220 years ago, 24 March 1794, a year after the Second Division of Poland between Russia and Prussia, an uprising began on the territory of the Commonwealth. Tadeusz Kosciuszko solemnly announced in Krakow the beginning of the liberation uprising, and at the same time the Act of the uprising was announced. Kosciusko was proclaimed dictator of the republic, supreme commander, having received full power in the country.
The uprising led to the final liquidation of Polish statehood. In 1795, the Third Section of the Commonwealth took place. Russia returned a significant part of Western Russian lands. Indigenous Polish lands inhabited by ethnic Poles, moved Austria and Prussia. Thus, the long process of decomposition of Polish statehood was completed. The internal problems of the Commonwealth have become the main prerequisites in the process of the collapse of Poland.
Destruction of polish statehood
Poland in the XVIII century reached the peak of its decomposition. The peculiarities of the Polish management system led to the fact that a great power gradually fell under the influence of its neighbors. The kings in Poland were chosen by the pans, therefore after the death of the king the troubles often began, when various parties offered their candidates. France, Austria, Prussia and Russia weaved their intrigues, trying to put their candidate on the throne.
So, after the death of King Augustus II (1 February 1733 of the year), the struggle for the throne began. Augustus Strong was an ally of Russia since the Northern War, and St. Petersburg wanted to maintain friendly relations with the Commonwealth, placing the challenger on the Polish throne of the friendly Russian empire. France has long been spinning intrigues and wanted to put Stanislav Leschinsky, who was already king of Poland in 1704-1709, to the throne, fighting against Russia on the side of the Swedish monarch Charles XII. His daughter Maria was the wife of the French king Louis XV. Austria proposed the candidature of the Portuguese prince. All the powers sent large sums to Warsaw to pay off the gentlemen.
Petersburg demanded that Warsaw exclude Stanislav Leschinsky from the list of candidates for the Polish throne. However, the powerful tycoons Potocki (after the death of Augustus the first person of Rzeczpospolita was Archbishop Fezdor Pototsky of Gniezna,) possessed an “administrative resource”, and Paris sent 3 million livres of gold to bribe the lords, so most of the Seym elected Leschinsky. Leschinsky himself secretly arrived in Warsaw to immediately take the throne. At the same time, Paris sent a “support group” to the Polish shores - the 9 of the battleships, the 3 frigate and the corvette under the command of Count César Antoine de la Suzerna. Having learned about the "correct choice" of Polish nobility, the French squadron was recalled.
In response, Petersburg decided to introduce a "limited contingent" of troops into Poland - 18 infantry regiments and 10 cavalry regiments, plus irregular forces. The troops were led by the governor of Livonia, Peter Lassi. In Poland itself, Russian troops were supported by the opponents of Leshchinsky, who created their own confederation. Confederation in Poland called the temporary association of the armed gentry.
September 20 Lassi occupied the suburb of Warsaw - Prague. 22 September Leschinsky fled from Warsaw to Danzig. 24 September opponents Leschinsky chose a king - Friedrich Augustus, the Elector of Saxony, son of the late king. He took the throne under the name of August III.
The war for the Polish legacy continued until the 1735 year. Stanislav Leschinsky sat down in Danzig, hoping for help from France. The Siege of Danzig dragged on from February to June of the year 1734 (Field Marshal General Christopher Antonovich Minich: Siege of Danzig). This was due to the lack of forces - the army was chasing Polish troops, and the lack of siege artillery at the beginning of the siege. Attempts by the French squadron to help the fortress failed. The landing of the French ships was unable to break through to the city, was partially blocked and surrendered. Therefore, Danzig capitulated. Stanislav Leschinsky was able to escape, disguised as a commoner.
This war was a good indicator of the disintegration of the Polish "elite". Most of the wealthy gentry and gentry were on the side of Stanislav Leschinsky, they gained considerable strength. But they could not help the besieged Danzig, since they were mainly engaged in looting the property of the supporters of Augustus. Polish warriors tried to avoid a collision with the Russian troops, they only disturbed them. They gathered in large crowds around the location of the Russian units, burned the estates of their compatriots who were in another camp, spoke of the desire to give battle to the Russians. But as soon as the Russian troops appeared, the Poles fled immediately or after several gun shots. As contemporaries noted, in this war 300 Russians never went off the road to avoid meeting with 3 thousands of Poles. They always beat them. At the same time, the Poles were not afraid to fight the Saxons, whom they despised and often beat. By the Russians, they "fed on strong fear."
