The Russian Homage

Józef Szaniawski

The greatest triumph in the Republic of Poland

Exactly 400 years ago, on 29 October in 1611 in the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the Russian Homage took place, which was the greatest triumph in the whole history of Poland. Considering the circumstances of this epochal event, the Russian Homage was completely removed from the history of Poland by the tsarist censorship in the 19th century, and the communist censorship of Polish People’s Republic maintained that Russian record. The Russian Homage and the date of 29 October 1611 do not exist not only in school books or encyclopaedias or literature but also were intentionally removed from the consciousness of the national memory of Poles. This is the longest-lasting white stain in the history of Poland, which is still effectively maintained by the Russian Agents in Poland, historians of bad intention or by political correctness.

The Russian Homage

On 29 October 1611, great commander and a statesman, hetman Stanislaw Żółkiewski, a conqueror of Moscow, brought enemies of Poland to Warsaw, who had been taken into captivity. They were: a tsar of Russia Wasyl VI, his tsarina wife, Katarzyna, a commander of a Russian army - a great Ukrainian prince Dymitr and a successor of Moscow throne – a great prince Iwan. At the end of Krakowskie Przedmieście a Triumphal Arch was built on the Castle square, to the king’s order. Thousands of Warsaw residents and guests from the whole Poland came out onto streets in order to look closely at Wasyl VI who had been taken into the Polish captivity and who gave himself the title of tsar and autocrat of the whole Russia. First the victorious commander and hetman Stanislaw Żółkiewski rode under the Triumphal Arch and commanders of the Polish army behind him, victorious soldiers, and at the end the tsar and Russian captives. They were brought through Krakowskie Przedmieście to the Royal Castle under escort and guard of Polish dragoons where the Seym and the Senate of Polish Republic have gathered together at a solemn session. All MPs and senators were present, and also most bishops and voivods, as well as the most important politicians and military commanders. The king sat down on the throne, accompanied by the Primate of Poland and the great royal chancellor. However, the most important person was a prominent statesman, commander and politician Stanislaw Żółkiewski, then Field hetman of the Crown. It was him who led Russian captives to the Majesty of the Polish Republic and he represented them personally in the middle of the Senate Hall in the Castle. Żółkiewski, in his wise, beautiful and extremely human speech, recommended the captives to the mercifulness of the victorious Republic of Poland and asked for mercy for them. It had a significant meaning in the context when Wasyl IV was convinced that he would be sentenced to death under an executioner’s axe, according to the political tradition and customs in Russia. Speaking on behalf of the king, the sub-chancellor Feliks Kryski reminded that it were the Russians who first had conquered Poland, taking the advantage of the inner conflicts in the Polish Republic, the so-called rebellion: ‘There used to be a strength of triumph, there used to be our strength of victories in the times of our ancestors (...) but bringing a Moscow hospodar here, bringing a governor general of the whole land, giving back the head and the government of Moscow country to our lord and Homeland, this is a real wonder, good news, the courage of knighthood (...) the real fame!’
Then there was a climax – the Russian Homage expected by everybody. The tsar of Russian bent low to the very ground, so that he touched the floor with his right hand and kissed the middle of his hand. Then Wasyl IV swore an oath and humbled himself towards the majesty of the Polish Republic, he admitted that he had been defeated and promised that Russia would never invade Poland any more. Then after that ceremony, the king of Poland Zygmunt III Waza held out his hand to the Russian tsar to the kiss. While the great Ukrainian prince Dymitr, the commander of a Russian army defeated by a Polish army at Kluszyn, fell onto his face and bowed humbly to the Polish king and the Republic of Poland and the swore the same oath as the tsar. The great Ukrainian prince Iwan also fell onto his face and bowed humbly three times touching the floor of the Royal Castle then swore an oath and finally he started crying in the eyes of all present people. During this whole ceremony of the homage, Russian flags, gained on Kremlin, were lying on the floor in front of the victorious hetman, the king and present dignitaries of the Polish Republic; and the most important flag was among them – the tsarist flag with an ominous black two-headed eagle.
The ceremony of the Russian homage was finished with the Holy Mass in a church of St. John (today the Cathedral Basilica) neighbouring with the castle, and which used to be called the church of the Polish Republic at that time. Just after the end of allegiance ceremonies in the capital of Poland, the tsar Wasyl IV and the rest of captives, who were treated respectfully, were taken to the castle in Gostynin near Plock. Soon, in 1612, everybody was murdered in mysterious circumstances by Russian agents acting in Poland. Camarilla of Moscow boyars, governing on Kremlin, got rid of the king of Russia who was in the hands of Poles. In this way she could influence the policy of Kremlin. Besides as long as Wasyl IV lived, boyars could not elect a new tsar. Therefore some evidence indicate that one of the initiators of murdering Wasyl IV was a founder of new tsarist dynasty Michail Romanow, who was governing on Kremlin from 1613.

