Poland marks Constitution Day

Top officials were on Friday set to attend high-profile ceremonies as Poland marks Constitution Day.

May 3 is a public holiday in Poland, celebrating a historic constitution the country adopted on May 3, 1791.

The document was the first such modern set of fundamental laws in Europe and the second worldwide, after the American Constitution, which was created in 1787.

The pioneering Polish constitution is described by historians as one of the proudest achievements in the country’s history.

But reforms and liberties proposed in the document – including religious tolerance and the separation of powers – were viewed with suspicion in neighbouring countries, especially in light of the French Revolution raging at the time.

The Polish reforms were seen as a threat to the European status quo by Russia, Austria and Prussia, historians say, and the adoption of the constitution hastened the dismemberment of Poland by these countries.

After a series of partitions, Poland in 1795 lost its sovereignty for 123 years. It re-emerged as an independent state on November 11, 1918, the day World War I ended.

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