Different regional populations from Poland were studied in order to assess the genetic heterogeneity within Poland, investigate the genetic relationships with other European populations and provide a population-specific reference database for anthropological and forensic studies. Nine Y-chromosomal microsatellites were analysed in a total of 919 unrelated males from six regions of Poland and in 1,273 male individuals from nine other European populations. AMOVA revealed that all of the molecular variation in the Polish dataset is due to variation within populations, and no variation was detected among populations of different regions of Poland. However, in the non-Polish European dataset 9.3% ( P<0.0001) of the total variation was due to differences among populations. Consequently, differences in R(ST)-values between all possible pairs of Polish populations were not statistically significant, whereas significant differences were observed in nearly all comparisons of Polish and non-Polish European populations. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated tight clustering of Polish populations separated from non-Polish groups. Population clustering based on Y-STR haplotypes generally correlates well with the geography and history of the region. Thus, our data are consistent with the assumption of homogeneity of present-day paternal lineages within Poland and their distinctiveness from other parts of Europe, at least in respect to their Y-STR haplotypes. Electronic supplementary material to this paper can be obtained by using the Springer LINK server located at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00439-002-0728-0.