Partitions of Poland

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The Partitions of Poland (Polish: Rozbiór Polski or Rozbiory Polski; Lithuanian: Padalijimas, Belarusian: Падзелы Рэчы Паспалітай) took place in the 18th century and ended the existence of the sovereign Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. They involved Prussia, Russia and Habsburg Austria dividing up the Commonwealth lands among themselves. Three partitions took place:

After the Napoleonic Wars, when Napoleon Bonaparte restored a Polish state in the form of the Duchy of Warsaw, the three states that partitioned Poland decided to create out of the territories they annexed somewhat autonomous (at least in theory) regions, which were:

In all cases assurances were made towards the recognition of the Polish language, respect for Polish culture and the rights of Poles. In all cases these promises were quickly broken and the regions annexed.

The term "Fourth Partition of Poland" may refer to any subsequent division of Polish lands, specifically:


[edit] History

[edit] Prelude

Before the partitions: The Commonwealth at its greatest extent.

One could characterise Poland-Lithuania in its final period (mid-18th century), prior to the partitions as already not completely a sovereign state: in modern terms it would be a Russian satellite state, with Russian tsars effectively choosing Polish kings. This applies particularly to the last Commonwealth King Stanisław August Poniatowski, who had been for some time a lover of Russian Empress Catherine the Great. During the reign of Władysław IV (1632-48), the liberum veto had evolved. This policy of parliamentary procedure was based on the assumption of the political equality of every "gentleman", with the corollary that unanimous consent was required for all measures. A single MPs belief that a measure was injurious to his own constituency (usually simply his own estate), even after the act had already been approved, became sufficient to strike the act. It became increasingly difficult to get action taken. The liberum veto also provided openings for foreign diplomats to get their ways, through bribing nobles to exercise it.

The Commonwealth had remained neutral in the Seven Years' War, though sympathizing with the alliance of France, Austria, and Russia, and allowing Russian troops access to its western lands as bases against Prussia. Frederick II of Prussia retaliated by ordering enough Polish currency counterfeited to severely affect the Polish economy. Through the Polish nobles whom Russia controlled and the Russian Minister to Warsaw, ambassador and Prince Nicholas Repnin, Empress Catherine the Great forced a constitution on the Commonwealth at the so-called Repnin Sejm of 1767, named after ambassador Repnin, who de facto dictated the terms of that Sejm (and who ordered the capture and exile to Siberia of some vocal opponents of his policies[1] [2], namely Józef Andrzej Załuski[3] and Wacław Rzewuski). This new constitution undid the reforms made in 1764 under Stanisław II. The liberum veto and all the old abuses of the last 1¼ centuries were guaranteed as unalterable parts of this new constitution (in the so-called cardinal laws[4]). The Commonwealth had been forced to rely on Russia for protection against the rising Prussian tide, while Prussia was demanding a slice of the northwest in order to unite its Western and Eastern portions and make itself contiguous, although this would only leave the Commonwealth with a Baltic coast in Latvia and NW Lithuania.

Repnin demanded religious freedom for the Protestant and Orthodox Christians, and the resulting reaction among Poland's Roman Catholic leadership, as well as the deep resentment[5] of Russia's meddling in the Commonwealth's domestic affairs, led to the War of the Confederation of Bar with Russia from 1768 to 1772. The Commonwealth could never be liquidated unless its longtime ally, Austria, allowed it,[citation needed] and first Catherine had to use diplomacy to win Austria to her side.

The neighbours, namely Prussia, Austria and Russia, signed a secret agreement in order to maintain the status quo: specifically, to ensure that the Commonwealth laws would not change. Their alliance later became known in Poland as the "Alliance of the Three Black Eagles", because all three states used a black eagle as a state symbol (in contrast to the white eagle, a symbol of Poland).

The Poles tried to expel foreign forces in an uprising (the Confederation of Bar, 17681772), but the irregular and poorly commanded forces had no chance in face of the regular Russian army and suffered crushing defeat.

[edit] First Partition

Image:Rzeczpospolita Rozbiory 1.png
The First Partition (1772).

On February 19, 1772, the agreement of partition was signed in Vienna. A previous agreement between Prussia and Russia had been made in St. Petersburg on February 6, 1772. Early in August the Russian, Prussian and Austrian troops simultaneously entered the Commonwealth and occupied the provinces agreed upon among themselves. On August 5, 1772, the occupation manifesto was issued; much to the consternation of a country too exhausted by the endeavours of the Confederation of Bar to offer further resistance.

