Grand Duchy of Posen

Grand Duchy of Posen
Großherzogtum Posen (de)
Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie (pl)
Grand Duchy of Posen
Client state of Prussia
Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Posen
The Grand Duchy was administrated as the Province of Posen, within the Kingdom of Prussia.
Capital Posen (Poznań)
52°24′N 16°55′E / 52.4°N 16.917°E / 52.4; 16.917Coordinates: 52°24′N 16°55′E / 52.4°N 16.917°E / 52.4; 16.917
Government Monarchy
Grand Duke of Posen, King of Prussia
 - 1815–1840 Frederick William III
 - 1840–1849 Frederick William IV
 - 1815–1831 Antoni Radziwiłł
 - Established June 9 1815
 - Wielkopolska Uprising May 9, 1848
 - Autonomy abolished June 28 1848
 - 1849 28,951 km2 (11,178 sq mi)
 - 1849 1,350,000 
     Density 46.6 /km2  (120.8 /sq mi)

The Grand Duchy of Posen, or the Grand Duchy of Poznań (German: Großherzogtum Posen; Polish: Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie) was part of the Kingdom of Prussia, created from territories annexed by Prussia after the Partitions of Poland, and formally established following the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Per agreements derived at the Congress of Vienna it was to have some autonomy. However in reality it was subordinated to Prussia and the proclaimed rights for Polish subjects were not fully implemented. The name was unofficially used afterward for denoting the territory, especially by Poles, and today is used by modern historians to describe different political entities until 1918. Its capital was Posen (Polish: Poznań). The Grand Duchy was formally replaced by the Province of Posen in the Prussian constitution of 5 December 1848.




The Prussian Province of Posen. Yellow colour: Polish-speaking areas according to German authorities

Originally part of the Kingdom of Poland, this area largely coincided with Greater Poland. The mid-17th century brought devastation from invading Swedish forces during "the Deluge". The eastern portions of the territory were taken by the Kingdom of Prussia during the Partitions of Poland; during the first partition (1772), Prussia took just the Netze District, the portion along the Noteć (German: Netze) river. Prussia added the remainder during the second partition in 1793. Prussia briefly lost control during the Kościuszko Uprising in (1794).

It was initially administered as the province of South Prussia. The Poles were the primary ally of Napoleon Bonaparte in Central Europe, participating in the Greater Poland Uprising of 1806 and supplying troops for his campaigns. After the defeat of Prussia by Napoleonic France, the Duchy of Warsaw was created by the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807.


According to the Congress of Vienna, put into action after the fall of Napoleon in 1815, parts of the former Prussian Partition of Poland was returned to Prussia. From them the Grand Duchy of Posen was to be created, that was to be a nominally autonomous province under Hohenzollern rule with the rights of "free development of Polish nation, culture and language", and was outside the German Confederation. Originally the Duchy was to include Chełmno and Toruń. Prussia however disregared this promise from Congress of Vienna. At this time the city of Poznań was the administrative center and the seat of "Prince Antoni Henryk Radziwiłł of Poznań". In reality the actual administrative power over the region was awarded by Prussia to over-president of the province who was a German[1]

At the beginning of the Prussian takeover of Polish territories, the discrimination and repression of Poles consisted of reducing their access to education and the judicial system. Prussian officials identified Germanisation as the progress of higher culture over a lower one. As a result the local administration discriminated against Poles. After 1824 attempts to Germanise the school system were hastened and the government refused to establish a Polish university in Poznań. Polish politicians issued protests against Prussian policies and a secret, patriotic Polish organisation was founded called Towarzystwo Kosynierów (Society of Scythemen). Resistance activity of Poles resulted in reaction from Berlin, where a trial was held in connection to links between Poles from Prussian parts of Poland with Poles from Russian Congress Poland.[2]


The 1830 November Uprising within Congress Poland against the Russian Empire was significantly supported by Poles from the Grand Duchy. Afterward, the Prussian administration under Oberpräsident Edward Flotwell known for his antipolonism[3] introduced a stricter system of repression against the Poles. Prussian authorities attempted to expel Poles from administration to weaken the Polish nobility by buying its lands, and, after 1832, the role of the Polish language in education was significantly repressed. Local self-government of land-lords which was dominated by Polish nobility was abolished, and its place were appointed commissars appointed by Prussian state. Monasteries and their assets were confiscated by Prussia.[4] The office of the governor was abolished. Germanisation of institutions, education as well through colonisation was implemented.[5]

