Unrest in right-bank ('Polish') Ukraine. The haidamaky.

With the disbandment of the Cossack regiments at the end of the seventeenth century and after the subsequent disgrace of Palii, Cossackdom had disappeared from the right bank of the Dnieper as a form of social organization. It was in part replaced by the private or 'palace' (nadworne) militias of the magnates (kozacy nadworni) but these could not absorb all those men who might have wished to serve in their ranks. Outside Poland-Lithuania, Cossackdom survived in the shape of two distinct, self-governing military territories under Russian suzerainty. On the left bank of the Dnieper the hetmanate (getmanshchina) was commanded successively by the hetmans I. I. Skoropads'kyi (1708-1722) and D. Apostol (1722-1734), before being taken over by a commission until 1750. On both sides of the Dnieper, to the south of the rivers Orel' and Tias'myn, the 'Zaporozhian host' of old which in 1734 renounced its temporary allegiance to the khan of the Crimean Tatars established a new Sech (fortified encampment) on the river Pidpil'na, a right tributary of the Dnieper. Although the rank and file of the Cossacks on the Left Bank and in the Zaporozh'e were kept in a state of subjection, the prospect of a martial community, free of alien, Liakh, domination and under the tutelage of Russia, personified by the Orthodox tsar (or, rather, tsarina), was an alluring one for many Ruthenians on the Right Bank.

The masses (chern') were divided from their social superiors – the great landlords or 'magnates' and their clientèle – stewards and tenants – by a barrier not only of class but also of nationality, language and religion. The masters were Polish and Roman Catholic, the subjects predominantly Ruthenian and Greek Orthodox or reluctant Uniates. In between were the Jews – traders, middlemen and tavernkeepers. The conflicting interests of these groups made for a constant state of friction.

Employed in the creation of wealth, the poorer peasants felt themselves exploited by those who owned or held its source – the land, and those whom they considered to be their accomplices – the Jews. In hard or troubled times they were easily aroused by clerical agitation and ready to answer a call to arms. In some areas the cause of peasant discontent was the increase in the dues in labour, money and goods demanded by the landlords of the settlers on their land after the expiry of the initial period of grace.

Another irritant was the unrelenting pressure by the Roman Catholic szlachta, in their capacity as landlords or officials, on the lower orders, still strongly attached to the Orthodox tradition, to adopt the Union. Many did so: in 1747 in the western regions of the palatinate of Kiev there were 800 Uniate parishes, in 1764 – 2000. In parallel, the Roman Catholic Church which ministered to the spiritual needs of the upper strata of society was able to increase the number of its churches and monasteries in the south-east thanks to the benefactions received from the foremost landowning families. In the first quarter of the eighteenth century 12 churches were founded, in the second quarter 31 churches and eight monasteries.

In this volatile atmosphere many footloose and sturdy peasants, unwilling to till the soil which did not belong to them and eager for adventure, were tempted into a life of outlawry on the fringes of an unstable society. The steppe, the forests and the rivers provided free sustenance for such disaffected spirits while the possessions of the inhabitants of the manor houses, settlements and villages offered easy prey. The men who took advantage of these opportunities and formed parties to engage in acts of banditry, occasional or frequent, came to be known as haidamaky (Ukr. sing. haidamak(a), Pol. hajdamaka from the Turk. haydamak, marauder). Their activities ranged from making clandestine raids in small units through daylight robbery to leading the masses in open revolt, spontaneous or stirred up from political motives.

In the middle decades of the eighteenth century many of these freebooters were drawn from the Left Bank or the Zaporozh'e to the Right Bank by its slowly returning prosperity, unprotected, however, by the central or local authorities, incapable of policing so vast a region. The haidamaky were not without friends. Monks from some of the monasteries in the vicinity of Kiev (on Russian territory) and stewards of their estates often supplied the bandits with food and arms and gave them shelter. Whether they did so from sympathy with their co-religionists or to make mischief is anyone's guess.

In 1733 trouble involving Cossacks of various descriptions broke out on the Right Bank. The occasion was the civil war and the Russian intervention which followed the double election in September of the former king Stanisław I Leszczyński, and of the Electoral Prince of Saxony, Frederick Augustus, soon to reign as Augustus III. Cossack units under Russian command entered the Right Bank to act against the adherents of Leszczyński and were soon joined by Cossacks from the Zaporozh'e. When the Cossacks clashed with the Polish troops which had rallied to the cause of Leszczyński serious disturbances occurred in the palatinates of Bratslav and Podolia. The Russian commander who had seized the fort of Uman' appealed to the heads of the Cossack militias in the service of the supporters of the Saxon party to enter the fray against the partisans of Leszczyński. One Verlan, a Moldavian mercenary in the employ of Prince Ignacy Lubomirski proclaimed himself a colonel, formed a Cossack regiment made up of militiamen and peasant volunteers – haidamaky – and announced that he had received through the Russian military orders from the Empress to root out all Poles and Jews and to destroy their property, whereafter the Right Bank would be joined to Russia under a Cossack military régime. The self-appointed colonel and his regiment swore loyalty to the empress, Anna Ioannovna.

Verlan and his haidamaky operated in the palatinate of Bratslav and later in Volhynia until August when he was driven out of Ukraine, probably into Moldavia, by the Polish regular army. The disturbances – robbery with violence – were suppressed later in the year by homeward bound units of the Russian army. At the request of the szlachta of the palatinate of Bratslav one of these units stayed behind to restore order.

Although the political circumstances were exceptional and no religious emotions were at work the episode of 1733 reflects the mood of the populace on the Right Bank and the aspirations of its potential leaders. It also exposes the inability of the forces of law and order – the regular army (a mere 12,000 to 16,000 strong), the private militias and those raised by the szlachta – to cope with emergencies of this kind.

In 1736 and 1737 the haidamaky, undaunted, resumed their depredations, attacking many manor houses, taverns and convoys of merchandise or raiding on horseback whole townships and villages. They used their arms on the whole in self-defence but did not shrink from committing murder. The Polish forces retaliated repeatedly but never succeeded in establishing complete and permanent order. In 1737 they suffered a severe setback and on occasion were said to have caused more destruction than the haidamaky themselves. This running war was fought with varying degrees of intensity until 1747 and again between 1756 and 1757. One reason, perhaps the principal one, for the Poles' failure to win the upper hand was the continual and unstoppable reinforcement of the haidamaky by seasoned fighters, Cossacks from the Zaporozh'e and also from the Left Bank.


Intensification from the 1760s of the strife in Ukraine and in White Russia between the Orthodox community and the Uniate Church. - Three militant churchmen: Georgii, bishop of White Russia, Gervasii, bishop of Pereiaslav, Melkhisedek, prior of Motrenyn. - Catherine II takes an interest in the plight of the Orthodox in Poland.

The sixth decade of the eighteenth century saw an intensification of the strife between, on the one side, the Orthodox community, aided by the government as well as by the Holy Synod of Russia and, on the other, the Uniate Church backed by its patrons – the Catholic landlords and the Polish authorities. The initiative now passed to Orthodox, with three churchmen leading the movement for the recovery from the Uniates of churches, with their congregations, in White Russia and the right-bank Ukraine.

In 1755 the Holy Synod proposed for the vacant Orthodox see of White Russia a loyal subject of the Empress Elizabeth, the monk-priest Georgii (Konisskii). Georgii had risen to eminence as an ecclesiastical pedagogue at the Kiev Academy (founded originally by Peter Mohila in 1631) where he became professor of poetry in 1745. After a pro forma election he was appointed by Augustus III and consecrated at Kiev, notwithstanding the objections raised to his elevation by the Uniate archbishop of Polotsk, Florian Hrebnicki (Grebnyts'kyi) who claimed authority over the see of White Russia. In 1741 Gervasii (Lintsevskii, Lenczowski), sub-prior at the monastery of St Michael in Kiev, had been promoted to the rank of archimandrite (abbot) and sent to Beijing to take charge of the monastery within the precincts of the Russian legation. He returned in 1755 and in 1757 in recognition of his labours and exemplary conduct was consecrated bishop of Pereiaslav (on the left bank of the Dnieper). In 1761 Gervasii delegated the care of the Orthodox inhabitants of the right-bank Ukraine to Melkhisedek (Mykhailo Znachko-Iavors'kyi, the son of a left-bank Cossack), prior from 1753 of the monastery in the ravine Kosara in the vicinity of Zhabotyn. This ancient monastery of the Holy Trinity commonly known as Motrenyns'kyi (or, for short, as Motrenyn, in commemoration of the blessed Matrona or Motrona, perhaps its first patron), destroyed in the second half of the seventeenth century, was re-founded in 1717 by a member of the Jabłońowski family. It may have passed briefly into the hands of the Uniates but in 1753 it was renovated and subordinated to the Orthodox hierarchy. Under the direction of Melkhisedek it became the centre of Orthodox propaganda on the Right Bank. In the same year of 1761 the Empress Elizabeth extended her attention to the Right Bank from the ecclesiastical to the secular sphere, expressing a wish for 'territorial adjustment' in Ukraine. Several years went by before the Uniates began to question Melkhisedek's status and the allegiance of his monastery.

In White Russia Georgii was soon at odds with the Uniate hierarchy and the Polish authorities, having, in 1757, set up a seminary with the help of a subsidy from the Holy Synod and directed his clergy to recognize the Synod's supreme authority. On the Right Bank Gervasii, assisted by Melkhisedek, set out to strengthen the position of the Orthodox Church. Here many parishes, nominally Uniate, had fallen into a state of disorder and neglect from want of proper pastoral care; Gervasii met their needs by ordaining priests, for the most part newcomers from Wallachia. Some of the Polish landlords approved of these changes, conducive as they were to public order. By 1762 Gervasii, seconded by Melkhisedek, had recovered from the Uniates over 20 parishes in the vicinity of Chygyryn and Smila.

Georgii, Gervasii and Melkhisedek, equal if not superior in militancy to their Uniate opposite numbers, embodied a small but important part of the Empress Elizabeth's political legacy to Catherine II.

Catherine II, a freethinking convert to Orthodoxy from Lutheranism, had not even been crowned when, perhaps already divining the political potential of this good cause, she displayed a compassionate interest in the plight of the Orthodox population of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The bishop of White Russia, Georgii, was at that point in retreat before his Uniate rival, Hrebnicki, who with the support of officials in charge of the local royal demesne (ekonomia) had been able to establish at Mogilev a Uniate consistory court which claimed jurisdiction also over the local Orthodox community. Georgii, intimidated, asked to be transferred to another eparchy but Catherine ordered him to carry on. In accordance with precedent she instructed the Russian envoy in Warsaw, H.C. Keyserling, to protest against the ill use and the renewed persecution of the Orthodox.9 Having attended the empress's coronation in Moscow in October 1762 he afterwards gave an address in which he described in graphic detail the wretched condition of the Orthodox religion in Poland-Lithuania, soon, however, to be alleviated by the action of Her Imperial Highness whom the Almighty had appointed to complete the task of deliverance of the Orthodox begun by Peter the Great. If the empress was the answer to the bishop's prayers, he in her eyes was the man who would ultimately carry out her intentions. Georgii stayed on in St Petersburg; in 1767 he published in Warsaw a collection of the laws and liberties of the dissenters in the Crown of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, modelled on D. E. Jabłoński's Iura et libertates.


Changes in Poland: Stanisław Poniatowski elected king (1764), reigns as Stanisław Augustus; Poland becomes Russia's satellite. - Russia, Prussia and the dissenters. Catherine II adopts Prussia's Schutzpolitik. Grievances of the Orthodox. - Religious enthusiasm of the szlachta. - Catherine II determined to deliver the Orthodox.

