John II Casimir

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John II Casimir as King of Poland, Titular King of Sweden, Grand Duke of Lithuania (painting by Daniel Schultz ).

Johann Kasimir's signature:
Signature Johann II. Casimir.PNG
Poland-Lithuania in the borders of 1656 and its territorial losses under the treaties of 1657, 1660 and 1667
The coat of arms of the Wasa dynasty with a sheaf of wheat in the center

Johann II. Kasimir (also Johann II. Kasimir Wasa , Polish Jan II Kazimierz Waza , Lithuanian Jonas Kazimieras Vaza , Latin Ioannes Casimirus ; * March 21, 1609 in Krakow ; † December 16, 1672 in Nevers ) from the Swedish Wasa dynasty was from 1648 to 1668 as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, the elected ruler of the state of Poland-Lithuania and until the end of his life titular king of Sweden .

Royal title

  • Titulature in Latin: " Ioannes Casimirus, Dei Gratia rex Poloniae, magnus dux Lithuaniae, Russie, Prussiae, Masoviae, Samogitiae, Livoniae, Smolenscie, Severiae, Czernichoviaeque, nec non Suecorum, Gothorum, etc., Vandalorumque haereditarius rex, etc. "


Johann Kasimir was the son of Sigismund III's second marriage . with Constance of Austria , first in 1640 in the Jesuit order and was shortly afterwards by Pope Innocent X to Cardinal priests appointed. After the unexpected death of his half-brother, King Władysław IV. Wasa, he ascended the Polish throne on November 20, 1648. A little later he married his widow, Marie Luise von Nevers-Gonzaga .

Shortly before he took office, there was an uprising of the Zaporozhian Cossacks in the Ukrainian part of the empire in 1648 under their hetman Bohdan Khmelnyzkyj , who was also supported by the Crimean Tatars . Insurgents carried out bloody massacres of Catholic Poles and Jews , with the number of victims estimated at a quarter of a million. At the end of June 1651, the Poles were able to defeat the combined army of the Cossacks and Crimean Tatars in the battle of Berestetschko and thus restore control in Volhynia and Podolia , but the internal conflict continued. The Ukrainian Cossacks concluded an alliance with Russia with the Treaty of Perejaslav in 1654 , and the Cossack uprising turned into the Russo-Polish War of 1654–1667 .

When the Swedish Queen Christina I abdicated on June 16, 1654, Johann II (despite objections from his highest dignitaries) asserted his claims to the Swedish throne as the great-grandson of Gustav I. Wasas . Karl X. Gustav used this inheritance dispute as a pretext for the war , which went down in Polish history as the "Bloody or Swedish Flood". Sweden, which was poor at the time, had the first conscription and professional army in Europe from the 17th century , which, in contrast to the opposing mercenary armies, was highly motivated, but was also sustained by the plundering of other countries (including Germany in the Thirty Years' War ).

Johann II led the war with eventful success. Already at the beginning of the war he prematurely gave up the battle of Warsaw , in 1656, lost to Karl X. Gustav and his allied Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg . Friedrich Wilhelm, who was a vassal of the Polish king for the Duchy of Prussia , allowed the Swedish troops to move freely through the Brandenburg region of Western Pomerania to protect his country: This was seen by the Polish side as a clear breach of their fief. The Transylvanian prince Georg II Rákóczi also came to the aid of the Swedish king by having large parts of Poland devastated and plundered by his Cossack - Transylvanian army (up to 40,000 men) in alliance with Chmelnyzkyj . That it did not come to a complete collapse of the kingdom was only due to the hetman Stefan Czarniecki and his guerrilla tactics , as well as a short-lived alliance with the Khanate of Crimea under İslâm III. Thanks to Giray . King John, whom the Polish public blamed for the devastating war and whose loyalty was terminated by the nobility (treaties of Ujście and Kėdainiai ), fled to Silesia in 1655 , where the Wasa in Opole appeared as sovereigns. The military assistance he had hoped for from the Catholic Habsburgs , to whom he was related, initially failed to materialize.

After his return from exile in 1656 he was able to keep his empire in the following war years, but in the Treaty of Wehlau he had to renounce the feudal sovereignty over the Duchy of Prussia , which enabled Friedrich Wilhelm to change sides (again). The treaty would later prove to be one of the decisive milestones in the development of Brandenburg-Prussia into a major European power. The Swedish-Polish War finally ended on May 3, 1660 in the Peace of Oliva . The Polish king was forced to renounce all his claims to the Swedish throne, Livonia with Riga and Estonia. Sweden, on the other hand, was able to expand its status as a great power in the Baltic Sea region and assert itself in the Baltic States against Poland and Russia.

