Poland-Lithuania, Russia and Peter the Great

Published in History Review

Robert Frost reveals a neglected influence on his reforms.

In August 1698, on the way back from his famous embassy to western Europe, Peter I stopped off at Rawa Ruska in south-east Poland to meet Augustus II, elector of Saxony and the newly-elected king of Poland-Lithuania. Lubricated by four days of stupendously outrageous drinking, Peter and Augustus sealed their friendship with an informal agreement to wage war on Charles XII of Sweden, although it was another fifteen months before Augustus opened hostilities by attacking Riga, and it was not until two years after Rawa that the crushing of the revolt of the strel'tsy and the signing of peace with the Ottoman Empire enabled Peter to enter the war which was to end, twenty-one years later, with the defeat of Sweden and the definitive establishment of Russia as one of Europe's great powers. By the time of his death in 1733, Augustus's ambitious plans lay in ruins, and Poland-Lithuania had been eclipsed by Russia. Sixty-two years later, it no longer existed, after Russia had taken the lion's share of its territory in the partions of 1772, 1793 and 1795.

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