Great Emigration

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A Polish exile, a 19th-century graphic
Polish emigrants in Belgium, a 19th-century graphic

The Great Emigration[1] (Polish: Wielka Emigracja) involved the emigration of political elites from Poland from 1831 to 1870. The name is somewhat misleading, as the number of political exiles did not exceed more than 5,000-6,000 during this time.[2] The exiles included the soldiers and generals of the uprising, the Sejm of Congress Poland of 1830–31, and several prisoners-of-war who escaped captivity. From the end of the 18th century, a major role in Polish political life was played by people who carried out their activities outside the country as émigrés. Their exile resulted from the Partitions of Poland, which completely divided the lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria. Because of this emigration of political elites, much of the political and ideological activity of the Polish intelligentsia during the 18th and 19th centuries took place outside of the lands of partitioned Poland.

Most of the political émigrés based themselves in France. The most important wave of emigration came after the November Uprising of 1830–1831. These Poles later fought and provided valuable support during the 1846 and 1848 revolutions in Poland. Their resistance was not limited to Polish revolutionary activity, as they also participated in various lands during the Revolutions of 1848, including France, the small principalities of Germany and Italy, Austria, Hungary, and the Danubian principalities Wallachia and Moldavia, the South American countries Argentina and Uruguay (participating in the "Guerra Grande" of 1839-1852) and later in the Crimean War of 1853-1856. Additional waves of émigrés left the Polish lands after the failures of the attempted 1848 revolution and the January Uprising of 1863–1864.

Notable Poles of the Great Emigration living in exile included:

Some Poles emigrated not because of politics, but to further their careers. Thus Maria Curie-Skłodowska, unable to get accepted into any Russian (Poland was already partitioned) universities (due to her gender and the anti-Polish repercussions of the January Uprising), pursued her studies in Paris from 1891.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bade, Klaus J. (2003). Migration in European History. Blackwell Publishing. p. 134. ISBN 0-631-18939-4. 
  2. ^ Zubrzycki, J. (1953). "Emigration from Poland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries". Population Studies: A Journal of Demography 6 (3): 248–272. doi:10.1080/00324728.1953.10414889.