Three events, occurring within a span of two years, inaugurated a new era in the relations between Russia and Poland-Lithuania: the enthronement on 30 October 1762 of the new empress of Russia, Catherine II, the death on 5 October 1763 of Augustus III, Elector of Saxony, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and the election on 7 September 1764 of his successor, Stanisław Poniatowski, who was to rule as Stanisław Augustus.

Stanisław owed his crown in large measure to the intervention of Catherine II in cooperation with her ally, Frederick II of Prussia. The new king was a commoner and as such, without any dynastic connections. He had already been Catherine's personal pensioner (as well as her lover); as king he was moved to the state payroll on which he figured together with Andrzej Młodziejowski, succesively deputy chancellor (1766) and (1768) grand chancellor of Poland, as well as bishop, first of Przemyœl, next of Poznan, and Kajetan Sołtyk, bishop of Cracow and Fr Gabriel Podoski, the future Primate, among others. The Republic, surrounded by potential enemies, did not have a single ally; hitherto eclipsed by her eastern neighbour she now sank to the position of Russia's satellite.

The interregnum, as usual, furnished the Protestants with an opportunity to air their grievances and demand redress. They duly made their representations in Warsaw, St Petersburg and in Berlin. These Frederick II, even though he had doubts about the desirability of reviving Prussia's Schutzpolitik, could not ignore. A separate article concerning the dissenters, included in the treaty of alliance with Russia of 11 April 1764, noted the request of the nonconformists for the restoration of their earlier rights and privileges in the temporal as well as the spiritual sphere but for the time being envisaged only protection from injury and oppression. A joint open declaration to the same effect, drafted in July and signed in August of the same year, was couched in general terms but Catherine II went further than that, possibly in response to lobbying by agents of the Protestants. In April she instructed her envoys in Warsaw, the ailing H. C. Keyserling and his colleague, Nikolai V. Repnin, not only to act on behalf of the Protestants as well as of the Orthodox but also to demand at the forthcoming Diets, to be convened before and after the election of the next king (viz. those of the 'convocation' and the coronation, in May-June and December 1764), the restoration by Act of Parliament of the rights of the dissenters in their entirety. The ultimate aim of the two powers should be to prevail on the Republic to promote such an Act in the Sejm and to approve a compact between the new king (generally expected to be Poniatowski) and the two courts which would provide them with a ground for open intervention on behalf of the dissenters. The best means of achieving this outcome would be the formation of a strong confederacy. This would make it easier to counteract the enslavement of a section of the szlachta by the Roman clergy as well as the hatred in the same quarters of those of a different confession. The convention of 1599 between the Orthodox and the Protestants was cited as a precedent for this démarche.

This longer-term plan for a Separate Act and a confederacy was the echo of a petition recently handed in by representatives of the Polish Protestants. It comprises some of the elements of future action with an important difference. Although the Russo-Prussian convention of 23 April 1767 was yet again to declare the wish of the two powers to re-establish and maintain the 'Greek' and Protestant dissenters in the free practice of their religion and the enjoyment of their rights and immunities, Frederick II had already chosen not to exert himself on behalf of the dissenters for the moment and to bide his time. The Prussian Schutzpolitik therefore passed into the hands of Catherine II to be fused with the traditional policy of remonstrance on behalf of the Orthodox and transformed into a system of legitimate interference on a grand scale in Polish affairs, qualifiable by reason of its international repercussions as Machtpolitik.

The aggrieved Orthodox addressed their complaints in 1763 and 1764 not only to Georgii but also to the Holy Synod, telling a familiar tale of woe. The complaints concerned four churches at Terebovlia in the palatinate of Ruthenia and 14 parishes in the diocese of Pinsk coerced into adopting the Union with Rome, a ban on the restoration and construction of Orthodox churches within the diocese if Vilno, attacks by pupils of the Jesuit Fathers on students from the Orthodox seminary at Mogilev, and assaults on the highway on Orthodox priests (and Protestant pastors), especially the one on the prior of the Orthodox monastery of the Epiphany at Pinsk, Feofan (Iavorskii). Here an Orthodox woman, having been married to a Roman Catholic in an Orthodox church had been pressed by Basilian monks to repeat the ceremony in a Catholic church. The prior went to remonstrate with the monks (at Leshch); on his return journey he was dragged out of his carriage, jostled, insulted, shaved and sheared. The Uniates in turn accused him of having taken over one of their churches and administered various sacraments to its congregation.

Catherine II's protests against such abuses and her demands for redress were so peremptory that they could not be desisted from without loss of credit with the Holy Synod in St Petersburg and prestige in Warsaw. But the szlachta were in no mood to make concessions in favour of any of the dissenters, Orthodox or Protestant. The 'convocation' Diet of May-June 1764 called on the Primate, Władysław Łubieński, to ask in Rome for the canonization of one Italian, Joseph Calasantius, the founder of the order of clerics regular known as Piarists, one Ruthenian, Iosafat Kuntsevych (Kuncewicz), Uniate archbishop of Polotsk (d. 1623), and five Poles as well as the beatification of five others, including Fr Andrzej Bobola, referred to in Chapter ...., and the completion of the process of beatification of one more. If piety was at its peak, so was prejudice. The same Diet solemnly promised to uphold and defend all the ancient rights and privileges of the orthodox Roman Catholic Church and the Greek rite united with it, sparing neither health, nor life or substance. With regard to 'the dissenters in the Christian religion', understood to be all Christians other than Roman Catholics, the Diet preserved them in peace in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1717 as confirmed in 1736 (after being renewed in 1733) and condemned any abuses of that Act committed in the interval. In this way the Diet kept in being all the existent disabilities of the dissenters in absolute denial of their earlier rights and liberties. The coronation Diet of October 1764 was even more outspoken; its resolution on the same subject spoke of securing the Holy Roman Catholic Faith against dis-Uniates and dissenters.

The religious enthusiasm of the szlachta had foiled Repnin's attempt, in association with the envoys of Prussia, Denmark and Great Britain, to obtain a revision of the status of the dissenters by the 'convocation' Diet and he came to believe that to restore their rights and privileges without the use of force would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, but even if it were possible it might be disadvantageous to Russia. Open access to civil offices would strengthen the position of the Protestants and their protector, the King of Prussia, since suitable Orthodox candidates for such offices were lacking. Repnin had nevertheless returned to the charge, using a roundabout but ineffectual route. The subject of the status of the dissenters was raised by the king and the Primate, Łubieński, only to be drowned in uproar. But the empress had set her heart and staked her honour on the success of her project. Nikita I. Panin, the senior member of the college of foreign affairs, informed Repnin that the question of the dissenters could not be regarded as settled until full justice had been done and that Russia would not shrink from armed intervention.


The influence on Catherine II of Voltaire. - His Essai historique. - Ulterior motives for Catherine II's actions. - Panin's equivocal attitude towards the dissenters.

Catherine II's interposition on behalf of the dissenters owed much to the influence on her of the writings of Voltaire. Stanisław Augustus believed that Voltaire, who had sought glory from the propagation of the principle of tolerance – his Traité sur la tolérance, written in 1762, had appeared in 1764 – had goaded the Empress into action by playing on her own desire for éclat. But he also recognized that this had been more than a passing fling of amour propre stimulated by Voltaire's adulation and that Catherine had quickly seized on the practical value of protecting the dissenters. Flattery in the long-standing penfriendship between the Empress and Voltaire worked both ways. Assuming that 'l'opinion' was indeed, as Voltaire asserted, 'la Reine du monde' and that 'les philosophes gouvernent cette Reine', it was necessary for the real monarchs to captivate the opinion makers not only by means of compliments but also of largesse of the kind that the Empress lavished on Diderot and d'Alambert, the editors of the Encyclopédie. She herself, inspired by the works of Montesquieu and Beccaria, and in some measure also by the progressive teachings of the philosophes, had the distinction of being both a monarch and a philosophe-écrivain in her own right. Her instruction or Nakaz for the legislative commission (which she convoked at the end of 1766), intended to be read and admired at home and abroad, was published in 1768 in Russian, French, German and English. The prohibition in 1769 of the French version by the police in Paris made the enlightened autocrat a victim of obscurantist censorship. Though hailed by Voltaire as an act of emancipation, the Nakaz was only a set of guidelines for a code and could not therefore immortalize its author as a lawgiver. On the subject of religion she declared: 'In a vast empire whose dominance extends over as many divers peoples as there are different [religious] beliefs intolerance of these religions would be a mistake, harmful to the ease and tranquillity of the citizens... Persecution irritates minds, toleration mildens them.'

In the absence of any overt religious conflict in the Empire it was the plight of the dissenters in Poland-Lithuania that gave Catherine II the opportunity to prove herself as a champion of toleration. Voltaire put his pen at her service. His most notable contribution to the cause of the dissenters was the Essai historique et critique sur les dissensions des Églises de Pologne, first published in 1767 A Basle (in fact in Geneva) under the name of Joseph Bourdillon. The Russian envoy at the Hague, Aleksandr R. Vorontsov, supplied Voltaire with the necessary material. The Essai is in part a diatribe directed against the Church of Rome, in part an account of the decline of toleration in the Republic, exemplified by the 'bloody execution of Thorn' and culminating in the current religious conflict. But chiefly it is a eulogy of Catherine II, the just and wise Empress who, having established tolerance in her own Empire, has gone on to engender it amongst its neighbours.

This glorious undertaking – the Russian invasion of 1767 – according to Voltaire was unexampled: no army had ever been sent to peoples of note for no other purpose than to tell them to live in justice and peace. Annexation was not envisaged, an Empire larger than Imperial Rome had ever been was not in need of more territory. It seemed to Voltaire at the time that thanks to Russian intervention the three aggrieved communities – Lutheran, Calvinist and Orthodox – would soon recover their rights without any detriment to the Church of Rome.

But it was no secret that, profess altruism as she might, Catherine II was acting from ulterior political motives. These were with regard to Russia perhaps to prove that in spite of the recent and final secularization of Church lands she had the interest of Orthodoxy at heart; with regard to the Republic to perpetuate and legitimatize Russian interference in its domestic affairs. Frederick II asserted (in February 1767) that the Empress had no business to act in this way, powers having the right within their borders to promulgate or abolish laws. Poland had decided that the dissenters must not hold offices and had disqualified them. He had gone as far as to lend himself to the empress's démarches on their behalf which in his heart of hearts or by reference to the works of Grotius he could not justify. But he expected recompense for his acquiescence in this matter, an acquiescence which he regarded as extreme, for certainly no one saw this affair as one of religion, except perhaps a few Polish bishops. For the rest it was being said openly in the whole of Europe that the empress would like to put Poland on the same footing as Courland and to establish there a king [other than Poniatowski] who would govern the country under her direction and would not take a step without her permission. The true interest of all Poland's neighbours was surely that its form of government should remain on the same footing as at present.

In August 1767, in a memorandum for Repnin, Panin spelled out, frankly if turgidly, Russia's purpose in taking up the cause of the dissenters. The object was not to disseminate in Poland the Orthodox or the Protestant religion but to acquire a solid and trustworthy party entitled to participate in all Polish affairs not only on the grounds of the forthcoming guarantee of the integrity of the Republic's constitution and its form of government, but also by means of Russia's permanent protection on which that weakest party in Polish politics would always depend. Indeed Panin deprecated the excessive spread of Orthodoxy or of the Protestant religion. The latter, by bridling superstition and restricting the power of the clergy, could easily drag the Poles out of the state of ignorance into which most of them had sunk and thereby gradually impel them to establish a new order and concentrate their strength to the detriment of Russia. No such inherent disadvantage attached to the Orthodox but if the Russians were to bring their excessive expansion to a point at which they would be able to rely on themselves alone in the Republic and share in its government, the Russians would expose themselves to various other disadvantages, not least a great and infinitely harmful increase in the number of [peasant] flights (pobegi) across the border (Frederick II had, in 1764, expressed similar reservations but on opposite grounds: the welcome migration into Brandenburg of Protestants from Poland might cease if their lot were to improve). As for the Uniates, Panin regarded them as mere renegades and instruments, in Polish hands, of the oppression of the Orthodox and would not hear of any proposal for their representation in the senate.