The regiments of the Confederation, whose executive board had been forced to leave Austria after that country joined the Prusso-Russian alliance, did not lay down their arms. Every fortress in their command held out as long as possible. Famous was the defence of Tyniec, which lasted until the end of March 1773, and also that of Czestochowa commanded by Pułaski. Kraków fell on April 28th, captured by the Russian general Suvorov who exiled the garrison to Siberia.[citation needed] Neither France nor Britain, upon whom hopes had been based, helped in a sufficient measure or protested when the partition was executed. So came to an end the ill-organized attempt of the Commonwealth to repulse the foreign aggression. It had cost about a hundred thousand men and once more laid the country to waste, although it was the first demonstration of the reviving national consciousness.

The partition treaty was ratified by its signatories on September 22, 1772. Frederick II of Prussia was elated with his success, and took great care for the welfare of his new Polish subjects, importing large numbers of Catholic schoolteachers (especially Jesuits whose order was suppressed at about that time) and making it mandatory for Prussian crown princes to learn Polish; Kaunitz of Austria was proud of wresting as large a share as he did, with the rich salt mines of Bochnia and Wieliczka; and Catherine of Russia was also very satisfied. By this "diplomatic document" Russia came into possession of that section of Livonia which had still remained in Polish hands, and of Belarus embracing the counties of Vitebsk, Polotsk and Mstislavl. For Vitebesk guberniya, it was found that Russians composed 66% of the population while Jews composed another 12%. Poles were only 3% of the population. [6]

Prussia took Ermland (Warmia), Royal Prussia without the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) (which in 1773 became a new province called West Prussia), northern areas of Greater Poland along the Noteć River (the Netze District), and parts of Kuyavia (including the city of Thorn [Toruń]).

To Austria fell Zator and Auschwitz (Oświęcim), part of Little Poland embracing parts of the counties of Kraków and Sandomir and the whole of Galicia, less the City of Kraków. By this partition the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lost about 30% of its territory, amounting at that time to about 484,000 square miles, with a four million people. The largest share of the spoils, as far as population and revenue were concerned, went to Austria.

Image:Rejtan Upadek Polski Matejko.jpg
"Rejtan - The Fall of Poland", oil on canvas by Jan Matejko, 1866, 282 x 487 cm, Royal Castle in Warsaw.

After having occupied their respective territories, the three partitioning powers demanded that King Stanisław and the Sejm approve their action. The King appealed to the nations of Western Europe for help and tarried with the convocation of the Sejm. When no help was forthcoming and the armies of the combined nations occupied Warsaw to compel by force of arms the calling of the assembly, no alternative could be chosen save passive submission to their will. Those of the senators who advised against this step were arrested and exiled to Siberia by the representatives of Catherine.[citation needed] The local land assemblies (Sejmiks) refused to elect Deputies to the Sejm, and after great difficulties less than half of the regular number of representatives came to attend the session led by Marshal of the Sejm, Adam Poniński, the commander of the Malta Order, a cynic and notorious gambler. In order to prevent the disruption of the Sejm and the defeat of the purpose of the invaders he undertook to turn the regular Sejm into a Sejm of a Confederacy, where majority rule prevailed. In spite of the dramatic efforts of Tadeusz Rejtan, Samuel Korsak and Stanisław Bohuszewicz to prevent it, the deed was accomplished with the aid of Michał Radziwiłł and the Bishops Andrzej Młodziejowski, Ignacy Jakub Massalski, and Antoni Kazimierz Ostrowski (primate of Poland), who occupied high positions in the Senate of Poland. The so-called Partition Sejm elected a committee of thirty to deal with the various matters presented. On September 18, 1773, the Committee formally signed the treaty of cession, renouncing all claims of the Commonwealth to the occupied territories. On the other hand, that very Sejm, which continued its deliberations until 1775, shaken by the first partition, has passed several important reforms, among them the creation of the Permanent Council and Commission for National Education.

By seizing northwestern Poland, Prussia instantly gained control over 80% of the Commonwealth's total foreign trade. Through levying enormous custom duties, Prussia accelerated the inevitable collapse of the Commonwealth (EB.)

[edit] Second Partition

Image:Rzeczpospolita Rozbiory 2.png
The Second Partition (1793)

By 1790, on the political front, the First Polish Republic had deteriorated into such a helpless condition that it was successfully forced into an unnatural and ultimately deadly alliance with its mortal enemy, Prussia. The Polish-Prussian Pact of 1790 was signed. The conditions of the Pact were such that the succeeding and final two partitionings of Poland were inevitable. The Constitution of 1791 enfranchised the bourgeoisie, established the separation of the three branches of government, and eliminated the abuses of Repnin's constitution. Once again Poland dared to reform and improve itself without Russia's permission, and once again the Empress was angered and invaded it in 1792 (EB.)

