Polish Uprising of 1830–31

Polish Uprising of 1830–31

 

the November Uprising of 1830, a national liberation uprising that engulfed the Polish lands held by tsarist Russia (the Kingdom of Poland) and spread to the territories of Lithuania, Western Byelorussia, and the Right-bank Ukraine.

The uprising began on Nov. 29, 1830, set off by the surfacing of a secret military society of the nobility (szlachta) at a school for cornets in Warsaw. Thousands of tradesmen and workers of the city seized the arsenal and supported the insurgents. Joined by Polish military units, the insurgents took over Warsaw on November 30. The Russian troops departed from the city, and they left the Kingdom of Poland as well in early December. General J. Chłopicki, the protégé of the aristocratic noble circles, which were inclined toward agreement with tsarism, took over as dictator on December 5. Trying to find a way to end the uprising, he sent delegates to negotiate with Tsar Nicholas I and sabotaged military preparations. The dissatisfaction of the masses of the people with the passivity of the leadership, the refusal of Nicholas I to negotiate, and the tsar’s preparations for suppressing the uprising led to the fall of the dictatorship of Chłopicki on Jan. 18, 1831, and the creation of a coalition national government headed by Prince A. Czartoryski. Government power ended up in the hands of a conservative oligarchy of nobles.

The Patriotic Society, founded in December 1830, became the political representative of the radical-democratic camp. Its president, J. Lelewel, was a member of the national government. On Jan. 25, 1831, the Patriotic Society organized a demonstration in honor of the Decembrists in Warsaw and forced the Sejm to declare Nicholas I deposed from the Polish throne. The slogan “For our freedom and yours!” originated at that time and became a symbol of the revolutionary brotherhood of the Polish and Russian peoples. Conservative circles tried unsuccessfully to liquidate the uprising, but they kept their positions of leadership in the Sejm and the national government. The Sejm rejected very moderate plans for peasant reform, which alienated the peasants from the uprising.

The tsarist army, which invaded the kingdom in early February, was stopped by the insurgents on February 25 in a battle near Grochów. In late March and early April the position of the tsarist troops was made more complicated by the successes of the Polish troops, the uprising that had broken out in Lithuania, and the invasion of Volyn’ by a Polish corps of insurgents. But the mistakes of the commander of the Polish Army, General J. Skrzynecki, reduced the successes of the insurgents to naught, and after the defeat of May 26 near Ostroęłeka, their command completely lost the initiative. The uprising outside of the kingdom was quickly suppressed. The national government tried in vain to get help from Austria, France, and Prussia, even offering the vacant Polish throne.

The antirevolutionary policies of the national government provoked a popular movement in Warsaw on June 29 and August 15. Several traitors were executed, but the people’s uprising remained a spontaneous protest movement without leadership or program. On September 6, tsarist troops took Wola, a western suburb of Warsaw, by storm. The government refused to arm the people and rushed to give up Warsaw. On the night of September 7, the surrender of the capital was signed. In early October 1831 remnants of the rebel detachments crossed the borders of Prussia and Austria. After suppressing the uprising, the tsarist government undertook cruel repressive measures and abolished the Constitution of the Kingdom of Poland of 1815.

The Polish Uprising of 1830–31 was characterized by F. Engels as a “conservative revolution” (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4, p. 492). Nevertheless, it was an important stage in the struggle of the Polish people for independence and had great international significance. The uprising furthered the development of the revolutionary movement in many countries of Europe. It was fervently welcomed by the Decembrists and by the young generation of Russian revolutionaries.

REFERENCES

Istoriia Pol’shi, 2nd ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1956.
Historia Polski, vol. 2, part 2. Warsaw, 1958.
Bibliografia historii Polski XIX wieku, vol. 1 (1815–31). Wroclaw, 1958. (Contains a bibliography of the history of the uprising.)

I. S. MILLER

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