A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAND

The History of Poland is rooted in the arrival of the Slavs, who gave rise to permanent settlement and historic development on Polish lands. During the Piast dynasty Christianity was adopted in 966 and medieval monarchy established.
This section is about history of Poland available in English.
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAND

Post autor: Artur Rogóż » 05 wrz 2011, 06:57

A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAND
Copyright 1994 - AngloPol Corporation -- Distributed by the Polonia Media Network
Part 1

The Polish State Emerges
10th-12th Centuries

The name of Poland comes from the name of the Polanie tribe or people tilling land. That tribe settled down in the Warta River basin, an area which was later called Wielkopolska [Great Poland]. The center of authority was in Gniezno. Archaeological excavations permit an examination of the development of the Gniezno castle and its powerful fortifications, dating back to the 8th century. The tribal rulers of the Polanie who later resided in the castle were called the Piasts, from the name of their legendary ancestor.

Throughout the 10th century, the Polanie and their Piast princes conquered and consolidated their rule over other Lecithic tribes living between the Odra and Bug Rivers, the Baltic coast and the Carpathian Mountains. The Polanie conquered successively the Kujawianie tribe, whose main castle was in Kruszwica, the Mazowszanie tribe and their castle of Plock, the Ledzianie tribe and Sandomierz, and the Pomeranian tribe and their castles of Gdansk and Wolin. Toward the end of the century they seized the Wislanie tribe with their castle of Krakow, as well as the Silesian tribes with Wroclaw, Opole and Legnica.

Gniezno and SuburbsMieszko I was the first prince of the Piast dynasty to be mentioned by contemporary historical sources (ca. 960-992). We even know the names of his forefathers from oral tradition. Nonetheless, it is Mieszko I who is recognized as the founder of the Polish state. It was during his time that conquests were completed and the tribes whose languages and cultures showed great affinity were united. The prince reorganized the new territories and united them into a uniform state system. In 966, Mieszko was baptized, thus placing the Polish state in the political system of Central Europe and determining the European and Christian road of development of the Polish state and society.

Poland of the 10th through 12th centuries, as many other states of the early Middle Ages, was a monarchy treated by the ruler as a dynastic property and heritage--a patriarchy. The duke and a small group of magnates who surrounded him (the erstwhile tribal chiefs or people elevated to power by the duke) commanded strong and centralized powers. The army was made up of an elite several- thousand-strong team, provided for and equipped by the duke, as well as of free yeomen called to serve whenever such need arose.
The state was divided into provinces, but the administrative set-up had much to do with old tribal patterns. Provinces, in turn, were divided into castle districts, some one hundred of them altogether. In each district there was the master representing the duke and wielding power on his behalf: military, judicial, fiscal and administrative. He had an entourage of a small number of warriors. Yeomen, making up the hardcore of the population, had to pay a levy to the duke. High social position during these early stages of the monarchy stemmed not from personal wealth or tribal ownership, but from having a share in power and the rights bestowed by the duke to use part of the state income.

Mieszko Family TreeWhen in 960 Mieszko was assuming power around 960, the basic dilemma appeared for Poland, which would confront her over the next few centuries: what attitude the Piast-created state should take towards the Empire and the Papacy. The expansion of the German state to the lands on the middle and lower stretches of the Elbe River, the conquest of the Slavonic tribes living there, caused the Polish state to face a powerful, dangerous and, at the same time, relatively civilized neighbor.

The aspirations of Germany found expression in the imperial coronation of Otto I in 962. The Polish Prince could opt either for supporting a pagan realm and struggle for full political independence (this would have been an option eventually leading to defeat) or for acceptance of baptism and bringing Poland into the sphere of European Christian civilization. The latter choice would shape relations with the Empire on the principle of the recognition of its informal superiority. Thanks to the decision of Mieszko I, Poland was provided with the foundations of her development and participation in the commonwealth of the states and nations of Europe.

In 965 Mieszko married Czech Princess Dabrowka. Her retinue included priests who took up missionary work in Poland. The ruler himself was baptized in 966. Two years later, the first Polish bishopric was established in Poznan with Bishop Jordan at the head. The alliance with the Czech state, the baptism and the person of bishop Jordan (most probably an Italian) reflect Poland's striving to counter-balance her attitude of dependence on the Empire. A more eloquent manifestation of this policy is provided by the act of putting Poland under the papal protection by Mieszko I around 990.

Boleslaus the BraveThe son of and successor to Mieszko, Boleslaus the Brave (992-1025), went along the same path of increasing Poland's independence at the early stages of his rule. In 997, he organized a mission by the Czech Bishop Adalbert to the lands of the Prussian tribes and, after the missionary perished, he paid for his body, deposited it in the Gniezno Cathedral and took advantage of the canonization of the martyr to upgrade Poland's rank. The short-lived international political conditions favored those plans.

The idealistically-minded Emperor Otto III wanted to build a universal Christian community to embrace Sclavinia (Slavonic) lands, to be represented by Boleslaus the Brave. Both rulers met at the St. Adalbert's grave in Gniezno in the year 1000. There the Emperor dubbed Boleslaus a patrician of the Empire and handed him St. Maurice's spear, put the imperial diadem on his head and, most importantly, agreed (with Rome's approval) to establish a Polish Church metropolis in Gniezno. The Church hierarchy, complemented with the first Benedictine monasteries, became an important component of the political structure of the state. The political independence acquired in that way had to be defended by Poland later, when heirs to Otto III changed the Empire's policy toward Poland.

Boleslaus the Brave defeated the Germans in the long war of 1002-1018. Afterward, he consolidated his edge in East-Central Europe with an expedition against Kiev in 1018. Poland's independence was manifested by the royal coronations of her rulers (Boleslaus the Brave in 1025 and Mieszko II in 1025.)

However, Mieszko II was deprived of his crown in 1031 following a lost war against the Germans, Ruthenians and Czechs, resulting in the outburst of infighting for the princely throne, the death of Mieszko II, a rebellion of magnates and a subsequent rebellion of pagan subjects, destruction of the Church organization and flight from Poland of Casimir, the young heir to the throne. Casimir returned to Poland with German assistance, rebuilt the state and became known as the Restorer, but he did not attempt to shed the dependence on the Empire.

Casimir's son, Boleslaus II, the Bold (1054-1079,) reconstituted the Church Metropolis and, as a result of numerous battle victories, reached for the crown in 1076. In doing so, he took advantage of the Empire's conflict with the Pope by siding with Gregory VII's struggle against Henry IV. However, he also fell into conflict with Polish magnates concerned by over-centralized state power. Fighting the opposition, the king killed the Krakow Bishop Stanislaus (future saint and Poland's patron,) which caused such great indignation that it swept him from the throne.

Siege of GlogowBoleslaus II's brother and successor, Ladislaus Herman, settled for the title of prince and acknowledged a loose dependence on the Empire. His son, Boleslaus III, the Wrymouth (1102-1138,) also was a prince although he waged numerous successful wars, repelling a German invasion in 1109. He united the magnates and knights in Poland with a struggle to regain Pomerania. He did conquer the land and helped organize the missionary activity by Otto of Bamberg, who baptized the Pomeranians.

