POLISH THEMES ACROSS A VARIETY OF CEU PRESS PUBLICATIONS
This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to Poland, its history and culture. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.
“Defined against a geopolitical background of insecurity and threats, perhaps PiS was just faster than its rivals in understanding the electorate. Perhaps Poland was simply reverting to type. Wasn’t this New Normal a lot like the Old Normal?“—current Polish politics in the eyes of a British journalist.
“PiS had somehow cobbled together a winning brand, with doses of economic redistribution, social conservatism, and patriotic rhetoric. PiS branded itself the creator of a ‘Polish welfare state’ and its election manifesto rejected “the rules of neoliberalism.”
“Perhaps the weakest element of The New Statesman and other similar articles was the failure to grasp PiS’s success in structural and socio-economic terms. The focus was on how to regenerate the opposition and again, in largely symbolic and vague ways. Nothing on the economic foundations of social class, nothing of notions of elite self-perpetuation and intra elite rivalries.”
“The so-called ‘third circulation’ (trzeci obieg) refers to a cultural split under the communist system between official (“first circulation”) and unofficial (“second circulation”) activities and publications. The term pertains to the Polish alternative movement in general, characterized by spontaneous performances, garage rock, street happenings, youth and hippie culture, expressive poetics, punk music, graffiti painting.”—on the aesthetic underground in the Soviet Bloc.
“In the 1980s, unofficial literature had a vanishingly small readership in Czechoslovakia compared to the People’s Republic of Poland.”
“Stasiuk’s Warsaw functions as a completed urban disaster: a zombie city. He sees today’s Warsaw primarily as a city colonized by the West… For all its urban ugliness, the Warsaw of Stasiuk’s Nine is a highly poetic space.”
“Berlin’s Club of Polish Losers (Klub Polskich Nieudacznikow, Club der Polnischen Versager) remixes subcultural and countercultural traditions ad absurdum into a cult of ostentatious contempt for meaning.”
CEU Press books with a Polish focus, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:
“An attempt to approach the questions why and how PiS returned to power and why and how it is doing what it is doing while in power.”
From the foreword to a collection of essays on current Polish politics.
“Perhaps PiS was just faster than its rivals in understanding its electorate. Perhaps Poland was simply reverting to type. Wasn’t this New Normal a lot like the Old Normal—in other words: insular, conservative, xenophobic, and statist?”
“For the New Right myths were created to cover its plans to eviscerate the state, wind down welfare and eradicate Political Correctness. In Poland one sees Smoleńsk, attacks on Lech Wałęsa, History Policy, the historian Jan Gross, all concealing or diverting attention away from attacks on the separation of powers, a free media, pluralism in public life, and so on.”
“The aim of the book is to reach a wider audience, to unravel some complex academic ideas for lay readers and also offer academics some of the benefits of real-time reportage.”
“This is a book about values—specifically about civic and uncivic values in Poland. It is not a book about democracy, although values are certainly important for democracy. Nor is this volume intended to provide a complete overview of Polish society; thus, there are no chapters on the car industry, shipping, or the police. Our focus is on values.”—from the introduction.
“Wałęsa said that he considered it ‘likely’ that there would be a ‘revolution’ against the Law and Justice regime.”
“Dmowski’s political ‘map’ is not the only available model from the past which might guide Poles in the future. And whether Poles choose to look to past politicians such as Piłsudski, or to the heroism of living political figures such as Wałęsa, or to chart new paths without referring to past political models and examples, it is clear enough that the struggle to defend democracy in Poland is just beginning.”
“What has been the impact of the economic and political system in different periods on the class structure? We argue that even during extreme societal transformations, key features of social life, especially class, have long-lasting, stratifying effects. Similarly, mechanisms of differentiation embedded in class and stratification, such as mobility and attainment, are potent explanations for how inequalities structure and restructure.”
No other work has linked any country’s communist past with the present using survey data on class and inequality.
“Poland has experienced extreme transitions since the end of World War II, including the forced egalitarian policies of the communist era, the sharp return to liberal capitalism, accession to the European Union, and the 2008 global economic crisis. During these transitions, social scientists in Poland have collected fascinating data on ordinary people who have experienced big changes to their lives, families, and communities.”
“The debate started with Witold Kula’s postdoctoral lecture, ‘Przywilej społeczny a postęp gospodarczy’, delivered in 1947, and ended with Jerzy Topolski’s book, ‘Polska w czasach nowożytnych’, published in 1994.”
What historical model, theoretical assumptions, and method do outstanding sociologists—participants of the debate—propose to interpret the Polish and East European path of development? What historical geography of development and backwardness, and what name for the region do they propose? What of the characteristics of East European societies do they regard as a cause or symptom of economic backwardness?
