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Lesser Poland (also Little Poland, Polish Małopolska, Latin Polonia Minor) is one of the historical regions of Polandmarker, with capital in the city of Krakówmarker. It forms the southeastern corner of the country, and should not be confused with the modern Lesser Poland Voivodeshipmarker, which covers only a small, southern part of Lesser Poland. Historical Lesser Poland is much bigger than the current voivodeship which bears its name; stretching from Częstochowamarker in the west to the lands northeast of Lublinmarker in the east. In late Middle Ages, Lesser Poland gradually became the center of Polish statehood, with Krakow being the capital of the country from mid-11th century until 1596. Its nobility ruled Poland when queen Jadwiga was too young to control the state, and the Union of Krewo with Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the brainchild of Lesser Poland's szlachta.

In the 17th century, the importance of Lesser Poland diminished, when Warsawmarker and centrally located province of Mazovia emerged as key parts of the nation. Lesser Poland's territory was divided along the Vistula river line between Austrian Empiremarker and Russian Empiremarker during the Partitions of Poland. Its boundaries are now often limited only to its southern, smaller part controlled throughout the 19th century by Austria as western Galicia. As a result of this long-lasting division, many inhabitants of northern part of this historic province of Poland (with such cities, as Lublinmarker, Radommarker, and Kielcemarker) have lost their Lesser Poland's identity.

Geography and boundaries

Lesser Poland lies in the upper confluence of the Vistula river and covers a large upland, including the Świętokrzyskie Mountains with Polish Jura Chain further west, Lesser Polish Upland, Sandomierz Basin, and Lublin Upland. Unlike other historical parts of the country, such as Mazovia, Pomerania, or Greater Poland, Lesser Poland is mainly hilly, with Poland's highest peak, Rysymarker, located within borders of the province. Flat are northern and central areas of the province – around Tarnobrzegmarker, Stalowa Wolamarker, Radommarker and Siedlcemarker, also valleys of the main rivers – the Vistula, the Pilica, and the San. Apart from Rysy, there are several other peaks located in the province - Pilskomarker, Babia Góramarker, Turbacz, as well as Lysica in the Swietokrzyskie Mountains. Southern part of the province is covered by the Carpathian Mountainsmarker, which are made of smaller ranges, such as Pieninymarker, Tatrymarker, and Beskidymarker.

Almost whole area is located in the Vistula Basin, with the exception of western and southern parts, belonging to the Odra and Dunaj Basins. Main rivers of the province are Vistula, upper Warta, Solamarker, Skawa, Raba, Dunajec, Wislokmarker, Wisloka, San, Wieprzmarker, Przemsza, Nida, Kamienna, Radomka, and Pilica. Lesser Poland is famous for its underground waters and spas, such as Busko-Zdroj, Solec-Zdrojmarker, Naleczowmarker, Muszynamarker, Szczawnicamarker, Piwniczna, Wysowa-Zdrojmarker, Rabkamarker, Swoszowice, Zegiestowmarker, Krzeszowicemarker, Wieliczkamarker, and Krynica. Major lakes of the province are: Rożnów Lake, Czchów Lake, Dobczyce Lake, Czorsztyn Lake, Czaniec Lake, Międzybrodzie Lake, Klimkówka Lake and Żywiec Lake. Most of them are man-made reservoirs.

Lesser Poland stretches from the Carpathiansmarker in the south to Pilica and Liwiec rivers to the north. It borders Mazovia to the north, Podlachia to the northeast, Red Ruthenia) to the east, Slovakiamarker to the south, Silesia to the west, and Greater Poland to the northwest. Currently, the region is divided between Polish voivodeshipsLesser Poland Voivodeshipmarker (whole), Świętokrzyskie Voivodeshipmarker (whole), Silesian Voivodeshipmarker (eastern half), Subcarpathian Voivodeshipmarker (western part), Masovian Voivodeshipmarker (southern part), Łódź Voivodeshipmarker (southeastern corner), and Lublin Voivodeshipmarker (western part).

In Silesian Voivodeship, the border between Silesia and Lesser Poland is easy to draw, because with few exceptions, it goes along boundaries of local counties. In the south, it goes along western boundary of ancient Duchy of Teschen, with the borderline along the Biala river, where Zwardonmarker, Milowkamarker, and Rajczamarker are in Lesser Poland. Bielsko-Bialamarker is a city made of two parts – Lesser Poland's Biala (also called Biala Krakowska), makes eastern half of the city, and only in 1951 it merged with Silesian Bielsko. Further north, the border goes along western boundaries of cities of Jaworznomarker, and Sosnowiecmarker, along the Przemsza and Brynicamarker rivers. Then it goes northwest, leaving Czeladzmarker, Siewierzmarker, Kozieglowy, Blachowniamarker, Klobuckmarker and Krzepicemarker within Lesser Poland. From Krzepice, the border goes eastwards, towards Koniecpolmarker, and along the Pilica river, with such towns as Przedborz, Opocznomarker, Drzewicamarker, Bialobrzegi, and Kozienicemarker within Lesser Poland. East of Bialobrzegi, the boundary goes mainly along the Radomka river, to the Vistula. East of the Vistula, the boundary goes north of Laskarzew and Zelechowmarker, and south of Mazovian town of Garwolinmarker, turning northwest. Extreme northern point of the province is marked by the Liwiec river, with both Siedlcemarker, and Lukowmarker being part of Lesser Poland. The line then goes south, with Miedzyrzec Podlaskimarker being part of historical Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and Radzyn Podlaskimarker as well as Parczewmarker left in Lesser Poland.

