Over the course of the 16th century the expansionist ambitions of the Ottoman Turks in Europe became focussed on the land route, turning their Balkan borders with the Habsburgs and Poland into a battle-scarred wasteland of tenuous vassal states over the next century. An early casualty was the kingdom of Hungary, partitioned after defeat by the Ottomans at Mohacs (1526). The Treaty of Speyer (1570) sewed together the principality of Transylvania out of Hungarian fragments: it would forge a precarious but often lucrative existence through trading with – and off – its Muslim and Christian neighbours. The Union of Lublin (1569) was another piece of political stitchwork, innovatively forming a commonwealth between Poland and Lithuania with a (limited) elective democracy. Its early years were promising, with King Stefan Bathory winning a series of victories over Russia’s Ivan the Terrible. However, noble powers of veto would soon lead to institutional paralysis and decline.
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