The fears which underlay the ambiguity of Panin's attitude towards the dissenters were as groundless as they were irrational. The chances of a Protestant revival occurring in so strongly Catholic a society were minimal, while the Orthodox, however greatly their numbers might increase at the expense of the Union, lacked an upper class. But these apprehensions might in some measure explain Russia's acquiescence, under the terms of her treaty with the Republic of 1768 (of which more below), in the prohibition of apostasy, since the liber transitus from the Uniate rite to the Eastern Church would have swollen the number of Orthodox in Poland-Lithuania.


Reconversions to Orthodoxy of Uniates on the Right Bank. - Georgii speaks for the Orthodox in Warsaw. - Uniate synod proposed but not held. - Melkhisedek in Warsaw (1766). - Stanisław Augustus confirms the rights of the Orthodox without allowing reversion from the Union to Orthodoxy. - Clamour for unhindered reversion grows in Ukraine. - Melkhisedek incites to desertion from the Union. - Its failings. - Uniate counter-measures resisted by multitude. - The Polish military step in. - Melkhisedek detained in Uniate monastery. - His escape.

In the summer of 1765, perhaps encouraged by news of Catherine II's démarches, Gervasii, the bishop of Pereiaslav, made a visitation of monasteries and parishes on the Right Bank in the course of which he was able to exercise his missionary zeal. Before the end of the year he recovered from the Uniates about 80 parishes in the areas of Chygyryn, Smila, Cherkasy and Moshny. The arguments used by the missionaries, such as the invalidity of sacraments administered by the Uniate clergy: the dead buried by them would not be resurrected at the Last Judgment – evidently carried conviction. These reconversions, added to other ones achieved by some monks led by Melkhisedek, went some way towards making up for past losses suffered by the Orthodox – some 200 churches and monasteries – but at the same time provoked the Uniates into violent retaliation.

Nor could the long-standing grievances of the Orthodox be redressed by these means, they had to be aired in Warsaw where even the less familiar ones had been heard before: Roman Catholic landlords or their agents deprive Orthodox priests of their glebes, cite them before the courts, collect charges for appointments to livings or themselves appoint unworthy individuals, the clergy are compelled to contribute to the cost of quartering the army; the Roman Catholic clergy collect fees from Orthodox parishioners, pre-nuptial contracts concerning the children of mixed marriages lack validity; Orthodox clerics who have committed misdemeanours are received into the Union, restored to the priesthood and made to work for the enticement of other priests; the courts of law are as oppressive as those against whom justice is sought; a counsel was allowed in court to call the bishop of White Russia a pseudo-bishop by dog's authority; Orthodox szlachta are denied appointments to any office, townsmen of modest means are driven from municipal posts merely ex odio religionis and replaced by Uniates. Gervasii's colleague, Georgii, bishop of White Russia, arrived in Warsaw in July 1765. He laid his case, as set out above, before the king but this did not achieve any positive results and merely involved him in a fruitless polemic with the Uniate bishops who wished to hold a synod to consider measures against the inroads made by the 'schismatics' supported by Russia. The king granted the necessary permission but, for fear of ruffling the Russians, only on the following conditions: his commissioners would be admitted to the sessions, he would see the agenda beforehand, no additional matters would be discussed, the decisions of the synod in so far as they did not concern matters of faith would not be made public or binding without his approval. But the Uniate metropolitan of Kiev, Pylyp Volodkovych (Felicjan Wołodkiewicz) and the papal nuncio, Visconti, who was to have presided over the proceedings, found these conditions unacceptable and in consequence the synod was not held.

In January 1766 Georgii was joined in Warsaw by Melkhisedek. The abbot of Motrenyn had spent a part of the summer in St Petersburg with the aim of obtaining confirmation by the Holy Synod of the privileges of his monastery and of other Orthodox communities on the Right Bank but received only a gift of vestments and a directive to follow the guidance of Georgii. In Warsaw Melkhisedek worked accordingly in close cooperation with the bishop who in turn advised the Russian envoy, Nikolai V. Repnin, on matters concerning the plight of the Orthodox. Through him Melkhisedek submitted to Stanisław Augustus a detailed memorandum on the subject, including evidence of the Orthodox lineage of his monastery. The combined efforts of Georgii, Melkhisedek and Repnin were rewarded with success, due in some measure to the king's sense of urgency and his wish to reach a direct settlement with the Orthodox in preference to putting their fate in the hands of a capricious Sejm.

In February and early March 1766 documents of far-reaching importance were drawn up in, and despatched from, the royal chancellery. A letter from the deputy chancellor of Poland, M³odziejowski, to Ignacy Morawski, the husband of Teofila née Radziwill, who was the owner by inheritance of the estate of Moshny and ground landlord of the local monastery of the Ascension, called on him to put an end to the ill-treatment suffered by its monks. Living in the borderlands as they were, they could easily find the means of repaying violence with violence which would be difficult to check. Another letter from Młodziejowski to Volodkovych, this time in his other capacity as the Uniate bishop of Volodymyr and Berest'ia (Brest Litovsk) condemned acts of coercion into the Union and required him to instruct his clergy to deal with the dis-Uniates circumspectly and in charity and mansuetude. A letter from the grand chancellors of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to all the Uniate bishops urged them to restrain their clergy and laity from persecuting the dis-Uniates and coercing them into adopting the Union. It condemned the alienation of Orthodox churches, the objections to keeping them in good repair or replacing them, such actions being contrary to the spirit of the law which grants toleration to the Orthodox. The king's letter to Volodkovych as Uniate metropolitan of Kiev was couched in the strongest terms: 'Knowing the firmest pillars of government agreeable to God and man to be justice for everyone, irrespective of the difference of persons, their condition and religion, We cannot hear but with displeasure the complaints and grievances of the dis-Uniates.' These matters would be examined judicially, meanwhile the bishops should endeavour to promote peace and concord among the citizens and obviate all causes for such complaints by not allowing persecution and unlawful conduct. Royal letters were sent also to members of prominent landowning families, a Sanguszko, a Jabłońowski and a Lubomirski. Of symbolic rather than practical importance was the promulgation on 3 March 1766 of letters patent in which Stanisław Augustus confirmed, ratified and approved the rights and privileges granted by his predecessors to all communities and persons of Greek non-Uniate rite. The customary escape clause which reserved the rights of the Holy Roman Catholic Church implicitly ruled out officially approved reversion from the Union to the Orthodox Church.

The privilege nevertheless gave offence to the Uniates and the Roman Catholics whilst raising hopes among the Orthodox. The good news leaked out into Ukraine and electrified the population. From Shrovetide of 1766 onwards the movement of reversion to Orthodoxy grew in intensity; parish after parish, in defiance of the wishes of its Roman Catholic patron, changed its allegiance and its priest; in the eyes of some observers this behaviour bore the marks of a peasant rebellion. The bishop of Pereiaslav, Gervasii, alluded apprehensively to obedience being due to the masters. On his return to Ukraine before Easter Melkhisedek contributed to the intensification of the religious strife by having the documents just cited copied and circulated. At the beginning of April, in his monastery of Motrenyn, he busied himself with the drawing up of the declaration which the Orthodox ecclesiastical authorities made on 24 April O.S. at the monastery of St Nicholas at Medvedovka near Chygyryn.

The declaration construed the sense of the official papers which Melkhisedek had brought with him from Warsaw in the sense that the reversion of Uniates to Orthodoxy was not prohibited, adding that the Orthodox wished to preserve peace and order and avoid all conflict, and calling on the Uniates to act likewise. Copies of the declaration were sent to various seats of public authority and to Orthodox churches where they were read out. The population of the areas of Zvenygorodka, Korsun', Lysianka and beyond, as far as Bila Tserkov reacted by demanding in large numbers to be reunited with the Orthodox Greek confession. In May Gervasii renewed his delegation of episcopal authority on the Right Bank first given to Melkhisedek in 1761. According to a contemporary Roman Catholic account, the reunited parish priests, over 150 in number, swore an oath of allegiance to Melkhisedek and were followed by between 125 and 300 parishioners in the various rural and urban communities. Among the plenipotentiaries of the absent landlords some paid no attention to the exodus from the Union, some turned a blind eye and kept silent while others still, having been bribed, gave permission.

The Uniates did not respond to the call of the Orthodox, having already taken counter-measures under the direction of Fr Grzegorz Mokrzycki, the official of their metropolitan. Mokrzycki combined the use of physical force with inquisitorial proceedings to stem and reverse the exodus from the Union which in many respects had failed its faithful. A Roman Catholic historian points to the slackness of parish priests, cases of irregular conduct, extortionate fee charges for funerals, the inadequate supervision of the behaviour of priests made up for by the imposition of excessive punishment for misdemeanour. These failings opened the door to Orthodox propaganda and the influx of new priests, mostly from Wallachia, with dubious orders. In the areas of Chygyryn, Cherkasy, Zhabotyn and Smila the multitude reacted by resorting to violence and went as far as preparing to resist renewed coercion into the Union by choosing Cossacks from the Left Bank, the Zaporozh'e and from the local private militias as their insurrectionary leaders. An eyewitness report describes these events as an uprising of the peasants incited by the monks from Motrenyn to the point of refusing to obey their masters. Religious fervour was vying with social rancour.

Meanwhile, an armed force under the command of Ignacy Woronicz arrived from the direction of Poland, set up a vast camp at Ol'shana to the north of Zvenygorodka and from there carried out operations which struck terror into the population. Many of the priests who had renounced the Union sought refuge on the Left Bank whilst many of their parishioners fled to Russia and Wallachia. Mokrzycki's aim was said to have been to seize Melkhisedek, 'that wrongheaded man of supreme diligence' even though, before leaving his monastery for Pereiaslav, he had appealed to the Orthodox population to keep calm, trust in God and not to react to the threats that were being uttered by Woronicz. Woronicz was in touch with Gervasii. On his way back from Pereiaslav with some letters from the bishop to Woronicz, Melkhisedek was arrested by a member of the Uniate consistory court. After undergoing a searching interrogation and being pressed to embrace the Union, he ended up in strict detention in the distant Uniate monastery of the Holy Trinity at Derman' in Volhynia. Thence he escaped or was released in November 1766. There is apparently evidence to show that Stanisław Augustus had wished to keep Melkhisedek out of the way for the duration of the Sejm which was due to assemble at the end of September.


Repnin, envoy in Warsaw, presents Russia's demands (1764-66). - The szlachta's inseparable political and religious convictions flaw Catherine II's policy. - Her declaration concerning the dissenters (1766). - Reactions of Clement XIII and Stanisław Augustus. - Much agitation observed in Poland.

Meanwhile in Warsaw Repnin had been engaged in carrying out Catherine II's instructions, some of which he privately regarded as 'terrible' and 'hair-raising' in their relentlessness. Nevertheless, within two years – 1764-1766 – he had succeeded in elevating the subject of the rehabilitation of the dissenters to the level of a primary issue, on a par with Russia's other demands: an alliance with the Republic and the receipt of a request for a Russian guarantee of Poland-Lithuania's extant institutions. These included the exercise in the Sejm of the free veto (liberum veto), whereby the voice of a single deputy, possibly acting in the interest of a neighbouring power, could undo the work of a whole parliamentary session. Stanisław Augustus also feared (or professed to fear) a similar but less probable eventuality resulting from the readmission of dissenters to Parliament: disruption by a group of dissenters disloyal to the Republic. In a mixed simile he complained that his crown was a shirt of Nessus, a gift presumably from the Imperial Dejanira.

