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A Short History of the
Lipka Tatars
of the
White Horde

Essellem Gelleikem!

Welcome to the internet site of the Lipka Tatars of the White Horde of Caledonia.

The materials presented here are mainly extracts translated from articles currently available on the internet in the Polish language.  The inclusion of such materials here is intended as an aid to bona fide Lipka researchers who would otherwise find such materials inaccessible.  Graphical images not appearing in the original articles have sometimes been added.  Where possible, current links have been provided to the source materials.

Jakub Mirza Lipka




Important new article
on the origin and history of the Lipka Tatars

Extract from Brill Academic Publishing's Encyclopaedia of Islam



Sikorski Polish Club Glasgow


Consulate General of Poland, Edinburgh



Poles in Scotland

Poles in the Census of Scotland 


Free Gift
Origins of the Lipkas Poster
Download a Microsoft Word document of 2 A4 pages that makes an excellent gift if printed on parchment paper and framed.





Czyngyz Khan

Image of Czyngyz Khan from the Lithuanian Tatars internet site


The White Horde
of Siberia

The Khanate of the White Horde of Siberia was one of the successor states to the Mongol Empire created after the death of Czyngyz Khan.  The first Khan, Orda was the second son of Jochi, the eldest son of Czyngyz Khan. The White Horde of Siberia occupied the steppe from the east of the Urals and the Caspian Sea to Mongolia.











Khanate of the White Horde

House of Orda


















Mubarak Khoja












Timur Malik







In 1380, Khan Tokhtamysh, the hereditary ruler of the White Horde crossed west over the Urals and merged the White Horde with the Golden Horde whose first khan was Batu, the eldest son of Jochi.   In 1382 the Golden Horde under Khan Tokhtamysh sacked and burned Moscow.  Tokhtamysh, allied with the great central Asian Tatar conqueror, Tamerlane reasserted Mongol power in Russia. Toktamysh was the last major figure in the history of the Golden Horde, a man of considerable political vision who, however, made the fatal mistake of antagonizing his former protector, Tamerlane.

With something of the order of 100,000 men, Tamerlane invaded Russia in 1390 with the sole object of defeating Tokhtamysz.   He was lured west of the Ural River, and the final clash did not come until some time in 1391.  At the Battle of the Steppe, which took place somewhere east of the Volga and south of the Kama, Tamerlane and Tokhtamysz struggled for three days.  It is said that Tamerlane only won by a ruse which discouraged the enemy when they were in fact in a commanding position, and  that casualties amounted to 30,000 in Tamerlane’s army.   He did not attempt to follow the fleeing Tokhtamysz with his mauled and over-extended army, but fell back on his own territories.

Tokhtamysz crossed the Caucasas yet again, but was pushed back and pursued.  Tamerlane defeated him in 1395 at the Battle of the Terek, and then embarked on a grim pursuit across much of central Russia, ravaging and burning as he went.  He sacked Astrakhan and the Golden Horde’s capital of Sarai, installed a puppet khan, and destroyed the power of the Golden Horde.

In 1397, Tokhtamysz and the remnants of his clan were granted asylum in Lithuania by Grand Duke Witold, who had supported Tohktamysz in the struggle against Tamerlane. The Tatars were given land and noble status in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in return for obligatory military service, and they became known from those days onwards as the Lipkas.

In 1398, the Italian city state of Genoa - looking for trading concessions in the Crimea - funded a joint expedition by the forces of Khan Tokhtamysz and Grand Duke Witold against Tamerlane.  This campaign was notable for the fact that the Lipka Tatar - Lithuanian armies were armed with handguns, but no major victories were achieved and Tokhtamysz ended his life as Governor of Lida in Lithuania. (Some legends say that he later returned to Siberia and died a fugitive while trying to raise support to win back control of his former Khanate.)

The above account of the wars between Tokhtamysz and Tamerlane is an mainly an extract from The World’s Greatest Military Leaders by Martin Windrow and Francis K. Mason, Compendium Publishing, 2000.  Dynastic chart from from the History of the Mongol Empires internet site. Table of Khans of the White Horde - Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000 by Markus F. Lutolf, Liestal, Switzerland.

The Court of Khan Tokhtamysh

The above depiction of the Court of Khan Tokhtamysz (late 14th Century) provides an early illustration of a significant difference between the Lipka Tatars and most other Islamic communities in respect of the treatment of women. The Lipka Tatar women have always enjoyed a large degree of freedom.  Co-education of children was the norm and the wearing of the veil by women, other than during the marriage ceremony, was unknown. In the top frame of the picture above we can even see a mother openly breastfeeding her baby.

Even during the years of the Lipka Rebellion in the 17th Century, when the Lipkas were in the service of the Ottoman Empire, their women still enjoyed their traditional freedoms. In the final volume of his historical Trilogy, Pan Wołodyjowski, Nobel Prize winning author, Henryk Sienkiewicz describes the treatment of the women accompanying the Lipkas to war.

"In the other encampments of the Turkish armies the women never ventured outside their tents, according to custom, or for fear of the janissaries, but the Lipkas’ tents stood apart from the rest and the custom of separating off women was alien to the Lipkas.   The women of the common soldiers did not even cover their faces with the yashmak. The women were not allowed to move beyond the Lipka encampment, where they would almost certainly have risked abduction, but within the encampment they could go about their business in safety."  (Pan Wołodyjowski - Ch. 46)

Coins issued by Tokhtamysh.






Settlement  of the Lipka Tatars in Lithuania - 1397


Lithuanian coin issued in 1997 to commemorate the 6ooth anniversary of the settlement of the Lipka Tatars.

The first references to Tatars in Lithuania come down to us from the beginning of the 14th century, however, it is only in the reign of Grand Duke Witold, at the close of this century that we can speak of their settlement. Lithuanian Tatars count 1397 as the year of their arrival in Lithuania. These were, initially, the survivors of the defeated clan of Khan of the White and Golden Hordes, Tokhtamysz who had lost out in a power struggle with Tamerlane and who, together with his family, had sought asylum in Lithuania under the protection of Witold.   

Lithuanian Tatar Cavalryman - 17th Century

Witold, at that time the Grand Duke of Lithuania, saw in these warlike Tatars an excellent opportunity both to strengthen his own position and to defend the state.  He not only allowed the Tatars to settle in Lithuania, but also allocated them estates and titles of nobility.   In return for this display of generosity, the Tatars had to fulfil obligatory service in the army and as diplomatic couriers.   It was only in the 18th century that this obligatory service was finally relaxed.  Companies of Lipka Tatar light cavalry for a long time constituted one of the foundations of the military power of the Commonwealth. The Lithuanian Tatars, from the very beginning of their residence in Lithuania were known as the Lipkas.   By the 17th century, the term Lipka Tatar began to appear in the official documents of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Extract translated from article by Jan Tuczkowski - What was the origin of the Lithuanian Lipkas?" - published on the internet site of the Polish Information Centre in Lithuania.  The sketch of the Lithuanian Tatar is taken from the Lithuanian Tatars internet site.


Khan Tokhtamysz became Governor of Lida in Lithuania




Polish Tatars

Extracts from the article by

Dr. Marzena Godzińska,

published on the internet site of the Polish Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

Poland and the Poles came into contact with the Tatars, for the first time in their history, in the 13th century.   At this time, after the death of Czyngyz Khan, the oriental hordes of the Mongol Empire undertook an expansion into eastern and central Europe and to Anatolia.  After the conquest of Russia, the Mongol army moved simultaneously against Hungary and its ally, Poland.  The most powerful of the Polish princes, Henry Pobozny attempted to put up resistance to them at the Battle of Legnica, in 1241, where he suffered a catastrophic defeat.  Fortunately for Poland, Hungary was the object of the Mongol army, so the attack of the Mongols was only to prevent the prince from providing aid to his ally.  This being so, the Mongols shortly marched onwards to Hungary.

The Battle of Legnica - 1241
According to the Chronicles of Jan Długosz, the Tatars used chemical weapons of mass destruction to defeat the Polish army: "Explosions of gas creating smoke and fumes of a terrible stench caused the Poles to lose consciousness or to lose control of their limbs."

The beginnings of the Tatar settlement in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania occurred in the 14th and early 15th centuries, but especially during the reign of Grand Duke Witold, the cousin of the Polish king, Wladislaw Jagiello.  From the second half of the 14th century, power struggles began to arise in the Golden Horde that had developed from the clan of Jochi (Czyngyz Khan's eldest son.)  Pretenders to the Khan's throne often came to solicit the support of Lithuania, or, with their families and followers seek asylum within its boundaries.  

Today, the majority of the descendants of Tatar families in Poland can trace their descent from the noble status of the early Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

From the beginning of the 15th century, the Tatar army participated in all of the wars of the Polish-Lithuanian state. They began their struggles in the Great War against the Teutonic Order in the years 1409-1410.  At that time it was a very war of survival for Poland and Lithuania and, to the present day, the victory at the Battle of Grunwald is one of the basic elements of historical consciousness for all Poles, including those of Tatar descent. 


Grand Duke Witold,  fragment of painting by Jan Matejko

Around 1000 Tatar warriors took part in that battle who were subjects of Witold, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Commanding battle, the Polish King Wladislaw Jagiello employed classic Tatar tactics in the first phase of the engagement, and this permitted him to expose the enemy's battle plan and take the initiative.  In a later period the Tatar army participated in successive wars; first with the Teutonic Order and later with the Duke of Prussia, the Duke of Moscow and Russia, with Hungary, Austria, the Cossacks, the Swedes and, also, with the Crimean Khan and Turkey. 

A significant group of Tatar settlers in early Poland were known as the Lipkas. The etymology of their name is unknown.  They were the descendents of various family lines serving for generations as soldiers in the army of the Commonwealth. 

Once, it came about that the Tatar subjects rose up in open rebellion against the Commonwealth. This was the widely remembered Lipka Rebellion of the year 1672.  Thanks to the efforts of Jan Sobieski, who was held in great esteem by the Tatar soldiers, the Lipkas seeking asylum and service in the Turkish army returned to his command and participated in the struggles with Turkey up to the Peace of Karlowicki in 1699, including the Battle of Vienna (1683).

Extracts translated from the article, Polish Tatars by Dr. Marzena Godzińska, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Warsaw and Museum of Asia and the Pacific in Warsaw.



Lipka Tatars at the Battle of Grunwald  

July 15th 1410

Battle of Grunwald - fragment of famous painting by Jan Matejko


Ambasada Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej
w Sanie

"The earliest references to Tatar followers of Islam in Poland – known from those days onwards as the Lipkas - come to us from the Chronicles of Jan Długosz for the year 1397, and this date is taken as the beginning of Tatar settlement.     At  first the Tatars served in the armies of the Polish Crown.   With subsequent changes in the form of government they served in the armies of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.  They united their fate with that of Poland.  From the Battle of Grunwald onwards they have participated in every significant military campaign."

Extract translated from article on Islam in Poland published on the internet site of the Embassy of the Polish Republic in Sana, Yemen.  Background picture - the Mosque at Bohoniki.



Grand Duke Witold at the Battle of Grunwald, preliminary sketch for the painting by Jan Matejko


In 1226 the Polish Duke of Mazowsze, Konrad Mazowiecki invited the Crusaders of the Palestine - based Teutonic Order into the lands of Chelmno, on the river Wisła (Vistula), expecting the Order's help in the struggles against pagan Prussians inhabiting the area between Poland and the Baltic Sea.   Grand Master Hermann von Salza brought his first German knights to Poland that same year. The Kraut Crusaders accomplished their task with typical German barbarism by slaughtering the entire population of the region and bringing in German settlers. By the Early 15th Century, the Teutonic Order controlled most of the Baltic coast, including the lands of Latvia and Estonia, and showed every intention extending their rule over Lithuania, Poland and Russia.

In 1409, Ulrich von Jungingen, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order declared war on Poland and Lithuania, however, an armistice was agreed to allow both sides time to prepare for the final showdown.  Days before this armistice was due to run out,  the Poles received a delegation of Teutonic Knights who requested a three-week extension as many Crusaders from other Western European nations had asked if they could take part in the battle.  Their request was granted and battle was rescheduled for the middle of July.

On July 15th 1410 the combined Polish, Lithuanian, Tatar and Czech forces inflicted a total defeat on the Teutonic Knights, with their English, French and Dutch allies, at the Battle of Grunwald (also known as Tannenberg).  The humiliated Germans complained throughout Europe that they had only been defeated because they had been up against 100,000 heathen Tatars.  Due to pressure from the Church and the main Western European nations, the surviving Teutonic Knights were allowed to retain their possessions in Prussia as vassals of Poland.  The world was to pay dearly for Poland's failure to carry through a complete extermination of the Teutonic Order after Grunwald.  The resulting Prussian State was to play a major role in allowing the Germanic enemies of human kind to develop their natural barbarism to even greater depths of depravity in the 20th Century. 


In the opening phase of the battle, the Lithuanian and Tatar cavalry on the right flank of the Allied army made a quick and devastating attack on the German artillery positions, before making an equally fast retreat before the German heavy cavalry who ploughed through their own infantry forces in their eagerness to pursue the fleeing enemy


Map of Battle of Grunwald taken from Belarus site:-


The actual number of Tatars fighting on the Polish-Lithuanian side was probably no more than 1,000, of whom at least half were Tatar mercenaries.  The number of Lipka Tatars from the clan of the exiled Khan Tokhtamysz - under the command of his son, Dzielal Ed Dyn - was probably no more than 300-500.  Even so, as has been pointed out by Dr.Marzena Godzińska: -

 “At that time it was a very war of survival for Poland and Lithuania and, to the present day, the victory at the Battle of Grunwald is one of the basic elements of historical consciousness for all Poles, including those of Tatar descent


Death of Ulrich von Jungingen, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, detail from painting by Jan Matejko


Modern opinion now recognises the effectiveness of Tatar tactics in bringing about the total destruction of the German army at Grunwald.  

