The Cossacks, 17th, 18th C. Poland : Era of Liberty, 1652-1772

Polish-Ottoman War, 1672-1676

A.) Prehistory

The Treaty of Andrussovo 1667 ended decades of warfare which had been devastating for the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, and also had exhausted her resources. The larger part of her armed force was disbanded. In this situation, a combined force of Tatars and Cossacks invaded, between 20,000 and 30,000 strong. Expecting an opportunity to raid and plunder, they were prevented from doing so by Polish forces inferior in number, under the command of Jan Sobieski (the future King of Poland).

B.) The War

Khan Ghiray of the Crimean Tatars now renewed his oath of allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan; thus an irregular border conflict formally was elevated into a regular war. In 1671 another combined Cossack-Tatar invasion again was stopped and repelled by Sobieski's Polish forces, inferior in number.
In 1672 an Ottoman Army, strength 80,000 men, entered the scene. The fortress of Kamieniec Podolski surrendered. While the Polish Sejm refused the funds to raise an army, Sobieski's forces were inadequate to meet the challenge, although they inflicted a defeat on the Tatar forces allied to the Turks. Poland, in the TREATY OF BUCZACZ 1672, ceded Podolia to the Ottoman Empire, and agreed to pay tribute to the High Porte.
The Treaty of Buczacz finally caused the Sejm into action; it refused ratification and granted funds, with which a force over 37,000 strong was raised. Jan Sobieski now took the offensive, took Chocim, the largest Ottoman garrison in the region. The Polish forces then dwindled away (desertions etc.) and the Ottomans resumed the offensive. In 1675 the Ottomans brought in a fresh force of 200,000. Failing to raise a new force, Poland signed the TREATY OF ZORAWNO which in effect confirmed the cession of Podolia to the Ottoman Empire (1676).

C.) Analysis and Legacy

The devastating wars of the previous decades had considerably weakened Poland-Lithuania. The Sejm, the Commonwealth's parliament, throughout the war refused the funds to raise an army; the Polish and Lithuanian magnates (many of whom with estates far from the area affected by the war) valued their own purses higher than the security of the country. On the Polish side the fighting was done by a force privately financed by Jan Sobieski.
It was this apparent inability to defend herself that invited foreign forces to enter the scene; the Ottoman forces throughout the war never were seriously at risk; in 1672 Podolia was an easy gain. When the Sejm finally granted the funds, it did not act consistently; once an army was raised and initial successes were achieved, soldiers were left unpaid and desertions on a mass scale negatively affected the Polish cause.
Jan Sobieski gained reputation as an able, courageous commander and a patriot, having invested part of his personal fortune in the defense of the commonwealth. In 1674 he was elected King of Poland, a position far less powerful than that of his colleagues in England or France, as his failure to get Sejm approve the funds for yet another army indicates.

When Ottoman forces laid siege to Vienna in 1683, Polish King Jan Sobieski lead a Polish force to relieve the city, defeated the foe in the Battle of Kahlenberg and regained Podolia (Treaty of Karlowitz, 1699).

Note : the spelling of personal and placenames differs considerably, according to the nationality of the respective author (Polish, Ukrainian, German, Turkish etc.).

Turkish and Tatar Wars, 1667-1676, from Polish Renaissance Warfare, scroll down
Polish-Turkish War 1672-1676, from The Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795)
The Turkish War and the Treaty of Buczacz 1672, from The Passing of Poland's Position as a Great Power; see also subsequent paragraphs
Türkisch-Polnischer Krieg 1671-1676 (Turkish-Polish War), from Kriege der Neuzeit (Wars of the Modern Era), in German
Jahreschronik 1650-1699, from : Chronologische Kriegsgeschichte (Chronological War History), in German; very detailed

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 27th 2003, last revised on November 19th 2004

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