What was the ethno-linguistic makeup of the Rzeczpospolita, that is, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth prior to the partitions?

EDIT: Clarification, asking what were the percentages to total population of the various ethnic/linguistic groups.

  • Is Rz pronounced like z in azure?
    – user40948
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 10:08
  • @SnackExchange In Russian, Rzeszów is Жешув, which sounds similar to the way the Poles pronounce it. Thus, if you know how the Russians pronounce the Ж... Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 10:34
  • @RodrigodeAzevedo Oh, fortunately I'm familiar with Russian alphabet. So it is indeed pronounced like azure ;-)
    – user40948
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 10:40
  • Mainly Lithuanians and Polish... I think the question needs to be more precise.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 11:47
  • @SnackExchange Yes. "rz" and also "ż" are pronounced this way, a soft "rz". There's a "hard" version spelled "ź" or "zi".
    – Spencer
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 22:45

2 Answers 2


It was very diverse. It contained Poles (who spoke Polish), ancestors of modern Ukrainians and Belarussians (who spoke in various dialects, which later became Ukrainian and Belarussian languages), they were called Ruthenians at that time, Lithuanians, Germans, Jews (speaking Yiddish and using Hebrew for religious purposes), Tatars (with their own languages), Armenians, Karaites and several other ethnic groups, smaller in numbers. I think I listed all largest groups.

The (English) Wikipedia article has a list of languages, and marks which of them were officially recognized. In addition to those I listed, Latin was an officially recognized language. For the sources, the mentioned Wikipedia article contains a lot of them, and I can add the books of Timothy Snyder.

  • There were substantial Tatar groups living in Lithuania.
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 12:05
  • 2
    They are not necessarily related. The word "Tatars" in Eastern Europe could denote any group of Muslim religion or a group speaking a Turkic language. For example Crimean Tatars.
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 12:09
  • @justCal: Thanks. I've done it.
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 7, 2023 at 12:52

Here is what New World Encyclopedia states, shortly after the Truce of Deuolino (1619):

  • 4,5m Poles
  • 3,5m Ukrainians
  • 1,5m Belarussians
  • 0,75m Lithuanians
  • 0,75m Prussians
  • 0,5m Jews
  • 0,5m Livonians

enter image description here

Livonians here mean inhabitants of Polish-Lithuanian Livonia which included Latvians, Estonians, Baltic Germans and Livs.

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