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The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (or Union, after 1791 the Commonwealth of Poland) was a state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. The Commonwealth was an extension of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, a personal union between those two states that had existed from 1386. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth covered more lands than the present lands of Poland and Lithuania. The lands of the Commonwealth also covered all the lands of present-day Belarus; a large part of Ukraine and Latvia; and western part of present-day Russia.
After several decades of prosperity, it entered a period of political, military and economic decline. It ended with the final Partitions of Poland in 1795. Its growing weakness led to it being divided by its more powerful neighbors, Austria, Prussia and the Russian Empire.
- In Poland, the official languages were Polish language and Latin language. In Lithuania, the official languages were Old Belarusian, Latin Language, and Lithuanian language.
- Commonwealth was one of largest countries of its time. It had a large population. At one time, Commonwealth covered about 400,000 square miles. Population was around 11 million. People of different ethnicity lived in Commonwealth.
- For about 200 years, Commonwealth withstood wars with other powers of Europe of that time: these powers were Muscovy Russians, Ottoman Empire, and the Swedes.
- The Commonwealth developed a system of laws and legislature. This reduced the power of the monarch. Some concepts of democracy also developed in the Commonwealth and concept like the constitutional monarchy.
- In theory, the two countries of the Commonwealth were equal. But, Poland had a leading role.
- The Commonwealth had a leading influence of the Catholic Church. But, the government allowed peoples of different religions to follow their religions. Thus, peoples of many religions lived in the Commonwealth.
- The Commonwealth also produced a national constitution, the first in Europe.
- Agriculture was the main economic activity of the persons living in the Commonwealth.
- Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Pimlico 1997, p. 554: Poland-Lithuania was another country which experienced its 'Golden Age' during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The realm of the last Jagiellons was absolutely the largest state in Europe
- Halina Stephan, Living in Translation: Polish Writers in America, Rodopi, 2003, ISBN 90-420-1016-9, Google Print p373
- Feliks Gross, Citizenship and Ethnicity: The Growth and Development of a Democratic Multiethnic Institution, Greenwood Press, 1999, ISBN 0-313-30932-9, Google Print, p122 (notes)
- "In the mid-1500s, united Poland was the largest state in Europe and perhaps the continent’s most powerful nation". "Poland". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 26 June 2009
- Martin Van Gelderen, Quentin Skinner, Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage, Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-521-80756-5 Google Print: p54
- The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis, discussion and full online text of Evsey Domar (1970) "The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis", Economic History Review 30:1 (March), pp18–32