Gallus Anonimus left behind a clearly formulated account of the political program of Boleslaus II and his camp. The ruler is presented in the chronicle as a prince, but the state he ruled is characterized as a kingdom [regnum]. The supreme duty of the prince was to defend the "old freedom of Poland."

"I prefer to lose the Kingdom of Poland, while defending her freedom," the prince was quoted as saying to the Imperial envoys, "than to retain control in the ignominy of serfdom."

What were the reasons for the constant return by the Polish princes, despite setbacks, to the independence-oriented policy?

Certainly one of the reasons was the military character of the state of the first Piasts. That state come into being through conquests, with the prince commanding strong and well-armed troops. The territorial and demographic potential of the Polish state also favored the struggle for independence. Poland's territory amounted to about 250,000 sq. kilometers with a population of some one million.

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Part 2

Division into Provinces

The system of the princely law, of the strongly centralized authority in the hands of the dynasts, the dependence of the magnates on the prince, was eroding under the impact of a gradual feudalization of social relations. In the 12th century, a number of magnates had the land bestowed upon them by the prince. The Church, too, was bringing to Poland feudal organizational patterns and striving to acquire real estate. The feudalization of the system was cutting into the magnates' dependence on the prince. That was expressed by the magnate support for one or another candidate to the throne.

Those decentralizing tendencies were characteristic for a number of feudal states in medieval Europe. In Poland, as in Ruthenia, those tendencies assumed the form of a split into provinces. The state was divided into dukedoms and principalities, each of which was ruled by a branch of the Piast dynasty.

13th Century PolandThe beginning of the provincial split was provided by the testament of Boleslaus III, the Wrymouth, in 1138. He carved up the state for his five sons, instituting the eldest of them as the senior. Quickly, however, this seniority was abolished and the growth of the dynasty produced ever new splits. In the peak period of the provincial division (mid-13th century) Poland consisted of some twenty duchies. The disappearance of central authority and the weakening of individual provincial rulers paved the way for a growing independence of the Church and magnates, as well as of the rank-and-file knights.

The 12th and 13th centuries were a period of demographic growth and intensive settlement of newcomers. Princes, bishops and knights had an interest not only in exploiting the existing estates, but also in setting up new villages, as well as in reorganizing the existing towns and setting up new urban centers. In doing so, they were following the organizational patterns brought to Poland from abroad--from Flanders and, above all, from Germany. Waves of German settlers started flowing into Poland, encouraged by the favorable conditions. Rulers and petty feudal lords bestowed privileges on them, called location charters, enabling them either to reorganize the existing urban centers or establish entirely new villages and towns. The German Magdeburg Law specified the organization of the privileged towns and settlements and ushered in city and village self-government: their own jurisdiction and the principles for treasury and rents.

Knighting a SquireThe settlement action based on the German Law, continuing from the latter part of the 12th century until the 14th century, and in some regions even till the 15th century, brought to Poland not only legal patterns, but also merchant capital, in addition to handicraft and farming technologies. Farmers were now using the heavy plough and the three-field rotation system. In processing, water mills and fulling mills were in general use. The economic development was faster; the population increased as did the number of villages and towns. Trade flourished and money went into general use.

The influx of German settlers created a new ethnic situation in Poland. Up to the 12th century Poland had been inhabited almost exclusively by the native population, the Slavs, descendants of the Lechite tribes of the pre-state period. The newcomers, composed of the German clergy, French and Italian priests, knights of various provinces, German or Jewish merchants, belonged to the elite and were few and far between. From the 13th century onwards, people of German origin grew in number among the ducal subjects, especially in towns.

A wealthy Jewish population also settled in towns. In 1264, they were granted special freedoms by the Krakow Prince, Boleslaus the Pious.

ChroniclerNo less important were the changes in culture. Until the 12th century, art and literature were for the elite class only. The greatest works of architecture and Roman sculpture, the texts of the First Polish chronicles, decorative and handicraft arts, achieved a high level, but they were available to only a few. The 13th century saw the dissemination of those accomplishments, but also a lowering of their artistic sophistication. The number of churches grew markedly and a new style--the Gothic--appeared. Not only the cathedral churches, but Cistercian, Dominican and Franciscan churches, started operating schools, as did major urban parishes. Literature, still in Latin, became available to a larger number of readers.

Battle of LegnicaEconomic, demographic, social and cultural development constituted a positive by-product of the territorial division, but adverse phenomena were not lacking either. Poland, weakened by internal divisions, became the target of invasions. The local Princes of Western Pomerania grew independent in the North, while Brandenburg seized the province of Lebus. The Teutonic Knights, invited by the Mazowsze Prince, Konrad, to settle in the Chelmno Land, then conquered the lands of the Prussians and later, starting with the early 14th century, turned their expansion towards Poland.

Great destruction was wrought by the three invasions of the Mongols in 1241, 1259 and 1287. The first incursion reached all the way to Silesia. The Poles were beaten in the battle of Legnica and Henry the Pious of Silesia was killed, yet Poland preserved her independence, avoiding the fate that had befallen Ruthenia when it was conquered by the Mongols. External threats strengthened the striving for uniting the Polish lands.

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Part 3

Crown of the Polish Kingdom

Toward the end of the 13th century the division of the Polish lands into a number of petty duchies became a burden for the majority of social groups. It was a serious obstacle for the Church, as the diocesan borders were not identical with those of the provinces. The division was undermining the prestige of weak provincial princes and of magnates, who were craving for power. It hampered trade and was a barrier to the development of towns. Foreign invasions were a threat to the security of the rural population.

As a result, aspirations to unite Poland were gathering momentum. Even during the peak of the division some elements of unity were preserved--princes of the same Piast dynasty were ruling everywhere except for Pomerania. Polish lands were linked by one Church metropolis. The symbolic signs of Poland's unity, coming from the common past, were preserved, too, in the uninterrupted use of the name of Regnum Poloniae [Kingdom of Poland], as well as in the coronation insignia of 1076, kept at the Krakow Cathedral. The longing for unification was best reflected in the all-Poland cult of St. Stanislaus.

Unification was no easy task to fulfill, as each of the local rulers wanted to be the unitizing savior. The social base of unification was also controversial. Was it to be provided by the inhabitants of one of the major provinces, supporting their prince? Was it to be one of the powerful social groups--knights, clergy or burghers of larger towns?

After several abortive attempts by the Silesian and Little Poland princes, Great Poland's Prince Przemyslaw II won Coronation of Przemysl IIthe crown but he was assassinated in 1295. The heritage was contested by Silesian Prince Henry of Glogow and Prince of Sieradz, Leczyca and Brzesc, Ladislaus [Wladyslaw] the Short, as well as by the Czech King of the Przemyslid Family, Wenceslaus [Waclaw] II. The latter won control of Little Poland, Great Poland, the Gdansk area of Pomerania and part of Kujawy, and had himself crowned in 1300 as the King of Poland.

