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Kazimierz III the Great
Kazimierz III Wielki was the last Poland's ruler of the Piast dynasty. He was born on 30 April in Kowal, in 1310 in the district of Wtodawek as a son of Wtadystaw tokietek (the Short) and Jadwiga, the daughter of Bolestaw Pobozny (the Pious), the prince of Great Poland. Since his teens he was meant to become an heir to the throne and in the last years of his father's reign he participated more and more in rule. According to his father's will, in virtue of a right of heirdom and with the approval of dignitaries, he crowned himself in1333.
The authority of a new monarch extended only on Little Poland, Great Poland and the territory of Sieradz and t^czyca. Beyond the boundaries of the country remained: Silesia subordinated to the Bohemia, independent Mazovia and Eastern Pomerania seized by the Teutonic Order, the Kujavia and the territory of Dobrzyn.
The primary aim of his policy was strengthening and reuniting of the Polish Kingdom. The strong alliance between the Bohemia and the Teutonic Order constituted a serious peril to Poland -always bigger given the fact that Poland and the Teutonic Order remained in state of war stopped only by a treaty which was about to expire in 1335. Being aware of the military predominance of his foes Kazimierz decided for a diplomatic activity aiming to break a hostile alliance. On the congress of Vysehrad in 1335 he attained from the Bohemian king John of Luxemburg the relinquishment of claims to the Polish crown. The king based his foreign policy on an alliance with the Hungarian Angevins and the papacy. In 1339 in Vysehrad he entered with the Hungarian king, Charles Robert, into an alliance with which in case of his death without progeny the Polish throne was supposed to fall to the Angevins and in 1335 he confirmed their rights to succession in Poland.
Not being able to execute the papacy court's judgement favorable for Poland, in the dispute with the Teutonic Order about the restitution of the territories occupied he entered into a Peace Treaty of Kalisz in 1343. In virtue of the treaty the German knights of the Teutonic Order restored to Poland the territory of Dobrzyn and Kujavia detaining Gdansk Pomerania and the territory of Chelm.
He strengthened his influences on the Western Pomerania by entering in 1343 into an alliance with the princes of Wotogoszcz. Between 1345-1348 he fought unsuccessfully with the Bohemia. He entered into a peace treaty in Namystow in virtue of which he renounced rights to Silesia while - in return - the Bohemia relinquished its claims to Mazovia.
Between 1349-1352 he won the majority, supported by Hungary, of Halic - Wotyn Ruthenia. In 1356 he subordinated Mazovia and in 1366 the territory of Betzec, Chefm, Wtodzimierz and Podolia, as fiefs.
In 1365 he subdued Santok and Drezdenko.
In 1368 he regained from Brandenburg a part of New Marchia. As a result the state's territory was more than double increased and the population - two and a half.
The incorporation of Halic -Wofyn Ruthenia into the Kingdom of Poland situated favorably the country on the crossroads of two big trade routes leading from the Baltic Sea and to the Black Sea. Having in view cultural and economical unification of Ruthenia with Poland, Kazimierz transferred the capital of principality from Halic to Lvov, he bestowed new municipal rights and rendered it the biggest trade centre of the province, having made burghers from Krakow, Silesia and Germany come.
He located villages and towns in accordance with the unknown on those territories German law. He settled a net of parishes of the Latin Church not violating the rights of Russins to the Orthodox faith, laying the foundations of tolerance of belief, so significant for a system of Polish rule. That tolerance embraced also other nationalities who could dwell there according to their own laws - Jews* Armenians, Tartars and Walachians. Domestically Kazimierz Wielki tended to centralize rule on the authority of the royal council selected by the king as well as on the offices of starosta (governors). He worsted the opposition of Great Poland, adverse to the centralization - confederation under the lead of Macko Borkowic.
After guaranteeing lasting peace on the country's boundaries he made an effort to reform the Polish state. He codified the unwritten case-law, different in every district by laying down two statutes: for Little and Great Poland (the statute of Wislica and the statute of Piotrkow) along with additional regulations valid in the whole Kingdom. Contemporarily he reformed jurisdiction by creating for magnates and knights penal courts of governors, so called "s^dy grodzkie" (borough courts) while for burghers and peasants Superior Court of German Law in Krakow. Aiming to reinforce the state treasury he executed monetary reform putting into circulation - in place of hitherto existing different coins from mints of every district - silver gross. To guarantee incomes he successfully regulated taxes and reinforced the customs system. In 1334 confirmed and improved privileges of Jews giving them the right to constitute their own self-governments, free belief and royal protection. He supported domestic colonization through the development of towns and numerous new locations. He endowed towns with privileges enabling them to derive benefits from international exchange, which helped arise big trade centres attracting native merchants and craftsmen. He organized rural settlements on a big scale, especially in sub-Carpathians. He paid big attention to the development of mining, especially salt mines; he supported also the development of craft and trade.
He carried on wide building activity mainly with defense purpose. On the frontier zones and in the capital's neighborhood he built around 50 stone castles and enclosed with defense walls about 30 towns* which enhance the country's security. He reformed the army, which started to be considered as a serious military force of Middle Europe.
He reformed royal demesne consigning to be ruled it in Little Poland by great governor (wielkorz^dca) when on other territories by local governors (starosta). He also restituted a part of estates appropriated by magnates and convents.
To administer the state organized in this manner the king appointed competent jurists. In 1364 he founded the university in Krakow, the first in Poland and the second in Central Europe, which was meant to guarantee to the monarchy professional functionaries. The Academy of Krakow was to be composed of 11 faculties, including 8 juridical ones. Because of the king's death the academy's activity was suspended.
The internal stabilization of the country, normalized contacts with the Teutonic State and with the Bohemia, incorporation into the monarchy of the territory of Ruthenia as well as good relationship with Hungary enabled to increase trade contacts with Western Europe and intensification of trade, among the others, with centres over the Black Sea and in Crimea. It resulted in fast economical growth, opulence of the population, affluence of western funds and entrepreneurs. The situation was favored, apart from reforms executed by the king, by great economical crush of better developed countries of Western Europe.
Poland became a country ethnically and religiously heterogeneous however, contemporarily tolerance of belief occurred. A new society began to take shape, the awareness of national identity among the Poles was increasing. Then, a new name for Poland was approved - The Crown of Polish Kingdom. The state ceased to be a hereditary property of a dynasty and its notion was separated from a person ruling presently.
The internal stabilization, fast economical growth and territorial increase of the Polish state gave bigger significance of Poland on the international arena. In 1364 in Krakow took place a congress of monarchs with the emperor Charles IV present, kings of: Hungary, Cyprus* Denmark and very many princes. Among the issues discussed were Central Europe matters and questions of security against Tartar peril.
In the final period of his reign Kazimierz Wielki became a welcome ally for the mightiest European rulers. His great prestige in Europe was distinctly confirmed in 1363 by rendering him responsible for arbitrating in a dispute between the Luxemburgs and the Habsburgs.
Kazimierz Wielki died on 5 November, 1370 in Krakow. The period of thirty-seven years of his rule, thanks to the successful realization of various economical and juridical initiatives, became the base for the later political, economical and cultural magnificence of the Jagiellons' Poland.