Before 1848 repressions intensified in the Duchy, censorship was strengthened, German settlers were brought in.[6] W large patriotic demonstrations were held in memory of Antoni Babiński-member of Polish Democratic Society. During attempted arrest the Prussian gendarme engaged in fight with him and was wounded by a gunshot. Babiński was then captured, sentenced to death and executed in Poznań. His public execution in February 1847 was accompanied by public mourning. Cloth soaked in his blood and other remains were distributed as national relic. Large prayers were held in his memory, often against orders of Prussia. Members of such gatherings were persecuted by police.[7] At the same time the national self-awareness grew among rural population. Anti-Prussian sentiment grew as response to policy of Germanisation and repression by Prussian authorities and conspiracy organisation called Związek Plebejuszy found a potent ground. It was led by bookseller Walenty Stefański, poet Ryszard Berwiński and lawyer Jakub Krauthofer-Krotowski.[8]

Frankfurt Parliament of 1848 and the Duchy

During the Revolutions of 1848 the Frankfurt Parliament attempted to divide the Duchy into two parts: the Province of Poznań, which would have been given to the Germans and annexed to a newly-created German Empire, and the Province of Gniezno, which would have been given to the Poles and held outside Germany, but because of the protest of Polish parliamentarians these plans failed and the integrity of the duchy was preserved. However, on February 9, 1849, after a series of broken assurances, the Prussian administration renamed the duchy to the Province of Posen. However the Prussian Kings up to William II, German Emperor still held the title "Grand Duke of Posen" until 1918.

Area and population

Grand Duchy of Posen (light blue) after its creation, in 1815

The area was 28,951 km² and contained most of the territories of the historical province of Greater Poland, which comprised the western parts of the Duchy of Warsaw (Departments of Poznań, Bydgoszcz, partly Kalisz) that were ceded to Prussia according to the Congress of Vienna (1815) with an international guarantee of self-administration and free development of the Polish nation.


  • 900,000 (1815)
  • 1,350,000 (1849)
  • 2,100,000 (1910)

In 1815 the Polish population made up circa 73% of the overall population, while Germans 25% and Jews 2%.[9] Despite Germanisation efforts, the Polish population remained the majority, however it decreased to 64% of population by 1910.[10]

Territorial administration

The monarch of the duchy, with title of Grand Duke of Posen, was the Hohenzollern king of Prussia and his representative was the Duke-Governor: the first was Prince Antoni Radziwiłł (1815–1831), who was married to Princess Louise of Prussia, the king's cousin. The governor was assigned to give advice in matters of Polish nationality, and had the right to veto the administration decisions; in reality, however, all administrative power was in the hands of the Prussian over-president of the province.

The Prussian administrative unit that covered the territory of the Duchy was called the Province of the Grand Duchy of Posen in the years 1815–1849, and later to simplify just the Province of Posen (German: Provinz Posen, Polish: Prowincja Poznańska).

The territory of the duchy was divided into two regions (Polish: Rejencja), Posen and Bromberg, which were further divided into 26 original districts (German: Kreis(e), Polish: Powiat(y)) administered by landrats ("district councils"). Later, these were redivided into 40 districts, plus two urban districts. In 1824, the Duchy also received a provincial council (term started in 1827) but with little administrative power, limited to providing advice. In 1817, Culmerland (Chełmno Land) was moved to West Prussia.

Polish organisations

  • Scientific Help Society for the Youth of the Grand Duchy of Posen (established 1841, Polish: Towarzystwo Naukowej Pomocy dla Młodzieży Wielkiego Księstwa Poznańskiego) – scholarship for the poor youth
  • Poznań Bazar (Bazar Poznański, established 1841)
  • Central Economic Society for the Grand Duchy of Poznań (established 1861, Polish: Centralne Towarzystwo Gospodarcze dla Wielkiego Księstwa Poznańskiego, CTG) – promotion of modern agriculture
  • People's Libraries Society (established 1880, Polish: Towarzystwo Czytelni Ludowych, TLC) promotion of education among the people
  • Poznań Society of Friends of Arts and Sciences (established 1875, Polish: Poznańskie Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk, PTPN) promotion of arts and sciencies

