Bar Confederation

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War of the Bar Confederation
Artur Grottger Modlitwa konfederatow barskich.PNG
The Bar Confederates pray before the Battle of Lanckorona. Painting by Artur Grottger.

Russian victory:

Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russian Empire Flag of Poland.svg Bar Confederation
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg  Kingdom of France
Commanders and leaders
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Alexander Suvorov
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Ivan Karpovich Elmpt
Flag of Poland.svg Karol Radziwiłł
Flag of Poland.svg Casimir Pulaski
Flag of Poland.svg Michał Jan Pac
Flag of Poland.svg Count Beniowski
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg Charles François Dumouriez
Lanckorona: 4,000 troopsLanckorona: 1,300 troops; 18 cannons
Total: 100,000 [1]
Casualties and losses
unknown heavy

The Bar Confederation (Polish : Konfederacja barska; 1768–1772) was an association of Polish nobles (szlachta) formed at the fortress of Bar in Podolia in 1768 to defend the internal and external independence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth against Russian influence and against King Stanisław II Augustus with Polish reformers, who were attempting to limit the power of the Commonwealth's wealthy magnates. The founders of the Bar Confederation included the magnates Adam Stanisław Krasiński, Bishop of Kamieniec, Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł, Casimir Pulaski, Moritz Benyowszki and Michał Krasiński. Its creation led to a civil war and contributed to the First Partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. [2] Some historians consider the Bar Confederation the first Polish uprising. [3]

Polish language West Slavic language spoken in Poland

Polish is a West Slavic language of the Lechitic group. It is spoken primarily in Poland and serves as the native language of the Poles. In addition to being an official language of Poland, it is also used by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 50 million Polish language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union.

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

<i>Szlachta</i> legally privileged noble class in the Kingdom of Poland, and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class in the Kingdom of Poland, and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. After the Union of Lublin in 1569, the Grand Duchy and its neighbouring Kingdom became a single state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.



Casimir Pulaski at Czestochowa. Painting by Jozef Chelmonski, 1875. Oil on canvas. National Museum, Warsaw, Poland. ChelmonskiJozef.1875.KazimierzPulaskiPodCzestochowa.jpg
Casimir Pulaski at Częstochowa. Painting by Józef Chełmoński, 1875. Oil on canvas. National Museum, Warsaw, Poland.

International situation

Around the middle of the 18th century the balance of power in Europe shifted, with Russian victories against the Ottomans in the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774) strengthening Russia and endangering Habsburg interests in that region (particularly in Moldavia and Wallachia). At that point Habsburg Austria started to consider waging a war against Russia. [4] [5]

Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774) war

The Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 was an armed conflict that brought Kabardia, the part of the Yedisan between the rivers Bug and Dnieper, and Crimea into the Russian sphere of influence. Though the victories accrued by the Russian Empire were substantial, they gained far less territory than otherwise would be expected. The reason for this was the complex struggle within the European diplomatic system for a balance of power that was acceptable to other European leading states, rather than Russian hegemony. Russia was able to take advantage of the weakened Ottoman Empire, the end of the Seven Years' War, and the withdrawal of France as the continent's primary military power. This left the Russian Empire in a strengthened position to expand its territory but also lose temporary hegemony over the decentralized Poland. The greater Turkish losses were diplomatic in nature seeing its full decline as a threat to Christian Europe, and the beginning of the Eastern Question that would plague the continent until the end of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century.

Moldavia principality in Southeast Europe between 1330–1859 (nowadays historical and geographical region in Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine)

Moldavia is a historical region and former principality in Central and Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester River. An initially independent and later autonomous state, it existed from the 14th century to 1859, when it united with Wallachia as the basis of the modern Romanian state; at various times, Moldavia included the regions of Bessarabia, all of Bukovina and Hertza. The region of Pokuttya was also part of it for a period of time.

Wallachia Historical and geographical region of Romania

Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Lower Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians. Wallachia is traditionally divided into two sections, Muntenia and Oltenia. Wallachia as a whole is sometimes referred to as Muntenia through identification with the larger of the two traditional sections.

