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2010 | 53 | 3(211) | 267-284

Article title

POLES IN THE AUSTRIAN OFFICER CORPS IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY (Polacy w korpusie oficerskim armii austriackiej w pierwszej polowie XIX wieku)

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After the partitions of Poland a few million Poles were added to the population of Austria–Hungary. Between 1790 and 1815 the Austrian authorities made repeated attempts to recruit Polish volunteers, especially those of gentry stock, many of whom were to be promoted to officer rank. The greatest number of Polish officers served in the Uhlan regiments (there were four of them at that time). The infantry was far less popular with the Poles, while artillery and the engineer corps attracted very few of them. The Napoleonic wars made the prospect of a speedy career a tangible reality; later, however, as promotions were blocked, the stream of volunteers dried up. It was not until the 1830s that the number of officers of Polish background started to rise. Another increase of the Polish contingent in the officer corps was recorded in the latter half of the 1840s. Few Poles in the Austrian military were promoted beyond the rank of NCOs. It was rare to find a Pole in command of a brigade, and exceptionally rare for a Pole to attain the rank of general. The Poles were usually hindered on their upward climb by inadequate educational qualifications, language, and generally low status of the Polish gentry in the Habsburg monarchy. In the period under consideration the most spectacular career was that of Karol Gorzkowski who became a general of cavalry. Other notable careers belonged to Feldmarschall-Lieutenants Feliks and Edward Wojna and General-Major Antoni Tarnowski. A few Poles made it to the rank of brigade commander. On the whole, it seems that the second half of the 19th century saw a much greater interest among the Poles in a military career in the Austrian military.








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