Gdansk is the city at the centre of the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Poland. It is Poland's principal seaport as well as the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship. It is also historically the largest city of the Kashubian region. The city is close to the boundary between West Slavic and Germanic lands and it has a complex political history with long spells of Polish rule interspersed with periods of Germanic control and two spells as a free city. For much of its history the majority of its inhabitants were German-speakers who referred to their city as Danzig, but after World War II it became firmly Polish.
The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay (of the Baltic Sea), in a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdynia and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity (Trójmiasto), with a population of over 800,000. Gdańsk itself has a population of 458,053 (2006), making it the largest city in the Pomerania region of Northern Poland.
Gdańsk is situated at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, whose waterway system waters 60% of the area of Poland and connects Gdańsk to the national capital in Warsaw. This gives the city a unique advantage as the center of Poland's sea trade. Together with the nearby port of Gdynia, Gdańsk is also an important industrial center. Historically an important seaport and shipbuilding center, Gdańsk was a member of the Hanseatic League.
The city was the birthplace of the Solidarity movement which, under the leadership of Gdańsk political activist Lech Wałęsa, played a major role in bringing an end to communist rule across Central Europe. It is also the home and birthplace of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is of Kashubian origin.