Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas

Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien Regensburg
herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Ausgabe: 65 (2017), S. 141-142

Verfasst von: Robert I. Frost


Sabine Jagodzinski: Die Türkenkriege im Spiegel der polnisch-litauischen Adelskultur. Kommemoration und Repräsentation bei den Żółkiewski, Sobieski und Radziwiłł. Ostfildern: Thorbecke, 2013. 258 S., 94 Abb. = Studia Jagellonica Lipsiensia, 13. ISBN: 978-3-7995-8413-5.

Sabine Jagodzinski’s rich and detailed study, based on a Humboldt University doctoral dissertation, examines the forms, features and commemoration strategies of the seventeenth-century Turkish wars among the Polish-Lithuanian nobility. She concentrates on the transformation of the palace and parish church of Żółkiew (now Zhovkva in Ukraine), by the three magnate families that owned it between 1600 and 1795: the Żółkiewskis, the Sobieskis, and the Radziwiłłs of Nieśwież and Ołyka. The involvement of the Radziwiłłs in the Turkish wars was relatively slight, but the first two families had powerful reasons for trumpeting their exploits: Stanisław Żółkiewski, grand chancellor and grand hetman of Poland, died a hero’s death at the battle of Cecora in 1620, while Jan III Sobieski, who secured the Polish-Lithuanian throne in 1674 after his triumph over the Ottoman army at the second battle of Chocim the previous year, dazzled Europe with his great victory under the walls of Vienna in 1683.

Jagodzinski sets her study firmly within the burgeoning theoretical literature on cultures of memory, drawing on the work of Otto Gerhard Oexle, Pierre Nora, Günter Lotte and Astrid Erll among many others. The work is lavishly illustrated, with 24 colour plates and many black and white illustrations. It is in many ways an impressive piece of scholarship. The author uses the visual evidence together with substantial archival sources from Warsaw, including inventories and testaments, to construct a detailed and nuanced picture of the changing ways in which the three families commemorated the glorious deeds of Żółkiewski and Sobieski. This book provides much food for thought, and copious materials for other scholars to consider. Of particular interest is the detailed consideration of the battle paintings commissioned by Żółkiewski and Sobieski. Battle paintings are often scorned by art historians, but while they rarely make for great art, they are a valuable source, and Jagodzinski’s observations are careful and perceptive. The architectural passages give an excellent account of the decoration of both palace and church, and of the objects they contained.

There is much in this book for the considerable growing body of scholars interested in the fashionable topic of lieux de mémoire. There are, however, certain problems that arise from the author’s adoption of this particular angle of vision. The book is presented as an investigation of Polish-Lithuanian Adelskultur. Yet the Polish-Lithuanian nobility – the szlachta – was a vast and highly diverse social group, but the book focuses on the commemorative strategies of three highly untypical families. The Żółkiewskis in the early seventeenth century were one of a handful of magnate families at the very apex of Polish noble society. The Sobieskis were even more untypical: one of only three noble families to have a member elected to the Polish throne in this period. The Radziwiłłs were untypical even in Lithuania: they held three of only seven entails ever agreed by the Polish-Lithuanian Sejm, and had secured a position in Lithuanian society in the sixteenth century that they sustained more successfully than any other noble family in the Commonwealth.

It is therefore difficult to claim that the actions of families that were not even typical of the magnate elite somehow represent the culture of the highly diverse noble classes of Poland-Lithuania. The author’s grasp of the complexities of wider szlachta society is not always convincing. The bibliography omits many central works on the szlachta, and is over-reliant on a master’s thesis from Munich university. Jagodzinski, moreover, falls into the trap of presenting the ‘strategies’ of the families she studies in terms of the fine distinctions between Gedächtnis and Erinnerungand other such scholarly constructs – rather than examining the political context for their artistic patronage. For all three of these families had important reasons for glorifying their own and their forebears’ exploits. Stan­isław Żółkiewski, who began the process, was relatively uninterested in the Turkish wars in his presentation of his martial exploits, since his reputation had been won in wars against the Swedes and, in particular, the Muscovites, rather than the Ottomans. It was his family who had every reason to turn Żółkiew into a shrine to his martyrdom, preserving his cabinet as he had left it, installing the bloodied tunic in which he had died as a relic, and commissioning an elaborate catafalque, whose imagery is expertly analysed by Jagodzinski. For Żółkiewski was far from popular among the broader szlachta. He had supported – if reluctantly – Sigismund III during Zebrzydowski’s rokosz, leading the royal army at the battle of Guzów; he had been made Grand Chancellor and Grand Hetman despite the legal incompatibility of these two powerful offices. Several of his officers on the fateful Cecora campaign doubted his judgement, and the lavish efforts under­taken by his widow to glorify her husband as a martyr were clearly designed to rescue his reputation.

Similarly, although Sobieski’s brilliant generalship against the Ottomans won him the throne in 1674, he also had a past to live down. He had joined Charles X of Sweden with the rest of the Polish army in October 1655, and had been one of the last to leave Swedish service during the national revival in the spring of 1656. He had been intimately associated with the unpopular campaign to elect a successor vivente rege to John Casimir in the 1660s, and had been a bitter opponent of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki between 1669 and 1673, leading the magnate opposition to the edge of treason. As king, he was unpopular with wide swathes of szlachta opinion, and the Turkish wars were by no means welcomed by all among the nobility. He faced an increasingly difficult and hostile opposition in the years after his triumph at Vienna; it is hardly surprising that he sought to promote his victories, although he commissioned the paintings of his great battles to be hung safely at home in Żółkiew rather than in Warsaw.

Thus it is questionable whether his particular strategies of commemoration reveal anything about broader noble Gedächtniskultur; they were part of his attempts to shore up his wilting reputation as a monarch. It would have been interesting to learn of how his family kept the flame alive after his death, but Jagodzinski’s archival work was confined to Warsaw, and she has not consulted the Sobieski correspondence in Minsk, which might reveal much about the strategies of Sobieski’s son Jakub, who inherited his father’s name, but not his throne or his military talent. This might have been more to the point than a consideration of the Radziwiłłs, who bought Żółkiew from Jakub’s sister after his death, but who had little reason to concern themselves much about the Turkish wars.

Despite these reservations, it is undoubtedly true that since relatively few of the szlachta visited Żółkiew, it is difficult to gauge the reception of these strategies, and Jagodzinski draws many interesting points from the scanty sources at her disposal. Overall she has produced an accomplished piece of scholarship that will be of wide interest to many.

Robert I. Frost, Old Aberdeen

Zitierweise: Robert I. Frost über: Sabine Jagodzinski: Die Türkenkriege im Spiegel der polnisch-litauischen Adelskultur. Kommemoration und Repräsentation bei den Żółkiewski, Sobieski und Radziwiłł. Ostfildern: Thorbecke, 2013. 258 S., 94 Abb. = Studia Jagellonica Lipsiensia, 13. ISBN: 978-3-7995-8413-5, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/Rez/Frost_Jagodzinski_Tuerkenkriege_im_Spiegel.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

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