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Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

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The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, formally known as the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, after 1791, the Commonwealth of Poland, was a state of Poland and Lithuania that was 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[1] and countries of 16th- and 17th-century Europe and had one of the largest populations. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth covered more lands than the present lands of Poland and Lithuania since it covered also all of present-day Belarus, a large part of present-day Ukraine and Latvia, and the west of present-day Russia.

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had high levels of ethnic diversity and religious tolerance.[2] However, the amount of religious freedom varied over time.[3]

After several decades of prosperity,[4] it entered a period of political,[5] military and economic[6] decline. The Commonwealth ended with the final Partitions of Poland in 1795. Its growing weakness led to it being divided by its more powerful neighbours: Austria, Prussia and the Russian.

Some information

  • In Poland, the official languages were Polish and Latin. In Lithuania, the official languages were Old Belarusian, Latin, and Lithuanian.
  • The Commonwealth was one of largest countries of its time. It had a large population. At one time, the Commonwealth covered about 400,000 square miles. Population was around 11 million. People of different ethnicities lived in the Commonwealth.
  • For about 200 years, the Commonwealth withstood wars with other powers of Europe of that time: Muscovy Russians, the Ottoman Empire, and Swedes.
  • The Commonwealth developed a system of laws and legislature that reduced the power of the monarch. Some concepts of democracy also developed in the Commonwealth like 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. However, 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 in the Commonwealth.


  1. 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
  2. Halina Stephan, Living in Translation: Polish Writers in America, Rodopi, 2003,

    Template-specific style sheet:

    ISBN 90-420-1016-9, Google Print p373
  3. Feliks Gross, Citizenship and Ethnicity: The Growth and Development of a Democratic Multiethnic Institution, Greenwood Press, 1999,

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    ISBN 0-313-30932-9, Google Print, p122 (notes)
  4. "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
  5. Martin Van Gelderen, Quentin Skinner, Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage, Cambridge University Press, 2002,

    Template-specific style sheet:

    ISBN 0-521-80756-5 Google Print: p54
  6. The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis Archived 2007-12-15 at the Wayback Machine, 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


Coordinates: 50°03′N 19°56′E / 50.050°N 19.933°E / 50.050; 19.933