Between the Vistula and the Western Bug, eastern border of Lesser Poland goes west of Lecznamarker, but east of Krasnystawmarker and Szczebrzeszynmarker, both of which historically belong to Red Ruthenia. Further south, Lesser Poland includes Frampolmarker, and Bilgorajmarker, which lies in the southeastern corner on Lesser Poland's historical Lublin Voivodeship, close to the border with Red Ruthenia. The border then goes west of Bilgoraj, turning south, towards Lezajskmarker (which belongs to Red Ruthenia). Boundary between Lesser Poland and Red Ruthenia was described by Ukrainian historian and geographer Myron Korduba along the line DuklamarkerKrosnomarkerDomaradzCzudecmarkerKrzeszów nad Sanemmarker. Lesser Poland border towns were: Rudnikmarker, Kolbuszowamarker, Ropczycemarker, Sedziszow Malopolski, Strzyzowmarker, Jaslomarker, Gorlicemarker, and Bieczmarker. Southern border of Lesser Poland goes along the Carpathian Mountainsmarker, and with minor changes, it has not changed for centuries. Cities of Lezajskmarker, Rzeszowmarker, Sanokmarker, Brzozowmarker, and Krosnomarker do not belong to historical Lesser Poland, as they are part of Red Ruthenia.

Origin of the name

Zygmunt Gloger in his work Historical geography of land of ancient Poland (Geografia historyczna ziem dawnej Polski) states that according to a Polish custom, whenever a new village was formed next to an older one, the name of the new entity was presented with an adjective little (or lesser), while old village was described as greater. The same procedure was used in naming these two Polish provinces – the "older" one, the cradle of Polish statehood, was called Greater Poland, while her "younger sister", which became part of Poland a few years later, was called Lesser Poland. The name Greater Poland (Polonia Maior) was for the first time used in 1242, by princes Boleslaw and Przemyslaw I, who named themselves Duces Majoris Poloniae (Princes of the Older Poland). Lesser Poland, or Polonia Minor, appeared for the first time in historical documents in 1493, in the Statutes of Piotrkow, during the reign of King Jan Olbracht, to distinguish this province from the cradle of the Polish state, Greater Poland (Polonia Maior).


Early period and Kingdom of Poland

In the first years of Polish statehood, southern Lesser Poland was inhabited by the Slavic tribe of Vistulans, with two major centers in Krakow and Wislicamarker. Their land, which had probably been part of Great Moravia, and Bohemia , was annexed by Mieszko I some time in late 10th century. Cosmas of Prague in his Chronicle of Bohemians wrote: "Polish prince Mieszko, a cunning man, seized by ruse the city of Krakow, killing with sword all Czechs he found there". Northern part of Lesser Poland (Lublin and Sandomierz) was probably inhabited by another tribe, the Lendians, and dr Antoni Podraza, historian of the Jagiellonian University claims that ancient division of Lesser Poland into two major parts – Land (Duchy) of Krakow, and Land (Duchy) of Sandomierz, is based on the existence of two Slavic tribes in the area. However, exact location of the Lendians has not been determined to this day. Some historians speculate that they occupied Red Ruthenia, and their center was in Przemysl.

Around the year 1000, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kraków was created, and its borders covered whole area of Lesser Poland. During the reign of Casimir I the Restorer, Krakow for the first time became the capital of Poland (around 1040), since Greater Poland and Silesia, with main Polish urban centers, such as Gnieznomarker and Poznanmarker were ravaged by Duke Bretislaus I of Bohemia. In 1138, following the Testament of Boleslaw III Krzywousty, the country was divided between his sons (see also Fragmentation of Poland). Boleslaw III Wrymouth created the Seniorate Province, which, among others, consisted of Krakow. At the same time, Lesser Poland was divided into two parts, when its eastern part formed the Duchy of Sandomierz, carved by the ruler for his son Henry of Sandomierz.

Coat of arms of Duchy of Sandomierz
During the fragmentation period, both lands of Lesser Poland were frequently ruled by the same prince. Among them were Boleslaw IV the Curly, Mieszko III the Old, Casimir II the Just, Leszek I the White, Boleslaw V the Chaste, Leszek II the Black, Wladyslaw I the Elbow-high, and King of Bohemia, Wenceslaus II of Bohemia, who united Lesser Poland in 1290/1291. The province was pillaged during the Mongol invasion of Poland, when a combined army of Krakow and Sandomierz was destroyed by Baidar in the Battle of Chmielnik. The loss was so heavy that Norman Davies wrote: "At Chmielnik, the assembled nobility of Malopolska perished to a man". During their 1241, 1257, and 1287 invasions, the Mongols burned major cities of Lesser Poland, killing thousands of people. Furthermore, the province, especially its northeastern part, was often raided by the Lithuanians, Rusyns, Yotvingians, and Old Prussians. The city of Lublin suffered most frequently – among others, it was burnt by the Rusyns in 1244, the Lithuanians 1255, the Prussians in 1266, and the Yotvingians in 1282. Another center of the province, Sandomierz, was destroyed by the Tartars in 1260, and burnt by the Lithuanians in 1349.

