CRACOW KRAKÓW; Krakau (Ger).
- Principality in medieval Poland;
- A Free City, 1815-46;
- A voivodship (Województwo krakowskie) in 20th century Poland.
All are named after the city, which was probably founded in the 8th century and which stands on the upper Vistula.
Cracow was also the seat of a Bishop, who was himself a territorial prince as Duke of Siewierz, a territory in Silesia bought in 1443 and held until 1795.The city became the most important in Małopolska (Little Poland), whose Prince or Duke was recognised as the Senior Prince of Poland after the partition of the Polish lands in 1138 among several Piast princes.
The Senior Prince held his own Principality (for example, the first held Silesia, the second Mazovia) plus Little Poland. After the death of Henry II fighting the Mongols in 1241 the Senior Principate was titular and Little Poland was then often called the Principality or Duchy of Cracow.
In the Third Partition of Poland in 1795 Cracow became part of the Habsburg lands but was transferred to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw in 1809. In 1815 the city of Cracow, together with a strip of territory along the upper Vistula, was declared in the Treaty of Vienna to be “for ever a Free, Independent and strictly Neutral City,” under the protection of Austria, Russia and Prussia.
The new city-state lay at the point where the three protecting powers met in the Poland they had divided between them: the Congress Kingdom under the Tsar, the Kingdom of Galicia under the Austrian Emperor, and Prussian Silesia.”
“For ever” came to an end in 1846, when the protecting powers, irritated by Polish conspiracies against them – conspiracies encouraged and helped by the Free City of Cracow – ended Cracow’s independence and added its territory to Austrian Galicia.
The Austrian Emperor added another title to his collection: Grand Duke of Cracow. The conspiracies were bungled and reckless, but the instinct of the three powers was to repress, as though the Poles were ungraciously ungrateful for having had their independence destroyed.
After the First World War Cracow became Polish again and the capital of a large voivodship in southern Poland bearing its name.
During the German occupation, 1939-44, it was the residence of Hans Frank, the FreeGovernor-General of the General Government. After the war it was capital of a smaller voivodship in restored Poland (see KRAKÓW).