‘Miracle on the Dniester’ 400 years ago this week as significant for history of Europe as 1920’s Battle of Warsaw

The battle forced the Ottomans to give up their dreams of adding Poland to their realm, and gave Poland its self-image of being the defender of Christianity in Europe. Kalbar/TFN

While the Battle of Warsaw in 1920 is known as the Miracle on Vistula, the victory at Chocim 400 years ago this week in 1621 can rightly stand alongside it as the Miracle on the Dniester.

After a month-long siege, over 8,000 hussars, the largest number ever to take the field, along with Lithuanians and Cossacks, halted Ottoman plans that would have seen them pitching their tents on the Baltic.

Day after day, until the beginning of October, Polish troops repelled the assaults of the Turkish army.Public domain

The battle, though officially a draw, forced the Ottomans to give up their dreams of adding Poland to their realm, and gave Poland its self-image of being the defender of Christianity in Europe.

To mark the occasion, the Royal Łazienki Museum in Warsaw has opened an exhibition featuring military items from the period.

The 16-year-old Sultan Osman II wanted to prove himself in war, and persistent raiding by Polish-aligned Cossacks on Turkey's northern coast gave him the excuse he needed.Public domain

Chocim, today known as Khotym, is located near Chernivtsi in the south-western part of Ukraine near the borders with Romania and Moldova. In 1621, it was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth near the border with the province of Moldavia, an Ottoman fief that Poland contested.

In the autumn of 1621, the castle at Chocim, on the Dniester river, came under siege by the Ottoman army.

In the autumn of 1621, the castle at Chocim, on the Dniester river, came under siege by the Ottoman army.CC BY-SA 2.5

Poland had enjoyed a long period of peace with the Ottomans. However, the 16-year-old Sultan Osman II wanted to prove himself in war, and persistent raiding by Polish-aligned Cossacks on Turkey's northern coast gave him the excuse he needed.

On September 2, around noon, the Sultan's army stood at Chocim. The Ottomans deliberately camped over a large area so that the Poles could see the power of the Sultan's army.

The Polish forces continued to fight despite their legendary leader Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz dying and being replaced by Stanisław Lubomirski.Kalbar/TFN

But even without the optical effect the numbers were overwhelming.

Historical sources state that the Turks at Chocim had around 100,000 to 150,000 men, while the size of the army of the Republic was 46-50,000 soldiers.

Deputy culture minister Jarosław Sellin said: “In view of the ambitious plan of the […] young Sultan Osman II to make his empire reach as far as the Baltic Sea, the resolution of this battle was truly significant for the history of the whole of Europe.”Public domain

Day after day, until the beginning of October, Polish troops repelled the assaults of the Turkish army, despite their legendary leader Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz dying and being replaced by Stanisław Lubomirski.

By 9 October, the two sides decided that further fighting was futile and signed an honourable peace.

Kalbar/TFN

Kalbar/TFN

Kalbar/TFN

The exhibition features items that illustrate the causes and effects of the battle. Its main exhibits are historic weapons from Poland-Lithuania and Turkey.Kalbar/TFN

After Poland recognised Turkish sovereignty over Moldavia, the Turkish army left its camp on 10 October.

The Poles undertook to restrain the Cossacks from invading Turkey, and the Turks would stop the Tatars from raiding in Poland. The Dniester remained the border between the two states.

Among Polish military equipment from the period being featured in the exhibition  is a unique Hussar breastplate from the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries.Kalbar/TFN

At the opening of the exhibition in the newly refurbished Kubicki Stables in Łazienki Park, deputy culture minister Jarosław Sellin said: “In view of the ambitious plan of the then 17-year-old young Sultan Osman II to make his empire reach as far as the Baltic Sea, the resolution of this battle was truly significant for the history of the whole of Europe.

“Perhaps this is why some historians compare the significance of the Battle of Chocim in 1621 for Poland and Europe with the Battle of Warsaw in 1920.”

The exhibition features items that illustrate the causes and effects of the battle. Its main exhibits are historic weapons from Poland-Lithuania and Turkey.

Kalbar/TFN

Kalbar/TFN

One of the most interesting items in the exhibition is an extremely rare musket used by Janissaries in the 16th century.Kalbar/TFN

One of the most interesting items in the exhibition is an extremely rare musket used by Janissaries in the 16th century.

Among Polish military equipment from the period is a unique Hussar breastplate from the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The exhibition at the Kubicki Stables will continue up to 9 January 2022.