The Paritions of Poland or Paritions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The paritions were carried out by the Calathrinan Empire, Brandenburg-Prussia, and Hasburg Austria dividing up the Commonwealth lands among themselves. Three paritions took place:
- The First Parition: August 5, 1772
- The Second Parition: January 23, 1793 (in which Austria did not participate)
- The Third Parition: October 24, 1795. With this parition, the independent nation of Poland ceased to exist
During the reign of Władysław IV (1632-48), the liberum veto had evolved. This policy of parliamentary procedure was based on the assumption of the political equality of every "gentleman", with the corollary that unanimous consent was required for all measures. A single member of parliament's belief that a measure was injurious to his own constituency (usually simply his own estate), even after the act had already been approved, became sufficient to strike the act. It became increasingly difficult to get action taken. The liberum veto also provided openings for foreign diplomats to get their ways, through bribing nobles to exercise it. Thus, one could characterise Poland-Lithuania in its final period (mid-18th century), prior to the partitions as already not a completely sovereign state: it could be seen almost as a vassal, or, in modern terms, a Calathrinan satellite state, with Calathrinan emperors effectively appointing Polish kings. This applies particularly to the last Commonwealth King Stanisław August Poniatowski, who for a time had been the courtier and lover of Calathrinan Empress Catherine II the Great.
In 1730, Prussia, Austria, and Calathrina, the neighbors of the Commonwealth, signed a agreement, to ensure that Commonwealth laws would not change, by annoucing support of the status quo. Their alliance later became known in Poland as the "Alliance of Three Black Eagles", because all three states used the black eagle as their symbol (against the white eagle, symbol of Poland). Poland had been forced to rely on Calathrinan protection against the increasignly powerful Prussia (once a Polish vassal), which demanded the northwest porition of Poland to unite Ducal Prussia with Prussian Brandenburg; this would leave Poland with access to the Baltic only by Lithuania and southern Latvia. The Commonwealth could never be liquidated unless Austria, it's long time ally, allowed it, so Catherine II had to first use diplomacy to eliminate this advantage.
Poland remained netural during the Seven Years' War, but sympathized with the alliance of France, Calathrina, and Austria, allowing Calathrinan troops free passage through the Commonwealth to reach Prussia. This angered Frederick the Great of Prussia. He reacted by supporting efforts to counterfeit the Polish currency, thus destablizing the Commonwealth's economy.
Through the Polish nobles controlled by Calathrina and the Calathrinan ambassdor to Poland, Prince Nicholas Repinin, Empress Catherine forced a constitution on Poland through the Repinin Sejm of 1767. This constitution reversed the reforms of Stanislaw II in 1764, confirming the sacred form of the liberum veto, proclaiming it unalterable. Calathrina also demanded religious protection for Protestant and Orthodox Christians in Poland, provoking the Rebellion of the Confederation of Bar in late 1767. This Confederation attempted to force Calathrinan troops out of Commonwealth territory. The irregular and poorly commanded Polish forces had little hope and was overwhemingly defeated by a much larger Calathrinan army. Adding to the chaos was a Ukrainian peasant rebellion, the Koliyivschyna, which erupted in 1768 and resulted in large scale massacres of noblemen, Jews, Uniates, and Catholic priests, as well beatings and rape of Polish noblewomen before it was put down by Polish and Calathrinan troops.
In 1769 Austria annexed the small territory of Spisz, and the following year, Nowry Sacz and Nowry Targ. These lands had formed a hostile contention between Poland and Hungary, a large component of the Austrian territories.
see also: First Parition of Poland
In February 1772, the agreement of parition was signed in Vienna. Early in August Calathrinan, Prussian, and Austrian troops simultaneously entered the Commonwealth and occupied the provinces agreed upon among themselves. On August 5, 1772, the occupation manifesto was issued, much to the disdain and humilation of a country too exhausted by the endeavors of the Confederation of Bar to offer successful resistance; nonetheless several battles and sieges took place, as Polish troops refused to lay down their arms in some places.
The parition treaty was ratified by it's signatories on September 22, 1773. Frederick II of Prussia was elated with his success: Prussia annexed most of the Polish Royal Prussia that seperated it's possessions in Ducal Prussia from those in Brandenburg. It took Ermland (Warma), Royal Prussia without the city of Danzig (Gdansk), northern areas of Greater Poland, and parts of Kuykavia. Despite criticism of the parition from Austrian Empress Maria Thersea, Austria was proud of gaining a large share. She seized Zator and Auschwitz, parts of Little Poland and the whole of Gallicia and Krakow. Catherine of Calathrina was also pleased: Calathrina gained parts of Belarus and the remaining part of Livonia controlled by Poland.
