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Rzeczpospolita Korony Polskiej i Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego
Royal Republic of the Polish Crown and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Flag of Poland-Lithuania Coat of arms of Poland-Lithuania
flag coat of arms
Kingdom of Poland-flag.svg
Alex K Grundwald flags 1410-03.svg
navigation Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1750-1801) .svg
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg
Flag of Russia.svg
Motto Si Deus nobiscum, quis contra nos
Constitution Articuli Henriciani
1573–1791 / 1792–1795
Pacta conventa
1573–1791 / 1792–1795
Constitution of May 3, 1791
Office languages and national languages Polish
Belorussian language (1569–1697)
Latin National
Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian languages
Capital Krakow and Vilnius
Warsaw (from 1596)
Form of government Aristocratic electoral monarchy based on a dualistic-feudal federal state (1569–1791 / 1792–1795)

Aristocratic - bourgeois republic based on a unitary state (1791–1792)
Government system Parliamentary monarchy with a hereditary monarch at the head of the state based on an aristocratic- parliamentary representative democracy

Parliamentary monarchy with an elected monarch at the head of the state based on an aristocratic-parliamentary representative democracy
(1573–1791 / 1792–1795)

Constitutional-parliamentary monarchy based on an aristocratic-bourgeois-parliamentary representative democracy
Head of state Polish King and
Lithuanian Grand Duke
Head of government Chairman of the Senate
surface 729,900 km² (1772)
Residents 12,000,000 (1772)
currency Zloty
founding August 12, 1569 ( Union of Lublin )
resolution October 24, 1795 ( Third Partition of Poland )
National anthem Gaude Mater Polonia
Poland-Lithuania around 1618 with today's national borders
  • Polish crown
  • Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  • Duchy of Livonia
  • Duchy of Courland , joint fiefdom
  • Duchy of Prussia , Polish fiefdom
  • Poland-Lithuania (also called Rzeczpospolita or Royal Republic and Latin Respublica Poloniae ) was a state in Central and Eastern Europe that existed from 1569 to 1795 . The dualistic , federal and feudal corporate state had elements of a republic based on a parliamentary - constitutional monarchy ( monarchia mixta ) and a ruler at the head of the state, elected by the majority of the aristocracy in a free election .

    Since after the extinction of the Jagiellonian dynasty an electoral monarchy was introduced and the state parliament, the Sejm , which essentially represented the interests of the aristocracy, was given extensive powers, an aristocratic republic and, referring to the Polish states after 1918 , are also often referred to as of the First Polish Republic .

    The two eponymous countries, the Kingdom of Poland (in Polish usually simply called Korona or the Crown ) and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania , were merged in a personal union as early as 1386 . The area covered in its greatest territorial extent around 1618 most of the national territory of today's Poland , today's Lithuania , Latvia and Belarus as well as parts of today's Russia , Estonia , Romania , Moldova and Ukraine .

    Poland-Lithuania was a multiethnic state whose heterogeneous ethnic ethnicities followed a wide variety of creeds . Catholic , Protestant , Orthodox and Armenian Christians as well as Jews and Muslims lived here together and next to each other and enjoyed a politically supported religious freedom despite the dominance of the Catholic clergy .

    With the Realunion of 1569, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as well as Royal Prussia and the Duchy of Livonia merged into a single state body. The rural areas of Royal Prussia were also administered by Polish starosts , but the city republics of Danzig , Thorn and Elbing , as well as the Principality of Warmia, were given a large degree of autonomy. Other areas, such as the Duchy of Prussia , the Duchy of Courland and Semgallia, and for a time the Danube principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, were subordinate to Poland-Lithuania only as fiefdoms. Poland-Lithuania also had the Spiš cities until 1772 , which had been pledged by the Kingdom of Hungary to the Kingdom of Poland in 1421 .


    The official Polish name of the state was Rzeczpospolita Korony Polskiej i Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego (German literal community of the Polish Crown and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania ), abbreviated to Rzeczpospolita .

    Since the Polish republics have also been referred to as Rzeczpospolita in Polish since the restoration of Polish sovereignty , the name of the community can be translated into German with Republic of the Polish Crown and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania , despite the small etymological difference between rzeczpospolita and rēs pūblica . The apparent contradiction between kingdom and republic is lifted by the electoral kingship, through which the kings or grand dukes are no longer owners ofdivine grace ” (cf. Absolute Monarchy ), but only as civil servants in a “ presidency ” for life as officials of the united countries were. In a way, the Rzeczpospolita was comparable to the conditions in the neighboring Holy Roman Empire , in which there was also a similar form of electoral empire.