“This description of the knights of the Order's elite forces succumbing to an illusion of victory and 'blundering' into disrupting their battle formations to give chase to fleeing Lithuanian light horsemen, only to be separated from their lines by the ‘king‘s men‘, to suffer an encirclement and death, - contains all the ingredients and earmarks, every element of perfectly executed 'Tatar tactics'.  Rather than strike in battle formations against the Polish flank exposed by the Lithuanian retreat, the best forces of the knights - predominantly 'pilgrims' from the West, ignorant of the 'heathen tactics' - broke their battle ranks in a wild chase and were permanently eliminated from playing a serious part in the battle that was just beginning in the centre and farther south."  
Constantine Jurgėla, Tannenberg. New York, 1961, p. 48.


The above quotation  from Christine Jurgela, and the letter below are both cited in the article Die Flucht der Litauer in der Schlacht bei Tannenberg by Sven Ekdahl:- from the website



A letter to the Hochmeister of the Teutonic Order written a few years after the battle by one of the few German Crusaders to survive the defeat at Grunwald confirms the effectiveness of Tatar tactics and warns against being taken in by them in the future.


The fragment above from the famous painting of the Battle of Grunwald by Wojciech Kossak, now in the Polish War Museum in Warsaw, clearly depicts the participation of the Lipka Tatars in the battle.  In the actual battle, however, the  Lipka Tatars participated as a division of light cavalry.







Bunt Lipków 

The Lipka Rebellion of 1672

extracts from the article by

Michał Mochocki

Tatars in Flight, A Grollger

This was a decisive episode in the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars.   During the second half of the 17th Century the situation of the Tatar population had radically changed for the worst: the Muscovite occupation in Lithuania and the Chmielnicki uprising in the Ukraine had destroyed the material basis of life for the Tatar families living in those areas; the massive influx of Tatar asylum seekers to Polish territory of the Commonwealth  had aroused animosity and resentment from the side of the Polish nobility in the Kingdom; resentment degenerated into hatred as a result of the depredations and violent assaults perpetrated by other groups of Tatars in the service of the Kingdom (Crimean Tatars, Nogai Tatars, Budziacki Tatars and other professional pillagers).  The Lipkas were not entirely blameless in this respect, as they occasionally indulged in such practices themselves.

Chmielnicki and Tuhay-Bey, by Jan Matejko.
he Tatars under Tuhaj-Bej had allied themselves with Chmielnicki's Cossacks.

This animosity of the nobility of the Kingdom towards the Tatars found its expression in anti-Muslim legislation that included a ban on Tatars occupying the senior positions in the military and restrictions on their religious freedoms. The former ban was largely ignored due to the exigencies of war: the latter ban on religious freedom was seen by the Tatars as unusually harsh and unacceptable.

In October 1671 a conclusive treaty was signed that put an end to the Venetian-Turkish war.  From this moment the Sultan had a free hand and a Polish-Turkish war was inevitable.  And the first blows were to fall precisely on the Lipkas stationed in the Podole and the Ukraine.


Winter Night in the Ukraine

Over the winter of 1671/72 a psychological war was played out that turned on the difficult choice between religion and fatherland.  Were the Polish Tatars being driven to commit treason, or had their fatherland not first betrayed them by denying the rights?  The first companies deserted at the end of 1671.  These desertions were not the acts of small groups of soldiers but of the cavalry captains themselves, each of whom had under them from several dozen to over a hundred horse. On their decisions depended the lives of many people who had placed their trust in them

Readers of Sienkiewicz will be a little surprised, but the rebellion of the Tatar companies had, in reality, a different character than that portrayed in Pan Wołodyjowski.  The Lipkas had no hand in the massacres at Raszków, or anywhere else, but peacefully and without spilling any blood they abandoned their winter quarters and simply went over to the camp of the enemy.   The first Lipka detachments went over to the enemy in November and December 1671, although at this time the desertion involved only a few cavalry companies.   However, by spring this had developed into a general revolt with “over a dozen Tatar captains and lieutenants going over to the Turkish side with their companies.   Captain Aleksander Kryczynski led the desertion.” (Borawski, p. 160).  


Ruins of the Old Castle at Kamieniec Podloski

As foreseen by Jan Sobieski (at that time still Hetman, not King) the Turkish army first fell upon Kamieniec, while the Tatar light cavalry units, including the renegade Lipkas, laid waste to the Podole and the neighbouring voivodships. The fortress at Kamieniec Podolski, according to general opinion, was at that time no longer defensible.  At one time it had, in actual fact, been almost impregnable, but by 1672 it was showing its age; above all it was in no position to resist the fire from modern artillery which the Turks had in abundance.   Having taken the surrender of Kamieniec Podolski, the Turks allowed the garrison to leave with safe passage to their own side, along with their arms and their standards. 

After the fall of Kamieniec Podolski, the Tatars made wide-ranging incursions into the territory of the Commonwealth; against Wolyn and Red Ruthenia and even as far as the Lublin Voivoship that the ancient Tatar invaders had never set eyes on.  “The fall of Kamieniec Podolski opened the road to the territory of the Commonwealth to the Turkish army.  The advance of the Sultans army was preceded by Tatar czambuls whose vanguard was the companies of traitorous Polish Tatars. The Lipkas expertly disguised themselves in Polish uniforms and arms and deceived those fleeing in the path of the Turkish advance.   They entered many Ukrainian and Podolski villages without a struggle, and having rounded up the animals and taken away in fetters the inhabitants thus caught by surprise, they then abandoned these areas to the following Crimean Horde who looted and burned the deserted villages.” (Borawski, p. 166)


Tatar raiding party making off with their booty.  Józef Brandt, 1862.

In June 1673 the Turko-Tatar army in the Ukraine massed at Kamieniec Podloski for a victory parade that took place in early July.  About this time, also, the Turks stationed a significant portion of the Lipkas here at Kamieniec, in suburb known in Turkish as Karwasery, where the Czeremisi had been settled from old.  Over time both of these groups intermingled, but, in spite of this, the Kamieniec Lipkas still maintain their distinct traditions.

“In the middle of July, emissaries of the Sultan appeared at Kamieniec Podolski, bringing Alexander Kryczyński news of his appointment as Bey of the town and fortress of Bar.   As a sign of office they presented him with a bunczuk (horse-tail ensign).   In the second half of the 17th Century, Bar was a major administrative centre of the Podole with over 40 subordinate settlements.  It was here that the Turks had decided to station Kryczyński and his men.   The appointment of Kryczyński to this desolate fortress brought no great benefits to the Lipkas.   Almost immediately quarrels arose between the promoted Kryczyński and the rest of the captains.”  (Burawski and Dubinski, p. 94)  

The ruins of the fortress at Bar
Sketch by Napoleon Orda

In that very same month part of the captains began to conspire in their own interests, desiring to return to the suzerainty of the Polish king.   They negotiated in secret with Hetman Sobieski, and presented him with ten conditions that, if met, would ensure their return to the Commonwealth to which they would take an oath of allegiance.  Unfortunately the Polish side did not accept these conditions.   However this rejection did little to break up the conspiracy of the captains against the Turks and Kryczyński.



Bar castle, the “gate to the Polish Ukraine”, was one of the most famous castles of the Podole.  In 1452, the fortress then known as Rov was destroyed by the Tatar horde.  In the 16th Century, Queen Bona Sforza took over Rov, which she renamed Bar after her estate in Italy.   In 1537 she constructed a new wooden castle as the administrative centre for 5 towns and 37 villages in the surrounding district. 

Illustration shows Bar besieged by Turkish forces

In 1636, Hetman Stanislav Konetspolski built a new stone fortress, designed by the French engineer G. De Boplan on the bank of the river Riv.  It was a square building with four strong bastions.  As a result of the Polish-Turkish wars of the 17th Century, the fortress and town of Bar fell into decay for half a century.  The economic revival of Bar in the 18th Century was cut short by political events.  The Russian Army of the general Petro Krechetnikov in alliance with the army of the Polish Crown stormed the fortress of the Confederates of Bar in June 1768.  The castle was never subsequently restored.

Castles and palaces of the Podolia


In September the Lipkas from both Kamieniec and Bar again carried out destructive incursions into the territory of the Russian Voivodship.  Although few in numbers, they succeeded in carrying out a campaign of terrifying destructiveness by means of passing themselves off as Commonwealth cavalry troops (they did not differ from these in their uniforms, arms or language), and without raising panic amongst the local populations they were able to gain entry to the richest and most populous districts where they struck suddenly and with lightning speed.  Their favourite ploy was to sneak up on small towns to which the population of the local villages had been drawn by fairs or market days - which guaranteed them the greatest number of prisoners for slaves and the richest booty. 

The Polish army besieging Chocim in 1673

When the Polish army under the command of Jan Sobieski moved against Chocim, the pro-Polish conspiracy of the captains finally came out into the open.   In Bar, a violent struggle broke out amongst the Tatars in which the Bey of Bar, Alexander Kryczyński was himself murdered.  But the death of their leader did not crush the pro-Turkish faction.  The command of the fortress of Bar was taken over by the son of the murdered Bey, who made a brave attempt at continuing his father’s work.   And, in fact, when Sienawski, the standard bearer of the Crown hearing of the death of Kryczyński attacked Bar around the 20th of September with part of the Polish forces en route to Chocim he met with determined resistance, and the Hetman ordered him to lift the siege.   Bar still remained loyal to the Turks.  The appointment of new Bey of Bar went to Hussein Murawski who held the fortress for a further year.  In spite of the Commonwealth victory at Chocim, which again reanimated those Lipkas wishing to return to the Polish side, Bar remained firmly in the hands of a pro-Turkish Bey, and the Lipka rebels unceasingly laid waste to the Polish border country.  

Map adapted from map on Hussaria website at

The change took place only in 1674, when Jan Sobieski (now, as king) renewed the campaign against the Turks.  This time they laid a serious siege to Bar, in which 1,200 Tatars bravely defended themselves for four days.  Finally, on the 12th of November, Hussein Murawski surrendered the fortress to the King, and together with all the Lipkas returned to the service of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.  

In the summer of 1676 the Turkish army once more attacked the Commonwealth led by companies of Lipkas and Czeremisi from Kamieniec who made inroads not only to Wolyn and the Podole, but even as far as the Polesie.   The deciding battle was played out in September-October at the township of Zurawno where for three weeks, the Turkish army ineffectively laid siege to the camp of the Polish King.   Finally, on 16th October the Treaty of Zurawno was signed, on the strength of which the Lipkas were to be given a free choice of which country they wished to belong to.

The “Coronation Sejm” in 1676 declared a general amnesty for all the Lipka Tatars from the garrison at Bar who had returned to the service of Poland along with Murawski Bey.   The Sejm in March 1677 in turn confirmed all the ancient Tatar rights and privileges.  “Furthermore, the Tatars were permitted to rebuild all their old mosques, to settle Christian labour on their estates and to buy up noble estates that had not previously belonged to Tatars.   The Tatars were also freed from all taxation.  All Tatars serving in the army of the Commonwealth were to receive payment at the same level as that of the Cossack companies.”  (Burawski and Dubiński, p. 100)  Because of the debts of the State Exchequer in relation to unpaid salaries (to the sum of 10,000 zloties) which there was no money to clear, it was resolved that the King should allocate the Tatar soldiers land in the Lithuanian economy, on a heritable and freehold basis.   And so, in 1679 began the settlement of Lipka Tatars on estates in the districts of Breska, Kobryńska and Grodzieńska.  The Tatars received land that had been cleared of the previous occupants, from 50 to 750 hectares per head, according to rank and length of service.


Monument erected in Kruszniany in 1979 commemorating 300 years of Lipka Tatar settlement.  Inscription reads:  “On the 300th anniversary of the settlement of Tatars by King Jan III Sobieski in the villages of Kruszniany, Netupa and Łuzany.”


The Lipkas joined the armies of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1683, in the campaign against the Turko-Tatar army of Mustafa Kara then besieging Vienna, and amongst these Lipkas were many of the former rebels from Kryczyński’s garrison at Bar.   This time they proved their allegiance to the Polish King, acquitting themselves bravely both at the Battle of Vienna and in further actions against the Turks and Crimean Tatars.   After the return of the army from Vienna, several permanent Tatar companies of light cavalry were established in the Crown Army.  Although there were far fewer actual Lipkas in these companies than native Poles or Wallachians, the officers were always Tatars and the Tatar traditions and customs were maintained - even including the inclination to loot and pillage.


Samuel Mirza Krzeczowski - Lipka Tatar colonel who saved the life of Jan III Sobieski during the disastrous first day of the Battle of Parkany, a few weeks after the great victory at Vienna.


In spite of the famous victory at Vienna, The Podole and Kamieniec Podolski remained in Turkish Hands, and in the course of time this area became the arena for countless skirmishes.  Jan Sobieski III twice undertook wide-ranging cross-border campaigns in Moldavia (1686 and 1691). Again he succeeding in bringing back more of the Lipka rebels to the Polish standard, bur great success eluded him. The army of the Crown attempted to cut off Kamieniec from supplies of food and the means of war but did not fully succeed in this attempt although they made life difficult enough for the garrison of the fortress that not only Lipkas but even Turks escaped to the mercy of the Polish camp.  Besides the above, a constant steppe war was waged in the Podole, in which there were no great battles but countless stalking, raids and skirmishes between small scattered war parties.

