George Rákóczi II
Born in Sárospatak, Hungary, he was elected prince of Transylvania during his father's lifetime (19 February 1642). He married Sophia Báthory on 3 February 1643, who was first required by his mother to reject Roman Catholicism and turn Calvinist.
On ascending the throne (October 1648), his first thought was to realize his father's ambitions in Poland. With this object in view, he allied himself, in the beginning of 1649, with the Cossack hetman, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and the hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia (Vasile Lupu and Matei Basarab), but took no action for several years. In late 1656, by the Treaty of Radnot, he also allied with King Charles X Gustav of Sweden. In early 1657, he led a force of 40,000 men against King John II Casimir of Poland in the third part of Second Northern War (1655-1660), also known as The Deluge. According to the Treaty, which was signed on 6 December 1656, Rakoczi was to seize the provinces of Lesser Poland and Mazovia, together with rich salt deposits in Wieliczka and Bochnia.
In late January 1657, Rakoczi’s army of some 25,000 crossed the Carpathians, entering the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth near Krosno. The Transylvanians headed towards Medyka, where they were joined by some 10,000 Zaporozhian Cossacks under Anton Zdanovich. The Transylvanian-Cossack army approached Lwow, but failed to capture the fortified city. Then it headed westwards, to Kraków. The march of the army was marked by numerous atrocities, destruction and looting. Rakoczi captured and destroyed Dukla, Lesko and Sanok, but failed to seize Przemyśl, Krosno and Łańcut. On 21 March 1657, Rakoczi entered Tarnów, and seven days later reached Kraków, which had already been under Swedish control.
Swedish garrison of Kraków was reinforced by 2500 Transylvanians under János Bethlen, while Rakoczi headed northwards. On 12 April, near Ćmielów, the Transylvanians joined Swedish army under King Charles X Gustav. The combined forces crossed the Vistula in Zawichost, on 19 April capturing Lublin. On 8 May the Swedish-Transylvanian army besieged Brzesc nad Bugiem, capturing it two days later. After the siege, Rakoczi’s soldiers busied themselves with plundering and looting. Among others, the Transylvanians burned Biała Podlaska and Brańsk.
On 20 May, news of the Dano-Swedish War reached Charles X Gustav and the king decided to march towards Swedish Pomerania, leaving Gustaf Otto Stenbock in charge. The army then marched towards Warsaw, burning the towns of Mielnik, Drohiczyn, Nur, Brok and Pniewo. On 17 June, after a three-day siege, Rakoczi and Stenbock captured Warsaw.
Swedish forces remained in Warsaw only for a few days, as on 22 June they left the city, marching to Szczecin, to join the war against Denmark. Since Rakoczi was well aware of real quality of his army, he decided to abandon Warsaw as well, and head southeast. Following an order of Polish King John II Casimir Vasa, the Transylvanians were followed by a 10,000 strong mounted army of Stefan Czarniecki, supported by Lithuanians of Aleksander Hilary Połubiński and Austrian allies of Poland. At the same time, forces of Jerzy Lubomirski organized a revenge invasion of Transylvania, with widespread looting and destruction of Rakoczi’s realm.
On 8 July 1657 in Lancut, Polish leaders decided to split their forces. Stefan Czarniecki was to follow Rakoczi, while Jerzy Lubomirski and Stanisław "Rewera" Potocki were to cut the Transylvanians and Cossacks from crossing the border and escaping Poland. On 11 July Czarniecki partly destroyed the Transylvanian army in the Battle of Magierów. On 16 July Polish armies united and on 20 July they defeated Rakoczi in the Battle of Czarny Ostrów.
After the defeat and subsequent retreat of his Cossack allies, Rakoczi withdrew towards Podolian town of Miedzyboz, where he capitulated to Jerzy Lubomirski (23 July), promising to break his alliance with Sweden, abandon the cities of Kraków and Brzesc Litewski, and pay a contribution in the total amount of over 4 million złotys. Polish commanders allowed his forces to march towards Transylvania but, on 26 July, Rakoczi was attacked by the Crimean Tatars, who at that time were allied with Poland-Lithuania. Rakoczi abandoned his army, leaving it in the hands of János Kemény. The Transylvanian camp, located near Trembowla, was captured by the Tatars on 31 July. Some 500 were killed, and app. 11,000 Transylvanians were captured and taken to the Crimea. As a result, Rakoczi’s army ceased to exist.
On 3 November 1657, at the command of Turkey (to which Transylvania was tributary), the Diet, deposed him for undertaking an unauthorized war. But in January 1658 he was reinstated by a new session of the Diet at Medgyes. Again he was deposed by the Turkish Grand Vizier, and again reinstated as if nothing had happened. Finally the Turks invaded Transylvania, and Rákóczy died at Nagyvárad of wounds received at the battle of Gilău (May 1660).
- Encyclopedia of Ukraine Editor in Chief Vladimir Kubiiovych. - Paris, New York: Young Life, 1954-1989.
George I Rákóczi
|Prince of Transylvania
| Succeeded by|