The Empire of Poland and the
Maps: Andersen, A.,
The New Cambridge Modern History Atlas, 1970
Putzgers, F.W., Historischer Schul-Atlas, Bielefeld,
The Empire of Poland, at times, has reached from the
Baltic Sea to the Black Sea; its territory
being important for its position along trade routes in the Baltic Region. Poland’s closest Baltic neighbor (Lithuania), has been a valued ally in the
battle for freedom from foreign rule of Sweden,
Germany, Russia, Prussia
since 1386. Although the Polish Empire was continually invaded, beginning in
1605, technology and education in Poland remained strong and
progressive for the time and "polonization"
of the Lithuanian nobility was evident. The example Poland set through her liberal government and
the uprisings of 1830 and 1863 helped Lithuania in the revolution of
1905. In the 20th century, events from the past regarding the city
of Vilnius have put strain on Polish and Lithuanian relations, though their
cooperation is necessary to the harmony of the Baltic Region.
Early Connections with Lithuania and Dynastic Rule
has a history based on trade. In Poland,
the city of Danzig was an important route for
trade with Amsterdam; Lithuanian cities and
rivers were on important trade routes into Russia.
dynastic rule began in 962. The Piast Dynasty
lasted from 962 – 1370. During this time period, Poland was converted to
Christianity and wars against the Holy Roman Emperor took place under the
leadership of Boleslaw I. These wars were successful in extending Poland’s boundaries beyond the Carpathian Mountains (Encarta). In addition to expanded
territory, Wladyslaw I brought victory over the
Teutonic Knights bringing prosperity to Poland. His son Kazimierz III was noted for his role in administrative,
judicial, and legislative reforms which began Poland’s notoriety in progressive
In 1325, the Grand Duke Gediminas’
daughter (Aldona) married Casimir
the Great of Poland, furthering the links between Poland
The formal link between Poland
began with the Union of Krewo in 1385. In this
agreement, Jogaila (the Grand Duke of Lithuania)
agreed to baptize Lithuania,
free Polish prisoners of war and recover lands that had been taken from Poland – in sum, it
would unite Poland and Lithuania.
From this agreement emerges the Jagiellon Dynasty.
The Jagiellon Dynasty
(1386 – 1572) was established by the marriage of Jogaila
and the Queen of Poland (Jadwiga) in 1386. With Lithuania
united, they were able to defeat the Teutonic Knights at the battle of Grunwald in 1410 under the leadership of Lithuanian Grand
In 1569, the Lublin Union united Poland and Lithuania
as the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth installed an
"interstate federal union based on common institution" (Lerski 622). This meant that kings were elected jointly,
but the legal systems and administrations remained separate. The states acted
as a single entity in external affairs and this helped with the gradual
"polonization" of the Lithuanian people.
According to Suziedelis,
Catholicism was the "major ‘polonizing’ force
(223). "Polonization" was characterized
by the increase of the Polish language in business and religious affairs,
making the nobility a large group speaking mostly Polish and the peasantry a
group speaking mostly Lithuanian. This meant that the nobility in Lithuania
identified with the Polish culture. Almost all official documents were now
being written in Polish. "Polonization"
occurred mainly with the Lithuanian, Rutherian and
East Latvian nobility, but numerous privileges for the gentry of Poland and Lithuania ensued. The increasing
cultural domination of the Poles, both numerically and culturally led to
animosity between the two states. Vytautas was
noted for trying to threaten the Polish–Lithuanian union by supporting an
independent Lithuanian Kingdom (Harrison).
In the future conflicts over Vilnius,
"polonization" was a major cause of
resentment between the two countries (Suziedelis).
The War of Inflanty
1558 brought the War of Inflanty
or the Livonian War.
This was the invasion of Russian and Tatar troops into Livonia. The king Zygmunt
August of Poland is noted
for his reluctance in sending troops immediately to aid Livonia. He is thought to have been
unprepared for the invasion by forces of Muscovy
in 1559. Despite his reluctance, in 1561 the Livonian city of Riga came under Polish
rule. In 1561, the city of Tallinn also swore
allegiance to Erik XIV (the Swedish King) but the southern regions of Livonia were taken by
the King of Poland. The second part of the Livonian War came in the 1580’s
where Sweden and Poland fought for hegemony in Livonia
and in 1582 they forced Ivan (the terrible) to surrender to Poland all areas under Russian control in Livonia. After the war,
territory up to what is central Estonia today. The northern
regions were soon lost to Sweden,
but Poland remained in
control of the southern Baltic, including much of modern day Lithuania and Latvia,
for almost 200 years until the partitions of Poland in 1772 and 1795 (Kirby).
on the map for bigger image
of Courland, established after the Livonian War as a vassal state of the Polish-Lithaunian Commonwealth, was valuable for trade because of its
location on the Baltic Sea. The most famous
leader in Courland was Duke James Kettler, who helped the area form administrative and
judicial statutes by means of its constitution the "Formula Regiminis." This constitution allowed the duke to be
an independent leader, not under the King of Poland. Under Duke James Kettler, Courland
flourished in the trade of naval stores and developed the largest maritime
fleet in the world (Lerski).