Kamieniec Podolski and part of the Podole only returned to the Commonwealth after the Treaty of Karlowicki in 1699, after the death of the warrior king, Jan Sobieski.   The Kamieniec Lipkas, who fought to the very end on the Turkish side, were settled on the right bank of the Dneister, on land still under the control of the Sultan.  They had had to wait many years for their promised grants of land - and this land was not on their former Polish or Lithuanian estates, for these Turkish Lipkas never returned to the Commonwealth.



A Quiet Evening in Lipkany, Bessarabia
(printed postcard from the early 1900's)


Some of the Kamieniec Lipkas who remained loyal to the Sulltan were settled in Lipkany in Bessarabia.  The town of Lipkany suffered greatly during the Second World War.  The Jewish population of around 1200 souls were marched off to their death by the Nazis in July 1941.  The victorious Soviet forces in 1944 completed the destruction started by the German barbarians.




Extracts translated from the article Bunt Lipków by Michał Mochocki, published in Magia I Mecz, no. 3, 2001.  The full article covers in greater detail the historical background to the Lipka Rebellion of 1672.





  Bohoniki near Sokółka

The village of Bohoniki was established around the middle of the 16th century in the Puszczy Malawicki, but Tatars arrived here only in the latter half of the following century.   Their settlement in this region is connected with the famous Lipka Rebellion, written about by Henryk Sienkiewicz in "Pan Wołodyjowski.”  The Lipkas were Tatars, settled originally in the vicinity of Wilno who were citizens of the Commonwealth.   In the year 1672, during the war with Turkey, the Tatar companies in the service of the Commonwealth went over to the side of the enemy.  Knowing the country and its people well, the Lipkas provided an invaluable service to the Turks.

The leader of the Lipka Rebellion was Captain Aleksander Kryczyński.   The Sultan rewarded him with the Beyship of the fortress of Bar in the Podole, which had then fallen into the hands of the Turks.   As early as 1673 dissatisfaction with Turkish service began to grow amongst the rebel cavalry companies.    This eventually resulted in an uprising within Bar, during which Kryczyński died at the hands of his own Tatars.   At this same time the Polish army was beginning to win some successes.  In November 1673, hetman Jan Sobieski defeated the Turkish army at Chocim, and in the following year, now as King Jan III, he attacked Bar and its garrison of Lipkas.   Recognising that the rebels were in the mood to negotiate, the king accepted them all back to the army of the Crown, under whose standards they saw further action against Turkey.   

In 1676 the Sejm proclaimed an amnesty for all Tatars who had returned to Polish service.  Because the State Exchequer was empty, the King promised the Lipkas grants of land in the Crown Estates as recompense for arrears in their salary.    And so, in 1679, by a royal grant the villages of Drahle, Bohoniki and Malawicze Górne in the district of Grodno were settled by Captain Olejewski and his company as well as the soldiers of Captains Bogdan Kieński i Gaza Sielecki.  The previous inhabitants of Drahle i Bohoniki were removed to the villages of Nomiki i Zaspicze.


Monument to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the settlement of Lipka Tatars in Bohoniki, Drahle and Malawicze Górne in 1679

Photos: Grzegorz Otoka

Szlak Tatarski – The Tatar Trail

The Tatar Trail is the premier tourist attraction of the Sokolski district.   It allows the visitor to discover relics of the ethnico-cultural mosaic of the eastern lands of the early Commonwealth.  The Tatar Trail is 54 km in length.  It runs from Sokółka to Kruszyniany via Bohoniki, Kamionka Stara, Wierzchlesie, Talkowszczyzna, Świdziałówka Nowa i Nietupa.  The localities through which you will trace your path were once in the Grodzinska Crown Estate, where, in the year 1679, King Jan III Sobieski settled the Tatars.   Both Bohoniki and Kruszyniany are, today, major religious centres for Polish Muslims.  Wooden mosques from the 18th and 19th Centuries, the oldest in the country, can be seen there. The ancient mizar, or Muslim cemetery at Bohoniki is also worth visiting.



The tourist advertisement above shows that the Lipka Tatar settlements established by King Jan III Sobieski in 1679 on the Crown Estates between Sokólka and Kruszyniany have now been reduced to a tourist attraction: Szlak Tatarski – The Tatar Trail.   Although several functioning Tatar mosques survive, the original Lipka Tatars in these areas have largely relocated or merged into the local Polish Christian population.  The fact that the Tatar Trail runs for 54 kilometres in length gives some indication of the large amount of land that Jan Sobieski had to settle on the Lipka Tatars to induce them to return to Poland.




References to the Lipka Tatars

in  King Jan III Sobieski’s

Letters to Marysieńka

Jan Sobieski and Marysieńka

Jan Sobieski was born in 1629 in Olesko, and died in Wilanów in 1696. The future king studied at Kraków Academy, then travelled to Germany, France, Netherlands and England where he completed his education. After returning to Poland, he participated in military expeditions; at Beresteczko he was heavily wounded. He fought against the Swedes (though initially he took their side), against Moscow and the Cossacks. In the subsequent years, he came into contact with the royal court of Jan Kazimierz and Maria Ludwika, where he met a Frenchwoman, Marie Cazimire d’Arquien - Marysieńka, whom he married in 1665.

In the history of literature, Sobieski is noted as the author of the Letters to Marysieńka, recognised as a masterpiece of old Polish epistolary prose. These letters were written mainly between 1665-1683 when Jan and Marysieńka were parted owing to such events as the rebellion of Lubomirski, Marysieńka’s journeys to Paris, the war campaign of 1675 and 1676, and the Vienna expedition of 1683. Traces of these events and the people connected with them can be found in the letters.   (Based on article by Prof. Edmund Kotarski)



30th September l676

"The following day - the 28th – saw the arrival of several Pashas with the army of the Khan who had removed his battle order some distance away. They came as if in a procession and moved around us in order to encircle us on all sides, even from the rear from the banks of the Dneister where we had not built any fortifications, however, by the Grace of God, there efforts came to nothing. We remained at action stations all day long, but it was only as evening began to fall that their troops began to retrace their steps in a procession away from us. Our forces then quickly turned on them along with our artillery which caused great destruction amongst their thickly packed hordes. They beat a rapid retreat and ran in panic towards their own encampment.

Later that evening a comrade of the Hetman arrived with a message from the Peace Commissioners, bringing news of the approach of Ibraim Pasha who was unwilling to consider even the smallest concession regarding the Ukraine and the Podole, and who had made yet another new demand – that we give all of the Lipkas over to him, as they are people who share his beliefs."





King Jan III Sobieski planned to bring the Polish –Turkish war to a decisive end in 1676, but the large army he forced through the Sejm could not be raised, due to the lack of funds. The Turks invaded again, but were held back at the fortified camp at Zurawno (25th September to 14th October, 1676). The Poles had set up this fortified encampment at Zurawno, on the banks of the Dneister as they lacked the numbers to take on the Turks and Tatars in open battle.

After three weeks of inconclusive attacks against the Polish positions the Turks (16,000 strong with 77 canon) and Tartars (30,000) gave up and agreed to a truce. The Treaty of Zurawno brought a temporary end to the long war. The treaty allowed Turkey to retain a substantial part of the Ukraine, but the tribute that the Poles were forced to agree to pay to the Turks in the Treaty of Buczacz in 1672 was cancelled and large numbers of Polish prisoners were released.

A compromise was reached over Ibraim Pasha’s demand that the Lipkas who had returned to the service of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1674 should be handed over to him. The Treaty of Zurawno provided that any Polish Lipkas wishing to go over to the Turks should have free passage for themselves, their families and their possessions, for a period of one year. There are no records of how many, if any, of the Lipkas took up this offer.

(Above section partly based on article on the Polish Renaissance Warfare website.)


Vienna in 1683


In camp by Szenauna on the road to Bratislava, three miles from Vienna – 17th September.

"I was glad to move our forces further on today - partly because of the growing hunger but primarily in order to put some distance between ourselves and Vienna, where our positions were actually being fired on, and to get our sick and wounded away from the city where we could forage for the supplies necessary for their health, and protect them from further injury.  When our forces had thus been separated off, they complained to Duke Lotarynski that in this district all the wagons that were not broken had been looted, along with the horses.  They are continually busying themselves with the booty taken at Vienna that is traveling in the wagons behind us.  The packhorses are carrying booty and the equipment is being abandoned. 

"We are now standing on the banks of the Danube, as the Israelis once stood by the Rivers of Babylon, crying for our horses and for the unprecedented ingratitude that we have been shown at the very moment when we have driven off our enemy.  ....Our Tatars are entertaining themselves with falcons they have brought with them; they are guarding the prisoners, and are proving to be loyal and trustworthy."   


Bratislava - The Feast of St Mikołaj, 6th December.

"They (the Hungarians) are murdering the sick and wounded we have to leave behind – they are far worse than the Turks – and so we have to care for them day and night and proceed slowly in order not to lose people.  God has granted them some rest this evening here at Bratislava.  ….My own falconing Tatars have shown exemplary conduct, and have been leading the prisoners."

Extracts translated from:
an Sobieski: Letters to Marysieńka

Edited by Leszek Kukulski
- Warsaw 1962









Kara Mustafa

Many of the Lipka rebels who returned to the service of the Commonwealth in 1674 were later to take part in the Vienna Campaign of 1683.  This included the 60 Polish Tatars in the light cavalry company of Samuel Mirza Krzeczowski, who was later to save the life of Jan Sobieski during the disastrous first day of the Battle of Parkany, a few weeks after the great victory at Vienna.

The Lipka Tatars who fought on the Polish side at the Battle of Vienna, on 12th September 1683, wore a sprig of straw in their helmets to distinguish themselves from the Tatars fighting under Kara Mustafa on the Turkish side. Lipkas visiting Vienna traditionally wear straw hats to commemorate their ancestors’ participation in the breaking of the Siege of Vienna.

In his letters to Marysieńka written during the Vienna Campaign, Sobieski several times makes reference to the loyalty of the Lipka Tatars fighting on the Christian side in a war that was to turn the tide of Islamic expansion into Europe and mark the beginning of the end for the Ottoman Empire.

Jan Sobieski

The Noble Lipkas of Old Lipki


Nałęcz Arms



The village of Old Lipki belongs to the Stoczek Municipality of the Wengrów district of the eastern half of the Mazovia Voivodship.  The earliest references to the village of Lipki come from the year 1368, during a time of mainly forced Polonisation of the region, lead by the Dukes of Mazovia. 

Lipkas bearing the Nałęcz Arms of Lipki from the district of Drohiczyn appear in all the volumes on Polish Heraldry. According to all the available historical evidence it appears that, in spite of the many legends relating to their Tatar past, the Lipkas of Lipki lived the lifestyle of Country Gentry typical of the nobility of the Podlasie.   

Evidence of their Podlasian patriotism is given by their participation in the Kościuszko Insurrection, the November Uprising (the Battles of Stoczek and Iganie) and the January Uprising.  The special traditions of the nobility continued to influence everyday life in Lipki right up to the Second World War.   

Over the course of recent decades this ancient village is more and more being transformed into a summer resort.   

Extract translated from Polish author Maria Dąbrowska's diaries covering a summer spent in the village of Old Lipki in the 1950's.


Zygmunt Gloger

Historical Geography of the Lands of Old Poland

Studium Podyplomowego Kwalifikacyjno-Metodycznego Nauczania Języka Kaszubskiego
Uniwersytet Gdański
, Wydział Filologiczno-Historyczny
. Based on Zygmunt Gloger, Geografia historyczna ziem dawnej Polski. Kraków 1903



References to the Lipkas of Lipki can be found in the Historical Geography of the Lands of Old Poland by Zygmunt Gloger. 

“The Property Tax on the lands of Drohiczyn, drawn up in the year 1791, revealed 331 villages inhabited by landowners of noble status, as well as around 20 villages where the landowners were a mixture of commoners and nobility.  The average village would consist of 15 landowners and a total population of 165 residents.  The majority of these villages had only a handful of landowners and a minority had a dozen or more. 

"The largest of all the settlements in the lands of Drohiczyn, the village of Lipki had 72 landowners of noble status, the great majority of these being representatives of the Lipka family.”

Chapter 35  -  Podlasie  Voivodship (extract)


Heraldic Seal of the Lipkas of Lipki


Heraldic Seal of the Noble Lipkas

From the collection of the State Archive in Siedlice

Specimen from 26 VIII 1812


One manifestation of the distinctiveness of the nobility was in their possession and use of heraldic seals, such as this specimen from the Lipki rural community from the Wengrów region. Knightly seals with heraldic inscriptions were in use on Polish lands from the middle-ages; however, these were first and foremost the personal signs of individuals from particular family lines. The seal in our example has a unique character in that it is the collective seal of an entire community that shares a common noble ancestry from a single family line.

Although there are many documents in the collection of the State Archives at Siedlice, seals similar to the specimen from Lipki are found extremely rarely  In the example of the seal from Lipki we see a manifestation of the sense of common identity of the entire population of the community.  The noble Lipkas from this rural community bear the Nałęcz Arms, known from the earliest days of the Commonwealth.

In the 18th century representatives of the Lipka families from Lipki settled in the locality of Tuczna in the district of Biała Podlaska.  This locality was also inhabited by Lipka Tatars settled by King Jan III Sobieski towards the end of the 17th century – the Lipkas famous from the pages of the Trilogy of Henryk Sienkiewicz.

Extract translated from article by Grzegorz Welik - NASK 2003.



Nałęcz Arms


The Customs and Religion of the Lipkas

The extracts below, translated from separate articles by Robert Godziemski and Dr Marzena Grodzińska (the extracts in italics) show the extent to which the Lipka Tatars successfully adapted their Islamic religion -  and their pre-Islamic traditions - to accommodate the prevailing Christian culture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.   The greater part of the Islamic population in contemporary Poland is not of Lipka Tatar origin and follows a more orthodox form of Islam.  It is also true that the religious practices of Muslim Poles claiming Tatar descent have been converging with more orthodox Islam.