The szlachta as a body politic cherished 'the free voice' as the supreme manifestation of political freedom. But as a body of believers the same szlachta, in equal measure, revered the Roman Catholic religion in which it had been bred and was convinced that 'tam diu Polonia libera quam diu orthodoxa',30 that political fredom and religious orthodoxy went hand in hand. The association of these two articles of faith, the political and the religious, ruled out political equality with the Catholics of the dissenters, Protestant and Catholic alike. The addiction of the szlachta to the liberum veto suited the aims of Catherine II because the very threat of its application guaranteed the unreformed condition of the Republic. On the other hand, the szlachta's predilection for the Roman Catholic faith to the exclusion of all other Christian persuasions, stood in the way of the realization of her project for the restoration of the religious and political rights of the dissenters in accordance with a much older tradition. This contradiction, never resolved, was a fatal defect in the empress's handling of the Russian interest in Poland.

Catherine II made known her intentions in this regard in 1766. On 4 November Repnin was conducted with great ceremony to the royal castle to be received in the debating chamber in solemn audience by the king, the senators and the parliamentary deputies. Seated and hatted he read out in Russian a declaration by Catherine II on behalf of the oppressed Greek Orthodox and Protestant subjects of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The empress professed to be acting in the name of equity and reason and in the belief that religious freedom was a divine right. The legal grounds for the intervention which she was making in association with the Protestant powers were the treaty of Oliva of 1660 and the Russo-Polish treaty of 1686.

The empress made specific demands reminiscent of complaints lodged in earlier decades by the dissenters themselves or on their behalf by the Courts of Berlin or St Petersburg: churches lawfully belonging to the dissenters of which they had been deprived should be returned to them, there should be no objection to the restoration of churches damaged by dilapidation or fire and no hindrance in the administration of sacraments or the delivery of sermons. Construction of Orthodox and Protestant churches should be allowed where they were needed. No charges should be collected by the Roman Catholic clergy from dissenters in respect of their burials, marriages and baptisms. The bishop and bishopric of White Russia and their churches should be preserved for the Greek religion as should the Protestant churches in the same region be for the Evangelical religions. No priest of 'the Greeks' or pastor of the Protestants should be cited before an ecclesiastical court. Marriages between persons of different religions should be allowed. In sum 'the Greeks' and the Protestants were to enjoy the practice of their religion and the protection that equity and reason owe to every inhabitant, this was not more than a bare right. In addition the empress insisted, for the sake of happiness and good order in Poland, on the re-establishment of 'the Greeks' and Protestants in their temporal prerogatives; the recent laws which had intended to disadvantage the Orthodox and Protestant szlachta were a source of trouble and disunion.

The declaration called for negotiations to be held between the government of the Republic and those of its subjects who differed from the rest only in religion in order to determine their share in the governance of the state and their connection with the Crown. Nothing would deter the empress from achieving her aim which was to restore to 'the Greeks' and Protestants who had solicited her support the enjoyment of the religious and secular rights due to them as members of a free nation. The declaration was at once a programme and an ultimatum. Six days later the envoys of Prussia, Great Britain and Denmark also lodged declarations on behalf of the dissenters. Here was an intervention on a grand scale such as Jabłoński would have wished for half a century earlier.

As was to be expected, Pope Clement XIII (Rezzonico) through his nuncio in Warsaw Antonio Eugenio Visconti, titular archbishop of Ephesus, appealed to the senators and parliamentary deputies to uphold the Roman Catholic religion and defend it against any innovation that might be introduced to its detriment, such as the extension of privileges for the dissenters.

Stanisław Augustus tried to dissuade the Empress from taking up so extreme a position by using an argument which came close to a general belief of the szlachta, namely that Roman Catholicism and liberty were intertwined: the nature of a free society (un état libre) like that of Poland-Lithuania was incompatible with the participation in law-making of even the smallest number of those who did not profess the dominant religion. A diversity of opinion in a matter as politically sensitive as religion must lead to disparates which were particularly dangerous where royal authority was weak. He might have added that even Voltaire in his Traité sur la tolérance would not go as far as to say that those who are not of the same religion as the monarch should share places and honours with those who are of the dominant religion. With regard to the French Protestants he believed that they asked only for the protection of the natural law: validity of their marriages, legal status for their children, the right of inheritance and personal freedom but not public worship, the right to hold municipal office or the appointment to dignities.

A month before Catherine II made her declaration the Prussian ministers of state (K. W. Finck von Finckenstein and E. W. von Hertzberg) informed the Prussian envoy in St Petersburg (V. F. Solms-Sonnenwalde) that in their opinion the Poles would lay themselves open to the utmost extremities rather than agree to seeing the dissenters regain their former prerogatives and remarked that never before had so much agitation been observed in Poland. But if their case could be won with regard to the spiritual sphere that would be a very considerable victory over the intolerance of their fellow citizens.


Catherine II's modus operandi. - Comparison with Peter I. - Three confederacies (of Slutsk, Thorn and Radom) hatched up in St Petersburg. - The Sejm of 1766. - Irreconcilable aims of the confederacy of Radom. - Russian military intervention.

In order to carry out her Polish project, Catherine at various points used every possible means, ranging from subtle to crude: intrigue, propaganda, bribery, military power, strong arm tactics. Only some of these methods had been applied by Peter I to meet the practical exigencies of the northern war. 'Auxiliary' Russian troops were stationed in the Republic (where they lived off the land) for operational purposes; the tsar's envoy, Georgii F. Dolgorukii, was as prepotent as Repnin was later to become, but was engaged principally first in bringing Poland-Lithuania into an alliance against Sweden and later in keeping Augustus II on the side of the northern allies, without meddling in the Republic's internal affairs. Some public figures were won over with largesse but those whose loyalty was suspect or wanting received short shrift. The tsar himself ordered the imprisonment of the grand hetman of Lithuania, M.S. Wiśniowiecki, and the deportation to Russia of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Lvov, Konstanty Zieliński, and of the Uniate bishop of Lutsk, Dionysi Zhabokryts'kyi (Dionizy Zabokrzycki), for intelligence with the enemy. Only in one episode were Russian troops used for political purposes: first to exert pressure on the confederates of Tarnogród and their adversaries, the king's party, to put an end to the destabilizing strife in which they were engaged in the midst of war and next to intimidate the Sejm of 1 February 1717, convoked to approve the settlement between the two sides, into cutting short the proceedings. After the war the tsar, absorbed by hostilities in Persia, was content to keep the Republic within Russia's sphere of influence. He showed much zeal in protecting the Orthodox community in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from persecution and forced conversion to the Union but in so doing did not rely on the cooperation of the Orthodox clergy. He was indifferent to the damage being done to the political rights of the Orthodox and the Protestant szlachta. Broadly speaking, however, Peter I's methods had set a pattern for the lines of conduct to be followed in relation to the Republic by his distant successor and emulator, Catherine II.

In 1697 Tsar Peter had helped Augustus II to establish himself on the Polish throne, and in 1709, to regain it. Catherine II made her début on the Polish political stage as a kingmaker: it was, as has been said, principally to her influence, that Stanisław Augustus owed his election. The tsar had benefited from the support of a confederacy, that of Sendomir, formed around Augustus II on 20 May 1704. The Empress, for her part, exploited to the full this double-edged institution which, when used for the promotion of factional rather than wider interests, would, in the words of Sir James Harris, in all other governments pass for a rebellion.

Three confederacies were hatched up in St Petersburg and provided with Russian money and military backing. The Orthodox and the Protestants of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined together for the restoration of their rights and privileges on 20 March 1767 at Slutsk (on the northern river Sluch) while the Protestants of Greater and Lesser Poland did so at Thorn. The act of the confederacy of Slutsk bore 253 signatures, that of the confederacy of Thorn - 227. In both instances the names of prominent Protestant families were followed by those of obscure individuals obviously drummed up for the purpose. The bishop of White Russia, Georgii, signed as counsellor for the confederacy of Slutsk. The general confederacy of Radom, by contrast, despite its Russian and, therefore, tainted origin, was a mass movement comprising between 74 and 80 thousand members of the szlachta. It was formed on 23 June 1767, twenty-one days after the corresponding one entered into at Vilno by the szlachta of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, for the defence of the Roman Catholic faith and the preservation of the traditional system of self-government of the szlachta and in opposition to the king, suspected of seeking absolute power.

The dispute arising from Russia's demands with regard to the vital issues of parliamentary procedure and the status of the dissenters was fought out at the ordinary Diet of 6 October - 29 November 1766 and at the extraordinary Diet of 5 October 1767 - 5 March 1768 (but prorogued on 10 September until 1 February), sitting intermittently as a confederacy. Its president was Karol Radziwill, formerly palatine of Vilno, marshal of the general confederacy of Radom.

The articles concerning the dissenters, drawn up by the college of bishops and accepted by the Sejm in November 1766, whilst guaranteeing security to 'the dis-Uniates' and Protestants in the practice of their religions as tolerated under the law did not mention any revision thereof or the restoration of the equality of political rights. These matters were obviously outside the competence of the bishops but the existence of this incapacity did not diminish the dissatisfaction of Repnin and his empress. Under pressure brought to bear by Repnin and his Prussian counterpart, Gideon Benoît, the principle of the veto was upheld and qualified as a cardinal (or fundamental) law.

The declared aims of the confederacy of Radom, a collective creature of Catherine II, show up the contradiction inherent in her policy with regard to Poland. The confederates received encouragement, money and military help from Russia, their rallying cry was opposition to the king's intention to continue the reforms, begun in 1764, of taxation and defence by the application of majority voting. Their manifesto accused Stanisław Augustus of leaning towards despotism and of subverting the fundamental laws of the Republic and thanked the empress for sending them armed help so that they might prevent further misrule. They pointed out that to uphold the rights of those who did not worship as the Catholics do brought no detriment to the Holy Roman Catholic faith, the spiritual condition being one thing and the temporal another, and thanked the empress also for her concern for the general welfare of the dissenters. But when it came to the signing of the act of confederacy all signatures but one were followed by reservations in defence of the Catholic faith and in opposition to any political concessions to the dissenters. This drama of the absurd reached its climax on 1 October when Stanisław Augustus acceded to the very confederacy which had been formed against him. Subsequent events showed the futility of such attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable.

In order to control the activities of the three confederacies, the Russians thought it necessary to put into the field between 26 and 30 thousand men, twice the number of the Polish forces which remained in the background. The Russian commanders were officers of promise or already of renown: General Stepan S. Apraksin, Lieutenant-Colonel Iosef A. Igelstrom, Colonel Mikhail N. Krechetnikov, Colonel V. A. Kar, Lieutenant-General I. P. Numers, Major-general Ivan M. Podgorichani, Lieutenant-General Ivan P. Saltykov, Brigadier Aleksandr V. Suvorov. The troops were used, not always successfully, to compel the regional assemblies of the szlachta (dietines, sejmiki) to elect to Parliament adherents of the confederacy and, in order to intimidate its opponents, were allowed to commit many depredations. The Sejm, in accordance with the precedent set during the northern war, designated them as 'auxiliaries'. The use of excessive military force suggests a fear of failure on the part of those who wielded it. But the real danger lay in the apparent success of violence and intimidation to which the next confederacy, that of Bar, was to be the reaction.