Aggression of Russia – the genesis of the homage

From the mid of XVI century, especially in the period of governing by the tsar Iwan Groźny, Moscow was leading resolute expansion to the West, not only against Poland but also against the European civilisation whose Catholic Poland was a fundament and symbol as well as a complete negation of the Asian ideological-political system which was in Russia. The official political doctrine of Kremlin has been proclaiming since the XVI century: ‘Moscow is the third Rome, and there will never be the fourth one’. Therefore, Russian tsars, including Wasyl IV, quite seriously considered themselves the kings of the whole Europe, all the countries! From the initiative of the tsar Wasyl IV, on 10 March 1609, a treaty was signed in Wyborg between the Orthodox Russia and Protestant Sweden. The treaty was directed against the Polish Republic. In Poland of the golden age both aggressors saw a rich country which could be plundered, and what is more important, they expected to seize and divide the territory of Poland which was a further prelude to the later partitions. Russians and Swedish were closely observing the situation in Warsaw, especially political conflicts in Poland, counting on the weakness of the Polish Republic. However, the expectations turned out to be still too early. That is true that a weak and incompetent king was Zygmunt III Waza but the helm of the State authority was in the hands of a prominent statesman Stanislaw Żółkiewski. It was Żółkiewski who personally decided that we should not expect that an enemy will show his aggression but we must begin preventive military action. The problem was the lack of money to form such new military detachments, the pressure of time and, first of all, a large Russian predominance of people and artillery. Despite that the Polish army set off to Moscow, and in October 1609 the siege of Smolensk began. It was during the siege of this fortress when most boyars acknowledged the Polish king Władysław as their king of Russia and who guaranteed the Russians the Orthodoxy.

A battle at Kluszyn

In these circumstances between Smolensk and Moscow there was a battle at Kluszyn on 4 July 1610. The Russian army, consisting of the elite regiment, was personally commanded by a tsarist brother – the great Ukrainian prince Dymitr. This army was composed of 5-thousand corps of the Swedish and also over 6-thousand of hired troops from Germany, France, Holland and even Spain in the pay of rubles. All in all, the Russian army exceeded 40 thousands of people and, in addition, it had strong and numerous artillery at its disposal, which was considered as the traditional Russian weapon at that time. The hetman Żółkiewski had only 7-thousand Polish corps for a fight against them which he commanded himself. The main attacking force and the fundament of not numerous Polish armies were hussars – the best ones at that time, invincible heavy horse-riding, famous in the whole Europe. Mobility of armies as well as courage and determination of Polish soldiers, and finally, excellent leadership and strategic genius of Żółkiewski led to complete breaking the Russian army. The bloody battle had its critical moment when Polish hussars decisively set off to attack the enemy unit and whose attack literally smashed their much more numerous opponents. Beaten and demoralized Russians rushed away from the field of battle; among the others, the commander of the Russian army, the great Ukrainian prince Dymitr ran away from the field of battle. The victorious hussars gained a gold mace and the main flag of the Russian army with the picture of the tsarist two-headed eagle. Whereas the European hired troops, generously paid by the Russians, capitulated towards the Polish leader. Both the great Ukrainian prince, beaten at the Battle of Kluszyn and his brother, tsar Wasyl IV got into the Polish captivity. The Russian tsar got in the Polish captivity and had to humble himself in front of the Polish king in Warsaw! In Moscow the Polish garrison was left commanded by referendary Gosiewski. Kluszyn was not only one of the wonderfully military victories in our whole history, but it is also a glory and fame of the Polish weapon and a culminating point of the political power and greatness of the Polish Republic in the end of its golden age. The date 4 July 1610 and the name of the field of the battle have been inscribed in the stone on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: Kluszyn is associated with the date of 28 August 1610 and the name of the Russian capital. That’s true – it was just as a result of the defeat at Kluszyn when Russia was subjected to the will of the Polish Republic and the Polish army commanded by hetman Stanislaw Żółkiewski has conquered Moscow!

