Gaismair, Michael

Gaismair, Michael

 

Born circa 1490 in Sterzing, South Tirol (Vipiteno, Italy); died April 15, 1532, in Padua. Leader of the peasants of Tirol and Salzburg during the Great Peasant War of 1524-26 in Germany. From a family of miners and peasants.

On May 13, 1525, Gaismair was elected commander of the peasant forces of Brixen in South Tirol (Bressanone, Italy). At the end of August the Austrian authorities succeeded in imprisoning Gaismair in Innsbruck, from which he fled to Switzerland. There, in February and March, 1526, Gaismair composed the Landesordnung, a program of fundamental social and political reorganization in the Tirol, which included the removal and annihilation of the lords, the oppressors of the people, as well as the organization of society on the principles of full equality, the subordination of private interests to general goals, the establishment of a republic, the abolition of monasteries and the transformation of their buildings into hospitals and houses of charity, the supreme right of the state to fields, meadows, and minerals, and state support for the development of agriculture and mining. Gaismair’s program, one of the outstanding documents of the Great Peasant War, was directed at the concrete conditions of the Tirol, but the general principles on which it was based were similar to those of Thomas Münzer.

In June 1526, Gaismair arrived with his supporters in the archdiocese of Salzburg, which in the spring of 1526 had become the center of a new peasant uprising, and placed himself at the head of the peasant forces that were besieging Radstadt. Under the pressure of the united armies of the archbishop and the Swabian League, Gaismair was forced to abandon the seige on July 2. After his unsuccessful attempt to raise a new rebellion in the Tirol, Gaismair and part of his army retreated to Venice. After entering the service of the Venetian Republic (a rival of the Hapsburgs) and having begun negotiations with the Swiss, Gaismair was preparing a new campaign against the Hapsburgs when he was killed by an assassin sent by the Austrian government.

REFERENCES

Engels, F. “Krest’ianskaia voina v Germanii.” In Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 7.
Smirin, M. M. K istorii rannego kapitalizma v germanskikh zemliakh (XV-XVI vv.). Moscow, 1969. Chapter 5.
Bensing, M., and S. Hoyer. Der deutsche Bauernkrieg, 1524-1526. [Leipzig, 1965.]

M. M. SMIRIN

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