Monday marks the 225th anniversary of one of the most tragic events of the Kościuszko Insurrection in 1794 – the so-called “Slaughter of Praga” – in which around 20,000 civilians were murdered by the invading Russian army.
The uprising was against Russia and Prussia, after the second partition of Poland, which took place in 1793. Its aim was to liberate the areas of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth taken by Russians. It began in March 1794 and lasted until November of that year. The leader of the Insurrection was Tadeusz Kościuszko.
After initial success, the insurgents began to suffer defeats against the combined armies of Russia and Prussia.
Praga, located on the eastern bank of the Vistula river in Warsaw, was the strategic defensive point of the Polish capital.
The Russian army, made up of around 23,000 soldiers marched from the east towards Warsaw. Polish forces, lead in Warsaw by General Józef Zajączek, decided to prepare for the siege. However, the Russian commander, General Alexander Suvorov, had a different plan. He decided to capture the city with a swift storm.
After four hours of defence, Russians broke through the Polish lines and entered Praga. General Zajączek withdrew from this part of the city and destroyed the only boat bridge connecting the two banks of the Vistula.
The Russians did not stop at capturing Praga, they literally slaughtered its civilian population. As many as 20,000 civilians were murdered by the invaders. This slaughter sent terror through the rest of the city and encouraged the Polish leadership to surrender.
The loss of Warsaw sealed the end of the Insurrection. On November 16, the leaders of the uprising officially surrendered to the Russians.
Less than a year later, the third partition was conducted by Austria, Prussia and Russia and Poland vanished from the map of Europe for the next 123 years.