At which point was dissolution of Polish state inevitable?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Jan Olbracht, Aug 9, 2019.

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When was dissolution of Polish state inevitable?

  1. The very begining of Polish statehood

    4 vote(s)
    4.0%
  2. The time of baptism of Poland-Mieszko I converted to wrong religion

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. The time of feudal fragmentation

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. End of Piast rule

    2 vote(s)
    2.0%
  5. Personal Union with Lithuania

    2 vote(s)
    2.0%
  6. Some point during Jagiellon reign

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. Creation of PLC

    2 vote(s)
    2.0%
  8. Elector of Brandenburg allowed to inherit Ducal Prussia

    5 vote(s)
    5.0%
  9. Deluge

    9 vote(s)
    8.9%
  10. Lubomirski's rebellion

    1 vote(s)
    1.0%
  11. Great Northern War

    9 vote(s)
    8.9%
  12. War of Polish Succession

    5 vote(s)
    5.0%
  13. Seven Years War

    9 vote(s)
    8.9%
  14. Bar Confederation

    3 vote(s)
    3.0%
  15. First Partition

    34 vote(s)
    33.7%
  16. Third May Constitution

    9 vote(s)
    8.9%
  17. Other

    7 vote(s)
    6.9%
  1. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    I'm not asking about dissolution of PLC as plenty of people thinks that even before union with Lithuania fall of Polish state was unavoidable due to various reasons (pure geography, climate, "Polish national character", Catholicism and other stuff). So at which point in history there was no slightest chance to avoid Poland or PLC being absorbed by neighbour/neighbours? If we are talking about mere survival of state, even in rump "vegetative" state I think it was quite late. Even failed state could survive on map if neighbour(s) are not vitally interested in eraseing it from the map (like Paraguay survived after War of Triple Alliance, because Argentinians refused Brazilian proposition of partition, preffering Paraguay to still exist as buffer) so even second half of 18th century could work (less capable Prussian monarchs, earlier reign of Paul in Russia and few other lucky events could give PLC enough time to survive until Napoleon, which may not be viewed as liberator in such circumstances). But what is your opinion?
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  2. Augenis Latvia isn't real

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    It wouldn't be a very fulfilling existence by any means, but I imagine the Commonwealth could have reasonably survived as a rump state had they kept their head low after the First Partition until the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars, at which point they'd end up thrown to the side of the coalition, likely dismantled by Napoleon and then reformed after whatever the equivalent of the Congress of Vienna is.

    Or this rump Commonwealth would have went the way of Congress Poland once the period of nationalist uprisings starts, it's hard to predict.

    On a greater picture, the Swedish Deluge was the heaviest nail in the Polish coffin, and while it did not guarantee that the Commonwealth would get partitioned a century down the line, it was the point of no return, from which onward it wasn't destined for anything beyond middling, Russian-dominated power status, barring some massive twists and turns down the line.
     
  3. steno19 Active Member

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    May 6, 2018
    I think if partitions are avoided and Russian domination of PLC status-quo continues then it all comes down to what happens when Napoleon reaches Polish borders (assuming he still comes to power). If the Poles join him like they did IOTL then it all depends on whether Napoleon is successful or not.
     
  4. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    Napoleon was enemy's enemy for Poles. Otherwise there is noting that would make Napoleon seen particulary positively by Poles. Weakness of "survive untill Napoleon" scenario is the fact, that he could be the one dismantling PLC, although likely he would impose one of his brothers on the throne, like in Spain, and would use resources of PLC to feed his war machine (which would make him as popular among Poles as Charles X Gustav or Charles XII). Positive side of such action is the fact, that he would need to create working administration to exploit PLC.
     
  5. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Errr... At the time of the Deluge Russian dominance of the PLC was anything but guaranteed, just as the rise of the Tsardom of Moscow into the dominant regional power: it was routinely beaten by Sweden and even with the PLC it had to settle for the reasonably modest gain of a devastated area (control over part of which was soon lost to the Ottomans). Even direction of the future Russian expansion was unclear until 1700 and it would not take too much of “twisting” for the effort going consistently against the Ottomans instead of the switches from the Black Sea to the Baltic, 5hen to the Black Sea and Caspian Sea areas.

    “Destiny” did not exist until the War of the Polish Succession when Russian influence in the PLC was firmly established (remove the French candidate and there is no Russian military presence). As a formally independent state the PLC was not “doomed” until the very end of its existence: Kosciuzsko Uprising was the proverbial straw. Strictly speaking, if Catherine died before it, the “destiny” could be postponed indefinitely because Paul was against acquisition of the Polish territories (returning what was already annexed was a completely different issue).
     
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  6. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    Possibly death of Stanisław Leszczyński before Augustus II also could improve situation of PLC. For Louis XV putting Leszczyński on the throne was something personal, but for Fleury it would not make much difference if French backed candidate is father-in-law of French king or not. He'd chose another candidate, some distant Bourbon cousin like usual, but that candidate would not have support base compared to Leszczyński's. Thus Austria, Russia and Prussia would not need support Augustus III as counterbalance to Leszczyński and could stick with idea of putting Portuguese infante on the throne (someone without internal support base or external, but grographically close like Saxony, Portuguese interests are simply not existing in that part of Europe).
     
