Partitions of Poland

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The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth[1][2][3] took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The partitions were carried out by the Russian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia, and Habsburg Austria dividing up the Commonwealth lands among themselves. Three partitions took place:

The partitions are also divided by the partitioner into the Austrian partition, Prussian partition and the Russian partition.

The term "Fourth Partition of Poland" may refer to any subsequent division of Polish lands or to the diaspora communities that played important political roles in the reestablishment of the Polish nation-state after 1918.

Contents

History

Prelude

During the reign of Władysław IV (1632–48), the liberum veto had evolved. This policy of parliamentary procedure was based on the assumption of the political equality of every "gentleman", with the corollary that unanimous consent was required for all measures. A single member of parliament's belief that a measure was injurious to his own constituency (usually simply his own estate), even after the act had already been approved, became sufficient to strike the act. It became increasingly difficult to get action taken. The liberum veto also provided openings for foreign diplomats to get their ways, through bribing nobles to exercise it. Thus, one could characterise Poland-Lithuania in its final period (mid-18th century), prior to the partitions as already not a completely sovereign state: it could be seen almost as a vassal state,[4] or in modern terms, a Russian satellite state, with Russian tsars effectively choosing Polish kings. This applies particularly to the last Commonwealth King Stanisław August Poniatowski, who for some time had been a lover of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

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