The first partition of Poland in 1772 was an attempt to restore the regional balance of power in Central Europe among the three powers Austria, Russia and Prussia. The growth in the Russian Empire's power was threatening the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Austrian Empire. Frederick the Great engineered the partition to prevent Austria, jealous of Russian successes against the Ottoman Empire, from going to war. It meant that suddenly 201 Jesuits in four colleges and two residences in the Polish and Lithuanian Provinces found themselves under the rule of Empress Catherine the Great. The obstinate refusal of Catherine to promulgate the Brief of Suppression in Russia was due to her desire to keep the Jesuits who were doing a great job in education the Lithuanian and Polish aristocracy. It was Catherine’s interest to keep them onside.
By 1780 it was becoming increasingly obvious to the enemies of the Jesuits that there was a growing willingness , albeit hesitant, in Pius VI to accommodate Catherine’s intransigence. Pius was afraid that pressing Catherine would have disastrous consequences on her Catholic subjects. The ambassadors of Spain, France and Portugal were witnessing these developments with growing alarm. Monino, the Spanish ambassador, who had actually drafted the Brief, warned Catherine that the Jesuits were enemies of the State. In an audacious use of pressure he warned her that Catholic merchants may be forced to leave Russia. Catherine refusing to be intimidated, reasserting her rights to govern as she chose.
The Bourbon ambassadors turned the pressure up on the Pope to excommunicate the Jesuits in White Russia. Pius, as always walking the diplomatic tightrope, was playing for time. He was vindicated when Catherine turned nasty. She had two trump cards. Firstly she threatened to force all the Catholics into the Orthodox Church. Secondly she had maintained a measured neutrality in the American War of Independence. Now she started dropping hints that may the Russian Imperial Army should consider helping the English. The Bourbons backed down and the Jesuits consolidated their position in White Russia.