The city of Rybnik has a population of about 141,410 as of December 2010 and remains the only powiat grodzki (urban county) in Upper Silesia with an increasing population. The Rybnik area with its large coal mines and power plants is an important economic region of Poland, and a natable center of music, home of the Szafrankowie Brothers State School of Music as well as a Philharmonic Orchestra.
The city itself has 141,410 inhabitants out of which 88.9% identified themselves as Polish in the 2002 National Census. Its density is 955.3 per km². The city's population peaked in 1997 at 144,943. After that, it decreased slightly to 141,080 in 2007. Since then, the number of inhabitants has ticked up slightly. Rybnik's demographic situation remains far better than most other Polish cities, with a rather young population: 18.2% being under the age of 18 and only 15.9% older than 65.
According to the National Census of 2002 out of 142,731 Rybnik's citizens, 126,860 (88.9%) declared Polish nationality, 8,980 (6.3%) were Silesians and 382 were of German origin (0.3%).
Rybnik is a powiat (county) divided into 27 districts that have its own administrative body. Most of them are suburban areas, including: Chwałęcice, Golejów, Gotartowice, Grabownia (German: Grabowina), Kamień, Kłokocin, Ligota – Ligocka Kuźnia (German: Ellguth-Carstenhütte), Meksyk, Ochojec, Orzepowice, Popielów (German: Poppelau), Radziejów (German: Radzieow), Rybnicka Kuźnia (German: Rybniker Hammer), Rybnik – Północ, Stodoły, Wielopole, Zamysłów (German: Königlich Zamislau) and Zebrzydowice. There are also four former towns that have been merged with Rybnik: Boguszowice Stare, Chwałowice, Niedobczyce and Niewiadom. Two districts (Boguszowice Osiedle and Maroko-Nowiny) are typical Polish housing estates, with large blocks of flats and supporting buildings (such as shops and schools) built in communist time. The remaining three districts, Smolna (German: Smollna), Śródmieście and Paruszowiec-Piaski (German: Paruschowitz) formed the pre-war town of Rybnik. Those areas are densely built-up, with old town, city hall, most of schools, offices and shopping malls in Śródmieście (literally: city centre in Polish) and 19th century factories and houses in Paruszowiec.
The city of Rybnik is the centre of a metropolitan area, the Rybnik Coal Region (Rybnicki Okręg Węglowy) with a total population of 600,000. The distance to Katowice is about 50 km (31 mi), and to Ostrava about 30 km (19 mi).
The city's name derives from the Proto-Slavic word for "fish" (ryba) and meant "fishpond" in the Old Polish language. The name highlights the importance of fish farming for the city's economy in the Middle Ages, which is reflected in its coat of arms until this day.
The city's origins can be traced back into the 9th and 10th century, when three Slavic settlements existed on Rybnik's present-day territory which eventually merged to form one town. In the course of the medieval eastward migration of German settlers (Ostsiedlung), Rybnik, as many other Polish settlements, was incorporated (granted city status and right) according to the so-called Magdeburg Law at some point before 1308 (the exact date remains unknown). This, however, is not to be confused with a change in national affiliation; Rybnik continued to be part of the Kingdom of Poland, until Silesia as a whole became a fiefdom of the Bohemian crown in 1327. The city continued to grow and developed into a regional trade centre. In the 15th century, the Hussites devastated the city, before being eventually defeated in a decisive battle on a hill nearby. From 1526, Bohemia, including the fiefdom of Silesia, which Rybnik was a part of, came under the authority of the Habsburg crown.
At the beginning of the War of the Austrian Succession between Frederick II of Prussia (the Great) and the Habsburg empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the greatest part of Silesia, including Rybnik, was annexed by Prussia in 1740, which Austria eventually recognized in 1763. Coal mining gained importance for Rybnik's economy as early as the 18th century. In 1871, Prussia, including Rybnik, merged into the German Empire, the first modern German nation state. At this point, Poland had already ceased to exist as an independent state, having been divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia in the Third Partition of Poland of 1795.
