XI, 2015, 2

Preliminaries of “The Postponed War”: Polish-Hungarian Rivalry and the Ottoman Campaign from 1476 | p. 7–24

Holy See, Hungary, Moldavia, Ottoman Empire, Poland


The present study analyses the way in which Polish-Hungarian rivalry regarding suzerainty over Moldavia influenced the military defence plans against the Sultan’s campaign to Moldavia in 1476. In 1474, Hungary and Poland signed a treaty in which they agreed that the rights of the two Kings over Moldavia be discussed by a common diet, which was to decide who should be the suzerain king. Until then both Kingdoms vowed to protect Moldavia against any Ottoman threat. In the spring of 1475, Stephen the Great proposed to the Polish and Hungarian Kings an ambitious plan to annihilate the Sultan, which consisted in attracting the latter deep into the Moldavian territory and surrounding him with the
Moldavian-Polish-Hungarian armies. King Matthias conditioned his help on Stephen’s pledging the vassal homage, which the latter accepted, though, in reality, the relation between the two was no more than an anti-Ottoman alliance, vested in the traditional form of vassalage.

The breaking of the Stara Wiess treaty triggered the reaction of Poland, which sent emissaries to Moldavia to receive the vassal homage from the voivode, and delegated its members in the Polish-Hungarian diet. Under the pretext of the Ottoman threat, the Hungarian King asked for the postponement of the diet, which the Polish King accepted. In the meantime, Matthias Corvinus had the Pope recognizing his suzerainty and protection over Moldavia, which vexed Poland. Being informed that the Sultan does not intend to conquer Moldavia, King Casimir decided not to get involved, at the same time giving the Moldavian voivode the impression that he would.

Confronted by threats from Teutonic Order, Moscow and Hungary, Poland did not risk a conflict with the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate. Moreover it did not want to contribute to the success of King Matthias, the self-declared champion of the anti-Ottoman fight. On the other side, the Hungarian army entered Moldavia only when the Sultan began the retreat, presented as a military success of Hungary. Poland tried to blame the responsibility of the failure on the King of Hungary, accusing the way the latter spent the papal subsidies and asking in turn for money to fight against the Turks. Moreover it asked for the peace negotiations with Hungary to be reopened under the mediation of the Pope. On his turn, Matthias Corvinus blamed the responsibility on the Moldavian voivode and the fact that he was not supported by the other Christian rulers. The voivode of Moldavia blamed both of the two Kings, accusing them for breaking their prior vows and agreements. The excommunication of King Casimir by the papal legate in 1478, followed by the Sultan’s proposal for an alliance against Hungary, reopened discussions for a coordinated Polish-Ottoman action for the restoration of the suzerainty over Moldavia. The plan was abandoned, because King Casimir declined the Sultan’s offer and because, after negotiations, the voivode of Moldavia issued a charter in which he vowed to pledge personal homage to the Polish King.