Poland Modern History

By | December 30, 2021

With Casimir IV Iagellone (1447-92), successor of Ladislao, the Poland reached the maximum territorial expansion and the highest political influence for the ties with Bohemia and Hungary, ruled by King Ladislao Iagellone, and with the vassal states of Moldavia and the Teutonic Order. From the second half of the 15th century. the aristocratic monarchy was transformed into a monarchical regime based on the ordines, nobility and clergy. Further developments from the 16th century. onwards they led to an ever greater dominance of the nobility in the Sejm (Chamber), which eventually became the arbiter of the election of the king and therefore of the royal power. More rational methods of agricultural management were also generalized; the new relations of production led to a kind of re-feudalization, with forms of exploitation of the peasantry unknown in other parts of Europe. At the same time, Poland undertook to defend its borders, facing Prussia and the Swedes to the North, the Habsburgs to the O, the Turks to the S, the Russians to E. The end of the Agellonian dynasty with Sigismund Augustus and the beginning of the elective monarchy (1572) had meanwhile placed the royal power at the mercy of the nobility and the intrigues of the powers. For Poland history, please check ehistorylib.com.

The emergence of great figures such as that of John III Sobieski (1674-96) temporarily restored to Poland the lost prestige, but the victory of Vienna against the Turks (1683), if it benefited all Christianity, left Poland, with a nobility more and more determined to defend their privileges and opposed to a strong government power. The politics of the three neighboring powers, Austria, Russia and Prussia, which they imposed as King Augustus II of Saxony (1697-1733), easily prevailed over noble anarchy. The wars against Sweden alongside Peter the Great accelerated the internal crisis. Peter the Great supported Augustus II against Stanislaus Leszczyński (king from 1706) supported by the Sejm, requiring Poland not to have an army exceeding 24,000 men, and set himself up as protector, together with Prussia, of the dissidents and the Orthodox of the eastern regions (Treaty of Potsdam, 1720).

After the reign of August III (1733-63), during which anarchy and economic ruin reached the maximum degree, in 1764 Prussia and Russia agreed to put Stanislaus Augusto Poniatowski on the throne. While intending to initiate a process of reform, he was unable to escape the pressure of his powerful neighbors, especially Russia, which imposed and guaranteed, through the support given to the confederation tightened by the Polish nobles in Radom (1767), the restoration of the laws fundamentals of the kingdom (liberum veto ➔; free election of the king; right to refuse obedience to the king etc.). The national uprising, known as the Bar confederation (1768), was too tied to the social interests of the traditional ruling classes to successfully oppose the growing external pressure, despite the concurrence of France and Austria. The consequence of this internal and international situation were the three divisions of the Polish territory, one after the other in little more than twenty years: the first in 1772 (Russia took possession of the country beyond the Dvina and the Dnieper ; Frederick II of Western Prussia without Danzig and a part of the Great Poland; the Austria of Galicia); the second in 1793 (this time the eastern part of Lithuania, part of the Volhynia, the Podolia ; Prussia took possession of Gdansk and the remaining Grande Poland); the third in 1795 (Russia obtained the residual part of Lithuania and Volhynia; Prussia reached Niemen, incorporating Warsaw; Austria took over Little Poland).

The Congress of Vienna (1815) sanctioned the passage of the greater part of the Duchy of Warsaw to Russia with the title of Kingdom of P .; in November 1830 Warsaw rose up against the autocracy of Nicholas I, but the lack of help from foreign powers, the dissension between radical and conservative elements, the non-resolution of the peasant question facilitated the Russian repression. Since then a great emigration has poured into the West, keeping a Polish ‘question’ alive. After the unfortunate revolution of 1863, towards the end of the century a lively political activity characterized the Russian Poland, divided between the socialists of J. Piłsudski and the national democrats of R. Dmowski.

Poland Modern History