Coat of Arms of the)Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth T-Shirt
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was formed by the union of the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1569. The new Commonwealth was one of the largest and most populous countries of 16th and 17th-century Europe. ---- The new union possessed features unique among its contemporary states: the Commonwealth's political system (known alternately as the Noble's democracy or Golden Freedom) was characterized by strict checks upon monarchical power. These checks were enacted by a legislature (Sejm) controlled by the nobility (szlachta). This idiosyncratic system was a precursor of modern concepts of democracy, constitutional monarchy and federation.The two component states of the Commonwealth were formally equal, yet Poland was the dominant partner of the union. ----- The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was marked by high levels of ethnic diversity and unusual religious tolerance, although the degree of it varied with time. After several decades of unparalleled power and greatness, the Commonwealth entered a period of protracted political, military and economic decline. In 1795 the Commonwealth was extinguished by growing absolutist neighbors: Austria, Prussia and Russia. Shortly before its demise the Commonwealth adopted a massive reform effort and enacted what is traditionally seen as the second oldest codified national constitution of modern history.