a guest post by Carrol Benner Kindel
The subject manuscript, page 237 of Folger MS V.b.303, is contained within a “collection of political and parliamentary documents” compiled between the middle of the 16th and middle of the 17th centuries. It is a one-page list of conditions (condicions in this manuscript) proposed for an agreement between the Turkish Emperor, Osman II (1618-1622), and the Polish King, Sigismund III (1587-1632) following a war between their empires. This war (1620-21) was the second of four they fought during the 17th century.
The war, itself, is interesting as countries involved in 1621, whether directly or indirectly, are involved in the crisis in Ukraine in 2022. What follows is historical background of the war to provide context for the manuscript, a summary of the conditions listed in the manuscript, and a postscript.
The Turkish Emperor was the head of the Ottoman Empire, which lasted roughly from 1299 until 1922, a casualty of the first World War. Its seat was modern-day Turkey. At its peak, The Ottoman Empire stretched from northern Africa to the middle east and northward into central Europe. It included parts of modern countries, such as Hungary, Romania (Transylvania), Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, parts of the eastern Adriatic, Slovakia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, the Caucasus, Iraq, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean west to Algeria. At that time, it controlled access to the Black Sea including all of modern southern and eastern Ukraine including Odesa, the Crimea, the Donbas and north and east of there, and around the Black Sea coastline.
The King of Poland (Polonia and Polonyanes in this manuscript) was head of the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth. Poland had amassed territory through its defeat of Holy Roman Empire forces and the Teutonic Knights in 4 centuries of warfare beginning in 962. In 1325, it united dynastically with Lithuania, its ally and major power to the east, to protect their adjacent swaths of east-central Europe both from threats to the east and a western Europe in turmoil. A Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth was declared in 1569 and lasted until 1795. By 1618 it covered the territory of 12 million people and included parts of modern countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, western Russia, Poland, Belarus, western and central Ukraine, and parts of the Carpathian mountains where it ran into the OE.
Of historic interest are the mercenary fighters each combatant employed. The Ottoman Empire employed the elite infantry corps “Janissaries”, and the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth employed the “Zaporizhzhya Cossacks” (Cassockes in this manuscript), also known as Ukrainian Cossacks, who were frontiersman. Some maps of this time label territory within the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth (in modern-day Ukraine) as “Cossack”.
The 1620-21 War:
The Ottoman Empire and Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth came to blows primarily over unsettled issues from their earlier (1614-1617) war. Of these three were paramount:
- Control of Moldova (Moldavia in this manuscript). The Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth had held this territory during the years 1387-1497 and reasserted its control though Moldova was technically under the Ottoman Empire.
- Cassock (some sources add “Tartar”) raids around the Black Sea as far as Constantinople.
- The 30 Years’ War. Both the Ottoman Empire and Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth initially refused to provide aid during the Hungarian rebellion against the Austrian Empire at the outbreak of the 30 Years’ war. Finally the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth, joined by Moldova, eventually assisted Austria in its defeat of Hungary, while the Ottoman Empire then intervened on the Hungarian side, invading the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Two major battles were fought. The first, the Battle of Tutora (Cecora) was won by the Ottoman Empire. The second at Khotyn (Chocim) in modern-day Ukraine was won by the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth.1
The resulting Treaty of Khotyn, 1621, was based on the treaty from the first conflict, the 1617 Treaty of Busza (Jaruga). The “Condicions….” manuscript was prepared in 1621. No copy of either of these final treaties could be readily found. So no comparison could be made with the “Condicions…” to determine similarities and variations.
A total of 8 separate condicions are listed in the manuscript.
The first one required the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth to keep an Ambassador in Constantinople.
The second and third required the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth to provide unspecified presents yearly to “the Turke” and to the Tartarian King (ally of the Ottoman Empire). The fourth through seventh condicions listed below each address one of the 3 causes of the war above. Spelling and punctuation below reflect those of the manuscript.
The fourth condicion is another requirement for the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth:
“The said kingdom shall prohibit and interdict the Cassockes robbinge on the black seas.”
The fifth condicion requires any Cassocks caught “robbinge on the black seas” to be sent to Constantinople for punishment.
In the sixth condicion, “Sevenbergheny” refers to a location in the southeastern Carpathian mountains, in modern-day Romania:
“The Polonyans shall never pretend any things vppon Sevenbergheny nor moldavia.”
The seventh condicion states:
“Against the kinge in Hungary, nor his kingdom nor agaynst ffederick, kinge of Bohemia, nor any of theire allyes, or confederates, The said kingdom of Polonia shall neither with mean nor mony secretly nor publiquely geue any ayd or assistance./ nor alsoe in any manner of wise suffer any people therehence to goe out agaynst any of them.”
The final condicion requires the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth to observe the articles of Soliman (known as Suleiman the Magnificent in the west or Suleiman the Lawgiver to the Ottomans, ruler of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566, whose legal code was used for more than three centuries) and for security, the Ottoman Empire may “take and carry away out of Poland” any states and detain them until the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth Ambassador comes to Constantinople.
Two mysteries surround this manuscript:
One is the person referred to in the title, “…as per Mr. Trusshill”. No evidence has been uncovered revealing the position of this man. An assumption might be that he was a scribe to those authorizing the manuscript or one of its originators.
A second mystery concerns the marginalia at the top and bottom of the manuscript: “Non credende// false./” and, “noe suche matter,/”
Only hypotheses exist as to the meaning of these marginalia. For example, the condicions were set down incorrectly, or the condicions were set down correctly, but they were either not adopted or adopted but not satisfied. We do know that the Moldova condicion was satisfied (see below) which might indicate at least that it was correct. Again, as no copy of the final Treaty of Khotyn could be readily found, no comparison could be made with the final treaty.
The results of the Treaty of Khotyn were generally, that:
- Borders remained unchanged.
- The Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth renounced its claims to Moldavia and halted further interference.
- Further Ottoman Empire incursion into Europe was halted.
- Both sides claimed victory.
- Osman II was assassinated in 1622 during a revolt of the Janissaries.
Reading this piece 401 years after it was written reminds us that history is evolving, that it does repeat over the centuries, and that it is an unreliable arbiter of national borders.
Sources for the historical background are numerous on the internet. Among the most helpful were: Britannica, Wikipedia, and https://polishhistory.pl/. A university textbook, Europe from the Renaissance to Waterloo, by Robert Ergang was also consulted. The agreement among sources on material presented here was uniform. Finally, outside the parliament building in Vilnius, Lithuania, is a pyramid showing Lithuania’s territory at several stages in its history, including its territory as a member of the Polish/Lithuanian Confederation.
Carrol Benner Kindel is a docent with the Folger Shakespeare Library and a former Chairperson of the docent Executive Committee. She is a retired federal government statistician. Her academic credits include bachelor’s degrees in sociology and history (Pennsylvania State University), a master’s degree in demography (Georgetown University), and over 100 credit hours in management and supervision (provided by the federal government to its supervisory personnel). After a 30-year career, she turned to history, a lifelong hobby. She is a recent student of the Folger’s Practical Paleography program. The transcription on which this piece is based was completed in conjunction with that program.