Could the Polish monarchy be restored today?

German-Polish relations

Dieter Bingen

To person

Prof. Dr. Dieter Bingen is the director of the German Poland Institute. His research interests include: Polish contemporary history and politics, the political system of Poland, political systems and system transformation in East-Central and Southeastern Europe, German-Polish relations and integration politics in Europe.

The beginnings of the Polish state

Under Duke Miesko I, the history of Poland begins in the 10th century as the most north-eastern outpost of the occidental community of states. Dieter Bingen outlines the history of Poland up to 1918.

The largest square in Warsaw is named after the socialist leader and former head of state Józef Piłsudski. (& copy AP)

Starting from the tribal area of ​​the Polanen (pole = field) on the middle Warta, Duke Mieszko I (around 960 - 992) from the ruling family of the Piasts after acceptance of Latin Christianity in 966/967 Poland with the core area of ​​Greater Poland (Polonia Maior) was able to become the most northeastern outpost of the occidental community of states and in 968 received an independent missionary diocese in Posen. With close, but not always conflict-free ties to the Roman-German Empire, Bolesław I. Chrobry (the Brave) (992-1025) won Malopolska (Polonia Minor, around Krakow), Pomerania, Silesia, Moravia, Western Slovakia and Lusatia for his Rich. The good agreement with Emperor Otto III., Who visited Gniezno in 1000 and agreed to the establishment of an archdiocese directly subordinate to Rome, was achieved under Emperor Heinrich II through the battles for the Mark Meissen and Lusatia, which were only settled in the Peace of Bautzen in 1018 replaced. Bolesław I acquired royal dignity in 1025 with papal approval. Bolesław II. Śmiały (the Bold) (1058-79) was able to renew the royal dignity that had been lost under the successors of Boleslaw I in 1076. Despite the temporary reconquest of Pomerania (1102-22) and the renewed attempt to use the weakness of the Kievan Rus to gain territories in the east, only Greater and Lesser Poland, Mazovia and Silesia were permanently part of the Polish national territory in the early and high Middle Ages.


The Period of the Principalities and Consolidation (1138-1333)

Already in the first generation, Bolesław III's concern to prevent succession struggles by dividing the land among his sons and introducing a regulated succession, which granted the oldest member of the Piast House as Grand Duke, a certain suzerainty (seniorate), failed. In 1181 Pomerania was finally lost. The state fragmentation also made it difficult to defend against the Mongols (defeat at the election site near Liegnitz in 1241). The attempt of Przemysł II of Greater Poland (1279-96) to achieve the reunification of the country through the renewal of the royal dignity in 1295 ended with his assassination. Under the Bohemian kings Johann and his son, the German Emperor Charles IV, Silesia left the Polish state association in 1339/53 and, as part of Bohemia, became indirectly part of the empire. Only under Władysław I. Łokietek (Ellenlang) (1306 / 20-33) succeeded after hard fighting, supported by the clergy and some minor princes, the amalgamation of Greater Poland, Lesser Poland and Kujawia as well as the permanent elevation of Poland to a kingdom in 1320.

The Teutonic Order, summoned to the Kulmer Land by Konrad I of Masovia to defend himself against Pruzzen, carried out its missionary and colonization activities from Thorn in 1230. The order's occupation of Pomerania with Danzig in violation of the treaty (1308) was a constant cause of defensive battles by the Polish crown against the knights of the order until 1525. The order immediately secured the conquered with castles and then founded villages and towns, mostly with German settlers.