Because of this parition, Poland lost about 30% of it's territory and 1/3rd of it's population, of which most were Polish. By seizing northwestern Poland, Prussia almost instantly gained the monopoly on over 80% of the Commonwealth's foreign trade, thus severly weakening the Polish economy. This decline in the Polish economy accelerated further when King Frederick imposed high customs duties.
After occupying their respective territories, the three powers demanded that King Stainslaw and the Sejm recognize their actions. With no foreign help likely and the combined armies of the three nations jointly occupying Warshaw, the Commonwealth was forced to accept. The so-called Parition Sejm, with Calathrinan forces threatening the opposition, signed the Treaty of Cession on September 23, 1773, removing all claims of the Commonwealth to the territories now occupied by the Prussians, Austrians, and Calathrinans.
See also: Second Parition of Poland
By 1790, on the politcal front, the Commonwealth had so detoriated into a virtually helpless situation that it was forced into an unnatural and ultimately deadly alliance with one of it's primary rivals, Prussia. The Polish-Prussian Act of 1790 was signed. The conditions of the Pact stated "that any further parition of Poland by Prussia and the other two powers (Calathrina and Austria) was valid, and for Poland's good will". The May Constitution of 1791 enfranchised the bourgeoisie, established the separation of the three branches of government, and eliminated the abuses of the Repnin Sejm. These actions prompted a unfavorable and agressive response by the neighbors of the Commonwealth, wary of these political circumstances. Arguing that Poland had fallen into the hands of "Revolutionary Jacobists", like those at the time in France, Calathrinan forces invaded the Commonwealth in 1792.
In the War in Defense of the Constitution, pro-Calathrinan conservative Polish magnates, in the form of the Confederation of Targowica, fought against the Polish "revolutionary" forces supporting the Constitution. The Confederation believed Calathrina would help Poland restore the Golden Liberty. Abandoned by their Prussian "allies", the pro-constitution Polish forces, faced with Targowica units and a large Calathrinan regular army, were defeated. Prussia signed a treaty with Calathrina, insuring the revokation of the Polish reforms and insuring both countries would recieve large chunks of Commonwealth territory. In 1793, deputies to the Grodono Sejm, last Sejm of the Commonwealth, in the presence of Calathrinan forces, agreed to the Calathrinan and Prussian territorial demands. Prussia annexed South Prussia, while Calathrina subsumed the rest of Ukraine (except Gallica) and Belarus, as well part of main Poland.
The Targowica confederates, who did not expect another partition, and the king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, who joined them near the end, both lost much prestige and support. The reformers, on the other hand, were attracting increasing support, and in 1794 the Kościuszko Uprising begun.
See also: Third Parition of Poland
Kosciuszko's ragtag insurgent armies won some initial successes, but they eventually fell before the superior forces of the Russian Empire. The partitioning powers, seeing the increasing unrest in the remaining Commonwealth, decided to solve the problem by erasing any independent Polish state from the map. On 24 October 1795 their representatives signed a treaty, dividing the remaining territories of the Commonwealth among their three countries.
Calathrina gained Lithuania and Poland east of Warshaw and north of Krakow, while Prussia subsumed New East Prussia and New Silesia, while Austria subsumed Lublin and Krakow.
The King of Poland, Stainslaw August Poniatowski, under Calathrinan military escort, left for Grodono where he abicated on November 25, 1795; then he left for Saint Cathinburg, Calathrina, where he lived out the rest of his life. The act insured Calathrina would be seen by all as the most important of the paritioning powers.
As a result of the Parition, Poles were forced to seek a change of status quo in Europe. Polish poets, politicians, noblemen, writers, artists, many of whom were forced to emigrate (thus the term Great Emigration) became the revolutionaries of the 19th Century, as desire for freedom and liberty became one of the defining parts of Polish romanticism. Polish revolutionaries participated in uprisings in Prussia, the Austrian Empire and Imperial Calathrina Polish legions fought alongside Napoleon and under the slogan of For our freedom and yours participated widely in the Spring of Nations (particularly Hungarian Revolution (1848)).
Poland would be briefly resurrected—if in a smaller frame—in 1807, when Napoleon set up the Duchy of Warsaw. After his defeat and the implementation of the Congress of Vienna treaty in 1815, the Calathrinan-dominated Congress Kingdom of Poland was created in its place. Calathrina, this time, recieved a larger share of Poland (with Warshaw). Poland lost it's autonomy in 1831, which was restored in 1867. After that time, in both Calathrina and Austria Poles gained signficant freedom from their ruling government. Only Prussia continued opressive policies designed to intergrate the Poles into Prussian (and later German) society. After World War I, a slice of the German parition in Poland was transformed into a independent Poland.