RUMOURS ABOUT THE PARTITION OF POLAND AND THEIR REPERCUSSIONS IN THE COMMONWEALTH DURING THE INTERREGNUM OF 1763-1764
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Vienna reacted with great anxiety to rumours about the partition of Poland, circulating in 1763 in the face of the anticipated death of Augustus III and intensified after his death. In view of a Russian-Prussian rapprochement, Austria feared that a partition of Poland coordinated by St. Petersburg and Berlin would have dangerously reinforced her greatest enemy, Prussia; this was the prime reason why Austria intended to prevent a partition. Although Frederick II analysed the consent expressed by Catherine II for the annexation of Elblag, while the Empress and her closest entourage harboured pro–annexation projects predominantly involving those lands which Russia ultimately incorporated during the first partition, the division of Poland between both northern powers was not very realistic. St. Petersburg did not wish to share the Commonwealth with Berlin, and regarded the former as a sphere of exclusively Russian impact. The partition variant was treated as an ultimate solution which could be applied only if strong military involvement in the Polish election proved to be indispensable. Russian and Prussian dementi about rumours concerning the planned partition show the unwillingness of the rulers of the two powers to publish texts which in the future could have constrained them in obtaining desired lands at the cost of Poland. A closer analysis of the circumstances in which Frederick II succumbed to Russian demands for proclaiming the dementi demonstrates the extent to which the Hohenzollern ruler was ready to concede in favour of the eastern Empire; the still negotiated alliance with Russia was treated as fundamental warranty for his state. In turn, the circumstances which at the convocation Seym of 1764 accompanied the enactment of a constitution about the recognition of the imperial and royal titles of the rulers of Russia and Prussia, testified the enormous distrust of the gentry community towards both neighbouring powers, correctly suspected of harbouring pro-annexation intentions in relation to the Commonwealth. Both the constant Prussian pursuit of territorial conquests at the cost of Poland and the annexationist appetite of Russia, which from the times of Peter I was decisive for the fate of the state of the gentry and constituted an obstacle for Prussian pro-partition predilections, proved the uncertainty of the foundations upon which the foreign security of the Commonwealth was based on the eve of the reign of Stanislaw Augustus.
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