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POLAND (Polish Polska, Ger. Polen), (...

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 903 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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POLAND (Polish Polska, Ger. Polen), (see POLAND, RUSSIAN, below), a country of Europe which till the end of the 18th century was a kingdom extending (with Lithuania) over the basins of the Warta, Vistula, Dwina, Dnieper and upper Dniester, and had under its dominion, besides the Poles proper and the Baltic Slays, the Lithuanians, the White Russians and the Little Russians or Ruthenians. We possess no certain historical data relating to Poland till the end of the loth century. It would seem, from a somewhat origins of obscure passage in the chronicle compiled from older polana. sources by Nestor, a monk of Kiev (d. c. Iris), that the progenitors of the Poles, originally established on the Danube, were driven from thence by the Romans to the still wilder wilderness of central Europe, settling finally among the virgin forests and impenetrable morasses of the basin of the upper waters of the Oder and the Vistula. Here the Lechici, as they called themselves (a name derived from the mythical patriarch, Lech), seemed to have lived for centuries, in loosely connected communities, the simple lives of huntsmen, herdsmen and tillers of the soil, till the pressure of rapacious neighbours compelled them to combine for mutual defence. Of this infant state, the so-called kingdom of the Piasts (from POLAND Piast its supposed founder), we know next to nothing. Its origin, its territory, its institutions are so many insoluble riddles. The earliest Polish chroniclers, from Gallus in the early 12th century to Janko of Czarnkow' in the 14th, are of little help to us. The only facts of importance to be gleaned from them are that Prince Ziemovit, the great-grandfather of Mieszko (Mieczyslaw) I. (962-992), wrested from the vast but tottering Moravian Empire the province of Chrobacyja (extending from the Carpathians to the Bug), and that Christianity was first preached on the Vistula by Greek Orthodox missionary monks. Mieszko himself was converted by Jordan, the chaplain of his Bohemian consort, Dobrawa or Bona, and when Jordan became the first bishop of Posen, the people seem to have followed the example of their prince. But the whole movement was apparently the outcome not of religious conviction, but of political necessity. The Slavonic peoples, whose territories then extended to the Elbe, and embraced the whole southern shore of the Baltic, were beginning to recoil before the vigorous impetus of the Germans in the West, who regarded their pagan neighbours in much the same way as the Spanish Conquistadores regarded the Aztecs and the Incas. To accept Christianity, at least formally, was therefore a prudential safeguard on the part of the Slavonians. This was thoroughly understood by Mieszko's son Boleslaus I. (992—1025), who went a considerable step farther than his father. Mieszko had been content to be received on almost any terms into the Christian community, Boleslaus aimed at securing the independence of the Polish Church as an additional Conversion guarantee of the independence of the Polish nation. to Cvristt-It was Boleslaus who made the church at Gnesen anity• in Great Poland a national shrine by translating thither the relics of the martyred missionary, St Adalbert of Prague. Subsequently he elevated Gnesen into the metropolitan see of Poland, with jurisdiction over the bishoprics of Cracow, Breslau and Kolberg, all three of these new sees, it is important to notice, being in territory conquered by Boleslaus; for hitherto both Cracow and Breslau had been Bohemian cities, -while Kolberg was founded to curb the lately subjugated Pomeranians. Boleslaus was also the first Polish prince to bear the royal title, which seems to have been conferred upon him by Otto III. in i000, though as Boleslaus crownedBoleslaus~, King. himself king a second time in 1025, it is evident that he regarded the validity of his first coronation as somewhat doubtful. He was primarily a warrior, whose reign, an almost uninterrupted warfare, resulted in the formation of a vast kingdom extending from the Baltic to the Carpathians, and from the Elbe to the Bug. But this imposing superstructure rested on the flimsiest of foundations. In less than twenty years after the death of its founder, it collapsed before a combined attack of all Poland's enemies, and simultaneously a terrible pagan reaction swept away the poor remnants of Christianity and civilization. For a time Poland proper became a smoking wilderness, and wild beasts made their lairs in the ruined and desecrated churches. Under Boleslaus II. (1058—1079) and Boleslaus III. (1102—1139) some of the lost provinces, notably Silesia and Pomerania, were recovered and Poland was at least able to maintain her independence against the Germans. Boleslaus III., moreover, with the aid of St Otto, bishop of Bamberg, succeeded in converting the heathen Pomeranians (1124—1128), and making head against paganism generally. The last act of Boleslaus III. was to divide his territories among his sons, whereby Poland was partitioned into no fewer than four, and ultimately into as many as eight, Partitional principalities, many of which (Silesia and Great Period, Poland, for instance) in process of time split 11384305. up into still smaller fractions