The economic breakdown in the Commonwealth in the second half of the 17th century has often been seen as a result of the destruction of the country caused by wars. There were also other depressing factors present that affected at that time large portions of Europe, to which the manorialserfdom -based economy of the Commonwealth had tried to adjust. The particular solutions adopted resulted eventually in deterioration of the effectiveness of agricultural practices, lower productivity and pauperization of the rural population.
Rzeczpospolitawas one of the largest states in Europe. While Poland in the midth century occupied an area of aboutsquare milessquare kmwith some 3. Certain communities lived under their own laws; the Jews, for example, enjoyed self-administration through the Council of the Four Lands.
The term Poland was used for both the entire state and the strictly Polish part of it though the latter was officially called the Crown. This could be confusing.
The Commonwealth gradually came to be dominated by the szlachta, which regarded the state as an embodiment of its rights and privileges. Ranging from the poorest landless yeomen to the great magnates, the szlachta insisted on the equality of all its members. As a political nation it was more numerous 8—10 percent than the electorate of most European states even in the early 19th century.
Throughout most of Europe the medieval system of estates evolved into absolutismbut in the Commonwealth it led to a szlachta democracy inspired by the ideals of ancient Rometo which parallels were constantly drawn.
The szlachta came to see in its state a perfect constitutional model, a granary for Europe, and a bulwark against eastern barbarism. Its inherent weaknesses in finance, administration, and the military were ignored. The end of the Jagiellonian dynasty meant the beginning of unrestricted election to the throne.
The first king elected viritim i. On his accession to the throne reigned —74which he quickly abandoned to become Henry III of France, he accepted the so-called Henrician Articles and Pacta Conventa. A brilliant soldier, he closely cooperated with Jan Zamoyskichancellor of the Crown and grand hetman commander in chief.
Courtesy of the Missionary Fathers, Krakow, Pol. Sigismund was the grandson of the legendary Swedish ruler Gustav I Vasabut, as an ardent Roman Catholic and champion of the Counter-Reformation, he was unable to hold on to the crown of Lutheran Swedenand a year succession struggle ensued.
His attempts to secure the throne involved Poland in a series of wars with Sweden. The same was true for most settlements in foreign and domestic affairs. There was, however, no real peace with Muscovythen going through its Time of Troubles.
The support extended by some Polish magnates to the False Dmitry who claimed to be the son of Ivan the Terrible eventually embroiled Poland in hostilities.
Although the royal forces triumphed in battle, both the king and the reformers were losers in the political realm to the magnates posing as defenders of freedom. Some of the bellicose plans he formulated to increase his power were thwarted by the Sejm and by international circumstances.
The anti-Turkish crusade he planned, however, in which Cossacks were to play a major role, contributed to the upheaval that shook the Commonwealth between and —the uprising in Ukraine and war in the northeast. Most of the latter gradually abandoned Orthodoxy to become Roman Catholic and Polish.
In the Union of Brest-Litovsk subordinated the Eastern Orthodox church of the Commonwealth to the papacy by creating the Eastern rite Uniate church. The new Eastern rite church became a hierarchy without followers, while the forbidden Eastern Orthodox church was driven underground.
The Orthodox masses—deprived of their native protectors, who had become Polonized and Catholic—turned to the Cossacks.Parenthetically, we completely agree with prof.
Halecki's suggestion that the designation "Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth" is more appropriate than "Polish - Lithuanian state," used by prof. Backus, for it more precisely expresses the idea of the Polish - Lithuanian republic. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, formally the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, after the Commonwealth of Poland, was a dualistic state, a bi-confederation of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch, who was both the King of .
After some ups and downs, the remarkable merger of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into one indivisible common Republic–Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) was finally agreed upon, freely, without force, on July 1, in Lublin.
4. Polish-Russian War When Bohdan Chmielnicki died in John Wyhowski, the temporary hetman, proceeded immediately to arrange for a return of the Cossacks to Polish sovereignty.
In , at Hadziacz, an agreement was to enable Ruthenia to join the Commonwealth on equal terms with Poland and Lithuania. In Catholicism was officially introduced into Lithuania with the founding of the first bishopric in Vilnius (Wilno).
It received all the privileges equivalent to the Church in Poland and at the same time the first charter of privileges was granted to the Lithuanian boyars (gentry) similar to those enjoyed by the Polish nobility (szlachta).
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