Unlike other Polish provinces, especially Silesia, Lesser Poland did not undergo further fragmentation, and in early 14th century became the core of the reunited nation (together with Greater Poland). The period of nation's fragmentation came to a symbolic end on 30 January, 1320, when Wladyslaw I the Elbow-high was crowned as King of Poland. The ceremony took place in Krakow's Wawel Cathedralmarker, and the king of the reunited country decided to choose Krakow as the capital. Through 14th and 15th century, Lesser Poland's position as the most important province of the nation was cemented. It became visible during the reign of Casimir III the Great, who favored less known Lesser Poland's noble families, at the expense of Greater Poland's nobility. The reign of Casimir the Great was a period of growing prosperity of Lesser Poland. With high density of population, fertile soils and rich deposits of minerals (especially salt in Bochniamarker and Wieliczkamarker, as well as lead in Olkuszmarker), the province was the richest part of Poland. After annexation of Red Ruthenia, Lesser Poland lost its status of the borderland, and both regions created an economic bridge between Poland and the ports of the Black Seamarker. The king, who drew Jewish settlers from across Europe to his country, built several castles along western border of Lesser Poland, with the most notable ones in Skawinamarker, Pieskowa Skalamarker, Bedzin, Lanckoronamarker, Olkuszmarker, Lelowmarker, Bobolice, Krzepicemarker, Ogrodzieniecmarker, Ojcowmarker, Olsztynmarker, Bobolicemarker, Mirowmarker (see also Eagle Nests Trail). Furthermore, he built or strenghtened castles in other parts of the province, such as Szydlowmarker, Checinymarker, Wislicamarker, Radommarker, Niedzicamarker, Opocznomarker, Lublinmarker,Sandomierz, as well as the Wawel Castlemarker. Also, during his reign (1333–1370), Casimir the Great founded on Magdeburg rights several cities, urbanizing hitherto rural province. Among major Lesser Poland’s cities founded by the King, there are:
In the Kingdom of Poland, Lesser Poland was made of three voivodeshipsKraków Voivodeship, Sandomierz Voivodeship, and Lublin Voivodeshipmarker, created in 1474 out of eastern part of the Sandomierz Voivodeship. Borders of the province remained unchanged until 1772. The only exception was large part of contemporary Upper Silesia (the area around Bytommarker, Toszekmarker, Siewierzmarker, and Oswiecimmarker), which belonged to Duchy of Krakow until 1179. In that year, prince of Krakow Casimir II the Just, handed these lands to Prince of Opolemarker Mieszko I Tanglefoot. The Duchy of Siewierz, ruled since 1443 by the Archbishop of Krakow, merged with Lesser Poland in 1790. Other Silesian realms lost in 1179, also returned to Lesser Poland – Duchy of Zator (in 1513), and Duchy of Oswiecim (1564). Both duchies merged into a Silesian County of the Krakow Voivodeship, and shared the fate of Lesser Poland. Apart from Jews, among other ethnic minorities of the province were the Walddeutsche, who settled the borderland of Lesser Poland and Red Ruthenia (14th – 17th c.). In the Middle Ages, the Germans inhabited several cities of Lesser Poland, especially Krakow and Sandomierz (see Rebellion of wójt Albert).

In the XV and XVI centuries, Lesser Poland remained the most important part of the country. After the death of Casimir the Great, Lesser Poland’s nobility promoted Louis I of Hungary as the new king, later supporting his daughter Jadwiga of Poland in exchange for Privilege of Koszyce. Since Jadwiga, crowned on October 16, 1384, was too young to rule the country, Poland was in fact governed by the Lesser Poland’s nobility, who decided to find her a husband, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Jogaila. Consequently, unions of Poland and Lithuania at Krewo and Horodlo were the brainchildren of Lesser Poland’s nobility, among whom the most influential individuals were Spytek z Melsztyna, and cardinal Zbigniew Olesnicki. Other famous Lesser Poland’s families are Lubomirski family, Kmita family, Tarnowski family, Potocki family, Sobieski family, Koniecpolski family, Ossolinski family, Poniatowski family.

Since Lesser Poland was the most important province of the country, several important events took place on its territory. In 1364, Casimir the Great called the Congress of Kraków, and in 1401, the Union of Vilnius and Radom was signed. In 1505 in Radom, the Sejm adopted the Nihil novi title, which forbade the King to issue laws without the consent of the nobility. In the same year, also in the same city, Polish law was codified in the Łaski's Statute, and the Crown Tribunal (the highest appeal court in the Crown of the Polish Kingdom) held its sessions in Lublin. In 1525, the Treaty of Kraków was signed, ending the Polish–Teutonic War. Lesser Poland also is home to the oldest Polish university – the Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364 by Casimir the Great, and several outstanding figures of early Polish culture were born here, such as Jan Kochanowski, Mikołaj Rej, Jan z Lublina, Mikołaj Gomółka, Maciej Miechowita, Marcin Kromer, Łukasz Górnicki, and Mikołaj Radomski.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