War with Sweden
In 1600 - 1621, Sweden
invaded Poland in an attempt to make the Baltic Sea
into their "internal lake" (Lerski 107). Sweden took control of the regions north of
River, including the city of Riga. Courland served
as a battleground in Poland’s
war with Sweden.
The Great Northern War
In 1700, the Great Northern War broke
out. This attempt to rid northern Europe of Swedes was led by Russia and Denmark. Poland, fighting along with Lithuania, became involved in the Great
Northern War by the alliance made with Russia in 1700 by Augustus II
(King of Poland). They invaded Livonia but the
Swedes defeated both Russia
and the Commonwealth troops. The city of Vilnius
was captured by Sweden
in 1702. Peter the Great finally defeated Sweden
in 1709 and Russia
remained in control of the Grand Duchy for many years following.
A plague epidemic followed this war and wiped out
almost 1/3 of the population in this region. When the war ended in 1721 with
the Treaty of Nystadt, the countryside was
demolished but Swedish influence had been pushed out of Livonia and replaced by Russian dominance (Suziedelis).
Under Foreign Rule
When the neighboring countries of Russia, Prussia
and Austria formed the
of the Three Black Eagles" in 1732, annexation was soon to follow. The
first annexation occurred in 1772, the second in 1793 and the third in 1795
which eliminated Poland
entirely as an empire (Kasprzyk).
While Poland was still an independent
country, it accepted the Constitution of 1791. This Constitution was the
second in the world after the United
82). It emphasized the idea of "people’s sovereignty," separated
powers of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches and offered
protection to the peasants by law. The liberal ideas of both the constitution
and the Polish people were seen as a threat to Russian, Prussian and Austrian
power in the region and may have influenced the second partition of Poland
Click here for the map “Restored Poland / 1809-1813”
In the Napoleonic Wars of 1799 – 1815, the Polish
population supported Napoleon I (the French Emperor) in hopes he would help
as an independent state which was partially restored for a short period
between 1806 and 1813. After the fourth partition of Poland in 1815, Poland
was under foreign control for nearly 125 years, divided between Russia, Prussia
The 1830 Insurrection was an attempt by the Polish
people to restore the Polish-Lithuanian
with restoring the Commonwealth, the more radical revolutionaries wanted to
eliminate foreign rule completely and the moderates wanted to re-enforce
their constitution. The revolution was not well organized and in 1831 Poland
declared independence only to have it taken away in May 1831 by the Russian
victory at Ostroleka. To punish the Polish people,
Russian leaders intensified "russification"
and withdrew many art and literary pieces from Poland
Click here for the map “Polish Lands
In 1863, a similar insurrection took place where an
"unconditioned and permanent emancipation and the complete enfranchisement
of every person in the Polish realm without regard to race, religion or
previous condition of bondage" was sought (Cambridge 378). The main attempt was to
benefit the peasantry and in return gain their support in the revolution.
It was in this second insurrection that Lithuania took up arms in support of Poland.
Sympathy from other European countries surmounted and the insurrection was
looked at as a "national uprising" although the Russians would
never admit to that (Cambridge).
French and English supporters lobbied for the restoration of the Polish state
under the terms of the Treaties of Vienna. The terms of this treaty would
The results of this insurrection left Poland with the task of "building from
the bottom up a restored nation" (Cambridge
386). The events of 1863 brought the Lithuanian speaking peasantry to the
front as a political force – it was also the last time Poland and Lithuania
would fight together for the restoration of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Diet of Vilnius
In 1905, similar to what had happened in Poland in 1863, Lithuania
attempted to end "russification" and
achieve "national autonomy, a democratic political structure based on
universal suffrage and the equality of all nationalities in Lithuania"
(Suziedelis 124). Lithuania’s
goals were very similar to what Poland had asked for in the 1863
Insurrection and it has been speculated that one may have influenced the
other. Lithuania’s support
came in great numbers from Lithuanian communities in the surrounding areas of
Russia, Ukraine, Poland,
Latvia and East Prussia.