German organisations

  • Colonization Commission (Ansiedlungskommision, established 1886)
  • German Eastern Marches Society (Hakata), (Deutscher Ostmarken Verein, established 1894)

Notable people

(in alphabetical order)
(see also Notable people of Province of Posen)

  • Hipolit Cegielski (1815–1868), Polish businessman, social and cultural activist
  • Dezydery Chłapowski (1788–1879), Polish general, business and political activist
  • Bernard Chrzanowski (1861–1944), Polish social and political activist, president of the Union of the Greater Poland Falcons (Związek Sokołów Wielkopolskich)
  • August Cieszkowski (1814–1894), Polish philosopher, social and political activist, co-founder of the Polish League (Liga Polska), co-founder and president of the PTPN
  • Bolesław Dembiński (1833–1914), Polish composer and organist, activist fo the singers societies
  • Franciszek Dobrowolski (1830–1896), Polish theatre director, editor of Dziennika Poznańskiego (Poznań Daily)
  • Tytus Działyński (1796–1861), Polish political activist, protector of arts
  • Ewaryst Estkowski (1820–1856), Polish teacher, education activist, editor of Szkoła Polska (Polish School) magazine
  • Edward H. Flotwell (1786–1865), Prussian politician, over-president of the Grand Duchy of Poznań
  • Immanuel Lazarus Fuchs (1833–1902), Prussian mathematician
  • Maksymilian Jackowski (1815–1905), Polish activist, secretary-general of the Central Economic Society (Centralne Towarzystwo Gospodarcze), patron of the agricultural circles
  • Paul von Hindenburg (1847–1934), Field Marshal and President of the Weimar Republic
  • Kazimierz Jarochowski (1828–1888), Polish historian, publicist of the Dziennik Poznański (Poznań Daily), co-founder of PTPN
  • Hermann Kennemann (1815–1910), Prussian politician, co-founder of the German Eastern Marches Society
  • Antoni Kraszewski (1797–1870), Polish politician and parliamentarian
  • Karol Libelt (1807–1875), Polish philosopher, political and social activist, president of PTPN
  • Karol Marcinkowski (1800–1848), Polish physician, social activist, founder of the Poznań Bazar
  • Teofil Matecki (1810–1886), Polish physician, social activist, member of PTPN, founder of the Adam Mickiewicz monument of Poznań
  • Maciej Mielzyński (1799–1870), political and social activist
  • Ludwik Mycielski, Polish political, president of the National Council (Rada Narodowa) in 1913
  • Andrzej Niegolewski (1787–1857), Polish colonel during the Napoleonic Wars, member of parliament, shareholder of the Poznań Bazar
  • Władysław Oleszczyński (1808–1866), Polish sculptor, who created a monument of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań
  • Gustaw Potworowski (1800–1860), Polish activist, founder of the Kasyno in Gostyń, activist of the Polish League (Liga Polska)
  • Edward Raczyński (1786–1845), Polish conservative politician, protector of arts, founder of the Raczynski Library in Poznań
  • Antoni Radziwiłł (1775–1833), Polish duke, composer, and politician, governor-general of the Grand Duchy of Poznań
  • Walenty Stefański (1813–1877), Polish bookseller, political activist, co-founder of the Polish League (Liga Polska)
  • Florian Stablewski (1841–1906), Polish priest archbishop of Poznań and Gniezno, Polish member of Prussian parliament
  • Heinrich Tiedemann (1840–1922), Prussian politician, co-founder of the German Eastern Marches Society
  • Leon Wegner (1824–1873), Polish economist and historian, co-founder of PTPN
  • Richard Witting (1812–1912), Prussian politician, over-president of Poznań City, 1891–1902

