|Abstract: ||The aim of the work is to present the image of Russia that was shaped in the Commonwealth in the second half of the 17th century. It was developed on the basis of the opinions of the Polish nobility expressed in private, state documents and poetry. In order to analyze the collected material, it was divided into three chapters.
The first chapter discusses matters related to the knowledge of Russia as a geographical region and the nation that inhabits it. The description of this country presents opinions about the climate, size, development and nature. Poles associated Russia with a great, cold, poorly researched country, located on the sidelines of Europe, whose nature has not yet been fully harnessed by man. Opinions about Russians emphasized, above all, the negative traits of their character: barbaric customs, lack of respect for a defeated opponent, arrogance, pride, and failure to keep one's word. Poles viewed Russians as people brought up in a tyrannical system that taught them to be submissive and disrespectful to others and themselves. The Commonwealth of Poland has little noticed that Russia is changing, that new schools are being created, fashion is changing, the level of culture is increasing, and the position of women is improving. Many of these transformations had to come under the influence of Polish culture reaching Moscow.
In the second chapter, were developed opinions about the Russian state and religion. Opinions about the Russian state were primarily related to the person of the tsar and his relations with his subjects. The Polish nobility believed that the tsar had complete power over them, and that their subjects were obliged to take care of the tsar’s dignity and fulfill all the monarch's orders. The tsar's power was in stark contrast to the news of numerous civil revolts that shook the monarchy. Rebellions never broke out against the tsar, his power and position, but only because of poverty and against the bad rule of the tsar's advisers, and were aimed at gaining power after the tsar's death. Poles believed that the ruling system was a tyranny that took away people's freedom and made them only obedient executors of the tsar's power.
Opinions on Russian Orthodoxy highlighted hostility to Catholicism, the role of the ritual in the way of professing faith and the way of celebrating religious holidays. The accounts emphasized the deep faith of the Russians, although it was believed that their faith was close to superstition. In reports from Russia, there have been numerous cases of forcing Catholics to convert to Orthodoxy. The great reform of religion carried out by Nikon has been only marginally noticed. In the opinion of Poles, the Russian Orthodox Church was subordinate to the tsar and helped him in achieving his political goals towards the Commonwealth and Ukraine.
In the third chapter were presented opinions on Polish-Russian relations. This part has been divided into several subsections. In the first one were discussed opinions about the Russian army. They emphasized, above all, the brave attitude of soldiers during the war and the cruel conduct towards the civilian population. Many reports portray the large role of foreign officers in the Russian army.
The next subsection describes the attitudes of the population during the war and during the occupation of Lithuania by Russia. At the beginning, a part of the population cooperated with the invader. The situation changed in 1660, when the Lithuanian population opposed the occupation forces en masse and supported the Polish army fighting for its liberation. This proves that during the several years of occupation, the Russians did not manage to convince the population to accept the new governments. It was caused by difficult living conditions, deportation of people and lack of freedom.
The following section describes the efforts of the Commonwealth to ensure the freedom to profess the Catholic religion by the inhabitants of the lost Smolensk region. Based on the provisions of international treaties and news coming from that region, more and more difficulties in the exercise of Catholic worship were shown.
The next subsection is devoted to the fate of prisoners of war and people deported deep into Russia. It shows the efforts of the Commonwealth to made them free and the difficulties that the Russians created to prevent their return. This section presents various ways of treating prisoners of war, forcing them to change their faith, and to cooperate with the tsar’s administration.
The next part of the work discusses the views on how diplomatic relations between Russia and the Commonwealth should be shaped. They evolved in the second half of the 17th century. The distrust and lack of trust towards Russia remained unchanged. The agreement was hampered by the rivalry for Ukraine and the desire of the Commonwealth to recover the lost territories as a result of the war. What prompted cooperation, however, was the need for a common war with Turkey. In 1686, a perpetual peace was concluded, in which the Commonwealth finally gave up on the lands lost as a result of the war. This proves that the elite of the Commonwealth has come to terms with losing its position towards Russia.
The last subsection is devoted to the efforts of the Romanov dynasty in the second half of the 17th century for the throne of Poland. They had the greatest real possibility of achieving this goal after the truce in Niemieży in 1656. Then, under the agreements, they secured the election of the king of Poland. Their candidatures also appeared during subsequent elections. Their choice was mainly supported by the hope that the territories lost as a result of the war would be returned, the possibility of creating a union of two states, which all neighbors would have to take into account, and the hope that the election of the tsar would restore the former power of the Commonwealth and marked the beginning of Poland's rebirth, as in the times of Jagiełło. The candidacy of the Romanovs also raised concerns. It was feared that the tsar would introduce absolute rule in the Commonwealth. His choice threatened to conflict with his neighbors. However, the tsar’s candidacy never officially appeared during the election.
Summarizing the above opinions, I would like to emphasize that in the second half of the 17th century:
- Russia's dissimilarity resulting from a separate culture, Orthodox religion, a different system of power, a different system of values was constantly noticed in Polish-Russian contacts.
- the Polish elite noticed that the growth of Russian power was so great that the Commonwealth was unable to defeat it on its own.
- there was no deeper interest about Russia in Poland; there was no desire to know her and understand what was the source of this power.|