1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Warsaw

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WARSAW (Polish Warszawa, Ger. Warschau, Fr. Varsovie), the capital of Poland and chief town of the government of Warsaw. It is beautifully situated on the left bank of the Vistula, 387 m. by rail E. of Berlin, and 695 m. S.W. of St Petersburg. It stands on a terrace 120 to 130 ft. above the river, to which it descends by steep slopes, leaving a broad bench at its base. The suburb of Praga on the right bank of the Vistula, here 450 to 660 yds. broad, is connected with Warsaw by two bridges—the railway bridge which passes close under the guns of the Alexander citadel to the north, and the Alexander bridge (1666 ft. long; built in 1865 at a cost of £634,000) in the centre of the town. With its large population, its beautiful river, its ample communications and its commerce, its university and scientific societies, its palaces and numerous places of amusement, Warsaw is one of the most pleasant as well as one of the most animated cities of eastern Europe. From a military point of view Warsaw is the chief stronghold for the defence of Poland; the Alexander citadel has been much improved, and the bridge across the Vistula is defended by a strong fort, Sliwicki.

Situated in a fertile plain, on a great navigable river, below its confluence with the Pilica and Wieprz, which drain southern Poland, and above its confluence with the Narew and Bug, which tap a wide region in the east, Warsaw became in medieval times the chief entrepôt for the trade of those fertile and populous valleys with western Europe. Owing to its position in the territory of Mazovia, which was neither Polish nor Lithuanian, and, so to say, remained neutral between the two rival powers which constituted the united kingdom, it became the capital of both, and secured advantages over the purely Polish Cracow and the Lithuanian Vilna. And now, connected as it is by six trunk lines with Vienna, Kiev and south-western Russia, Moscow, St Petersburg, Danzig and Berlin, it is one of the most important commercial cities of eastern Europe. The south-western railway connects it with Lodz, the Manchester of Poland, and with the productive mineral region of Piotrkow and Kielce, which supply its steadily growing manufactures with coal and iron, so that Warsaw and its neighbourhood have become a centre for all kinds of manufactures. The iron and steel industry has greatly developed, and produces large quantities of rails. The machinery works have suffered to some extent from competition with those of southern Russia, and find the high price of land a great obstacle in the way of extension. But the manufactures of plated silver, carriages, boots and shoes (annual turnover £8,457,000), millinery, hosiery, gloves, tobacco, sugar, and all sorts of small artistic house decorations, are of considerable importance, chiefly owing to the skill of the workers. Trade is principally in the goods enumerated above, but the city is also a centre for trade in corn, leather and coal, and its two fairs (wool and hops) have a great reputation throughout western Russia. The wholesale deportations of Warsaw artisans after the Polish insurrections of 1794, 1831 and 1863 considerably checked, but by no means stopped, the industrial progress of the town. The barrier of custom-houses all round Poland, and the Russian rule, which militates against the progress of Polish science, technology and art, are so many obstacles to the development of its natural resources. The population has nevertheless grown rapidly, from 161,008 in 1860, 276,000 in 1872 and 436,750 in 1887, to 756,426 in 1901; of these more than 25,000 are Germans, and one-third are Jews. The Russian garrison numbers over 30,000 men. Warsaw is an archiepiscopal see of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, and the headquarters of the V., VI. and XV. Army Corps.

The streets of Warsaw are adorned with many fine buildings, partly palaces exhibiting the Polish nobility's love of display, partly churches and cathedrals, and partly public buildings erected by the municipality or by private bodies. Fine public gardens and several monuments further embellish the city. The university (with 1500 students), founded in 1816 but closed in 1832, was again opened in 1869 as a Russian institution, the teaching being in Russian; it has a remarkable library of more than 500,000 volumes, rich natural history collections, a fine botanic garden and an astronomical observatory. The medical school enjoys high repute in the scientific world. The school of arts, the academy of agriculture and forestry, and the conservatory of music are all high-class institutions. The association of the friends of science and the historical and agricultural societies of Warsaw were once well known, but were suppressed after the insurrections, though they were subsequently revived.