The sudden death of Wenceslaus II, and of his son Wenceslaus III, opened up the way to the Polish throne for Ladislaus the Short. He won the Pope's support, armed assistance from Hungary, and united part of the Polish territory. Silesia stayed outside the Polish state, with its princes being vassals to the King of Bohemia, John of Luxembourg. Mazovia [Mazowsze] continued its independence while Gdansk Pomerania was seized by the Teutonic Knights in the years 1308-1309. The loss of Pomerania and of Poland's access to the Baltic Sea were ominous events, as they ushered in a 150-year long period of wars between Poland and the Teutonic Order for the recovery of those territories.

Kingdom of Poland in 1320In 1318, a general rally at Sulejow sent a petition to the Pope on behalf of the "monastic orders, chapters, eminent personalities, dukes, counts, barons and towns," asking for the crown for Poland. The Pope wavered in view of the claims put forth by John of Luxembourg to the throne of Poland, but he supported those aspirations. The coronation of Ladislaus the Short and his spouse, Hedwig, was held in Krakow in 1320.

In the 14th century, France, Germany, Flanders, England, Italy and the states of the Iberian Peninsula were in the grip of an economic crisis, of the shocks of the so-called Black Death [epidemic plague] and the 100-year war. For the states of Central-Eastern Europe it was a century of economic, political and cultural development. Those times were of the heyday of the Kingdom of Bohemia, Hungary, the Teutonic State, as well as of an accelerated growth of Poland and Lithuania in economy and politics. The idea of "sovereign kingdom" became dominant in that part of Europe.

During the first few decades of the 14th century, Poland was the weakest of those sovereign kingdoms facing a constant threat from the alliance between the Czechs and Teutonic Knights. Ladislaus the Short, in his struggle to recover Pomerania, took advantage of the Pope's support and of the alliance with Hungary, but neither a court trial before the papal envoys, which he won, nor an armed struggle, brought the desired effect.

Skirmish with Teutonic KnightsHis son and successor, Casimir [Kazimierz] the Great (1333-1370), one of the most outstanding Polish rulers, made peace with the Teutonic Knights (1343), giving away Pomerania as "an eternal alms" to them. That enabled him to recover other lands which were held by the Order. He also made John of Luxembourg renounce his claim to the Polish crown, acknowledging, however, the subjugation of Silesia to the King of Bohemia. As a result. he ensured peace to Poland and could preoccupy himself with reforming the state.

The king lent support to the settlement drive, creating new villages and towns. He also promoted trade and issued statutes regulating the extraction of salt, lead, silver and iron in Poland. He carried out a monetary reform and consolidated the state treasury. The existing common law was codified and standardized. The administration of justice was reformed and consolidated. Those holding high offices, such as chancellor, treasurer and chamberlain, were included in the Royal Council set up by the king as an organ of central power.

In 1364, the King Casimir the Great founded the first Polish university, the Krakow Academy. The king earmarked huge sums for the construction of a network of castles to stand guard at Poland's borders and for reforming the army. The royal authority, however strong, was limited by the law, whose guarantor and executor was the king himself. Those were estate laws, separate for each social group, i.e., different for knights, clergy, townspeople and peasants. The balance between the social classes and the king's position as arbiter favored the strengthening of the royal power, as in other feudal monarchies of medieval Europe.

European political culture and the experience of Angevin Hungary provided a term defining the Polish state: the Corona Regni Poloniae [the Crown of the Polish Kingdom]. The legal construction behind that term amounted to separation of the person of the ruler from the state (the crown). The state thus ceased to be the patrimony of the ruler and became a separate entity in terms of the political-legal system, with indivisibility to be its feature. The new term corresponded not only to the internal political situation of the state monarchy, but to the external policy and situation of Poland, as well.

14th Century CastleFrom the turn of the 14th century the political program of the Regnum Poloniae consisted primarily of the unification of the Polish lands. Its realization was only partly successful. After the local dynasty of the Rurykhovichs died out in Halicz Ruthenia, the Duchy was taken over by Casimir the Great (1344, 1366). It had never been part of the historical Polish Kingdom. It was included into the new form of the state--into the Crown of the Polish Kingdom.

Toward the end of Casimir the Great's rule, the state territory amounted to some 240,000 sq. kms., with a population of about two million. Thus, the number of people per square kilometer increased from about four in the 10th-11th centuries to almost 8.5 during his rule. Some one million people speaking Polish and belonging to Polish culture lived outside the Crown of the Polish Kingdom in the 14th century--in Silesia, Pomerania, Mazovia--and there were Germans, Ruthenians and Jews within the Polish state.

The successful rule of Casimir the Great was burdened with a personal and dynastic failure; despite having been married a couple of times the king had no lawful son. Therefore, conflicts over the succession could threaten the integrity of the Kingdom. The handing over of power to any of the numerous Piasts in Silesia or Mazovia was out of the question, because of the lack of prestige of those princes. So, Casimir concluded a treaty with Louis Angevin, the King of Hungary, a grandson of Ladislaus the Short on the distaff side. The latter ascended the Polish throne (1370-1382).

Louis the Hungarian had no son either and he curried favor with Polish knights to recognize one of his daughters as his heiress. As a result he granted privileges to the knights, called the Kosice Privilege (1374), exempting them from paying taxes, save for two groszy per lan [a unit of cultivated land] of peasant farmland. He thus started a series of privileges that were granted to the knights by successive rulers of Poland in the 14th and 15th centuries.

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In 1384, Hedwig, an 11-year-old daughter of Louis the Hungarian, was called to Poland by the knights and representatives of towns and ascended the Polish throne. The group of Krakow magnates who were ruling Poland chose to give her hand to the pagan ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Jagiello. There was one string attached, however--Lithuanians had to become Christian and become part of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom. The Union was concluded at Krewo in 1385. One year later, Jagiello was baptized in Krakow, assuming the name of Ladislaus, and the assembly of Polish knights elected him King of Poland.

After the death of Hedwig in 1399, Jagiello's right to the throne was confirmed by the Royal Council. That sealed the elective character of the throne in the Crown of the Polish Kingdom.

Poland and Lithuania (in red)Poland and Lithuania concluded the Union in light of the perils posed to both states by the expansion of the Teutonic Order.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a very large and internally differentiated state. Very few Lithuanians inhabited the northern and western areas of the state. To the east and south laid the lands of the Ruthenian princes, which Lithuania had conquered, having repelled the Mongols. The population of Ruthenians (inhabitants of Slavonic descent professing Orthodox Christianity) was more numerous, with their language and culture dominating even at the court of the grand Lithuanian dukes.

The baptism of the Grand Duke and the nobility in Western Christianity helped maintain the identity of the Lithuanian ethnic element. ln addition, the Polish Church gained enormous opportunities for missionary work, providing the clergy with prestige, gratification and importance in the Catholic Church.

