Definitions

Silent Sejm

Silent Sejm

Silent Sejm (or Dumb Sejm, Sejm Niemy; Nebylusis seimas) is the name given to the session of the Sejm (parliament) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1 February 1717. It marked the end of Augustus II of Poland's attempts to create an absolute monarchy in Poland, and the beginning of Tsardom of Russia increasing influence and control over the Commonwealth.

History

In the aftermath of the Great Northern War, which eventually devastated the Commonwealth and marked the rise of the Russian Empire (1721), the growing conflict between Polish monarch Augustus II of Poland, who wanted to create an absolute monarchy, and the Polish nobility (szlachta) which opposed him (see Tarnogród Confederation), allowed the powerful Russian Tsar Peter the Great, victor of the Great Northern War, to pose as the conciliator between the Commonwealth king and the szlachta.

Threatened by strong Russian army, with Russian soldiers 'guarding' the proceedings, the Silent Sejm - known as silent because only one person, marshal of the Sejm Stanisław Ledóchowski (podkomorzy krzemienicki), was allowed a voice - outlined the terms of the settlement designed by Peter the Great. This settlement stipulated that Poles and Saxony (Augustus homeland) should not intervene into each other domestic affairs, limited the powers of the hetmans (Polish military commanders in chief), and established taxes for Commonwealth army of 24,000 (normal soldier's wages, which meant that after factoring officer pensions and other military needs, the effective army was a little over 10,000 strong, several times weaker then those of its neighbours). After outlining the proposal, Ledochowski asked if there are any objections. After 6 hours, when nobody dared to oppose him and risk Russian intervention, Ledochowski concluded that 'silence means lack of objections'. The Silent Sejm is regarded as one of the first precedences that the Russian Empire dictated Polish internal policy, and also as a precursor to the partitions of Poland, which erased the Commonwealth from world maps by 1795.

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