The indigenous Tatars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were known as the Lipkas.  They came to Poland at the time of the union with Lithuania (formalised by the Treaty of Horodel in 1413, a few years after the Battle of Grunwald.)  These settlers from the east had sought refuge in Lithuania for a variety of reasons. Political considerations played the most important role. The several Lipka family lines, also known as the Emirs, sought asylum to save their skins from their political opponents in the Khanate.

The customs of these Tatars were strongly connected to their religious beliefs and their nomadic Mongol ancestry. The Lipkas' religion was mainly Islamic.  Their beliefs found expression in their daily activities.  Five times a day the Lipkas could be found at prayer, however, this mainly took place on a Friday, which was regarded as their Sabbath, and more rarely on the other days of the week.

Polish Tatars attach great significance to the observance of the two most important holidays of the year, Ramazan Bayram and Kurban Bayram.   Ramazan Bayram, as in the entire Muslim world, is preceded by a month of fasting.  The decision whether or not to take part in the fast is taken individually.  

Kurban Bayram sees the most numerous congregation of the  faithful, with Tatars as with other Muslims present in Poland.  On the first  day of this festival a solemn service takes place in the mosque.  The offering of a sacrifice then follows.   Normally bulls are slaughtered, although in the past it was rams.  The Imam recites prayers over the beast and the sacrifice is carried out.  The beast has its throat slit with a knife, and the blood flows into a special pit.  The meat is distributed amongst the faithful.  All who so desire can take a piece.  A meal with sacrificial meat is especially valued at the festive table.  In recent times Kurban Bajram is not always observed with a sacrifice.  The appropriate sanitary conditions that would allow the slaughter of an animal do not exist everywhere.


Tatar Mosque at Bohoniki
The Lipka Tatars were not allowed to build their mosques in stone.  Photo:


Besides the Muslim holidays, the cemeteries are also visited in great numbers on  the eve of the Christian All Saints Day, when whole families, Tatar and Christian alike, visit the graves of their near ones and take flowers there, or sometimes light candles or lamps.  Although this is neither a Muslim custom nor a pre-Islamic Tatar tradition of the steppe, it is cultivated by the Tatars who have taken it from their Christian environment.

This is not the only borrowing from Christianity: the celebration of azan is sometimes described by the term "Christening", and the imam's visits to the homes of the faithful during Ramazan is spoken of as the Imam "going carol-singing" Sometimes, at the Christian religious holidays, Tatar families will also consume the traditional fare for the given holiday (for example, eggs at Easter).  In Tatar homes where there are small children  a Christmas tree is often set up during the Christmas holidays, and beneath it are placed presents for the children.

Pilgrimage played a significant role in their lives. Islam obligates every believer to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.  While many lacked the resources to undertake such a journey, where there were no financial barriers then little was allowed to stand in their way. Even during the years of the wars between the Commonwealth and Turkey pilgrimages still continued.


Mosque in the village of Forty Tatars in Lithuania.
The Tatar community here has its origins in the days of Grand Duke Witold
 Konrad Pedziwiatr 2003


Customs connected with birth, marriage and death were most closely related to the Tatars' nomadic past.   The naming of a child was an especially important occasion.  The infant was placed with its head towards the holy cities of Islam and prayed over.  This guaranteed success and good fortune in life.  In the past, the azan had to take place in the presence of two witnesses.  Today these are the so-called azan parents.  Sometimes they hold the child by the hand during the azan.  After the parents they are the primary carers of the child.  They take part in all the important events in its life.  This is not a legally defined function, it comes from the adoption by the Tatars of the Christian tradition of godparents.   

Similarly superstitious practices were found in the case of the marriage ceremony.  The young couple greeted each other with gifts of bread and salt and scattered grain around.   An interesting feature was the promise of the groom to pay compensation in event of a divorce, and this promise was written into the marriage contract.    Besides the purely religious elements of the ceremony, in reality there is no difference in the case of Muslim or Christian weddings in Poland.  The young couples dress the same, travel to the wedding in cars identically decorated, and the wedding receptions take place in the same reception halls to the same music.


The simple Mosque at Niemież
Konrad Pedziwiatr 2003


Mosques in other localities inhabited by Tatars - Istambul, Fez – are ornate and richly decorated.  Silver fountains sparkle next to them on sunny days.  The Niemież Mosque is not so rich.  It is of simple construction.   The Mosque is divided into two parts: male and female.   In the male half is found the pulpit from which the imam reads prayers to the worshippers.   The division of the Mosque into two parts is a characteristic found only among the Lipkas, and not in other Muslim communities.    The prayers are lead in the male half of the Mosque: the women can participate in the service and watch the proceedings through perforations in the separating wall.

(Jan Tuczkowski - article on Niemież on the internet site of the Polish Information Centre in Lithuania)


The least changing customs were those concerned with the burial of the dead.  These constituted a strange mish-mash of Islamic, Mongol and Christian customs.  After the corpse had been prepared with a ritual cleansing, the eyes and nose were covered with cotton-wool and the body was wrapped in a shroud.  Written prayers were placed around the corpse which was prayed over for a long time by the male mourners.  The method of transportation of the corpse to the cemetery was of crucial importance.  The Imam leading the procession could not raise his eyes.  The participants in the sad procession could not look into any window and no-one could obstruct its path.  Breaking these interdicts could result in death.  After the body was laid in the grave, the Imam had a personal conversation with the departed in which was given advice and directions for the road to the afterlife. After this, the grave was filled in and an uneven number of stones were piled on top.

Tatar Mizar (cemetery) at Bohoniki

The traditional grave is covered by three layers of stone.  Today the family lays a tombstone reminiscent of the tombstones set up in Christian cemeteries which are, besides, also very similar in form to contemporary gravestones in Turkey.  The funeral meal is by custom a remembrance of the deceased and the recitation of prayers for his soul together with the provision of refreshments, normally a full dinner ending with a sweet dessert. The people who take part in this are mainly those who had prayed by the body. A similar celebration known as the Remembrances takes place on the fortieth day after death.  At this time the close relatives and friends take part in the prayers.


Tatar Mizar at Bohonik


Spirits had immense significance in the Lipka tradition. It was popularly believed that the world was inhabited by a variety of spirits whose activities could be for good (dzinny) or evil (fiereje).  Just like devils, fairies could take on human form and their behaviour could be evil, unpleasant, malicious, corrupt or just foolish.  They lay in wait for the unsuspecting and tormented them as only they knew how.  The worst period of the day was the evening; when all the evil spirits went abroad in search of victims for their maliciousness.   Some evil spirits would attempt to take the souls of the dying. 

The Lipkas were unusually superstitious. For every occasion they had a corresponding ritual.  For example, if they desired to call up rain they would sacrifice a black ram.   This would take place at the bank of a river or stream.  The Imam conducting the ceremony would have his cassock on back to front and the Tatars behind him would offer prayers.   The sacrificial ram would be turned with its head to the south and its throat would be slit.  The carcass would be quartered, then cooked and eaten on the spot.   The skin was thrown into the water and the bones buried. 


Entrance gates to the Tatar Mosque at Bohoniki


Many customs were connected to military service.  The banners of the regiments in which Tatars had served were hung in the Lipka Mosques.  Standards of green silk with inscriptions in both Polish and Arabic were also commonly found.  These banners recalled the times of the great Tatar Khans.

A particularly interesting tradition was that of blood-brotherhood, a custom more associated with the Cossacks than the Tatars.   Blood-brotherhood was a special bond between two individuals, who were from that time onwards brothers.  It was believed that not even death could break this bond and both brothers were under an obligation to provide aid in every exigency.  They had to withdraw if they came up against a blood-brother on the field of battle, and provide ransom in the event of either being taken prisoner.  The union of blood-brotherhood, also known as achretny, could be formalised in the presence of the Imam.  Those undertaking the union of achretny pressed together the thumbs of their right hands under the cover of a single towel. Then they moved three times round a table on which were placed a Koran, bread, salt and water.  However, in at least half of cases achretny was formalised simply by the two individuals concerned pouring water over their sabres.  In rare cases this bond could be broken.  In such cases the Imam would symbolically separate their hands to signify the breaking of the bonds of brotherhood. 

Tatar Mosque at Kruszniany

Great significance was given to customs that had their origins in the days of Czyngyz-Khan, for example, in relation to heraldry and titles of nobility.  The heraldry of the Polish Tatars was almost identical to the forms found in the Crimean Khanate, and by this means it is often possible to establish the Tatar origins of Polish noble families.  The Tatars in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth always reserved the title of Khan for the King or Grand Duke for whom prayers were offered every Friday in the mosques.  The Tatar nobility variously used the titles of Sultan, Kniaze (Prince), Uhlan, Sejt, or Mirza (Emir).   In the Golden Horde, Uhlan signified royal blood.   Every nobly born Tatar was entitled to use the title Mirza. which was generally translated as Prince or Duke.  Sejt was a title originally reserved for holy men in the court of the Khan. 

Robert Gadziemski's full article Lipkowe obyczaje (The Customs and Religion of the Lipkas), was published as background material for the internet role-playing game Dzikie Pole – The Wild Steppes.  Dr Marzena Grodzińska's article, Polonya Tartarlari (Polish Tatars) has been published on the internet site of the Polish Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.  Background picture is the Mosque at Bohoniki, taken from the internet site of the Polish Embassy in Sana, Yemen.




Lipka land-holdings in West Prussia in 1772

After the occupation of West Prussia and the District of the Netze River by Prussia during the First Partition of Poland in the year 1772, the Geheime Finanzrat Rembert Roden was ordered by Frederick the Great to prepare a land survey of these territories.  The intention behind the Kontributionskataster was to produce the necessary foundation for the introduction of the Prussian taxation system in the occupied territory.  In the years 1772/73 three commissions with about sixty officials and forty surveyors were occupied with this work. According to this land register, fifteen Lipkas held thirty-three land-holdings in West Prussia.


Lipka, Michel: Rosgarthen, Mewe
Lipka, Jacob: Rosgarthen, Mewe
Lipka,?: Pulwiesk, Strassburg *2
Lipka, Jan: Quarschin, Oliva *4
Lipka, Joh.: Demblin,Schoeneck *2
Lipka, Joseph: Tereszwo,Brattian *2
Lipka, Paul: Tereszwo, Brattian *2
Lipka, Juergen: Gross Tuchon, Danzig *4
Lipka, Mart.: Gross Katz, Oliva *4
Lipka, Kasimir: Gross Pynschien, Kyschau *2
Lipka, Macie: Tynnwalde, Lobau *2
Lipka, Mathes: Stadt Lessen, Roggenhausen *2
Lipka, Matthies: Pagorsa, Oliva *2
Lipka, Nicolaus: Oxhoeven, Oliva *2
Lipka, Simon: Bahrendorff Niedzwietz, Gollub

Details from the West Prussian Land Register 1772/73, published by the Odessa Digital Library - 21 Jun 1999 - Copyright 1999, Reuben R. Drefs




Lipkas in East Prussia

 Registrations of Births, Christenings and Marriages
from the late 18th to the early 20th Centuries




Registrations of Births, Christenings and Marriages of Lipkas in the former East Prussia, from the late 18th to the early 20th Centuries - records mainly from the 19th CenturyBased on records from the Mormon genealogical databases - Lipkas were mainly to be found in the ethnically Polish areas of East Prussia, and the greatest concentration of Lipkas, in the area around Lipowitz, was very close to the site of the battlefield of Grunwald.  Whether these settlements date from the days of Grunwald or are a later result of a westward movement of the Lipka Tatars settled on the Polish-Lithuanian border areas is a mater of conjecture.


Regristration District




Atkamp - Rossel




Babrosten - Wysznienien




Baranowen - Sensburg








Daumen - Allenstein
















Gr Jerutten




Gr Leschienen








Gruenwalde - Gr Puppen




Guzianka - Sensburg - Utka
















Kalenczinnen -Wysznienien




Kamien - Sensburg -Utka




Kelbassen - Lipowitz-Gr Leschienen




Kl Jerutten




Konraden - Liebenberg








Latana - Willenburg -Gr Leschienen








Lindendorf - Sensburg-Baranowen








Lucka - Furstenwalde-Gr Leschienen












Mittel Pogobien








Neu Suchoros - Furstenwalde
























Popiellen - Weissuhnen











































Jewish Lipkas in the 19th Century
Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths



Registration Town








Golub-Dobrzyn 36 17 20

















Ostrów Mazowiecka




















Sandomierz 1 1 2













Warsaw 0 1 0









Source: Jewish Records Indexing, Poland


The origins of the Jewish Lipkas are something of a mystery.  However, just as many Lipka Tatars married into the prevailing Christian community in Poland it is just as likely that some of them married into the minority Jewish community. 

The Jewish community in Przedbόrz dated back to the 15th Century.  In October 1942, the entire Jewish population of 4,500 souls was deported to the Treblinka death camp.  The wooden Przedbόrz Synagogue, sadly now destroyed, was widely regarded as being a masterpiece of craftsmanship due to the carvings, the colourful wall-paintings done by Yehuda Leb and the stained glass windows An exact replica is currently being constructed in the United States.  The photograph below dates from the 1930s. 