    In historical sources Latin there is Respublica sive status Regni Poloniae, Lituaniae, Prussiae, Livoniae etc. (German republic or state of the kingdom ... , 1627) and Keen et Respublica Poloniae (German kings and the Republic of Poland , 1677), but also Regnum Poloniae Magnusque Ducatus Lithuaniae ("Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania", 1729).

    The Warsaw Treaty of 1773 between Poland-Lithuania and the Kingdom of Prussia reads in French: Traité entre Sa Majesté le Roi de Prusse et Sa Majesté le Roi et la Republique de Pologne, conclu à Varsovie le Sept. 18, 1773. In the tract of division on the second Partition of Poland-Lithuania from 1793 is (also in French) S (erenissime). République de Pologne .

    In English , Rzeczpospolita is often translated as " Commonwealth ".

    Possibly shorter names coined afterwards are the republic of both nations or peoples (Polish Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów , Lithuanian Abiejų Tautų Respublika and Ruthenian Рѣчъ посполитая ѡбоига народовъ) and Republic of Poland-Lithuania .


    Real Union of Lublin

    By the Lublin Union of August 12, 1569, the personal union that had arisen in the Union of Krewo in 1385 was converted into a real union due to the lack of heir to the throne of Poland and Lithuania . The new state was called "Commonwealth of Both Nations". It was an electoral monarchy with a common currency, a common parliament (the Sejm ) and monarchs . The aristocracy, who made up around 10% of the population (significantly more than in most other European countries), and the bourgeoisie of the autonomous city-republics took part in the election. The lower Polish nobility were called Szlachta , the higher the magnates . Because of its aristocratic elements ( electoral monarchy with a strong position in the Sejm aristocratic parliament), this state is also known as an aristocratic republic . It existed until 1795. Even before the reform of 1791, the Sejm had significantly greater powers than the British Parliament at the time, for example in matters of foreign policy or even nobility.

    However, each of the two parts of the empire had its own army, each headed by a grand hetman and a field hetman . At the Wahlsejm of 1697 the equality (coaequatio jurium) of the Lithuanian and the Polish nobility was decided. This curtailed the privileges of the Grand Hetman of Lithuania , who had previously dominated the grand ducal half of the empire. At the same time, the Ruthenian (old Belarusian) office language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was replaced by Polish.

    Elected kings

    The kings after the establishment of the Polish-Lithuanian personal union up to the Union of Lublin were all born in Poland with the exception of Jogaila and, with the exception of Sigismund the Elder, all of them were born in the royal city of Krakow .

    At the first opportunity to freely choose a king, the Sejm decided in May 1573 in favor of a foreigner, the Capetian Heinrich von Valois from France. Only one year later, however, he secretly left Poland to live after the approaching death of his seriously ill older brother Charles IX. To become King of France. As a result, Anna Jagiellonica , who was still unmarried at 52 , daughter of the penultimate Jagiellonian Sigismund I the Elder, was elected king (not queen) and a male king candidate was sought on the condition that she marry her. The Transylvanian Hungarian Stephan Báthory had the advantage for the Sejm of not being associated with any of the great European dynasties. Ten years younger than his wife Anna, however, he died ten years before her.

    Anna successfully supported the choice of her Swedish nephew Sigismund III. Wasa as King and Grand Duke in 1587. After his death, the Sejm elected two of his Krakow-born sons as head of state.

    The Sejm during the coronation of August II.

    The next two kings came from local noble families, albeit from places that no longer belong to Poland, in 1669 Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki and in 1674 Johann III. Sobieski , who decisively intervened in the history of Europe when the Polish army and its allies defeated the Ottoman army in front of Vienna in 1683 .

    With the Saxon Elector Friedrich August I of Saxony , a foreigner was elected again in 1697, who became King of Poland as August II. However, the Electorate of Saxony was weaker than Poland's five potent neighbors, Sweden, Russia, the Ottomans, the Habsburg Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia . Nevertheless, Polish politics was now strongly influenced by the neighbors and France, which was expressed in frequently changing kings: in 1704 August II was replaced by Stanislaus I. Leszczyński , in 1709 August II was able to regain power. After his death in 1733, Stanislaus I was re-elected King of Poland by one party. The other party elected August III. , the son of August II, which led to the War of the Polish Succession . After the death of August III. In 1764 , Stanislaus II August Poniatowski, a local nobleman with good connections to the Russian court of the tsars, was elected, as it turned out, the last king and grand prince of the Polish-Lithuanian republic.


