Great Emigration

The Great Emigration[1][2] (Polish: Wielka Emigracja)[3] was the emigration of thousands of Poles and Lithuanians, particularly from the political and cultural élites, from 1831 to 1870, after the failure of the November Uprising of 1830-1831 and of other uprisings such as the Kraków uprising of 1846 and the January Uprising of 1863-1864. The number of political exiles did not exceed more than 6,000 during that time.[4] The emigration affected almost the entirety of political elite in Congress Poland.[3] The exiles included artists,[3] soldiers and officers of the uprising, members of the Sejm of Congress Poland of 1830–31 and several prisoners-of-war who escaped from captivity.

A Polish Exile, a 19th-century graphic
Polish Emigrants in Belgium, a 19th-century graphic

From the end of the 18th century, a large portion of the Polish political landscape was dominated by those who carried out their activities outside of the country as émigrés. Their exile was the result of the Partitions of Poland, which completely divided the lands of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth between the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria.

Because of the emigration of political elites, much of the political and ideological activity of Polish intelligentsia in the 18th and the 19th centuries took place outside of the regions of partitioned Poland. Most of the political émigrés based themselves in France.