France, friendly towards both Russia and Austria, suggested a series of territorial adjustments, in which Austria would be compensated by parts of Prussian Silesia, and Prussia in turn would receive Polish Ermland (Warmia) and parts of the Polish fief, Duchy of Courland and Semigallia—already under Baltic German hegemony. King Frederick II of Prussia had no intention of giving up Silesia gained recently in the Silesian Wars; he was, however, also interested in finding a peaceful solution — his alliance with Russia would draw him into a potential war with Austria, and the Seven Years' War had left Prussia's treasury and army weakened. He was also interested in protecting the weakening Ottoman Empire, which could be advantageously utilized in the event of a Prussian war either with Russia or Austria. Frederick's brother, Prince Henry, spent the winter of 1770–71 as a representative of the Prussian court at Saint Petersburg. As Austria had annexed 13 towns in the Hungarian Szepes region in 1769 (violating the Treaty of Lubowla), Catherine II of Russia and her advisor General Ivan Chernyshyov suggested to Henry that Prussia claim some Polish land, such as Ermland. After Henry informed him of the proposal, Frederick suggested a partition of the Polish borderlands by Austria, Prussia, and Russia, with the largest share going to Austria. Thus Frederick attempted to encourage Russia to direct its expansion towards weak and non-functional Poland instead of the Ottomans. [4]

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Warmia diocese

Warmia is a historical region in northern Poland.

Fief System of economic governance during the Middle Ages in Europe.

A fief was the central element of feudalism. It consisted of heritable property or rights granted by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the personal ceremonies of homage and fealty. The fees were often lands or revenue-producing real property held in feudal land tenure: these are typically known as fiefs or fiefdoms. However, not only land but anything of value could be held in fee, including governmental office, rights of exploitation such as hunting or fishing, monopolies in trade, and tax farms.

Bar Confederation 1768-72 Bar Confederation 1768-1772.PNG
Bar Confederation 1768-72

Although for a few decades (since the times of the Silent Sejm) Russia had seen weak Poland as its own protectorate, [6] Poland had also been devastated by a civil war in which the forces of the Bar Confederation attempted to disrupt Russian control over Poland. [4] The recent Koliyivschyna peasant and Cossack uprising in Ukraine also weakened Polish position. Further, the Russian-supported Polish king, Stanisław II Augustus, was seen as both weak and too independent-minded; eventually the Russian court decided that the usefulness of Poland as a protectorate had diminished. [7] The three powers officially justified their actions as a compensation for dealing with troublesome neighbor and restoring order to Polish anarchy (the Bar Confederation provided a convenient excuse); in fact all three were interested in territorial gains. [8]

Silent Sejm is the name given to the session of the Sejm (parliament) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1 February 1717 held in Warsaw. A civil war in the Commonwealth was used by the Russian Tsar Peter the Great as an opportunity to intervene as a mediator. It marked the end of Augustus II of Poland's attempts to create an absolute monarchy in Poland, and the beginning of the Russian Empire's increasing influence and control over the Commonwealth.

After Russia occupied the Danubian Principalities, Henry convinced Frederick and Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria that the balance of power would be maintained by a tripartite division of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth instead of Russia taking land from the Ottomans. Under pressure from Prussia, which for a long time wanted to annex the northern Polish province of Royal Prussia, the three powers agreed on the First Partition of Poland. This was in light of the possible Austrian-Ottoman alliance [9] with only token objections from Austria, [7] which would have instead preferred to receive more Ottoman territories in the Balkans, a region which for a long time had been coveted by the Habsburgs. The Russians also withdrew from Moldavia away from the Austrian border.

Danubian Principalities

Danubian Principalities was a conventional name given to the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, which emerged in the early 14th century. The term was coined in the Habsburg Monarchy after the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774) in order to designate an area on the lower Danube with a common geopolitical situation. The term was largely used then by foreign political circles and public opinion until the union of the two Principalities (1859). Alongside Transylvania, the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia became the basis for the Kingdom of Romania, and by extension the modern Romanian nation-state.

Royal Prussia former country

Royal Prussia or Polish Prussia was a region of the Kingdom of Poland from 1466 to 1772.

Balkans Geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe

The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range.

In the Commonwealth

Karol Stanislaw Radziwill Karol Stanislaw Radziwill Panie Kochanku 111.PNG
Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł

In the early 18th century the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had declined from the status of a major European power to that of a Russian protectorate (or vassal or satellite state), with the Russian tsar effectively choosing Polish–Lithuanian monarchs during the "free" elections and deciding the direction of much of Poland's internal politics, for example during the Repnin Sejm (1767-1768), named after the Russian ambassador who unofficially presided over the proceedings. [6] [10]

A protectorate, in its inception adopted by modern international law, is a dependent territory that has been granted local autonomy and some independence while still retaining the suzerainty of a greater sovereign state. In exchange for this, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship. Therefore, a protectorate remains an autonomous part of a sovereign state. They are different from colonies as they have local rulers and people ruling over the territory and experience rare cases of immigration of settlers from the country it has suzerainty of. However, a state which remains under the protection of another state but still retains independence is known as a protected state and is different from protectorates.

