Martial law in the Kingdom of Poland (1861–1862)


October 28, 2021

Martial law in Poland 1861 - martial law was introduced on October 14, 1861 in the territory of the Kingdom of Poland by order of the Russian emperor Alexander II by the Russian governor, General Karol Lambert. By virtue of His Supreme Imperial-Royal Order, the Kingdom of Poland declares itself to be under martial law The introduction of martial law throughout the country was intended to pacify Poles' aspirations for independence and took place on the eve of the 44th anniversary of Tadeusz Kościuszko's death. All cases concerning participation in patriotic services and demonstrations were henceforth subject to the courts of war.


National demonstrations, which were the reason for the imposition of martial law, lasted from June 1860, that is, from the funeral of the widow of General Sowiński (the legendary defender of the city from 1831). By the decision of Governor Gorczakow, the army and gendarmerie did not intervene in their course until February 25, 1861 (anniversary of the Grochów Battle), when the church at ul. Fret was brought in a garbage truck with banners with the Eagle and Pogoń. The gathered crowd was dispersed by mounted gendarmes, arresting 30 people. Two days later, the next demonstrators demanded the release of those arrested on February 25, as well as reforms and guarantees of civil rights. In Warsaw's Old Town, the demonstration turned into a procession, and in Krakowskie Przedmieście, five people died from a volley fired by the Cossacks to the demonstrators. Depressed, Gorchakov, fearing that further clashes might turn into open fights, withdrew the army from the streets and agreed that the City Delegation, appointed on the night of February 27-28, would send an address to the emperor on behalf of the Polish society. The monarch did not want to accept the letter signed by the most eminent personalities of the Kingdom. Noticing the danger of the uprising, Gorchakov concealed the rejection of the address, agreed to the demonstration funeral of the victims of the February clashes, withdrew the police and the army from the streets, entrusting the civil guard to keep order. On April 8, 1861, as a result of the shooting by the Russians of participants of a demonstration against the dissolution of the Agricultural Society, over 100 people were killed at Castle Square in Warsaw, and about 200 were injured. Aleksander Wielopolski, initially inclined to support the attempts to suppress the Polish national movement by force, quarreled with the Russian authorities in Warsaw, aggressive towards Poles, resigned and left for St. Petersburg in 1861. There he won the court's favor for his views, arguing that only concessions to Poles could calm the boiling situation in the Kingdom. After Gorchakov's death, Nikolai Suchozanet became the new governor, who was in turn replaced by Charles Lambert. He tried to negotiate with the Whites, allowing Poles to patriotic singing and demonstrations. Lambert's environment - especially the military general-governor of Warsaw (from August 1861) Aleksandr Daniłowicz Gerstenzweig, reproached the governor for being too gentle and indulgent towards Poles. October 15 was approaching - the anniversary of Tadeusz Kościuszko's death. Massive speeches were expected, which, combined with the tension in the Kingdom of Poland, made the tsar decide to introduce martial law.


Along with the declaration of martial law, Poles were forbidden to organize and participate in any patriotic demonstrations. However, when on October 15, 1861, the population of Warsaw ignored the ban and went to the churches to commemorate Kościuszko, Gerstenzweig ordered the army to surround the churches and arrest all those leaving. Because the faithful gathered in the cathedral of St. John and in the Bernardine church decided to stay there overnight, on October 15, 1861 he ordered the army to enter the churches in order to arrest the demonstrators. Gerstwenzweig personally commanded the incursion operation

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