In the XVI century, Lesser Poland retained its position as the most important province of the country. As no major conflicts took place on its territory, it was the center of Renaissance in Poland. The province was home to numerous scholars, writers and statesmen, and it was here where Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was created in 1569 (see Union of Lublin). In the Commonwealth, Lesser Poland proper was the base of Province of Lesser Poland, which covered southern lands of the vast country. The province was made of Lesser Poland itself, also Red Ruthenia, Volhynia, Podolia, and Ukrainianmarker voivodeships – Kiev Voivodeship, Chernihiv Voivodeship, and Braclaw Voivodeship, which, until 1569, had been part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The period in Polish history known as the Polish Golden Age was very fortunate for Lesser Poland. Kings of the Jagiellon dynasty, especially Sigismund I the Old (himself born in Lesser Poland’s Kozienicemarker), and his son Sigismund II Augustus (born in Krakow), resided in Krakow, which was the capital of the immense Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth. Lesser Poland’s prosperity was reflected in numerous examples of Renaissance architecture complexes, built across the province. In 1499, hiherto Gothic Wawel Castlemarker was damaged in a fire, and a few years later, Sigismund I, with help of the best native and foreign artists (such as Francesco the Florentine, Bartholomeo Berrecci or Niccolo Castiglione) refurbished the complex into a splendid Renaissance palace. Furthermore, in early XVI century, several palaces were built in Lesser Poland – in Drzewicamarker, Szydlowiec, Ogrodzieniecmarker, and Pieskowa Skalamarker. The province became rich mostly due to the grain trade, conducted along the Vistula, and among cities which prospered in the XVI century, there are Krakow, Sandomierz, Lublin, Kazimierz Dolnymarker, Pilznomarker, Tarnowmarker, Radom, Bieczmarker. In later years of the XVI century, further palaces were built or remodelled in Baranow Sandomierskimarker, and Niepolomicemarker.

Defensive walls of Pieskowa Skała
In early 16th century, Protestant Reformation spread across the Commonwealth, and Lesser Poland became one of early centers of the movement, when students from Wittenbergmarker brought the news to Cracow. In the first years of the century, professor of Jagiellonian University Jakub of Ilzamarker (Jakub z Ilzy, died 1542) became one of the main promoters of the movement in the region. He actively supported the notions of Martin Luther, and in 1528 was called to the Bishop of Krakow’s court. Convinced of heresy, he was forced to leave Poland in 1535. Reformation soon became very popular among Lesser Poland’s nobility, especially Calvinism, and according to one estimate, some 20% of local szlachta converted from Roman-Catholicism. They were attracted by Calvinism’s democratic character, and Lesser Poland’s center of the movement was set in the town of Pinczow, which came to be known as Sarmatian Athens. It was in Pinczow, where a local nobleman converted a Roman Catholic parish into a Protestant one, opened a Calvinist Academy, and published its Antitrinitarian confession in 1560 and in 1561. Several Calvinist synods took place in Lesser Poland – the first one in Slomnikimarker (1554), Pinczow (the first united Synod of Poland and Lithanian – 1556 1561), and Krakow (1562). In 1563, also in Pinczow, the so-called Brest Bible was translated into Polish language. In 1570, the Sandomierz Agreement was signed by a number of Protestant groups, with the exception of the Polish Brethren, another religious group very influential in Lesser Poland. The Brethren had their center in Lesser Poland’s village of Rakówmarker, where a main Arian printing press, as well as a college, known as Akademia Rakowska (Gymnasium Bonarum Artium) founded in 1602 were located. Among distunguished European scholars associated with the school, there were Johannes Crellius, Corderius, and Valentinus Smalcius (who translated into German the Racovian Catechism).

In 1572, the Jagiellon dynasty died out, and next year, Henry III of France became first elected king of the country. After his short reign, and War of the Polish Succession , which also took place in Lesser Poland, the new ruler was Stephen Báthory of Poland, who died in 1586. The ruler from Transylvania was followed by Sigismund III Vasa of Swedenmarker, whose election marked gradual decline of the province. Sigismund’s eyes were set on Sweden, and for many years he concentrated his efforts on a futile attempt to regain his former Swedish throne (see Polish–Swedish union, War against Sigismund). Therefore, Lesser Poland, located in southwestern corner of the Commonwealth, began to lose its importance, which was marked in 1596, when Sigismund moved his permanent residence, court and the crown headquarters to centrally-located Warsaw.

Even though first half of the 17th century was filled with wars, all major conflicts did not reach Lesser Poland, and the province continued to prosper, which was reflected in its castles and palaces, such as the enormous Krzyztopor. Apart from minor wars, such as Zebrzydowski Rebellion, and Kostka-Napierski Uprising, the province remained safe. Cossacks of the Khmelnytsky Uprising reached as far west as Zamoscmarker and Lwowmarker, but did not enter Lesser Poland. The province did not witness other wars, such as Polish-Swedish War of 1625-1629, Polish–Muscovite War , Polish–Ottoman War , and Smolensk War. Nevertheless, Lesser Poland’s nobility took active part in these conflicts - Marina Mniszech, the daughter of Voivode of Sandomierz, Jerzy Mniszech, was wife of False Dmitriy I, as well as False Dmitry II. Furthermore, Lesser Poland’s lands, especially its northeastern part, became a base for Polish troops, fighting the Cossacks, and King John II Casimir Vasa often stayed in Lublin with his court, preparing military campaigns in Ukraine. The situation changed with the outbreak of the Russo-Polish War . In October 1655, the Russo-Cossack armies under Ivan Vyhovsky entered eastern Lesser Poland, reaching the Vistula, and pillaging Lublin, Pulawymarker, and Kazimierz Dolnymarker. The invaders quickly retreated, but a few months later, Lesser Poland was flooded by the Swedes.

