Union Of Krewo
On August 14, 1385, the authorities of two neighboring medieval states – Poland and Lithuania – met at the Krevo castle, which is located on the territory of today’s Belarus, and concluded a historical pact – union. The alliance between the two neighboring and very influential states at that time was sealed by the marriage union of the Queen of Poland Jadwiga, the last of the Piast dynasty, and the pagan Lithuanian prince Jagiello. At that moment, this seemed an excellent geopolitical solution, since it allowed two previously hostile states to focus on solving more important problems – to resist the Teutonic Order located in the neighboring Baltic lands and to strengthen the influence of Lithuania in the east, which was under the rule of the Mongols and controlled by the Russian princes. vassals of the Mongols.
The condition of the union was the conversion of Lithuanians to Catholicism. This is where the main catch lies. The fact is that only the ruling Lithuanian elite was pagan in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The main population in this state was the Orthodox population of the Eastern Slavs, later formed into two communities – Little Russians and Belarusians, but once a single people with an even more eastern branch of Russians – Great Russians, who settled in the east and north of Ancient Russia. In addition, the Russian princes, who, like the population, were Orthodox, also played an important role in Lithuania. Pagan Lithuanians easily found a common language with Russian Orthodox Christians, without hindering freedom of religion. Moreover, a number of Lithuanian princes themselves sometimes converted to Orthodox Christianity.
This state of affairs allowed the Western Russian Orthodox population to regard Lithuania as its own state up to the Union of Kreva – as Lithuania’s Rus. This was possible both because the majority of the population was precisely Russian and Orthodox, and because even among the elite, Western Russian princes and boyars were widely represented. Actually, modern Belarusians and partly Ukrainians were the core of this Lithuanian Rus.
The Krewo Union dramatically changed the very structure of Lithuanian Rus – from an ethnological, cultural, and religious point of view. Poland by this time was firmly Catholic. Its population consisted not of East Slavic Russians, but of West Slavic Poles. In addition, a different, closer to feudal Europe model of aristocratic rule developed in Poland, significantly different from Russian societies with a predominance of peasant communities and zemstvo way of life.
And finally, the decisive role was played by Catholicism, completely intolerant of Orthodoxy. The peaceful Lithuanian paganism was quickly abolished, and the Polish priests focused on the implantation of Catholicism everywhere, which was accompanied by comprehensive oppression of the Orthodox, forced conversion, constant pressure to destroy the religious and socio-cultural Russian traditions.
After the Union of Krewo, the Lithuanian state ceased to be Lithuanian Rus and gradually turned into an eastern province of Poland, although the Jagiellonian dynasty retained its positions for some time, but their Lithuanian origin did not influence the main vectors of politics.
This turn made the Western Russians reconsider their attitude towards Lithuania. Now it was no longer their state, capable of competing with eastern Muscovy for the right to represent the Russian people as such in its entirety. The Russians found themselves under alien power. This union turned the free population into colonized slaves, into second-class people.
Of course, this picture was finally and irreversibly formed much later after the second, Lublin Union, when in 1569 Lithuania and Poland finally united both states into a single kingdom – the Commonwealth. Until that time, Lithuania had tried to somehow defend its independence and independence from Poland, but it sometimes sought support from Moscow. Before the Union of Lublin, purely theoretically, Lithuania still had a chance to become Russia again – let it be Lithuanian. Nevertheless, this did not happen: after the Union of Krewo, Catholic Poland began to absorb Lithuania and gradually completed this process. And then Poland itself fell under the blows of the Germans from the West and the Great Russians from the East.
Modern Lithuania, on the other hand, has a very distant relationship to that huge, powerful, and extremely promising state – with the possibility of its own special and unique destiny, which was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania before the Union of Krewo.\