Its predecessors, the kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, had centuries of history before. Poland–Lithuania was a beacon for liberty in a time when absolute monarchy was the norm in Europe. The union was known for religious tolerance, ethnic diversity, and parliamentary rule.
In the end of the 18th century, the country was partitioned between the rising great powers; the Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire and Prussia throughout the 19th century. Poland and Lithuania were devastated in the crossfire of two world wars, and achieved functional independence only with the 1980s revolutions.