The theatre for Polish drama and the ballet is a fine building, which includes two theatres under the same roof; but the pride of Warsaw is its theatre in the Lazienki gardens, which were laid out (1767–1788) in an old bed of the Vistula by King Stanislaus Poniatowski, and have beautiful shady alleys, artificial ponds, an elegant little palace with ceilings painted by Bacciarelli, several imperial villas and a monument (1788) to John Sobieski, king of Poland, who delivered Vienna from the Turks in 1683. Here an artificial ruin on an island makes an open-air theatre. Two other public gardens, with alleys of old chestnut trees, are situated in the centre of the city. One of these, the Saski Ogrod, or Saxon garden (17 acres), which has a summer theatre and fine old trees, is one of the most beautiful in Europe; it is the resort of the Warsaw aristocracy. The Krasinski garden is the favourite promenade of the Jews.

The central point of the life of Warsaw is the former royal castle (Zamek Królewski) on Sigismund Square. It was built by the dukes of Mazovia, enlarged by Sigismund III. (whose memorial stands opposite) and Ladislaus IV., and embellished by John Sobieski and Stanislaus Poniatowski. At present it is inhabited by the “governor-general of the provinces on the Vistula” (i.e. Poland), and by the military authorities. Most of its pictures and other art treasures have been removed to St Petersburg and Moscow. Four main thoroughfares radiate from it; one, the Krakowskie Przedmieście, the best street in Warsaw, runs southward. It is continued by the Nowy Świat and the Ujazdowska Aleja avenue, which leads to the Lazienki gardens. Many fine buildings are found in and near these two streets: the church of St Anne (1454), which belonged formerly to a Bernardine monastery; the agricultural and industrial museum, with an ethnographical collection; the monument (1898) to the national poet Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855); the Alexander Nevski cathedral of the Orthodox Greek Church, built in 1894 and following years on the Saxon Square in the Byzantine style, with five gilded cupolas and a detached campanile, 238 ft. high; close beside it the former Saxon palace, once the residence of the Polish kings but now used as military administrative offices; the Lutheran church, finished in 1799, one of the most conspicuous in Warsaw; a monument (1841) to the Polish generals who held with Russia in 1830 and were therefore shot by their compatriots, removed to the Zielony Square in 1898; the buildings of the Art Association, erected in 1898–1900; the university (see above); the church of the Holy Ghost (1682–1696), with the heart and monument of the musician F. F. Chopin; a monument (1830) to the astronomer N. Kopernicus (1473–1543); the palaces of the families Zamoyski and Ordynacki (now the conservatory of music); the building of the Philharmonic Society (1899–1901); and the church of St Alexander, built in 1826 and splendidly restored in 1891. The Ujazdowska Aleja avenue, planted with lime trees and bordered with cafés and places of amusement, is the Champs Élysées of Warsaw. It leads to the Lazienki park and to the Belvedere palace (1822), now the summer residence of the governor-general, and farther west to the Mokotowski parade ground, which is surrounded on the south and west by the manufacturing district. Another principal street, the Marszałkowska, runs parallel to the Ujazdowska from the Saxon garden to this parade ground, on the south-east of which are the Russian barracks. The above-mentioned streets are crossed by another series running west and east, the chief of them being the Senators, which begins at Sigismund Square and contains the best shops. The palace of the archbishop of Warsaw, the Imperial (Russian) Bank, formerly the Bank of Poland; the town hall (1725), burned in 1863, but rebuilt in 1870; the small Pod Blacha palace, now occupied by a chancery; the theatre (1833); the old mint; the beautiful Reformed church (1882); the Orthodox Greek cathedral of the Trinity, rebuilt in 1837; the Krasinski palace (1692), burned in 1782 but rebuilt; the place of meeting of the Polish diets, now the Supreme Court; the church of the Transfiguration, a thank-offering by John Sobieski for his victory of 1683, and containing his heart and that of Stanislaus Poniatowski; and several palaces are grouped in or near Senators' Street and Miodowa Street.

To the west Senators' Street is continued by Electors' Street, where is the very elegant church (1849) of St Charles Borromeo, and the Chlodna Street leading to the suburb of Wola, with a large field where the kings of Poland used to be elected. In Leshno Street, which branches off from Senators' Street, are the Zelazna Brama, or Iron Gate; in the market-place the bazaar, the arsenal and the Wielopolski barracks.

To the north of Sigismund Square is the old town—Stare Miasto—the Jewish quarter, and farther north still the Alexander citadel. The old town very much recalls old Germany by its narrow streets and antique buildings, the cathedral of St John, the most ancient church in Warsaw, having been built in the 13th century and restored in the 17th. The citadel, erected in 1832–1835 as a punishment for the insurrection of 1831, is of the old type, with six forts too close to the walls of the fortress to be useful in modern warfare.

