November 29-30 in Russian history

This article was written by Mosquito and originally posted at Sima Qian Studio forum:

A little bit late but better late than never:

November Uprising and Polish-Russian war 1830-1831

After the fall of Napoleon, in 1815 after Congress of Vienna, on the part of the territory of Grand Duchy of Warsaw was created Kingdom of Poland. The kingdom was in personal union with Russia, Tsar of Russia was the king of Poland. Kingdom had its own constitution, administration, parliament and army.

In the third decade of 19th century violating the constitution by the tsar-king became notorious. The rights of opposition were being limited, Polish army was getting angry, especially because of the behaviour of Grand Duke Constantine – brother of tsar, Governor of Kingdom and Commander in chief of Polish army. Altough Constantine married Polish woman and often was showing pro-polish sympaties, he in the same time behaved in the way that Polish officers were not able to accept. In the Polish army with its old Commonwealth traditions and Napoleonic traditions it was not tolerated that Russian duke dare to insult or even slap in face a soldier or officer, what angry Constantine was sometimes doing. It was normal in the Russian army that generals, marshals or members of Tsar’s family could do everything with officers but in the Polish army it was the worst thing one could do to officer because it wasn’t possible to duel with the commander. When one slapped cadet committed suicide and shot himself, officer corps stared to plan rebellion.

Polish army was small (about 40.000 soldiers) but well trained, many of high rank officers were veterans of Napoleonic wars who were fighting against Russia in Napoleon’s Great army. For example general Josef Chlopicki was a general of Napoleonic army who fought in Spain and later in Russian campaign, was wounded at Borodino. General Jan Zygmunt Skrzynecki was an officer of Napoleonic army who in 1813 in the battle of Arcis-sur-Aube saved Napoleon from being killed or captured. General Dwernicki – also an officer of Napoleonic army was decorated by golden cross of Legion of Honour personally by Napoleon. So was general Pradzynski decorated by Napoleon with the golden cross of Legion of Honour for the bravery in the battle of Leipzig.

The year 1830 was very important in western Europe. There was revolution in France and also the Belgians revolted against the Dutch. To Poland came news that Tsar (and king of Poland in the same time) decided to sent Polish army to Belgium and France to put down the revolutions. On the 17 october 1830 Tsar ordered mobilistation of Polish army and preparation of finances of Kingdom for war. Using Polish Army to revolution in France and Belgium would have been another violation of the Polish constitution.

The whole situation, especially the news that Polish soldiers are supposed to fight against French (considered by Poles as friends) and Belgians, the behaviour of Constantine, the violation of law by tsar put the young officers on the verge of rebellion.

The revolt was started in the night 29th – 30th November in Cadet school. Lieutenant Piotr Wysocki leaded the cadets against Russian troops and took over Warsaw. The rebels took also the residence of Grand Duke Constantine but he escaped in women's clothing.

None in Warsaw was prepared for it. Polish government, Polish generals, most of the Polish people knew nothing about cadet’s plans. Polish people were divided. Many didn’t want the war with Russia. Many even didn’t want to get independence from Russia. Most of people agreed that Polish soldiers cannot be sent to France and Belgium and that Tsar must obey the constitution.

Constantine was ready to forgive the rebels and promised that the matter would be amicably settled, but radical parties objected and demanded a national uprising. Fearing an immediate break with Russia, the Government agreed to let Constantine depart with his troops.

General Chlopicki was given the office of “Dictator of Uprising”. Chlopicki didn’t belive in victory, but agreed to take command temporarily. He had retired from the army because of the chicanery of Constantine. He overestimated the power of Russia and underestimated the strength and fervor of the Polish revolutionary movement. He accepted the dictatorship essentially in order to maintain internal peace and to save the Constitution.

First Poles wanted to negotiate with Tsar and demanded that Lithuanian will be joined back to Polish Kingdom and that Tsar will obey constitution but Tsar refused and demanded the complete and unconditional surrender of Poland and announced that the “Poles should surrender to the grace of their Emperor”. Poles refused and general Chłopicki resigned the following day from the Dictator’s post.