The adoption by the Commonwealth of the May Constitution of Poland prompted aggressive actions on the part of its neighbours, wary of the potential renaissance of the Commonwealth. In the War in Defense of the Constitution, pro-Russian Polish magnates, the Confederation of Targowica, with neutral support from Austria fought against the Polish forces supporting the constitution. Betrayed by their Prussian allies, pro-constitution forces were defeated and the 2nd and 3rd partitions happened over the next few years, effectively terminating the existence of Commonwealth. In the 2nd partition, Russia and Prussia helped themselves to enough more land so that only one-third of the 1772 population remained in Poland.

See also: Kościuszko Uprising and Grodno Sejm

[edit] Third Partition

Image:Rzeczpospolita Rozbiory 3.png
Three partitions of Poland on one map

The Russian part included 120,000 km² and 1.2 million people with Wilno, the Prussian part 55,000 km² and 1 million people with Warsaw, and the Austrian 47,000km² with 1.2 million and Lublin and Kraków.

[edit] Aftermath

Napoleon set up the Duchy of Warsaw in a smaller area of Poland, but after his defeat and the implementation of the Congress of Vienna programme, things became even worse for Poles than before. Russia gained a larger share of Poland and, after crushing an insurrection in 1831, the Congress Kingdom of Poland's autonomy was abolished and Poles faced confiscation of property, deportation, forced military service, and the closure of their own universities. After the rising of 1863, Russification of Polish secondary schools was imposed and literacy rate dropped dramatically. In the Austrian portion, Poles became the second nationality [citation needed] and were allowed representation in Parliament and to form their own universities, and Kraków and Lvov became centers of Polish education. Meanwhile, Prussia Germanized the entire school system of its Polish subjects and had no more respect for Polish culture and institutions than Russia had. It would take the World War I, with the Central Powers losing to the Western Allies, the chaos of the Russian Revolution and the Treaty of Versailles to restore Poland's independence after 123 years.

[edit] Assessment

Reading mainstream historians, one finds the claim that the regional powers partitioned the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth because of the degeneration of the state and because of the inability of the Poles to rule themselves at the time[citation needed]. Nevertheless the darkest period of Polish history and the nadir in the degeneration of the state occurred in the first half of the 18th century, whereas the partitions happened when Poland had been showing the beginning signs of a slow recovery — in fact many Polish historians see the last two partitions as an answer to strengthening reforms in the Commonwealth and the potential threat they represented to its neighbours.[citation needed] As a result of Partitions, Poles, whose culture usually avoided dealing in the affairs of European states were forced to seek a change of status quo in Europe. Polish poets, polticians, nobleman, writers, artists became the main revolutionaries of 19th century. In every country where people sought to overturn the tyrannical regime imposed on Europe by the Holy Alliance of Prussia, Austria and Russia, Polish revolutionaries would arrive to aid the fight for freedom and against tyranny <ref name="Head"> Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire. James Wycliffe Headlam 1899.

In those days the Poles were to be found in every country in Europe, foremost in fighting on the barricades; they helped the Germans to fight for their liberty, and the Germans were to help them to recover independence. In 1848, Mieroslawski had been carried like a triumphant hero through the streets of Berlin; the Baden rebels put themselves under the leadership of a Pole, and it was a Pole who commanded the Viennese in their resistance to the Austrian army; a Pole led the Italians to disaster on the field of Novara</ref>. It was during this time that there appeared the Polish motto, "Za wolność waszą i naszą" ("For your freedom and ours"). A belief that it is Poland's mission in the world to spread freedom to other countries and to liberate other nations from tyrannical regimes, persists to this day in the Polish psyche[7]

Image:Germans and Soviets2.jpg
German and Soviet soldiers in front of an FAI armoured car.

[edit] Fourth Partition

The term "Fourth Partition of Poland" may refer to any subsequent division of Polish lands, specifically:

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes and references


de:Teilungen Polens

eo:Dispartigoj de Pollando fr:Partitions de la Pologne it:Spartizioni della Polonia hu:Lengyelország három felosztása nl:Poolse delingen ja:ポーランド分割 pl:Rozbiory Polski pt:Partições da Polônia ro:Împărţirile Poloniei ru:Разделы Польши simple:Partitions of Poland fi:Puolan jaot sv:Polens delningar uk:Три поділи Речі Посполитої zh:瓜分波蘭

Partitions of Poland

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