By the late 15th century under King Jan I Olbracht Ioannes Albertus, John Albert a national assembly had emerged consisting of King, Senate or Royal Council , and the House of the legati terrestres regionally elected in public assemblies sejmiki , and a few representatives for the richest cities. It was one of the oldest European parliaments. These privileges gradually curtailed the monarch's prerogatives, culminating in the Nihil Novi statute , which prevented the King from making any important decisions without the approval of Sejm.
The Jagiellonian period witnessed tremendous cultural advancement. Poland became one of the centres of the Renaissance. Copernicus' De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, —itself a revolution in the sciences—reflected the high standards in Polish scholarship under the Jagiellons. Its luminaries made Polish the language of the educated in this part of Europe.
A Brief History of Poland
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Poland was a country open to new religious trends. Unlike other European countries, there were no religious wars here. Not only could heterodox religionists find sanctuary here, they were also protected by the kings and lords of Poland. As a result, culture and scholarship experienced an influx of new ideas and literary works, building up an image of Poland as a country of toleration. This was particularly true as regards the Warsaw Compact, ratified in , which gave Protestants equal rights with Catholics.
As with the Piasts, the Jagiellonian dynasty became extinct through lack of a male heir In King Sigismundus Augustus effected the statutory union of Poland and Lithuania, up till then joined by a personal union. Henceforth the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania would be an elective monarchy, with the entire noble equestrian estate enjoying the right to elect their king.
The first royal election was held in the spring of Henri won, but turned out a bad choice. He did not understand the country he was expected to rule and as soon as he learnt of his brother's death, he fled from Poland after only four months, to assume the throne of France as Henri III. After a new interregnum lasting a year, the nobility elected Anna, sister of Sigismundus Augustus, to be the new monarch. Batory proved an energetic ruler. After a swift campaign, he successfully concluded the conflict with Russia for the contested territory of Livonia.
He also managed to put internal affairs in order and strengthen the royal powers. The election after Batory's death went to the grandson of Sigismund I, Sigismund Vasa of Sweden, the first king of the Vasa dynasty on the throne of Poland. The Vasas—Sigismund III, Vladislaus IV, and Ioannes Casimirus John Casimir —ruled until ; and although they maintained Poland's status as an esteemed European power, they also entangled the kingdom in a series of wars, failed to prevent a civil war in Ukraine and tolerated the growth of the magnates' power. From the early 17th century, Poland was in a constant state of war with one or other of its neighbours.
The outcome at home was inevitable: the country was devastated, the treasury emptied, the nobility in ever-growing opposition to the royal prerogatives. As of , several sejms were stopped by obstructionists. The nadir of disaster came with the Swedish Deluge — , when the country had to face a simultaneous invasion by Swedish, Russian, Cossack, Prussian and Transylvanian armies. Although this war ended in victory, Poland emerged from it devastated and weakened internally. Religious toleration waned in a climate of the Counter-Reformation and the wars with heterodox neighbours Orthodox Russia and Protestant Sweden.
On several occasions the nobility withdrew fealty to the Crown. Finally, a civil war broke out in , resulting in the abdication of Jan Kazimierz He had to rule a country rent by rival factions of magnates and territorially diminished by a temporary Turkish occupation of Podolia. Though from the military standpoint he was the glorious victor at the relief of Vienna, , he could not meet the challenge of putting the affairs of the state in order. He was not successful on the diplomatic front, either loss of half of Ukraine to Russia, shaky alliances with France and Austria.
With Sobieski's death in , the Sarmatian period of the Polish Noblemen's Commonwealth wound to a close. From then on, the predominant role in the country would be played by factions of magnates. Polish military triumphs also became a thing of the past. Poland's involvement in the Northern War — was the next calamity, the time when neighbouring powers started to meddle in Poland's internal affairs e.
However, in a situation where maintaining neutrality in the face of a Russo-Swedish conflict proved impossible, the Wettins not only managed to keep the country intact territorially, but also prevented its social and cultural degradation. Although weak and dependent on her neighbours, Poland was still a dynamically developing European state.
However, any attempts to remedy the domestic situation were doomed to fail not only due to behind-the-scene interventions by Russia, Prussia and Austria, but most of all because of the feuding factions of the great lords the Potocki, Czartoryski, and Sapieha , who looked more and more to foreign powers for mostly financial support.
On the one hand he was submissive towards Russia, to whose support he owed his victory in the elections, and depended on the Czartoryski Familia ; on the other he let Poland flourish culturally.