Obtaining support from the community was something Poland had intended with their
1863 revolution. In 1918, the Republic
of Lithuania was
Relations between Poland
and Lithuania – The Vilnius Question
From the 14th century to 1795, Vilnius had been the
capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the administrative center for the
Lithuanian lands. It had also become a cultural center for both Poles and
Jews at the beginning of WWI. In 1918, Lithuanians felt Vilnius
was the proper capital of Lithuania
although the population in Vilnius
was mainly Polish, Jewish and Russian (in the surrounding area it was mainly
Lithuanian). However, Poles considered it their city and attempted to annex
it together with a portion of Lithuania
Click here for the map “Poland / 1918-1919”
The Soviet-Lithuanian Peace Treaty of 1920 gave Vilnius to Lithuania,
but Polish troops captured Vilnius
later that same year. The League of Nations stepped in to try and resolve the
dispute with the "Hymans Plan" which involved a "loose
Polish-Lithuanian Confederation" with Vilnius
belonging to Lithuania,
but Lithuania was not
interested in remaining linked with Poland. Poland officially annexed Vilnius in 1923.
Click here for the map “Poland / 1920 - 22”
fell under German and Soviet rule, Vilnius was
transferred back to Lithuania
through the Soviet-Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Pact in 1939.
for the map “Poland
Questions over Vilnius
still remain today but no serious attempts to recapture the city have been
made by Poland
and relations between the two countries have greatly improved.
Harrison, E.J.. Lithuania
Past and Present. London,
Fisher Unwin Ltd, 1922.
This book was helpful in researching Lithuanian points of view in
regards to the "Vilnius Question" and for dates during the 15th
century wars with the Teutonic Order.
Jedlicki, Jerzy. A Suburb of Europe:
Nineteenth-Century Polish Approaches to Western Civilization. Budapest, Hungary:
Central European University
This book looks at Poland
from 1780 – 1880 and it’s take on national identity, development and the
academic growth of the country.
Constantine. History of the Lithuanian Nation. New York, NY:
Lithuanian Cultural Institute, 1948.
This book contained a good, solid reference to Lithuanian history with
regards to wars, revolution and politics.
Kasprzyk, Mieczyslaw. http://www.kasprzyk.demon.co.uk/www/RisePower.html
1997. Accessed on 4/8/02.
This site was very helpful in explaining the history of Poland from
AD 800. It highlighted the Polish Army of 1550 – 1683, the revolution and
rebirth and ends with post war Poland. Also contains a list of
books and links on Polish history.
Kirby, David. Northern Europe
in the Modern Period The Baltic World 1492 – 1772. London, England:
Longman Group UK Ltd, 1990.
This source gives you a human aspect to the history of the Baltic States. It stretches from The Middle Ages to the
Rise of Russia. It contains maps documenting the changes in territories in
1500, 1617 and 1645. Easy to read and gives you a more inside look to the
society at the time.
Lerski, George. Historical
Dictionary of Poland 966 – 1945. Westport,
Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996.
This dictionary was good for referencing specific events or names. It
gives sometimes pages of information on specific topics, although a Polish
bias is sometimes detectible. It is hard to use as a general reference if you
don’t know what you are looking for.
The Lithuanian Metrica in Moscow
and Warsaw: Reconstructing the Archives of the
Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Harvard University Press, 1984.
This book is full of primary documents such as a treaty between the
Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the King of Poland and portraits of Polish
kings. This is more for background information than for the actual research
it contains, which is mainly about the archiving systems of the Baltic Region
in the 17th – 18th century.
Rebas, Hain. "Baltic Regionalism??" Journal of
Baltic Studies 19, no 2 (1988): 101 – 116.
This article argues that the Baltic Region rejects the idea of
regionalism and has not been affected by the regionalism of other European
countries. It goes on to define "regionalism" and
"Baltic" and the relationships between Estonia
& Latvia with Poland, Finland
Reddaway, W.F.. The Cambridge History of Poland. London, England:
Cambridge University Press, 1950.
Similar to the dictionaries used in how it was organized by specific
Lecturer in Politics, University of Bristol.
Accessed on 4/8/02.
The history section of this site was somewhat useful in describing the
events from AD 840 until present. This section details the Piast Dynasty, the Jagiellonian
Dynasty, and the wars that led to the Polish decline.
Senn, Alfred Erich. "Lithuania’s
Fight for Independence The Polish Evacuation of Vilnius, July 1920." Baltic
Review 23 (1961): 32 – 39.
The article features letters from foreign commissioners in Riga addressed to the Secretary of State regarding the
state of affairs and negotiations between the Poles and Lithuanians after the
Polish evacuation from Vilnius.
Senn, Alfred Erich. "The
Polish Lithuanian War Scare, 1927." Journal of Central European
Affairs 21, no 3 (1961): 267 – 284.
This article discussed the League of Nations attempt to diffuse
conflict between Lithuania
and Poland which could
potentially cause conflicts in the rest of Europe.
Suziedelis, Saulius. Historical Dictionary of Lithuania. Lanham, MD:
The Scarecrow Press, 1997.
This, again, was a useful reference for specific events and dates. Not
a good resource for general history of Lithuania because you need to
know which event you are looking up.
published at http://depts.washington.edu/baltic/papers/
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