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  7. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Apr 24, 2018
    That sounds reasonable but it also sounds as an advice of powdering a dirty neck instead of washing it. :)

    The PLC needed substantial reforms, which was made clear by the GNW when the fighting sides used its territory in a complete disregard to the PLC sovereignty and neutral status while looking at the Polish military with a disdain (at Kalisz the Swedish commander, Mardefelt, told the Polish commander, Potocki, that so far the Poles were not eager to fight anybody and, contrary to Potocki’s assurances, they fled as soon as the Russians advanced; later experience of the WoPS produced more of the disparaging remarks of the same kind).

    Of course, in the PLC sweeping reforms required a strong support base (as probably everywhere else) but the nobility was too fond of the status quo so a Portuguese candidate would have the same chances as any other, close to zero. I’d assume that there can be certain advantage with that candidacy: not being French candidate, he would not be associated with an idea of pro-Ottoman alliance with a potentially lesser Russian (and Austrian) interest in the Polish affairs. However, we are still taking about the PLC operating from a position of almost absolute weakness expecting that nobody is going to take advantage of it.

    So, IMO, the “magic trick” would be to have a fundamental change of the nobility attitudes between the GNW and WoPS: creation of a modern army, administrative reforms, removal of the Liberum Veto, etc. While potentially general weakening after the GNW could provide August II with an opening for at least some reforms, he was seemingly not a person interested in anything of the kind.
     
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  8. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    That is plan minimum-survival in vegetative state. Changes would happen anyway, because lots of them were bottom-top. Enlightment ideas were spreading across Europe, not omitting PLC. Menthal changes and death of Sarmatism is always some gain.
    Chances for more radical, serious reforms were largely screwed by John Casimir, for whom the only reform PLC needed was election of d'Enghien or Conde to the throne. Something, that not only fueled internal oposition against him, but also activated Austrians (last thing Habsburgs needed was Bourbon on Polish throne). That attempt had effect not only inside PLC (Lubomirski's rebellion) but also changed altitude of Vienna towards PLC. Previously Vasa's PLC was seen as Habsburg ally, now it was area of potential French influence. John Casimir was defeated, but pro-French party survived and was still making troubles. If there were no people like Conde, d'Enghien or Conti running for Polish crown Habsburg attitude towards PLC would be quite different.
     
  9. steno19 Active Member

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    So for PLC reforms the requirements likely are:
    1. Support of a majority of the nobility
    2. Weakened or distracted state of Russia (and Austria/Prussia if they’re involved in Polish affairs)
    3. Time to implement reforms
    If something traumatic and devastating like the Deluge doesn’t change the minds of nobles then a sudden change in attitude is likely impossible. Like Jan Olbracht has said in the past, maybe a period of economic prosperity that leads to Polish nobles being sent abroad to learn in Western schools and universities could change attitudes after these new generations of nobility see that PLC government is outdated and entirely dysfunctional.
     
  10. steno19 Active Member

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    Keeping Hapsburg friendly Vasa’s on throne is a good way to keep Austria as Polish ally. 1670s are also early enough that rise of Prussia to great power can be avoided so only major threat to Poland in this case would be Russia, maybe Sweden for a time, and likely Poland itself.
     
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  11. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    War against Russia also was part of John Casimir's plan to impose Vivente Rege of Bourbon Duke. King thought, that military success in the East would increase popularity of his idea. But his pro-French turn alarmed Habsburgs, and Vienna changed attitude towards Moscow, looking for potential ally against Bourbon on Polish throne.
     
  12. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    Alliance with France was generally bad idea from PLC's point of view. France was too far to provide PLC with significant help, was allied to PLC's enemies (Ottomans and Sweden) and French view on that alliance was "we would throw PLC under the bus to distract our enemies". Something they did for example during War of Polish Succession-Louis XV may really want his dad-in-law on Polish throne, but for Fleury Leszczyński and PLC were only tools used to distract Austrians.
     
  13. steno19 Active Member

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    I had only a vague idea of John Casimir and his reign when I joined this forum but the more I read you talking about him, the more I dislike him :).

    Also, if John doesn’t try to push through vivente rege and still remains without an heir then who succeeds him? Still Wiśniowiecki? Or some Hapsburg candidate?
     
  14. steno19 Active Member

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    The French-PLC alliance always struck me as odd. The French saw PLC as part of their Bulwark against Russia and Austria along with Sweden and Ottomans but there is little to be gained for PLC in going against Austria and little possibility of lasting gains against Russia.
     
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  15. SenatorErnesto Well-Known Member

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    Mar 24, 2017
    I think the cementing is the elective monarchy with the union with Lithuania characterized the beginning of Poland’s demise in my eyes.

    The elective monarchy just becomes to problematic, with foreign interests always trying to get some pushover into it for their own motives and not for what is best for the Polish state.