The value of Poland under the rule of August III (1734 - 1763) fell even more. He, like his father, preferred to live more in quiet Saxony than in violent Poland. In addition, the new king did not have the political ability of his father, but inherited from him his passion for luxury and art. He spent enormous sums on the purchase of paintings of the Dresden Gallery and other famous museums, the content of the brilliant courtyard. In addition, the high dignitaries plundered the treasury. So, the head of the government was the vain and greedy Heinrich von Bruhl. With the help of his henchmen, he made ruinous for the country operations with evidence of payment of taxes, the Ministry of Justice was mired in corruption. The minister spent huge sums of money on the king's court staff, and even more on his own. Brule paid his honorary guard better than the monarch, kept the servants 200 and gave the most luxurious meals. As a result, the treasury was empty. In addition, August led the unsuccessful war with Prussia, suffered a series of brutal defeats.
Seimas also could not have a beneficial effect on the development of the country. First of all, there was no strong executive authority that could implement the decisions of the Seimas. Secondly, the principle of unanimity in making decisions (“Free Veto” - lat. Liberum veto), led to the blocking of most proposals and paralyzed the work of the Sejm. 1652 to 1764 out of 55 seym 48 was ripped off. Moreover, a third of them were disrupted by the voice of only one deputy. The deplorable state of finances of the Commonwealth is characterized by the fact that in 1688, the minting of a coin was simply stopped.
At the same time, the unity of the country undermined the Catholic clergy, which demanded new restrictions on the rights of Orthodox and Protestants. As a result, the Commonwealth was not able to create a single state. The West Russian population did not become full in Poland and was looking east towards Russia. Orthodox and Protestants made up 40% of the country's population, so their oppression undermined the unity of the Commonwealth. Pansky oppression and religious persecution continued to provoke uprisings in Western Russian regions.
The degradation of statehood, problems in economics and finance led to a serious weakening of the military power of Poland, which was once a serious military power. Commonwealth practically slept through new trends in military affairs. The effectiveness of rifle and artillery fire increased significantly, and the battle tactics drastically changed. Infantry supported by field artillery began to play a decisive role in wars. The cavalry role has declined. As a result, the brave and quite skillful Polish cavalry was unable to resist the regular armies of Prussia and Russia.
This led to the fact that in the XVIII century, Poland literally became a “courtyard” for the armies of the neighboring powers. The army of Sweden, Russia, Saxony, Prussia and the Ottoman Empire with the support of the Crimean Khanate troops fought on Polish territory for years.
It is clear that the sharply increased Russia could not remain indifferent to such a situation on its western border. The degradation of Poland led to the fact that enemy armies were quietly walking around its territory, using Polish territory as a springboard for striking Russia. Thus, the Crimean Tatars regularly passed through the lands of southern Poland and often transferred from there to the Russian lands. And Warsaw itself could at any moment join the enemies of Russia. During the Northern War, Stanislav Leschinsky fought on the side of Sweden. France had an enormous influence on Poland. And the strengthening of Austria and Prussia at the expense of the Commonwealth did not give anything good to Russia. We must not forget that Warsaw owned vast territories that were once part of Russia. They were still inhabited by Russian people. It is clear that it would be foolish not to try to change the situation on the western frontiers in their favor.
In addition, St. Petersburg had other, smaller claims to the Commonwealth. So, in 1753, we conducted a study of the terrain and found out that about 1 thousand square versts of Russian land illegally remained in Polish ownership. They belonged to Russia in the Eternal World 1686 of the year and were to be included in the Starodubsky, Chernihiv and Kiev regiments. This gave rise to constant controversy. The Poles arbitrarily settled 10 cities of the Right Bank, which, according to the 1686 agreement, were considered controversial and therefore not subject to settlement. The Polish Sejm, before 1764, refused to ratify the Eternal Peace of 1686. In addition, Poland was the last of the European powers, which did not recognize the imperial title for Russia, which Peter the Great adopted in 1721 year.
The relations between the two Slavic powers and the problem of the flight of Russian peasants to Poland darkened. Thousands of Russian people fled to Poland. Only in the areas west of Smolensk, about 120 thousand people were accommodated. This contradiction should not be surprising. In Poland, the Orthodox population was indeed oppressed, and Polish lords very tightly entrenched local peasants (flakes). However, the peasants and deserters from the Russian army (again, the peasants) fled to Poland. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the Polish gentry treated their old flakes and runaway Muscovites differently. New arrivals initially received some benefits so as not to scare them. Runaway soldiers in general could enroll in their private troops. Secondly, in Russia in the XVIII century, classical serfdom finally took shape. The peasants lost their former liberties and responded with flight, unrest. Under Catherine II, when the system of common ministry of the whole people (nobles and peasants) to the state was distorted, a real peasant war broke out in general. Third, there were constant wars, there were many deserters.
