Vistula Land
  • Привислинский край (Russian)
  • Kraj Nadwiślański (Polish)
Krai of Russian Empire

Russian map of Vistula Land from 1896
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Congress Poland
Government General of Warsaw
Military Government of Lublin
Today part of
Russian Poland was officially yielded on terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (marked in red).

Vistula Land,[1][2] or Vistula Country,[3] (Russian: Привислинский край, Privislinsky krai; Polish: Kraj Nadwiślański) was the name applied to the lands of Congress Poland from 1867, following the defeats of the November Uprising (1830–1831) and January Uprising (1863–1864) as it was increasingly stripped of autonomy and incorporated into Imperial Russia. It also continued to be formally known as the Kingdom of Poland (Polish: Królestwo Polskie) until the fall of the Russian Empire.[a]

Russia lost control of the region in 1915, during the course of the First World War. Following the 1917 October Revolution, it was officially ceded to the Central Powers under the terms of the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.


In 1831, in the aftermath of the November Uprising, the Polish Army, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Poland, its parliament (Sejm) and local self-administration were disbanded. The constitution was replaced by the much less liberal and never fully implemented Organic Statute of the Kingdom of Poland. Also all universities were closed, and replaced several years later by purely Russian-language high schools.

For a short time the territory maintained certain degree of autonomy. The former Kingdom of Poland continued to use the Polish currency (złoty) and the Administrative Council retained some of its privileges (although it was directly controlled by the Russian governor Field Marshal Ivan Paskevich). However, by 1832 the currency and the customs border were abolished, as was the metric system and the Polish penal code (which was replaced by the Russian penal code, de facto in use since the Uprising began). Also the Catholic Church was persecuted and most monasteries were closed and nationalized. In 1839, following the Synod of Polotsk, the Greek Catholic Church disbanded itself and united with the Russian Orthodox Church.

After 1837 all voivodeships that constituted the Kingdom of Poland were turned into gubernias and became an integral part of Russian administrative division, ruled directly by the Russian tsars.

After the January Uprising in 1863, the coat of arms of the Congress Kingdom was abandoned, the Polish language was banned from office and education and the process of incorporation of the Polish gubernias and Russification of its administration was completed.

The 1867 reform, initiated after the failure of the January Uprising, was designed to tie the Kingdom of Poland more tightly to the administration structure of the Russian Empire. It divided larger governorates into smaller ones and introduced a new lower-level entity, gminas. There were 10 Governorates: five on the right bank of the Vistula River—Сувалкская (Suvalkskaya), Ломжинская (Lomzhinskaya), Плоцкая (Plotskaya), Седлецкая (Sedletskaya) and Люблинская (Lublinskaya)—and the remaining five on the left bank: Калишская (Kalishskaya), Варшавская (Varshavskaya), Петроковская (Petrokovskaya), Радомская (Radomskaya) and Келецкая (Keletskaya).

The coat of arms of the Kingdom of Poland was abolished at this time.

Despite the abolition of the Kingdom of Poland, the tsars of Russia retained the title "Tsar of Poland".

The territory was a namestnichestvo until 1875 and later Governorate General, ruled by the Namestniks and Governor Generals of Poland.

In the 1880s, the official language was changed to Russian, and Polish was banned both from official use and education.

The name Vistula Land first appeared in official documents in 1888[4] although more recent scholarship traced it back to 1883.[5]

A minor reform of 1893 transferred some territory from the Płock and Łomża Governorates to Warsaw Governorate. A more extensive 1912 reform created a new governorate—Chełm Governorate (Kholmskaya Guberniya in Russian)—from parts of the Siedlce and Lublin Governorates. However this was split off from the Privislinsky Krai and made part of the Southwestern Krai of the Russian Empire, in order to facilitate its russification.

World War I

Further information: Poland during World War I

The First World War initially expanded Russian control of Poland after the Imperial Russian Army scored a series of early defeats against Austria-Hungary on the Eastern Front and occupied Eastern Galicia. Within a year the Austro-Hungarian Army and the Imperial German Army reoccupied the territory and counterattacked into Russian Poland in the Gorlice–Tarnów offensive.[6] During the Imperial Russian Army's subsequent Great Retreat, it looted and abandoned the Kingdom of Poland, trying to emulate the scorched-earth policy adopted during the 1812 invasion.[7][8] The Russians also evicted and deported hundreds of thousands of the area's inhabitants whom they suspected of collaborating with the enemy.[7][9][10]

As the Russians retreated, the Central Powers occupied the area (1915); subsequently, they proposed the establishment of the Kingdom of Poland. In the March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Russia (by then embroiled in a civil war), effectively ceded all Polish territories it had formerly possessed to the German Empire and Austria-Hungary.

Administrative divisions

Main article: Administrative division of Congress Poland

See also


a ^ Sources agree that after the fall of the January Uprising in 1864, the autonomy of Congress Poland was drastically reduced. However, they disagree on whether the state of the Kingdom of Poland (colloquially known as Congress Poland) was officially replaced by the Vistula land as a province of the Russian Empire, as many sources still use the term Congress Poland for the post-1864 period. The sources are also unclear as to when the Kingdom of Poland (or Vistula land) officially ceased to exist; some argue it ended with the assumption of control by the German and Austro-Hungarian occupying authorities; others, that it ended with the proclamation of the Regency Kingdom of Poland in 1916; finally, some argue that it occurred only with the creation of the independent Second Polish Republic in 1918. Examples:


  1. ^ The name of the kingdom was changed to Vistula Land, which was reduced to a tsarist province; it lost all autonomy and separate administrative institutions. Richard C. Frucht, Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. 2005
  2. ^ The name of the territory, which had been Congress Poland, was changed to the more innocuous Vistula Land. Vistula Land was administered by Russians; Alison Fleig Frank, Oil Empire: Visions of Prosperity in Austrian Galicia , 2005
  3. ^ The name of Poland ceased to be used by the Russian authorities, who designated the region once occupied by the kingdom as the "Vistula Country", John Clark Ridpath: Ridpath's History of the World: Being an Account of the Principal Events in ... 1910
  4. ^ Wojciech Bartel et al. Historia państwa i prawa Polski. Juliusz Bardach i Monika Senkowska-Gluck (ed.). T. III: od rozbiorów do uwłaszczenia. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1981, p. 67. ISBN 83-01-02658-8
  5. ^ Andrzej Szwarc. Od Wielopolskiego do Stronnictwa Polityki Realnej zwolennicy ugody z Rosją, ich poglądy i próby działalności politycznej (1864-1905). Warszawa: Wydział Historyczny UW, 1990, pp. 208-209.
  6. ^ Robson, Stuart (2007). The First World War (1 ed.). Harrow, England: Pearson Longman. pp. 21–30. ISBN 978-1-4058-2471-2 – via Archive Foundation.((cite book)): CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  7. ^ a b John N. Horne, Alan Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial, Yale University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-300-10791-9, Google Print, p. 83
  8. ^ Roger Chickering, Stig Förster, Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914-1918, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-521-77352-0, Google Print, p.160
  9. ^ Barnett R. Rubin, Jack L. Snyder, Post-Soviet Political Order: Conflict and State Building, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-17069-9, Google Print, p.43
  10. ^ Alan Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War, Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-19-280342-5, Google Print, p.151

Further reading