Swedish invasion of Poland had catastrophic consequences for the hitherto prosperous province. The attackers, supported by their allies from Transylvania, seized whole Lesser Poland, reaching as far south as Nowy Targmarker, Nowy Saczmarker, and Zywiecmarker. All major cities were looted and burned, and some of them, like Radom, did not recover until 19th century. The Swedes captured and pillaged Sandomierz (where they destroyed the Royal Castle, and after the invasion, the city never recovered), Opoczno, Lublin, Kazimierz Dolny Pilzno, Szydlow, Szydlowiec, Tarnow, Kielce, Krasnik, and Krakow. The invaders seized the capital of Lesser Poland after a short siege, and their occupation of the province was confirmed after their victories in the Battle of Wojnicz, and the Battle of Golab. In those years, one of the most important and symbolic events in the history of the nation took place in Lesser Poland. It was the Siege of Jasna Góra, which, according to some accounts, turned the course of the war. Furthermore, following the Treaty of Radnot, Lesser Poland was invaded in January 1657 by George II Rákóczi, whose troops caused more destruction. Foreign armies were not chased out of Lesser Poland until 1657, Krakow itself was recaptured on August 18, 1657. After these invasions, the province was ruined, with hundreds of villages, towns and cities burned. The population decreased, the peasantry starved, and like other parts of the Commonwealth, Lesser Poland was devastated. The period of peace lasted for about forty years, when in 1700, another major conflict, the Great Northern War began. Lesser Poland once again became a battleground, with Battle of Kliszów taking place there in 1702, and the Sandomierz Confederation formed in 1704.

After the conflict, Lesser Poland began a recovery, which was hampered by several other factors. Province’s cities frequently burned (Lublin 1719, Nowy Targ 1784, Nowy Sacz, Dukla 1758, Wieliczka 1718, Miechow 1745, Drzewica), there also were numerous outbreaks of plagues and typhus (in 1707 - 1708, some 20,000 died in Krakow and its area)

Lesser Poland was one of main centers of the Bar Confederation. On June 21, 1786 in Krakow, local confederation was announced, and on the same day Voievode of Krakow, Michal Czarnocki, urged his citizens to join the movement. Soon afterwards, Krakow was captured by the Russian troops, and the center of Lesser Poland’s insurgency moved to the mountainous south - areas around Dukla and Nowy Sacz. During the Confederation, several battles and skirmishes took place there. In 1770, after the Battle of Iwonicz, the Russians ransacked Biecz. The movement ended in 1772, and its decline was connected with the Partitions of Poland. Another local center of the movement was Jasna Gora Monasterymarker in Czestochowa, which was defended by Kazimierz Pulaski for almost two years (1770 - 1772).

Partitions of Poland (1772–1918)

The Partitions of Poland began earlier in Lesser Poland than in other provinces of the country. In 1769, Austrian Empiremarker annexed a small territory of Spisz, and next year, the towns of Czorsztynmarker, Nowy Sacz and Nowy Targ. In 1771, the Russians and the Prussians agreed on the first partition of the country, and in early 1772, Austrian Emperor Maria Theresa decided to join the two powers. In the first partition of the Commonwealth, the Austrians seized the territory which would later be called Galicia, and which included southwestern corner of Lesser Poland (south of the Vistula river), with Zywiec, Tarnow, and Biecz, but without major urban centers of the province, such as Krakow, Sandomierz, Radom, Lublin, Czestochowa, and Kielce.

Second Partition of Poland (1793) did not result in significant changes of boundaries in the area, as the Austrian Empire did not participate in it. However, the Prussiansmarker moved on, and in 1793 they annnexed northwestern corner of the province, together with the city of Czestochowa, and its vicinity, which became part of the newly created province of South Prussia. Therefore, in late 1793, Lesser Poland was already divided between three countries - Austrian Empire (south of the Vistula), Kingdom of Prussia (Czestochowa and northwestern corner), and still existing Commonwealth. After the Third Partition (1795), most of Lesser Poland was annexed by Austria, with all major cities. Prussia managed to seize a small, western part of the province, with the towns of Siewierzmarker, Zawierciemarker, Bedzinmarker, and Myszkowmarker, calling this land New Silesia, while the Austrians decided to name newly acquired lands of northern Lesser Poland West Galicia. In 1803, West Galicia was merged with Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, but retained some autonomy. Lesser Poland was one of major centers of Polish resistance against the occupiers. On March 24, 1794 in Krakow, Tadeusz Kosciuszko announced the general insurrection (see Kosciuszko Uprising), mobilising all able males of Lesser Poland. Two weeks later, Battle of Raclawicemarker took place, ending with a Polish victory. The uprising was suppressed by combined Prusso - Russian forces, and among battles fought in Lesser Poland, there is Battle of Szczekociny.

During Napoleonic Wars, the Duchy of Warsawmarker was created by Napoleon Bonaparte out of Polish lands which had belonged to Prussia. In 1809, after the Polish-Austrian War, and the Treaty of Schonbrunn, the Duchy was expanded, when northern Lesser Poland was added to its territory (with Kielce, Radom, and Lublin). Following the Congress of Vienna, Duchy of Warsaw was turned into Russian-ruled Congress Polandmarker, and historical capital of the province, Krakow, was turned into Free City of Krakowmarker, which also included the towns of Trzebiniamarker, Chrzanowmarker, Jaworznomarker, and Krzeszowicemarker. In Congress Poland, the lands of Lesser Poland were initially divided between four palatinates - Palatinate of Krakow (with capital in Kielce), Palatinate of Sandomierz (with capital in Radom), Palatinate of Lublin, and Palatinate of Podlachia (with capital in Siedlce), (see also Administrative division of Congress Poland). Later, the palatinates were turned into governorates. Thus, Russian part of Lesser Poland was divided into Keltse Governorate, Lublin Governorate, Radom Governorate, Sedlets Governorate, and Petrokov Governorate (western counties, with Czestochowa and industrial area of Zaglebie Dabrowskie). Borders of these administrative units did not reflect historical boundaries of the province.