The Union was substantiated by economic and social reasons: the aspiration of merchants toward developing far-ranging trade; the Polish magnates sought expansion by settling the Ruthenian lands; Lithuanian princes and boyars sought to bring Polish political patterns to Lithuania.

Quickly after the Union of Krewo and baptism of Lithuania, it turned out, however, that the incorporation [the text of the Union used the Latin term applicare] of such a different state organism into the Crown of the Polish Kingdom was impossible. Lithuania had its own system of government, laws and social structures. Witold, the cousin of Ladislaus Jagiello became the embodiment of this separate Lithuanian identity and the king invested Witold with power in Lithuania in 1392.

In 1401 in Vilnius and in 1413 in Horodlo the Polish-Lithuanian Union was transformed so as to enable Lithuania's identity to find its legal expression.

Poland and Lithuania, united by the Union, commanded at the turn of the 15th century a territory of upwards of 1.1 million sq. km., the land being inhabited by various ethnic groups and religions: Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, Ruthenians, Jews, Armenians, and Tartars, professing Catholic, Orthodox, Armenian, Judaic and Muslim religions. That great diversity, despite the dominance of Catholicism, compelled the rulers to be completely tolerant and guarantee rights to all inhabitants, irrespective of their descent or religion.

The lasting significance of the Union lay in the fact of the inclusion of a new member, Lithuania, into the sphere of European and Christian culture. The Union was an act of enormous importance for both states and societies. Though some of the principles were modified in the 15th and 16th centuries, it endured to the end of the 18th century, for 400 years.

The baptism of Lithuania and the union with Poland deprived the Teutonic Order of all reasons for its expansion, and even for its existence. But the Teutonic state was powerful, excellently organized rich and commanding an excellent army, a network of castles and an efficient system of government. It also enjoyed prestige in Christian Europe.

The seizure of Gdansk-Pomerania was an incessant source of conflict between the Order and Poland. It became particularly painful towards the end of the 14th century, when the growing trade in Polish grain rafted on the Vistula to Gdansk, went against the
political barrier.

Teutonic Knights Leaving GrunwaldThe Teutonic Knights resolved to preempt the growth of strength of Poland and Lithuania by starting a war against both states in 1409. The decisive battle took place on July 15, 1410, at Grunwald. The 30,000-strong Polish-Lithuanian army, marching on the opponent's Capital City of Malbork, clashed with the 20,000-man army of the Teutonic Order. The technological edge was on the Teutonic side. They even used field artillery for the first time in this part of Europe. The day-long fierce battle ended in a complete defeat of the Teutonic Knights and the death of the Grand Master.

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Nevertheless Malbork was not taken. The Order was helped by the intervention of the ruler of Germany, Bohemia and Hungary, Sigismund of Luxembourg. That being the situation, the Peace of Torun, 1411, was not commensurate with the Polish-Lithuanian military success, so it did not bring any solution to the conflict. On the other hand, however, the strength of the Teutonic Order was broken.

The diplomatic strife between the Order and Poland and Lithuania continued at the Council of Constance (1414-1418). A professor of Krakow University, Pawel Wiodkowic, delivered there a treatise condemning war and violence as a means to convert pagans. Such views ran counter to the prevailing contemporary opinion, but were borne out by the effective Christianization of Lithuania by Poland.

A new factor in the Polish-Teutonic conflict after the war of 1409-1411 was provided by the attitude of the Order's subjects, particularly of the knights and townspeople of Gdansk-Pomerania and Chelmno province. Those social groups set up a representation--the so-called Prussian Union--calling for political changes and observance of estate laws instituted by the Order. The Order, however, was unable to carry out such a change.

In 1454, having been threatened with the death penalty, the leaders of the Prussian Union asked Poland for assistance. King Casimir the Jagiellon (1447-1492) declared the incorporation of Pomerania and Prussia into Poland. The 13-Year War broke out. It ended in the Peace of Torun in 1466. Poland regained Gdansk-Pomerania, Malbork and Elblag, the Chelmno province, as well as Warmia. For their merits in the war against the Order, cities of those regions were granted numerous rights, with Pomerania gaining territorial self-government. The rest of the Order's lands, the so-called Teutonic Prussia, became a fiefdom of Poland.

Polish KnightsThe social and political system of 15th century Poland ensured benefits to all social estates. Gradually, however, following the grant of numerous privileges to knights, the balance changed in favor of one social group. To win privileges, knights were able to take advantage of the elective nature of the Polish throne and their participation in wars. The most significant privileges were: the right to the immunity of knightly fees (1422) and the right to personal immunity [neminem captivabimus nisi iure victum] (1430-1433) by which confiscation and imprisonment could take place only in case of a court ruling. There were other privileges, too: the right to buy the offices of the heads of hamlets (1423); the Nieszawa privilege, stipulating that the king shall not institute new taxes nor shall he call up levy of the gentry for a war without the consent of local Sejms (1454); the privilege tying peasants to their villages, enabling voivodes [provinces] to fix prices for goods from towns and exempting knights from customs duties for their own goods (1496).

Peasants Harvesting GrainThe limitation of the rights of townspeople and peasants to the benefit of the gentry (and of the clergy related to them by family bonds) gradually changed Poland's regime, which was taking place without opposition from lower social estates or strife between social groups. Perhaps the general increase in well-being and the absence of social tension, as well as the open avenues to social advancement for the most outstanding burghers and peasants mitigated the conflicts. Moreover. the knights (the gentry) cooperated on the national level in their struggle for the privileges, while the strivings of towns and villages were scattered and uncoordinated.

The development of the state and society, apart from military successes and economic advancement, was also promoted by the steady development of culture, especially visible at the court of Queen Hedwig and the Polish rulers, the Krakow Academy and bishops' courts.

The 15th century saw the climax of the development of Polish Gothic, mirrored in architecture, sculpture and painting. Among the finest works of art were those by Wit Stwosz, a sculptor of Krakow and Nuremberg, especially noted for his altar in St. Mary's Church in Krakow and the tombstone of Casimir the Jagiellon. In painting, initially influenced by the Bohemian school, there appeared the Nowy-Sacz-Krakow school. The chief accomplishment in literature was the excellent chronicle by Jan Dlugosz, a Krakow canon and teacher of royal children, written in Latin. A number of literary works of great value appeared in Polish, testifying to the development of the Polish language. The readership of those works included a relatively numerous group of educated people.

The number of parochial schools amounted to a few thousand. Some of them offered more than the teaching of reading, writing and church singing. The Krakow Academy's enrollment during the 15th century went up to over 17,000 students, some 12,000 from the Crown.

The first printing shop was established in Krakow in 1473. The last few decades of the 15th century saw the growing influence on Poland of the Renaissance culture.

The successful development of Poland in the 15th century, military victories, development of the economy and culture, strengthened the dynasty of the Jagiellons. In the latter part of the 15th century they were gaining the upper hand in the competition against the Luxemburgers and the Habsburgs.

