Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
The life and work of Count Zygmunt Krasiski are inextricably linked to the political and social unrest that prevailed in Poland as a consequence of its loss of independence at the close of the eighteenth century. With their territory partitioned among Russia, Prussia, and Austria, the Poles decided that the best way to regain their national sovereignty lay in making common cause with the military forces of revolutionary France. The first Polish legion to fight alongside French troops under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte was formed in 1797, and two similar units were subsequently organized in 1798 and 1800. In all, some twenty-five thousand Poles were to serve in these three legions. In gratitude for the contributions made by these volunteers to his military victories, Napoleon decided to grant the Poles a small measure of national independence by creating a political entity known as the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807 out of Polish territories that had been under Prussian occupation since the time of the partitions. The Poles, however, had far grander political aspirations than those embodied by the tiny duchy and eagerly looked forward to a military conflict between the forces of Napoleon and those of Czar Alexander I in the hope that a French victory would enable them to redeem their eastern provinces from Russian annexation. Their hopes appeared to have materialized when Napoleon invaded Russia in the spring of 1812 with a multinational coalition numbering more than...
(The entire section is 2179 words.)
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