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07 November 2023

Napoleon Bonaparte and Retablissement of Polish State

Ukrainian Historical Review
Napoleon Bonaparte and Retablissement of Polish State

This work aims to rethink the historiographic image of Napoleon’s attitude to the idea of the Polish Kingdom’s creation, which inspired the next generations of Poles after the final partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The author has attempted to verify the existing myth regarding the attitude of the French emperor to the Polish question based on archival and published sources and the most important scholarly works, both past and contemporary. Polish historiography frequently followed Napoleon’s legend created in the 19th century while assessing his activities in the Polishquestion. This legend, which arose under conditions of foreign rule, was an expression of the revolt of a conquered nation, which sought ways to return to independence, cultivating faith in the effective French support in the struggle for freedom. The next generations of historians either considered the patriotic function of the Napoleonic tradition in Polish society, which their publications were supposed to foster and develop, either rejected it or even fought against it. This article analyses the policy of Napoleon during the so-called first Polish war of 1806—1807, the war with Austria in 1809, but especially the so-called Second Polish War in 1812, when the idea of creating the Kingdom of Poland experienced some progress. New evidence relating, among other things, to the events in the eastern part of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1812 allows to reconstruct Napoleon’s actual policy on the Polish question during his confrontation with Russian Tsar Alexander I in a new way. Based on them were outlined the political intentions and expectations of the French emperor concerning the Duchy of Warsaw and the interim government of Lithuania created under the French protectorate. In the case of Napoleon’s victory, this policy would result in the reconstruction of the Polish and Lithuanian states, which, although not covering all the lands of the former Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth, would undoubtedly be a significant difference from the inconsistent decision made in Tilsit. The defeat of the French emperor in the war with Russia prevented the implementation of this plan.

Source: Nawrot D. (2022). Napoleon Bonaparte and Retablissement of Polish State. Ukrainian Historical Review. 1: 19-38

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