    That and how every son of nobility inherited something.
     
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  16. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    Certainly not Wiśniowiecki-if John Casimir is not deposed (he would not be without VR campaign and civil war) Wiśniowiecki would have no chance for the throne-John Casimir outlived him.
    I think, that John Casimir's former brother-in-law from Neuburg would succeede him if he still dies without heir and VR madness is avioided.
    If John Casimir's son or one of his nephews lives, VR also would be avoided and French candidature would have zero chances.
     
  17. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    Polish-Lithuanian union happened over 400 years before final partition-that is quite long time for 'dead man walking'.
    And by the time of Union of Krewo if was not determined yet, that Polish throne would be elective. Jogaila was unfortunate, that his sons were born from wrong mother. If they were born not from Zofia Holszańska but from Hedwig d'Anjou or Anna of Cili things would looks different. And it was not determined yet that Władysław III would ruin royal tresure and would greatly reduce size of Royal domain to get cash in hurry for his Hungarian adventures
     
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  18. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Getting familiar with the Western culture would be nice but, as both PLC and Russian experience demonstrated, most often than not application of the advanced ideas was restricted by recognition of the personal interests. The main difference between these two countries was that in Russia self-interest was traditionally linked to the strong monarchy (hence rejection of the “aristocratic constitution” by nobility at accession of Empress Anna) while in the PLC it was traditionally associated with a monarchy as weak as possible. And getting education abroad (which was reasonably common) was not necessarily resulting in attitudes changing in some positive direction. Look at two famous caricatures in the Russian literature: Vladimir Lensky from “Eugene Onegin” (byproduct of education in Germany was romanticism which led him to a duel and death) and Pierre Bezuhov from “War and Peace” (a classic prove of the fact that education does not cure pathological idiocy).

    It was not even too much an issue of the French candidates (none of whom got the throne after Henry Valois) which Jan Olbracht mentioned - France was (all the way to 1939) mostly a fantom from which an easy solution of the existing problems should come. Nothing would change dramatically if the Great Conde (good luck with that asshole) or Conti (who “just gave himself a trouble to be born”) would replace the existing kings: as long as nobility did not support a strong royal power it would be, at best, a matter of a greater or lesser military success: even Sobieski with all his military glory did not achieve much because Sejm lost its enthusiasm.

    Was there an appetite for the sweeping reforms after the Deluge even if JC did not stuck with the succession issue? Which, BTW, did make some sense allowing to minimize state of an anarchy between the reigns and perhaps allow for some steady political course. Not that his actions ruined relations with the Hapsburgs too much: when push came to shove the French diplomacy failed and the Hapsburgs were more than happy to have the PLC as an ally against the Ottomans. Then again, as soon as the immediate danger was over, the Hapsburgs concentrated on pursuing their own goals leaving their Polish allies on their own.

    We probably can safely assume that in an absense of the French candidate there would be no WoPS with a resulting increase of the Russian influence but would this help in a long run if the PLC remains in the state of an anarchy?

    Russian influence became a serious factor only in the XVIII and was almost completely byproduct of the Polish weakness and corruption of its aristocracy: why not try to influence your neighbor if it’s aristocrats are practically forming a line for getting bribes (and making profitable marriages)? The main Russian advantage comparing to France (bribing was one of the cornerstones of the French diplomacy since the time of Louis XIV) was a geographic proximity allowing to send troops across the border. To be fair, Russian policy of the XVIII also was heavily impacted by the foreign bribes so the PLC was not unique. The difference was in a fact that in Russia a Chancelor who preached course contrary to the wishes of the ruler would face very unpleasant consequences (as Bestizev-Rumin) while in the PLC any magnate was completely free to have unrestricted communications with a foreign power and take pretty much any actions he wanted to back up his personal interests.
     
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  19. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Taking into an account absense of the common border between Hapsburg lands and Tsardom during the reign of JC and proven inability of the PLC to pay salary to the imperial troops (as was the case during the Polish-Swedish wars), Vienna’s attitude was not important in any practical way.

    As for the war against Tsardom, JC did not have too many options because war of 1654 - 67 was initiated by Tsar Alexei.
     
  20. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    Poniatowski did a lot of reforms and omitted liberum veto using institution of confederated sejm without need to exterminate Polish nobility, so nobles of PLC were not change-resistant. And reforms really worked. It was not just change of fashion and hairstyles-PLC improved economically and demographically, lands that remained under control of PLC developed faster than lands lost in first partition despite fact, that PLC was practically cut off from the sea.
    Also, in 1830 Congress Kingdom of Poland was no less effective in raising armies and collecting taxes than Russia (it just have much more limited population and resources). Sweden was able to get out of Time of Liberty, so weakening of state's power is not irreversible proces. What would not be reformed by PLC itself would be then done by Napoleon, who would need effective ways to extract resources from PLC-he would create administration with tax collectors. Napoleon would not fear PLC and keeping it in state of anarchy would not be seen as necessity by him. Nappy would lose eventually, but changes imposed by him would remain in place.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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