Repnin's further and ruthless activities. - Bribery. - Russian propaganda on behalf of the dissenters. - Repnin intimidates the Sejm (October 1767). - The bill concerning the dissenters is approved (February 1768).

The man charged with the execution of the empress's Polish project in most of its aspects was her envoy in Warsaw, Nikolai V. Repnin. The range of his activities, therefore, far exceeded that of an ordinary diplomatic representative. According to the writer, traveller and adventurer Giovanni Casanova, Repnin lived in the erstwhile Brühl palace in incredible style: 'Poland had never seen an ambassador more extravagant, more intrepid, more powerful, more overbearing and more universally hated, which he knew and laughed at, being in the habit of saying that nothing could be done with the Poles by using them gently but everything by using gold and force.' A Lieutenant-General on secondment he gave orders for the disposition of the Russian troops. In addition to keeping up a correspondence with Panin in St Petersburg and being in contact with his fellow diplomats in Warsaw, he negotiated with the leaders of the various political factions, continually brought pressure to bear on the king and stifled all opposition to the confederacy of Radom.

His most spectacular coup, scandalous in Catholic eyes in Poland and in Rome, was to secure, in 1767, the nomination by the king to the dignity of archbishop of Gniezno (and therefore of Primate) of a worldly figure of ill repute, Fr Gabriel Podoski, until then referendary of Poland. (In this capacity he was in charge of the courts which took cognizance of the complaints of peasants on the royal demesne and was also a judge in several other high courts.) Fifty years earlier the promotion to Gniezno of the bishop of Cuiavia, K.F. Szaniawski, also a former referendary and a firm supporter of Peter I but deficient in other qualifications, would not even have been considered.

No less shocking was Repnin's treatment of the opponents or mere critics of the empress's project. At the inauguration of the Sejm of 1767 a motion was put for adjourning the session and entrusting the powers of Parliament to a delegation which would negotiate a treaty with Russia; the treaty would correct all abuses in accordance with the Republic's needs and comprise a Russian guarantee. The bishop of Cracow, Kajetan Sołtyk, the deputy hetman of Poland, Wacław Rzewuski and his son, Seweryn, opposed the motion with great vigour. The proceedings were suspended. When they resumed on 12 October, the (nominal) Roman Catholic bishop of Kiev, J.A. Załuski, declared his opposition to all the proposed concessions to the dissenters and pointed out that they already enjoyed far greater toleration than the Catholics in Protestant countries. The bishop of Cracow now described the actions of the confederacy of Radom as an abuse of that institution and professed to wonder whether Repnin had been authorized to perpetrate the acts of violence experienced at the dietines and elsewhere since these actions seemed quite contrary to the promises made by Her Imperial Majesty (who, incidentally, had branded the bishop 'a brainless fanatic'). By that time Sołtyk and Wacław Rzewuski had already been engaged in drawing up secret plans for a new, anti-Russian, confederacy. On the next day, 13 October, both bishops were put under arrest by the Russian military, as were Wacław and Seweryn Rzewuski, and sent via Vilno into exile at Kaluga (about half way between Smolensk and Moscow), whence they did not return until January 1773. Repnin stated that they had been thus treated for 'forgetting the dignity of Her Imperial Majesty and blackening the sincerity of her salutary, disinterested and truly amicable intentions towards the Republic.'

Repnin's parallel remedy, money, was used to promote the three confederacies. Repnin received from Panin in January 1767 100,000 roubles (about £16,666) for extraordinary expenses connected with the affairs of the dissenters and their confederacies and 'approval of the Polish constitution'. From this, and perhaps also from some other source payments were made to the leaders of the confederacies of Thorn (12,000 ducats, presumably silver, about £6,000) and of Slutsk (8,000 ducats, about £4,000). Karol Radziwiłł, the former palatine of Vilno and future marshal of the general confederacy of Radom, received 10,000 ducats (about £5,000) to help him to confederate the Grand Duchy; in Lesser Poland smaller sums were paid to some organizers of local confederacies.

Another, rather cheaper, weapon in the Russian armoury, was propaganda, printed and oral. Tracts intended to prove the justice of the dissenters' cause were published in St Petersburg and in Warsaw, in French and in Latin for the benefit of readers abroad. The chief one of these was the Exposition des droits des dissidents, joints à ceux des puissances interessées à les maintenir (SPg: 1766) but none could rival the quality of Voltaire's Essai summarized above. It would appear that the Protestants conducted their own camapaign by means of material published in German, such as the Schriften die Sache der Herrn Dissidenten in Polen und ihre Conföderation zu Thorn betreffend (with seven Fortsetzungen, n.p.: 1767). The Catholics retorted with their own pamphlets. This lively polemic deserves detailed study.

In the Polish Ukraine the Orthodox clergy under the direction of their leaders, Gervasii, bishop of Pereiaslav, and Melkhisedek, prior of Motrenyn, agitated by word of mouth for an Orthodox reconquista under the aegis of the Empress of Russia.

The final act of intimidation was performed by Repnin. At the beginning of October 1767 he threw a cordon of some 10,000 Russian troops round Warsaw. Early in November he informed the delegation which the Sejm had appointed to settle the outstanding religious and constitutional questions that he had not brought 40,000 Russian soldiers into the country for fun and that he would suffer no opposition to the demands of the dissenters not being met in full. The necessary bill was ready by 1 December and was signed by the delegation on 22 February 1768. The Sejm heard the reading of these resolutions between 27 February and 5 March, on which day it ratified them.


Catherine II's project for Poland apparently comes to fruition. - The Act of 1768: the treaty between Russia and Poland; the cardinal laws; the rights of the Orthodox and of the Protestants – mixed courts for the dispensation of justice in interconfessional disputes, restoration of the political rights of the nonconformist szlachta; the towns of Polish Prussia; the district of Piltyń. - Questionable effects of these reforms. - Sir James Harris's description of the last days of the Diet. - The snag: reversion from the Union to Orthodoxy not allowed despite efforts of the leaders of the Orthodox. - Confederacy in defence of the faith and freedom formed at Bar (March 1768).

To all appearances Catherine II's project for Poland, half Utopian and half Machiavellian, came to fruition in the treaty concluded by Russia with the King and Republic of Poland and approved by the same Sejm. The treaty is an all-embracing piece of legislation. It systematizes the relations between the contracting countries and determines (in a separate Act) the form of government in the Republic and regulates (also in a separate Act) the relations between the Roman Catholic Church on the one hand and the Protestant dissenters and 'the non-Uniate Greeks' on the other.

Article one of the treaty confirmed and renewed that of 1686 which, it will be remembered, was in the first place a treaty of alliance against the Turks. Its article nine was a master stroke of Muscovite, and a blunder of Polish, foreign policy: it gave Muscovy the right to protect the Orthodox population of Poland-Lithuania, a right which Peter I and his successors were to exercise with little practical effect but to the detriment of the Republic's sovereignty. Now, in order to set their mutual friendship on a formal and permanent basis the two countries guaranteed to one another the integrity and security of their existent territories and frontiers in Europe for all times.

These provisions bound the Republic hand and foot, leaving it no room for manoeuvre at home or abroad. In the foreseeable future any other alliance was out of the question. Without having entered into any formal engagement, the Republic was affiliated to the Northern Alliance which Panin had begun to build up in 1764 in concert with the Protestant powers in order to preserve the peace in the North and to counterbalance the alliance between the Catholic powers, the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs, in the South.

The new treaty did further damage to Polish sovereignty by recording the fiction that Her Imperial Majesty's promise to maintain and protect Poland-Lithuania's form of government, freedom and laws in perpetuity was being given at the Republic's own request. Since these things demanded a clear statement that would prevent altered circumstances from bringing about variation, a separate Act, guaranteed by the same treaty, laid down leges cardinales, the fundamentals of the Republic's system of government, and rehearsed the personal and political prerogatives of the szlachta. Being unalterable, these laws were above and outside the authority of the Sejm which concerned itself with materiae status (affairs of state) defined in great detail and subject to the free veto. Materiae oeconomicae, however, strictly economic matters, were to be decided by a majority vote at the beginning of each parliamentary session. (In future years, however, the danger of disruption by veto was avoided by not bringing materiae status before the Sejm.)

The first separate Act of the treaty enumerates the immunities and prerogatives of 'the Oriental non-Uniate Greeks' and of the Protestant dissenters; it wipes clean the slate of discrimination and replaces it with a charter of religious rights. An antithesis of articles two and four and of the text of the oath of the hetmans in the Act of 1717, it tacitly removes the grounds for the oft-repeated complaints of the nonconformists and to some extent revokes the judicial decree of 1724 against the city of Thorn.

All legislation prejudicial to 'the Greeks' and dissenters passed between 1717 and 1764 was abrogated. In an early concession to political correctness attention was paid to nomenclature: the term dissidentes, according to the Act, relates equally to all Christian religions in the Republic but had for some time been applied to all those who are not Roman Catholics. It was therefore agreed to refer in all official documents and generally, in writing and in print, to 'Oriental dis-Uniate Greeks' and to 'dissenters' or 'Evangelicals' rather than to 'dis-Uniates, sectarians and heretics'. A 'Greek' bishop was also to be known as władyka (lord, from the Gr. êõñõoò), the Evangelical clergy were priests, ecclesiastics (duchowni) or pastors, otherwise ministers of the word of God; the Greek houses of divine worship were God's cerkwie (sing. cerkiew; Ukr. tserkva; Ch. Sl. tsir'ku), those of the dissenters were congregations (zbory, sing zbór), their religion was not a sect or a heresy but a faith, religion or confession.

Under the Act all ecclesiastical buildings, Orthodox or Protestant, may be repaired or replaced, new churches may be built subject to the necessary permission being obtained from the ground landlord (whether the Crown or a private landowner). But all churches including Roman Catholic ones, must be separated from one another by a distance of at least 180 yards. Full liberty of worship was granted to non-Uniates and dissenters, likewise the right to ordain priests, administer the sacraments, to preach in any language, sing hymns, hold public funerals and ring bells or play organs.

The Protestants were to have their own consistory courts for the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the maintenance of internal discipline; they, as well as the Orthodox, were to be exempt from Roman ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the payment of any dues to the Catholic clergy; the Orthodox bishop of White Russia (or of Mstislav, Orsha and Mogilev) conjointly with the churches, monasteries and endowments appertaining to his eparchy was preserved in perpetuity in the Oriental Greek non-Uniate religion and was to exercise his authority without any hindrance, as do Roman Catholic bishops in their dioceses. Likewise to be preserved were all churches and monasteries which will be found by the future mixed courts (referred to below) to belong to the metropolitan see of Kiev or some other Orthodox religious entity.

The freedom to print books needed for devotional purposes was restored subject to the king's consent in royal towns and with a warning to printers not to publish heretical works and to avoid biting language. Marriages between persons of different religions were not to be prohibited or impeded; non-Catholics were not to be compelled to observe Catholic ecclesiastical feasts, Orthodox seminaries and schools were not to be disturbed; 'Greeks' and Protestants must not be compelled to change their religion by any means whatever; 'Greek' monasteries and clergy and the Protestant ministers were to be taxed in the same way as the Roman Catholic clergy; any churches or monasteries which will be shown to have been unlawfully taken away from 'the Greeks' were to be restored to them. The dispensation of justice in cases relating to religion was removed from the tribunals and Roman consistories and replaced by a judicium mixtum or mixed court, consisting of sixteen lay judges, eight of the Roman and eight of the 'Greek' or of the Evangelical persuasion, presided over by an ecclesiastical judge, the Orthodox bishop of White Russia. Detailed regulations were laid down for the procedure to be followed by the court (which, however, owing to the prolonged stay of its president, Georgii, in Smolensk, and the continuing turmoil in the country, was unable to sit).

