First section of the Commonwealth

Article

August 20, 2022

The First Partition of the Commonwealth (Polish: Pierwszy rozbiór Rzeczypospolitej, First Partition of Poland, Polish: Pierwszy rozbiór Polski) is the annexation of part of the lands of the Commonwealth by three neighboring states - the Kingdom of Prussia, the Archduchy of Austria and the Russian Empire, which occurred in 1772. The first of three sections of the Commonwealth, as a result of which it ceased to exist in 1795.

Background

Already in the first half of the 18th century, under the rule of the Saxon kings, the once powerful Polish-Lithuanian state slowly but surely lost its political significance and became a field of struggle for foreign interests. In the middle of the 18th century it was no longer fully independent. France (in 1697 Francois Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conti was elected king), Prussia and Russia (in 1697-1704 and 1709-1733 the Elector of Saxony Friedrich August I was king). This practice is especially clearly seen in the example of the election of the last king of the Commonwealth, Stanislav August Poniatowski, a former favorite of the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. During the reign of Vladislav IV (1632-1648), the rule of liberum veto was increasingly applied. This parliamentary procedure was based on the concept of equality of all gentry deputies of the Sejm. Every decision required unanimous consent. The opinion of any deputy that any decision would harm the interests of his county (often his own interests were implied), even if this decision was approved by all other deputies, was enough to block this decision. The decision-making process became more and more difficult. The Liberum veto also provided opportunities for pressure and direct influence and bribery of deputies by foreign diplomats. The Commonwealth remained neutral during the Seven Years' War, while it showed sympathy for the alliance of France, Austria and Russia, passing Russian troops through its territory to the border with Prussia. Frederick II retaliated by ordering the manufacture of a large amount of counterfeit Polish money, which was to seriously affect the economy of the Commonwealth. In July 1765, an Orthodox Christian arrived in Warsaw.