Following the short-lived dynastic union of Poland and Hungary (1440-1444), Casimir the Jagiellon's son, Ladislaus, sat on the Czech throne in 1471 and on the Hungarian in 1490. So, at the turn of 16th century, Poland and Lithuania, as well as Bohemia and Hungary, were under the rule of the two lines of the Jagiellonian dynasty. In addition, part of Mazovia, still continuing its independence, and Teutonic Prussia, were fiefdoms of Poland. The nation's influence went as far as Moldavia.

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Post autor: Artur Rogóż » 05 wrz 2011, 06:59

Part 5

REPUBLIC OF THE GENTRY
-- POLAND'S GOLDEN AGE

The successful 15th century opened the way for the 16th century, called the golden age in Poland's history. The combined territory of Poland and Lithuania amounted to 815.000 sq. km. with a population of 8 million. Peasants accounted for some 67% of the population, burghers for some 23%, and the gentry and clergy for some 10%. Grain exports and the resulting trade surplus ensured Poland prosperity and a large natural increase.

In politics, it was a period of might and lack of dangers. Only a few wars were fought on Poland's peripheries or on Lithuania's borders. In culture, it was a period of Renaissance and development of Polish-language literature. The high level of education enabled the knights [gentry] to reach for power and create a specifically Polish form of social and political system: the Republic of the Gentry.

Chancellor Presents Book of LawsRights, gained by Polish noblemen in the 14th and 15th centuries, were extended to the Lithuanian knighthood, as well as to the Orthodox boyars in the Ruthenian part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. That was important for molding a uniform social group, having the same rights and aspirations but speaking different languages and professing different religions. The political unity of the gentry and their common actions to win power prevailed over regional, ethnic and religious divisions.

Of the nobility's rights, the most important privilege for the emergence and formation of the new regime were the Nieszawa freedoms. The obligation to consult the noblemen and obtain their consent for collecting taxes and waging wars meant that the king had to send his officials to regional sejms [parliaments] of the gentry. The practice of such consultations, however. was troublesome and time-consuming. At the end of the 15th century regional sejms started sending their deputies to the national congress, attended by the Royal Council and the monarch himself. Thus the General Sejm came into being (1493). That bicameral assembly was common to both states: Poland and Lithuania. The House of Deputies represented the gentry, while the erstwhile Royal Council, also called the Senate, stood for magnates.

The Senate's debates were presided over by the king. From the end of the 15th century until the 1560s century, a struggle for power was going on between the magnates and rank-and-file noblemen. The dividing line between the two groups was volatile, as an aristocratic class never formed in Poland and no separate rights, freedoms and titles of princes or counts existed. The whole of the knighthood was uniform in terms of the laws.

Acclaimed magnates were those people who had huge estates and held high state or Church positions, the rest of that group being regarded as noblemen. The numerical strength of the gentry was large, as they amounted to some 10% of the total population. That made Poland similar to the Iberian countries and different from the other European states where the gentry amounted to some 1.5%-2% of the entire society.

MagnatesThe material independence of the noblemen was the trump card in their hand in the competition in politics against the magnate groups. A nobleman usually owned several villages. There also were noblemen who had no subjects or villages, but who enjoyed all the rights of their estate. Those people served in the army, and held royal positions or posts at magnates' courts.

The land-owning noblemen were relatively numerous, as they amounted to 3%-4% of the population. Income from farming kept on growing throughout the 16th century, reaching a peak at the beginning of the 17th century. This resulted from the demand of Western Europe, particularly of the Netherlands, England and northern Germany for Polish grain. Shipped via Gdansk were also forest products--timber, tar and timber ash. Huge cattle herds were driven overland each year to Silesia and Germany, those kind of exports being profitable, as prices kept on increasing throughout the whole 16th century. Accordingly the prosperity of the gentry and towns kept pace with those exports. In terms of prosperity and importance, the place of eminence went to Gdansk.

Massive grain production required major changes in the organization of the Polish village, as well as in the relationships between the noblemen, the clergy and the peasantry. Each landowner aspired to enlarge the acreage of his farmland lying in the direct vicinity of the master's manor [folwark]. The levy from serfs was collected in labor [corvee], with the land rent (in money) being decreased. Thanks to serfdom the running of the farm was cheap, while, because of grain exports, the farm's profits were large. Those transformations did not entail peasants' opposition or objections, although they trimmed the economic and personal freedom of the rural population. Judging by the high population increase, the prosperity of peasants in the 16th century was considerable which explains the lack of opposition.

The propertied, well-educated and independent gentry, led by gifted leaders, waged its struggle for power first of all at the forum of the General Sejm. The Laws (called constitutions) passed by the Piotrkow Sejm (1504) restricted the distribution of royal estates and banned holding of several offices by one person. That hit out at the financial position of the magnates.

King Sigismund IThe Constitution of the Radom Sejm in 1505 called "Nihil novi" [Nothing new] stipulated that no new laws could be passed without the Sejm's consent. From that time the program of the gentry's camp was to enforce those constitutions--the so-called execution of estates and laws. That was no easy task, as King Sigismund the Old (1506-1548) based his rule on the magnates. Also, his spouse, Bona Sforza, surrounded herself with a magnate faction.

Sigismund's policy was also carried on by his son, Sigismund Augustus (1548-1572), but the war against Moscow, the necessity to collect levy and taxes, as well as the problem of the succession to the throne (in the absence of natural heirs,) compelled the ruler to cooperate with the noblemen. The Sejms of the 1560s decided on the execution of the estates distributed after 1504 and resolved to make a list of royal estates and their incomes (the so-called "musters",) as well as to create a separate fund out of those incomes for the maintenance of a regular army. The system of extraordinary taxes was reformed and the system of weights and measures was standardized.

In line with the will of the gentry resolved was the problem of the succession to the throne and further Union with Lithuania. During the Sejm of Lublin (1569), Sigismund Augustus overcame the opposition of magnates from Lithuania and incorporated the southeastern Ruthenian Lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into the Crown. The Union of Lublin was then proclaimed. The king gave up his hereditary title to the Lithuanian throne, thus opening the way for both states to jointly elect the ruler. Both states preserved separate offices, laws, army and treasury. They were united, on the other hand, by the joint Sejm, ruler and foreign policy. Therefore, it was a real union and not only a personal one.

The Polish CommonwealthIn the socio-cultural domain, it produced growing uniformity of political culture of the gentry and the emergence of a nation of nobility, made up of various ethnic and religious groups.

After the extinction of the Jagiellonian dynasty in 1572, the gentry set up regional confederations to defend the state order. A dispute erupted over the form of election--either by the Senate only or by the entire Sejm. Jan Zamoyski, the leader of the gentry's camp, demanded free election with personal participation [viritim] by each nobleman who had arrived for the debates. The Convocational Sejm of 1573 adopted that solution, as well as the act of the so-called Warsaw Confederation which provided for religious tolerance and a ban on religious wars. Peace and religious tolerance was something quite unusual in contemporary Europe, which was torn apart by religious wars.