This separation of civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction was, if not the most radical then the most controversial measure to be introduced by the Act, given the intensity of the long-standing conflict between the Roman Catholic clergy and the nonconformists over the question of adjudication in disputes belonging to or dragged into, the religious domain. Further, a Protestant or Orthodox landlord was declared free to exercise the right of ecclesiastical patronage (ius patronatus, presentative advowson) on his demesne, provided the priest thus appointed was of the religion appropriate to the allegiance of the church in question.

Equality among the szlachta being the mainstay of Polish liberty and the foundation of the country's laws, and 'the Greeks' having been in possession of that right since their adherence to the Republic (or, rather, the union between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1413), and the Protestants for a century and a half until 1717, paragraph 16 of the Act restored to them all their ancient privileges and prerogatives and declared them fit to hold all offices, dignities and benefices, indeed brought them back to full activity in the civil and military spheres. Religion must be no bar to ennoblement or naturalization. Protestant and Orthodox townspeople were to enjoy the full right of citizenship on a footing of equality with Roman Catholics.

Article three of the Act deals principally with the towns of Polish Prussia where the dissenters were to be granted the freedom of worship and unrestrained tenure of civic office. With a view to ensuring the good behaviour of young people attending schools, the municipal authorities must not be hindered in keeping public order. In a further allusion to the tumult of 1724, paragraph six released the municipality of Thorn from the obligations imposed upon it by the decree of 1724 (save for any contrary provisions contained in the Act). Accordingly, the school and printing press at Thorn were to be restored and to enjoy their rights in full and in perpetuity. On the other hand the Catholics were left in possession of the churches of St James, St Mary and of the Benedictine nuns, subject to eventual compensation. The condemnation of 1717 of the city of Danzig, repeated later, for not returning to the Catholics the parish church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was rescinded. Articles four and five of the Act relate to Courland and the district (starostwo) of Piltyń (Ger. Stift Pilten, Latv. Piltene) which was under direct Polish rule, mostly with regard to the position of the Roman Catholic Church. The majority of the inhabitants of those areas being Lutherans, the concessions made at various times to the Church of Rome were withdrawn or curtailed, especially in respect of the occupation of land and buildings. The secularization in 1585 of the Catholic ecclesiastical estates in the district of Piltyń, consisting of three separate parts, was confirmed and the claims to these estates laid by the Roman Catholic clergy were declared invalid. The title of Roman Catholic bishop of Piltyń, attached since 1685 to that of Livonia, was extinguished.

These reforms, to give them their proper name, calculated to nullify many of the gains of the Counter-Reformation in the secular as well as in the spiritual sphere were, however, thrust on a still backward-looking and devoutly Catholic political nation by a foreign power engaged in the use of force for the achievement of its own political ends. The effectiveness of the reforms was therefore in doubt.

Sir James Harris, later the Earl of Malmesbury, was at that time passing through Warsaw on his Grand Tour. In his diary he described the scene which he observed from the strangers' gallery overlooking the chamber of the Sejm. The Diet had assembled to hear the resolutions drafted by the delegation appointed for this purpose on 4 November 1767:

'the coup d'oeil [was] striking – the king under a canopy at the upper end, and
attended by his officers. On his right hand sits the Primate – the first of the
senators – with his cross-bearer and other attendants, and he indeed appears a
second king. Opposite him is the archbishop of Leopold [Lvov], and after them,
in the first row, the other senators. These fill the foremost bench, and behind
them are the other members, or nonces as they are called.

Before they began reading the papers some few attempted to speak, but it
was not allowed; the attempt was afterwards repeated but in vain; and, in short,
the whole body very patiently heard the affair of the dissidents read over without a
murmur. There was a nonce of Polish Prussia, who declared he would enter a
protest against all the resolutions come into concerning the dissidents. He,
however, was readvised, and absented himself during the rest of the Diet.

The idea of a whole nation thus represented is awful – but how much was
my respect diminished when I saw in the same room with myself, which had a
window that looked into the hall, the Russian Ambassador attended by four or five
generals who watched all that passed, and seemed, by putting out their heads
every now and then, to menace any that presumed to oppose!

The other days of the Diet passed over like the first – almost each day
some faint struggle made to speak, but no speech ever made. The nonces were
told “let all be read; and then, if you please, give your sentiments”, the Diet shall
last a day longer on purpose. When, however, this day came, messages were sent
at six o'clock in the morning to each member with a hint, that it would be better to
say nothing; and accordingly when they assembled, the marshal in a few words
expressed the approbation of the measures the delegation had come to, and
immediately dissolved the Diet, after which the whole house, attended by the king
and senators went to the church and sang the Te Deum.

Thus ended this most remarkable affair, and a whole nation were so
singularly circumstanced, as to be under a necessity of acquiescing in making new
laws totally opposed to their ideas; and the king with the most upright and
righteous intentions was obliged to choose to the party of the Russians, as the
least of two evils; for, had he embraced the other, the consequences would have
been a most bloody and cruel civil war.'

As it turned out, the civil war was not averted but only delayed.

There was, however, a catch in the charter for the nonconformists just described, and by the same token, a sop for the Church of Rome. The Roman Catholic religion received the designation of 'dominant' and its status was numbered among the cardinal laws, conversion to any other religion was declared a crime punishable by banishment. The Uniates being members of the Church of Rome, no special reference was needed to the Uniate rite. The reason for this oblique prohibition was simple: the liber transitus would have invited an exodus on a scale large enough to endanger the Union. The Russians for their part did not wish to see on the Polish side of the border a degree of freedom of worship so high that it would attract peasant migrants from across the Dnieper. In this way the efforts of the leaders of the Orthodox community, the bishops Georgii and Gervasii and the prior of Motrenyn, who had been demanding unconditional freedom for reluctant Uniates to revert to Orthodoxy, were now finally frustrated. The consequences of this bitter disappointment were soon to be seen. Before this happened, Georgii and Melkhisedek tried in Warsaw until the last minute to win the inclusion in the Act of a clause which would allow the liber transitus from the Greek rite to Orthodoxy. To this end they had, in White Russia and in Polish Ukraine, collected signatures on petitions in support of their endeavours. In January 1768 Melkhisedek had brought about 100 such documents to Warsaw and registered excerpts from them as well as his own complaint of earlier ill-treatment in the records of the sheriff's court (gród) in Warsaw. Opposition to his intentions in the negotiations from the Polish, and lack of support from the Russian, side augured ill for these efforts.

The political opponents of Stanisław Augustus countered the Act of 1768 by forming on 15 March at Bar in Podolia a confederacy in defence of the faith and freedom. In their manifesto they condemned the king for having abused his authority and power and enlisted Russian military intervention to force through the Sejm his programme of reforms and for having made an accommodation with the dissenters – an accommodation which was an insult to, and an abasement of, the Holy Roman Catholic faith. The reforms in question, slipped into the Act of 1768, were modest enough: separate tribunals were established for Greater and Lesser Poland, the landed proprietors' right to punish their subjects by death was transferred to the nearest law courts, in the sejmiki (dietines) majority decisions were allowed where unanimity had failed. The authors of the manifesto abrogated and invalidated all the measures adopted under the pretext of legality but contrary to the laws and liberties of the Republic.


Crisis in Ukraine 1767-68: mass rejection of the Union resumes, Russian troops withdraw, reprisals by Bar confederates justly feared. - Outbreak of the koliivshchyna, a popular revolt. - The false and the genuine manifesto of Catherine II.

In Ukraine a year earlier, in the spring of 1767, after the dissenters had, under Russian auspices, formed confederacies in defence respectively of the Orthodox and Protestant religions, and Russian troops had begun to act in their support, the mass rejection of the Union regained its momentum; the movement swept from the area of Chygyryn by way of Smila deep into the Right Bank. Not later than May Gervasii, on orders from the Holy Synod, declared that the Empress of Russia was taking steps to defend the Orthodox and to restore their rights. At the end of June, in a circular announcement, Gervasii assured his flock that Orthodox Russia would not abandon its co-religionists and would spare neither strength nor cost in its exertions on their behalf.

Early in 1768 the Russian troops withdrew from around Warsaw and later, so as not to give offence to the Porte, from the Ukraine to a line stretching from Berdychiv to Lvov. The Polish contingents meanwhile took up positions around Bila Tserkov. But the prospect of calmer conditions soon gave way to fears of reprisals by the confederates. Their numbers had been increased by the adherence of many of the Polish detachments and some of the 'palace' Cossacks.

The fears of the Orthodox had not been groundless. In Kaniv a band made up of confederates, Cossacks and dragoons attacked townspeople of the Orthodox persuasion, pressed them to swear loyalty to, or join, the confederacy and despoiled and beat up those who refused to do so. Fear turned to panic as the same band moved across the latifundia in the districts of Chygyryn and Cherkasy where many of the inhabitants were of the Orthodox religion, again threatening them with death if they did not take the confederate oath. Another band chased fugitives from the disturbances, causing more commotion in the whole of the right-bank Ukraine by committing assaults, beatings and rapine. All this provoked reciprocal acts of violence on the part of those Cossacks who had not joined the confederacy and of habitual haidamaky. In this atmosphere, charged with popular fear, anger and, above all, deep resentment communicated to the commonalty by its spiritual leaders whose false hopes of a mass reversion from the Union to Orthodoxy had been dashed, the revolt known as koliivshchyna broke out. Its Ukrainian name is derived from the noun kil, a stake, the weapon with which the majority of the insurgents were armed. (The Russian equivalent is kolivshchina, the Polish – koliszczyzna).

A new force now made its appearance. A mass of 'palace' and Zaporozhian Cossack vagrants, runaway peasants and habitual brigands, loosely described as haidamaky, took advantage of the prevailing turmoil to turn the interconfessional strife of long standing into a full-blown uprising. The insurgents were fired by a manifesto purporting to have been promulgated by Catherine II which called on the Orthodox people to defend their faith, rally to Russia, drive out the szlachta and priests and be free of servitude and boon work. Nobody knows where and at whose behest this cry was first raised. By July the Russian forces were back in Ukraine with orders to quell the haidamaky and prevent a peasant rebellion. Catherine II in a genuine manifesto (quoted below) appealed to the Orthodox participants in the disturbances to return to their homes and duties.

Melkhisedek, the prior of Motrenyn, had worked hard in the earlier phase of the movement to stir up the masses and was now suspected of complicity with the leaders of the insurrection. In point of fact he kept out of it, having called on the monks of his monastery not to join 'the freebooters' and predicted that Russia would not support them. But on at least one occasion, in May and June 1768, a service of intercession for the success of the rebels was held at Motrenyn before they set out on a razzia. There was another ground for suspicion. The Cossack Maksym Zalizniak who had arrived from the Zaporozh'e in November 1767 in unexplained circumstances and with unclear intentions and entered the monastery as a postulant, was a ring-leader of the movement.


The haidamaky in the forefront of the revolt. The massacre of Uman'. - Stanisław Augustus names the causes of the revolt. - The gaidamaky raid Balta and sack Golta on Ottoman territory. - The Turks declare war on Russia. - Causes and side effects of the fiasco of Catherine II's project. - Her appeal of July 1768 to the Orthodox inhabitants of the south-eastern palatinates. - Suppression of the revolt. Gervasii and Melkhisedek relegated.

In the spring of the following year some marauders from the Zaporozh'e, attracted by the turmoil on the Right Bank, joined an assortment of fractious local inhabitants in the forests of the basin of the Tiasmyn river. Together, about 70 men in all, they moved south-eastwards to the forests around Motrenyn. Here, in preparation for an expedition, they pitched camp and elected Zalizniak as their leader. Zalizniak later declared that his plan had been to clear the country in the first instance of the confederates and next of Poles and Jews.

