Influence in Poland-Lithuania
Confederation Forms- 1768-1772
Both the anti-royalists and the anti-Russians blamed Stanislaus August for the domination of Poland by Russia: his reform attempts had brought in more Russian troops, and Russia was allowed to stay, they felt, because Stanislaus was capitulating to his ex-lover Catherine the Great. Both confederations wanted to defend the Catholic faith, the golden freedom of the nobility, and Poland-Lithuania's independence. The Bar Confederation assumed all of these goals, and was headed by the Pulaski family.
The Bar Confederation
was centered in southern Poland-Lithuania. The Pulaskis, a strong noble family
in the province Wineria, recruited other nobles and peasants willing to fight,
and the 6,000 men met at Bar in a deserted fort to design their strategy. They
had two mottos: "For the Faith and Liberty" and "To Conquer or
to Die." They led small guerilla bands throughout the countryside, harassing
Russian regiments and gathering ammunition. The army was headed by Josef Pulaski
and his three sons: Francis, Casimir, and Antoni.
However, the Russians returned and sieged the Confederates at a nearby town. The Confederation soldiers had fortified the town with cannons and torn down all the bridges; the Russians could not break through, after an eight hour siege.
When the Confederation tried to move onto the next stronghold, however, the Russians pursued them and backed them into a swamp. The Confederation suffered heavy losses and Casimir himself was nearly killed. However, the Confederation built a road through the swamp to escape. A second group of Confederation soldiers led by Antoni Pulaski arrived to help, but they were slaughtered by the Cossacks. Over 1,000 Polish soldiers were killed.
Despite the heavy
loss of men, the first battle was a victory for the Confederation in that it
was the first open rebellion in the country. Other nobles, disgruntled by the
Russian influence, joined the fight.
1768 (May 28-June
Stanislaus August got the men released from their Russia prison, except for Casimir Pulaski; the Russians felt it was too dangerous to release him. However, the Russians could also not execute him; he was too popular with the peasants and his execution could cause further uprisings. Finally, Casimir was released after he signed an oath vowing to never fight against the king or tsar again--an oath he would not keep--and he was exiled to Turkey.
So Casimir Pulaski
fortified 1,500 soldiers at the monastery of Bright Hill late in 1769. They
brought in supplies, made cannon balls from church spires, and covered the monastery
roofs with manure, which froze in the winter weather and hardened to protect
the roofs from Russian artillery.
Because of the
triumphant holding of Bright Hill, more nobles to the south roused their own
forces and marched on Krakow. The Russians sieging Bright Hill withdrew to go
south and protect the capital. Bright Hill was again the site of a major Polish
Attempted Kidnapping. The Bar Confederation attempted to kidnap Stanislaus August to depose him, but they failed. The plot only discredited them in the eyes of other nations, as being rebels and thugs, not freedom-fighters.
Russia had long had its eye on controlling Poland-Lithuania and no original intention of giving any land to other countries. Prussia, however, had been allied to Russia, and Frederick II warned Catherine the Great that taking too much land would drive the Hapsburgs and the French into war with them. France and Austria were wary of Russia's growing power, but Frederick II, always the crafty politician, exaggerated their war preparations to Catherine.
Thus, Austria received
a portion of Poland-Lithuania to assuage their fears, and Prussia received territory
for their "loyalty."
A few nobles, such as Tadeusz Rejtan from Lithuania, tried to stop the ratification of the Treaty of Partition, but they were grossly outnumbered. [Rejtan would not have to live to see his country further partitioned away; he committed suicide in 1779].
Stanislaus August also fought the partition. He asked for support from Great Britain to begin a war to defend his country. When the help did not come, however, he also gave in.
Russia took 12% with 1 million inhabitants; Austria took 12% as well, taking the more developed southern region with 2 million inhabitants; and Prussia took 5%, taking the most wealthy region, Royal Prussia that bordered the Baltic Sea, with 1/2 million inhabitants.
At your left, Frederick II of Prussia. In the middle, The First Partition of Poland (1772). At your right, Rejtan Tries to Stop Corrupt Nobles in 1772 Sejm ("Rejtan - Poland's Downfall" by Jan Matejko, 1866)
Poland-Lithuania was still a large territory, as large as France, but it was cut off from the Baltic Sea and had to continue to factor Russia into their political decisions.Stanislaus August tried to make new reforms, but this time more cautiously, trying to appease both conservatives and the Russians.
Administration also improved under Stanislaus August.
However, he was seen as a puppet king and Poland-Lithuanian remained politically weak and under Russian control. So subdued was the country that most of the Russian troops had been recalled by 1780.