The first free election was called in 1573. The noblemen elected Henri of Valois as the King of Poland. He was required to swear upon the so-called "Henry Articles." Those articles specified the principles for the political regime of Poland and Lithuania. The future king had to renounce the principle of hereditary succession to the throne, recognize the principles of free election, the Sejm's powers, and the right of the Senate to oversee foreign policies, as well as to swear to religious tolerance. In case of the violation of these rights, the gentry were entitled to renounce allegiance to the king.

Election Field near WarsawHenri of Valois' reign was a short one. Having learned that the throne of France was vacant, he fled Poland. Stefan Batory (1576-1586), the Prince of Transylvania, was elected his successor. He renounced his judicial powers over the gentry. Courts of Appeal replaced the royal courts, with the judges being elected by noblemen. A Royal Court was retained, however, for special cases, but it held its sessions in the presence of the Sejm.

The judicial reforms executed by Stefan Batory completed the formation of the state system of Poland and Lithuania. The state was a monarchy and, at the same time, a republic of the gentry. The equality of all noblemen, the powers of the Sejm and control over royal power, religious tolerance--those were the foundations of the nobles' democracy. It was an original, attractive system which ensured civil rights, a system entirely different from the absolute monarchy system prevailing in Europe.

Availing themselves of favorable business trends and being preoccupied with the quest for power, the noblemen were against waging wars. Nevertheless, since the end of the 15th century, Lithuania was engaged in a fight against the expansion of the Moscow Duchy, suffering considerable territorial losses. The steady pressure by Moscow had the effect of consolidating the Polish-Lithuanian Union.

King Stefan BatoryIn the years 1520-1525, Poland waged war against the Teutonic Order, whose Grand Master, Albrecht Hohenzollern, refused paying homage. The war ended in the so-called Prussian Homage (in Krakow, 1525), but Albrecht scored a diplomatic success. The Polish king acquiesced in secularization of the Order. He also agreed, relative to Prussia, to conversion to Lutheranism and formation of a lay liege dukedom. In 1561, the Teutonic Order of Livonia, holding the Livonian land, was secularized. It went under the liege dependence on Poland, seeking shelter against the Russian aggression. That led to wars between Poland, Lithuania and Russia in 1562-1570 and in 1577-1582, ending in the victorious expedition by Stefan Batory to Pskov and the repelling of the Russian incursion into Livonia.

Less favorable were the effects of the dynastic policy pursued by the Jagiellonians, and relations with the Habsburgs and Turkey. The growth of Turkish might induced Sigismund the Old to conclude a treaty with Emperor Maximilian (Vienna, 1515), which, in case of the extinction of the Bohemian and Hungarian line of the Jagiellonians, gave rights to those thrones to the Habsburgs. When, in 1526, Louis the Jagiellonian was killed in the battle of Mohacz, leaving no heirs behind, the Habsburgs gained the Bohemian crown and control over that part of Hungary that had not fallen under Turkish rule. In the competition for influence in Moldavia, the Turkish side prevailed, being then at the peak of its might.

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Re: A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAND

Post autor: Artur Rogóż » 05 wrz 2011, 06:59

Part 6
CULTURE IN THE GOLDEN AGE

Renaissance culture was reaching Poland since the late 15th century, through trips by young noblemen for studies, diplomatic contacts, dynastic relations and trade.

The 16th century saw a particularly great development of the Polish Renaissance. It had a fairly large audience made up of well- educated noblemen and burghers. That development was further assisted by the patronage of the king and magnates. Krakow remained the hub of Polish culture as the city hosted the royal court and the University, had good printers, sculpture shops and architectural studios.

Sigismund I Receives Oath of AllegianceThe Krakow Renaissance, radiating all over the land was developing under the influence of the Italian one. The Wawel Royal Castle was reconstructed by the Italians in the years 1507-1536. The Renaissance Chapel of the Sigismunds and the tombstones of Sigismund the Old and Sigismund Augustus became the examples to follow for similar tombstones throughout the Republic. Renaissance townhalls were being erected in towns.

New towns were developed according to the ideas of the Renaissance. The most excellent example was Zamosc, built by Bernardo Morando for Jan Zamoyski. The northern Renaissance prevailed in Royal Prussia, where it was brought thanks to the numerous trade contacts between Gdansk, Torun and Elblag with the Netherlands. A unique synthesis of Polish, Ruthenian and Armenian cultures was created in Lwow. A similar function of an ethnic-cultural conglomerate was played by Wilno [now called Vilnius].

Jan KochanowskiThe best achievements of literature were the works by Jan Kochanowski (1530- 1584), his epigrams [fraszki], Songs and Threnodies after the death of his daughter. The Reformation stimulated the development of political literature.

Lutheranism spread primarily in Royal Prussia, while Calvinism became the religion of part of the gentry in Little Poland and Lithuania. However, the majority of Polish and Lithuanian gentry remained Catholic, with Orthodox religion prevailing in Ruthenia. King Sigismund Augustus used to say, "I do not want to be the master of your conscience." Polish religious tolerance of the time allowed for the emergence of radical movements: the Arians--Polish and Bohemian brethren. Each of those religions tried to expand its influence through schooling and propaganda. Hence, there was development of education and printing, as well as several translations of the Bible into Polish.

Counter-Reformation also used education, especially Jesuit, for its purpose. The first gymnasiums were founded by the Jesuits in the 1560s and 1570s. The teaching at their secondary schools was on a very high level. The Jesuit College in Wilno developed into a university (1576) thanks to the financial support of King Stefan Batory.

A university, which became the center of Lutheranism, was established in Krolewiec (Koenigsberg).

Mikolaj Kopernik (Copernicus)Polish science developed in close contact with that of Europe. Especially advanced was astronomy, to mention only Mikolaj Kopernik (Nicholas Copernicus, 1473-1543), the author of "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium" ["On the Revolution of the Earth and Sky"]. Also developing were cartography, surveying, medicine, law, and natural and agricultural sciences.

The greatest accomplishment of political science was Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski's "Commentarium de republica emendanda" ["Commentary on Reforms of the Polish Republic"]. The sermons in the Sejm [Parliament] by the royal preacher, Piotr Skarga, in a fine way combined propaganda and literary style.

Interest in national and world history resulted in numerous works, such as the Polish-language "Chronicle of the World" by Marcin Bielski (1556) and "De duabus Sarmatiis" by Maciej Miechowita (1517). The latter work reflected the growing conviction of the gentry that their ancestors differed from those of the peasants and burghers. According to their viewpoint, they, the nobles, traced their descent to the ancient tribe of the Sarmatas. That view gained particular currency in the latter half of the 16th century and in the 17th century. The attractiveness of the nobility's culture exerted much influence upon the rest of the social strata in the Republic. It was also attractive to their neighbors.

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Re: A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAND

Post autor: Artur Rogóż » 05 wrz 2011, 07:00

Part 7
END OF EXPANSION --
CRISIS OF THE SYSTEM

As early as the end of the 16th century perils appeared for the Republic, which continued to grow throughout the 17th century.