In the second half of May, after repelling an attack by some 'men in Polish attire', Zalizniak and his men marched westwards and were joined by many more like-minded ruffians. After taking Zhabotyn, the main body of these haidamaky successively occupied Korsun', Boguslav and Lysianka before moving on the Uman' (Pol. Humañ). At the same time the unrest began to spread to the southern regions of the palatinates of Kiev and Bratslav and beyond, into Podolia and Volhynia. Many of the local szlachta and Jews, with their families, fled before the advancing haidamaky to seek refuge in the fortress of Uman'.

Uman', a private town in the possession of the Potocki family, had been attacked by haidamaky in 1729 and again in 1749 but since then had been armed with cannon and garrisoned with dragoons and Cossacks. The commander of the Cossacks was one Ivan Gonta, the son of a local peasant. After swearing an oath of loyalty in the Uniate church in the town, Gonta set out to parley with Zalizniak but, instead, changed sides. By means of a stratagem the two leaders entered the fortress, enabling the haidamaky to storm it. A massacre followed, thousands of people perished, including those brought to the fortress from other places for execution. The bulk of the victims were szlachta and Jews, men, women and children. The Catholic and Uniate priests and the monks from the (Uniate) Basilian monastery suffered the same fate. At an assembly held after the capture of Uman' Zalizniak was proclaimed hetman and prince (kniaz') of Smila, Gonta – colonel and prince of Uman'. This charade and the lack of any kind of political vision are a measure of the chasm between these freebooting freedom fighters and the Cossack hetmans of the previous century. This was the high point of the koliivshchyna.

Stanisław Augustus's link with intellectual circles in Paris was Madame Marie-Thérèse Geoffrin who kept open house for the philosophes. In a letter to her written in July 1768, and later in his memoirs, the king described and indicated the causes of, the new and frightful disaster which had befallen his country: the revolt in Ukraine. Here the Polish lords held vast domains. The oppressive regime of their agents and stewards and the abuses committed by them, increased and perpetuated the antipathy between the common people of the Greek persuasion and their Latin masters. The hatred felt by the masses towards anything Polish was intensified by the trickeries of the Jewish tavernkeepers and toll farmers in the employ of the lords. The revolt spread like wildfire. 'Greek' fanaticism was joined to a desire for independence. The insurgents [or, rather, their leaders] were of Cossack stock, enemies of the Poles since the days of John Casimir in the previous century. 'Greek' and serf fanaticism were pitted against Catholic and noble fanaticism. The king did not know what to do beyond binding the wounds as they were being inflicted. One thing was certain: without the confederacy [of Bar] this new disaster would not have happened. Stanisław estimated the human cost of the uprising at 15,000 'noble heads' and over 30,000 Jews, men and women.

From Uman' a detachment of haidamaky set out southwards in pursuit of a party of confederates, said to have entered the small but prosperous trading centre of Balta situated on the right bank of the river Kodyma, a tributary of the southern Bug. Balta, on Polish territory, was inhabited by a mixed population of Poles, Turks, Tatars, Jews, Serbs, Greeks and Russians. On the opposite bank, on Edisan Tatar territory, lay the settlement of Golta. The confederates did not appear till later, meanwhile the haidamaky entered Balta and wiped out most of the local Jews. Thereupon some Turks and Jews from Golta in turn attacked the haidamaky, others assaulted the Orthodox inhabitants. In retaliation the haidamaky sacked Golta. According to official reports received in Istanbul the perpetrators of the raid were Cossacks from the Zaporozhian Sech, subjects of the empress. The Russians denied any responsibility for the activities of the haidamaky; anxious not to provoke the Turks they had taken the precaution of keeping their troops in the Republic well away from the Turkish frontier. But the Porte, egged on by the khan of the Crimean Tatars, Maksud I Giray, had already raised objections to the presence of Russian troops in Poland in contravention of the Russo-Turkish treaty of 1713. Availing themselves of the opportunity presented by the encroachment on Ottoman territory at Golta, the Turks now demanded of the Russian resident in Istanbul, M.A. Obreskov, a guarantee that Russia will without delay withdraw her troops from Poland-Lithuania and will cease protecting the dissenters. Since Obreskov had no authority to satisfy such demands, Russia found herself in an unwelcome state of war with Turkey much to the satisfaction of the minister in charge of French foreign policy, the duc de Choiseul. The French ambassador at the Porte, the chevalier C. G. de Vergennes, had consistently worked towards this end.

The links in the chain of events which led up to this crisis are easy to discern: Russian pressure on the Republic on behalf of the dissenters, Polish objections followed by compliance, the expectations of the Orthodox raised and disappointed, a Polish and Catholic backlash, a mass Orthodox reaction, a surge of haidamak banditry, a Ukrainian jacquerie which set ablaze the right-bank Ukraine and rekindled the conflict between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Under the terms of the recent treaty between the two countries the Republic should have come to Russia's aid but the king and his advisers, mortified by the recent experience of a Sejm legislating under duress, would not even hear of allowing the Russian army to use Kamenets Podols'kyi as a base. Their price was the withdrawal of the guarantee of the Republic's system of government and consent to the abrogation of the new laws regulating the status of the dissenters. Repnin, the architect of the treaty, could not contemplate such a retreat. Blamed in St Petersburg for having led Russia into a blind alley, he was recalled from Warsaw.

It goes without saying that the blame for the fiasco of the project for the emancipation of the dissenters in the Republic and for its disastrous side effects lay not with its executants but with its initiator. The Empress, dazzled by les lumières, beguiled by adulation and tempted by ambition, had blundered into territory where even native reformers feared to tread and one into which Peter the Great had taken care not to venture.

Catherine II's manifesto of 7 July O.S. 1768 addressed to the Orthodox population of the palatinates Kiev, Podolia and Volhynia was printed in Polish; its contents were clearly intended to be noted by a wider audience, including the authorities in Warsaw. The document is an indirect admission of the failure of the empress's promotion of the cause of the dissenters, especially of the Orthodox, which had become the centrepiece of her general policy in relation to the Republic.

Compared to the high-sounding declaration which two years earlier had announced Catherine II's championship of the dissenters, the manifesto reads like a lament for a project that had not only failed but also resulted in all the horrors that accompany a civil war and rebellion. She could not brook such disorder. It grieved her to learn that her co-religionists, instead of beginning to make full use of the equality of rights and prerogatives recently granted to them, were creating fresh disturbances. Villagers, having renounced obedience to their masters have committed murder and other acts of violence displeasing to God. Her Majesty put the blame on the bad example set by the confederacy of Bar and on a band of brigands pretending to be a detachment of her faithful Zaporozhian Host. These men had attracted to their number innocent villagers by showing them false edicts published in her name. Others had been aroused by recent and remembered injuries suffered at the hands of citizens belonging to the dominant religion. No one had been sent by the empress to stir up her co-religionists against their brethren of other creeds. The perpetrators of these acts should return to their homes and duties and pay obedience to their masters and to the Republic as the supreme authority established by God or incur Her Majesty's displeasure. The brigands, thieves and breakers of public order, together with their accomplices, would be caught and punished. Her Majesty would defend the rights of her co-religionists but at the same time would do her duty by the Republic, her ally, whose form of government, integrity and tranquillity she was bound to protect.

The insurrection was quickly suppressed by the action of Russian troops; the denizens of the Right Bank were handed over for punishment by the Polish military; the Zaporozhians and natives of the Left Bank were dealt with by the Russians. All were treated with the utmost severity.

Bowing to the widely held opinion that Gervasii, bishop of Pereiaslav, and his deputy, Melkhisedek, had instigated the movement which led to the koliishchyna, Catherine II gave instructions for their removal from the oversight of ecclesiastical affairs on the Right Bank. By order of the Holy Synod the bishop was, in 1768, sent into retirement in Kiev where he died a year later; the prior of Motrenyn, after interrogation, was relegated to the monastery of St Michael at Pereiaslav and thereafter put in charge of a succession of monasteries until his death in 1809. The third member of the trio in Holy Orders which had helped Catherine II to champion the cause of the Orthodox dissenters, Georgii, bishop of White Russia, was not implicated in the commotion in Ukraine and kept his office which, in any case, he held of the king of Poland. Having left Warsaw in the spring of 1768 he did not return to Mogilev until 1775. By that time the first partition of Poland-Lithuania had placed the eastern portion of his eparchy (comprising his see) under Russian rule. Unswerving in his opposition to the Union, he succeeded in obtaining official sanction for the transfer of large numbers of Uniates to the Orthodox Church. In 1783 he was appointed archbishop and a member of the Holy Synod. He died in 1795.

The international crisis which followed the koliishchyna allowed Catherine II to try her hand at grand strategy and high-level diplomacy. On that plane the Republic again became the object of her attention, this time with even more calamitous consequences.


Plans for the dismemberment of Poland-Lithuania revived. - General Chernyshev's proposal (1763). - Russian embroilment in Poland and in Turkey opens the prospect for dismemberment. - Partition carried out. - Edmund Burke's question. - Was partition inevitable? - Horace Walpole's comment.

The plans for a partial dismemberment of Poland-Lithuania have a long history. Those entertained in the reign of Augustus II have been enumerated in Chapter 6. They had in common one distinctive feature peculiar to all rational projects: the prospect of supposed benefits for all concerned, that is to say territory for the partitioners and the opportunity for the King of Poland to establish himself as an absolute and hereditary monarch in a smaller area. Augustus revived this idea in the last year of his reign, offering to give Lithuania (without Vilno) to Russia, Polish Prussia (without Danzig) to Brandenburg-Prussia and the district of Spisz (Zips), mortgaged in 1412 to the King of Poland by the King of Hungary, to Austria in return for full sovereignty over the residue. The idea, something of a speciality in the House of Saxony, was taken up by Maria-Antonina Walpurgis, the wife of the then Electoral Prince and later (until 7 December 1763) Elector, of Saxony, in 1759 and again in 1763. The princess now toyed with the notion of securing the Polish throne for her husband Frederick Christian and making it hereditary in return for giving up Courland to Russia and parts of Polish territory to Prussia and to Austria. In Paris in 1763 the expected demise of Augustus III gave rise to conjecture that the tsarina, the Queen of Hungary (Maria Theresia) and the King of Prussia were staying armed in order to effect an election to the Polish throne to their taste and perhaps to dismember something as well.

In Russia as soon as the news of the death of Augustus III reached St Petersburg – on 17 October O.S. – a secret meeting was held in the Empress's private apartments to consider the situation. Among those present were: the vice-president of the college of war, General en chef Zakhar G. Chernyshev, the former chancellor Aleksei P. Bestuzhev-Riumin and Nikita I. Panin, soon to be appointed senior member of the college of foreign affairs. It was decided to communicate in the matter of the Polish succession with the Courts of Vienna and Berlin and with the Porte, as well as with the Primate of Poland as interrex directly and with the authorities in Warsaw through the usual diplomatic channels. (The name of Poniatowski was not mentioned at this stage.) Chernyshev was instructed to concentrate a substantial number of troops on the Lithuanian frontier, he in turn presented the detailed plan which he had prepared in anticipation of the interregnum. The plan proposed the immediate occupation of Polish Livonia and Vitebsk, as well as a part of the palatinate of Mstislav, as far as the course of the western Dvina and the Dnieper with a view to demarcating for the empire a natural western frontier, secure and favourable to trade. Chernyshev's proposal was judged to be very useful but inopportune and was therefore shelved, pending a change in circumstances. Such a plan for annexation pure and simple could hardly be justified by the Polish violations of the frontier cited by Chernyshev and would not have been accepted by the Republic's other neighbours.

