Outnumbered Polish hussars defeated Russian army 409 years ago

On July 4, 1610, forces of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth commanded by hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski achieved a decisive victory in the Battle of Klushino (present day Russia) against the Russian-Swedish army, despite being significantly outnumbered.

Having almost 30,000 soldiers less than their adversary the Polish army, which comprised around 6,500 soldiers, mostly cavalry, defeated the coalition forces led by Dmitry Shuisky in territory near Smolensk. Thanks to the tactic skills of Żółkiewski, and the prowess of the Polish famous unit, the hussars, the Commonwealth’s forces dispersed the enemy, paving the way for Poland to conquer Moscow. This has only been repeated by Napoleon Bonaparte, two centuries later.

The battle itself was a part of the Polish-Muscovite war 1609-1618. Before the conflict, the Tsardom of Russia was plunged into the so-called Dimitriads, when various pretendants to the throne, declaring themselves as the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, kept emerging to succeed the throne. To end Polish interference in the country’s internal situation, Tsar Vasili IV of Russia established an alliance with Sweden against Poland which led to the war.

After capturing Moscow, the son of Polish king Sigismund III, Władysław IV, was named a new tsar, having the support of a significant number of Russian nobles (boyars) who sought stabilisation after political turmoil. However, as the father of the new tsar tried to coerce conversion into Catholicism on the citizens of Russia, who were Orthodox Church believers, two anti-Polish uprisings occurred, resulting in Polish forces being driven away from the Russian capital.

The Truce of Deulino, which formally ended the war, granted Poland several territories, including Smolensk. On the other hand, it secured the independence of Russia, and led to the election of Michael Romanov, whose dynasty ruled the country for three centuries, and played a key role in the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century.