As a result, the situation at the border was difficult. In the areas bordering on the Russian empire, thousands of thieves have accumulated who regularly made raids for the cordon. The pans either closed their eyes to it, since the robbers shared with them, or it was their troops, made up of runaway soldiers.
Catherine the Great
It should be noted that Moscow and St. Petersburg, under the Romanovs, did not particularly strive to become “collectors of the Russian lands”. If the Russian sovereigns of the Rurik dynasty from Ivan III to Ivan the Terrible tried to reunite all the Russian lands that were part of Ancient Russia, Smoot interrupted this process. Mikhail Fyodorovich only wanted to return the land that Poland took during the Time of Troubles, but was defeated near Smolensk. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich refused to support the onslaught of the Cossacks in the Black Sea region and for a long time did not want to interfere in the affairs of the Commonwealth when the uprising of Bogdan Khmelnitsky began there. Only when the uprising took on the character of a war of liberation and led to great success, did Moscow pay attention to it.
Pyotr Alekseevich completely forgot about the West Russian lands. During the Northern War, Poland was in such a terrible state and, moreover, went over to the side of Sweden, that not a single Russian soldier was needed to return a large part of the West Russian lands. This task would be easily handled by the Cossacks. However, Peter spent all his forces in order to cut through the “window to Europe”, but after cutting through him he did not even take a large part of Finland and the Baltic states, although he could. In addition, he dreamed of establishing himself in Germany. For the sake of this, he patronized the German barons and organized a series of dynastic marriages with the rulers of the German states.
Anna Ioannovna and Elizaveta Petrovna were also more interested in Germanic and generally Western European affairs than the problem of the reunification of Russia. Elizabeth even annexed East Prussia to Russia, only her death stopped this process. Only Catherine II, realizing the futility of Russian intervention in German affairs, began to work actively in the Polish direction. She even refused inheritance rights in Holstein for her son Paul. A wise woman began to gradually clear the state apparatus of the dominance of the Germans, replacing them with Russian, in extreme cases, talented representatives of other nations. None of the many German relatives of Ekaterina Alekseevna received a responsible position in the empire.
At the end of the 1750, King August III became sick often. Polish magnates thought about his successor. The king himself wanted to hand over the throne to his son Friedrich Christian. The Saxon party was headed by the head of government, Brule, the great marshal, the crown count Mnisek, the hetman Branitsky, and the powerful genus of the magnates Potocki.
The Clan Chartory (Czartoryski) clan came out against them. They were descended from the son of the Grand Duke Olgerd. Chartory offered to carry out a series of reforms in Poland. Chief among these was the transfer of the Piast dynasty to the throne, the first Polish princely and royal family, who ruled in Krakow until 1370, when King Casimir III passed away. There were no legitimate descendants of this dynasty and the Czartoryski had no relation to it, but in Petersburg they closed their eyes to this and supported the idea. In Russia, they were ready to support any loyal tycoon. The political grouping Chartorysky received the name "Last Name".
Chartoryski was supported by Stanislav Poniatowski, voivode Mazowiecki and Castellan Krakow. Stanislav Ponyatovsky, like the overwhelming majority of Polish magnates, did not have moral principles, and acted solely for reasons of his own advantage. In his youth, he joined the king Leschinsky, and in the battle of Poltava fought on the side of the Swedes. Then Poniatowski together with the Swedish king fled to the Ottoman Empire, where they both incited the Sultan to start a war with Russia. Seeing that the map Leschinsky beat, went to the king Augustus II. His career was promoted by his marriage to the daughter of Kazimir Chartorsky. After the death of King Augustus II, Poniatowski even tried to climb into the kings. Realizing that he would not be a king, he again put on Leshinsky and ended up with him in besieged Danzig. But lost again. After approval by the king, August III joined the “Surnames” of the Czartoryski, becoming one of the main advisers of the new king.
A dizzying career was made by the fourth son of a Krakow kastelan - Stanislav August Poniatowski. He traveled extensively in Western Europe, spent a long time in England and became the protege of the English ambassador to the Saxon court of Charles Hanbury Williams. In 1755, William was appointed ambassador to Petersburg and took with him the young Ponyatovsky. After fruitless attempts to find approaches to Empress Elizabeth Petrovna and the future emperor, the British drew attention to Catherine. Poniatowski became the favorite of the Grand Duchess. Even when Williams left Petersburg, Ponyatovsky remained. Moreover, his relationship with the Grand Duchess was not a secret even for her husband - Peter. He did not feel any feelings for his wife, and they even four of them (with Peter's mistress) drank. Peter and Poniatowski were friends during this period. Only when the rumors went around the capital and the French ambassador began to openly make fun of the situation, did Empress Elizabeth send Ponyatovsky from Russia. After his departure, Catherine continued to correspond with him.
