Zofia Zielińska

The Commonwealth between Prussia and Russia in the Light of the Polish–Prussian Dispute about General Customs in 1765

Part II 

The strivings of Frederic II towards the preservation of the custom house in Kwidzyn on the Vistula, ruinous for Polish trade and extremely profitable for Prussia, increased the tension between Warsaw, Berlin and St. Petersburg. Russia, the actual hegemon of the Commonwealth, treated the prolonged controversy with increasing ill will towards Warsaw. Embroiled in political intrigues in Sweden, Russia was interested in peace in the Polish protectorate, and since she regarded Frederic II as her most important ally she was even more concerned with stifling the troublesome conflict. The discovery that Prussian ventures in Turkey demonstrated disloyalty towards St. Petersburg proved decisive, and Catherine II became determined to teach the Hohenzollern ruler a lesson by forcing him to resign from the Kwidzyn customs. During the Polish–Prussian negotiations conducted in Warsaw from August to November 1765, and attended by the Russian ambassador as a mediator, the Polish side managed to prove the baseless nature of all the charges formulated by Berlin (an essential part was played by King Stanisław Augustus), but the arbiter of clash — St. Petersburg — ultimately forced it to liquidate the general customs. Russia thus proved to be just as interested as Prussia in annihilating the financial reform and in the retention of the Commonwealth in a state of weakness and chaos. Studies on the customs controversy revealed that an important Russian edition of sources (vol. 22 SIRIO, published in 1878), containing reports by Victor Solms, the Prussian envoy in St. Petersburg in 1763–1766, and issued at a time of the great tension in Russian–German relations, caused by the restriction of Russian ambitions in the Balkans, had been reduced with a distinct political intention in mind: all fragments proving that Russia had succumbed to Prussian pressure and was compelled to take Berlin’s demands into account had been removed. 

Translated by Aleksandra Rodzińska–Chojnowska