Elbing an der Wende zum 18. Jahrhundert. Perspektiven der Elbinger Stadtgesellschaft auf die Zugehörigkeit zum polnisch-litauischen Unionsstaat in Kriegszeiten
This paper examines how the citizens of Elbing defined the political position of their city in the Polish-Lithuanian unitary state at the turn of the eighteenth century. In the course of the Great Northern War, they saw their own city, like Danzig and Thorn, threatened by Swedish troops. The Brandenburg elector Friedrich III also occupied the trading city in 1698 as a pledge, because a payment owed by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which had been stipulated in the treaties of Wehlau and Bromberg (1657), had not been made. As the poorest of the three large cities, Elbing had the fewest resources and was thus in the weakest position to defend itself. In order to comprehend how the people of Elbing positioned their city within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth statements made by the citizens concerning external political actors—the Polish state and its dignitaries on the one hand, and the Brandenburg elector on the other—are examined. These include reports about Brandenburg’s occupation of Elbing, books detailing the negotiations of the council and the citizens, as well as letters addressed to the states of Poland-Lithuania, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Elector of Brandenburg. It is not surprising that the citizens of Elbing continued to see their city’s membership to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as the basis of their political existence. The emphasis of this connection changed, however, when the people of Elbing saw themselves as threatened by the Brandenburg und Swedish troops. While, in the centuries before this, the three major Prussian cities of Danzig, Thorn and Elbing had stressed that they belonged to the king rather than to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, now, in view of the threats, the council and citizens of Elbing began to emphasize that they belonged to the Commonwealth. This indicates that the Prussian states in the eighteenth century were not characterized exclusively by particularism. Rather, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the citizens of Elbing moved closer to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.