all of them more or less bitterly hostile to each other. This partitional period, as Polish historians generally call it, lasted from 1138 to 1305, during which Poland lost all political significance, and became an easy prey to her neighbours. The duke of Little Poland, ' Archdeacon of Gnesen 1367: vice-chancellor of Poland; d. C. 1387. who generally styled himself duke of Poland, or dux totius Poloniae, claimed a sort of supremacy among these little states, a claim materially strengthened by the wealth and growing importance of his capital, Cracow, especially after Little Poland had annexed the central principality of Sieradia (Sieradz). But Masovia to the north, and Great Poland to the north-west, refused to recognize the supremacy of Little Poland, while Silesia soon became completely germanized. It was at the beginning of this period too, between 1216 and 1224, that Pomerania, under an energetic native dynasty, freed herself from the Polish suzerainty. Nearly a generation later (1241) the Tatar hordes, under Batu, appeared for the first time on the confines of Poland. The Polish princes opposed a valiant but ineffectual resistance; the towns of Sandomir and Cracow were reduced to ashes, and all who were able fled to the mountains of Hungary or the forests of Moravia. Pursuing his way to Silesia, Batu overthrew the confederated Silesian princes at Liegnitz (April 9), and, after burning all the Silesian towns, invaded Hungary, where he routed King Bela IV. on the banks of the Sajo. But this marked the limit of his triumph. Exhausted and diminished by the stout and successful opposition of the Moravians at Olmutz, the Tatars vanished as suddenly as they had appeared, leaving a smoking wilderness behind 'them. Batu's invasion had an important influence upon the social and political development of Poland. The only way of filling Foreign up the gaps in the population of the ravaged land immi- was to invite foreign immigrants. of a superior class, grants. chapmen and handicraftsmen, not only given to peace- Rise of ful pursuits and accustomed to law and order, but Cities. capable of building and defending strong cities. Such immigrants could naturally be obtained only from the civilized west, and on their own terms. Thus it came about that the middle class element was introduced into Polish society for the first time. Immediately dependent upon the prince, from whom they obtained their privileges, the most important of which were self-government and freedom from taxation, these traders soon became an important factor in the state, counterpoising, to some extent, the influence of the gentry, enriching the land by developing its resources, and promoting civilization by raising the standard of comfort. Most of these German citizens in process of time were absorbed by the Polish population, and became devoted, heart and soul, The Knights to their adopted country; but these were not the of the only Germans with whom the young Polish statedepressed the land, and, at this very time, another enemy appeared in the east—the Lithuanians. This interesting people, whose origin is to this day the most baffling of ethnographical puzzles, originally dwelt amidst the forests and marshes of the Upper Niemen. Thanks to the impenetrability of their fastnesses, they preserved their original savagery longer than any of their neighbours, and this savagery was coupled with a valour so tenacious and enterprising as to make them formidable to all who dwelt near them. The Russians fled at the sight of them, " like hares before hunters." The Livs and Letts were as much the prey of the Lithuanians " as sheep are the prey of wolves." The German chroniclers describe them as the most terrible of all the barbarians. The Lithuanians first emerge into the light of history at the time of the settlement of the Teutonic Order in the North. Rumours of the war of extermination conducted against their kinsmen, the wild Prussians, by the Knights, first woke the Lithuanians to a sense of their own danger, and induced them to abandon their loose communal system in favour of a monarchical form of government, which concentrated the whole power of the state in a single hand. Fortunately, too, at this crisis of their history, the Lithuanians were blessed with an altogether exceptional series of great rulers, who showed themselves fully capable of taking care of themselves. There was, for instance, Mendovg (1240-1263), who submitted to baptism for purely political reasons, checkmated the Teutonic Knights by adroitly seeking the protection of the Holy See, and annexed the principality of Plock to his ever-widening grand duchy, which already included Black Russia, and formed a huge wedge extending southwards from Courland, thus separating Poland from Russia. A still greater prince was Gedymin (1315-1342) who did his utmost to civilize Lithuania by building towns, introducing foreigners, and tolerating all religions, though he himself remained a pagan for political reasons. Gedymin still further extended the limits of Lithuania by annexing Kiev, Chernigov and other old Russian principalities. At the very time when Lithuania was thus becoming a compact, united, powerful state, Poland seemed literally to be dropping to pieces. Not even the exhortations of the popes could make her score of princes unite L30adisia t.,
End of Article: POLAND (Polish Polska, Ger. Polen), (see POLAND, RUSSIAN, below)
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