaced by the rouble. This continued until the advent of World War One. In the inter-war years, the zloty returned, only to be scrapped again by the successive occupations of World War Two. The post war years saw the re-introduction of the zloty, but it was of course heavily controlled by the Soviet government. Trade with non-eastern bloc countries was discouraged, and preferential exchange rates were available only to the Russians.

The current version of the zloty arrived as a result of the new Solidarity led government, in 1995. The old currency was re-denominated to make the new version more practical. At the time of writing, the value of the zloty is just over 5 PLN to the British pound.

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