June 22, 2011

Great Polish Warriors: The Winged Hussars Part III Battles Won and Lost


The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the largest and most populated nations in the 16th to 17th century Europe.  Its land mass covered 400,000 square miles (about 1 million square kilometers) and had a population of 11 million of diverse ethnic backgrounds. It came into being in July 1569 by the Union of Lublin, and was destroyed by a Third Partition in 1795.  During its long and powerful reign in which Poland was the dominant power, the Commonwealth enacted many democratic reforms, the existence which posed a threat to its neighbours. The Commonwealth was a constitutional monarchy, with an established political system of check and balances between the legislature (Sejm) and the nobility (szlachta).  Despite the high degree of ethnic diversity in the nation, religious tolerance was guaranteed by the Warsaw Confederation Act of 1573, although the degree of tolerance varied over time at the grass roots level.

The Commonwealth enjoyed years of prosperity but eventually fell into political, military and economic decline.  By the end of the 18th century the Commonwealth, already weakened, was partitioned by Russia, Prussia and Austria. However before its complete dissolution, the Commonwealth adopted massive reforms and enacted the Constitution of May 3, 1791, which was, according to Norman Davies, the first of its kind in Europe.­

The 17th century was a period of fierce rivalry between the major Eastern European nations, Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire. At its height the Commonwealth was a major European power whose territory comprised the present-day Poland, large sections of the Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia.  But by the end of the 18th century a series of internal conflicts and wars with foreign enemies led to the dissolution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and resulted in the partition of most of its dependent territories among other European powers. 



First Livonian War, First Northern War or Northern Seven Years' War (Polish: I Wojna o Inflanty, Pierwsza Wojna Północna). Participants and monarchs: Poland (Zygmunt II August), Denmark (Frederick II), Sweden (Eric XIV), Russia (Ivan IV the Terrible). Result: inconclusive. See Treaty of Stettin.


Danzig rebellion and the Siege of Danzig (1577) by King Stefan Batory. Result: inconclusive: In return for ransom and recognition of him as the sovereign, King Batory discarded the Karnkowski constitution of 1570.


Livonian War, Second Livonian War (Polish: II wojna o Inflanty). Participants: Russia (Ivan IV the Terrible), Poland (Stefan Batory). Results: Polish victory Peace treaty in Jam Zapolski.

King Stefan Batory at Pskov, Russia (painted by Jan Matejko)

Polish–Muscovite War (1577–1582)

1577 - First Campaign of Batory
1579 - Second Campaign of Batory
1580 - Third Campaign of Batory


War of Polish succession (1587-1588) - civil war of the election (Polish: Wojna o sukcesję polską) Participants: factions of Sigismund III Vasa and Maximilian III. Battles: siege of Kraków, Battle of Byczyna (24 Jan 1588). Result: victory and coronation of Zygmunt III Waza.


Tatar Invasion


 Kosiński Uprising (Polish: Powstanie Kosińskiego). Cossack uprising under Krzysztof Kosiński against Poland (Kresy magnates). Important battles: Battle of Piątek, Battle of Cherkasy. Result: Polish victory.


 Tatar Invasion


Nalyvaiko Uprising (Polish: Powstanie Nalewajki). Cossack uprising under Severyn Nalyvaiko and Hryhory Loboda against Poland (Stanisław Żółkiewski). Important battles: Battle of Ostry Kamień,  Battle of Lubny, Battle of Sołonica. Result: Polish victory.


Magnate wars in Moldavia, against Ottoman Empire/Turkey. Result: Polish defeat


Ottoman-Commonwealth War (1620-1621) - Polish defeat at the Battle of Cecora, then Polish victory. Commonwealth stopped Ottomans great invasion Battle at Chocim.

Polish-Swedish Wars, Third Livonian War (Polish: III wojna o Inflanty). Participants: Poland (Zygmunt III Waza), Sweden (first Charles IX of Sweden, then Gustavus Adolphus). Result: inconclusive/Swedish minor victory. See also Armistice of Altmark (Stary Targ).

War against Sigismund

Polish-Swedish War of 1600 - 1611
Polish–Swedish War of 1617 - 1618
Polish-Swedish War of 1620 - 1622
Polish-Swedish War of 1625 - 1629

Sigismund III Vasa


Polish-Muscovite War
First Dimitriad 1605-1606
Second Dimitriad 1607-1609


Zebrzydowski Rebellion, a civil war in Poland. Minor victory of King Zygmunt III Waza.


Thirty Years' War – minor involvement on the Habsburg side, mostly noticeable in the series of wars with Sweden (see above and below).


Ottoman-Commonwealth War - Polish defeat at the Battle of Cecora ends
 the Magnate wars in Moldavia.


Tatar Invasion


Zhmailo Uprising. (Polish: Powstanie Żmajły). Cossack uprising under Marko Zhmailo and Mykhailo Doroshenko against Poland (Stanisław Koniecpolski). Important battles: Battle of Kniazhi Bairaky, Battle of Cybulnik. Result: Polish victory (see Treaty of Kurukove, ugoda kurukowska).


Fedorovych Uprising. (Polish: Powstanie Fedorowicza). Cossack uprising under Taras Fedorovych against Poland (Stanisław Koniecpolski). Important battles: Battle of Korsun, Noc Taraswowa  Battle of Pereyaslav. Result: Polish victory, although Cossacks gained some minor freedoms (see Treaty of Pereyaslav).


Smolensk War, against Russia. The Commonwealth won Battle at Smolensk.

Medal commemorating Victory of Władysław IV Waza over Russia in Smolensk in 1634

1633 - 1634

Ottoman-Commonwealth War


Sulyma Uprising. Cossack uprising under Ivan Sulyma. Result: Polish victory,
although Kodak fortress was burned down.


Pawluk Uprising. (Polish: Powstanie Pawluka). Cossack uprising under Pavlo Mikhnovych (Pawluk) against Poland (Mikołaj Potocki). Important battles: Battle of Kumejki. Result: Polish victory, see Treaty of Borowica.


Ostrzanin Uprising. (Powstanie Ostranicy). Cossack uprising under Yakiv Ostryanin (Ostranica), Dmytro Hunia, and Karp Skidan against Poland (Mikołaj Potocki, Jeremi Wiśniowiecki. Important battles: Battle of Żołnin, capitulation at Starzec. Result: Polish victory. See Treaty of Słoboda


Tatar Invasion


Khmelnytsky Uprising, the largest and most successful Cossack uprising against Polish domination.


Polish-Russian War


Northern Wars – against Sweden


The wars against Sweden, Brandenburg, Russia and Transylvania, known as The Deluge.


Polish-Russian War ends with Treaty of Andrusovo.


Polish-Cossack-Tatar War Ends, Ottoman-Commonwealth War begins (1672-1676)


Ottoman-Commonwealth War


War of the Holy League inclued Austria, Venice and Russia against the Ottoman Empire.
 Poles underJan III Sobieski save Vienna from Turks.

Jan III Sobieski

During the 18th century, European powers (most often consisting of Russia, Sweden, Prussia and Saxony) fought several wars to gain the control of the territories of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At the end of the 18th century, some Poles struggled to defend Poland from the growing influence of foreign elements operating in the country's internal affairs. By then any effort by the Poles to maintain their national independence failed dismally. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth underwent a complete dissolution and the territories partioned among its occupiers.


Great Northern War – on the side of the anti-Swedish coalition


War of the Polish Succession


Russo-Turkish War
Confederation of Bar


Polish-Russian War


Kościuszko Uprising – Polish uprising against Russia

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