3 May Constitution Day

3 May Constitution Day (also 3rd May National Holiday; Polish: Święto Konstytucji 3 Maja) is a Polish national and public holiday that takes place on 3 May. The holiday celebrates the declaration of the Constitution of 3 May 1791. Festivities date back to the Duchy of Warsaw early in the 19th century, but it became an official holiday only in 1919 in the Second Polish Republic. Delisted during the times of the Polish People’s Republic, it was reestablished after the fall of communism in modern Poland.

The Constitution of 3 May 1791 is considered one of the most important achievements in the history of Poland, despite being in effect for only a year, until the Russo-Polish War of 1792. Historian Norman Davies calls it „the first constitution of its type in Europe”; other scholars also refer to it as the world’s second oldest constitution.

The 3 May Constitution was designed to redress long-standing political defects of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Constitution sought to supplant the existing anarchy fostered by some of the country’s magnates with a more democratic constitutional monarchy. The adoption of the 3 May Constitution provoked the active hostility of the Commonwealth’s neighbours, leading to the Second Partition of Poland in 1792, the Kościuszko Uprising of 1794 and the final, Third Partition of Poland, in 1795. In the words of two of its co-authors, Ignacy Potocki and Hugo Kołłątaj, it was „the last will and testament of the expiring Fatherland.”

The memory of the 3 May Constitution—recognised by political scientists as a very progressive document for its time—for generations helped keep alive Polish aspirations for an independent and just society, and continued to inform the efforts of its authors’ descendants. In Poland it is viewed as a national symbol, and the culmination of all that was good and enlightened in Polish history and culture.

The 3 May anniversary of its adoption has been observed as Poland’s most important civil holiday since Poland regained independence in 1918. Its importance for the Polish people has been compared to that of 4 July to the Americans.

Source: Wikipedia

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