Most of the November Uprising, which began in 1830, missed Lesser Poland, as major battles took place in the area around Warsaw. In early 1831, when Russian forces advanced into Congress Poland, some skirmishes took place in northern counties of the province - at Pulawy, Kurow, and Kazimierz Dolny. In early 1846, a group of Polish patriots attempted a failed uprising in the Free City of Krakow. The insurrection was quickly suppressed by the Austrian troops, and as a result, the Free City was annexed by the Austrian Empire. In the same year, Austrian part of Lesser Poland was witness to a massacre of Polish nobility by the peasantry, known as Galician slaughter. The peasants, led by Jakub Szela, murdered about 1000 nobles, and destroyed about 500 manors. These events took place in three counties - Sanokmarker, Jasłomarker and Tarnówmarker.

Northern and central Lesser Poland (the part of the province which belonged to the Russian Empire) was one of the main centers of the January Uprising (1863 - 1864). In the first days of the insurrection, skirmishes with the Russian Army took place in such towns, as Lukowmarker, Krasnikmarker, Szydlowiec, Bodzentynmarker, and Suchedniow. Since the Poles were poorly armed, the Russians did not have major problems with them, and soon afterwards, the insurrectionists decided to organize military camps. Among biggest camps in Lesser Poland, there were Ojcowmarker (3000 soldiers), and Wachockmarker, where Marian Langiewicz gathered up to 1500 people. The uprising died out by early spring of 1864, and among counties where it continued for the longest time, was the extreme northeastern corner of Lesser Poland, around Lukow, where reverend Stanislaw Brzoska was active. Since Russian military supremacy was crushing, the Poles were forced to limit their actions to guerilla warfare. Among the biggest battles which took place in Lesser Poland there are:
  • Battle of Szydlowiec (January 23, 1863),
  • Battle of Miechow (February 17, 1863),
  • Battle of Malogoszcz (February 24, 1863),
  • Battle of Staszow (February 17, 1863)
  • Battle of Pieskowa Skala (March 4, 1863),
  • two Battles of Opatow (November 25, 1863, February 21, 1864).

As a result of their support of the failed insurrection, several Lesser Poland’s towns lost their charters and were turned into villages. Among them were Krasnikmarker, Bodzentynmarker, Opatow, Ilzamarker, Malogoszczmarker, Wachockmarker, Busko-Zdroj, Jedrzejow, Cmielow, Zwolen, Drzewicamarker, Wierzbica, Czeladzmarker, Kazimierz Dolnymarker, Wolborzmarker, Stopnicamarker, Daleszycemarker, Wislicamarker, Pajeczno, Lipskomarker, Pacanowmarker, Ozarow, Wolbrommarker, Proszowicemarker, Nowe Miasto Korczynmarker, Wloszczowa, Przysuchamarker, Opole Lubelskiemarker.

The division of Lesser Poland along the Vistula river, which lasted from 1772 until 1918, is visible even today. For more than 100 years, southern Lesser Poland (Krakowmarker, Tarnowmarker, Biala Krakowskamarker, and Nowy Saczmarker) belonged to Austria, while northern, larger part of the province (Częstochowamarker, Sosnowiecmarker, Kielce, Radom, Lublin, Sandomierzmarker) was part of the Russian Empiremarker. Inhabitants of Austrian part of Poland enjoyed limited autonomy, with Polish language institutions, such as Jagiellonian University. At the same time, Russian-controlled Poland was subject to Russification. As a result of decades of this division, most inhabitants of former Russian lands are not aware of their Lesser Poland's heritage. Furthermore, current administrative boundaries of the country still reflect the border between Russia and Austria–Hungary.

Interbellum Poland (1918–1939)

In 1918, when Second Polish Republicmarker was created, whole historical Lesser Poland became part of the new country. The province was divided between four voivodeships: Kraków Voivodeship (whole), Kielce Voivodeship (whole), Lwów Voivodeship (northwestern corner), and Lublin Voivodeship (western part). Furthermore, in the counties of central Lesser Poland, another administrative unit, Sandomierz Voivodeship was planned. Boundaries between two major Lesser Poland voivodeships – Kraków, and Kielce, were the same as pre-1914 boundaries of Austria-Hungary, and Russia. In the interbellum period, the notion of Lesser Poland was frequently associated with former Austrian province of Galicia. Therefore, Western Galicia to the San river, was called Western Lesser Poland, while Eastern Galicia, east of the San, with the city of Lwowmarker, was called Eastern Lesser Poland.

World War Two

Post World War Two

Local Government Reorganization Act (1998)

Boundary between Lesser Poland and Upper Silesia (red line) on the territory of current Silesian Voivodeship
Kraków, the capital and biggest city of Lesser Poland
Lublin, second biggest city of Lesser Poland
In 1998, the government of Poland carried out administrative reform of the country. For the first time in history, Lesser Poland Voivodeshipmarker was created, with capital in Krakow, and area of 15,108 square kilometers. The new province covers only a small part of historical Lesser Poland, and its shape was subject to frequent changes. There were suggestions that Lesser Poland voivodeship should stretch from Bielsko-Bialamarker, to Ostrowiec Swietokrzyskimarker and Sandomierzmarker. Furthermore, creation of Old Poland Voivodeship was proposed, on the historical lands of northern Lesser Poland. Also, since about half of territory of current Silesian Voivodeshipmarker belongs to historical Lesser Poland, there are suggestions to rename it into Silesian – Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

Major cities and towns (by size)

The list is based on the Polish Central Statistical Office list of 100 biggest cities of Poland, as for June, 30, 2008.

