The Grand Duchy of Posen (German: Großherzogtum Posen; Polish: Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie) was part of the Kingdom of Prussia, created from territories annexed by Prussia after the Partitions of Poland, and formally established following the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Per agreements derived at the Congress of Vienna it was to have some autonomy. However, in reality it was subordinated to Prussia and the proclaimed rights for Polish subjects were not fully implemented. On 9 February 1849, the Prussian administration renamed the grand duchy the Province of Posen. Its former name was unofficially used afterward for denoting the territory, especially by Poles, and today is used by modern historians to refer to different political entities until 1918. Its capital was Posen (Polish: Poznań).

Grand Duchy of Posen
Großherzogtum Posen (German)
Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie (Polish)
Client state of Prussia
Coat of arms of Grand Duchy of Posen
Coat of arms

The Grand Duchy of Poznań in 1815

Map of the Grand Duchy of Poznań (place of storage: State Archives in Poznań)
 • Coordinates52°24′N 16°55′E / 52.400°N 16.917°E / 52.400; 16.917
• 1848
28,951 km2 (11,178 sq mi)
• 1848
 • TypeAbsolute Monarchy
Grand Duke 
• 1815–1840
Frederick William III
• 1840–1848
Frederick William IV
• 1815–1830
Antoni Radziwiłł
• 1830–1841
Eduard von Flottwell
• 1841–1848
Adolf von Arnim-Boitzenburg
9 June 1815
19 March 1848
5 December 1848
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Duchy of Warsaw
Province of Posen
Today part ofPoland




The Prussian Province of Posen. Yellow colour: Polish-speaking areas according to German authorities, as of 1905

Originally part of the Kingdom of Poland, this area largely coincided with Greater Poland. The eastern portions of the territory were taken by the Kingdom of Prussia during the Partitions of Poland; during the first partition (1772), Prussia took just the Netze District, the portion along the Noteć (German: Netze) river. Prussia added the remainder during the second partition in 1793. Prussia briefly lost control during the Kościuszko Uprising in 1794.

It was initially administered as the province of South Prussia. The Poles were the primary ally of Napoleon Bonaparte in Central Europe, participating in the Greater Poland Uprising of 1806 and supplying troops for his campaigns. After the defeat of Prussia by Napoleonic France, the Duchy of Warsaw was created by the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807.



According to the Congress of Vienna, put into action after the fall of Napoleon in 1815, parts of the Prussian territory partitioned from Poland were passed on to Russia. From the remainder the Grand Duchy of Posen was to be created, that was to be a nominally autonomous province under Hohenzollern rule with the rights of "free development of Polish nation, culture and language", and was outside the German Confederation. Originally the Grand Duchy was to include Chełmno and Toruń. Prussia, however, disregarded this promise [citation needed] from Congress of Vienna. At this time the city of Poznań was the administrative centre and the seat of the Statthalter "Prince Antoni Henryk Radziwiłł of Poznań". In reality the actual administrative power over the region was awarded by Prussia to provincial upper-president Joseph Zerboni di Sposetti, who was a Prussian of German ethnicity.[1]

At the beginning of the Prussian takeover of Polish territories, the discrimination and repression of Poles consisted of reducing their access [citation needed] to education and the judicial system. Prussian officials identified Germanisation as the progress of higher culture over a lower one. As a result, the local administration discriminated against Poles. After 1824 attempts to Germanise the school system were hastened and the government refused to establish a Polish university in Poznań. Polish politicians issued protests against Prussian policies and a secret, patriotic Polish organisation was founded called Towarzystwo Kosynierów (Society of Scythemen). Resistance activity of Poles resulted in reaction from Berlin, where a trial was held in connection to links between Poles from the Grand Duchy with Poles from Russian-ruled Congress Poland.[2]



The 1830 November Uprising within Congress Poland against the Russian Empire was significantly supported by Poles from the Grand Duchy. Afterward, the Prussian administration under Oberpräsident Eduard Flottwell known for his anti-Polonism[1] introduced a stricter system of repression against the Poles. Prussian authorities attempted to expel Poles from administration to weaken the Polish nobility by buying its lands out, and, after 1832, the role of the Polish language in education was significantly repressed. Local self-government in the landed estates of land-lords, which was dominated by Polish nobility, was abolished, and instead the Prussian state appointed commissioners. Monasteries and their assets were confiscated by Prussia.[1] The office of the governor (Statthalter) was abolished. Germanisation of institutions, education as well through colonisation was implemented.[3]



