Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This article is about the history of Poland. For other meanings of Deluge see Deluge.
The Deluge (Polish Potop) is a name commonly assigned in the history of Poland to a series of wars in the 17th century which left Poland in ruins. In a more strict sense "Deluge" refers only to the Swedish invasion and occupation of the country; in a wider sense, it applies to the whole series of misfortunes started by uprising of the Cossacks in 1648 and ending in either 1656, 1660 or even in 1667. Before The Deluge Poland was a Central European power. During the wars, however, Poland lost an estimated 1/3 of its population (relatively higher losses than during World War II), and the power status.
The misfortunes were started in 1648 by Bohdan Chmielnicki. Although the Cossacks were defeated in 1651 in the Battle of Beresteczko, their rebellion gave pretext to the Russians to invade and occupy the eastern half of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1655. The Swedes invaded and occupied the rest in the same year.
Some Polish noble (szlachta), especially Janusz Radziwiłł and Bogusław Radziwiłł, began negotiations with Swedish king Charles X Gustav of Sweden, aimed at breaking the Commonwealth and the Polish-Lithuanian union. They signed a treaty according to which Radziwiłłs were to rule over two sovereign principalities carved up from the lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which were to become a Swedish protectorate.
The Swedes were driven back in 1657, and the Russians were finally defeated in 1662. The struggle over Ukraine ended with the treaty of Andrusovo (13 January, 1667), with the help of Turkish intervention due to their claims in the Crimea. Forces from Prussia and Siebenburgen were also defeated, but Prussia gained a formal recognition of independence and ceased to be a Polish vassal.
The Deluge also stopped the era of Polish tolerance, since most of the invaders were non-Catholic, with expulsion of the Polish brethren as a clear sign of it. During the Deluge, many thousands of Polish Jews also fell victim to pogroms initiated by rebelling Cossacks.
The Deluge is described in a novel of Henryk Sienkiewicz under the same title.
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