Polish Rebellion, 1830-1831

A.) The Situation Preceding the Rebellion

At the Vienna Congress, Poland was partitioned a 4th time, with the bulk of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw (1807-1813), as Congress Poland, being united with Russia in Dynastic Union. Formally, Congress Poland was a state in her own right, sharing with Russia the monarch; in fact, Poland was administrated as an annex to the Russian Empire.
In 1830 a revolution in France deposed King Charles X. and adopted a liberal constitution; another revolution in Belgium brought the declaration of Belgian independence. Czar Nicholas I. ordered the Congress Polish troops (nearest to the sites of revolution) to march on Brussels and Paris, in order to fulfill Russia's obligation in the Holy Alliance. Yet many Poles sympathized with the French and Belgian revolutionaries Revolutionary propaganda was printed and spread; Russian or pro-Russian officers fled or were executed; the armed forces began the rebellion.

B.) The Rebellion

With the Russian respective pro-Russian elite eliminated, Congress Poland was in the hands of the revolutionaries. However, the revolution lacked planning, experienced leadership, had to improvise. The Sejm assembled, and on January 25th 1831, formally declared King (Czar) Nicholas I. deposed, as King of Congress Poland, thus dissolving the Dynastic Union that bound Poland to Russia. In western and central Europe, many sympathized with the Polish cause; but the governments, especially the English administration, were rather sceptical of the Polish rebellion.
Russia gave up on the plan to suppress the revolutions in Belgium and France and concentrated on the suppression of the rebellion in Poland instead. The considerable costs of the undertaking were financed with a foreign loan. The Russian forces were superior numerically and had an experienced leadership. On the other hand, the Russian soldiers fought because they were ordered to, the Poles fought for the liberty and the liberal constitution of their country, with zeal, which on several occasions made up for lack in numbers and experience. The rebellion spread into Lithuania proper; however, in Belarus and western Ukraine, the response to Polish calls to join the rebellion (the rebels dreamt of a Poland in the borders of 1772) was disappointing; the peasants of Belarus and Ukraine did not identify with the Polish cause; in these regions, many of the land-owning (and serf-owning) magnates were Poles.
In Lithuania proper and in Congress Poland, Russian forces made slow progress, due to stubborn Polish resistance. The Russian forces responded to incidents of guerilla warfare with atrocities against the civilian population; so at Ostrolenka. The fall of Warsaw's suburb Wola on Sept. 6th 1831 marks the climax of the war; Warsaw fell, the rebellion eas carried on because the Polish Government refused to accept that the war militarily had been decided. In October 1831, elements of the Polish forces entered Austrian respective Prussian territory to avoid captivity.

C.) Legacy

Numerous Polish institutions, such as the universities of Warsaw and Vilnius, were closed down, the hold of the Russian administration on Poland strengthened, censorship severed. In the Belorussian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian regions, many Polish estate owners were expropriated, a de-Polonization policy implemented.
Such an administration hampered the economic and social development of Poland, at a time when the industrial revolution began to cause great changes. In Paris and elsewhere, communities of Polish exiles formed; the Russian administration remained unpopular.

The War with Russia and its Aftermath, from Political History of Poland by F. Kobylarz
DOCUMENTS Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Chopin
Revolutions in Poland, article in The North American Review Vol.36 No.58, 1833. pp.113-152; Major G. Tochman, The Polish Revolution of 1830, in : The United States Democratic Review Vol.18 No.91, 1845, pp.47-57

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 30th 2003, last revised on November 19th 2004

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