The Poles (Polish: Polacy, pronounced [pɔˈlat͡sɨ]; singular masculine: Polak, singular feminine: Polka) are a nation and West Slavic ethnic group native to Poland who share a common ancestry, culture, history and are native speakers of the Polish language. The population of Poles in Poland is estimated at 37,394,000 out of an overall population of 38,538,000 (based on the 2011 census). Poland's population inhabits several historic regions, including Greater Poland, Lesser Poland, Mazovia, Silesia, Pomerania, Kuyavia, Warmia (Ermland), Masuria, and Podlachia.
Over a thousand years ago, the Polans – an influential tribe in Greater Poland region, inhabiting the areas around Giecz, Gniezno, and Poznań – succeeded in uniting various Lechitic tribes under what became the Piast dynasty, thereby creating the Polish state.
A wide-ranging Polish diaspora (the Polonia) exists throughout Europe (Germany, France, Belarus, the United Kingdom, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Ireland, Scandinavia, Italy, Belgium, Spain), the Americas (the United States, Brazil, Canada, Argentina) and in Australasia (Australia and New Zealand). Today the largest urban concentration of Poles is the Katowice urban agglomeration (the Silesian Metropolis) of 2.7 million inhabitants.
Polish émigrés have included individuals with important roles in American society, such as Generals Casimir Pulaski, Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski (a first cousin to composer Frédéric Chopin), and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Poland was also for centuries a refuge for many Jews from all over Europe; a large number emigrated in the twentieth century to Israel. Several prominent Israeli statesmen were born in Poland, including Israel's founder David Ben-Gurion, former President of Israel Shimon Peres, and Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin.
Slavs have been in the territory of modern Poland for over 1500 years. They organized into tribal units, of which the larger ones were later known as the Polish tribes; the names of many tribes are found on the list compiled by the anonymous Bavarian Geographer in the 9th century. In the 9th and 10th centuries the tribes gave rise to developed regions along the upper Vistula (the Vistulans within the Great Moravian Empire sphere), the Baltic Sea coast and in Greater Poland. The last tribal undertaking resulted in the 10th century in a lasting political structure and state, Poland, one of the West Slavic nations.
The concept which has become known as the Piast Idea, the chief proponent of which was Jan Ludwik Popławski, is based on the statement that the Piast homeland was inhabited by so-called "native" aboriginal Slavs and Slavonic Poles since time immemorial and only later was "infiltrated" by "alien" Celts, Germans and others. After 1945 the so-called "autochthonous" or "aboriginal" school of Polish prehistory received official backing in Poland and a considerable degree of popular support. According to this view, the Lusatian Culture which archaeologists have identified between the Oder and the Vistula in the early Iron Age, is said to be Slavonic; all non-Slavonic tribes and peoples recorded in the area at various points in ancient times are dismissed as "migrants" and "visitors". In contrast, the critics of this theory, such as Marija Gimbutas, regard it as an unproved hypothesis and for them the date and origin of the westward migration of the Slavs is largely uncharted; the Slavonic connections of the Lusatian Culture are entirely imaginary; and the presence of an ethnically mixed and constantly changing collection of peoples on the Middle European Plain is taken for granted.