Coat of Arms of the Polish Commonwealth

The Polish Commonwealth 1340-1772

Coat of Arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

© Valerie Schatzker 2016

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1340

Galicia is conquered by King Casimir the Great of Poland (reigned 1330- 1370). Some cities in Poland, Lwów among them, receive the privilege of self-rule according to the Magdeburg laws. These laws grant privileges only  to Roman Catholic and polonized German citizens. Orthodox Ukrainians and Jews are restricted in the right of residence. Jews are confined to ghettos and also limited to certain activities such as money lending. These laws apply only to those few cities that adopted the Magdeburg Law.

1349

Chroniclers relate that in reaction to the Black Death, all Jews in Poland were massacred.

1356

First written reference to the Jewish Community in Lwów

1367

King Casimir extends the Statute of Kalisz to Jews throughout Poland. The Statute defined the right of Jews to work in specific professions and trades, defined legal relations between Christians and Jews, and even protected Jewish children from forced baptism.  

1369

The city council of Kracow complains to Kazimierz that high interest rates charged by Jews were impoverishing their citizens.

1386

With the marriage of the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Władysław II Jagiełło to Queen Jadwiga of Poland, the Jagiellonian dynasty begins

1425

Having given the Jew Wolczko the customs lease for the City of Lwów, King Władisław Jagiełło gives him a large tract of land to colonize.

1452

King Casimir IV Jagiełło gives the salt mines of Drohobycz to the Jew Natko

1453

King Casimir IV Jagiełło codifies and ratifies the Statute of Kalisz. Based on the terms of the statutes of Bolesław and Casimir, Jews are treated as servants to the royal court who are mainly in the business of money lending. The laws are attacked throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.  Some towns insist on Jews' wearing distinctive badges.

1485

The growing power of Jews in trade and crafts incites accusations of unfair competition. In Kraków, the Jewish community is forced to renounce its rights to trades and crafts

1490-1492

Peasant uprising in Galicia

1495

The Jews of Kracow are forced out of the town and moved to Kazimierz. There is another peasant uprising in Galicia.       

End of 14th

century

Approximately 20,000 to 30,000 Jews live in Poland

Late 15th-early

16th century

The Jews of Lwów are active in the large scale land trade between the Ottoman Empire and Europe

1500-1700

Serfdom is prevalent throughout Galicia

1502-1510

Invasion by the Turks from the East

1506-1548

Under the reign of Sigismund I, a liberal monarch, Jews hold high positions at court. The administration attempts to bring greater autonomy to Polish Jews by appointing a Chief Rabbi and chief tax collector, but this is resisted by the local Jewish communities (kehillot).

1534

3,500 Jews live in Rus Czerwona, mainly in the cities

1551

Under King Sigismund August (1548-1632), the general privileges of the Jews are renewed and a system of autonomous government created – in effect, a Jewish state within a state under the auspices of the Crown, not the Polish parliament (Seym). Each independent Jewish kahal sends a deputy to a national assembly, or Council of Lands, which meets twice a year during the fairs in Lublin and Jarosław. Hebrew is one of the six  languages recognized for legal purposes. Rus Czerwona is one of the four lands of the Council. This period is one of economic advancement for the Jews especially in large towns like Lwów.

1568

With the commencement of the reign of the Vasa Kings of Poland, who are strongly influenced by the clergy, anti-Semitism increases, particularly in relation to the role the Jews play as leaseholders for the Polish nobility.

1569

The Union of Lublin unites the Kingdom of Poland and the Duchy of Lithuania into a single state, the Polish- Lithuanian Commonwealth.

1570

The Jews of Krakow number 2,000, making it the largest Jewish community in Poland. There are approximately

100,000 Jews in Poland.

1648

Bohdan Khmielnitsky (ca 1595-1659) leads a Cossack revolt. With his Tatar allies, Khmielnitsky ravages Ukraine,  massacring thousands. Jews are particular targets. His army besieges Lwów and destroys its suburbs.

1655

Khmielnitsky again lays siege to Lwów. Further east in Ukraine, only 10% of Jews survive his savage pogroms

1656

Lwów is attacked by the Hungarians

1659

The Union of Lublin unites Poland and Lithuania. Their combined might impels the expansion of territory to the  east and the colonization of  Ukraine by the Polish nobility, in which enterprise they employ the Jews as partners. Despite the Khmielnitsky massacres, Jews begin to move into the villages of Ukraine  and become involved in the arenda system, by which they manage much of the agricultural economy. The economic and personal lives of Jews improve considerably during this period and the population east of Lwów expands.

1664

Several hundred Jews are murdered in pogroms in Lwów.

1655

Khmielnitsky lays siege to Lwów

1648-1696

The courts of Jan II Casimir and Jan III Sobieski attempt to strengthen Jewish autonomy but make little progress. Anti-Semitic laws and acts increase.  Approximately 300,000 Jews live in Poland.

1695

Tartars invade Lwów.

1704

The Swedes capture Lwów.

1696-1733

The reign of Augustus II of Poland begins the period of decline of the Polish Commonwealth. Political deadlock and costly wars have caused stagnation in the economy and the government. The lot of the peasants has become much more miserable. Jewish merchants also suffer as commerce declines. Many kehillot go bankrupt.

mid 18th

century

The ravages of the thirty years of war, the stagnation of the economy, and the decline of the Polish Commonwealth's relative tolerance toward the Jewish minority result in a period of religious disruption and change. Under the influence of Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760), Hassidism is born in opposition to orthodoxy. The heresy of Jacob Frank and his followers also makes a deep impression on the population and the first influence of Haskalah (Enlightenment) is apparent at this time.

1764

The Council of Lands is abolished