It’s official! The golden couple of Central and Eastern Europe are breaking up! It had been a while coming, but sources close to the couple claim they have reached the stage where ‘irreconcilable differences’ cannot be repaired. The relationship had looked increasingly fraught in recent times, with Lithuania announcing recently that, in their opinion “the golden era in the relationship was over”.
Poland and Lithuania have long been seen as the standard bearers when it comes to happy relationships, with most recognising that “if anyone can make it last, they can”. However, as the years passed, the pair grew apart. Here’s a quick review of the relationship, and later we’ll look at where do they go from here.
An Eternal Union – or is it…?
The couple started going out in 1385. Initially, it was an awkward coupling, as the pair did not seem to have much in common. Over time though, as they felt each other out, compromises were made as the two adjusted to each other. Lithuania agreed to convert to Christianity, while Poland returned lands previously claimed under wars and battles won and lost.
In the beginning, the dominant partner in the relationship seemed to be Lithuania, with Jogaila being introduced to Jadwiga by friends and most of the early dates taking place on Lithuanian soil. However, it would soon become obvious that Poland would gain the upper hand in the relationship. Cousins and friends of Lithuania pushed for more commitment by arranging the Union of Vilnius and Radom.
Engagement and Marriage
After surviving the early phase of ‘getting-to-know-you’, the couple settled into a comfortable routine. Love blossomed, and they became the ‘It Couple’ of Central and Eastern Europe with the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the Ottoman Empire, the Prussians and the Habsburgs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire all casting envious glances their way. With a few subtle hints from parents and babcias, the big question was popped as the couple decided to get married and their engagement was announced with much joy. Much planning was then required to prepare for the wedding. The lingering feelings of Lithuanian resentment at growing Polish power in the relationship were put aside for the big day.
Jan Matejko’s take on the 1569 joining
There were much negotiations over the dowry and other requirements, but once the wedding day came around in 1569, the happiness was evident, and everyone looked to the future with much optimism.
The Later Years and Clashes
Outwardly, Poland and Lithuania were delighted together and onlookers began asking the question of when children could be expected. However, not all was as it appeared. Cracks in the relationship appeared, as it became clear that being part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth meant being Polish over being Lithuanian. Catholicism, the Polish language and even the złoty were adopted as the norms in both Poland and Lithuania, as Poland asserted its dominance.
The first major falling out came in 1791, as Poland looked to strike out on its own, and make its own rules, by setting up a Constitution by itself. After a big fight, the couple looked for a trial separation. Initially, it seemed to be an amicable split with the possibility of re-engagement remaining an option. However, over time other suitors began to make a move on the couple, trying to make the most of the separation.
The Breakup and the Future
As noted earlier, the couple recently realised that it was highly unlikely that they would recommit to each other, with the breakup seeming inevitable. Poland had been seen flirting with some of the neighbours in recent times, with Germany and France becoming friendly, while Russia was seen wrapping arms around Poland at a recent family funeral. Lithuania seems to have retreated into hiding, only seen catching up with old friends Latvia and Estonia from time to time to drown their sorrows.
They’ve had a long intertwined history, but who can say what the future will hold for Poland and Lithuania…