Vilnius

Paulava Republic

20 Apr 2019

Lasting just under 30 years, the tale of the Republic of Paulava (Paulavos Respublika) is about as strange as it gets. The brainchild of the Polish priest and politician Paweł Ksawery Brzostowski (Lith. Povilas Ksaveras Bžostovskis, 1739-1827), this extraordinary independent republic covering barely 1,600 hectares operated just outside Vilnius under its own presidency (a position naturally filled by Brzostowski), with its own flag, currency and even an army from 1769 until the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by Russia on October 24, 1795. Officially recognised by the joint Seimas of 1791—an amazing fact in itself, meaning that contrary to what the history books say the Commonwealth’s last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, effectively ruled three, not two nations—the republic was a wildly Utopian idea realised by Brzostowski as a fight against the oppressive regime of the time. Made up of 34 local farmsteads ruled from a combined manor house and parliament built in 1770 by the Italian Classicist architect Carlo Spampani (1750-1783), the republic thrived, doubling the income of its previous feudal incarnation and granting rights and freedoms to its citizens previously unheard of. The aforementioned army even took part in the famous Kościuszko Uprising of 1794, an act that would eventually contribute to the republic’s downfall. When Russia took control of the region the following year, Brzostowski fled to Saxony and the republic reverted to its former miserable state. More than just a story, the ruins of the manor house and several other buildings as well as parts of the grand entrance gates still exist. Find it on highway 3937, about 30km southeast of Vilnius, a couple of kilometres west of Turgeliai at Merkinė. What’s left of the manor can be seen on the left of the road, with the gates and a disintegrated shrine on a small hill on the other side.

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