Regional Coats of ArmsThe international balance of forces was not favorable for Poland and Lithuania. Sweden, whose power was growing, began struggling to rule the Baltic and its coast. That led to a clash with Poland.
Russia planned to conquer all lands inhabited by peoples professing the Orthodox faith. That placed her in conflict with Lithuania and the Crown. Having subjugated Hungary, Turkey faced, among others, the southern territories of the Republic, which also fell victim to the Tartar's plundering incursions. The Hapsburgs, vying with the Republic for domination over central Europe, but weakened by the 30-year war, were not credible allies.

At the turn of the 17th century the prosperous Republic still had enough resources and strength to stave off those dangers and even to try and continue expansion.

During the long rule of Sigismund III (1587-1632) of the Swedish Vasa dynasty, the growth in economy and reform-oriented aspirations of the gentry was diminishing. On the other hand, fears on the part of the gentry of the royal absolutism were growing. The monarch's attempts in that direction were blocked by an armed mutiny of the noblemen, called the Zebrzydowski rebellion.

16th Century HetmanA group of magnates, interested in expansion in the East, tried to take advantage of the chaos in the Grand Duchy of Moscow that ensued from the extinction of the Rurykhovich dynasty. That drew Poland into a war with Russia. Following a crucial victory scored by Hetman Stanislaw Zolkiewski at Kluszyn (1610), the Polish army entered Moscow. That, however, was a short-lived success, as opposition to foreign rule increased in Russia. Mikhail Romanov was elected tsar, giving rise to a new dynasty in Russia. The truce of 1619 left Poland with Smolensk, which was reaffirmed by the peace treaty of 1634 concluded in Polanowo.

In the war against Turkey (1620-1621), troops of Cossacks distinguished themselves on the Polish side. They were people who founded a sort of a republic of warriors in the lower stretch of the Dnieper River (Zaporozhe). The far-off borderland of the Ukraine, the so-called Wild Fields, attracted fugitive peasants and pauperized noblemen. They were courageous people, independent and very often adventurers. They made excellent soldiers. A large part of their incomes were war spoils. The state authority was not in a position to control the Cossacks.

17th Century CourtyardThe year 1648 saw a serious mutiny by the Cossacks, led by Bohdan Chmielnicki. That mutiny was joined by Ukrainian peasants and quickly transformed into a social and national uprising against Polish rule. The uprising rocked the foundations of the Republic, whose ruling circles did not manage to resolve the problem in the spirit of the Polish-Lithuanian solutions, refusing to grant the Ukraine the rights of a third member of the Republic. The interests of the magnates stood in the way, as their spheres of influence and wealth laid directly in Ukraine. Religious and ethnic conflicts compounded the problem.

King John Casimir (1648-1668) tied to negotiate with Bohdan Chmielnicki, whose army approached Lwow, having devastated the conquered lands and killed noblemen in its path. In towns, the rebel army was murdering Jews. The Cossacks wavered about their policy. They concluded alliances with Turkey, Poland or Russia, depending on the situation.

In 1654, during the so-called Pereyaslav Council, the Cossacks committed themselves to accept the protection of Moscow. Two Russian armies then cut deep into the weakened Republic. In that extremely dangerous situation, the Republic was invaded by the Swedes (1655). Within several months, Swedish troops occupied the majority of Polish territory (apart from that which was already occupied by the Russian troops.) Warsaw fell, as did Krakow, which had been defended by Stefan Czarniecki. Only Gdansk held out against the Swedes. King John Casimir fled to Silesia.

War With SwedenThe sudden defeat of the Republic so much infringed upon the balance of forces in central-eastern and in northern Europe that Poland received the assistance of the Empire, and Russia ended its hostilities.

In the Republic itself, which the Swedes were treating like a spoil of war, plundering it cruelly, armed resistance was growing. Noblemen, burghers and, for the first time on such a scale, peasants, organized guerrilla units. In November and December, the Swedes besieged Jasna Gora, the Pauline Monastery at Czestochowa and national Shrine of the Holy Virgin Mary. The successful defense of the Shrine was a call to mount an even greater resistance. King John Casimir returned to Poland, but the greatest fame as military commander was won by Stefan Czarniecki.

The Swedes were driven from Poland. In May 1660, the Republic and Sweden signed a peace treaty at Oliwa, restoring the prewar statu quo. The Cossacks were also defeated. By virtue of the truce of Andruszow (1667), Russia won Smolensk, the Ukraine (left-bank) and, for two years, Kiev. Those terms were re-affirmed by a peace treaty of 1686 which left Kiev to Russia.

Polish HussarThe Republic also had to fight Turkey (1672-1673) and concluded an alliance with the Habsburgs. When in 1683 a powerful Turkish army lay siege to Vienna, the imperial capital was relieved, thanks to Polish assistance. The united allied armies were under the command of King John III Sobieski (1674-1696).

The majority of wars in the latter part of the 17th century was fought on Poland's and Lithuania's territory. The Republic repelled the invasions with utmost effort. It emerged from those wars, however, horribly ruined and depopulated. The wars were accompanied by plagues and famine. In effect, the population, which before 1645 amounted to some 10,000,000 dwindled to 6,000,000 at the end of the century. Exports shrank, currency lost in value and economic reconstruction was slow.

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Re: A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAND

Post autor: Artur Rogóż » 05 wrz 2011, 07:01

The crisis also swept through the political organization of the state. The position of the gentry was weakened, as a result of its impoverishment and loss of independence. Magnates gained an edge by turning many noblemen into their clientele. The Sejm was weakened through the application of liberum veto. Generally, the Sejm Constitutions had been adopted with the consent of all deputies, but until the middle of the 17th century the minority yielded to the majority. In 1652, for the first time ever, it was declared that the imposition of will of the majority upon even one dissenting deputy would be tantamount to the violation of freedoms. So, the Sejm could be rendered powerless to act by the opposition of only one deputy. Quickly, the liberum veto became an instrument of the competing groups of magnates, and later for foreign influence. As the Sejm was hamstrung that way, its role was taken
over by local sejms. That resulted in the decentralization of the state.

Polish tolerance, one of the pillars of the noble's democracy, declined. Counter-Reformation had already been supported by Sigismund III Vasa. As an ardent Catholic he had striven to subordinate the Orthodoxies living in the Republic to Rome. In 1696, the so-called Union of Brest was concluded, which founded the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church (Uniate), recognizing papal authority. That divided the faithful in Ukraine into two camps.

The wars of the 17th century enhanced the religious feelings of the Catholic majority in the Republic. Those wars were waged against the neighbors of different religious rites--against Orthodox Russia, Protestant Sweden and Muslim Turkey. The opinion about Poland being the bulwark [antemurale] of Christianity became widely popular. Tolerance was still valid in the domain of the law, but it was trimmed down in daily life and customs.

