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Kingdom of Poland, 1815-1830
Map (in Polish) from 1902
Congress Poland , officially and formally Kingdom of Poland ( , Tsarstvo Polskoye ) and informally known as Russian Poland was a constitutional personal union of the Russian Empiremarker 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 Lublinmarker, Łódźmarker, Masoviamarker and Świętokrzyskiemarker 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.


Congress Poland was created out of the Duchy of Warsawmarker 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 Russiamarker, Austriamarker and Prussia. 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 Empiremarker. 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 World War I.

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 Warsawmarker 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 Empiremarker 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 Russiamarker. 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 (Georgiamarker, Kazanmarker, Siberiamarker).

Initial independence

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, budget, 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 institutions. 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 broke out.

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 ( ) 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 Chełmmarker, 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 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.

See also


a Sources agree that after the fall of the January Uprising in 1864, the autonomy of Congress Poland was drastically reduced. They are however contradictory on whether Kingdom of Poland, colloquially known as Congress Poland, as a state, was officially replaced by the Vistula land, a province of the Russian Empire, as many sources still use the term Congress Poland for the post-1864 period. The sources are also unclear as to when did the Congress Poland (or Vistula land) officially end; some arguing it ended when the German and Austro-Hungarian occupying authorities assumed control; others, that it ended with the creation of the Regency Kingdom of Poland in 1915; finally, some argue that it occurred only with the creation of the independent Second Polish Republicmarker in 1918. Examples:

  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Geographical and Spatial Organization, p. 539, [45743]
    • Mimo wprowadzenia oficjalnej nazwy Kraj Przywiślański terminy Królestwo Polskie, Królestwo Kongresowe lub w skrócie Kongresówka były nadal używane, zarówno w języku potocznym jak i w niektórych publikacjach.
    • Despite the official name Kraj Przywiślański terms such as, Kingdom of Poland, Congress Poland, or in short Kongresówka were still in use, both in everyday language and in some publications.
  • POWSTANIE STYCZNIOWE, Encyklopedia Interia:
    • po upadku powstania zlikwidowano ostatnie elementy autonomii Królestwa Pol. (łącznie z nazwą), przekształcając je w "Kraj Przywiślański";
    • after the fall of the uprising last elements of autonomy of the Kingdom of Poland (including the name) were abolished, transforming it into the "Vistula land;"
  • Królestwo Polskie. Encyclopedia WIEM:
    • "Królestwo Polskie po powstaniu styczniowym: Nazwę Królestwa Polskiego zastąpiła, w urzędowej terminologii, nazwa Kraj Przywiślański." [...] "Po rewolucji 1905-1907 w Królestwie Polskim ..." [...] "W latach 1914-1916 Królestwo Polskie stało się...".
    • "Kingdom of Poland after the January Uprising: the name Kingdom of Poland was replaced, in official documents, by the name of Vistula land." However the same article also states: "After the revolution 1905-1907 in the Kingdom of Poland" and "In the years 1914-1916 the Kingdom of Poland became...".
  • Królestwo Polskie, Królestwo Kongresowe, Encyklopedia PWN:
    • 1915–18 pod okupacją niem. i austro-węgierską; K.P. przestało istnieć po powstaniu II RP (XI 1918).
    • [Congress Poland was] under German and Austro-Hungarian occupation from 1915 to 1918; it was finally abolished after the creation of the Second Polish Republic in November 1918


  1. Nation without a State: Imagining Poland in the Nineteenth Century by Agnieszka Barbara Nance, Dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy The University of Texas at Austin page 169-188
  2. John N. Horne, Alan Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial, Yale University Press, 2001, ISBN 0300107919, Google Print, p. 83
  3. Roger Chickering, Stig Förster, Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914-1918, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0521773520, Google Print, p.160
  4. Barnett R. Rubin, Jack L. Snyder, Post-Soviet Political Order: Conflict and State Building, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0415170699, Google Print, p.43
  5. Alan Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War, Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 0192803425, Google Print, p.151

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