After the coup of 28 in June 1762, when Peter was overthrown, and Catherine took the throne, Poniatowski wanted to return, but the Empress stopped him. She said that it was dangerous to come to Russia, Poniatovsky could simply be killed. The place of Catherine took Orlov brothers. There could have been a negative reaction from the nobility - a Pole at the throne of the Russian empress would be too strong an irritant.
At that time, the confrontation between the “Surname” and the court party intensified in Poland. The Chartory were accused of abusing "Saxon" ministers and officials. The court party threatened the tycoons with arrest. In response, Catherine promised Warsaw to "populate Siberia" with the enemies of Russia and "unleash the Zaporozhye Cossacks" who want to avenge the insults suffered from the Polish king. At the same time, the Russian empress asked the Russian ambassador to restrain the Chartorsky’s zealousness. The army was not ready for war, finances were in disarray.
The health of King Augustus III continued to deteriorate. 3 February The 1763 of the year in St. Petersburg passed the State Council. Almost all the dignitaries were in favor of the “Piast”. Only Count Bestuzhev-Ryumin tried to support the candidature of the son of the dying king. The Board decided to focus 30-th. army on the border with the Commonwealth and to keep ready 50 more thousand soldiers.
5 October 1763, August III passed away. Getman Jan Klemens Branitsky raised the crown army, which was supported by the Saxon troops. In response, the Last Name asked Catherine to provide them with military assistance. First, they decided to send a small detachment to the residence of the crown hetman in Bialystok, which was already in Rech Pospolita. At 1,5-2, thousands of soldiers were guarded by warehouses left over from the Seven Years War. At the beginning of April, 1763 introduced additional forces in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The first column under the command of Prince M. N. Volkonsky went through Minsk, the second under the authority of Prince M. I. Dashkova - through Grodno. 10 (21) April 26 Polish tycoons sent Catherine a letter in which they fully supported the introduction of Russian troops.
March 31 (April 11) in St. Petersburg was signed the Russian-Prussian defensive treaty. Prussia was obliged to pay Russia annual subsidies (400 thousand rubles per year) in the event of its war with the Crimean Khanate or Turkey. The king in Poland agreed to elect Stanislav Ponyatovsky. Prussia and Russia agreed to abide by the current order and laws in Poland. "Dissidents" (Orthodox and Protestants) should receive the same rights and freedoms.
At the end of April, senators, deputies and pans began to gather in Warsaw for the convocation Diet. Convocational Diet (from the Latin. Convocatio - convocation) in Poland called the Diet, which was convened after the death of the King of Gniezna Archbishop (Primate of Poland), the first in rank among the senators who performed royal functions during the “king of the king”. The task of the convoy seym was to maintain order until the election of a new king. The election itself was made on the other, the so-called. electoral (elective), the Diet.
Many arrived with their private troops. So, the governor of Vilna, Prince Carl Radziwill brought 3-thousand. squad. Russian troops are also located nearby. April 26 (May 7) Diet opened. Warsaw at that time was divided into two hostile parties, ready for battle. The Saxon Party filed a protest against the finding of Russian troops. They wanted to disrupt the beginning of the Diet, but did not.
The success of Russia, Prussia and the "Last Name" was also promoted by the death of Augustus’s successor, Friedrich Christian. Frederick Christian became Elector of Saxony in October 1763, but after only two months of reign died from smallpox. Only hetman Branitsky could now become the main opponent of Stanislav Ponyatovsky.
In June, the 1764 of the year ended the convoy seym. The prince of Czartoryski, the Russian governor, was elected Marshal of the Crown Confederation. The Sejm decided not to allow foreign candidates and to choose only from Polish gentry. In addition, the Seym, in gratitude for the support of St. Petersburg, recognized the imperial title for Catherine.
The troops of Radziwill and Branitsky were defeated by the Russian troops. Both tycoons fled outside of Poland. Under pressure from the Russian and Prussian ambassadors, Stanislav Poniatovsky became the first candidate for the throne. In August, the 1764 of the year quietly passed the election Diet. Count Poniatowski was unanimously elected king under the name of Stanislav II Augustus Poniatowski. Thus, Rzeczpospolita was under the control of Russia and Prussia.
Stanislav II Augustus Ponyatovsky
To be continued ...