L.p. City Population Area

(sq. km.)
Current voivodeship
2. Krakówmarker 756 441 326,80 Lesser Poland Voivodeshipmarker
9. Lublinmarker 351 345 147,45 Lublin Voivodeshipmarker
13. Częstochowamarker 241 449 159,71 Silesian Voivodeshipmarker
14. Radommarker 224 501 111,80 Masovian Voivodeshipmarker
15. Sosnowiecmarker 221 775 91,06 Silesian Voivodeshipmarker
17. Kielcemarker 205 655 109,65 Swietokrzyskie Voivodeshipmarker
22. Bielsko-Białamarker 175 476 124,51 Silesian Voivodeshipmarker
27. Dąbrowa Górniczamarker 128 560 188,73 Silesian Voivodeshipmarker
35. Tarnówmarker 115 769 72,38 Lesser Poland Voivodeshipmarker
42. Jaworznomarker 95 383 152,67 Silesian Voivodeshipmarker
45. Nowy Sączmarker 84 492 57,58 Lesser Poland Voivodeshipmarker
48. Siedlcemarker 77 102 32,00 Masovian Voivodeshipmarker
53. Ostrowiec Świętokrzyskimarker 72 888 46,43 Swietokrzyskie Voivodeshipmarker
66. Stalowa Wolamarker 64 753 82,52 Subcarpathian Voivodeshipmarker
71. Mielecmarker 60 979 46,89 Subcarpathian Voivodeshipmarker
76. Będzinmarker 58 559 37,37 Silesian Voivodeshipmarker
84. Starachowicemarker 52 430 31,82 Swietokrzyskie Voivodeshipmarker
85. Zawierciemarker 52 290 85,25 Silesian Voivodeshipmarker
87. Tarnobrzegmarker 49 753 85,39 Subcarpathian Voivodeshipmarker
88. Puławymarker 49 223 50,49 Lublin Voivodeshipmarker
92. Skarżysko-Kamiennamarker 48 308 64,39 Swietokrzyskie Voivodeshipmarker
97. Dębicamarker 46 693 34,02 Subcarpathian Voivodeshipmarker



The historical capital of Lesser Poland – Krakowmarker – is regarded by many to be the cultural capital of Poland. In 1978, UNESCOmarker placed Kraków on the list of World Heritage Sites. The wooden architecture (most notably, churches) of Lesser Poland are also on that list as well as the Wieliczka Salt Minemarker located on the outskirsts of Krakowmarker. The following National Parks are located in Lesser Poland:


