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The Polish - Turkish War of 1485-1503 was a prolonged conflict, or a series of conflicts, between the Kingdom of Poland and the Ottoman Empire. It formally lasted eighteen years, but during this time, hostilities were several times ceased, due to temporary treaties, signed between the warring parties. The climax of the conflict was a disastrous King Jan Olbracht’s raid on Moldavia (1497, see also Battle of the Cosmin Forest).

In the war, the Kingdom of Poland was supported by its fiefs, the Duchy of Mazovia and the State of the Teutonic Order as well as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Ottoman Empire, on the other hand, was backed by the Crimean Khanate, Moldavia and Wallachia.

For most of the 15th century, the Principality of Moldavia was a vassal of Poland, but at the same time, other states, notably the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire together with the Crimean Khanate, tried to subdue Moldavia. After the Fall of Constantinople (1453), the Turks directed their expansion northwards, towards the lower Danube and behind the mighty river, which also threatened Poland.

Outbreak of the war[]

In 1485, Turks captured Black Sea ports Akkerman and Kilia. This undermined Polish eastern trade. The king promised help, calling pospolite ruszenie and Crown army, together with mercenaries. In November 1485, Poles, commanded by Jan Karnkowski entered Moldavia, defeating some Turkish forces. Jan Olbracht himself prepared an anti-Turkish raid in 1487, but had to change these plans and sent his forces to fight Tatars, allied with the Ottomans. On September 8, 1487, the Battle of Kopystrzyn in Podolia took place, in which the Tatars were defeated.

On March 23, 1489, a two-year truce was signed between Poland and Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II, and on January 25, 1491 the Battle of Zaslaw in Volhynia took place, in which Polish forces destroyed a Tatar raid.

In 1494 King Olbracht began military preparations for a new raid, despite a three-year truce, signed on April 6 of that year. Moldovan ruler Stephen III promised to help the Poles as soon as they reached Black Sea ports. It took Poland three years to complete preparations. Their army was made of Polish Crown forces, aided by a number of foreign mercenaries, 400 Teutonic Knights under Grand Master Johann von Tieffen, and 600 strong unit from Mazovia. Altogether, Polish army was some 40 000 strong, with 200 cannons.

Polish units of pospolite ruszenie gathered in May–June 1497 in Podolia, and in early August of that year, the army crossed the Dniestr river, entering Moldavia. The Poles were taken by surprise by Moldavian ruler Stephen III.

On September 24, 1497, Polish army began the siege of Suceava, which was a failure, and on October 19 the Poles began to retreat. A week later, on October 26, Poles were defeated in the Battle of the Cosmin Forest.

Polish raid provoked Turks and Tatars to invade southeastern corner of Poland. This took place in spring 1498: after crossing the Dniestr, the invaders ransacked Red Ruthenia, capturing thousands of people and reaching as far as Przeworsk. In the summer of that year, the Tatars again invaded Poland, mainly Podolia and Volhynia.


On July 13, 1498, King Jan Olbracht signed a treaty with the Kingdom of Hungary, in which both sides agreed to cooperate against the Ottomans. On August 15, 1499, Stephen III accepted the truce, and on October 9, 1503, King Aleksander Jagiellonczyk signed a five-year peace treaty with Sultan Bayezid II.

See also[]


  • Roman Grodecki, Stanislaw Zachorowski, Jan Dabrowski, Dzieje Polski Sredniowiecznej, t. 2, Kraków 1995.
  • Henryk Lowmianski, Polityka Jagiellonów, Poznan 2006.

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