The parliament was taken over by radical parties which passed the Act of Dethronization of Nicholas I, which ended the Polish-Russian personal union and was a declaration of war on Russia.

Poland wanted to move the war to Lithuania but Russians were faster. The Russian army of 115.000 soldiers under the command of Field Marshal von Diebitsch crossed the Polish border. The first major battle took place on 14 February 1831 at the village of Stoczek. General Josef Dwernicki defeated Russian division. The following battles of Wawer and Bialoleka were Polish victories too but not decisive enough to stop the advance of Russian army.

On 25th February Polish army of 40,000 fought a Russian army of 60,000 in the battle of Olszynka Grochowska. The battle was a tactical Polish victory. Both armies withdrew after two days of fighting. 7.000 Poles and 10.000 Russians died on the battlefield, Russian field marshal Diebitsch had to retreat and Warsaw was saved. But Polish army was much smaller than Russian and for Poles it was really a Pyhrric victory. Not only big part of the Polish army died but also general Chlopicki was wounded and general Skrzynecki took the command over the army.

Polish generals made the plan of counteroffensive but gen. Skrzynecki was afraid to take initiative and lost the best moment to defeat Russian army. Finally he agreed to attack Russian forces but it was too late. Polish armies took many victories over Russians but in the battle of Ostroleka numerically superior Russian army defeated Poles and broke the morale of Polish army.

In September 1831 Russians took Warsaw and majority of Polish army crossed the border with Prussia.

Alltogether in the war took part about 70.000 Polish soldiers and 180.000 Russian soldiers.

The war became famous in all the Europe. In most of the European countries public opinion was on the Polish side while goverments were supporting Russians.

French poet Casimir Francois Delavigne composed famous Warsaw Song of 1831 which that time became well know in all the Europe and was translated on many languages:

Today is a day of blood and glory,
That it be a day of resurrection!
Gazing at France’s star,
The White Eagle launches into flight.

And it, inspired by hope,
Calls to us from on high:
"Arise, oh Poland, break your chains,
Today is a day of victory or death!"

Hey, whoever is a Pole, to your bayonettes!
Live, freedom, oh Poland, live!
Let this worthy battle cry:
Sound forth to our foes!

Oh Frenchmen! Are our wounds
Of no value for you?
At Marengo, Wagram, Jena,
Dresden, Leipzig, and Waterloo
The world betrayed you, but we stood firm.
In death or victory, we stand by you!
Oh brothers, we gave blood for you.
Today you give us nothing but tears.

Hey, whoever is a Pole, to your bayonettes!
Live, freedom, oh Poland, live!
Let this worthy battle cry:
Sound forth to our foes!
Sound forth to our foes!

List of the more important battles:

  • Battle of Stoczek – 14th February 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Dobre -17th February 1831– Polish victory
  • I Battle of Wawer – 19th February 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Nowa Wies – 19th February 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Bialoleka – 24th February 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Olszynka Grochowska – 25th February 1831 – undecided, Polish tactical victory
  • Battle of Pulawy – 2nd march 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Krukow – 3 march 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Markuszow – 3 march 1831 – Polish victory
  • II Battle of Wawer – 31 march 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Dab Wielki – 31 march 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Domanice – 10th april 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Iganie – 10th april 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Poryck – 11th april 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Wronow – 17th april 1831 – Russian victory
  • Battle of Kazimierz Dolny – 18th april 1831 – Russian victory
  • Battle of Boreml – 18th april 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Sokolow Podlaski – 21th april February 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Mariampol – 21th april 1831 – Russian victory
  • Battle of Firlej – 9 mai 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Polaga – 10 mai 1831 – Russian victory
  • Battle of Tykocin – 21 mai 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Nur – 22 mai 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Ostroleka – 26 mai 1831 – Russian victory
  • Battle of Rajgrod – 29 mai 1831 – Polish victory
  • Battle of Vilnius – 17 August 1831 – Russian victory
  • Battle of Rogoznica – 29 August 1831 – Polish victory
  • Defence of Warsaw– beginning of September 1831 – Russian victory

No comments: