Polish-Circassian Relation in 19th Century, by Radosław Żurawski vel Grajewski

Special to Circassian World | Reflections on the Caucasus

Till the begining of 1830s the region of Caucasus was not present in the Polish political thought. After the fail of Polish November Uprising against Russia (1830-1831), all the political camps of the so called Polish Great Emigration (ca. 10 000 people – the political, military and cultural elite of the country who decided to go to exile mainly to France and Great Britain) started to look carfully at the North Caucasus, where the Circassians and Chechens were still waging the war against Russia. The main reason of that attention was a presence of about 9 000 of former soldiers of the Polish Army, who after the desaster of the uprising – had been forcibly sent by Russian authorities to fight the Caucasian Mountainards. Their military service in the ranks of the Russian army was the form of persecution and punishment imposed on them after the collapse of Polish uprising. Many information about the numerous desertions of those soldiers which soon reached Western Europe, turned the attention of the head of the right wing of Polish Emigration – prince Adam George Czartoryski on the Caucasus question. The Eastern Crisis connected with the conflict in Ottoman Empire between the Sultan Mahmud 2nd and the Pasha of Egypt Muhammad Ali, produced a seriuos political tension in Russian-British relations especialy after the treaty of  Hünkâr İskelesi (1833). That situation offered to the Czartoryski’s “diplomacy” a possibility of developing its activity unofficially supported by Foreign Office. The Poles in collaboration with David Urquhart and some British Circessophiles menaged to publish “The Portfolio” – the paper that contained a series of Russian secret diplomatic correspondence captured by insurgents in Warsaw in 1830, and many articles against Russian conquests in Caucasus. Count Władysław Zamoyski - the nephew of Czartoryski and the group of Urquhart organised famous “Vixen” expedition to Circessia to provoke even more tention in English-Russian relations and if possible to give the reason for war. From the Polish point of view, the war between Russia and any European power was a precondition of any future uprising in Poland to regain the independence of the country. War in Caucasus offered the hope, that it could be developed into the British-Russian war so necessary for the Polish aims. Still the Poles failed in their attempts to obtain more effective support from Foreign Office for the organisation of Polish detachments created with the deserters from Russian army to fight as the allied troops on the side of Circassians and Chechens against Russians.

Nevertheless in 1844 Czartoryski menaged to send his emissary Ludwik Zwierkowski to Shapsugs. In 1846 Zwierkowski heavy wounded returned to Istanbul. Than Kazimierz Gordon - another agent of Czartoryski was send to Imam Shamil to Dagestan, still he menaged to reach the territories of Ubykh only, where he was killed by a Russian agent. So the attempts to create the direct Polish-Circassians relations in fourthies failed, still Czartoryski was succesful in creating the place to live for Polish deserters from Russian army in Caucasus. In 1842 he obtained a small village at Asiatic bank of Bosphorus where, under the name of Adampol – Polonezköy, the Poles who menage to escape from Caucasus were settled down. This village still exists today and about 40 of its inhabitants still speak Polish.

The idea of the Polish Legion in Circassia came into being not earlier than after the end of the Crimean War. In 1857  the detachement organised in Ottoman empire, commanded by Teofil Łapiński has landed near Circassian village Tuapse. This Legion (about 120 soldiers) fought against Russians in the 1857-1860 campaigns. The last act of Polish-Circassian bratherhood in arms took place during the January Uprising in Poland (1863-1864). On October 1863 next Polish detachement commanded by colonel Klemens Przewłocki was organized and sent to Circassia with the iniciative of prince Witold Czartoryski – the son of Adam George. It fought in Caucasus till March 1864. The anti-Russian armed resistance of bothe peoples – the Poles and the Circassians came to their bitter end in the same time and resulted in national catastrophes in 1864 – the Circassian resistance in Caucasus ended with a massive exodus of the mountaniards to the Ottoman Empire and the failure of Polish January Uprising in Russian part of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commenwealth resulted in the darkest period of persecutions and Russification of the country when the very neme of Poland was forbiden and replased by Russian invented term – the Vistula Country and the Polish language was erased from the schools and the public space. The only place where it was allowed were churches. So the Poles could pray in Polish and both the peoples – Poles and Circassians believed and still believe that God is great – greater than Russia.

Radosław Żurawski vel GRAJEWSKI, Professor of Lodz University Ph.D. Author of the in Polish: Wielka Brytania w "dyplomacji" księcia Adama Jerzego Czartoryskiego wobec kryzysu wschodniego (1832-1841), Warszawa 1999, (Great Britain in the "diplomacy" of prince Adam George Czartoryski towards the Eastern Crisis (1832-1841).