The Enlightenment period witnessed educational reform conducted under the supervision of what was the world's first modern ministry of education created in The debilitated state was not capable of defending itself against attack by the neighbouring powers. In the s Poland underwent radical domestic reform.
The Constitution of the Third of May was passed Alarmed at the prospect of a strong Poland, Russia and Prussia decided to intervene. Despite its resistance, Poland was vanquished by an overwhelming military force, which resulted in the Second Partition in This time, the aggressors were assisted by domestic traitors united under the banner of the Targowica Confederacy of magnates.
From that moment, the name Poland disappeared from the maps of Europe for over a century. The turn of the 19th century brought hopes for the restoration of independence, in the wake of Napoleon's military triumphs. This split into supporters of co-operation with the West and with the East lasted for decades and affected Polish history on numerous occasions.
Napoleon did partly fulfil the hopes vested in him. After defeating Austria and Prussia, he created the Duchy of Warsaw out of part of the former Polish territories. The Polish army fought in all the campaigns and major battles, including Borodino and Leipzig, where Prince Poniatowski was drowned. However, the disastrous invasion of Russia —12 and Napoleon's downfall changed the fate of Poland and indeed all of Europe.
The Duchy of Warsaw was replaced by a Kingdom of Poland attached to Russia by personal union the Tsar of Russia was made "King of Poland" , with its own constitution, sejm, army and treasury. The Poles did not abandon the hope of full independence. Already in , on the surge of general European protest against the decisions of the Congress of Vienna, an armed insurrection, the November Uprising, broke out in the Russian Partition on 29 November The Tsar was dethroned and a National Government was created.
Despite initial success, it ended in failure. The Kingdom was dismantled and put directly under the Russian Empire, and the economic and political concessions of — were lost. Sejm was disbanded. Subsequent uprisings brought more disasters. One occurred in Cracow in The authorities put it down with the help of Polish peasants, and the Free City was annexed by the Austrian Empire. Another uprising in , in Greater Poland, was crushed as well. In the debate whether to fight or co-operate with the aggressors, the idea of an uprising carried the day again in the s.
Yet again the January Uprising — met with a defeat so severe that the vision of restoration by military means was subsequently shelved for many years. After each uprising a wave of political exiles left the Polish territories. After the November Uprising, more than 10 thousand were forced to emigrate. Some, like Prince Czartoryski, tried to further the cause by diplomatic means, others by military service, others still by participating in secret European organisations like Young Europe.
The best-known masterpieces of Polish literature were created in France, notably the national epic Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. After the January Uprising, more oppressive measures were piled on the Russian zone of partitioned Poland, and another wave of politicians, artists and soldiers was forced to emigrate. As efforts intensified to turn the Poles into Russians, Polish was removed from more and more schools and institutions. It was a similar story in the territories under Prussia, where the authorities sometimes resorted to brutal methods in a drive to Germanise the population.
The Catholic Church was severely oppressed both in Russia and Prussia. Only Galicia the Austrian partitional zone enjoyed a measure of autonomy after , with its own national assembly, and a Polish administrative and educational system. But unlike the Prussian and, to an extent, Russian partitional zones, it was deeply impoverished and, except for the cities, economically depressed.
The second half of the 19th century saw a more vibrant Polish political life. Not only did Poles participate in the politics of the three occupying empires—Polish deputies held seats in their parliaments—and were appointed to the highest offices Kazimierz Badeni was Prime Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire , they also set up their own, modern political parties e. These groups made a signal impact on partitioned Poland, and would affect future developments on the restoration of independence.
Thanks to the struggle to keep the national spirit alive, and the dissemination of the ideal of work for the good of society, in the late 19th century Polish culture enjoyed a period of dynamic growth. In Henryk Sienkiewicz received the Nobel Prize in literature. The dream of independence returned with the Revolution in Russia. Although no significant political changes were achieved within the Kingdom Polish Partition or in Russia itself, Polish hopes and memories of bygone national uprisings revived.
Some political groups opted for an armed struggle for independence, while others preferred a policy of negotiations with the partitioning powers. However, everybody knew that it would take a Pan-European conflict, a war between the partitioning powers, for a chance for the Polish cause to succeed. Then, out of the ruins of the partitioning powers, an independent Poland would rise. This was indeed what happened: after the Revolution of Russia withdrew from the War, and Germany and the Austrian Empire capitulated.
By October Polish forces were already disarming German and Austrian units. Fighting broke out in Ukraine already in , and an anti-German uprising in Greater Poland 27 December —14 February led to that region's return to Poland. A plebiscite was held in the contested territories of Upper Silesia and Mazuria, which went against Poland and Another danger loomed in the east: in the Polish-Soviet war of Bolshevik Russia narrowly missed the chance for an imminent "revolutionary march across Europe", having reached the outskirts of Warsaw.