With the intensification of Germanization and anti-Polish politics in the German Empire in the late 19th and early 20th century, the ethnically mixed region of Upper Silesia became affected by growing tensions between German and Polish nationalists. After the end of World War I in 1918, Polish statehood was finally restored. Amidst an atmosphere of ethnic unrest, a referendum was organized to determine the future national affiliation of Upper Silesia. Although an overall majority had opted for Germany, the area was finally divided in an attempt to satisfy both parties. Although both parties considered the territory they were assigned insufficient, the division was justified insofar as in the German and Polish parts a majority had voted in favour of the respective nation.
The lowest number of pro-German votes was registered in the districts of Rybnik and Pszczyna (Pless). The city and the largest part of the district of Rybnik were attached to Poland; Rybnik thus became part of a Polish state for the first time since 1526. The referendum and eventual division of Upper Silesia were accompanied by three Silesian Uprisings, the first of which (in 1919) was centered on Rybnik.
Within the Second Polish Republic of the interwar period, Rybnik was part of the Silesian Voivodeship and enjoyed far-reaching political and financial autonomy.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the border city Rybnik returned under the rule of Germany, directly incorporated into the German state. The population was ethnically categorized and either "re-Germanized" or disfranchised and partially deported into the General Government as Poles.
After the eventual German defeat which ended World War II in the European theatre of war in 1945, Rybnik was once more integrated into Poland, the territory of which was shifted westward on Joseph Stalin's initiative. Rybnik thus ceased to be German-Polish border city. Its population was again categorized to be either "re-polonized" or forcefully resettled to Germany. A large portion of ethnic Germans from Rybnik eventually settled in the West German city of Dorsten (District of Recklinghausen), which eventually became one of Rybnik's twin towns in 1994.
In the post-war period, coal mining continued to gain importance. The 1970s saw the construction of an important coal-fired power plant. A reservoir on the river Ruda was constructed to provide it with cooling water. In 2002, the University of Economics (Akademia Ekomomiczna), the University of Silesia (Uniwersytet Śląski), both in based Katowice, and the Silesian Polytechnic University (Politechnika Śląska) based in Gliwice established a joint campus in Rybnik to improve academic training opportunities in the area.
In contrast to the central part of the Upper Silesian Industry Area a short distance to the north, Rybnik enjoys the reputation of a "green" city having a relatively clean environment. While the city is not a centre of tourism, it does have various interesting sights and opportunities for recreation. To the north-east of the built-up area, there is a reservoir (Zalew Rybnicki) on the river Ruda, which serves as a cooling water source for the power station. Surrounded by forests, it offers swimming, fishing, sailing and surfing opportunities, and due to the power station's waste heat it is warm enough all year to be a habitat for grass carps. The Beskidy Mountains, a popular recreational area, also for skiing, are within a 1–2 hour drive.
Sights worth visiting:the neo-gothic basilica of St. Anthony (Bazylika św. Antoniego)
the building of the former district authority (1887)
the neo-classical new town hall (1928)
the neo-classical old town hall with clock-tower, today housing the registry office and the museum of local history
the Church of St. Catherine (Kościół św. Katarzyny) (1534)
the Church of St. Lawrence (Kościół św. Wawrzyńca) (1717)
a late Baroque estate house (1736)
a Piast castle from the early 13th century, completely redesigned in the 18th century
Krzysztof Bodziony (born 1985), Polish footballer
Hermann Boehm (1884–1972) Kriegsmarine Admiral
Jerzy Dudek, Real Madrid and Polish national football team goalkeeper
Thomas Godoj, winner of 2008 Deutschland sucht den Superstar
Henryk Górecki, composer of classical music
Lidia Grychtołówna, Polish pianist
Olek Krupa, actor
Otto Landsberg, German politician
Adam Makowicz, Polish jazz pianist
Piotr Paleczny, Polish pianist
Ewa Sonnet, Polish model and singer
Tomasz Zdebel, Polish football player of Silesian-German descent
In 2006, the 8th European Glider Aerobatic Championships took place in Rybnik.
The aeroclub of Rybnik is very successful in national and international glider aerobatic competitions: Jerzy Makula won the European Glider Aerobatic Championships two times and the World Glider Aerobatic Championships six times. Other current or former members of the Polish national glider aerobatics team from Aeroclub ROW are Małgorzata Margańska, Krzysztof Brzikalik, Lucjan Fizia, Stanisław Makula and Ireneusz Boczkowski.ROW Rybnik - multi-sports club
Thunders Rybnik - american football
Rybnik is twinned with: