Polish and Swedish Intervention of the Early 17th Century

Polish and Swedish Intervention of the Early 17th Century


actions of the expansionist ruling circles of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzecz Pos-polita) and Sweden aimed at the dismemberment of Russia and its liquidation as an independent state.

The plans for the aggression were formed at the end of the Livonian War of 1558–83. After the war, Stephen Báthory put foward a plan for subjugating the Russian state to Poland. By 1580 the aggressive plans of the Swedish feudal lords had been worked out by King John III and included seizure of Izhora Land, the city of Korela with its surrounding district, northern Karelia, the Karelian coast, the Kola Peninsula, and the White Sea coast up to the mouth of the Severnaia Dvina. However, internal political and international factors hindered implementation of the plans in the late 16th century.

In the early 17th century, the upsurge of the antifeudal struggle in the Peasant War and the exacerbation of contradictions within the Russian ruling class significantly weakened Russia’s external political position. This was exploited by the ruling elite of the commonwealth (Sigismund III, Catholic circles, and a considerable proportion of the Polish-Lithuanian magnates) who, because of the complexity of the internal and external situation, resorted to covert intervention under the guise of supporting the First False Dmitrii. In return, Dmitrii promised the commonwealth to transfer to it (and partly to his father-in-law, J. Mniszek) the western regions of the Russian state, to support the commonwealth in its struggle with Sweden, to introduce Catholicism into Russia, and to take part in an anti-Turkish coalition. However, after his coronation, Dmitrii, for various reasons, declined to make territorial concessions to Poland or to conclude a military alliance against Sweden. The murder of the pretender in May 1606 during an anti-Polish uprising in Moscow signified the end of the first attempt at aggression by the Polish feudal lords against Russia.

The second stage of covert intervention is associated with the Second False Dmitrii. The intensification of the class struggle and of conflicts during the revolt (rokosz) of 1606–07 of M. Zebrzydowski prevented the government of the commonwealth from engaging in overt military action. The base of the Second False Dmitrii’s military forces was made up of detachments of the Polish-Lithuanian magnates. As a result of the spring campaign of 1608 and their victory near Bolkhov in May 1608, the troops of Dmitrii advanced on Moscow and, encamping in Tu-shino, besieged the capital.

In July 1608 the government of V. I. Shuiskii concluded a truce with the Polish government, whereby the Russians pledged to release all the Poles who were captured in Moscow in May 1606 and the government of Sigismund III was to withdraw Polish troops from the territory of Russia. The Poles failed to carry out the conditions of the armistice, and in August 1608 the detachment of J. P. Sapieha of about 7,500 men also arrived in Tushino.

A new upsurge in the class struggle in Russia’s western, central, and Volga regions directed against the reactionary feudal government of Shuiskii permitted the Tushino detachments to seize a considerable part of European Russia in the autumn of 1608. In February 1609 the Shuiskii government concluded the Treaty of Vyborg with the Swedish king Charles IX, by which Sweden was to provide Russia with detachments of mercenaries (primarily Germans and Swedes) paid for by Russia. The Shuiskii government also agreed to cede the city of Korela and its surrounding district to the Swedes. (However, the local Karelian population hindered the implementation of the latter step.) The enormous requisitions in money and kind, as well as the violence and looting of the Polish troops during the collection, provoked a spontaneous and stormy upsurge in the national liberation struggle of the population of the White Sea coast and Volga regions. This led to a crisis in the Tushino encampment, where, in December 1608, authority passed to the Polish leaders under the hetman Prince Róziński, the de facto commander of the Tushino troops from the winter of 1608, and ten others elected from the various detachments. Relying on the national liberation movement, M. V. Skopin-Shuiskii in May 1609 set out on a campaign from Novgorod and by late summer had liberated the Trans-Volga and Upper Volga regions, including Yaroslavl. Previously, the local population and the troops of E. I. Shereme-tev had cleared the Lower and Middle Volga regions of their opponents.

The failure of the Second False Dmitrii, the internal political weakness of V. I. Shuiskii’s government, and the partial stabilization of the internal situation in the commonwealth led to open aggression by the Polish government against Russia, an action approved of by Pope Paul V. Using the Russian-Swedish Treaty of Vyborg as a pretext, Polish troops laid siege to Smolensk in September 1609, which hastened the collapse of the Tushino camp. On December 27, Dmitrii fled from Tushino to Kaluga, and in March 1610 a considerable number of the Polish troops in Tushino went over to Sigismund III. On Feb. 4(14), 1610, a delegation of Russian feudal lords who had previously supported the Second False Dmitrii, headed by M. G. Saltykov, concluded a treaty with Sigismund III whereby his son Władysław was acknowledged as tsar of Russia. The treaty included a number of articles of limitation formally accepted by the Poles, such as the conversion of Władysław to Eastern Orthodoxy and the preservation of the official, courtly, and landed rights and privileges of the Russian aristocracy. Neverthless, the Poles continued their aggression.

A campaign against the Polish Army ended with the routing of Russian governmental troops outside Klushino on June 24 (July 4), 1610, caused in part by the treachery of the Swedish mercenaries. This led to the fall of Shuiskii’s government. A new government consisting of seven boyars was formed in Moscow, and on Aug. 17(27), 1610, it concluded a new treaty with the commander of the Polish Army, Hetman Żótkiewski. Władys-ław was acknowledged as Russian tsar. Sigismund III pledged to end the siege of Smolensk. The Polish government, however, did nothing to fulfill the conditions of the treaty, since Sigismund III himself intended to become tsar of Russia. On the strength of the treaty, Polish troops entered Moscow on the night of September 20, and the real power was concentrated in the hands of the Polish command under Hetman Gosiewski and his direct accomplices, including M. G. Saltykov and F. Andronov. The blatant occupation of Moscow by the Polish lords provoked a new upsurge of the national liberation struggle. However, the First Volunteer Corps of 1611 disintegrated because of class conflicts within its ranks.

On June 3, 1611, Smolensk fell, although the heroic defense of the city over the course of almost two years had tied up the Polish forces. But by September 1611 the Second Volunteer Corps, led by Minin and Pozharskii, had begun to be formed in Nizhny Novgorod. As a result of its efforts, Moscow was liberated on Oct. 26, 1612. However, in that same autumn, Sigismund III again attempted to seize Moscow but failed. The unsuccessful outcome of the “Moscow war” increased opposition to the king. Obtaining new appropriations from the Sejm in 1616, the Polish government undertook a final attempt to conquer the Russian state in 1617. Polish troops laid siege to Moscow. Suffering defeat while attempting to storm the city, the Poles were forced to retreat in October 1618. Military failure and changes in the external political situation of Poland that resulted from the onset of the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–48 led the Polish government to sign the Deulino Truce of 1618. Russia lost Smolensk, Chernigov, Dorogobuzh, and other cities of the southwestern and western border regions but received a prolonged respite.

Open Swedish aggression against Russia began in the summer of 1610, but as early as 1604 the government of Charles IX had been watching the course of Polish aggression and offering to successive Russian governments military aid that was far from altruistic. The conclusion of the Treaty of Vyborg of 1609 provided Charles IX with a pretext for intervening in the affairs of the Russian state. After the fall of the Shuiskii government, Swedish troops headed by J. De La Gardie initiated open aggression. In August 1610 the Swedes laid siege to Ivangorod, and in September 1610 to Korela, which fell on Mar. 2, 1611. In late 1610 and early 1611, Swedish troops undertook unsuccessful attacks on Kola, Sumskii Ostrog, and the Solovetskii Monastery. In the summer of 1611, the Swedes began military actions against Novgorod.

Attempting to exploit Polish-Swedish contradictions, the leaders of the First Volunteer Corps made a deal with De La Gardie, offering the Russian throne to one of the Swedish princes in return for military aid. However, the voevody (military governors) of Novgorod surrendered the city to the Swedes on July 16. A treaty was concluded between De La Gardie and the secular and church lords of Novgorod, who attempted to represent the Russian state as a whole. Under the treaty, the protection of Charles IX was acknowledged, an alliance against Poland was proclaimed, and the election to the Russian throne of one of the sons of Charles IX (Gustavus Adolphus or Charles Philip) was guaranteed. Pending ratification of the treaty, De La Gardie remained in Novgorod as chief voevoda. Taking advantage of the treaty, Swedish troops had by the spring of 1612 seized Kopor’e, lam, Ivangorod, Oreshek, Gdov, Porkhov, Staraia Russa, Ladoga, and Tikhvin. Their attempt to take Pskov was unsuccessful.

After the Second Volunteer Corps arrived in Yaroslavl in April 1612, its leaders established contact with the Novgorodi-ans. A policy of waiting out the Swedes was adopted. After the reestablishment of central governmental power in Moscow, the Swedish troops attempted to seize new areas, but they met with resistance from the masses of people. As a result of joint operations by the urban populations and Russian troops in the summer of 1613, Tikhvin and Porkhov were freed and a 3,000-man Polish-Lithuanian detachment that supported Sweden was routed.

During fruitless negotiations with the Novgorod delegates from August 1613 to January 1614, the Swedish government sought the annexation to Sweden of either the Novgorod Land or Izhora Land, the Kola Peninsula, northern Karelia, and the western and southwestern coastal areas of the White Sea.

In 1614 and 1615, the Swedish command, aiming to annex the northwestern regions of Russia to Sweden, attempted to force the Novgorodians to swear allegiance to the new Swedish king, Gustavus II. In response, a partisan war of the population of the Novgorod Land against the Swedish troops broke out.

After another unsuccessful siege of Pskov in the summer of 1615, the Swedish government agreed to engage in peace negotiations with the government of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich, which culminated in the signing of the Peace of Stolbova of 1617. Under the treaty, Charles Philip renounced his pretensions to the Russian throne. The greater part of the Novgorod Land was returned to Russia, but the city of Korela with its surrounding district and Izhora Land, including Ivangorod, lam, Kopor’e, and Oreshek, were ceded to Sweden. The conclusion of the Peace of Stolbova and the Deulino Truce heralded the collapse of the plans of aggression and intervention of the Polish-Lithuanian and Swedish feudal lords.


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