The estate monarchy under the last Piasts / Anjou and Jagiellonians (1333 / 86-1572)

The consolidation policy initiated by Władysław I. was by his son Kazimierz III. Wielki (the Great) (1333-70), successfully continued, the main concern being the development of the country and the establishment of a functioning administration. Since the end of the 12th century, the Polish territorial lords had tried to systematically modernize their domain. The development of the country was based to a large extent on immigrants from the German-speaking areas, whereby the impetus for the eastward migration of tens of thousands of farmers and craftsmen did not come from the empire or its sub-states, but from the Polish princes. The generous policy of Kazimierz III. towards the Jews encouraged their immigration, while in Western Europe they were exposed to numerous pogroms. The intellectual and cultural upswing of the Rzeczpospolita (= royal republic) reached a climax with the establishment of the University of Krakow (1364). Since he had remained in four marriages without a male heir, he met an hereditary brotherhood with the Anjou ruling house in Hungary, which was to secure the successor to his nephew Ludwik. Since Ludwik I. Wielki (the Great) (1370-82) also had no sons, he had to buy the consent of the Polish nobility (szlachta, Schlachta) to succeed the daughters with far-reaching concessions that granted them extensive tax exemption, the right to sole political representation and involved in the election of a king. The crown and state officials as well as most of the bishops were allowed to be appointed from the nobility alone. Through the marriage of Ludwik's daughter Jadwiga to the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Jagiełło (1386), a Polish-Lithuanian personal union was established, which was converted into a real union in Lublin almost two hundred years later, in 1569. Jagiełło, as King of Poland Władysław II (1386-1434), who converted to Latin Christianity with the pagan majority of his people, initiated a policy oriented towards the east and south-east, which led to the feudal dependence of the Principality of Moldova as early as 1387.

In the conflict with the Teutonic Order, after the victory of the Polish-Lithuanian army at Grunwald (Tannenberg) in 1410 (Thorner Friede 1411), there were further wars (1419-22, 1431-35, 1454-66). In the 2nd Peace of Thorner (1466) the militarily and financially exhausted order had to renounce Pomerania with Danzig, the Kulmer and Michelauer Land, Elbing and the Marienburg ("Royal Prussia"). Eastern Prussia with Königsberg remained as a Polish fiefdom for the Teutonic Order. After renewed battles, Grand Master Albrecht von Brandenburg-Ansbach took the secularized "Prussian ducal share" recorded by the Reformation as a fief in 1525. When the electoral-Brandenburg line was enfeoffed in 1568, the Duchy of Prussia fell to Brandenburg in 1618 and had to be given up completely by Poland in the Treaty of Wehlau in 1657.

Under Kazimierz IV Andrzej (1447-92) the Jagiellonian house secured the Bohemian crown. His eldest son Władysław was appointed by the Bohemian estates (1469/71). Between 1490 and 1526 the Jagiellonians controlled the east-central European state belt, which stretched from the Baltic Sea and Bohemian Forest to the Black Sea, but found themselves exposed to the increasingly serious threat posed by the emerging Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Ottomans.

The battles against the Crimean Tatars supported by the Turks, which lasted with a few interruptions from 1478 to 1533, led to the loss of the Black Sea coast and the release of the Vltava from Polish vassalage. That of the Moscow Grand Duke Ivan III. operated "collecting Russian soil" also continued his successor Wassilij III. consistently continue. Poland-Lithuania lost the Russian principalities, including Smolensk. The Polish-Lithuanian nobility, growing together into a single unit, used the frequent foreign policy entanglements to wrest more extensive rights from the respective ruler. According to a habeas corpus act (1430/33), the regional petty nobility was granted participation in the state government in 1454, which in 1493 led to the establishment of a two-chamber system (senate and messenger room). After 1505, the king had to convene the Reichstag, formed by elected country messengers, every two years at six-week cadences and carry out its resolutions. The increased monopoly of aristocratic landed property in 1538 and the privileged social and political position of the Schlachta paved the way for the decline of the cities and the disenfranchisement and exploitation of the peasants.

Under the two last Jagiellons, Zygmunt I (1506-48) and Zygmunt II (1548-72), Poland experienced its "golden age" in the area of ​​constitutional and political law, but especially in the literary and artistic area. The urban population was captured early by the Lutheran Reformation, parts of the nobility after 1540 by the Calvinist Reformation. After the Union of Brest in 1595/96, many Orthodox submitted to the spiritual authority of the Pope ("Unierte"). Despite the successes of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, exemplary religious tolerance has prevailed for two generations since the Warsaw Confederation of 1573.