  1. Malopolska (Little Poland), University at Buffalo
  2. LESSER POLAND, portal"However, already by the mid-11th century Lesser Poland had risen in status to be Poland's principal province"
  3. Gazeta Wyborcza, Królowa Jadwiga Andegaweńska by Martyna Bandurewicz, 2009-06-12 "Ze względu na małoletniość Jadwigi rządy w jej imieniu sprawowali możnowładcy małopolscy. To oni zadecydowali o unieważnieniu zaręczyn z księciem austriackim, i oni prowadzili rokowania w sprawie wyboru jej przyszłego małżonka"
  4. Antoni Podraza, Małopolska w przeszłości i dziś. Wspólnota Małopolska, 1999-06-01"Czy dzisiejszy mieszkaniec Kielc, Radomia albo Lublina poczuwa się do tego, że pochodzi z Małopolski? Mieszkańcom dawnej Małopolski brakuje przeświadczenia, iż pochodzą z tej samej dzielnicy, które tak wyraźnie cechuje mieszkańców Wielkopolski czy Mazowsza"
  5. Map of Polish spas
  6. County of Bielsko-Biala, basic information
  7. The 1909 Guide to Czestochowa and vicinity"Starostwo krzepickie, zajmujące prawie 1/3 część dzisiejszego powiatu Częstochowskiego (do starostwa należało miasto Kłobuck i dwadzieścia kilka okolicznych wsi), zaliczało się do województwa krakowskiego i do powiatu lelowskiego."
  8. [1]"W XVI – XVIII w. Przedbórz był siedzibą starostwa niegrodowego w ówczesnym województwie sandomierskim"
  9. History of Opoczno County
  10. Zygmunt Gloger, Geografia historyczna ziem dawnej Polski
  11. County of Kozienice, History and monuments"Ziemie wchodzące w skład dzisiejszego powiatu kozienickiego należały do dawnej dzielnicy sandomierskiej (...) Województwo sandomierskie obejmowało całą wschodnią część Małopolski po obu stronach Wisły."
  12. "Kalendarium historii Żelechowa" cz. 1"Stąd właśnie Żelechów wraz z Ziemią Stężycką, w której centrum był położony, należał nie do Mazowsza, jak pobliski Garwolin, lecz do Ziemi Sandomierskiej, a wraz z nią do Małopolski."
  13. Official webpage of the city of Siedlce, History of the city"Teren, na którym leżą obecnie Siedlce, stanowił niegdyś najbardziej na północ wysuniętą część małopolskiej ziemi łukowskiej i wraz z nią wchodził w skład województwa sandomierskiego, a od 1474 r. do lubelskiego."
  14. Gmina Radzyn Podlaski, History
  15. Gmina Krasnystaw, History"Krasnystaw należał więc do powiatu krasnostawskiego w ziemi chełmskiej w województwie ruskim"
  16. Town of Lezajsk, official webpage"Przez cały wiek XIV Leżajsk należał do dóbr królewskich zgrupowanych w północno-wchodniej części województwa ruskiego w ówczesnym powiecie krzeszowskim"
  17. [2]
  18. [Rudnik nad Sanem, history]"Rudnik liczył wówczas tylko 168 mieszkańców płacących tzw. pogłówne, w tym 143 chrześcijan i 25 Żydów, spadając na 26 miejsce pod względem liczby ludności wśród wszystkich 28 miast województwa sandomierskiego"
  19. [3]"Kolbuszowa leżała w województwie sandomierskim i należała do powiatu sądowego i skarbowego w Pilźnie.
  20. [4]"Ropczyce leżą w dolinie Wielopolki. W okresie staropolskim tereny te należały do województwa sandomierskiego."
  21. Historical Lesser Poland “Przebiega∏a ona od Karpat w rejonie Jas∏a, wzd∏u˝ rzeki Jasio∏ki, a nast´pnie przechodzi∏a przez Wis∏ok, zostawiajàc po stronie polskiej Strzy˝ów, zaÊ po ruskiej Rzeszów”
  22. Geografia historyczna ziem dawnej polski By Zygmunt Gloger, page 170
  23. Jerzy Krasuski, Inne spojrzenie na początki Polski. Polityka weekly, 09-07-2005
  24. Historical dictionary of Poland, by Jerzy Jan Lerski, Piotr Wróbel, Richard J. Kozicki, page 309
  25. Kosmasa Kronika Czechów (Chronicle of Bohemians), translated by Maria Wojciechowska, Wroclaw 2006, page 155
  26. Kievan Rus and the Old Polish state: historical parallels"Lendizi (Lędzianie), who, according to G. Lovmyansky, inhabited Sandomierz–Lublin area"
  27. Antoni Podraza, Małopolska w przeszłości i dziś"Można sądzić, że pierwotny podział Małopolski na dwie części, krakowską i sandomierską, wiąże się właśnie z istnieniem nie jednego, a dwóch plemion na tym obszarze"
  28. Labuda, G. Czechy, Rus i kraj Ledzian w drugiej potowie X wieku. // Labuda G. Studia nad poczatkami panstwa polskiego. Poznan, 1988. T. II. Pages 167–211.
  29. Official portal of Lesser Poland Voivodeship "W roku 1038 Polske najechal czeski ksiaze Brzetyslaw I. Zajal i ograbil Wielkopolske, Slask i Malopolske, zdewastowal takze Gniezno. Jednym z waznych niezniszczonych osrodków ówczesnej Polski byl Kraków, gdzie, po zwyciestwie nad Brzetyslawem, Kazimierz Odnowiciel przeniósl swoja siedzibe."
  30. StayPoland portal. History of Sandomierz "In his will, King Boleslaw Krzywousty declared Sandomierz to be the capital of a duchy."
  31. Norman Davies, God's Playground, Columbia University Press, 2005, ISBN 0231128177, Google Print, p.71
  32. History of Lublin, Border conflicts 1241 – 1288
  33. Poland By Neal Bedford, page 224
  34. The cathedral of Sandomierz
  35. Malopolska or Galicia. Cracow's Dilemmas in Central Europe, by Jacek Purchla (pdf format)
  36. Kings of Poland – Kazimierz Wielki
  37. Historical dictionary of Poland, by Jerzy Jan Lerski, Piotr Wróbel, Richard J. Kozicki, page 309
  39. Antoni Podraza, Małopolska w przeszłości i dziś. Wspólnota Małopolska, 1999-06-01
  40. History of Bytom
  41. Królowa Jadwiga Andegaweƒska, by Martyna Bandurewicz, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2009-06-12
  42. Wladyslaw Konopczynski – O idei jagielloƒskiej “Unia krewska i horodelska byly dzielem panów malopolskich”
  43. Wawel – the Seat of Kings
  44. Dr. E. L. Skip Knox, The Reformation in Poland. Boise State University
  45. Marek Kurkierewicz, Reformacja na ziemiach polskich, published in Magazyn Teologiczny Semper Reformanda
  46. ocinian Precursors of the American Constitutional Separation of Church and State by Marian Hillar, Houston, Texas
  47. God's playground: a history of Poland in two volumes, by Norman Davies, page 143
  48. Turist Information - Warsaw Hotel Start “Its central location was the main reason for holding royal elections here. After Wawel Castle in Cracow burnt down, King Zygmunt III Waza moved his permanent residence, court and the crown headquarters from Cracow to Warsaw in 1596.”
  49.,2788.html Chmielnicki Uprising in Lublin 1648 - 1655]
  50. Jerzy Giza. Pulkownik Mikolaj Giza - komendant Nowego Sacza
  51. Jak szwedzki potop zalal Radom, by Dariusz Milewski
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  62. Krakow in dates and figures
  63. Beskid Niski - informacje regionalne
  64. [14] “1770-1772: Jasna Gora was a fortress of anti-Russian Bar Confederation insurgents led by Kazimierz Pulaski, future American hero”
  65. Norman Davies, God’s Playground: a history of Poland, page 393
  66. [15]”From 1793 Czestochowa was under Prussian rule”
  67. rabacja galicyjska Internetowa encyklopedia PWN
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  76. Jewish Guide, Galicia"Under the rule of emperor Franz Josef broad autonomy was granted to Galicia due to the political shrewdness and common sense of Polish intelligentsia."
  77. Antoni Podraza, Małopolska w przeszłości i dziś. Wspólnota Małopolska, 1999-06-01
  78. [24] "Poprawna nazwa powinna więc brzmieć: Województwo Śląsko-Małopolskie"
  79. [25]

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