View Full Version : Ethnic groups of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

09-22-2018, 01:23 PM
At its peak in years 1618-1622, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with its fiefdoms had 12 million inhabitants. Of them 7.5 million lived in the Crown of Poland, including Ducal Prussia and 4.5 million in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania together with Polish Livonia and Courland. The Crown of Poland consisted of core Polish lands (population 4.4 million), Warmia (0.1 million), Ducal Prussia (0.4 million) and lands of the former Kievan Rus incorporated into Poland between 1340 and 1569 (2.6 million).

The ethnic structure of the Commonwealth was as follows: ~90% of inhabitants - close to 11 million - comprised six major ethnic groups: Poles (around 5 million), Belarusians and Ukrainians (ca. 2 million each, total 4 million), Lithuanians (ca. 1 million), Germans and Jews (ca. 0.5 million each, total 1 million). The remaining at least 1 million or ~10% of the population consisted of a plethora of ethnic groups which will be listed below later together with data on their estimated population size.

As of year 1772, Jews had in total 841 synagogues in the PLC, but in 1618 this number was still smaller. The percentage of Jews among the population was constantly increasing between 1569 and 1772. In 1600-1648 they were ca. 4% of the PLC's total population.

Out of at least 5 million Poles, about 850 thousand lived in the Grand Duchy with Livonia and Courland (comprising 19% of inhabitants there) - this included some areas which are within the borders of present-day Poland. Further 450 thousand ethnic Poles lived in Rus lands incorporated to Poland after 1340, comprising 17% of its inhabitants (in Red Ruthenia, later in history known as Eastern Galicia, Poles were around 1/5). Warmia had 25 thousand Catholic Poles, comprising 25% of its inhabitants (but the majority in southern parts). Ducal Prussia had 75 thousand Poles, most of them Lutheran Masurians, but I did not include Masurians in that 5 million figure.

The remaining ca. 3.7 million ethnic Poles lived in core Polish lands of the Commonwealth. Outside of political borders of the Commonwealth, there were ca. 500 thousand ethnic Poles in Silesia (1/3 of the population, majority in Upper Silesia, minority in Lower). In terms of religion, apart from Roman Catholics there were huge numbers of Calvinist Poles and Polish Brethren at that time:


Lithuanians lived in the Grand Duchy (900 thousand), Ducal Prussia (100 thousand, Lutherans), some in Courland
Ethnic Belarusians lived in the Grand Duchy and partially also in Podlasie Voivodeship of the Crown of Poland.
Ethnic Ukrainians lived in eastern voivodeships of the Crown and in some southern parts of the Grand Duchy.
Germans lived in Ducal Prussia, Royal Prussia, Greater Poland, Courland and scattered throughout other regions.

Other ethnic groups of the Commonwealth, comprising in total at least 1 or 1.2 million people, included:

Kashubians - ca. 120 thousand (in Pomerelian Voivodeship and in Lębork-Bytów Land)*
Polish Masurians - ca. 70 thousand (mostly Lutheran), all of them in Ducal Prussia
Cossacks - ca. 150 thousand (including ca. 50 thousand fighting age men), in Ukraine
Latvians - ca. 240 thousand, in the Duchy of Courland as well as in Polish Livonia**
Russian Old Believers - ca. 180 thousand, mostly in the Grand Duchy and Ducal Prussia
Baltic Prussians - ca. 55 thousand in Ducal Prussia and Warmia, their number was declining
Curonians - ca. 10 thousand in Ducal Prussia, living mainly in the Curonian Spit
Scots - ca. 70 thousand (over 120 communities, 2/3 in Royal Prussia and Greater Poland)
Czechs - ca. 40 thousand (Czech Brethren refugees, ca. 70 communities in Greater Poland)
Armenians - ca. 20 thousand in Podolia and Red Ruthenia, at least 22 churches
Moldovans - ca. 10 thousand mostly in Podolia and other Ukrainian regions
Mennonites - ca. 15 thousand mostly in Royal Prussia, they had 19 churches
Lipka Tatars - up to 45 thousand, living in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Italians - ca. 10 thousand, scattered throughout all of the Commonwealth
Karaims - up to 5 thousand, half in Poland half in the Grand Duchy, 3 churches

Others including Hollanders (Olędrzy), Estonians, Gypsies, French people (among them Huguenots), etc.

*There were also some Kashubians outside of political borders of the Commonwealth, in Pomerania.

**This number of Latvians is for year 1622, shortly after the loss of most of Livonia to Sweden.

09-22-2018, 01:42 PM
Total number of ethnic Poles over time:

1000 AD - 1 million
1600 AD - 5 million
1648 AD - 6 million
1800 AD - 8 million
1900 AD - 20 million*
2000 AD - 60 million*

*Including Diaspora around the world.

09-26-2018, 02:27 AM
It turns out that I exaggerated the number of Czech communities. Apparently Czech Brethren in Poland =/= ethnic Czechs. They also included ethnic Poles, Scots and Germans. They united with local Poles and created Jednota Wielkopolska Braci Czeskich (Jednota Braterska Kościoła Ewangelicko-Reformowanego) together with "Polish Hussites". So not all of those communities actually included ethnic Czechs.

Here is what I was told about it (translation to English):

"In some part of listed communities, there were no any Czechs, and most parishioners were ethnic Polish population. For example - in parish (community) in Żychlin in 16th-17th centuries most of Czech Brethren were Polish nobility, burghers from Konin (Piruccy, Kruliccy, Smarkowscy families), as well as some local peasants and immigrants from... Scotland (who lived in Konin and Kleczew)! The same situation was in other towns - most parishes were established by Polish nobility for themselves and their subjects, and parishoners included ethnically Polish, German, Scottish and... yes, sometimes also Czech, population. In Leszno there existed 3 different communities of Czech Brethren - one ethnic Polish, one ethnic German [probably German-speaking Moravian Brethren] and one ethnic Czech. In Poznań there were 2, one Polish-Scottish and one German. In addition, Lisewo and Płomykowo were Calvinist parishes, consisting of ethnic Poles, and only their pastors were Czech Brethren. There were also some Lutheran parishes with just Czech pastors. The same was the case with Calvinist and ethnic Polish parishes in Niszczyce near Płock, in Baranów Sandomierski, in Beresteczko and in Włodawa (in this last place there was also a group of actual ethnic Czech settlers). To sum up, Czech Brethren were not only ethnic Czechs and not only immigrants, also local Poles. Ethnic structure of every Czech Brethren community was different."

10-08-2018, 02:14 PM
Jews in the PLC and in the HRE over time: