First partition of Poland

Article

August 15, 2022

The first partition of Poland (or the Republic of the Two Nations) took place on August 5, 1772.[2] It was the first of three partitions that ended the country's existence by the end of the 18th century. The first was carried out by the Russian Empire, Prussia and the Habsburg Empire (later the Austro-Hungarian Empire).

Background

The First Partition was the result of the progressive weakening of Poland that began at the end of the Great Northern War and worsened after the War of the Polish Succession, due to the inefficient reigns of Augustus the Strong and his successors. Augustus tried to end the elective monarchy in Poland and impose his son to become the future king of Poland, but this caused him to clash with much of the Polish high aristocracy, who wanted to retain control over the election of the monarch of the Republic. of the Two Nations that it had enjoyed until then through the use of the liberum veto. Augustus the Strong achieved his goal and his son Augustus III of Poland ascended the throne in 1734, but for this he had to accept military support from Russia in the War of the Polish Succession, which increased Poland's dependence on its Russian neighbors. The continuing Cossack uprisings in the Ukraine in the late 17th and early 18th centuries starkly exposed Poland's political and military weakness in retaining its territories in western Ukraine, which stimulated Russian intervention in those areas. The strengthening of Russia after the reign of Peter I the Great was a circumstance that the Polish monarchy could neither avoid nor match; the internal dissensions between the szlachta (the Polish-Lithuanian aristocracy) originated a weakening of their institutions at a time when their neighbors (Prussia, Austria and Russia) increased their power rapidly. To make matters worse, the disastrous Great Northern War against Sweden wrought great destruction in Poland and Lithuania when the territory of the Republic of the Two Nations was invaded by the Swedish troops of Charles XII. The fierce struggle between King Augustus the Strong and the Polish high aristocracy generated a progressive and deep division of the country, in which the sides in dispute had no problem seeking alternative support abroad. To these were added the desires of Prussia to extend its territory after the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, in which the political and military weakness of Poland was verified, which had to accept that the Russian troops crossed its territory. As a result, the political and economic influence of the Russian Empire transformed the Republic of Two Nations into a weakened state dependent on Russia. The culmination of this situation came when the pressures and bribes from Russia made it possible for the Polish aristocrats to elect an ambitious pro-Russian local nobleman, Stanislaus II Poniatowski, crowned in September 1764, after the death of Augustus III in October 1763. Sejm (Parliament) of Poland began to vote norms that favored the interests of Russia in its sessions of 1766-1767 and ensured the privileges of the szlachta and the political weakness of the monarch, which further weakened the country. In many cases, Polish aristocrats acted on a combination of factors: a desire to retain privileges, bribes from Russian ambassadors, or fear of increased power from the king. Finally, in 1769 a group of reformist Polish aristocrats founded the Confederation of Bar to oppose King Stanislaus, whom they saw as a weak but independent-minded monarch, and to fight Russian influence in Poland; soon the confederation militarily took several fortifications and cities defying the authority of the monarch. Other great Polish aristocrats opposed the Confederation and once again asked for military and financial support from Russia and