The battle fought there 13—18 August was dubbed " the eighteenth decisive battle of the world" by Lord D'Abernon, a British diplomat. The people of Poland called it the "Miracle on the Vistula". The war was concluded with a peace treaty, which proved relatively favourable for Poland Riga, 18 March, Three months after independence, the Legislative Sejm opened its session. The Small Constitution had already been passed February , agricultural reform introduced, national administrative bodies created, and the educational system and war-damaged industry were being reconstructed by the time the Silesian Uprisings and the war with Soviet Russia erupted.
By March Poland could boast a modern constitution.
However, in the first years of independence the domestic situation was uneasy. Gabriel Narutowicz, the first President of the Republic, was assassinated one week after his election 16 December by an ultra-conservative fanatic. Numerous political conflicts and a growing economic crisis brought about a loss of credibility for the state authorities.
Even the radical and successful state finance reform of did not alleviate the tensions. His adherents, the Sanacja group, intended to "sanify the country" hence the name. This state of affairs was manifest especially in the s, when Poland was affected by the crash on the New York stock market, and the ensuing economic crisis brought a tense atmosphere. After Germany invaded Poland, in September, , the government went into exile, directing the Home Army, the main organization of what was perhaps the largest resistance force in Europe, from London.
In contrast to France or Belgium, the Polish state did not administer its occupation, nor did it oversee the extermination camps that the Germans established, largely for Polish Jews. There were no Polish units working under the Waffen S. In Warsaw, the Home Army ran information and education networks, provided Jews in hiding outside the ghetto with identity documents, and declared that accepting employment at a concentration camp would be considered treasonous.
It executed Poles who betrayed Jews or tried to blackmail them. They did nothing. Warsaw suffered like no other European capital during the war. Within nine weeks, more than a hundred and fifty thousand Poles were killed. When the Soviets took Warsaw from the Nazis, in , they set about shooting Home Army soldiers for participating in political actions that were not organized by Communists. In , Nowak joined Reduta Dobrego Imienia, the Polish League Against Defamation, an organization of private citizens who wrote letters and helped launch lawsuits against media outlets, especially German ones, that perpetuated inaccurate characterizations of Polish history.
In his address, Comey said that he asked every F. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do. Jan Pietrzak, an affable eighty-one-year-old with thick white hair and a white mustache, grinned at the crowd that had gathered before a large stage in front of the Royal Castle, in Warsaw, an immense papaya-colored manor at the edge of the Old Town. In , Poland was invaded by Russia. Each year, on Constitution Day, the Jan Pietrzak Patriotic Association hosts a performance of the polonaise, a traditional dance.
About the Museum
Women in long chiffon dresses, their hair in thick braids laced over their heads, swirled and curtsied around their partners, who wore the double-breasted uniform of eighteenth-century cavalrymen. Pietrzak founded his patriotic association during the term of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who was a member of the liberal party Civic Platform. Tusk, who was elected in , presided over what was perhaps the most dramatic period of growth in Polish history. Since the nineties, both the economy and salaries have doubled.
Sushi shops and espresso bars proliferated. But growth has been uneven. While Warsaw saw the introduction of Uber Eats and Mercedes taxis, rural areas in the east lagged behind. I remember his father being as poor as mine.
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But, by , when he resigned to take an E. Sikorski stood at a podium and opened his remarks with a jovial wisecrack at his rival institution, delivered in a posh accent. After Nowak took his turn, choosing to remain seated, Sikorski returned to the podium and warned him that personal attacks, misquotations, and mistranslations would not be considered persuasive at Cambridge. In the summer of , the sociologist Maciej Gdula interviewed Law and Justice supporters from a provincial town not far from Warsaw, many of whom had benefitted greatly from the economic boom.
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They were also wary of refugees, who were perceived as being not only costly to the state but cowardly, for having left their families behind. In , when the E. PO won a record of four consecutive elections, and Donald Tusk was left as the kingmaker. PO's dominance was seen as a reflection of right-wing weakness and divisions, with PiS splitting in autumn Since the PiS control the presidency and have majority in both houses, it aims to make judiciary reforms in the Constitutional Court.
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To the 10th Century: From Prehistory to the Early Middle Ages
This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. March Part of a series on the. Main article: Polish Round Table Agreement. Retrieved 20 December Al Jazeera. Retrieved 25 February History of the Third Polish Republic.
Deluge and decline. Three partitions. Partitioned Poland. World War I.