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Didactic Commentary: Vilnius 1655, Russian Invasion - Military History

There are little sources about the occupation of Muscovites in Vilnius in 1655-1661. Therefore, we presented the material, which is generally connected both with the defensive situation of Vilnius and the survival of Moscow, the political geography of that time and the matters of military strategy and tactics in 17 century. The topic is due generally to the discussion of soldiership matters in Europe in 16th -17th c. Further we present one of possible variants of the considerations of that kind.

Teacher comment 1
During the Medieval Ages the main cities usually had various types of defensive fortifications. In Lithuania there were tens of wooden and stone castles in the 13th -15th  centuries. Untill the start of 16th century there were no cities in Lithuania with defensive walls. In the 16th century the tatars from the Crimea were a constant threat to Lithuania. It was a different threat from that of Moscow or Sweden, as tatars had the aim to pillage not to conquer new territories. In order to defend Vilnius from these onsloughts a defensive wall was built in the city. 16th centurie’s military improvement – artillery, powder guns – made the defensive walls ineffective. But this type of fortification was perfect against tatars, who were quick, mobile, and armed with light weapons. In 1655 Vilnius’ defensive walls were not able to defend the city.

Teacher comment 2
From the start of the 17th century most part of Lithuanian army consisted of mercenary troops. These forces required lots of money and were very expensive. As Lithuania lacked effective tax system it was very hard to pay wages, as budget always lacked funds. As a result of this, mercenary soldiers started revolts and robberies in order to get their money.

Teacher comment 3
Polish-Lithuanian forces had a small but well equipped, strong, heavy armored army. On the other side, the biggest part of it was consisted of cavalry units. The technological advance of 17th century warfare made infantry and artillery as the most important units in the battlefield. This is the reason why Russian army which had a bigger amount of infantry and artillery was a better side than Polish-Lithuanian army.

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Keywords: Lithuania, Russia, Sweden, Enemies, Poland, Sigismund Vasa, Cossack Ukraine, “Deluge”.