Poland-Lithuania Russia and Peter the Great: Robert Frost Reveals a Neglected Influence on His Reforms

By Frost, Robert | History Review, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Poland-Lithuania Russia and Peter the Great: Robert Frost Reveals a Neglected Influence on His Reforms


Frost, Robert, History Review


In August 1698, on the way back from his famous embassy to western Europe, Peter I stopped off at Rawa Ruska in south-east Poland to meet Augustus II, elector of Saxony and the newly-elected king of Poland-Lithuania. Lubricated by four days of stupendously outrageous drinking, Peter and Augustus sealed their friendship with an informal agreement to wage war on Charles XII of Sweden, although it was another fifteen months before Augustus opened hostilities by attacking Riga, and it was not until two years after Rawa that the crushing of the revolt of the strel'tsy and the signing of peace with the Ottoman Empire enabled Peter to enter the war which was to end, twenty-one years later, with the defeat of Sweden and the definitive establishment of Russia as one of Europe's great powers. By the time of his death in 1733, Augustus's ambitious plans lay in ruins, and Poland-Lithuania had been eclipsed by Russia. Sixty-two years later, it no longer existed, after Russia had taken the lion's share of its territory in the pardons of 1772, 1793 and 1795.

Hindsight often turns historians into wiseguys after the event, and the unfortunate Augustus has not been spared the witticisms. Known as Augustus the Strong --his party tricks included snapping horseshoes and crushing silver goblets with his bare hands--he was also a prodigiously talented philanderer, seducing many of Europe's leading beauties and fathering a brood of illegitimate children. In 1734, a year after Augustus's death, his reputation was sealed by the publication of La Saxe Gallante by Karl Ludwig von Pollnitz, which recounted his energetic pursuit of Eros in salacious detail. Historians ever since have enjoyed jokes at Augustus's expense: Norman Davies's observation that his spermatazoa hit their targets more frequently than his political projects may raise a laugh, but is based on the claim that Augustus sired an improbable 354 children. Like all bedroom boasts, this is a slight exaggeration. The actual total was nine.

Nevertheless, if Augustus fired more blanks in the boudoir than legend suggests, the jibe is not without some basis. Although one of his eight illegitimate children grew up to become the Marechal de Saxe, one of the finest generals of his age, Augustus's own career demonstrated that an excess of testosterone does not necessarily imply military talent: from the moment he turned up to besiege Riga in 1700 with cannonballs too large for his guns, he suffered defeat after defeat. Charles XII chased him out of Poland in 1706 and invaded Saxony itself, forcing Augustus to abdicate the Polish throne in favour of Stanislaw Leszczynski, a Swedish puppet; it was only Peter's crushing victory at Poltava which allowed Augustus to regain the Polish throne in 1709. Thereafter, he met fierce opposition to his plans for increasing royal power, and was forced to abandon his ambitious foreign policy. After 1717, Poland-Lithuania was more the object than a subject of European diplomacy.

1698: Polish dominance in eastern Europe

Historians of Russia, with the benefit of hindsight, generally pay little attention to Polish history, content to assume that the rise of Russia to the status of a great power was inevitable; a process in which the reign of Peter I was merely the period in which manifest destiny was realised. Yet in 1698, it was Augustus--the elder by two years--who was the dominant figure. Elector of Saxony since 1694, he had audaciously snatched the Polish throne from under the nose of the French candidate, the duc de Conti, in 1697. It is true that Poland-Lithuania had experienced significant problems since the early seventeenth century, when it had dominated north-eastern Europe, and had suffered territorial losses, including the cession of Livonia to Sweden in 1660, and of Kiev, Smolensk and Chernigov to Russia in 1667. Nevertheless, it still had a substantial population of eleven million, and under John III Sobieski (1674-96) it had played a significant part in the long wars of the Holy League against the Turks which ended successfully with the Peace of Carlowitz in 1699. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Poland-Lithuania Russia and Peter the Great: Robert Frost Reveals a Neglected Influence on His Reforms
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.