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  • Redakcja: Jerzy Kłoczowski, Hubert Łaszkiewicz
  • Poland. A History
  • kod: 90
  • ISBN: 978-83-85854-44-9
  • Lublin 2012
  • 168 str.
  • format 230x240
  • --

In the following essays we present a concise outline of Polish history over the last millennium with an emphasis on presenting the uniqueness of Polish history in the European context. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, when western, Latin civilisation was taking shape, a Polish state that had formed from Slavic tribes came into its orbit when it accepted Latin-rite Christianity in 966. Other states taking shape alongside Poland in East-Central Europe between the Adriatic and the Baltic (Croatia, Hungary, the Czech lands) created a broad eastern borderland of the western, “Latin” sphere of civilisation, as a counterpart to Slavic-Byzantine Europe which was taking shape at the same time. The close integration of Poland, East-Central Europe and Scandinavia with western civilisation – Res, or Europe – was a process that lasted several centuries and was very important for the strengthening of our civilisation and its intensive, multifaceted development. Poland’s Christianisation and “Occidentalisation” went hand in hand with the maintenance of its own language and a national culture that was both Polish and European. The close link forged between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1386 brought about a significant change in the situation of East-Central Europe, leading finally to the creation of a strong, enduring Polish-Lithuanian federation in 1569. This federation, as is now more and more often recognised, was one of the most interesting experiments in European unions before the twentieth century. It and its freedoms were liquidated at the end of the eighteenth century by two of the most absolutist powers in Europe – Prussia and Russia – in alliance with the Habsburgs. In the nineteenth century these autocratic powers spread very hostile opinions about the Polish-Lithuanian federation but today in many countries these opinions are being thoroughly revised as people take a fresh look at the history of Europe and her peoples. The amount and range of freedom – from religious freedom on – in the culturally and ethnically highly diverse Republic is noteworthy today as an example of European humanism. It is estimated, for example, that most of today’s Jews trace their roots back to the lands of our Republic. New research is bringing to light the importance of the Polish-Lithuanian Republic’s cultural experiences for the slowly forming cultures of various peoples, including among others the Ukrainians and Belarusians. In nineteenth and twentieth century Polish tradition, memory of the multi-ethnic Republic was always a counterbalance to all forms of aggressive nationalism. The development of intensive international and interdenominational co-operation between historians presents us with an opportunity to reach a new understanding of the broadly understood federation – Polish-Lithuanian but in fact comprised of many nations. The period from 1795–1918, when Poland and the Republic disappeared from the maps of Europe, was a difficult and complicated time for Poles and for all the nations and cultures of the old federal state. Polish historical memory and tradition pays particular attention to the various forms of armed resistance (risings). But social, cultural, economic and other forms of resistance were important too. The importance of national culture and memory is highly visible in, above all, Poland’s rich national literature, extended by successive generations. An integral history of all the enormous lands of the old Republic must of course bring out the full nature of the profound changes that successive generations underwent – different changes in different places but at least partially in accordance with general European trends (e.g. democratisation), though conditioned by the policies of the partitioning powers and local circumstances. The partitioning powers consistently followed a policy of divide and conquer, especially when it came to destroying resistance. This policy came up against the slowly growing national consciousness in wider Polish and – in time – other circles. From the close of the nineteenth century aggressive chauvinism grew in significance in these nationalist movements. Scrupulously objective, multi-faceted comparative studies of social memory and consciousness are still needed. The defeat of the three partitioning powers in World War One was the decisive factor in Poland’s regaining of independence. It would not have been possible without a unified society and armed struggles for all of the country’s borders in the year 1918–1921. The repulse of the Soviet invasion in 1920 was without question of great significance, and not just for Poland. The striking feature of this event was the unification of national forces – the cities and the countryside, with mass participation of peasants and workers and all political orientations from left to right. The economic destruction wrought by World War One and the legacy of the three partitioning powers made building the new state difficult. The sense of danger from Germany and the Soviet Union was all the time strong. These two countries questioned not only Poland’s borders but the very existence of the country. Of great significance to Poland in the long run was the wide-ranging education campaign that was undertaken – especially the development of schooling from primary level up (illiteracy was particularly rife in the parts of Poland that Russia had partitioned). Poland’s short period of independence (1918/21–1939) was one of great difficulty from the point of view of both the domestic and the international situation. On the other hand, it greatly strengthened Polish society’s national consciousness and its attachment to such values as freedom and democracy. This prepared society for the dramatic conflict with first Nazi and then Soviet totalitarianism in the years from 1939 to 1989. World War Two and the Cold War were for Poland a confrontation with both kinds of totalitarianism – Nazi (1939–1944/45) and Soviet (1939–1989). Several theses of far-ranging significance, which still demand further, in-depth and scrupulously objective study, start to become clear. It is reasonable to assume that Poland or – more broadly – the nations of the old Republic, and Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania (to say nothing of Jews) has the most experience of both totalitarianisms (here there is room too for the history of Russia and her experience of totalitarianism). After losing the war, Poland was divided between the Soviets and the Nazis in the years 1939–1941. Hundreds of thousands of people were murdered or deported by both sides. Mass murder of Jews and Roma by the Nazis took place in the 1941–1943 period. In Warsaw, after the final liquidation of the ghetto in mid-1943, the public execution by firing squads of large groups of Poles became an everyday occurrence on city streets. A constitutional system and dependence on Moscow were forced on Poland after 1944. Its distinguishing feature, a kind of “nationalist communism”, was an attempt to win round some sections of public opinion. It went hand in hand with ruthless repression. Polish resistance was strong, however, even amongst some members of the ruling party (the “workers’” party, not the “communist” party). To gain a full, objective picture of the entire situation, along with the various “resistances”, multi-faceted, objective studies from the wider European perspective are still required. It is entirely possible that broadly understood Polish resistance to both Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism has an exceptionally important place in European history. It would seem that only after 1989–1991 did this become clear to European public opinion. This came with a better understanding of Stalinism. In the post-1989 period Poland’s immense efforts to establish the best possible relations with all her neighbours, along with her entry into and strengthening of the European Union, are worthy of special emphasis.
(Jerzy Kłoczowski, Wstęp)

Seria: Humanica