At the outbreak of the Second World War, around half of the 5,700 inhabitants of Dobrzyn were Jewish, as were around 200 of the 3,500 inhabitants of Golub.  The liquidation of Golub-Dobrzyn's Jewish population began on 14th September 1939 with the arrest and subsequent execution of 270 males, and the process of their deportation was completed by 11th November.  Less than 60 of Golub-Dobrzyn's pre-war Jewish population were to survive the Holocaust.  A sub-camp of the Stutthof death camp was later constructed in the vicinity of Golub. (See website of F. Dobraszklanka - )

The wooden Przedbόrz Synagogue

Model based on research by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka


The Lipka Rebellion of 1672
Henryk Sienkiewicz's Trilogy

"The Sienkiewicz Trilogy stands with that handful of novels which not only depict but also help to determine the soul and character of the nation they describe," says James A. Michener, the great American novelist in his introduction to With Fire and Sword. "Sienkiewicz's trilogy is the portrait of a nation... It kept national hopes alive during those mournful years when the three occupying powers - Russia, Germany, and Austria - would not allow the nation itself to exist. The Trilogy also provided courage when Nazi Germany tried to extinguish all things Polish.”  


Henryk Sienkiewicz,


Henryk Sienkiewicz, the Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1905, was a descendent of Christianised Lipka Tatars.   He wrote his Trilogy in the years 1883-1888. In May 1883, a Warsaw newspaper began serialization of With Fire and Sword - the last part of the Trilogy, Pan Wołodyjowski, was published in 1888. The Trilogy became almost an instant classic, and in the years since its first publication, it has been printed in more than 30 languages.

Ogniem i Mieczem (With Fire and Sword) was the first novel in the historical trilogy dealing with the period from 1648 to 1672. Sienkiewicz followed the example of Alexander Dumas pčre - complementing the colourful narrative with a patriotic message.  The first part of the trilogy takes as its subject the war between Poland and the Ukraine at the time of the Chmielniecki uprising, while its sequel, Potop (The Deluge) deals with the Swedish invasion of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the subsequent civil-war.   Pan Wołodyjowski (Pan Michael or Fire in the Steppe) concludes the trilogy with the theme of the Lipka Rebellion at the start of the Polish-Turkish wars that were to last till the very end of the 17th Century. 



On the surface the Trilogy is an almost classical type of adventure novel, with an uplifting effect.  There are invincible heroes, spectacular duels, everlasting friendships, and heroic deaths. Sienkiewicz tells about the nation's past glories and defeats in such a manner that people can identify with the fictitious heroes, and believe in the resurrection of Poland. During World War II a number of freedom fighters assumed their pseudonyms from characters in the trilogy.

Based on article on W.S. Kuniczak's English translation of the Trilogy on the World of English internet site:-


Set of stamps titled Heroes of the Trilogy, printed in 1999 to mark the release of the film Ogniem i Mieczem, the first volume of the Trilogy but the last part to be filmed.  The bottom right stamp features Michał giving Basia a fencing lesson.



The Lipka Tatars
Pan Wołodyjowski

edited and translated by

Jakub Mirza Lipka



Dust jackets for the novel, Pan Wołodyjowski

In the opening chapter of the novel we learn that Colonel Michał Wołodyjowski has gone missing after the sudden death of his fiancé.  His old friend Pan Zagłoba sets off in search of him and discovers that Wołodyjowski has entered a monastery.  Zagłoba tricks him into leaving the monastery on the pretext that his close friend, the Scot Ketling is dying. 

Zagłoba tricks Pan Michał into leaving the monastery,
from the film Pan Wołodyjowski

On arrival at Ketling’s manor house, Wołodyjowski is taken by surprise by a group of friends, including the Grand Hetman Jan Sobieski, who persuade him that the military threat facing the Commonwealth from the Turks, Tatars and Cossacks requires his return to military service.   

There follows a long interlude which tracks Pan Michał’s love-life -  up to his marriage with Basia Jeziorkowska.

Basia and Michał,
from the film Pan Wołodyjowski

In the summer of 1671, Pan Zagłoba arrives at their home in the village of Sokolów, bringing Wołodyjowski orders from Jan Sobieski to take over the command of the garrison at Chreptów, one of the Podole border posts on the left bank of the Dneister. Wołodyjowski immediately sets off, alone, for Chreptów, but promises his wife he will shortly send for her.   Three weeks later an escort consisting of a company of Lipka Tatars under the command of the young Asja Mellechowicz and a company of Linkhauz’s dragoons, led by Pan Snitko, arrive to conduct Basia to Chreptów.   

The “uncertain origins” of the young Azja Mellechowicz immediately arouse Pan Zagłoba’s suspicions, since the native Tatars in the army of the Commonwealth were normally of noble status.  Zagłoba raises his suspicions concerning Mellechowicz with Pan Snitko - “But this Mellechowicz looks like a wolf.   Michał writes that he is a fellow of “uncertain origins”, which is strange, since all of our Tatars are of the nobility, even although they are pagans.   In Lithuania I have seen entire villages inhabited by Tatars known as Lipkas, and here they are known as Czeremisi.   For a long time they displayed  their gratitude for their privileges by loyally serving the Commonwealth, but during the Peasant Uprising many of them went over to Chmielnicki, and now, I hear, they are beginning to sniff around the Tatar Horde.  This Mellechowicz looks like a wolfCh.22

Azja Mellechowicz
from the film
Pan Wołodyjowski

During the journey to Chreptów, Azja  Mellechowicz injures his head in a riding accident and is cared for by Basia.  From that moment on, the young Tatar becomes obsessed by her.

Some time after their arrival at Chreptów, a Tatar is captured near the fort who turns out to be one of those Lipkas who had recently abandoned the service of the Commonwealth to serve the Turkish Sultan.  He is discovered to be carrying letters to Mellechowicz from Kryczynski - one of the leaders of the Lipka Rebellion.  Wołodyjowski calls a conference of his senior officers.    

“Gentlemen, you well know how many of the Lipkas have gone over to the Horde, even those who had been settled in Lithuania and here in Ruthenia since time immemorial, repaying the generosity shown towards them by the Commonwealth with treason … We have among us a company of Lipka light cavalry, one hundred and fifty strong, under the command of Mellechowicz … All I know of him is that the Hetman promoted him captain for outstanding service and sent him here along with his men … the Lipkas worship him and follow him blindly … Pan Motowidło’s men have captured a Tatar with letters to this Mellechowicz from Kryczyński … Kryczyński is a Polish Tatar.  He was a colonel in one of the Lipka regiments, but turned traitor and went over to the Dobrudian Horde, where, as I hear, he is held in high esteem as they expect him to win over the rest of the Lipkas to the Pagan side.” Ch. 24

While the letter itself contains nothing incriminating other than confirming that Mellechowicz has been in contact with the Lipka rebels, the Tatar is brought before the company and accused of treason.  He defends himself by asserting that, on the contrary, he has been acting under the direct instructions of Grand Hetman Jan Sobieski to negotiate with the Lipka rebels on their return to the service of the Commonwealth.  Mellechowicz produces letters to support his claim that he has been empowered to negotiate with the rebels on behalf of the Hetman. 

However, once Mellechowicz returns to his quarters to meet with the Dobrudian Tatar prince Halim, who is acting as go-between with the rebels, it immediately becomes clear that the negotiations with Kryczyński are a pretence and that the treacherous Lipka rebels are plotting to move against the Commonwealth.

Mellechowicz with the Dobrudian Tatar prince Halim,
from the film Pan Wołodyjowski

During one of the long winter nights at Chreptiów, Pan Nienaszyniec entertains the company with the tale of his search for his sister Halszka, who had been abducted by Tatars during a raid on his estate.  He eventually traced her to the slave market in Bachczysaraj where she was purchased by the great Tuhaj-bej.  Nienaszyniec put together a band of desperadoes and raided the home of Tuhaj-Bej’s favourite wife, carrying off Tuhaj-Bej’s young son Azja to exchange for his sister.  However his cut-throats were not satisfied with their share of the loot from this raid but turned on Nienaszyniec, leaving him for dead and making off with the boy, Azja.  When he recovered, Pan Nienaszyniec set off after them but later heard that his own band of marauders had in turn been attacked and robbed, but that the child was no-where to be found, although he could be identified by the blue fish tattoos on his chest that marked him as being of the blood of Tuhaj- Bej.

Daniel Olbrychski as Tuhaj-Bej,
from the film Ogniem i Mieczem

A group of travellers come through Chreptiόw en route to Raszków. These include Pan Nowowiejski and his daughter Evka who are on their way to visit young Adam Nowowiejski, an officer serving at Raszkόw.   Old Nowowiejski recognises Azja as a servant whom he had taken in as a foundling, but who had later run off after being flogged for making advances to his daughter.  At first Azja denies these claims, but, when Nowowiejski asserts that his Azja can be identified by the blue fish tattoos on his chest, Azja is forced to come out and reveal himself as the son of Tuhaj-Bej.

The young Lipka raised his proud head, cast his lynx-like glare over the gathering and, having suddenly torn open his tunic to reveal his broad chest, he exclaimed - “Behold, the blue fish tattoos!.... I am the son of Tuhaj-Bej!”  The room was stunned to silence.  The very name of such a terrifying warlord curdled the blood.  In alliance with the grim Chmielnicki he had shaken the entire Commonwealth to its roots and had caused a sea of Polish blood to flow, he had trampled the Ukraine, the Podole and the lands of Wolyn and Halicz beneath the hooves of his ravenous horsemen, he had stormed fortresses and towns, smitten villages with fire and sword and had taken off tens of thousands into slavery.  The son of such a monster now stood before the gathering at Chreptiów and looking them in the eye he repeated - “I have the blue fish on my chest.  I am Azja, the flesh and blood of Tuhaj-Bej.” Ch. 28-29

Daniel Olbrychski as Azja Tuhaj-Bejowicz,  from article on the filming of Pan Wołodyjowski, on the internet site of the town of Biały Bόr.

Later, Azja Tuhaj-Bejowicz has a private discussion in his quarters with Hetman Jan Sobieski’s Commissioner, Pan Bogusz where he sets out his plans for an autonomous Tartar state within the Commonwealth, with himself as it military commander or hetman.

“If only Hetman Sobieski gave me his permission and authority not only would I bring back the rebel Lipka captains but half of the Tatar Horde would place themselves under his command.  There is no shortage of unoccupied land in the Ukraine and in the Wild Steppe.  Let the Hetman give the word that every Tatar who comes over to the side of the Commonwealth will be granted noble status, freedom of religion and the right to serve in Tatar regiments under their own Tatar Hetman, as the Cossacks do, and they will come swarming into the Ukraine - not only the Lipkas and Czeremisi but Tatars from Dobrudja, Białygród and the Crimea. …  There would never be another Chmielnicki, because we would put our boots on the Cossacks throats; there would be no peasant uprisings, massacres or devastation; there would be no Doroszenko … if the armies of Turkey or the Chanate moved against us we would fight the Sultan and the Chan themselves.  Is this not how the Lipkas and Czeremisi served you for centuries although they maintained their Mohammedan beliefs.  Why should we behave any different as Tatars of the Commonwealth and noblility. … This is not just a question of a few thousand Lipkas or Czeremisi, but of the Commonwealth itself.  They say that with the spring will come a great war against the full power of the Sultan, but give me the go-ahead and I will boil up such a ferment amongst the Tatars that the Sultan will scald his hands.” Ch. 28

Pan Bogusz rushes off to the Hetman, Jan Sobieski, with Azja’s proposal for a Tatar Nation within the Commonwealth, but the Grand Hetman is not convinced.  Sobieski is afraid that a Tatar nation within the Commonwealth could just as easily turn against the Commonwealth and ally itself with their enemies.   Pan Bogusz argues that extending the nobility enjoyed by the Lipkas to all Tatars who would serve the Commonwealth would ensure their loyalty:

"Your Excellency! The Tatars, having been raised to the nobility would loyally serve the Commonwealth.”

“What about the Lipkas and Czeremisi?  Have they not been nobility for centuries, and have they not gone over to the side of the Sultan?”

“The Lipkas privileges were not honoured.”

“And what will happen if, as is almost certain, the nobility will not accept this extension of noble status to the Tatars? … What madness has put this notion into the head of the young Lipka? … Even if things were to turn out as you say, even if we were to gain new strength through this and war with the Turks could be averted, even if the nobility were in favour, I would never allow this as long as my arm could raise a sabre and I could still make the Sign of the Cross … because I am not just a Polish Hetman but a Christian Hetman!” Ch. 31

Pan Bogush, unable to face bringing the news of Sobieski’s rejection in person to Azja, sends him a letter advising him to give up his grandiose visions.  Azja falls into a fury and orders Halim to set in motion his plans for revenge on the Commonwealth.

“Find Kryczyński, and tell him to steal up on Raszków from the other bank of the Dniester with all his forces.  Let Adurowicz, Morawski, Aleksandrowicz, Grocholski, Tworowski and all the other Lipkas and Czeremisi await me there.  Instruct the czambuls that are wintering at Dorόsz to create a sudden diversionary raid from the direction of Human so that all the garrisons from Mohilόw, Jampol and Raszków will be drawn deep into the steppe.  Let my path be clear of all troops, so that when we are finished with Raszkόw only ashes will remain."

Azja's Lipka Tatars set out from Chreptiów,
from the film Pan Wołodyjowski

Basia, unaware of Azja’s desires towards her, agrees to accompany Ewka to Raszków in an attempt to persuade old Pan Nowowiejski to agree to her marrying Azja.  They set off for Raszków with Azja and his company of two hundred Lipka light cavalry. Along the way, Azja leaves fifty Lipkas at both Mohilów and Jampol under the pretext of reinforcing the garrisons.  The Lipkas have in fact been given orders to be ready to storm the forts and burn the towns at a given signal.

Halfway between Jampol and Raszkόw, Halim arrives to inform Azja that the garrison from Raszkόw has ridden out in pursuit of the Tatar czambul carrying out the diversionary raid, and that Kryczyński, Adurowicz and the other rebel Lipkas are in position around the town.                     

