Poland, partitions of

Poland, partitions of.

The basic causes leading to the three successive partitions (1772, 1793, 1795) that eliminated Poland from the map were the decay and the internal disunity of Poland and the emergence of its neighbors, Russia and Prussia, as leading European powers. The first partition was proposed when Frederick IIFrederick II
or Frederick the Great,
1712–86, king of Prussia (1740–86), son and successor of Frederick William I. Early Life

Frederick's coarse and tyrannical father despised the prince, who showed a taste for French art and literature and no
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 of Prussia feared that Russia was about to take the Danubian principalities from the Ottoman Empire and thus provoke an Austro-Russian war. Frederick proposed that Russia annex part of Poland in return for renouncing the Danubian principalities and that Prussia and Austria take parts of Poland to balance Russia's gain. This arrangement satisfied Catherine IICatherine II
or Catherine the Great,
1729–96, czarina of Russia (1762–96). Rise to Power

A German princess, the daughter of Christian Augustus, prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, she emerged from the obscurity of her relatively modest background in 1744
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 of Russia, who had long contemplated such a partition. Maria Theresa of Austria, though opposing the scheme both on moral and political grounds, nevertheless partook in the spoils, which otherwise would have fallen entirely to Russia and Prussia. King Stanislaus IIStanislaus II,
1732–98, last king of Poland (1764–95). He was born Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski. His mother was a member of the powerful Czartoryski family, which furthered Stanislaus's career. He was (1756–58) Polish ambassador to St.
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 of Poland was unable to resist his three neighbors. The partition of 1772 gave Pomerelia and Ermeland to Prussia, Latgale and Belarus E of the Dvina and Dnieper rivers to Russia, and Galicia to Austria.

When in 1791 the remainder of Poland showed signs of regeneration, particularly in the adoption of a new constitution, a Russian army invaded Poland (1792). Prussia invaded the country in turn, and in 1793 a second partition—this time without Austrian participation—was arrived at. Only the central section of Poland was left independent, and that under Russian control.

The national uprising under Thaddeus KosciuskoKosciusko or Kosciuszko, Thaddeus
, Pol. Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Košciuszko, 1746–1817, Polish general.
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 (1794) and the conservative rulers' reaction to the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution

Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
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 led to the final partition of 1795; all of Poland was divided among Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Russia, which also formally annexed CourlandCourland
or Kurland
, Latvian Kurzeme, historic region and former duchy, in Latvia, between the Baltic Sea and the Western Dvina River. It is an agricultural and wooded lowland. Jelgava (Ger. Mitau), the historic capital, and Liepaja (Ger.
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, received the major share of territory, but the capital, Warsaw, went to Prussia. At the Congress of ViennaVienna, Congress of,
Sept., 1814–June, 1815, one of the most important international conferences in European history, called to remake Europe after the downfall of Napoleon I.
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 (1814–15) Poland remained partitioned, although the boundaries were radically changed in favor of Russia. (For the provisions made at Vienna and for the Polish partition of 1939, see PolandPoland,
Pol. Polska, officially Republic of Poland, republic (2015 est. pop. 38,265,000), 120,725 sq mi (312,677 sq km), central Europe. It borders on Germany in the west, on the Baltic Sea and the Kaliningrad region of Russia in the north, on Lithuania, Belarus, and
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).

Bibliography

See P. S. Wandycz, The Lands of Partitioned Poland (1975); N. Davies, God's Playground: A History of Poland (2 vol., 1982).

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