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1654/1667. The Russo-Polish War

1654/1667. The Russo-Polish War

The Russo-Polish War of 16541667, also called the War for Ukraine, was the last major conflict between Tsardom of Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Known in Poland as part of the "Deluge", the war ended with significant Russian territorial gains and marked the beginning of the rise of Russia as a great power in Eastern Europe.

The conflict was triggered by the Khmelnytsky Rebellion of Ukrainian Cossacks against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Cossack leader, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, derived his main foreign support from Alexis of Russia and promised his allegiance in recompense. Although the Zemsky Sobor of 1651 was poised to accept the Cossacks into the Moscow sphere of influence and to enter the war against Poland on their side, the Tsar waited until 1653, when a new popular assembly eventually authorized the unification of Ukraine with Tsardom of Russia. After the Cossacks ratified this agreement at the Pereyaslav Rada the Russo-Polish War became inevitable.

In July 1654 the Russian army of 41,000 (nominally under the Tsar, but in fact commanded by Princes Yakov Cherkassky, Nikita Odoevsky and Andrey Khovansky) captured the border forts of Bely and Dorogobuzh and laid siege to Smolensk.

The Russian position at Smolensk was endangered as long as Great Lithuanian Hetman, Prince Janusz Radziwiłł with 10,000 men held Orsha, slightly to the west. Cherkassky defeated Radziwill near Shklov. After a three-month siege, Smolensk the main object of the previous RussoPolish War fell to the Russians on 23 September.

In the meantime, Prince Aleksey Trubetskoy led the southern flank of the Russian army from Bryansk to Ukraine. The territory between the Dnieper and Berezina was overrun quickly, with Trubetskoy taking Mstislavl and Roslavl and his Ukrainian allies capturing Homel. On the northern flank, Fyodor Sheremetev set out from Pskov and seized the Lithuanian cities of Nevel (July 1), Polotsk (July 17), and Vitebsk (November 17).

Thereupon the Tsar's troops swarmed over Polish Livonia and firmly established themselves in Ludza and Rezekne. Simultaneously, the combined forces of Khmelnitsky and the Muscovite boyar Buturlin struck against Volynia. Despite many disagreements between the commanders, they took hold of Ostrog and Rovno by the end of the year.

In the winter and spring of 1655, (Prince) Radziwill launched a counter-offensive in Belarus, recapturing Orsha and besieging Mogilyov. This siege continued for three months with no conclusion. In January, Sheremetev and Khmelnitsky routed the Poles at Akhmatov while a second Polish army (allied with the Tatars) crushed a Russian-Ukrainian contingent at Zhashkov.

Alarmed by these reverses, the Tsar hastened from Moscow and at his instigation a massive offensive was launched. The Lithuanian forces offered little effective resistance and surrendered Minsk to the Cossacks and Cherkassky on 3 July. Vilnius, the capital of the Great Duchy of Lithuania, was taken by the Russians on 31 July. This success was followed up by the conquest of Kaunas and Hrodno in August.

Elsewhere, Prince Volkonsky sailed from Kiev up the Dnieper and the Pripyat, routing the Lithuanians and capturing Pinsk on his way. Trubetskoy's unit overran Slonim and Kletsk, while Sheremetev managed little beyond seizing Velizh on June 17. A Lithuanian garrison still resisted the Cossacks' siege in Stary Bykhov, when Khmelnitsky and Buturlin were already active in Galicia. They laid attacked the Polish city of Lwów in September and entered Lublin after Sapieha's defeat near Brest.

The Russian advance into the Polish Commonwealth led to the kingdom of Sweden invading Poland in 1655 under King Charles X.

Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin then opened negotiations with the Poles and signed an armistice on 2 November. After that, Russian forces marched on Swedish Livonia and besieged Riga in the Russo-Swedish War of 1656-1658.

The Livonian imbroglio had unexpected repercussions in Ukraine. Khmelnitsky, who considered Sweden his ally, viewed the armistice as a betrayal and was prepared to break with the Tsar up until the hetman's death in August 1657. His successor, Ivan Vyhovsky, allied himself with the Poles -- who by then had defeated and repelled the Swedish invasion.

Under such circumstances, the Tsar concluded with Sweden the advantageous truce of Valiersari, which allowed him to resume hostilities against the Poles in October 1658. During the two years of peace, the Belarusian nobility (and many Cossack leaders) had changed sides and now would help the Poles to launch a winter offensive in Belarus against the Russians.

In the north, Sapieha's attempt to blockade Vilnius was checked by Prince Yury Dolgorukov (October 11). In the south, the Ukrainian Vyhovsky failed to wrest Kiev from Sheremetev's control. In July 1659, however, Vyhovsky and his Crimean Tatar allies inflicted a heavy defeat upon Trubetskoy's army, then besieging Konotop.

The threat to the Russians during their conquests in Ukraine was relieved by Sheremetev's forces, which set out from Kiev in August. Whilst Vyhovsky was defeated near Chyhyryn and fled to Poland, the Cossacks deposed him and elected Khmelnitsky's son Yurii as the new hetman of Ukraine.

Most of the eastern areas marked with light pink were lost by Commonwealth to Russia in 1667; remaining in the Grzymułtowski's Peace Treaty of 1686.

The tide turned in Poland's favor in 1660. Although the new Cossack hetman, Yakym Somko, was not as outspoken a critic of the Moscow regime as his predecessor, he nevertheless gravitated towards an alliance with the Poles. And Polish King John II Casimir, having concluded the Northern Wars against Sweden with the Treaty of Oliva, was now able to concentrate all his forces on the Eastern front.

The Poles unleashed a major offensive and drove the Russians out of Belarus by the end of 1660. Sapieha defeated Khovansky and Sheremetev was forced to capitulate near Chudniv. The most brilliant Polish general of the period was Stefan Czarniecki: he routed Dolgorukov's army in the Battle of Polonka and recaptured Vilnius in 1661. Other towns of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were retaken by the Polish-Lithuanian forces one by one. These reverses forced the Tsar to accept the humiliating Treaty of Kardis, by way of averting a new war against Sweden.

Towards the end of 1663, the Polish King crossed the Dnieper and invaded Left-bank Ukraine. Most towns in his path would surrender without resistance, but his siege of Glukhov in January was a costly failure and he suffered a further setback at Novgorod-Seversky. However, the last notable action of the war was a defeat of Russian forces near Vitebsk in summer 1664.

Peace negotiations dragged on from 1664 until January 1667, when Jerzy Lubomirski's rebellion forced the Poles to conclude the Treaty of Andrusovo, whereby Poland ceded to Russia the fortress of Smolensk and the Left-bank Ukraine (including Kiev).

Lithuania, 2006, Lithuanian history

Ukraine, 1999, Ivan Vyhovsky


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