George II Rákóczi
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Born in Sárospatak, Hungary, he was elected prince of Transylvania during his father's lifetime (19 February 1642). He married Sophia Bathory on 3 February 1643, who was first required by his mother to reject Roman Catholicism and turn Calvinist.
On ascending the throne (October 1648), his first thought was to realize his father's amnbitions in Poland. With this object in view, he allied himself, in the beginning of 1649, with the Cossack hetman, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and the hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia (Vasile Lupu and Matei Basarab), but took no action for several years. In late 1656, by the Treaty of Radnot, he also allied with King Charles X Gustav of Sweden. In early 1657, he led a force of 40,000 men against King John II Casimir of Poland in the third part of Second Northern War (1655-1660), also known as The Deluge. According to the Treaty, which was signed on December 6, 1656, Rakoczi was to seize the provinces of Lesser Poland and Mazovia, together with rich salt deposits in Wieliczka and Bochnia.
In late January 1657, Rakoczi’s army of some 25,000 crossed the Carpathians, entering the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth near Krosno. The Transilvanians headed towards Medyka, where they were joined by some 10,000 Zaporozhian Cossacks under Anton Zdanovich. The Transilvanian-Cossack army approached Lwow, but failed to capture the fortified city. Then it headed westwards, to Krakow. The march of the army was marked by numerous atrocities, destruction and looting. Rakoczi captured and destroyed Dukla, Lesko and Sanok, but failed to seize Przemysl, Krosno and Lancut. On March 21, 1657, Rakoczi entered Tarnow, and seven days later reached Krakow, which had already been under Swedish control.
Swedish garrison of Krakow was reinforced by 2500 Transilvanians under Janos Bethlen, while Rakoczi headed northwards. On April 12, near Cmielow, the Transilvanians joined Swedish army under King Charles X Gustav. The combined forces crossed the Vistula in Zawichost, on April 19 capturing Lublin. On May 8, the Swedish-Transilvanian army besieged Brzesc nad Bugiem, capturing it two days later. After the siege, Rakoczi’s soldiers busied themselves with plundering and looting. Among others, the Transilvanians burned Biala Podlaska and Bransk.
On May 20, news of the Dano-Swedish War reached Charles X Gustav, and the king decided to march towards Swedish Pomerania, leaving Gustaf Otto Stenbock in charge. The army then marched towards Warsaw, burning the towns of Mielnik, Drohiczyn, Nur, Brok and Pniewo[disambiguation needed]. On June 17, after a three-day siege, Rakoczi and Stenbock captured Warsaw.
Swedish forces remained in Warsaw only for a few days, as on June 22 they left the city, marching to Stettin, to join the war against Denmark. Since Rakoczi was well aware of real quality of his army, he decided to abandon Warsaw as well, and head southeast. Following an order of Polish King Jan Kazimierz, the Transilvanians were followed by a 10,000 strong mounted army of Stefan Czarniecki, supported by Lithuanians of Aleksander Hilary Polubinski and Austrian allies of Poland. At the same time, forces of Jerzy Lubomirski organized a revenge invasion of Transilvania, with widespread looting and destruction of Rakoczi’s realm.
On July 8, 1657 in Lancut, Polish leaders decided to split their forces. Stefan Czarniecki was to follow Rakoczi, while Jerzy Lubomirski and Stanislaw Rewera Potocki were to cut the Transilvanians and Cossacks from crossing the border and escaping Poland. On July 11, Czarniecki partly destroyed the Transilvanian army in the Battle of Magierow. On July 16, Polish armies united and on July 20, they defeated Rakoczi in the Battle of Czarny Ostrow.
After the defeat and subsequent retreat of his Cossack allies, Rakoczi withdrew towards Podolian town of Miedzyboz, where he capitulated to Jerzy Lubomirski (July 23), promising to break his alliance with Sweden, abandon the cities of Krakow and Brzesc Litewski, and pay a contribution in the total amount of over 4 million zlotys. Polish commanders allowed his forces to march towards Transilvania, but on July 26, Rakoczi was attacked by the Crimean Tatars, who at that time were allied with Poland-Lithuania. Rakoczi abandoned his army, leaving it in the hands of Janos Kemeny. The Transilvanian camp, located near Trembowla, was captured by the Tatars on July 31. Some 500 were killed, and app. 11,000 Transilvanians were captured and taken to the Crimea. As a result, Rakoczi’s army ceased to exist.
On 3 November 1657, at the command of Turkey (to which Transylvania was tributary), the Diet, deposed him for undertaking an unauthorized war. But in January 1658 he was reinstated by a new session of the Diet at Mediaș. Again he was deposed by the Turkish Grand Vizier, and again reinstated as if nothing had happened. Finally the Turks invaded Transylvania, and Rákóczy died at Oradea of wounds received at the battle of Gilău (May 1660).
- Encyclopedia of Ukraine Editor in Chief Vladimir Kubiiovych. - Paris, New York: Young Life, 1954-1989.
George I Rákóczi
|Prince of Transylvania