The wasted victory

We have had only few such great victories as Kluszyn and triumph as the Russian Homage in our history – we can count them literally with our fingers of one hand. We have definitely had more national defeats. All lost Risings, the tragic September 1939, the defeat of Poland in the World War II in 1945, Katyń, Oświęcim, deportations to Siberia. Yes – the anniversaries of these tragic events are generally celebrated solemnly, memorial boards and monuments are unveiled, flowers are given, and politicians remind us about historical circumstances. However, it looks as if we were ashamed of the victories. First of all, it concerns the Russian Homage and Kluszyn whose names were crossed out from the cards of the Polish history for half a century by the communist censorship of Polish People’s Republic and this censorship law somehow still obligates although Polish People’s Republic ceased to exist long time ago. Similarly to the Prussian homage of 1525, the Russian homage of 1611 was a wasted chance of Poland. The Polish Republic could not politically take the advantage of the great victory at Kluszyn - there was a lack of political will, the concept of the Eastern policy and wide strategic ideas in the foreign policy. Poland was internally in conflict and year by year it lost its powerful position. While Russia – year by year became stronger and, additionally, conducting despotic policy, was supported by most countries of Europe at that time. Our great leader, chancellor and hetman Stanislaw Żółkiewski died heroic death in the battle at Cecora in 1620, in the beginning of Christianity, defending Poland and Europe from the onset of fanatic Islam.

The historical vision by Jan Matejko

‘The Prussian homage’ by Jan Matejko is generally known but our greatest artist was also the author of two paintings presenting the Russian homage. Both paintings have been concealed in the museum magazines since 1945 till now and not exhibited at all. The full title of the pictures is: Shuiskiis tsars introduced by Żółkiewski in Warsaw Seym by Zygmunt III in 1611’. The Russian homage was also painted by Matejko as a fragment of the famous painting ‘Batory at Pskov’. This is an artistic and historical vision by Matejko, as in reality there was not such an event at Pskov. Whereas Russian magnates painted on the right side of the painting, who are falling onto their knees in front of the majesty of the Polish Republic, is a reference to the Russian homage of 1611. A young officer of the Polish hussars with his arm leaned on a sword, and who was painted in the middle of the painting, is Stanislaw Żółkiewski. It is also a reference to the Russian homage of 1611. Therefore, it is right that the masterpiece by Matejko can be seen at present nowhere but just in Warsaw in the Royal Castle – in the historical place of the Russian homage. Very few people know that the famous column of Zygmunt III in front of the Royal Castle was situated in 1644 on another anniversary of Polish victories over Russia. We can just read Latin inscriptions on the column. The column is guarded by Polish eagles on four sides because it is our Polish memory and identity. The defeat at Kluszyn and the Russian homage have been an important memento for the Russians for 400 years. In the Russian tradition till now (!) there has been functioning characteristic respect towards Poles and Poland which is much weaker than Russia.

Jan Matejko - Shuiskiis tsars introduced by Żółkiewski to Warsaw Seym by Zygmunt III in 1611’. The so-called Russian Homage was painted by Matejko twice. It shows that the greatest triumph in the history of Poland absorbed the artist especially that he drew a sketch which was to be the prototype of the third and the most important one from the cycle of paintings presenting the Russian Homage. However, Matejko did not manage to paint this picture. This event took place on 20 October 1611 in the Royal Castle in Warsaw during a solemn meeting of the Seym and the Senate of the Polish Republic. King Zygmunt III Waza is sitting on the throne, prince Władyslaw, the later king Władyslaw IV is standing next to him. Among all Polish dignitaries, hetman Karol Chodkiewicz, Marshal Marcin Wolski and Bishop Marcin Szyszkowski distinguish themselves. In the centre of the painting there is the great Crown hetman, more important than the incompetent king, and also the great Crown chancellor Stanislaw Żółkiewski. It was him who destroyed the powerful Russian army in the battle at Kluszyn, and then conquered Moscow, took the Russian tsar Wasyl IV Shuiski and his two younger brothers: the great Ukrainian princes Dymitr and Iwan into captivity.

Józef Szaniawski – the doctor of history, political scientist, publicist, professor at the University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and the University of Social and Media Culture. The author of many monographs, among the others, ‘Redoubt – Poland between history and geopolitics’, ‘Colonel Kukliński – secret mission’, ‘Victory of Poland – Marshal Pilsudski in the defence of Europe’ and ‘ Russia - the empire of evil’. In the years 1973 – 85 he conducted the activity of Polish independence movement and conspiratorially cooperated with the Radio Free Europe. Caught by the Security Force, he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment by the court of the war state. He was released from prison and acquitted by the Supreme Court in 1990 as the last political prisoner of Polish People’s Republic. In the years 1993 – 2004 he was a proxy and friend of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.


"Niedziela" 44/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: