Medieval Poland. Grand Duchy of Lithuania

Slavic tribal unions, which gave rise to the Polish state, occupied the territory between the Oder, Vistula and Warta rivers. In the X century. the princely dynasty of the Piastas is singled out, which united under its authority almost all the Polish lands. The main residence of the first Piastas was Gniezno. The legend connects the appearance of Gniezno with the mythical progenitor of the Poles – Lech. At this point, Lech allegedly saw eagle’s nests, and high in the sky above them – a white eagle in the rays of the sun, coming over the horizon. The image of the white eagle on the red shield spread precisely under the Piastas, and from the end of the 13th century. it becomes an official symbol of the Polish state.

The first reliable Polish prince of this dynasty was Mieszko I. He renounced paganism and, together with his people, accepted Christianity as a Catholic. At the end of his reign, Mieszko I united all the Polish lands between the Oder and the Vistula,

with the exception of the Krakow land.

X century. The Arab merchant Ibrahim ibn Yakub of Prince Mieszko I

… And as for the state of Mieszko, it is the largest of their countries. It is rich in various goods, meat, honey and fish. He collects taxes in trade dinars. They go to pay to his soldiers… He has three thousand soldiers in shells, divided into detachments, and one hundred of them cost ten hundred others. He gives these men clothes, horses, weapons and everything they need only…

The Polish kingdom was strengthened during the reign of Meshko’s son Boleslaw I the Brave. He succeeded in annexing Krakow land to his possessions. Thus, the process of unification of Polish territories in a single state was completed. Boleslaw had to visit and in Kievan Rus: he helped his son-in-law Svyatopolk in the struggle with Yaroslav the Wise for the Grand Duke’s throne. Boleslaw’s troops occupied Kiev, and Svyatopolk became the prince. Returning home, Boleslav captured the Cherven cities and annexed them to Poland. However, soon Yaroslav the Wise drove Svyatopolk out of Kiev,

and later returned Cherven cities.

In 1025 Boleslav the Brave was crowned in Gniezno. This city was for some time the capital of the Polish state, and in the middle of the XI century. he gave way to Krakow the capital of Poland until the 16th century.

After the death of Boleslaw the Brave, the Polish kingdom loses its greatness and splits into separate principalities. The country became easy prey for neighboring countries. In 1157 the German Emperor Frederick I of Barbarossa compelled the Polish princes to recognize his authority and pay tribute. Half a century later, most of them managed to get rid of this “guardianship”, although at the same time Polish princes became dependent on the papacy. In the middle of the XIII century. The Teutonic Order captured Prussia, and in 1308 East Pomerania, thereby blocking Poland’s access to the Baltic Sea.

Great disaster for the country was the Mongol invasion. The conquerors devastated and robbed a significant part of Poland, destroyed many cities, such as Lublin, Sandomierz, Krakow. In the spring of 1241, at the Battle of Legnica, the Polish militia was defeated by the Mongols. About those times in old Krakow is reminiscent of the bells of the church of St. Mary. The ringing sounds every hour, and day and night, winter and summer, and always repeats four times: for the north, south, east and west. The chime reproduces a simple melody and always abruptly breaks off. He reminds us of a bugler who was hit by a Mongolian arrow in his throat when he signaled to the residents of the city. This interrupted signal allowed the townspeople to escape. Those who survived, so immortalized the memory of the hero.

At the end of the XIII century. the preconditions for the revival of the Polish state were created. King Casimir III, nicknamed the Great, carried out a series of reforms. He issued a code of laws, divided Poland into administrative units – voevodstva, created central authorities: the royal council, the chancery, the treasury, the court, etc. A monetary reform was carried out and a single coin was introduced – the Krakow penny. In 1364 Cracow University was opened.

In the XV century. The Polish state became a Classical monarchy. The royal power was limited by the Sejm’s representative office.

From the second half of the XIV century. the history of Poland for a long time united with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which arose in the middle of the 13th century. The immediate cause of the rapprochement between the two states was the threat from the Teutonic Knights. But there were other reasons. Poland, reborn after the Mongol invasion, greedily looked at the land in the East. The Lithuanian nobility watched with alarm the strengthening of the neighboring Moscow state and perceived Poland as an ally.

In August, 1385, a Polish-Lithuanian union was concluded in the castle of Krevo. According to its provisions, Jagiello, the Lithuanian prince, undertook to take Christianity with his subjects for the Catholic rite, to marry Jadwiga, the Polish queen, and to unite the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with the Polish kingdom. The next year, Jagiello was christened, was elected Polish king and married Jadwiga. He ascended the Polish throne under the name of Vladislav II. This was the beginning of the reign of the Jagiellonian dynasty.

The Kreva Union greatly strengthened the positions of Poland and Lithuania in the fight against the Teutonic Order. In 1410, at the village of Grunwald, a united army of Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Russian regiments, a Moldovan detachment, parts of the Crimean Tatars and Czech mercenaries routed the Teutonic Knights. The military power of the Teutonic Order came to an end, the offensive to the east ceased. This contributed to the strengthening of the authority of Poland and Lithuania.

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Medieval Poland. Grand Duchy of Lithuania