Great Sejm

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The Great Sejm, also known as the Four-Year Sejm (Polish: respectively, Sejm Wielki or Sejm Czteroletni; Belarusian: Вялікі Сойм or Чатырохгадовы Сойм; Lithuanian: Didysis seimas or Ketverių metų seimas) was a Sejm of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that was held in Warsaw, beginning in 1788. Its goal became to restore sovereignty to, and reform of, the Commonwealth, politically and economically. Its greatest achievement was the adoption in 1791 of the May 3rd Constitution. The reforms instituted by the Great Sejm were annulled by the Targowica Confederation and the intervention of the Russian Empire.


The intention of Catherine II of Russia, who treated the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a vassal state, was for the Sejm to raise a 100,000 strong military force to aid Russian Empire in their recent war with the Ottoman Empire. Because of that, the Sejm was a confederated sejm– immune to liberum veto.

However, as Russia became distracted with the wars (against the Ottomans and a later one against the Swedes), the Sejm became dominated by reform-minded politicians. In 1790, Poland signed an alliance with Prussia, obliging the members to come to mutual aid in case either country was invaded by the Russian Empire.

Since the beginning of its deliberations in Warsaw, the Sejm was accompanied by increasing publicity and interest of the general population, one of the most famous being the "black...
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