Poland seems like the "invisible" party during the Seven Years' War Ostensibly, it was fought between France, Austria, and Russia on one side, and Prussia, plus Great Britain-Hannover on the other.

Yet Poland was actually quite "involved," willy-nilly.

  1. King Augustus III of Saxony was also the elected King of Poland in a "personal union.
  2. In order to attack Prussia, Russian troops had to cross Polish territory (modern Latvia and Lithuania to get to East Prussia, and Pomerania to get to Brandenburg).

The trigger event was Frederick the Great's occupation of Saxony in 1756.

Did this constitute an attack on Poland that started an undeclared war between Prussia and Poland? Did Russian soldiers cross Poland with the blessing/invitation of Augustus III? Did the Russians "officially" justify their entry into Poland in terms of rescuing Saxony (and protecting Poland) from Frederick the Great? If it had won the war, Russia planned to seize East Prussia and exchange it to Poland for other considerations: Did Russia proffer this to Poland in exchange for passage?

Are there any records or writings about how the Polish government (or its leaders) felt about these issues? Why didn't they take a more active role by e.g. declaring war on Frederick the Great on behalf of their Saxon king?

  • +1, except for "How did Poland (or its leaders) feel about these issues?" well, it's hard to get an answer about dead peoples feelings in any useful meaning, as we can't ask them. ;-) Oct 7, 2013 at 20:44
  • 2
    @LennartRegebro: Modified the question to ask for historical records.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 7, 2013 at 20:50
  • During 18th and 19th century Poland's position was mostly "bent over and being told to enjoy" Apr 28, 2021 at 22:01
  • Supine?........
    – C Monsour
    Apr 28, 2021 at 23:38

2 Answers 2


Poland was already by the Seven Years War a joint protectorate of Russia, Prussia, and Austria [edit] as well as France and Turkey. In a war amongst these three powers, and given the liberum veto which allowed any member of its Diet to nullify the proceedings of the whole, it was unable to have any bearing on the course of the war:

(The Cambridge History of Poland, Volume 2, Page 39):

..., Poland was not able to play any pat in the Seven Years War. While cannons and muskets were roaring in Silesia, in Saxony, in Brandenburg and Westphalia, on the seas and in the colonies, the only noises in Poland were the quarrels at the Dietines (not even at the Diet) and in Tribunals.

and Page 90:
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  • That's suprising - we're talking here about pre-partition times. Can you add a bit about when Poland became a protectorate? +1 anyway Oct 8, 2013 at 7:21
  • @FelixGoldberg: Poland was a truly incompetent country well before the Seven Years War, with Austria, France and Turkey having designs on her territory as well as Prussia and Russia, and her ruling nobles seemingly unable to maintain a unified sense of national interest. Oct 8, 2013 at 10:29
  • @FelixGoldberg: That's not surprising. (Virtual) "protectorate"="pre-partition"= "led to partition." The liberum veto en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberum_veto in Poland made for a truly chaotic country, at least in the 18th century.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 14, 2013 at 0:04
  • @Felix Goldberg During the Northern War polish nobility removed the king Augustus II the Strong, however as Russian were winning the war the king came back with Russian help and assume polish throne. For the rest of his reign (25 years) he was in conflict with nobility and had to rely on foreign help to stay in power. During his reign he was not representing national interest. After his dead the neighbors forced his son as a King of Poland with the same result. King did not care about national interest and military power.
    – user25367
    Aug 3, 2017 at 14:36
  • @Pieter Geerkens that is wrong and insulting. The German kings of Poland ruled for 65 years, didn't care about the country and were put in power by force against the will of nobility.
    – user25367
    Aug 3, 2017 at 14:38

Regarding the qeustion of 'when did Poland become a protectorate of Russia' (@Felix), this was essentially defacto established in 1710 after Poland's conclusion of the Great Northern War. It had entered the war in a fairly good position (ie, balanced coalition between her and Russia), but after failing and then having a civil war during this time, and Russia realizing it's military power as time went on, it became evident that Poland's ability to support any action against the Swedes became fully dependant on Russia. Henceforth, politically and militarily, she became marginalized as a country, and Russia 'offered' to enter into a protective alliance as part of the Grand Sejm's treaty of 1710.

Regarding the question of Nobles in Poland. While it's not easy to validate the hypothesis, one can deduct key elements contributing to the lack of 'pride' among the nobles.

  • The nobility, strangely enough, believed in Sarmatism; the idea that the original noble families of Poland originated from Sarmatia and that they settled and subjugated the local peasants (or... in other words, Poles... so the mindset of the nobility was, at best, quasi, if at all, 'patriotic'. This style of thought really came to fruition in the late 1600s and survived mostly thru all of the 1700s. If one believes their ancestors simply came to this 'land' and subjugated the local population (... the original Polanie), then does the nobility really have the elements one needs to have a sense of national pride/unity for all the people of the land? I venture to say a big 'NO'.

*There's also an old polish saying that essentially means 'every noble with a sword is his own king'... ie... they cannot be governed, they are their own little nation in person, and those without a title are nothing. If this was a prevelant way of thinking back then, one has to wonder how much did that have an effect on caring for one's nation as a whole? Problably very little.

  • Poland had an outsized proportion of 'nobles' vs. general population. Of course, many were undeniably poor, but conceptually, as far as the military goes; it was they who were the only ones allowed to wield weapons in battle, and the only ones who believed they should be. In most other nations, peasants were commonly conscripted and armed... thus, across all social classes, in other nations there was a sense of defending one's nation. While in Poland the peasants were alienated from this (very few instances of peasants being part of major campaigns outside of being the ones to dig ditches/gather resources).

*This leads to the notion that the peasentry probably had a far lower sense of identity than, say, their counterparts in Russia... who were certainly consripted into military ranks and allowed/expected to fight and defend their country (as like in other nations).

  • Poland was more often referred to simply by the term Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) among the nobles. Rarely, in hymns of that era was the term 'Poland' at all used... instead, texts, hymns, etc favored the term 'Rzeczpospolita'... A close reading of a literal translation of 'rzecz' and 'pospolita' is 'thing common'... which implies losely 'something that belong to everyone'. This, even symbolically could have had a significant effect on the idea of what it means to be Polish and having a sense of unity/pride: There's a slight difference between the idea of a nation named after its People, and people after its nation, and the idea of using a term that simply implies these lands are common to all. The latter does not tie people to a sense of unity/identity/pride to a nationality. Hence, the mindset of nobles towards their country had a twist that could explain why it was so different from other countries, and why the nation wasn't as cohesive as other nations.

In conclusion, to explain why the nobles didn't have a sense of pride isn't necessarily rooted in simply... not liking one's nation. In fact, the nobles had a LOT of pride in the concept of how their nation governed itself. This is a paradox because 'why would anyone let things get so bad for their nation?'... but if one considers that in the late 1600s thru 1700s, the nobles didn't really think of Poland as 'Poland', and themselves as 'Polish'... but rather as descedents of Sarmatia who subjugated the people of a land that is common to all (Rzeczpospolita), then one realizes that this is exactly not for a lack of knowing what pride meant, but for a tradition where the nobles believed it was them who were the nation, and not the other way around.

  • 2
    Sources would improve this answer. Apr 28, 2021 at 22:07

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