INTRODUCTION: For the first time in 35 years, Poland publicly commemorated the anniversary on Sunday (3 May) of the 1791 Constitution -- a symbol of the country's independence.
GV EXTERIOR Royal Castle in Warsaw
CU PAN Solidarity sign on bunch of flowers TO original Book of Constitution
LV ZOOM IN TO SV Prime Minister Jaruzelski entering Senatorial Hall with officials (2 shots)
SV PAN & SV Choir and harpsichordist perform patriotic anthem, while Jaruzelski and others listen (2 shots)
GV PAN FROM Royal castle TO cross on top of St. John's Cathedral
LV PAN INTERIOR FROM Monument TO wreath being laid
CU Wreath and officials (2 shots)
SV & LV PAN Children before monument (2 shots)
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Background: INTRODUCTION: For the first time in 35 years, Poland publicly commemorated the anniversary on Sunday (3 May) of the 1791 Constitution -- a symbol of the country's independence. For a brief period Poland existed as a strong, separate nation until Russian and Prussian troops invaded, the constitution was abolished and the country partitioned in 1793.
SYNOPSIS: Warsaw's Royal Castle, as the seat of the monarchy in the 18th century, was one of the keys to Polish independence. Poland had been partitioned in 1772 by Russia, Prussia and Austria, countries which wished to tighten their control b weakening the monarchy. But the constitution, preserved at the castle, strengthened the throne by introducing a hereditary monarchy.
On Sunday the signing of the constitution was marked in the castle's Senatorial Hall by top officials including Prime Minister Wojciek Jaruzelski. It was in 1788 that the Polish Parliament began the reforms that led to the new constitution. There was strong opposition to some of the charges but at Easter in 1791, when many of the opponents were out of Warsaw, Parliament approved the constitution as the 'last means for saving the country'.
During Sunday's ceremony, a choir sang patriotic 18th century song.
Poland's constitution was the world's second, after the United States, and considered the most progressive. The privileges of the aristocracy, such as the right to own land and hold political and religious office, were granted to all. Religious freedom was guaranteed.
In Warsaw's St. John's Cathedral there is a monument to Stanislaw Malachowski, who was a 'father' of the constitution and a leader of the Patriotic Party at the time. But Poland's independence did not last for long. Its strength and liberalism were considered a danger by Russia and Prussia.
The Russian army entered eastern Poland, the Prussians invaded in the west, and in 1793 the country was again partitioned.
Poland was reduced to a third of its old dimensions -- but worse was to come. In 1795 another partition treaty was signed, wiping independent Poland from the map of Europe.