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Russian ambassador Repnin, an important person in the contemporary Polish and Russian politics.
[[Image:Jozef Andrzej Zaluski.jpg|thumb|right|thumb|100px|Bishop Józef Andrzej Załuski, the founderof the first public library in Poland.]]
Bishop Kajetan Sołtyk, a vocal opponent of non-Catholics.
Bishop Kajetan Sołtyk, a vocal opponent of non-Catholics.
Bishop Kajetan Sołtyk, a vocal opponent of non-Catholics.
Wacław Rzewuski, politician and military commander (hetman).


The Repnin Sejm ( ) was a Sejm (session of the Polish parliament) that took place between 1767 and 1768 in Warsawmarker, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This session followed the Sejms of 1764 to 1766, where the newly elected king of Poland, Stanislaw II Poniatowski, attempted with some successes to push through reforms to strengthen the government of the Commonwealth. These reforms were viewed as dangerous by Poland's neighbors, who preferred a weak Commonwealth and did not want to see it threaten their own political and military aspirations.

History

The Russian Empiremarker's Minister to Warsaw, ambassador and Prince Nicholas Repnin (for whom the Sejm was named) received orders from Russian Empress Catherine the Great to bribe and coerce the Sejm deputies in order to push legislation favourable to Russia, in effect "a carefully drafted plan for destroying the republic"[EB][265660]. At that time Poland had a population of about 11,5 millions, out of which about 1 million were religious dissidents[EB]. In his preparations Repnin fostered unrest among the religious minorities (Protestants (mostly in Royal Prussia and Greater Poland) and Eastern Orthodox (mostly in Grand Duchy of Lithuania)), who wanted to have equal rights with the Roman Catholics[265661].

Repnin was well aware that an aristocratic and Catholic dominated Sejm would be strongly opposed to such demands. He also calculated that such a demand itself would make the szlachta suspicious of all reform, including the recent reforms of king Stanisław August Poniatowski and his supporters from the magnate Czartoryski family, were already rather unpopular, as being innovators under foreign influence. Repnin calculations were proven correct at the sejm of 1766, which not only rejected the dissident bill, but repealed all the Poniatowski's reforms. This weakened the position of king Poniatowski, and the pro-Saxonmarker party, led by Gabriel Podoski (1719-1777) started a campaign to dethrone the king. Repnin knew that the allied courts would never consent to such a measure; but he secretly encouraged the plot for his own purposes. In order to further Russian goals, he encouraged the formation of two Protestant konfederacjas (of Sluckmarker and Toruńmarker) and later, one Catholic (Radom Confederation, led by Karol Stanisław "Panie Kochanku" Radziwiłł) [265662].The first act of the Radom confederation was to send a deputation to Saint Petersburgmarker, petitioning Catherine to guarantee the liberties of the Republic, and allow the proper legislation to be settled by the Russian ambassador at Warsaw. With Russian troops sent to "protect" the various pro-Russian factions and this carte blanche in his pocket, Repnin proceeded to treat the deputies of the Sejm as if they were already servants of the Russian empress.[EB]

Despite the resistance by some members of the Sejm, headed by four bishops, Wacław Hieronim Sierakowski (1699-1784), bishop of Lviv, Feliks Paweł Turski, bishop of Chełm (1729-1800), Kajetan Ignaty Sołtyk, bishop of Cracow (1715-1788), and Józef Andrzej Załuski, bishop of Kiev (1702I 774), Repnin's power and influence were too strong to overcome by Polish opposition. To break the back of the opposition, Repnin, in the very Polish capital ordered the arrest of four vocal opponents of his policies[265663], [265664], namely bishop of Kiev Józef Andrzej Załuski, bishop of Cracow Kajetan Sołtyk[265665], and hetman Wacław Rzewuski with his son Seweryn. All of them members of Senate of Poland, they were arrested by Russian troops on October 13, 1767 [265666]and imprisoned in Kalugamarker for 5 years.

Through the Polish nobles that he bribed (like Gabriel Podoski, primate of Poland[265667]) or threatened by the presence of over 10,000 Russian soldiers in Warsaw[265668] and even in the very chambers of the parliament (EB), Repnin, despite some misgivings about the methods he was ordered to employ[265669], de facto dictated the terms of that Sejm[265670] [265671]. The intimidated Sejm, which met in October 1767 and adjourned till February 1768[265672], appointed a commission (the so-called Delegated Sejm) which drafted a Polish-Russian treaty, approved in "silent session" (without debate) on February 27 1768 [265673]. The legislation undid some of the reforms of 1764 under Stanislaw II and pushed through legislation which ensured that the political system of the Commonwealth would be ineffective and easy to control by its foreign neighbours. The liberum veto, free election, neminem captivabimus, rights to form the confederation and rokosz—in other words, all the important old privileges of the nobility, which made the Commonwealth political system (the Golden Liberty) so ungovernable—were guaranteed as unalterable parts in the cardinal laws.

The Sejm, however, also passed some more beneficial reforms. Russia, which had used the pretext of increased religious freedoms for the Protestant and Orthodox Christians to destabilize the Commonwealth in the first place, now had to push those reforms through the Sejm to save face. Thus the legislation of the Sejm granted those religious minorities the same status as that of the previously dominant Roman Catholics, and some privileges of the Catholic clergy were limited. In addition, the penalty for killing a peasant was increased from a fine to death, liberum veto was abolished on sejmiks (local parliaments), and a mint was created.[265674] All those reforms were guaranteed by the Russian Empress, Catherine II[265675].

Repnin Sejm marked one of the important milestones in increasing Polish dependence on the Russian Empire, and turning it into a protectorate. This dependent position was bluntly spelled out in Nikita Ivanovich Panin's letter to king Poniatowski, in which he made it clear that Poland was now in the Russian sphere of influence.[265676]

The resulting reaction among Poland's Roman Catholic leadership to the laws granting privileges to the Protestants, as well as the deep resentment of Russia's meddling in the Commonwealth's domestic affairs, led to the War of the Confederation of Bar (1768 to 1772)[265677], directed against Poniatowski and Russia, which ended with Russian victory and the first partition of Poland.

References

  1. Hamish M. Scott, The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756-1775, Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 052179269X, Gooble Print, p.182
  2. Various, The Story of My Life, Penguin Classics, 2001, ISBN 0140439153, Google Print, p.528
  3. Hugh Seton-Watson, The Russian Empire, 1801-1917, Oxford University Press, 1967, ISBN 0198221525, Google Print, p.44
  4. Richard Butterwick, Poland's Last King and English Culture: Stanisław August Poniatowski, 1732-1798, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 0198207018, Google Print, p.163



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