Vassal person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe

A vassal is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch, in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support by knights in exchange for certain privileges, usually including land held as a tenant or fief. The term is applied to similar arrangements in other feudal societies.

A satellite state is a country that is formally independent in the world, but under heavy political, economic and military influence or control from another country. The term was coined by analogy to planetary objects orbiting a larger object, such as smaller moons revolving around larger planets, and is used mainly to refer to Central and Eastern European countries of the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War or to Mongolia or Tannu Tuva between 1924 and 1990, for example. As used for Central and Eastern European countries it implies that the countries in question were "satellites" under the hegemony of the Soviet Union. In some contexts it also refers to other countries in the Soviet sphere of influence during the Cold War—such as North Korea and Cuba. In Western usage, the term has seldom been applied to states other than those in the Soviet orbit. In Soviet usage, the term applied to the states in the orbit of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.

In 1767-1768, Russian forces forced the Polish parliament (Sejm) to pass resolutions they demanded. Many of the conservative nobility felt anger at that foreign interference, at the perceived weakness of the presiding government under king Stanisław II Augustus (reigned 1764-1795), and at the provisions, particularly the ones that empowered non-Catholics, and at other reforms which they saw as threatening the Golden Freedoms of the Polish nobility. [11] [12] In response to that, and particularly after Russian troops arrested and exiled several vocal opponents (namely bishop of Kiev Józef Andrzej Załuski, bishop of Cracow Kajetan Sołtyk, and Field Crown Hetman Wacław Rzewuski with his son Seweryn), Polish magnates Adam Krasiński, Bishop of Kamieniec, Casimir Pulaski and Michał Krasiński and their allies decided to form a confederatio - a legal military association opposing the government [13] [11] in accordance with Polish constitutional traditions. The articles of the confederation were signed on 29 February 1768 at the fortress of Bar in Podolia. [12] Some of the instigators of the confederation included Adam Stanisław Krasiński, Michał Hieronim Krasiński, Kajetan Sołtyk, Wacław Rzewuski, Michał Jan Pac, Jerzy August Mniszech, Joachim Potocki and Teodor Wessel. [12] Priest Marek Jandołowicz was a notable religious leader, and Michał Wielhorski the Confederation's political ideologue. [12]

Civil war and foreign intervention

Marshal of the Bar Confederation Michal Krasinski receives an Ottoman dignitary. Marshall of the Confederation of Bar Michal Hieronim Krasinski takes a Turkish dignitary.PNG
Marshal of the Bar Confederation Michał Krasiński receives an Ottoman dignitary.

The confederation, encouraged and aided by France, declared a war on Russia. [12] Its irregular forces, formed from volunteers, magnate militias and deserters from the royal army, soon clashed with the Russian troops and units loyal to the Polish crown. [12] Confederation forces under Michał Jan Pac and Prince Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł roamed the land in every direction, won several engagements with the Russians, and at last, utterly ignoring the King, sent envoys on their own account to the principal European powers.

King Stanisław Augustus was at first inclined to mediate between the Confederates and Russia, the latter represented by the Russian envoy to Warsaw, Prince Nikolai Repnin; but finding this impossible, he sent a force against them under Grand Hetman Franciszek Ksawery Branicki and two generals against the confederates. This marked the Ukrainian campaign, which lasted from April till June 1768, and was ended with the capture of Bar on 20 June. [12] Confederation forces retreated to Moldavia. [12] There was also a pro-Confederation force in Lesser Poland, that operated from June till August, that ended with the royal forces securing Kraków on 22 August, followed by a period of conflict in Belarus (August–October), that ended with the surrender of Nesvizh on 26 October. [12] However, the simultaneous outbreak of the Koliyivschyna in Ukraine (May 1768–June 1769) kept the Confederation alive. The Confederates appealed for help from abroad and contributed to bringing about war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire (the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774) that began in September). The retreat of some Russian forces needed on the Ottoman front bolstered the confederates, who reappeared in force in Lesser Poland and Great Poland by 1769. [12] In 1770 the Council of Bar Confederation transferred from its original seat in Silesia to Hungary, whence it conducted diplomatic negotiations with France, Austria and Turkey with a view to forming a league against Russia. The council proclaimed the king dethroned on 22 October 1770. The court of Versailles sent Charles François Dumouriez to act as an aid to the Confederates, and he helped them to organize their forces. The Confederates also began to operate in Lithuania, although after early successes that direction too met with failures, with defeats at Białystok on 16 July and Orzechowo on 13 September 1769. [12] Early 1770 saw the defeats of confederates in Greater Poland, after the battle of Dobra (20 January) and Błonie (12 February), which forced them into a mostly defensive, passive stance. [12]

