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The establishment of a Polish state can be traced back to 966, when Mieszko I ,  ruler of a territory roughly coextensive with that of present-day Poland, converted to Christianity. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025, and in 1569 it cemented a longstanding political association with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by signing the Union of Lublin . This union formed the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth , one of the largest and most populous countries of 16th and 17th century Europe with a uniquely liberal political system   which declared Europe's first constitution .
The origin of the name Poland derives from a West Slavic tribe of Polans ( Polanie ) that inhabited the Warta River basin of the historic Greater Poland region in the 8th century. The origin of the name Polanie itself derives from the western Slavic word pole (field). In some foreign languages such as Hungarian, Lithuanian, Persian and Turkish the exonym for Poland is Lechites ( Lechici ), which derives from the name of a semi-legendary ruler of Polans, Lech I .
Historians have postulated that throughout Late Antiquity , many distinct ethnic groups populated the regions of what is now Poland. The ethnicity and linguistic affiliation of these groups have been hotly debated; the time and route of the original settlement of Slavic peoples in these regions lacks written records and can only be defined as fragmented.