Azja turns to Basia and reveals his love for her, telling her that he will have her whether she wills it or not.  He tries to take her by force, but, during the struggle, Basia manages to get hold of his heavy oriental pistol and, with a single blow, smashes in his face, breaking his nose, his cheekbone and taking out one of his eyes.  Basia makes her escape, taking Azja’s horse with her as a remount.

Magdalena Zawadzka as Basia.
from the film
Pan Wołodyjowski

In order to avoid the Lipkas that Azja has left behind at Jampol and Mohilόw, Basia abandons the direct route to Chreptiόw, along the Dniester, and travels further inland over the wild steppe.   Her adventurous journey lasts three days and nights during which she loses one horse to wolves and another perishes in icy water.  Eventually, barely alive, she makes it back to safety at Chreptiόw, where she is slowly nursed back to health.

The wounded Azja is eventually found by one of his Lipka officers, but lies in a fever for four days before recovering enough to turn his attention to the attack on Raszków.  The young Nowowiejski, believing that the Lipka rebels under Kryczyński were returning to the service of the Commonwealth, had asked them to watch over the town while he took most of his garrison out to hunt for the raiding Tatar czambul.  Azja orders Kryczyński and Adurowicz to loot and burn the town while the Lipkas under his own command take care of the small garrison left in the fort.  He commands Halim – “Let my Lipkas watch out for the outbreak of fires in the town, then pounce immediately on those soldiers remaining in the fort and slit their throats.” 

Many of Azja’s Lipkas climbed on to the ramparts of the fort to feast their eyes on the massacre about to unfold in the town.  Seeing the Lipkas gathering on the ramparts and wondering what happenings in the town had caught their interest, those soldiers of Nowowiejski who had not made the journey out to the steppe joined the Lipkas on the ramparts, without a shadow of suspicion.

At first, the sight of Tatars galloping madly in all directions through the town with knives in their mouths barely aroused the interest of the hardened population of this border township.  The shrieks of the Lipkas caused little more than a few curious glances from those who assumed that this was some wild Tatar game. But, suddenly, smoke began to rise from fires on all sides of the market square and the terrifying shrieks from the throats of the Lipkas caused all of the Walachian, Armenian and Greek traders and their families to  pale with fear.

At the same moment as the massacre began in the town, Asja’s men threw themselves on the largely unarmed infantrymen in the fort. There was little resistance.  A dozen knives were plunged unexpectedly into each Polish soldier’s chest: their hacked off heads were then thrown at the feet of Azja’s horse. Tuhaj-Bejowicz then allowed most of his Lipkas to run and join in the bloody work of their brothers in arms, while he himself observed the action from afar.

The Lipkas burn Raszków - from the book "Filmowe przygody małego rycerza", Barbara Wachowicz, Warszawa 1971.

The stench of burning bodies reached as far as the fort as the town went up in flames like a great bonfire whose smoke obscured the handiwork of Kryczyński and Aduowicz.. Now and then, the crack of a gunshot would echo in the cloud of smoke like a clap of thunder or some desperate fugitive would burst out of the dim, pursued by a pack of Lipkas.

 Azja watched all this with joy in his heart.  His lips parted in a dreadful smile that revealed his sparkling white teeth – a smile that appeared the more cruel as his joy was mixed with the pain of his raw wounds.   Joy and pride filled the heart of the young Lipka.   At last, he had thrown off the burden of pretence and given vent to the hatred he had concealed for many years.  For the first time he really felt himself to be Azja, the true son of Tuhaj-Bej. Ch. 49

Before crossing over with his men to the Turkish side of the Dniester, Azja extracts his revenge on the Nowowiejski family.  He butchers old Pan Nowowiejski in front of his daughter Evka, gives Evka as a reward to the rebel Lipka captain, Adurowicz (after kicking her in the head) and takes young Adam Nowowiejski’s fiancé Zosia for himself.

Tadeusz Łomnicki as Pan Wołodyjowski - from The Adventures of Lord Michał - the Polish TV version of Pan Wołodyjowski

Wołodyjowski writes to Hetman Sobieski with intelligence reports regarding the build up of the Turkish armies and proposes that he can best serve the Commonwealth in the forthcoming war by harassing the Turks on the open steppes.   Sobieski, however, orders him to take command of the garrison at Kamieniec Podolski.  “War is certain.   I have other reports that an awesome force has assembled at Adrianople – three hundred thousand strong including the Tatar hordes.  The Tatar hordes are impatient to move against us, but the Sultan is primarily concerned with taking Kamieniec.   Those treacherous Lipkas will lead the Turks on the road to Kamieniec and teach them everything they need to know.”  Wołodyjowski dutifully accepts the Hetman’s orders and takes an oath to die, rather than surrender Kamieniec to the Turks.

The Turkish armies finally set out in the middle of June, marching just six hours per day, and that during the hours of darkness, to protect the troops from the summer heat.  Watching his armies set off in the bright summer moonlight, the Sultan asks the young Kara Mustafa (later to lead the Turkish armies against Vienna) who was leading the advance.  “Light of paradise,” replies Kara Mustafa, “the advance guard consists of the Lipkas and Czeremisi, under the command of your dog, Azja, the son of Tuhaj-bej.” Ch. 45 

Tuhaj Bej, by Jan Matejko

After a long encampment in the plains of Adrianople, Azja Tuhaj-Bej and the Lipkas did indeed lead the advance of all the Turkish armies towards the borders of the Commonwealth. Ch.46   

Although the Sultan presents Azja with a silver kaftan as a sign of his status as a mirza or prince, the Tatars are generally regarded by the Turks as a pack of wild hunting dogs.  The Turks needed them, sometimes feared them, but, in the camps, the Tatars were treated with disdain.   Sensing this, Azja had his Lipkas make camp some distance away from the other Tatars, in order to demonstrate that the Lipkas were of higher status within the Turkish armies.  All this achieved was the alienation the princes of the Dobrudian and Białygrόd Tatars, while failing to convince the Turkish officers that the Lipkas were essentially different from the czambuls of the Tatar hordes.

In the other encampments of the Turkish armies the women never ventured outside their tents, according to custom, or fear of the janissaries, but the Lipkas’ tents stood apart from the rest and the custom of separating off women was alien to the Lipkas, who had long lived in the Commonwealth and had adopted western customs.   The women of the common soldiers did not even cover their faces with the yashmak.  The women were not allowed to move beyond the Lipka encampment, where they would almost certainly have risked abduction, but within the encampment they could go about their business in safety. Ch. 46


Daniel Olbrychski as Azja Tuhaj-Bejowicz
from the film
Pan Wołodyjowski

During the march, the coach carrying the Sultan’s wife gets bogged down in marshland. This is interpreted as an evil omen and the Sultan orders the removal of all women from the march. Azja sells Zosia and her mother into slavery.

While Hetman Sobieski has ordered Michał Wołodyjowski to look to the defence of Kamieniec, he does agree to let Adam Nowowiejski take out a raiding party of three hundred troops to harass the advancing Turks.  Adam takes his force across to the Turkish controlled side of the Dniester as the Turks will least expects an attack on their own territory.   Nowowiejski is confident that his advance will confound the enemy and produce results in excess of the Hetman’s expectations, and that it can bring disaster to Asia and the Lipkas.   It is easy for the young officer to guess that the Lipkas and Czeremisi, with their expert knowledge of the Commonwealth, will lead the vanguard of the Turkish advance, and all his hopes rest on this certainty.

After several weeks journey south, Adam Nowowiejski’s force comes across a natural hideout, at a fork of the Sarata and Tekicz rivers, where they settle down to lie in ambush for the Lipka advance guard of the Turkish armies.  After several weeks of waiting, Nowowiejski’s patience is rewarded by the arrival of a small party of two dozen Lipkas leading around fifteen hundred horses to pasture while the rest of the Lipkas lie up after their night march.  The pasturing party is easily surprised and the few survivors, Lipkas who had served at Chreptiów,  are tortured into giving directions to the main camp of the advancing Lipkas.

Adam’s three hundred dragoons drive the herd of horses into the camp of the sleeping Lipkas, under the cover of a thunderstorm, and the surprised and terrified Lipkas are massacred.  While the few surviving Lipkas make their way to the safety of the encampment of the Belogrodian Tatars, Nowowiejski leads his dragoons back towards the borders of the Commonwealth with the barely alive Azja Tuhaj-bejowicz as prisoner.

Azja Tuhaj-Bejowicz is tortured to death,
from the film
Pan Wołodyjowski

On their return to Raszkόw, Nowowiejski's men torture Azja to death.   He is impaled on a sharpened stake that is slowly drawn into his body by horses.   When the stake is raised upright, his weight drives the stake further inside his broken body.   As he writhes in agony on the stake, his remaining eye is gouged out with a carpenter's wood drill.  Eventually, still alive, he is set alight.

At Kamieniec, Wołodyjowski discovers that Michał Potocki, the Governor-General of the Podole has surrendered power to a war council made up of civil, religious and military dignitaries.  Colonel Wołodyjowski takes command of the old stone castle that dominates the road to the town while his friend Ketling takes command of the artillery.   Pan Michał  attempts to put a stop to any talk of surrender by forcing the defenders to take an oath to die, rather than give up Kamieniec to the Turks.

The fortress at Chocim

On July 2nd, 1672, the Sultan's armies arrive at the fortress of Chocim, a few miles from Kamieniec Podolski, on the right bank of the Dniester.  At first light the following day, the Sultan orders his janissaries, along with the Tatars of the Horde and the surviving Lipkas, to cross the Dniester and take the outlying town and castle of Żwaniec, the final obstacle on the road to Kamieniec.  During this engagement, the Lipkas in the service of the commander of Żwaniec, Hieronym Lanckoroński, abandon the fortress and go over to join their Lipka blood-brothers on the Turkish side.  Before long, the fields around the castle are left littered with bodies, especially those of the Lipkas, who put up a fiercer fight than the other Tatars and suffer the greatest losses. Ch. 51

Ruins of the castle at Żwaniec, by Napoleon Orda

In spite of a heroic defence, the outcome of the siege of Kamieniec is never in any doubt.   On August 16th, the forces of the Crimean Khan along with the Cossack army of Doroszenko arrive to reinforce the Turks.   Two days later, the Padishah himself arrives to take the surrender of Kamieniec Podolski.   While Wołodyjowski and his officers are prepared to stand by their oath to fight to the death, the War Council enters into negotiations for the surrender of the town.

After resisting a massive Turkish attack on the 26th August, both Ketling and Wołodyjowski allow themselves to believe that the silencing of the Turkish guns means that the enemy is breaking off the siege, but, as the smoke clears, they discover that the town behind them is flying white flags on all the city gates to signify their surrender.  The Peace Commissioners have accepted the Turkish terms of surrender: the town will be spared from looting and safe passage is guaranteed for all who wish to leave, but Kamieniec Podolski and the Podole are to be given up to the Sultan, for ever.

The Old Castle at Kamieniec Podolski

Michał Wołodyjowski and Ketling allow their men to march out of the old castle over the connecting bridge to the town.   As the last of their men exit the old castle, Ketling detonates the explosives they have set to destroy themselves along with what remains of the fortifications.

The funeral service for Michał Wołodyjowski takes place in Stanislawów, far from the Podole, where his body has been taken under Turkish escort.  The novel ends on a high dramatic note with the entrance of Grand Hetman Jan Sobieski, followed by deep ranks of armoured knights who have come to pay homage to Pan Wołodyjowski, the First Soldier of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.




The Real Pan Wołodyjowski and the Siege of Kamieniec Podolski in 1672

Kamieniec Podolski,  by Napoleon Orda

In 1672, a powerful Turkish army crossed the Danube and moved northwards through Moldavia towards the Commonwealth.  Sultan Mahomet IV personally led this invasion.  At the time of the outbreak of hostilities, both houses of the Sejm in Warsaw were suspended and there was no-one to organise the defence of the realm.  King Michał Korybut, the son of Duke Jaremy, did not match up to his father, but was occupied with plotting against his internal political opponents.   The Turks then crossed the Dniester and, by August, stood before the walls of Kamieniec Podolski.   In the meantime, the Lipkas, Lithuanian Tatars serving at nearby Żwaniec went over to the side of the Turks.

The fortress could not withstand the overwhelming Turkish army, having at its disposal the best military technology available for those times.  The heavy artillery rained down destruction on the town, levelling both houses and defence works. The Governor of the Podole, Mikołaj Potocki, was nominally in charge of the defence of Kamieniec, however, several chroniclers have recognised colonel Wołodyjowski as the de facto commander – a matchless cavalry officer and warrior who, as it appears, also proved his worth in diligently organising the defence of the fortress.

This real Pan Wołodyjowski differed from the hero of the Trilogy in that he did not marry the young and beautiful Basia of the novel, but wed the forty-year-old Krystyna Jeziorkowska, a widow who had seen off three previous husbands.  Neither did she stand by his side during the siege, as did the fictional Basia, but she fled Kamieniec after the arrival of the Turks.  After the death of Michał Wołodyjowski, she married again, for the fifth tine, this time with Franciszek Dziewanowski, a writer from the Podole.

After a week’s heroic struggle, when a significant part of the fortress had been reduced to rubble by artillery fire and further resistance did not offer any hope of success, commissioners were sent to negotiate terms.  The fortress capitulated, and safe passage was given to the garrison and anyone else wishing to leave the city.   The inhabitants of the city were given guarantees that their lives and property would be respected.  After the surrender, Colonel Wołodyjowski was mounted on his horse, preparing to lead out his troops in an orderly march, when there was a mighty explosion of the gunpowder stored in the cellars of the fortress.  This explosion caused the deaths of around eight hundred soldiers who, had they survived, would have been of considerable service to the commonwealth in the course of the war.  

