Smolensk War, 1632-1634

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The Smolensk War (1632-1634) saw Russia attempt to reconquer lands lost to Poland-Lithuania in the truce of Deuline (1619). This had ended a ten year long Polish-Muscovite War that had seen both Sigismund III and the future Wladyslaw IV of Poland-Lithuania claim the Russian throne, and had seen Polish troops attack Moscow (Russian Time of Troubles, 1604-1613). The truce of Deuline, which was to run until 1633, saw Russia acknowledge the loss of the areas around Smolensk, Seversk and Chernihiv. Although the same period had also seen Sweden invade Russia,

The Time of Troubles had ended with the accession of Michael Romanov to the Russian throne in 1613. From 1619 Russia was dominated by the new Tsar’s father, Patriarch Filaret, who had been a prisoner in Poland until the end of the fighting. He was determined to recover the lands lost in 1619, and as the truce came closer to expiring Russia began to prepare for war.

The ideal moment to renew the war came the year before the truce was to end. In April 163 Sigismund III died, and Russia attacked. The Polish-Lithuanian throne was an elected position, and the elections could sometimes be painfully slow. Filaret hoped to regain the lost lands before Poland-Lithuanians could react. A Russian army 34,500 strong, commanded by Mikhail Borisovich Shein advanced into Poland-Lithuania, reaching Smolensk on 28 October 1632. That was as far as it would reach.

In November 1632 Sigismund’s son was elected king of Poland-Lithuania as Wladyslaw IV. Although the Russian heavy artillery reached Smolensk in December 1632, with even heavier guns arriving in March 1633, the Polish garrison held out while Wladyslaw IV raised a relief force. That army did not reach Smolensk until September 1633, eleven months after the start of the siege but when it did arrive the Poles soon turned the tables on Shein. In a series of attacks in September and October Wladyslaw IV drove the Russian army away from the Smolensk, and then besieged them in their own camp. After a siege that lasted just over five months, Shein surrendered on 1 March 1634.

The war soon came to an end. Patriach Filaret had died in 1633, and with his death much of the enthusiasm for the war had gone. In May 1634 the Eternal Peace of Polianovka ended the war. Wladyslaw IV recognised Michael Romanov as Tsar while the Russians recognised Polish possession of the lands captured in 1619. Once back in Moscow Shein was blamed for the defeat, and both he and his second in command were executed as Polish agents, a quite ridiculous accusation. The main cause of his failure appears to have been the superiority of the Polish cavalry at Smolensk, which had allowed Wladyslaw IV to concentrate on isolated sections of the Russian lines around the city by pinning Shein’s infantry in place in their trenches.

The Northern Wars, 1558-1721 (Modern Wars In Perspective), Robert I. Frost. One of the very few works in English to look at the long period of warfare that shaped north eastern Europe, Frost provides an excellent overview of nearly two centuries of conflict that shaped Scandinavia, Russia and Poland, ending with the Great Northern War. cover cover cover
How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 July 2007), Smolensk War, 1632-1634 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_smolensk.html

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