The November Uprising (1830-1831), also known as the Polish-Russian War, was an armed rebellion against the Russian Empire that took place in Poland. The uprising was organized by a secret society of armed infantry and joined by large groups of people from Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine.
By 1795, Poland was no longer an independent state, since it was partitioned by Austria, Germany and Russia. Moreover, the Napoleonic Wars led to the creation of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, which nevertheless was put to an end a few years later by the Congress of Vienna. As a result, the division of Poland among Russia, Prussia and Austria was solidified: Austria annexed those territories in the south, Prussia the Grand Duchy of Poznán in the west and Russia the Congress Kingdom.
Even though the Congress Kingdom initially had great autonomy and its own constitution, these freedoms began to disappear gradually. In 1815, Alexander I of Russia appointed Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich as de facto viceroy, ignoring the constitution. He also introduced censorship and abolished freemasonry. A few years later, on 24 May 1829, tsar Nicholas I, Alexander’s successor, crowned himself as King of Poland. In the meanwhile, despite the protests of several Polish politicians, Grand Duke Constantine abolished Polish social and patriotic organizations and replaced Poles with Russians in important administrative positions.
The November Uprising
When in July 1830 Nicholas I announced his intention of using the Polish army to suppress a revolt in Paris, a secret society of infantry cadets began to plot an uprising in Warsaw. A few months later, on 29 November, the conspirators, led by Lieutenant Piotr Wysocki, attacked the Belweder Palace intending to assassinate the Grand Duke. Even though the Duke escaped, the rebels captured Warsaw and forced the Russian troops to withdraw from the northern part of the city.
As a result of the events of the 29th of November, known as the November Night, the local Polish government removed unpopular ministers and allowed the Grand Duke to part with his troops to avoid an immediate break with Russia. In the meanwhile, radical intellectual Maurycy Mochnacki set out to replace the newly-constituted ministry with the Patriotic Club, created by him, with the support of the Polish army.
Eventually, the remaining ministers of the pre-revolutionary cabinet resigned and their places were taken by Mochnacki and his associates. This new body, known as the Provisional Government, appointed General Jozef Chłopicki as Dictator of the Uprising. Although he wished to negotiate with Russia, radicals in Warsaw pressed for war and the liberation of Poland. On 13 December, the government proclaimed the National Uprising against Russia. Despite Chłopicki’s efforts to negotiate peace, the Tsar gave no concessions and demanded the surrender of Poland. Consequently, Chłopicki resigned and the power was left in the hands of the radicals. On 25 January, the government passed the Act of Dethronization of Nicholas I, thus declaring war against Russia.
At the beginning of February, the Russian army crossed the Polish borders. Even though the Poles won the first major battle, the Battle of Stoczek, they were unable to stop the Russian advance towards Warsaw. On 25 February, 40,000 Polish soldiers met a Russian force of 60,000 east of Warsaw at the Battle of Olszynka Grochowska. However, after two days of fighting, both armies withdrew.
In the meanwhile, sympathy for the Polish cause extended throughout Europe. Only Austria and Prussia adopted a position of neutrality towards Russia and closed their frontiers to prevent the transportation of munition and supplies. As a result, Poles began to lose hope and tried desperately to rouse the people of Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania. Despite several victories against the Russians, bloody battles ended up depleting their army considerably.
Eventually, the Russian army moved to seize Warsaw. After several suburbs of the city fell to the Russian forces the Poles realized that the war could not be carried on much longer. On October 5 1831, the Polish army crossed the Prussian frontier and laid down their arms, putting the war to an end.
The Consequences of the Uprising
The consequences of the November Uprising were very severe for the Polish people. Those who took part in it were executed or sent to labour camps in Siberia. Furthermore, the Tsar abolished any hint of autonomy and began a process of Russification. The Polish army was incorporated into the Russian one and its administration and higher positions were taken by Russians. Moreover, the universities of Warsaw and Vilnius were closed and the Polish language was banned at schools. The oppression of the Polish people led to the beginning of the Great Emigration, causing many artists and intellectuals to leave the country.
- november uprising
- russian empire
- nicholas i
- congress of vienna
- alexander i
- congress kingdom