A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture

By Manfred Kridl; Olga Scherer-Virski | Go to book overview
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The sixteenth century is called the 'golden' age of Polish culture, for in that century the growth of Poland's political strength coincided with a lively progress in all fields of intellectual endeavor and a particular achievement in literature. The internal policy of the Jagiellonian dynasty was prompted by the idea of an increasingly close union between Poland and Lithuania, as a result of which the creation of a unified PolishLithuanian state was signed in the act of the Union of Lublin in 1569. The external policy strove to maintain the prestige that Poland had gained even during the preceding century, when the Jagiellonian monarchs sat on the Hungarian and Czech thrones. Poland was faced with great and difficult tasks both externally and internally: to consolidate a vast country, to raise the standard of living, to reconcile the interests of the people with those of the state, to assure the safety of the frontiers and remain vigilant in foreign policy. Poland in the sixteenth century was in no position to fulfill all these tasks with equal success, but it achieved many significant and durable results.

Zygmunt I ( 1506-48), who came to the throne after the short reign of his brother Aleksander ( 1501-06), was faced with difficult problems both in the East and the West. Muscovy had signed a treaty with the Emperor Maximilian I and occupied Smolefisk. Moreover, Maximilian supported the Teutonic Order against Poland, and the grand master of the Order refused to continue paying homage to the Polish king. The Congress of Vienna, in 1515, reached a temporary agreement according to which Albert of Brandenburg, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, was converted to Protestantism and thereafter paid his homage to the Polish king as a secular prince. The Order thus ceased to exist, but it gave rise to the Hohenzollern dynasty which later harrassed not only Poland but all of Western Europe. The relationship with Muscovy, however, remained unsolved, which gave rise to new military conflicts. Furthermore, the


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A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture


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