A Magnate's CourtThe 17th century was the heyday of Baroque and of the specifically Polish culture of Sarmatism. A number of valuable and original works were created at that time, for instance the Baroque royal residence at Wilanow, the magnate residences at Lancut, Wisnicz, Zolkiew, Podhorce and the bishopric residence at Kielce. A unique style and type of Baroque developed in Wilno [now called Vilnius]. The Vasa's court in Warsaw was the center of painting (Dolabella), theater and opera (patronage of Ladislaus IV) and of science (patronage of Queen Louise Maria Gonzaga). The garments, weapons, decorations, way of life and views of Polish noblemen represented a unique synthesis of Baroque and eastern influence. The dramatic years of the wars produced many a diarist and memoirist (both noblemen and burghers.)

The 17th century also saw the bloom of poetry, both epic and patriotic, as well as lyrical and amatory. On the other hand, however, chaos and a poor economy brought a crisis in schooling and education at all levels.

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Re: A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAND

Post autor: Artur Rogóż » 05 wrz 2011, 07:01

Part 8
ATTEMPTS AT REFORM
ENLIGHTENMENT & FALL OF THE STATE

The beginning of the 18th century brought the Republic's deepest crisis. Under Augustus II the Strong (1697-1733), during the Northern War, Poland was the submissive battleground for wars fought by foreign armies. The royal throne became the object of foreign power-plays. The centralized and absolute monarchies of the neighboring countries built up their armies, with Russia commanding 330,000 soldiers, and Prussia and Austria had 150,000 each.

Unaware of the gravity of the situation, the gentry rested, convinced that since the Republic with its 24,000-strong army was threatening no one, she was immune from any invasion. The noblemen stood by their "golden freedom" in internal politics, not comprehending that the system, in disrepair, could no longer secure them any freedoms.

Reforms ran against two obstacles, seemingly insurmountable. The first was the policy pursued by the neighboring powers, seeing their interest to be in maintaining the political inertia in the Republic. The other one laid in the narrow-mindedness of a large part of the gentry and their reluctance to agree to material and political sacrifices. For these reasons the preparation of reforms called for educating a selfless and enlightened generation of people, free from prejudice and illusions.

Stanislaw KonarskiIn 1740, Stanislaw Konarski founded a modern school for young noblemen, Collegium Nobilium, in Warsaw. The numerous schools later operated by the Piarists were patterned after that example. Bishop Jozef Zaluski set up the first public library in Warsaw consisting of some 300,000 volumes.

When King Augustus III died in 1763, the Czartoryski faction ruling Poland agreed with Russia on the candidacy of Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski for King of Poland (1764-1795). The first years of his rule were devoted to military and financial reforms. In 1765, the king founded the Knights School, which produced such graduates as Tadeusz Kosciuszko, J. Jasinski and J.U. Niemcewicz, each of whom later made their mark on the nation's history. A new periodical was founded, the "Monitor." The municipal economy was put into order and new and modern workshops were set up.

Knights School - Now Warsaw UniversityThe reforms, however, were not appreciated by the Russian Empress Catherine II. Under Russian military pressure, the Sejm of 1768 passed the so-called Cardinal Rights, which amounted to free election, liberum veto, the right to mutiny against the king and the gentry's monopoly on political activity. Those rights were guaranteed by the Empress which meant that no future reforms were possible without Russia's consent.

The brutality of the Russian intervention provoked an armed resistance by the noblemen, who established the Confederation of Bar. The ensuing guerrilla-type fighting went on for four years, but the Confederation, being the first Polish uprising, suffered defeat. For the first time, thousands of Poles were transported to Siberia.

The Russian policy towards Poland then faced a dilemma--either maintain Russia's domination over the entire Poland or accept the repeated propositions by Prussia to partition Poland. Russia was the most powerful neighbor of the Republic and the choice was in the hands of Catherine II. She gave up the exclusive rule over Poland and Lithuania for fear of a reborn Republic. That fear was well founded. Before 1772, the Republic had a territory of 733.000 sq. km. with a population of some 14 million, the population density being 19.1 people per sq. km. Russia's population amounted to some 29 million which, given its enormous territory, resulted in a density of 5.5 people per sq. km. The population of Austria, together with that of Bohemia and Hungary, was some 18 million, while that of Prussia 2.5 million. So the Republic had a considerable potential and, given effectively implemented reforms, could play an independent role in Central-Eastern Europe.

An agreement between the three powers was achieved at the expense of the helpless Republic in 1772. The Republic lost 211,000 sq. km. of territory and 4.5 million people of its population.

Bishop Zaluski and his LibraryThe trauma of the first partition and the processes of economic and demographic development shook Polish society out of its lethargy. Moreover, the first results of the educational programs and political journalism started to appear. A better educated generation of Poles, capable of making sacrifices, came to the fore. Growing importance of towns and a good education for the "middle class" put that social group onto the stage of political life.

The Commission for National Education, called into being in 1773, introduced modern school textbooks and subordinated schools to universities, which were also newly reformed. The ideas of the Enlightenment, together with patriotic and reform-minded programs, were being promoted by the press, literature, theater, painting, music and historical geography.

Warsaw, with a population of 100,000, the National Theater under Wojciech Boguslawski, the editorial offices of periodicals, libraries and the royal court, became the center of the Enlightenment's culture. The wish for reforms became universal, but their realization depended on Russia, the guarantor of the political system in the Republic.

King Stanislaw August PoniatowskiWhen war broke out between Russia and Turkey, King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski decided to call the Sejm as a confederation (that is, without the liberum veto) and beef up the armed forces. In an atmosphere of great political animation, the four-year Sejm [also called the Great Sejm] (1788-1792) resolved to increase the army up to 100,000 officers and men, passed the law on royal towns increasing the political rights of the bourgeoisie, annulled the Russian guarantees and concluded an alliance with Prussia, crowning its activities with the adoption of the Constitution of May 3, 1791. It was the second constitution (after the American) in the world and the first one in Europe. The Constitution's articles envisaged the consolidation of royal power, a reorganization of the government and improvement of the Sejm's work while the civil liberties of the gentry were to be preserved and extended onto a part of the bourgeoisie. The division of the state into the Crown and Lithuania was abolished and the political system made uniform.

Adopting Constitution of May 3, 1791The government, basted on the Constitution, stood every chance of pulling the country out of its political crisis, but the Constitution evoked fierce opposition from Russia. Incited by Russia, a group of magnates established the Confederation of Targowica to defend the old system. Russian troops entered Poland. Despite stout Polish resistance (commanders being Prince Jozef Poniatowski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko) the war of 1792 ended in defeat, abolishment of the Constitution of May 3rd and the second partition was made by Russia and Prussia. What was left to Poland's territories--some 200,000 sq. km. inhabited by four million people--became a Russian protectorate.

In 1794, Tadeusz Kosciuszko's uprising broke out, as an attempt to overcome the partitions. Krakow, Warsaw and Wilno [now called Vilnius] were liberated. Prussia joined Russia in the war. Prussian troops besieged Warsaw. Despite the enormous military and material effort, despite the heroism of the soldiers and civilians, including burghers and peasants, the uprising fell.

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