And so died Pan Wołodyjowski, whose head was almost torn off by flying stones or shrapnel.   His remains were laid to rest in the crypt of a Franciscan church, where, for over three centuries, they have awaited the return of Kamieniec to the Commonwealth.  The gunpowder was most probably ignited by Ketling, the artillery commander at the fortress - a Courlander of German Protestant descent who cold not bear to see the loss of the fortress. 

Translated from article published at






Jerzy Hoffman’s film
Pan Wołodyjowski


This spectacular film dramatisation of the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz was achieved through a combination of great enthusiasm and a massive level of financial investment. The costs of production reached the dizzy heights, for those days, of 40 million złoty. The film required the construction of several colossal location sets. The fortress of Kamieniec Podolski was reconstructed in the ruins of the castle at Chęciny.  Reconstructions were also built of the fortalice at Chreptiów and the township of Raszków. The film was shot at various locations: the Bieszczady mountains, the neighbourhood of Biały Bór, the Koszalin Voivoidship, the Soviet Union - in the ruins of a sixteenth Century Tatar township - as well as in the film studios at Łódz.  Several scenes involved many thousands of extras, dressed in period costumes produced with exception care for authenticity.   

The late, and great Tadeusz Łomnicki starred in the title role.  In order to fully prepare himself for the role of the little knight he spent 6 months polishing his riding skills and secretly raised his swordsmanship skills to the level of a master.  Magdalena Zawadzka created an unforgettable character in Basia, the loyal life companion of Pan Michał.  Every role in the film was played by a master of the acting craft, and not just the leading roles.  The critics were unceasing in their praise for the supporting actors: Mieczysław Pawlikowski’s portrayal of Pan Zagłoba; Barbara Brylska as the romantic Krzysia and Jan Nowicki as her beloved Ketling; Hanka Bielicka outstanding as Stolnikowa.  Much has been said and written about the young actor, Daniel Olbrychski, who, will live forever in our memories as the incomparably cruel Azja Tuhaj-bejowicz.

Daniel Olbrychski, who, will live forever in our memories
as the incomparably cruel Azja Tuhaj-bejowicz.

Sketch by Kateřina Vaclavkova

The celebrity preview took place in Kielce on 26 March 1969, and two days later the film was premiered at the Kongress Cinema in Warsaw.  Seventy copies of the film were made to ensure wide distribution.  Pan Wołodyjowski is not only the most popular and critically acclaimed Polish film, but also holds the record as the largest box-office success in the history of Polish Cinema.

Production:  Polish
Date of production:  1968
Direction:  Jerzy Hoffman
Screenplay:  Jerzy Hoffman, Jerzy Lutowski - based of the novel by  Henryk Sienkiewicz

Photography:  Jerzy Lipman
Music:  Andrzej Markowski
Scenography:  Wojciech Krysztofiak,
Jerzy Groszang
Length: 161 min.

Tadeusz Łomnicki:  Michał Wołodyjowski
Magdalena Zawadzka:  Basia Wołodyjowska
Mieczysław Pawlikowski: Jan Onufry Zagłoba
Jan Nowicki:  Kettling
Barbara Brylska:  Krzysia
Daniel Olbrychski:  Azja Tuhaj-bejowicz
Marek Perepeczko:  Adam Nowowiejski
Irena Karel:  Ewka Nowowiejska
Hanka Bielicka:  Stolnikowa
Mariusz Dmochowski:  Jan Sobieski

Władysław Hańcza: 



Music from the soundtracks of the films in the Trilogy



The Adventures of Lord Michael

The Adventures of Lord Michael was the title of the 1969 Polish television series based on the final part of the famous Trilogy of Henryk Sienkiewicz, Pan Wołodyjowski.  Although the TV series was filmed concurrently with the film version, Jerzy Hoffman's name was excluded from the credits for political reasons.

Technical Data: Colour. 13 episodes - each of 25 minutes

Direction: Paweł Komorowski

Screenplay: Jerzy Lutowki

Photography: Andrzej Gronau

Production: Telewizja Polska

In the leading roles: Tadeusz Łomnicki, Magdalena Zawadzka, Daniel Olbrychski, Andrzej Łapicki, Mieczysław Pawlikowski, Barbara Kraftówna, Marek Perepeczko and others.


Jacek Frankowski

Daniel Olbrychski

One of the leading European actors of his generation, Daniel Olbrychski has portrayed the Tatar anti-heroes Tuhaj-Bej and his son Azja Tujaj-Bej in both film and television in adaptations of the historical novels Ogniem i Meczem and Pan Wołodyjowski from Henryk Sienkiewicz’s famous Trilogy.

 Slashing Out

On 17th November 2000, just after 4pm, famous Polish film actor Daniel Olbrychski entered the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw where Piotr Uklański's controversial exhibition "The Nazis" was on display.  The actor  took out a sabre and slashed the pictures hanging in the exhibition room which showed a number of famous actors in Nazi uniforms, including Clint Eastwood, Anthony Quinn—and Daniel Olbrychski himself.  Despite the unbearable associations the costumes carry, the pictures had been selected to show actors who all looked fantastic in the uniforms.   Olbrychski said, "I cannot express my contempt for the Zachęta Gallery's director, for her decision to allow this exhibition, which praises the uniform of murderers and enemies of human kind, to be shown."  Minister of Culture Kazimierz Ujazdowski also failed to appreciate Uklański’s thought-provoking concept and had the exhibition closed.

Central Europe Review
Vol 2, No 42:  4 December 2000

Isabella Kulczyńska

Antoni Chodorowski

Dariusz Łabędzki

Kateřina Vaclavkova





Kresy Fortalice in the Bieszczady

The main entrance to the fortalice with the bridge over the moat.  


Echo Połonin
Journal of the Bieszczady Conservationists

Nr. 8/31, December 2001

Extract translated from article by Edward Marszałek;
Photos and drawings by  Zygmunt Rygiel

Plan of Chrepti

Commandant’s manor house

The blacksmith’s forge

Orthodox church at Chmiel

The replica of the Chreptiów fortalice at Lutowisky Rozległe

 For the realisation of the 1998 film Pan Wołodyjowski, the director, Jerzy Hoffman ordered the construction of an exact replica of the military outpost at Chreptiów.  Bulldozers were used to level the ground, dig the ditches and raise the defence earthworks. Wojomir Wojciechowski - in those days a forest ranger at Lutowisky - remembers that the fort was constructed by the film crew themselves.  They laboured day and night in order to get the fortalice ready for filming before the onset of winter.    

Over 600 cubic metres of wood was taken from local pine forests. The trunks were stripped of bark and split into two in local sawmills. From these split tree trunks were constructed:-  the Commandant’s manor house; 5 barracks buildings; stables; an entrance gatehouse; guard towers; derricks for the freshwater well pumps; a blacksmith’s forge; a line of wooden palisades, with sharpened stakes set into the surrounding earthworks at an angle along their entire length.  

The replica fortalice at Lutowisky occupied an area of around 1.5 hectares, and took several months of construction.  We can recall that the Pan Michał of Sienkiewicz’s novel constructed his fortalice in a much shorter time scale but he had “five hundred hands labouring on the construction for three weeks

Here at Lutowisky were shot the scenes showing army life at the fortalice, Baśka’s flight from Azja Tuhaj-bejowicz - dramatic  mountain scenery among the alder forests at the headwaters of the fast flowing Głuchy - and her eventual safe arrival at Chreptiów.  In the meadows in the vicinity of the Lutowisky Forest Park, the small knight inflicted a fatal defeat on Azba-bej’s band of brigands.  In nearby Chmiel they acted out the scenes covering the burning of the fort and township of Raszków in which the ancient Orthodox church at Chmiel  featured.

For several years after the filming, the replica fortalice at Chreptiów was something of a tourist attraction.  There was even some thought given to the preservation of the fortalice, but, in view of the fact that its method of construction had not considered the fortalice as anything other than a temporary edifice, it was decided to dismantle it and sell the wood for firewood. 

According to the recollections of Wojomir Wojciechowski, permission for the wood taken for use by the film crew was obtained through the intervention of the State Forestry Commission.   After the dismantling of the fortalice, the area was restored its previous state.   The film-makers paid the cost of making good any damage done and for the loss of value in the timber that was later sold as firewood, but apart from that they were not charged anything. One reminder of Pan Wołodyjowski is the so-called film road running through the forest - once used to transport the actors to and from  the film set is now used for logging purposes

The origins and history of the Lipka Tatars

Z. Abrahamowicz and  J. Reychmann 

Extract from the Online Encyclopaedia of Islam
published by Brill Academic Publishing

(If required, the fonts needed to view this article can be downloaded as a zip file from  - extract the fonts from the zip file then copy them to the fonts folder in your operating system.)


LIPKA (LubĪa, LupĪa), the name given to the Tatars who since the 14th century inhabited Lithuania, and later the eastern and south-eastern lands of old Poland (Belorussia, Volhynia up to Podolia), and after 1672 also parts of Moldavia and Dobrudja.  Derived from the old Crimean Tatar name of Lithuania, the record of the name in Oriental sources (in 1520, later : V. Véliaminof-Zernof, Matériaux pour servir ą l'histoire du khanat de Crimée, St. Petersburg 1864, 3, 4, 720; also and  Silahdar ta"rŹÕ9i, i, Istanbul 1928, 615, 638, and C. Orhonlu, Lipkalar, in TM , xvi [1971], tables I, VI) permits us to infer an original LĖbĪa / LĖpĪa, from which the Polish Lipka was formed, with possible contamination with the Polish lipka “small lime-tree”; this etymology was suggested by the Tatar author S. Tuhan-Baranowski, (Skad powstaŃa nazwa Lipkow, in Wschód, iii [1932], 96-8). A less frequent Polish form, ~ubka, is corroborated in ~ubĪa / ~upĪa, the Crimean Tatar name of the Lipkas up to the end of the 19th century (Ewliy§ 1elebi, Kniga puteź9estvi¹ü, ed. by A. Tveritinova, i, Moscow 1961, 254, n.3).

The Tatar settlements in Lithuania date back to the first quarter of the 14th century.  Lithuania was also to provide a refuge for various exiles from the Golden Horde in later years. However, Tatar colonisation on a mass scale in Lithuania is commonly associated with the person of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Witold (ca. 1352-1430), a supporter of the Khan Tokhtamish and his sons in their struggle for power within the Horde. Witold's expedition to the banks of the Don in 1397 gave rise to a voluntary and long-lasting immigration of large masses of Tatar population from the steppes to Lithuania. The newcomers, who were brought to settle at the very centres of power such as Vilna and Troki, while maintaining their tribal organisation and freedom to follow the Islamic religion, were enlisted to do military service in separate units, and were endowed for this with land and exemption from taxation. The nobility came in time to be put on a par with the Lithuanian and Polish nobility, whereas the former tamghas (tatar livestock and property brands) performed the function of coats-of-arms (S.Dziadulewicz, Herbarz rodzin tatarskich w Polsce, Vilna 1929). The poorer part of the Tatar population engaged in various activities such as wagon-driving, trade with the East and tanning, a craft traditional with Turkic peoples. Some of the Lipkas also served as diplomatic couriers in dealings with the Crimean Khanate, and as official interpreters for mutual contacts with Turkish and Crimean embassies.

The privileges granted to the Lipkas by Witold were to be later reaffirmed by the successive Grand Dukes of Lithuania and Kings of Poland. Nevertheless, the Lipkas were exposed to the envy of the magnates and nobility and also of the Roman Catholic clergy which in turn provoked the first manifestations of ill-will among these Muslims towards their adopted land. Their complex situation was adequately depicted in the anonymous Ris§le -yi Tatar-I Leh by one of the Lipkas who, during a stay in Istanbul in 1557-8 on his way to Mecca, wrote an account for Süleyman the Magnificent (from a 18th century copy thereof, no longer extant, the Turkish text with Polish translation and commentary was published by A. MuchliŌski, Zdanie sprawy o Tatarach litewskich ..., Vilna 1858)

The rule of the fervent Catholic Sigismund III (1587-1632) and the Counter-Reformation movement brought a number of restrictions to the liberties granted to non-Catholics in Poland, the Lipkas  [V:766a] among others.  To this can be attributed the intervention by Sultan Murad III with the King in the matter of liberty of religious observance for the Lipkas, undertaken in 1591 upon the request of two Muslims who had accompanied the King's envoy to Istanbul (Z. Abrahamowicz, Katalog dokumentów tureckich, Warsaw 1959, no. 236).  In 1609 the mosque at Troki was destroyed and some Tatar women were accused of witchcraft and burnt.  P. Czyīewski, in retaliation for his father's death at the hands of a Lipka, published a pamphlet, Alfurkan tatarski prawdziwy ... (1616), that was abusive towards the Muslim creed and its believers.  It gained wide popularity (republished 1640, 1643) despite the Apologia Tatarów by Azulewicz (1630).  The Lipkas who had defended their new land in the wars against the Teutonic Order and Muscovy, as well as defending the borderland territory of Poland against the attacks of Crimean Tatars, as early as 1557-6, having the author of the Ris§le for their mouthpiece, had expressed their wish to be reintegrated with the world of Islam and even of having their land subjugated by the Padishah.

