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Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
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Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (or The Commonwealth of the Two Nations, Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów in Polish; Belarusian: Рэч Паспалі́тая) was a federal monarchy-republic formed by the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania, between 1569 and 1795, which was governed by an elected monarch.

Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów
(Full size)
The Commonwealth around 1619
Official languages Polish, Latin
Established church Roman Catholic
Capital Warsaw (since 1596)
Largest City Gdańsk;, later Warsaw
Head of stateKing of Poland,
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Areaabout 1 million km˛
Populationabout 11 million
Existed1569 - 1795

Since the word Poland was also commonly used to describe the whole country, the members of the commonwealth were called:

The Crown had approximately double the population of Lithuania and five times the income of its treasury.

In the Partitions of Poland in 1772-1795 divided the country between Russia, the Kingdom of Prussia and Austria. However, the last political movement that wanted to restore the state was active about the time of the January Uprising (1863-1864).

These lands are distributed today mostly among Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, with smaller pieces in some other neighboring countries (Estonia, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova).

The political doctrine of Polish-Lithuania was "our state is a Republic under the presidency of the King". The Commonwealth introduced the doctrine of religious tolerance, had its own parliament, the Sejm, and elected kings that were bound to the contracts "Pacta conventa" from the beginning of their reign.

The foundation stones of the Commonwealth, the so called Golden Freedoms, were commonly:


Contour of the Commonwealth with its major subdivisions
as of 1619 superimposed on present-day national borders

Intellectual inheritance

The Commonwealth was one of the most important places in development modern social and political ideas of Europe. See Polish brethren.

The article Nobles' Democracy covers this historical period in greater detail.

Related articles

List of Polish rulers