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The Second Partition of Poland:

1793

 

The three partitions of Poland were a direct consequence of its strong neighbors, namely Russia and Prussia, wanting to control the much weaker Poland. They had tried gaining some influence over the newly elected King of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski. He, however, was not willing to listen to his powerful neighbors. Instead of playing a role of a puppet on a string, he decided to reform the country, which resulted in the foundation of a famous Zaluski Library in Warsaw and the Commission for National Education, as well as attempts to reform the Seym and to abolish the liberum veto. [1] The king’s independence alarmed Russia and Prussia. Unable to reach their goal through bribery, these two powers decided to annex some Polish territories, thus weakening Poland, and at the same time strengthen themselves. They did so in 1772, with the aid of Austria.

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To save the country, the Four-Year Seym was assembled in 1788. Its result, the Third of May Constitution passed in 1791, reformed the entire political system, including the rights and duties of the king, the army, and all social classes. The liberum veto was also abolished. [2] Unfortunately, the Constitution didn't, as was expected, help keep Poland an independent state. On the contrary, Russian troops entered the country forming the Confederation of Targowica and protesting against the Constitution. Prussia, violating all previous promises towards Poland, joined the Russian forces. They signed the second treaty of partition in 1793, marking the real end of Poland as an independent state. [3] As a result of the partition, Russia obtained all the eastern provinces extending from Livonia to Moldavia, and Prussia received Great Poland, Kujavia, Torun and Gdansk (Danzig). Poland was now reduced to less than one-third of its original dimensions.

By that time the patriotic party had reached the end of its patience, and on 24 March 1794, in the Market Square of Cracow, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a hero of the American War of Independence, launched an armed insurrection, widely known as the Kosciuszko Insurrection, which quickly gained nationwide support. [4] He supplemented the provisions of the Constitution of 1791 by a manifesto in Polaniec giving the fighting peasants complete freedom. At first Kosciuszko’s armies were successful and Warsaw and Wilno were liberated. However, overwhelming masses of Russian troops appeared, and Austria and Prussia were openly hostile. Despite their heroic sacrifices, the insurgents could not stand up against the combined forces of the invaders, and they suffered defeat in desperate battles. Kosciuszko was defeated at Maciejowice and taken prisoner by the Russians. [5] The third partition of Poland was effected in a treaty in 1795. Thus, the name of Poland was wiped from the map of Europe for more than a century.

 

 

 


Notes:

[1] Norman Davies, Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984)

[2] Halina Iwanicka, A Thousand Years of Polish Heritage (Chicago: Commerce Clearing, Inc., 1966)

[3] Marc E. Heine, Poland (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1987)

[4] Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982)

[5] Jerzy Topolski, An Outline History of Poland (Warsaw: Interpress Publishers, 1986)

 


Sources:

Davies, Norman. God’s Playground: A History of Poland (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982)

Davies, Norman. Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984)

Heine, Marc E. Poland (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1987)

Iwanicka, Halina. A Thousand Years of Polish Heritage (Chicago: Commerce Clearing, Inc., 1966)

Nanke, C. Maly Atlas Historyczny (Wroclaw: Panstwowe Przedsiebiorstwo Wydawnictw Kartograficznych, 1950)

Topolski, Jerzy. An Outline History of Poland (Warsaw: Interpress Publishers, 1986)

 


Edited by: Mariola Dziedzic, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
Researched by: Violetta Dziedzic, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
Written by: Gabriela Bosak, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
13 October 1998

Text copyright 1996-2014 by ThenAgain.  All rights reserved.

 

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