    Failed attempt at reform in 1658: the aristocratic republic of Poland-Lithuania- Ruthenia

    In the early 17th century, Poland-Lithuania stayed out of the Thirty Years' War and expanded eastwards, with the Kremlin in Moscow (1610) and the Black Sea coast being occupied in the Polish-Russian War 1609–1618 . In the second half of the 17th century, the consequences of the Second Northern War , internal quarrels and the growing neighbors Russia and Brandenburg-Prussia increasingly restricted the power of Poland-Lithuania. The attempt to reform the state as a triune aristocratic republic Poland-Lithuania- Ruthenia failed in 1658 due to Polish resistance. Since 1697, the aristocratic republic found itself as part of the personal union of Saxony-Poland , which lasted with interruptions until 1763. In 1772 Poland-Lithuania covered 729,900 km² and had around 12 million inhabitants.


    In the course of the 18th century, the Rzeczpospolita became increasingly incapable of acting and reforming due to the Liberum Veto , which made the first partition of Poland possible for the neighbors . As a consequence of this and under the influence of the independence of the USA and the French Revolution , the liberal constitution of May 3, 1791 was created . It abolished the duality between Poland and Lithuania. The remaining parts of the aristocratic republic were united in a unitary state to form Rzeczpospolita Poland . The absolutist ruled neighboring monarchies took two years later, the second partition of Poland before, and another two years later, the third and complete breakdown - not least because of the similarities of the reformed Polish constitution with that of revolutionary France. Poland-Lithuania, like other once sovereign states, disappeared from the political maps of Europe by 1918 . The Kingdom of Prussia , the House of Habsburg and the Russian Empire were involved in the partitions .

    Administrative division

    The I. Rzeczpospolita in the borders after the Treaty of Deulino 1618 (administrative division into voivodships)

    Apart from the royal free cities ( Danzig , Thorn, Elbing and Riga ) Poland-Lithuania was divided into voivodeships . The division of the area of ​​the Polish Crown into the greater provinces of Greater Poland and Lesser Poland had a purely traditional meaning. Some rulers were legally equal to a voivodship, e. B. the Principality of Warmia and the Duchy of Samogitia .

    Religion and population

    The religious diversity was unique in Europe. The spectrum of religions represented in Poland-Lithuania ranged from Judaism (in the period 1500–1578 the number of Jews rose from initially only around 18,000 to around 100,000) through Protestantism , Catholicism and Orthodoxy to Islam .

    In addition to the Poles and Lithuanians, the population consisted of Germans , Latvians , Estonians , Ukrainians , Belarusians , Great Russians and Tatars . Natural population growth reached eight to nine percent in the 16th century. This was caused by the development of agriculture and improved living conditions in the 16th century, which led to a decrease in mortality. The hygienic conditions and medical care for the population have also improved.


    The basis of the country's wealth was agriculture with the export of grain, cattle and forest products. Seven to ten percent of Poland's total grain production of around 1.5 million tons was exported, with the Netherlands being the main buyer with 80 percent. The grain trade ensured that the republic's foreign trade balance was mostly positive. Poland also exported potash , wool, textiles, as well as fur and leather products. This resulted in a high degree of susceptibility to economic fluctuations on the European markets. In addition to cloth, iron and steel, the imported goods mainly included metal products such as scythes, sickles and weapons. The first factories with up to 40 workers emerged in the 16th century .


    The aristocratic republic of Poland-Lithuania, commonly regarded as the First Polish Republic , became the most popular historical period in Polish society in the interwar period. The Sarmatism , the ideal of a free, democratic aristocracy was mainly in the 19th century romanticized model and constitutive myth of the Polish national consciousness. The aristocratic republic of the 16th century was stylized as a liberal model, although the entire adult population could not participate in it. The formation of political will could (theoretically) encompass up to 12% of the population (the entire aristocracy), which was a lot at a time and in comparison to countries like France, Prussia, Russia or Austria in the age of absolutism from the 17th century to the 18th century Century was where this started out from a person. What is important about the legend that has formed among the population of this time is the fact that Poland was really independent during this time. The ideals of freedom that the nobility proclaimed, however, did not go well with the maintenance of serfdom . For Thomas Carlyle, for example, the aristocratic republic, in its cruel expression, was only "a gracefully phosphorescent heap of mold" and the nobles on it were "teeming parasites". In his opinion, the partitions of Poland were fair "because they made room for the superior empires of the Romanovs to the Russian Empire, the Habsburgs to Austria-Hungary and the Hohenzollerns to the Kingdom of Prussia".


    • Almut Bues: The Habsburg candidacy for the Polish throne during the First Interregnum in Poland in 1572/73. Dissertations. University of Vienna; Association of Austrian Scientific Societies, Vienna 1984, ISBN 3-85369-559-0 .
    • Maria Rhode: A kingdom without a king. The Lesser Poland nobility in seven Interregna. (= Sources and studies. 5). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1997, ISBN 3-447-03912-4 (full text)
    • Daniel Stone: The Polish-Lithuanian State, 1386-1795. (= A History of East Central Europe. 4). University of Washington Press, Seattle 2001, ISBN 0-295-98093-1 , limited preview in Google Book Search.

