The May 3, 1971, Constitution

The EHL Site

Three handwritten originals of the Constitution of 3rd May 1791 are currently held by the Central Archives of Historical Records in three different archival collections. All three have very different histories, but all have one thing in common; they found their way to the Central Archives of Historical Records and are still preserved there today.

Most activities carried out by the archives are related to online promotion and do not require interfering with the originals. And what’s more, that form of activities ensure protection of invaluable original documents, which are presented only at the special occasions in appropriate conditions. The documents are displayed in the special showcase and for a very short time.

The activities:

  • Annual open lectures on the Constitution combined with presentations of the original document in Central Archives of Historical Records in the period preceding the anniversary of enactment of the Constitution.
  • Lectures and lessons are each time adjusted to the education level or age of the recipients.
  • Posters in windows of the building inform where the Constitution is stored and about the EHL recognition.
  • The bilingual (Polish-English) EHL board on the wall of the building informs what the Label is and what is the significance of the distinguished object, i.e. the Constitution for the European heritage.
  • The board exhibition at the gate of the building is on the agenda of free-of-charge tours of Warsaw organised for Polish and foreign tourists.
  • Online presentation of the Constitution accessible in a version for the youth and special description in the simple language and audio version.

European dimension

The May 3, 1791 Constitution was the first modern constitution in Europe adopted democratically. The May 3, 1791 Constitution in todays tormented times is a remainder of the values such as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, cultural and linguistic diversity, tolerance and solidarity, that were acknowledged in the age of Enlightenment. Although sometimes differently understood nowadays, but still they represent European Enlightenment’s ideas that are the foundation of today’s Europe and were accepted through the centuries, to be finally chosen as the base for the European Union.

The organization

The Central Archives of Historical Records is the oldest public Polish archive, which origins date back to the times of the Duchy of Warsaw. It was established on September 2, 1808, under the name of the General Land Archives by the decree of Frederick Augustus, Prince of Warsaw.

Currently, the Central Archives of Historical Records has historically shaped holding, chronologically ranging from the 12th century to the end of World War I (except for family archives and vital record files from the areas “beyond the Bug River” – todays Ukraine). It also includes archives of Polish and foreign (partitioners) authorities, central and provincial offices and institutions, as well as archives of families and people of special importance from the territories of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the Crown and Lithuania); the so-called South Prussia and New Eastern Prussia (Prussian partition); the Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland, as well as parts of Galicia (Austrian partition). In 2022, the AGAD resource numbered over 323 900 archival units in 486 founds and collections (nearly 6,59 thousand meters).

The mission of the Central Archives of Historical Records is: “to preserve the written heritage of the past generations for the future and make it widely accessible to the general public of today and tomorrow”.

The Central Archives of Historical Records is also particularly well placed to disseminate knowledge about the Constitution of 3rd May and the historical period during which it was passed. The Central Archives of Historical Records holds numerous precious documents around the Constitution, including handwritten originals copies of the text and the first prints.