Russia, 16th C. Poland, 1525-1652. Lithuania, 1386-1569.

Russo-Polish Wars, 1563-1582

A.) Preconditions of the War

The reformation had reached Livonia in the 1520es. In 1558, Livonia formally declared the Lutheran confession official. The political constitution of Livonia, both the Livonian Order and the Livonian bishoprics, were now questioned; the Livonian Order, for decades, had suffered a sharp decline in their ranks, seriously affecting its ability to defend the country.
In 1558 Russian forces (Ivan the Terrible) invaded Livonia. Livonia disintegrated, with parts of it appealing for Polish- Lithuanian protection, which was granted. Thus, Poland-Lithuania and Russia conflicted over shares in disintegrating Livonia.

B.) The War

In 1562, Ivan IV. refused to extend a truce with Poland-Lithuania; in 1563, a Russian army appeared off Polock, which surrendered Feb. 15th. A truce was signed, which lasted until December. As Sweden entered an alliance with Russia, Poland entered into an alliance with Denmark. The war, also refered to as the (first) Northern War, has three theatres of war - the Dano-Swedish border region (Dano-Swedish War, 1563-1570), Livonia (the Livonian War, 1558-1582) and Lithuania (the Russo-Polish War, 1563-1570).
A Lithuanian army, under Prince Nicholas Radziwill, defeated the Russian forces twice in Jan. and Feb. 1564. In April 1564, Ivan's military commander in Lithuania, Prince Andrey Kurbski, deserted to the Lithuanians. In 1570, peace was signed; Russia holds on to Polock.
In 1578 the Polish-Lithuanian Sejm decides a new war with Russia; in summer 1579, Polish troops retake Polock. a peace treaty was signed in 1582; Ivan IV. ceded all of Livonia and Polock; Poland-Lithuania returned Smolensk, recently occupied, to Russia.

C.) The Legacy

The balance of powers in the region had been destroyed, by the implosion of Livonia as well as by a strengthened, aggressive Russia, which was supplied with gunpowder through the English via Archangelsk.
As a result, not only greater Livonia, but also Lithuania was exposed to Russian invasions. Cities, such as Polock, no longer were capable of withstanding a long siege; surprise raids meant severe destruction, as Lithuania required time to muster an army.
Polish suggestions for a closer union between Poland and Lithuania, on Polish terms, therefore were interpreted as additional security for Lithuania, and in 1569 the UNION OF LUBLIN was agreed upon. Poland temporarily also held on to Courland, Riga and (smaller) Livonia, the three of which retained a large degree of political autonomy. The Union of Lublin, for the next century, provided Lithuania with the security she desired.

First Northern War, from Polish Renaissance Warfare, scroll down

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 28th 2003, last reviased on November 17th 2004

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