    See also

    Web links

    Commons : Poland-Lithuania  - album containing pictures, videos and audio files

    Individual evidence

    1. Lat .: “If God is with us, then who against us?”; since the 18th century Pro Fide, Lege et Rege ("For Faith, Law and the King").
    2. ^ Official language in the Kingdom of Poland, from 1697 also in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
    3. ^ Office language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
    4. Janusz Sykała: Od Polan mieszkających w lasach - historia Polski - aż do króla Stasia , Gdansk, 2010
    5. ^ Georg Ziaja: Lexicon of the Polish Nobility in the Golden Age 1500–1600 , p. 9
    6. Janusz Sykała: Od Polan mieszkających w lasach - historia Polski - aż do króla Stasia , Gdansk, 2010
    7. ^ Georg Ziaja: Lexicon of the Polish Nobility in the Golden Age 1500–1600 , p. 9
    8. https://www.polskieradio24.pl/39/156/Artykul/1444613,Artykuly-henrykowskie-szlachecka-prekonstytucja
    9. ↑ https://www. britica.com/place/Poland/The-First-Partition
    10. ^ A b c Hans Roos: Poland from 1668 to 1795. In: Theodor Schieder , Fritz Wagner (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Europäische Geschichte. Volume 4: Europe in the Age of Absolutism and Enlightenment. Stuttgart 1968, pp. 690-752, here pp. 746ff.
    11. Latin for: "mixed monarchy" ( Jürgen Heyde : Geschichte Polens , 4th edition, Munich, 2017, p. 28 f.)
    12. ^ Joachim Bahlcke : Regionalism and state integration in conflict. The lands of the Bohemian Crown in the first century of Habsburg rule (1526–1619) . Oldenbourg, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-486-56046-8 , p. 270, footnote 357.
    13. Latin : rēs pūblica means “public matter”; Polish : rzecz pospolita means “common cause”, pospolity “common” and “common” in its meaning of “common”, not “mean”.
    14. Stefan Daute, Adrian Fiedler: Slavic national minorities in the Baltic Sea region: Contributions to an excursion .... p. 47, Universitätsverlag Potsdam, 2008 - Quotation in Polish: Rzeczpospolita Korony Polskiej [Królestwa Polskiego] i Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego , in German: Republik the Polish Crown [Kingdom of Poland] and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania .
    15. ^ Forester Friedrich Christoph: The courts and cabinets of Europe in the eighteenth century. 1839, p. 137.
    16. Wojciech J. Burszta, Jacek Serwański: migracja, Europe, Polska. 2003, p. 175.
    17. Figure. In: unesco.org. Retrieved December 30, 2014 .
    18. 1677 V 17 renewal agreement of Warsaw concerning Wehlau, Bromberg, see Google book search  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.ieg-mainz.de  
    19. Regni Poloniae magnique Ducatus Lithuaniae Nova et exacta tabula ad memtem Starovolcy descripta. In: raremaps.com. Retrieved December 30, 2014 .
    20. Friedrich Wilhelm Ghillany: Diplomatic Handbook. CH Beck, 1855, p. 224. Restricted preview in Google book search
    21. digitized version
    22. ^ Polish Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów . In German also referred to as the Republic of Two Peoples or Republic of Two Peoples , whereby the predicate “peoples” refers much more to the sum of its main members, namely the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and less to peoples in the sense of “nations”.
    23. Norman Davies: In the Heart of Europe: History of Poland. CH Beck Verlag, 2002.
    24. Henads Sahanowitsch: Belarus and the agony of the aristocratic republic (1648–1795). In: Dietrich Beyrau, Rainer Lindner: Handbook of the history of Belarus. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, pp. 106–118, here p. 111.
    25. a b Rusanna Gaber: Political Community in Germany and Poland . On the influence of history on political culture . Political culture in the new democracy Europe . VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-15565-4 , p. 131.
    26. ^ Stephanie Zloch: Polish Nationalism . Politics and society between the two world wars. Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-412-20543-0 , p. 100.
    27. ^ Jürgen Hartmann : Politics and Society in Eastern Europe . An introduction. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1983, ISBN 3-593-32555-1 , p. 242.
    28. Norman Davies: In the Heart of Europe. History of Poland. P. 299
    29. Norman Davies: In the Heart of Europe. History of Poland. P. 299
    30. Krystyna Kaplan: Londyn po polsku . Świat Książki, Warszawa 2006, ISBN 978-83-247-0283-1 , p. 155-156 .