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The Reception of Adam Smith’s Works in Poland from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries

The situation of the Polish state1 in the later eighteenth century was a difficult one. Legislative impotence and constitutional chaos had prompted intervention in Polish domestic affairs by neighbouring powers. Attempts at reform by the last Polish king, Stanislaw Augustus Poniatowski (1764-95) was resisted by discontented nobles, a conflict that ended in 1772. This was the year of the first partition of Poland by Russia, Prussia and Austria, a partition in which Poland lost a third of its population and territory. Between 1788 and 1792, while Russia was in conflict with Turkey and Sweden, the Four Years Seym2 sought to introduce radical constitutional reform. A relatively republican Constitution of 3 May 1791 passed by the Seym provoked Russian armed intervention, and consequently the second partition of 1793 (this time without Austrian participation), annulling the short-lived Constitution. The defeat of the Kos´ ciuszko insurrection of 1794, and the third partition of 1795, brought about the political extinction of the Commonwealth. For 123 years, until 1918, Poland disappeared from the map as an independent state. The Polish people lived on the borders of Russia, Prussia and the Austrian empire, with little autonomy.