-The students need to get to know the basic facts pertaining to the Polish-Lithuanian Common-wealth, formally known as the Kingdom of Poland and the Great Duchy of Lithuania. The follow-ing information may serve as an introduction:
In 1569 a new state was established in the Lublin Sejm (Parliament). The Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania merged to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpo-spolita Obojga Narodów in Polish).
The previous personal union (since 1386) between the countries transformed into a real union. From that moment on, both states shared the same monarch, Sejm and foreign policy. The central and land offices, the treasury, the army and the judiciary were to be separate. Lithuanian and Ruthenian nobles got Polonized over time. In practice, however, the separateness of the Crown and Lithuania had never been blurred and all the ethnic, religious and cultural differences and traditions were mutually respected.
The Commonwealth (especially its eastern part) was inhabited by representatives of different na-tionalities, speaking different languages and being representatives of different religions and be-liefs. They included Poles, Lithuanians, Russians, Germans, Jews, Armenians, Tartars, Wallachians and others.
A wide religious tolerance prevailed in Poland of these times. Loyalty to the Commonwealth was the thing that mattered most. Hence, apart from Roman Catholics many noblemen were Calvinists (mainly in Prussia and Livonia), Orthodox (descendants of Ruthenian boyars) or even Muslim (Ta-tars).
The Commonwealth was one of the largest and most populous countries of 16th- to 17th-century Europe. At its largest territorial extent, in the early 17th century, it covered almost 1,000,000 km2 and as of 1618 sustained a multi-ethnic population of almost 12 million. The Commonwealth had many features unique among contemporary states. Its political system was characterized by strict control of the monarchs and their power (they were elected and had to confirm the previous laws and guarantees of privileges and freedoms of the ruling class – Com-monwealth nobility or gentry. The Parliament (Sejm) represented about 10% of the total popula-tion, which was an absolute record of the times. This system of government was a precursor to modern concepts of democracy, constitutional monarchy and federation.
After many decades of prosperity, the Commonwealth entered a period of political, military, and economic decline. Its growing weakness (especially the inability and unwillingness to adapt to changing times in Europe) led to its partitioning by Austria, Prussia, and Russia during the late 18th century. Shortly before its fall, the Commonwealth carried out a massive reform effort and en-acted the 3 May Constitution (1791), which was the first codified constitution in modern European history and the second in modern world history after the United States Constitution. Unfortu-nately, it was too late and the Commonwealth was finally destroyed by its three aggressive super-power neighbours.
The teacher should rather simplify the scientific terms and/or avoid overburdening the students with too much of historical data, depending on their age, general knowledge and cognitive skills.
The above introduction may also be include a few more components such as:
-The coat of arms representing the Commonwealth and the Royal Banner
-The map of the Commonwealth in the past
-The territories of the Commonwealth in comparison to modern map of Central and Eastern Eu-rope
Activities and their web resources : (to be transferred to and/or modified into Canva History templates in the development process)
Intro: The following video presents European Heritage Label 2015 awarded to The Act of Lublin Union 1569 and thoroughly explains the importance, heritage and universal values of the Union in reference to the EU. The students are encouraged to focus on the factors that contributed to the creation of the Union, especially those that enabled peaceful development and cooperation within the multi-ethnic state. The link to the video is provided below.
Here’s the transcript (some tiny parts omitted) of the video clip:
Lublin is the biggest city in eastern part of Poland, just on edge of the European Union border with Ukraine and Belarus. On the first of July 1569 there was a signing of Lublin Union, which meant for the first time in European history, the Union of two different countries into one state without any wars [as a result of peaceful process]. It was Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania making a Commonwealth of both nations. It was signed in the Lublin Castle just in The Holy Trinity Chapel and during the meeting of Polish and Lithuanian Parliaments. This Chapel is one of the most important, beautiful and precious monuments of medieval art not only in Poland, but in the whole Europe. It is very important for the history of all Europe because in this Gothic architecture typical for the Western art you can find Byzantine Ruthenian paintings to be found in the east. It’s a place where two great cultural traditions of the Latin West and the Byzantine East meet and mingle. It is an example of mutual religious tolerance and coexistence of different cultures and denominations. Because it was always the Roman Catholic Church and the frescoes are typical for Orthodox style. This combination is very original and unique. The most important factor [about the Lublin Union] is exactly the same when it comes to the European Union we have today. It was the openness to dif-ferent religious, different nations and there was a strong commitment to the idea that the peace-ful cooperation is much more better than war and conflicts. The city of Lublin was nominated [to receive the European Heritage Label] but with that special attention to the three places in our city. It is the Lublin Castle and especially its Holy Trinity Chapel where the Union was signed. It’s The Dominican Church and Monastery where the mass was held just after the signing of Union and it is the monument which is located on the Lithuanian Square just in the city centre to commemorate the Union. I think that history of Lublin is an example of tolerance between people of different nationalities and denominations, and nowadays it is very important, because many people, many Catholics and representatives of Orthodox Church, Islam, Judaism, they arrived in Lublin and they lived here without wars.