Partition was another matter. At the end of the year 1763 Panin, in the course of negotiations which were to result in the conclusion of the alliance with Prussia in April 1764, hinted that in the event of Prussian troops entering Poland and of a consequent undesirable extremity, both countries would be paid for their pains. But this eventuality was treated by Frederick II with great reserve and was later opposed by Panin himself until the end of the decade. For the time being neither of these powers favoured partition but whispers persisted. In 1767 when it was suspected that Catherine II's advocacy on behalf of the dissenters was only a pretext to cover deeper designs to do with the character of the monarchy in Poland-Lithuania which might be made hereditary, the British envoy in Berlin, Sir Andrew Mitchell, in writing to his counterpart in St Petersburg, Sir George Macartney, reported that 'some go still further, pretending that there is an actual agreement between the Courts of St Petersburg and Berlin for the dismemberment of the Kingdom of Poland, parts of which are to be ceded to the two above mentioned powers'. Mitchell looked upon these conjectures as being 'wild and Romantick', he wondered how far a dismemberment might be agreeable to the other powers of Europe and did not believe that 'a great people, intoxicated with the name of liberty', would tamely submit to 'alterations in their government so derogatory to their honour and interest'. In his political testament of 1752 Frederick II expressed his wish eventually to acquire Polish Prussia, adding that this should be done piecemeal, as one eats an artichoke. In 1768 he repeated this wish but without any reservations. As Russia became embroiled first in Poland and next in Turkey, attitudes changed and the gastronomical simile no longer held good.

In the end it was the King and Republic who paid with Polish and Lithuanian territory for the restoration of peace in the theatres of war, civil and foreign, in which Russia was active. The long-feared dismemberment was finally carried out by Prussia, Russia and Austria between May 1771 and August 1772 by way of compensation for 'losses' not all of which they had actually incurred: to Russia for abstaining from seizing the Danubian Principalities – Moldavia and Wallachia – from Turkey and for the cost of the war in Turkey and in Poland, to Austria for keeping out of the war and failing to profit from it (until 1773 when she received Bukovina from the Porte), to Prussia for subsidies paid to her Russian ally without gaining any territory in the war. The Sejm of 1773 sanctioned the partition.

To Prussia went Polish Prussia to the north of the river Noteæ (36,300 km2) with its Protestant minority of about 150,000, Austria took 81,900 km2, Russia 93,000 km2, covering the eastern part of White Russia on the right bank of the Dvina with Mogilev and the basins of the upper Dnieper and the Sozh. This area, inhabited largely by Uniates and 'Greeks', came close to that marked out by Chernyshev in 1763 and adumbrated by the bishop of Cuiavia, Szaniawski, in 1720 [?]. The underlying principle of the whole operation was the preservation of the balance of power, referred to explicitly by Panin, that very principle which Michał Wielhorski (deputy for Volhynia for the Sejm of 1766) had believed to be so strongly entrenched from considerations of security that even distant states would ensure that Poland's neighbours did not grow stronger to her detriment.

This breach of the unwritten rule, followed by Russia since the days of Peter the Great, that the Republic should be kept weak but entire, reduced the sphere of Russian influence without diminishing its degree. At the same time it demolished what was left of France's barrière de l'Est (consisting of Sweden, Poland-Lithuania and Turkey) against Russia and drew that emprise more closely into the system of Europe. But it did not make for stability: Edmund Burke noted in 1774 that Poland was but a breakfast [for the partitioners] and there were not many Polands to be found. He asked: 'Where will they dine?'

Russia and Turkey signed a truce in May 1772 which in July was extended to the Mediterranean. In August (by which time Russian and Polish troops had crushed the confederates of Bar) the representatives of the three powers handed to the Polish authorities a declaration announcing the partition. But the war did not end until the peace of Küçük Kaynarca (Kainardza, in present-day Bulgaria), very advantageous to Russia, signed on 10 July 1774.

To say that the dismemberment of 1772 was inevitable sounds like an argument ex post facto but in this instance the cliché tells much of the truth: the writing was on the wall, the long fuse was alight, the disaster was waiting to happen – but not the whole truth. History is not a Greek tragedy, rather a game of chance. Who could have predicted the rise from the aristocratic backwoods of central Germany of the Semiramis of the North? But long before the enthronement of Catherine II there was ample time in which to halt the decline, to carry out constitutional reform, and a revision of religious rights. The catastrophe could have been averted but the necessary political will was absent or negative. Admittedly out of the three neighbouring powers Russia and Prussia had a vested interest in the Republic's backward and benighted condition but they could hardly have objected to an attempt at an official accommodation with the dissenters. This would probably have been blocked by the szlachta but at the very least the Orthodox could have been protected from persecution so as to deprive Russia of a pretext for intervention.

Ukraine, open to invasion and infiltration, was a yawning gap in the Republic's physical defences. Constantly in a state of ferment, it could only have been brought under control and defended by an armed force, most easily by an augmented army, an institution for which the szlachta did not care and to pay for which it was unwilling to raise the money.

In April 1773 Horace Walpole wrote to the marquise (Marie de Vichy du Chamrond) du Deffand: 'Look at what the encyclopaedists have done. From being plain ignoramuses they have become moral mentors [menteurs, liars?], they cleverly partition kingdoms as in the past sermons were divided, and the people are massacred with as much sang-froid as they used to be bored! Voilà un siècle de lumières. Walpole detested the encyclopaedists but in this connection Voltaire would have been a more deserving target, considering that he praised Catherine II and Frederick II for having destroyed anarchy in Poland and having pacified 'the unruly Sarmatians' virtually without bloodshed. But Diderot regretted the partition, as did some minor luminaries. As for les lumières, they were only beginning to shine over the Vistula and the astonishing revival in all areas of public life, associated with the name of Stanisław Augustus, still lay ahead.


Condition of the Orthodox hierarchy in the south-eastern palatinates. - Revolt in favour of the full restoration of Orthodoxy. - Regularization of the status of the Orthodox Church by the Sejm in 1792. -

After the first partition of Poland-Lithuania Catherine II abandoned her total dedication to the cause of the dissenters. As early as 1770, presumably with the encouragement of Stanisław Augustus who was eager for a settlement with the confederates of Bar and certainly with the consent of the empress given at the instance of Frederick II, the Protestants had expressed their willingness to renounce some of the gains bestowed on them by the settlement of 1768. In 1773 the size and religious composition of Poland-Lithuania changed to such an extent that the new laws lost their relevance to what had been Polish Prussia and the eastern portion of White Russia (which now lay beyond the frontiers of the Republic), though not the right-bank Ukraine and the south-eastern palatinates inhabited by over three million members of the Orthodox Church (some of whom, presumably, had permanently or temporarily renounced the Union). The experience of the preceding four years had shown that the Separate Act was not an appropriate means of Russian interference in the internal affairs of the Republic. In any event, in a truncated and weakened Poland that task could be left to a proconsul in the person of the Russian ambassador in Warsaw.

In 1773 the Empress and the King and Republic agreed that the First Separate Act of the treaty of 1768 would be modified. This was done by the extraordinary Sejm which sat intermittently between 19 April 1773 and 11 April 1775 by means of a Separate Act dated 15 March 1775. The non-Uniate 'Greek' and Protestant szlachta were debarred from the senate and ministerial office in Poland-Lithuania. Their eligibility for the Sejm would be restricted to three deputies, one from each province (the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Greater Poland, Lesser Poland). With these exceptions the nonconformists would enjoy all the prerogatives due to the szlachta and be able to hold all offices. The mixed courts (iudicium mixtum) established for the dispensation of justice in matters relating to religion were abolished; the causes within their jurisdiction would, in the last instance, be referred to the assessorial (viz. the grand chancellors') courts of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with the addition of as many 'Greeks' or Protestants as would be needed to achieve parity, and decided by a majority of votes. On feast days 'the Greeks' and Protestants were to bury their dead in the morning or after the termination of the public devotions of the Catholics. They would not in future be allowed to use bells in their churches but such churches would not be accounted mere oratories, as opposed to any churches to be built in villages in the future. Outstanding complaints of Uniates and non-Uniates, including claims to churches taken over since 1768, were to be examined by a commission appointed by the contracting parties. The commission, however, was never convened.

The changes made by the Separate Act of 1775 to that of 1768 were, with regard to the political representation of the nonconformists, of symbolic rather than of practical significance, since it was unlikely that in reality any appointments or elections would have been made. But in conjunction with the abrogation of the potentially powerful mixed courts, they amounted to a substantial concession by the empress to Polish Catholic sensibilities. Had they been offered in 1768 the ensuing disasters might have been avoided.

The settlement of 1775 left the Orthodox hierarchy in Volhynia, Podolia and the 'Polish' Ukraine in a state of disarray and did not put an end to inter-confessional strife. The Orthodox had reason to complain of missionary militancy on the part of the Uniates who, with the support of the Polish military and some powerful Catholic landlords, succeeded in recouping a part of their earlier losses in churches and parishes. The Orthodox appealed for redress to Stanisław Augustus but to no avail; their position was strengthened in 1783 when the Holy Synod appointed Viktor (Vas'yl') Sadkovs'kyi, a former Uniate, archimandrite of the monastery of the Holy Trinity at Slutsk and granted him jurisdiction over 'the whole Graeco-Oriental confession' in Poland. Having proved his worth by the propagation of Orthodoxy in the spirit of loyalty to Russia, he was, in 1785, made coadjutor of the metropolitan of Kiev with the restored title of bishop of Pereiaslav and Borisopol. Subordinated to the Holy Synod, he took an oath of allegiance to the Empress of Russia; in 1787 he swore loyalty to the Republic but this did not make his status any less anomalous. His visitation of the parishes in the right-bank Ukraine was unjustly deemed to have contributed to the outbreak in 1789 of a popular revolt in favour of the full restoration of Orthodoxy which the Poles saw as a rebellion against the authorities and the szlachta. The movement was put down by the government with the customary severity; Viktor was arrested, tried and detained until 1792 for disloyalty, illegal conduct in the exercise of his duties and breaches of public order (which he did not commit).

These gruesome events gave the impetus to action taken by Parliament and government for the regularization of the status of the Orthodox Church in the Republic. The Sejm in session at the time was the Four Year Diet (1788-1792) which combined reform of the system of government with emancipation from Russia and enacted the constitution of 3 May 1791. In 1790, at the request of the Republic, the patriarch of Constantinople, Neofitos VII, recognized the autonomy of the Orthodox Church in Poland and condemned the oaths of loyalty sworn by the local Orthodox clergy to the Empress of Russia. The link between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Republic, severed in 1685, was thus restored. A parliamentary committee appointed by the Sejm prepared proposals for the convocation of a 'congregation' of representatives, lay and spiritual, of the Orthodox community. This in turn drew up a scheme for the organization of the autonomous Church. Despite protests from Uniates and Roman Catholics the Sejm approved these proposals on 22 May 1792. The hierarchy of the Graeco-Oriental rite was to be headed by a metropolitan bishop and six diocesan bishops subordinated in the spiritual sphere to the Patriarch of Constantinople. The metropolitan was to be assisted by a general consistory, an executive body made up of six ecclesiastics and six laymen. The consistory began to function even before the Sejm had approved the 'congregation''s proposals. With that exception the war with Russia fought in 1792 and the second partition of the Republic in 1793 prevented the Act of 21 May from being put into effect. In more favourable circumstances would this enlightened and elegantly drafted piece of legislation have put a stop to the Holy Synod's campaign of reconquista? And would the Uniate Church – represented in the senate since 1790 by the metropolitan of Kiev – have, by way of quid pro quo, ceased its hostilities against the Orthodox? There is no answer to these questions and in any case the tape ends here.

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