On September 11, 1840, an audience was held by the Prussian king for deputies coming from the Grand Duchy. Count Edward Raczyński, in the name of all Polish members of the Grand Duchy Sejm (parliament), issued a complaint against the repression and discrimination of the Polish population which went against guarantees made in 1815. He accused the Prussian authorities of removing the Polish language from public institutions, courts and schools, as well as deleting the history of Poland from school teaching and substituting the name "Province of Posen" for the previous "Grand Duchy of Posen". He also blamed the authorities for erasing the Polish Eagle from the Grand Duchy's seals and emblems and for expelling Poles from offices in order to replace them with Prussians or foreign-born persons of German ethnicity.[4] When land owners of Polish ethnicity sold land, it was often bought in order to resell it to colonists of German ethnicity. The Prussian king rejected the complaint; he was fully supportive of the Germanisation of Polish areas. However, he believed it had to be done through different methods, and in May 1841 decided to name Flottwell upper-president of the Prussian Province of Saxony, which included large territories annexed from the Kingdom of Saxony in 1815.

Greater Poland Uprising of 1846


Before 1848, repressions intensified in the Grand Duchy, censorship was strengthened, settlers of German ethnicity were brought in.[5] Large patriotic demonstrations were held in memory of Antoni Babiński, a member of the Polish Democratic Society. He had been wounded by a gunshot, when the Prussian gendarme attempting to arrest him, engaged in a fight with him. Babiński was then captured, sentenced to death and executed in Poznań. His public execution in February 1847 was accompanied by public mourning. Cloth soaked in his blood and other remains were distributed as national relics. Large prayers were held in his memory, often against orders of Prussia. Members of such gatherings were persecuted by police.[5] At the same time the national self-awareness grew among the rural population of Polish and German ethnicity alike. Whereas two thirds of the grand ducal population identified as ethnically Polish (mostly in the centre, south and east), one third envisioned themselves as being of German ethnicity. Anti-Prussian sentiment grew as response to policy of Germanisation and repression by Prussian authorities and the conspiracy organisation called Związek Plebejuszy found a potent ground. It was led by bookseller Walenty Stefański, poet Ryszard Berwiński and lawyer Jakub Krauthofer-Krotowski.[5]

Frankfurt Parliament of 1848 and the Duchy


During the Revolutions of 1848, the Frankfurt Parliament attempted to divide the grand duchy into two parts: the Province of Posen, which would have been annexed to a to-be-created united Germany, and the Province of Gniezno, which would have remained outside Germany, but because of the protest of Polish parliamentarians these plans failed and the integrity of the grand duchy was preserved. However, on February 9, 1849, after a series of broken assurances, the Prussian administration renamed the grand duchy the Province of Posen. Nevertheless, the territory formally remained outside of Germany until the dissolution of German Confederation and the establishment of North German Confederation as late as 1866, while the Prussian Kings up to William II, German Emperor still held the title "Grand Duke of Posen" until 1918.

Area and population

Grand Duchy of Posen (light blue) after its creation, in 1815

The area was 28,951 square kilometres (11,178 sq mi) and contained most of the territories of the historical province of Greater Poland, which comprised the western parts of the Duchy of Warsaw (Departments of Poznań, Bydgoszcz, partly Kalisz) that were ceded to Prussia according to the Congress of Vienna (1815) with an international guarantee of self-administration and free development of the Polish nation.


  • 900,000 (1815)
  • 1,350,000 (1849)
  • 2,100,000 (1910)

Since in the first half of the 19th century there was no census or other statistics also recording the ethnic identities of the inhabitants of the grand duchy[6] its ethnic composition can only be derived from its religious makeup then recorded in the census. By 1815 in the grand duchy Catholics were by majority Polish-speaking, most Protestants were native speakers of German and many Jews then spoke Yiddish. Based on the religious data it was estimated that in 1815 ethnic Poles made up about 657,000 persons (or 73% of the overall population), while ethnic Germans were 225,000 (25%) and 18,000 (or 2%) were of the Yiddish culture.[7] In 1819, according to Georg Hassel ethnic Poles were 77% of the population, ethnic Germans 17.5% and Jews 5.5%.[8]

However, a simple identification of religion and ethnicity is misleading.

Whereas in 1812 Jews in then Prussia proper had been emancipated and naturalised, the Jews of the grand duchy were excluded from citizens franchise, but like women and non-propertied classes mere subjects of the grand duke. Only Christian men, if owning land, were enfranchised as citizens. Whereas Christians had freedom of moving from the grand duchy to Prussia proper, the grand duchy's Jews were forbidden to immigrate into Prussia.[9] Prussian policy, however, opened an exception, Germanized Jews were enfranchised as citizens and granted freedom of move. So most adherents of the Yiddish culture Germanised themselves within a short period. Many traditional or newly established educational institutions using German language were attended by local Jews who, equipped with Prussian educational and German language skills, often emigrated to Prussia proper with some making their careers.[10] Despite Germanisation efforts, the Polish-speaking population more than doubled to 1,344,000 and remained the majority, however, its percentage decreased to 64% of the population by 1910.[1] However, there were regional differences, with Polish being the prevailing language in the centre, east and south, and German speakers majorities in the west and north.



According to contemporary statistics of 1825 the population consisted of the 65.6% Roman Catholics, 28.1% Protestants and 6.3% Jews.[11] The Roman Catholic congregations formed part of the Ecclesiastical Province of Gnesen-Posen led by Primates of Poland, a Roman Catholic jurisdiction formed in 1821 by merging the archdioceses of Gniezno and Poznań, separated again in 1946. The bulk of the Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) congregations became part of the Ecclesiastical Province of Posen within the Evangelical Church in Prussia after 1817, with the congregations usually retaining their previous separate confessions. With the persisting resistance of some Lutherans against this administrative Prussian Union of churches the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Prussia emerged in 1841, government-recognised in 1845, with about 3,000 Old Lutherans in several congregations spread in the area of the grand duchy.[12] Jewish religious life was organised in about 130 congregations spread all over the grand duchy.[13] Since the government tolerated Judaism, but did not recognise it, no Jewish umbrella organisation, comparable to those of the Christian denominations or the former Council of Four Lands, forbidden in 1764, did emerge in the grand duchy.[13] The migration of Posen Jews to Prussia was mostly blocked until 1850, when they were finally naturalised.[9]

Territorial administration


The monarch of the grand duchy, with title of Grand Duke of Posen, was the Hohenzollern king of Prussia and his representative was the Duke-Governor (Statthalter): the first was Prince Antoni Radziwiłł (1815–1831), who was married to Princess Louise of Prussia, the king's cousin. The governor was assigned to give advice in matters of Polish nationality, and had the right to veto the administration decisions; in reality, however, all administrative power was in the hands of the Prussian upper-president of the province.

The Prussian administrative unit that covered the territory of the Grand Duchy was called the Province of the Grand Duchy of Posen in the years 1815–1849, and later to simplify just the Province of Posen (German: Provinz Posen, Polish: Prowincja Poznańska).

The territory of the grand duchy was divided into two regions (Polish: Rejencja), that of Bromberg and of Posen, whose borders reflected those of the Bydgoszcz and the Poznań Department of the previous Duchy of Warsaw. The regions were further divided into 26 original districts (German: Kreis(e), Polish: Powiat(y)) headed by Landräte ("district councillors"). Later, these were redivided into 40 districts, plus two urban districts. In 1824, the Grand Duchy also received a provincial council (term started in 1827) but with little administrative power, limited to providing advice. In 1817, the Culmerland (Chełmno Land) was moved to West Prussia. From the 1820s, the grand duchy had a parliament, the Sejm of the Grand Duchy of Posen.



Organisations for items of general interest or province-wide purposes:

