Congress Poland Kongresówka , officially and formally Kingdom of Poland (Królestwo Polskie , Царство Польское Tsarstvo Polskoye ) and informally known as Russian Poland was a constitutional personal union of the Russian Empire created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna, replaced by the Central Powers in 1915 with the Kingdom of Poland. Though officially Congress Poland was to begin its statehood with considerable official political autonomy the Tsars generally disregarded any restrictions on their power and severely curtailed autonomous powers following uprisings in 1830-31 and 1863 turning it first into a puppet state of the Russian Empire and later dividing it into provinces. Thus from the start the Polish autonomy remained nothing more than fiction.
The territory of Congress Poland roughly corresponds to the Lublin, Łódź, Masovia and Świętokrzyskie voivodeships of Poland.
Although the official name of the state was the Kingdom of Poland
, in practice this was not used. Instead, in order to distinguish it from other Kingdoms of Poland
, it was then and is usually now referred to as Congress Poland
. Throughout the 19th century, the term Congress Poland continued to be used in relation to these territories, although the political entity they were connected with no longer existed.
was created out of the Duchy of Warsaw
at the Congress of Vienna
in 1815, when European
states reorganized Europe following the Napoleonic wars
. The creation of Congress Poland created a partition of Polish lands in which the state was divided and ruled between Russia
. The Congress
was important enough in the creation of the state to cause the new country to be named for it. Congress Poland lost its status as a sovereign
state in 1831 and the administrative division of Congress Poland
was reorganized. It was sufficiently distinct that its name remained in official Russian use, although in the later years of Russian rule it was often replaced, albeit unofficially, with the Vistulan Country
(Russian: Privislyansky Krai). Following the defeat of the November Uprising
its separate institutions and administrative arrangements were abolished as part of increased Russification
to be more closely integrated with the Russian Empire
. However, even after this formalized annexation, the territory retained some degree of distinctiveness and continued to be referred to informally as Congress Poland until the Russian rule there ended as a result of the advance by the armies of the Central Powers
in 1915 during the First World War
Originally, the kingdom had an area of roughly 128,500 km2 and a population of approximately 3.3 million. The new state would be one of the smallest Polish states ever, smaller than the preceding Duchy of Warsaw and much smaller than the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (which had a population of 10 million and an area of 1 million km2. Its population reached 6.1 million by 1870 and 10 million by 1900. Most of the ethnic Poles in the Russian Empire lived in the Congress Kingdom, although some areas outside it also contained Polish majority.
Congress Poland largely emerged as a result of the efforts of Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, a Pole who aimed to resurrect the Polish state in alliance with Russia. The Kingdom of Poland was one of the few contemporary constitutional monarchies in Europe, with the Emperor of Russia serving as the Polish King. His title as chief of Poland, in Russian, was Tsar, similar to usage in the fully integrated states within the Empire (Georgia, Kazan, Siberia).
Theoretically Congress Poland in its original form was a semi-autonomous state in personal union
with Russia through the rule of the Russian tsar. The state possessed the Constitution of the Kingdom of Poland
, one of the most liberal in 19th century Europe, a Sejm
(parliament) responsible to the tsar capable of voting laws, an independent army, currency
, penal code
and a customs
boundary separating it from the rest of Russian lands. Poland also had democratic traditions (Golden Liberty
) and the Polish nobility
deeply valued personal freedom. In reality, the tsars had absolute power and the formal title of Autocrat, and wanted no restrictions on their rule. All opposition to the emperor was persecuted and the law was disregarded at will by Russian officials. though the absolute rule demanded by Russia was difficult to establish due Congress Poland's liberal traditions and insititutions. The independence of Congress Poland lasted only 15 years; initially Alexander I
used a title of the King of Poland and was obligated to observe resolutions of the constitution. However, in time the situation changed and he granted the viceroy, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich
, almost dictatorial powers. Very soon after Congress of Vienna
resolutions were signed, Russia ceased to respect them. In 1819 Alexander I abolished freedom of the press and introduced preventory censorship
. Resistance to Russian control began in 1820s. Russian secret police commanded by Nikolay Nikolayevich Novosiltsev
started persecution of Polish secret organizations and in 1821 the Tsar ordered the abolition of Freemasonry
which represented patriotic traditions of Poland. Beginning in 1825 the sessions of the Sejm were held in secret.
Uprisings and loss of autonomy
Alexander I's successor, Nicholas I
was crowned King of Poland on 24 May 1829
in Warsaw, but he declined to swear to abide by the Constitution and continued to limit the independence of Congress Poland. Nicholas rule was representing the idea of Official Nationality, that is Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality. In relation to Poles those ideas meant the goal of assimiliation that is turning them into loyal Orthodox Russians. The principle of Orthodoxy was the result of special role it played in Russian Empire, as the Church was in fact becoming a department of state, and other religions discriminated, for instance papal bulls in Congress Poland could not be read without agreement from Russian government. The rule of Nicholas also meant end of political traditions in Poland, it ended the existence of democratic institutions, introduced centralised administration that was not elected but appointed, and it tried to change relations between state and individual. All of this led to discontent and resistance among Polish population. In January 1831 the Sejm deposed the Tsar as King of Poland
in response to his repeated curtailment of its constitutional rights. The Tsar reacted by sending Russian troops into Poland and the November Uprising
Following an 11-month military campaign Congress Poland lost its semi-independence and was subsequently integrated much more closely to the Russian Empire. This was formalised through the issuing of the Organic Statute of the Kingdom of Poland by the Emperor in 1832, which abolished the constitution, army and legislative assembly. In the next 30 years a series of measures bound Congress Poland ever more closely to Russia. In 1863 the January Uprising broke out, but was crushed by 1865. As a direct result any remaining separate status of Congress Poland was removed and the political entity was directly incorporated into the Russian Empire. The formerly unofficial name of Vistulan Country (Привислинский Край) replaced "Congress Poland" as the area's official name and the area became a namestnichestvo under the control of a namestnik until 1875, when it became a Guberniya. In the 1880s, the official language was changed to Russian and Polish was banned both from the office and education. In 1912 the southeastern part, around Chełm, was constituted a separate entity and incorporated into core Russia. In 1915 during World War I Congress Poland was looted and abandoned by the retreating Russian army, trying to emulate the scorched earth policy of 1812; the Russians also evicted and deported hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants suspected of collaborating with the enemy. The following year the occupying Central Powers created the short-lived Kingdom of Poland out of most of its territory.
The government of the Congress of Poland was outlined in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Poland in 1815. The Emperor of Russia was the official head of state, considered the King of Poland, with the local government headed by the Namestnik of the Kingdom of Poland, Council of State and Administrative Council, in addition to a the Sejm.
In theory Congress Poland possessed one of the most liberal governments of the time in Europe, but in practice the area was a puppet state of the Russian Empire. The liberal provisions of the constitution, and the scope of the autonomy were often disregarded by the Russian officials.