Now, ostracised as they were and in view of the material difficulties in the Polish army, significant numbers of the Lipka cavalry companies stationed in the Podole abandoned the Polish Lithaunan Commonwealth and went over to the side of the Turks when the latter invaded Poland in 1672.   Köprülüz§de F§'Ėl Ahmed Pasha forced Poland, by the Treaty of Buczacz  of  1672, to refrain from putting any obstacles in the way of any Lipkas who wished to emigrate to Islamic lands; however, their pro-Turkish enthusiasm was soon to abate.  A. KryczyŌski a former Colonel in the Polish army, and later was made commander (muȧfĖķ) at Bar, the centre of one of the four sandjaks within the new wil§yet of Podolia, and who was a fervent promoter of the idea of the Lipkas serving the Ottoman Empire, perished at the hands of other Lipka rebels occupying the Podolian stronghold of Bar in October 1673. (Silahdar  ta"rŹÕ9i, i, 638; S. KryczyŌsk, Bej barski, in RT , ii, 229-301). After the surrender of Bar to  the Polish army led by Sobieski in 1674, some of the Lipka rebels availed themselves of the Amnesty Act and returned to Poland (K. Grygajtis and J. Janczak, Powrót Lipów pod sztandary Rzeczypospolitej, in Sobótka, 1980/2, 181-9).   The reign of John III, a protector and patron of the Lipkas, was also noted in their history by a wave of conversions to Roman Catholicism, a fact which aroused the displeasure of Khan Selim Girey I in 1683 (Vel'yaminov-Zernov, op. cit., 720). The Lipkas fought in 1683 under King John III at Vienna, and their merits were recognised and rewarded at the 1684 Diet.  Nevertheless, there were as many as 472 Lipka rebels serving with the Ottoman army at Kamieniec Podolski, and lesser numbers were stationed at other Podolian castles occupied by the Turks (Orhonlu, op. cit., 71; Lipkas are also to be found in the Defter-I råzn§me yi u#am§ we erb§b-i tŹm§r-i ey§let-i |amanie ber måł3ib-i taßČŹČ fŹ sene  at the Wojewņdzkie Archiwum PaŌstwowe, PoznaŌ).

The next considerable emigration of  Lipkas to Turkey took place early in the 18th century, in consequence of  the victory won by King Augustus II over the Polish-born King Stanislas LeszczyŌski, whom the Lipkas had supported in his war against the Saxon King.  Those of the Lipkas who stayed on in Ottoman controlled territory after 1673, as well as the new emigrants, were settled in Moldavia (the Puste Pola Tatarow Lipkow Libka Tatarlerinugn (sic!) Topraghi in J. A. B. Rizzi Zannoni, Carte de la Pologne divisée par provķnces et palatinats ..., Paris 1772, no. 23), Dobrudja, and even Anatolia in the sandjak of Khudawendigar and on the Kizil IrmaĪ.    [V:766b] Formerly a constant threat to Polish borderland areas, after 1699 the Lipkas served the borderland pashas as interpreters in their peaceful relations with Poland.  In Poland they enjoyed the favour of the last King Stanislas Augustus (1765-95), and they later played their part in the national Polish uprisings against the Tsarist government; as well as serving with the Poles in the Napoleonic army.

On the other hand, the Russian Empire opened to them a way to a lawful career and education; what was more, provided the Lipkas with stimulating contact with  other Turkic Islamic peoples (those of the Crimea and of Azerbaijan). This atmosphere of religious and national revival, of animated contacts with Turkey and the other Muslim lands, as well as with the centres of Muslim learning (Sarajevo, Cairo), also distinguished the activities of the Lipkas in the restored Polish Nation after 1918. An important part was performed by the Cultural and Educational Association of the Tatars in the Republic of Poland (established 1926) and personally by Dr. J. Szynkiewicz, mufti  since 1926, an orientalist who was in close contact with the Polish Islamist T. Kowalski (Cracow) and two Karaim Turcologists, S. SzapszaŃ (Vilna) and A. Zajaczkowski (Warsaw). In Vilna, where the mufti had his seat, a Tatar National Museum was founded in 1929, and the Tatar National Archives in 1931. Several journals were published: Przeglad islamski (1930-34), Zycie tatarskie (from 1934), and the Rocznik Tatarski dealing with scientific research (Vols i-iii: published in Vilna 1932, Zamoįµ 1935, Warsaw 1938; vol. iv, destroyed by the Nazis, was never published).

 In 1936 a Tatar cavalry unit was founded within the Polish Army; and they wore the traditional horse-tails ( tugh ). The forms of Muslim religious activities in Poland were finally established by the relevant Act passed on 24 April 1936. The outbreak of the Second World War did not permit completion of the building of the mosque in Warsaw. Tatars participated in the Polish resistance movement and fell victims to the Nazis during the occupation. The westward shift of Poland's frontiers after the war, and the emigration of the Mufti, Szynkiewicz, who had not left any followers of his stature, were detrimental to the general situation of the Lipkas. Some of the Tatar intellectuals, however, supported by the Polish state, have focused their attention on religion, contacts with the Muslim world, history, mosques, burial grounds and other monuments of the Tatar past in Poland (M. Konopacki, Les musulmans en Pologne, in REI 1968/1; A. Miįkiewicz, Tatarzy polscy w latach 1918-1980, in Novum, 1980/8, 83-109).

The author of the Ris§le reckoned that there were a hundred settlements of the Lipkas, with a corresponding number of mosques, in Poland, and numbered their population at 200,000, a figure that seems greatly exagerated.  Ibrihim PeewŹ, quoting the statement made by a messenger of the Lipkas to the mufti at AĪkerman, mentions sixty villages with mosques (Ta"rikh, i, Istanbul 1283, 472, quoted by A. MuchliŌski, Izsledovanie oproisÕ9ozhdenii i sostoyanii litovskiÕ9 tatar, St. Petersburg 1857, 60-1, and Orhonlu, op. cit., 63). In 1932 there were about 6,000 Muslims in Poland, with 16 mosques and one under construction, and two prayer-houses ( RT, i, 323). At present, their approximate number in Poland exceeds 2,000. There are only two mosques, in the villages of Bohoniki and Kruszyniany (Bo’9onuĪ, |urź9un among the Tatars), of which the former, devastated by the Nazi troops, has been rebuilt on a government grant. Since the 19th century there has also been a Muslim community in Warsaw  [V:767a] with an old burial ground; two new comunities were established after the last war in GdaŌsk and Szczecin, where the Tatar repatriates from the East had come to settle.

The author of the Ris§le reports that the imams were brought in by the Lipkas partly from the Crimea and the Horde. PeewŹ relates that litigious matters of religious and legal nature were submitted by them to, e.g., the mufti at AĪkerman (loc. cit.). Their contacts with the Muslim clergy in Turkey (also attested by the references in contemporary Turkish authors; Orhonlu, op. cit., 66) are recorded into the 18th century (Czartoryski Library, Cracow, no. XVII/1080). The author of the Ris§le, a fervent Muslim himself, had deplored the fact that some of the Lipkas assumed the Christian creed, that the knowledge of Arabic was dying out among them and that, still worse, they tended to forget their own language, so that yerlüler lis§nĖ ile söylemeye baź9ladĖlar  and nobody but the newcomers knew the “Ottoman” language.  PeewŹ's informant had equally stressed that the Lipkas on copying the Kuran #arabŹ khattile commented upon it Leh keferesi lis§nĖ ile (loc. cit.). Ewliy§ 1elebi had at first called them soberly Leh ĪralĖna ümmet-i Muhammed'den LĖbĪa ĪawmĖ, and numbering them into the “Tatar” nations, justly regarded their language as belonging to the Slavonic family ( Sey§Čat n§me, ii, 99; v, 138, 146).

Later, however, when the name of the Lipkas was cited to him at ˜jvįr-Neuhäusel (Nové Zįmky, in Slovakia) by the Crimean Tatar adversaries of the Swedes in Poland in 1656 [cf LEH ], he wrote how that in “Sweden” which he had allegedly visited along with the Tatars in 1663, he found 800,000 (vi, 368) or 1,000,000 (x, 77) göcer ewli Tatars, adding to this that they did not know Tatar at all and spoke among themselves only ić§ly§n lis§nĖ üzere (vi, 368). In fact, the Lipkas, as a result of their intermarriage with the Poles and Belorussians, completely abandoned their native language; however, although Polish and Belorussian became their predominant languages, even in religious writings, they were still spelt in the Arabic alphabet (such texts in both languages are quoted by MuchliŌski, Izsledovanie ..., 62-70; in general, A. K. Antonovich, Belorusskie tekstĖ, pisannye arabskim piįmom, i iÕ9 grafiko-ortografieskaya sistema, Vilna 1968, with detailed bibliography). Furthermore, the Polish and Belorussian as spoken and written by these Muslims were enriched with many loan-words taken from the Muslim creed, community life, and everyday activities, of Arabic, Persian and Turkic origin (A. Woronicz, Szczatki jezykowe Tatarów litewskich, in RT , ii, 351-67, with a vocabulary listing similar words and phrases). This cultural ambiguity can be also observed on the tombstones of the Lipkas, where the half-moon and the ź9eh§deteyn formula in Arabic are usually followed by the text proper written in Polish or, formerly, sometimes in Russian.

In recent times, however, even the knowledge of the Arabic alphabet has been dying out among the younger generation. Hence, when J. Sobolewski wrote his Wyklad wiarymahometaŌskiej czyli islamskiej (“Exposition of the Muhammedan or Islamic creed”, Vilna 1830), with an explanation of the religious rites and prayers, he did it in Polish only; the book being destined for his many co-religionists who were unable to read the traditional kitabs in the Arabic alphabet. The Polish translation of the Kuran by Jan Mirza Tarak Buczacki (Warsaw 1858) was founded not upon the Arabic version only, but was provided with commentaries derived from the French translation of the Kuran  [V:767b] by Kazimirski, which, to cite J. Szynkiewicz, “were often offensive to the religious feelings of a Muslim” (Literatura religijna Tatarów litewskich i jej pochodzenie, in RT, ii, 140). The Tatar national and cultural revival in interwar Poland was, however, largely due also to some of the Roman Catholic Lipkas (S. Dziadulewicz, S. KryczyŌski and others). Lipkas who had converted to Christianity were among the ancestors of the celebrated Polish writer H. Sienkiewicz (1846-1916; Nobel Prize for Literature 1905).

(The above extract by  Z. Abrahamowicz and  J. Reychmann  from Brill Academic Publishing’s Online Encyclopaedia of Islam has been slightly edited for the sake of readability)

In addition to references given in the article, see in general S. L. KryczyŌski , Bibliografieskie materialĖ o tataraÕ9 Polź9i, LitvĖ , Belorussii i UkrainĖ , Petrograd 1917, with new addenda of idem, in RT , i, 295, 311

The most fundamental publication is S. KryczyŌski , Tatarzy litewscy. Próba monografii historyczno-etnograficznej, Warsaw 1938 (RT , iii)

V. D. Smirnov, KrĖmskoe Õ9anstvo pod verkhovenstvom  Otomanskoy PortĖ do naala XVIII veka, St. Petersburg 1887, 156-7

idem, Sbornik nekotorĖÕ9 va9nĖÕ9 izvestiy i ofitsial' nĖÕ9 dokumentov kasatel'no Turcii, Rossii i KrĖma, St. Petersburg 1881 (18th-century Turkish documents on the Lipkas)

S. Sienicki, Quelques notes pour servir ą l'histoire des musulmans ą Varsovie et leur cimetičre, in L'Echo de Varsovie, 22 December 1934

J. Reychman, Zabytki orientalne w Polsce, in Ochrona Zabytkow, 1957/1

idem, al- $ļ9§r al- isl§mŹ fŹ Bålanda, Warsaw 1958.





Miscellany of Links

Sikorski Polish Club Glasgow


Selim Mirza-Juszenski Chazbijewicz

Tartar Nobility in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth
(Szlachta tatarska  w Rzeczypospolitej) 
Verbum Nobile no 2 (1993), Sopot, Poland.

Translated into English by: Paul de Nowina-Konopka


Lipka Message Board at

especially contributions by Maurice Galeski


Henryk Sienkiewicz

Pan Wołodyjowski
(Polish version)


Embassy of the Polish Republic in Sana, Yemen

Islam w Polsce
(Islam in Poland)


Jan Tuczkowski

Polish Information Centre in Lithuania



Zygmunt Gloger

Geografia historyczna ziem dawnej Polski
(Historical Geography of the Lands of Old Poland)


History of the Mongol Empire


Jan III Sobieski

Listy do Marysienki
(Letters to Marysienka)


Tatar Mosques of Lithuania


Polish Renaissance Warfare

Summary of Conflicts - Part Eight : 1672-1699


Swawolna Kompanija

Robert Gadziemski

Lipkowe obyczaje
(Customs and Religion of the Lipkas)


Grzegorz Welik

Pieczęc Herb Slachty Lipkow
(Heraldic Seal of the Noble Lipkas)


Tatarzy Polscy
(Polish Tatars)


Dr Marzena Godzińska

Polonya Tartarlari
(Polish Tatars)

Embassy of the Polish Republic in Ankara,Turkey


Lithuanian Tatars


Jerzy Hoffman’s film
Pan Wołodyjowski pl
Pictures from Poland

Photos of the Mosque and Cemetery at Bohoniki


Settlement of Tatars at Bohoniki near Sokólka by Jan III Sobieski


Pan Wołodyjowski in Biały Bόr

Barbara Bandrowska


The filming of Pan Wołodyjowski in the Bieszczady:
extract from the book
 "Filmowe przygody małego rycerza",
Barbara Wachowicz, Warszawa 1971.


Die Flucht der Litauer in der Schlacht bei Tannenberg

(The flight of the Lithuanians at the Battle of Tannenberg)

Sven Ekdahl:


Tatarzy Polscy
(Polish Tatars)

This site contains the book by Piotr Borawski and Aleksander Dubiński -
"Tatarzy Polscy, dzieje, obrzędy, legendy, tradycje"
(Polish Tatars - their history, customs, legends and traditions.)


"Przedbόrz" - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I

Translation of "Przedbόrz" chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin


Wooden Synagogues of Poland in the 17th and 18th Century

David Dawidowicz: Synagogues in Poland and their Destruction