See also


  1. ^ Historia. Encyklopedia Szkolna. Warszawa 1993. Page 670
  2. ^ "Lands of Partitioned Poland 1795–1918"Piotr Stefan Wandycz Washington University Press 1974
  3. ^ Historia. Encyklopedia Szkolna. Warszawa 1993. Page 670
  4. ^ Historia. Encyklopedia Szkolna. Warszawa 1993. Page 670
  5. ^ Historia 1789–1871 Page 255. Anna Radziwiłł and Wojciech Roszkowski.
  6. ^ Historia 1789–1871 Page 278. Anna Radziwiłł and Wojciech Roszkowski.
  7. ^ Historia 1789–1871 Page 278. Anna Radziwiłł and Wojciech Roszkowski.
  8. ^ Historia 1789–1871 Page 278. Anna Radziwiłł and Wojciech Roszkowski.
  9. ^ Historia 1789–1871 Page 224. Anna Radziwiłł and Wojciech Roszkowski.
  10. ^ Historia. Encyklopedia Szkolna. Warszawa 1993. Page 670
  • Robert Alvis, Religion and the Rise of Nationalism: A Profile of an East-Central European City, Syracuse 2005
  • Gazeta Wielkiego Księstwa Poznańskiego
  • Konstanty Kościnski, Przewodnik pod Poznaniu i Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskiem, Poznań 1909
  • T. Dohnalowa, Z dziejów postępu technicznego w Wielkopolsce w pierwszej połowie XIX wieku, in: S.Kubiak, L.Trzeciakowski (ed.), Rola Wielkopolski w dziejach narodu polskiego
  • F. Genzen, Z.Grot, F.Paprocki, Zabór pruski w Powstaniu Styczniowym. Materiały i dokumenty, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1968
  • B. Grześ, J.Kozłowski, A.Kramarski, Niemcy w Poznańskiem wobec polityki germanizacyjnej 1815–1920, Poznań 1976
  • Witold Jakóbczyk, Przetrwać nad Wartą 1815–1914. Dzieje narodu i państwa polskiego, vol. III-55, Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, Warszawa 1989
  • Witold Jakóbczyk (ed.), Studia nad dziejami Wielkopolski w XIX w., vol.I-III, Poznań 1951–1967
  • Witold Jakóbczyk (ed.), Wielkopolanie XIX w., Poznań 1969
  • Witold Jakóbczyk (ed.), Wielkopolska. Wybór źródeł, t. I 1815–1850, Wrocław 1952
  • Witold Jakóbczyk (ed.), Wielkopolska. Wybór źródeł, t. II 1851–1914, Wrocław 1954
  • T. Klanowski, Germanizacja gimnazjów w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim i opór młodzieży polskiej w latach 1870–1814, Poznań 1962
  • Czesław Łuczak, Życie społeczno-gospodarcze w Poznaniu 1815–1918, Poznań 1965
  • K. Malinowski (ed.), X wieków Poznania, Poznań-Warszawa 1956
  • Witold Molik, Kształtowanie się inteligencji wielkopolskiej w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 1840–1870, Warszawa-Poznań 1979
  • F. Paprocki, Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie w okresie rządów Flottwella (1830–1842), Poznań 1970
  • L. Plater, Opisanie historyczno-statystyczne Wielkiego Księstwa Poznańskiego, wyd. J. N. Bobrowicz, Leipzig 1846
  • B. Pleśniarski, Poglądy Wielkopolan na sprawy wychowawcze i oświatowe w świetle prasy Księstwa Poznańskiego 1814–1847,
  • A. Skałkowski, Bazar Poznański. Zarys stuletnich dziejów (1838–1938), Poznań 1938
  • L. Słowiński, Nie damy pogrześć mowy. Wizerunki pedagogów poznańskich XIX wieku, Poznań 1982
  • J. Stoiński, Szkolnictwo średnie w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim w I połowie XIX wieku (1815–1850), Poznań 1972
  • J. Topolski (ed.), Wielkopolska przez wieki, Poznań 1973
  • S. Truchim, Geneza szkół realnych w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim, Warszawa 1936
  • S. Truchim, Historia szkolnictwa i oświaty polskiej w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 1815–1915, Łódź 1967
  • Lech Trzeciakowski, Kulturkampf w zaborze pruskim, Poznań 1970
  • Lech Trzeciakowski, Pod pruskim zaborem 1850–1914, Warszawa 1973
  • Lech Trzeciakowski, Walka o polskość miast Poznańskiego na przełomie XIX i XX wieku, Poznań 1964
  • Lech Trzeciakowski, W dziewiętnastowiecznym Poznaniu, Poznań 1987
  • Wielkopolski Słownik Biograficzny, 2nd edition, Warszawa-Poznań 1983

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