In the subsequent Russo-Polish War 1654–1667 , Johann II Casimir was able to free the devastated area of ​​the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from Russian troops from 1660. Against the background of renewed battles with Cossacks and Crimean Tatars in the south of the empire and an internal aristocratic rebellion under Prince Lubomirski, he was forced in the Treaty of Andrussowo to renounce large parts of what is now western Russia with Smolensk and eastern Ukraine with Kiev up to the Dnepr in 1667.

The 20 year reign of John II with its numerous devastating wars is considered to be the beginning of the end of the Polish-Lithuanian state. The once prosperous country was downright plundered (in Stockholm the then stolen cultural assets can still be viewed today) and bled to death: As a result of the devastation by six invading troops - Cossacks, Swedes, Russians, Transylvanians and Brandenburgers - and the resulting epidemics , famine , acts of violence and Withdrawal of state territory, the population fell from 11-12 million (1648) to 8 million (1668). There was massive impoverishment of all sections of the population and then an economic collapse. Since the king, who was brought up by Jesuits, strongly promoted Catholicism , social peace in the multi-ethnic and multi- religious multi-ethnic state and the religious tolerance that had been practiced up to now were also threatened. As a result of the Catholic confessionalization , part of the Protestant population emigrated (especially the anti-Trinitarians , also known as the Polish Brothers , who were considered highly educated in the eyes of their contemporaries ), whereby the country lost further economic, cultural and intellectual potential. The impoverishment of the lower and middle classes (especially the small and middle class) led to a lowering of their political awareness and responsibility for the state and also permanently degenerated the “aristocratic democracy” through the egoisms of the high nobility. Only the largest noble houses, the magnates , were able to expand their power and influence at the expense of the king , which in the long term promoted the emergence of self-sufficient oligarchic structures within the aristocratic republic.

Due to his defeats in foreign policy and his inept domestic policy, John II Casimir had so little personal authority that he was unable to implement any of his reform proposals in the Sejm through the Liberum veto of his opponents . After the magnate rebellion 1665–66 under Prince Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski against the circumcision of the golden freedom (privileges of the nobility) and the death of his beloved wife, Luisa Maria Gonzaga , John II finally gave up the fight against his domestic political opponents and gave thanks in September 1668 from. Four years later he died as Abbot of St. Germain-des-Prés in French exile. The mortal remains of the former king were buried in the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow , where his sarcophagus is in the crypt under the Vasa Chapel . Since the marriage with Luisa Maria remained childless, the death of Johann Kasimir also meant the extinction of the Polish branch of the Vasa.

The magnate Michael Prince Wiśniowiecki succeeded him as head of state of Poland and Lithuania . With this choice, the nobility wanted to rule out further involvement in dynastic hereditary wars with foreign powers.

“Megalomaniac and arrogant” he led a policy that was marked by massive overestimation of himself and despotic tendencies. Even during his lifetime he was considered by his enemies to be the most incompetent Polish ruler, and he was also the only Polish monarch who had voluntarily abdicated. The initials ICR "Ioannes Casimirus Rex" were often interpreted as "Initium Calamitatis Regni" - the beginning of the empire's misfortune.


See also


Web links

Commons : Johann II Casimir  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Treaty of Wehlau (1657): Transfer of sovereignty over the Duchy of Prussia to the Elector of Brandenburg and his descendants.
  2. Treaty of Oliva (1660): Recognition of Polish Estonia and Livonia under international law with Riga legally owned by the Kingdom of Sweden (already conquered for Sweden in the 1620s by King Gustav II Adolf ).
  3. Treaty of Andrussowo (1667): Recognition of the status quo : Today's western Russia with Smolensk and eastern Ukraine with Kiev and the surrounding area pass into the possession of the Russian Empire (controlled by Russian and Cossack troops since 1654).
  4. ^ According to Brockhaus, Meyers Lexikon.
  5. ^ Schmidt, Werner: Friedrich I. Elector of Brandenburg King in Prussia, 2006, p. 18
predecessor Office successor
Władysław IV./II. Wasa King of Poland,
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Michael Wiśniowiecki