The standard of the Bar confederates Bar confederation flag.JPG
The standard of the Bar confederates
Remanents of the Bar Fortress (now in Ukraine), designed by Guillaume Levasseur de Beauplan

In the meantime, taking advantage of the confusion in Poland, already by 1769—71, both Austria and Prussia had taken over some border territories of the Commonwealth, with Austria taking Szepes County in 1769-1770 and Prussia incorporating Lauenburg and Bütow. [7] On 19 February 1772, the agreement of partition was signed in Vienna. [9] A previous agreement between Prussia and Russia had been made in Saint Petersburg on 6 February 1772. [9] Early in August Russian, Prussian and Austrian troops simultaneously entered the Commonwealth and occupied the provinces agreed upon among themselves. On 5 August, the three parties signed the treaty on their respective territorial gains on the Commonwealth's expense. [4]

An attempt of Bar Confederates (including Casimir Pulaski [14] ) to kidnap king Stanisław II Augustus on 3 November 1771 led the Habsburgs to withdraw their support from the confederates, expelling them from their territories. [15] It also gave the three courts another pretext to showcase the "Polish anarchy" and the need for its neighbors to step in and "save" the country and its citizens. [12] [16]

The king thereupon reverted to the Russian faction, and for this act targeting their king, the Confederation lost much of the support it had in Europe. [15] Nevertheless, its army, thoroughly reorganized by Dumouriez, maintained the fight. 1771 brought further defeats, with the defeat at Lanckorona on 21 May and Stałowicze at 23 October. [12] The final battle of this war was the siege of Jasna Góra, which fell on 13 August 1772. [12] The regiments of the Bar Confederation, whose executive board had been forced to leave Austria (which previously supported them) after that country joined the Prusso-Russian alliance, did not lay down their arms. Many fortresses in their command held out as long as possible; Wawel Castle in Kraków fell only on 28 April; [9] [17] Tyniec fortress held until 13 July 1772; [18] Częstochowa, commanded by Casimir Pulaski, held until 18 August. [9] [19] Overall, around 100,000 nobles fought 500 engagements between 1768 and 1772. [1] Perhaps the last stronghold of the confederates was in the monastery in Zagórz, which fell only on 28 November 1772. In the end, the Bar Confederation was defeated, with its members either fleeing abroad or being deported to Siberia by the Russians. [20]

Bar Confederates taken as prisoners by the Russians, together with their families, formed the first major group of Poles exiled to Siberia. [20] It is estimated that about 5,000 former confederates were sent there. [12] Russians organized 3 concentration camps in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth for Polish captives, where these concentrated persons have been waiting for their deportation there. [21]


Until the times of the Bar Confederation, confederates – especially operating with the aid of outside forces – were seen as unpatriotic antagonists. [22] But in 1770, during the times that the Russian Army marched through the theoretically independent Commonwealth, and foreign powers forced the Sejm to agree to the First Partition of Poland, the confederates started to create an image of Polish exiled soldiers, the last of those who remained true to their Motherland, an image that would in the next two centuries lead to the creation of Polish Legions and other forces in exile. [22]

The Confederation has generated varying assessments from the historians. While none deny its patriotic desire to rid the Commonwealth from the outside (primarily Russian) influence, some such as Jacek Jędruch, criticize it for its regressive stand on the civil rights issues, primarily with regards to the religious tolerance (Jędruch writes of "religious bigotry", "narrowly Catholic" stand) and assert it contributed to the First Partition [2] [11] while others such as Bohdan Urbankowski applaud it as the first serious national military effort trying to restore Polish independence. [22]

The Bar Confederation has been described as the first Polish uprising, [3] and the last mass movement of szlachta. [11] It also is commemorated on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Warsaw, with the inscription "KONFEDERACJA BARSKA 29 II 1768 – 18 VII 1772”.

See also

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Further reading