  • Archdiocese of Poznań-Gniezno, seated in Poznań/Posen, a joint diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, joint in 1821
  • Posener Provinzial-Bibelgesellschaft (Posen Provincial Bible society; established in 1817 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Ecclesiastical Province of Posen, seated in Poznań/Posen, a regional branch of the Evangelical Church in Prussia established in 1817/1826
  • Naturwissenschaftlicher Verein (Natural Scientific Association, established in 1837 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Central-Lehrer-Verein für die Provinz Posen (central teachers association; established in 1848 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Provinzial-Feuersozietät des Großherzogthums Posen (public fire insurance of the Grand Duchy of Posen; established in 1841 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Posener Provinzial-Lehrerverein (Posen provincial teacher association; established in 1872 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Provinzialverband Posen (provincial federation of Posen, public-law corporation of self-rule of all districts and independent cities within Posen Province for their common purposes; established in 1875 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Landwirtschaftskammer für die Provinz Posen (Chamber of Agriculture for the Province of Posen; established in 1875 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Historische Gesellschaft für den Netzedistrikt zu Bromberg (Historical Society for the Netze District in Bromberg, established in 1880)
  • Pestalozzi-Verein der Provinz Posen (Pestalozzi [paedagogical] association for the Province of Posen; established in 1883 in Lissa/Leszno)
  • Historische Gesellschaft für die Provinz Posen (Historical Society for the Province of Posen, established in 1885 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Posener Provinzialvereins zur Bekämpfung der Tuberkulose als Volkskrankheit (Posen provincial association for fighting tuberculosis as a people's disease; established in 1901 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Verband der Landwirtschaftlichen Genossenschaften für die Provinz Posen (Association of the agricultural cooperatives for the Province of Posen; established in 1903 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Sparkassenverband der Provinz Posen (Association of savings and loan banks in the Province of Posen; established in 1906 in Posen/Poznań)

Polish organisations


German organisations


Organisations aiming at promoting German-speaking culture, settlements, or expressively addressing German-speaking audiences:

  • Prussian Settlement Commission (Ansiedlungskommision, established in 1886)
  • Deutscher Ostmarkenverein (DOV, German Eastern Marches Society; Polish abbreviation: Hakata; established in 1894 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kunst und Wissenschaft zu Posen (German society for art and sciences, established in 1901 in Posen/Poznań)
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kunst und Wissenschaft zu Bromberg (German society for art and sciences, established in 1902 in Bromberg/Bydgosccz)

Notable people


(in alphabetical order)
(see also Notable people of Province of Posen)

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Historia. Encyklopedia Szkolna. Warszawa 1993. Page 670
  2. ^ "Lands of Partitioned Poland 1795–1918"Piotr Stefan Wandycz Washington University Press 1974
  3. ^ Historia 1789–1871 Page 255. Anna Radziwiłł and Wojciech Roszkowski.
  4. ^ The second upper-president of the Grand Duchy, Theodor von Baumann, was born in the Electorate of Hanover, but had been serving in the Prussian civil service since 1793.
  5. ^ a b c Historia 1789–1871 Page 278. Anna Radziwiłł and Wojciech Roszkowski.
  6. ^ Jerzy Kozłowski, „Die Einführung der preußischen Verwaltung im Großherzogtum Posen 1815–1830“, on: Polen Didaktik: Wissenschaft und Praxis, retrieved on February 4, 2013.
  7. ^ Historia 1789–1871 Page 224. Anna Radziwiłł and Wojciech Roszkowski.
  8. ^ Hassel, Georg (1823). Statistischer Umriß der sämmtlichen europäischen und der vornehmsten außereuropäischen Staaten, in Hinsicht ihrer Entwickelung, Größe, Volksmenge, Finanz- und Militärverfassung, tabellarisch dargestellt; Erster Heft: Welcher die beiden großen Mächte Österreich und Preußen und den Deutschen Staatenbund darstellt; Nationalverschiedenheit 1819: Polen – 680,100; Deutsche – 155,000; Juden – 48,700. Verlag des Geographischen Instituts Weimar. p. 43.
  9. ^ a b Philo-Lexikon: Handbuch des jüdischen Wissens, Berlin: Philo Verlag, 31936, reprint Frankfurt upon Main: Jüdischer Verlag, 1992, p. 570. ISBN 3-633-54053-9.
  10. ^ Examples are Berthold Kempinski, founder of Kempinski Hotels, Rudolf Mosse, etc.
  11. ^ Gotthold Rhode, Geschichte Polens. Ein Überblick, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 31980, pp. 374–375. ISBN 3-534-00763-8.
  12. ^ Eduard Kneifel Geschichte der Evangelisch-Augsburgischen Kirche in Polen, Niedermarschacht: author's edition, 1964, p. 17. No ISBN.
  13. ^ a b Gabriele von Glasenapp, "Herzberg, Isaak", in: Biographisches Lexikon für Ostfriesland, vol. IV, Aurich: 2007, pp. 195–197.
  14. ^ "Freymark, Karl", on: Baza osób polskich – polnische Personendatenbank, retrieved on May 6, 2012.


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