The suburb of Praga, on the right bank of the Vistula, is poorly built and often flooded; but the bloody assaults which led to its capture in 1794 by the Russians under Suvarov, and in 1831 by Paskevich, give it a name in history.

In the outskirts of Warsaw are various more or less noteworthy villas, palaces and battlefields. Willanow, the palace of John Sobieski, afterwards belonging to Count X. Branicki, was partly built in 1678–1694 by Turkish prisoners in a fine Italian style, and is now renowned for its historical relics, portraits and pictures. It is situated to the south of Warsaw, together with the pretty pilgrimage church of Czerniaków, built by Prince Stanislaus Lubomirski in 1691, and many other fine villas (Morysinek, Natolin, Królikarnia, which also has a picture gallery, Wierzbno and Mokotów). Marymont, an old country residence of the wife of John Sobieski, and the Kaskada, much visited by the inhabitants of Warsaw, in the north, the Saska Kempa on the right bank of the Vistula, and the castle of Jabłona down the Vistula are among others that deserve mention. The castle and forest of Bielany (4½ m. N.), on the bank of the Vistula, are a popular holiday resort in the spring.

Among the battlefields in the neighbourhood is that of Grochów where the Polish troops were defeated in 1831, and Wawer in the same quarter (E. of Praga), where Prince Joseph Poniatowski defeated the Austrians in the war of 1809; at Maciejowice, 50 m. up the Vistula, Kościuszko was wounded and taken by the Russians in 1794; and 20 m. down the river stands the fortress of Modlin, now Novogeorgievsk.

History.—The history of Warsaw from the 16th century onwards is intimately connected with that of Poland. The precise date of the foundation of the town is not known; but it is supposed that Conrad, duke of Mazovia, erected a castle on the present site of Warsaw as early as the 9th century. Casimir the Just is supposed to have fortified it in the 11th century, but Warsaw is not mentioned in annals before 1224. Until 1526 it was the residence of the dukes of Mazovia, but when their dynasty became extinct it was annexed to Poland. When Poland and Lithuania were united, Warsaw was chosen as the royal residence. Sigismund Augustus (Wasa) made it (1550) the real capital of Poland, and from 1572 onwards the election of the kings of Poland took place on the field of Wola, on the W. outskirts of the city. From the 17th century possession of it was continually disputed between the Swedes, the Russians, the Brandenburgers and the Austrians. Charles Gustavus of Sweden took it in 1655 and kept it for a year; the Poles retook it in July 1656, but lost it again almost immediately. Augustus II. and Augustus III. did much for its embellishment, but it had much to suffer during the war with Charles XII. of Sweden, who captured it in 1702; but in the following year peace was made, and it became free again. The disorders which followed upon the death of Augustus III. in 1763 opened a field for Russian intrigue, and in 1764 the Russians took possession of the town and secured the election of Stanislaus Poniatowski, which led in 1773 to the first partition of Poland. In November 1794 the Russians took it again, after the bloody assault on Praga, but next year, in the third partition of Poland, Warsaw was given to Prussia. In November 1806 the town was occupied by the troops of Napoleon, and after the peace of Tilsit (1807) was made the capital of the independent duchy of Warsaw; but the Austrians seized it on the 21st of April 1809, and kept possession of it till the 2nd of June, when it once more became independent. The Russians finally took it on the 8th of February 1813. On the 29th of November 1830, Warsaw gave the signal for the unsuccessful insurrection which lasted nearly one year; the city was captured after great bloodshed by Paskevich, on the 7th of September 1831. Deportations on a large scale, executions, and confiscation of the domains of the nobility followed, and until 1856 Warsaw remained under severe military rule. In 1862 a series of demonstrations began to be made in Warsaw in favour of the independence of Poland, and after a bloody repression a general insurrection followed in January 1863, the Russians remaining, however, masters of the situation. Executions, banishment to the convict prisons of Siberia, and confiscation of estates followed. Deportation to Siberia and the interior of Russia was carried out on an unheard-of scale. Scientific societies and high schools were closed; monasteries and nunneries were emptied. Hundreds of Russian officials were called in to fill the administrative posts, and to teach in the schools and the university; the Russian language was made obligatory in all official acts, in all legal proceedings, and even, to a great extent, in trade. The very name of Poland was expunged from official writings, and, while the old institutions were abolished, the Russian tribunals and administrative institutions were introduced. The serfs were liberated. Much rioting and lawless bloodshed took place in the city in 1905–1906.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)