That day, in 1791, the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania enacted the first codified constitution in Europe and the second in the modern world (after the United States of America). Even though it was in force for less than 2 years, now we can see from the historical perspective that the circumstances in which it was adopted as well as its contents have significantly increased the importance of this act. 150 years before that The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been one of the greatest European countries. Both in size and power. However, in the meantime, as a result of collusion between Catherine the Great (Empress of Russia) and Frederick the Great (King of Prussia) the Commonwealth experienced internal conflicts and, in consequence, it weakened. In 1772 the First Partition of Poland took place. Due to this event the Polish Kingdom lost 4.5 million people and 211000 km² (81 467.5555 sq mi) of land that was divided by Austria, Prussia and Russia. After all that happened the act of adopting constitution could be seen as an attempt to reinforce both the country and the Polish nation. It certainly brought in an impression of the Kingdom’ stability but, as we can see by looking at what happened later, it did not manage to make Poland a respected model of statehood.
Since then Poland have enacted 16 constitutions but all of them have derived from the Constitution of 3 May. Nowadays children learn at Polish schools not only the history of the Constitution itself but also the history of the celebration of its adoption, which is the 3rd May National Holiday. For it has been recorded many times that the celebration was banned (when Poland did not appear on map anymore due to partitions for 123 years and later during the World War II by Hitler and by Stalin and after that by communistic governments) and should not be taking place. But the patriotic spirit of courageous Poles did not let them give up and, as the historical sources say, the Constitution Day was still celebrated through all these years regardless the obstacles. Now it can be celebrated freely and openly. Today Polish people celebrate this holiday by attending patriotic marches and ceremonies organised in different cities in Poland but also abroad, where the largest Polish communities are (like in Chicago or in London). Also Lithuania celebrates this holiday for, after all, it was their constitution too (but unlike in Poland it is not a work-free day).
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