“What belongs to the historical canon is the conviction that the following had long-term consequences for Polish society: the rural legacy, folwarks, the dominance of the szlachta and magnates, serfdom, the commencement of modernization later than in the West, and the existence of an intelligentsia—a stratum unique to Eastern Europe.”
Stefan Żeromski’s masterpiece, The Coming Spring is available now in English. In the same series you find The Doll, one of the greatest Polish classics, as well as short stories by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz.
“Once coffee came into use among the households of the nobility, richer gentry, and affluent townsfolk, it was the first thing offered each morning, followed by vodka.”—as broadcast from the 18th century.
“The Mazovian peasant was dressed in a gray or white homespun coat with red or green cuffs; the coarse shirt would hang out over the trousers for work, but would be tucked inside the trousers for church.”
“A husband could not expect a very warm welcome from a wife if he returned home from a trip to Warsaw without a bonnet.”
“Potocki, starosta of Kaniów, a person stern even when sober, not to mention when drunk, slugged deputy Garlicki in the face at the Lublin tribunal in response to some minor prank done in public.”
“Sessions of the Sejm routinely began at ten o’clock in the morning and lasted sometimes until nine or ten o’clock in the evening. Any spectator who might want to be present for the entire session, first had to clean out the bodily filth from around their seat before sitting down.”
Gypsies have made up one of the elements of the cultural and ethnic mosaic of the Polish lands for centuries. Yet, their history is completely unknown.
In 1564 Jadwiga Cyganka testified that “Gypsies earn their living by fortune-telling, stealing and horse dealing,” a perception that we find also in the 19th-20th century literature.
“Gypsies or unnecessary people will be expelled by us from the Land and in the future should not be accepted here.” The first such verdict dates from 1557 but there is also ample evidence that the relations between Gypsies and the rest of society developed well. The period of royally appointed Gypsy kings lasted from the enactment of Janczy in circa 1647 until the death of the last in 1795. We know of six documents appointing Gypsy overlords signed by August II between 1697 and 1731.
Browsing the backlist, CEU Press is proud of the Gesta, attributed to the Anonymous Frenchman (Gallus), published in a bilingual Latin-English edition. Another pride is the grand collection of archival documents on the Polish crisis of 1980-1981, from Solidarność to martial law. Professor Jedlicki’s work is about 19th c. Polish history; another book digs deeper, for 19th c. Polish liberalism. Alienated Women discusses Polish woman writers; and there is the book on the relationship between Gomułka and the Church.
Further titles from the backlist, starting with contemporary themes:
“Kaczyński’s politics is motivated by power and ideology: the concentration of power goes hand in hand with the goal of achieving hegemony of the ‘Christian nationalist’ value system. Orbán’s politics is motivated by power and wealth: the concentration of power and the accumulation of wealth in the political family.”—Systematic comparison of two varieties of post-communist regimes.
“The actual decision-making remains centered within the framework of formal institutions in Poland. In Hungary, the decision-making ‘organ’ of the informally exercised power is the adopted political family.”
“Kaczyński’s anti-corruption stance is not motivated by any intent to centrally expropriate corruption. The Orbán regime does not fight corruption, but monopolizes it through centralization.”
“Loyal members of the Polish power pyramid are rewarded with office, not wealth. In Hungary, the new elite brandishes its wealth unabashedly.”
“There are no PiS oligarchs. Loyal members of the power pyramid are rewarded with office and not wealth, and the economy is—in line with Kaczyński’s ideology—not informally patronalized and only in some parts did the state expand its ownership.”— from the momentous endeavor of analyzing post-communist regimes.
“In the end, what distinguishes church-state relations in Poland and Hungary is what fundamentally distinguishes their regimes: Kaczyński is an ideology-driven populist, while Orbán is an ideology-applying populist.”
“Chances of the Polish conservative attempt at building an autocracy being defeated are strong even under the current democratic institutional framework. This is ensured by strong defensive mechanisms, like the proportional electoral system, constitutionally preventing excessive power concentration, and strong civil society.”
“I find it telling that a Polish socialist intellectual forcibly exiled in 1968 who took up a post in Leeds would remain a socialist, while a Polish socialist intellectual exiled in 1968 who took up a post in Oxford became a liberal – they had only to look out of the window.”—from the debate about the current state of East-West relations.
“Among the 26 people which the Polish opposition sent to the famous roundtable talks in early 1989, there was only one woman.”
“The myth of the West may have exhausted itself, but the memory of the myth remains, eclipsing Polish stereotypes of rebellion, internecine war and the like.”
“In the field of family politics, Poland has more in common with Italy or Spain than with post-communist Czech Republic.”
“Institutionally, Kołakowski argued, communism had died. Morally, its pathologies continued to haunt the post-communist world.”
“Adam Mickiewicz put it in 1832: ‘We defended the West and are the crucified, the Jesus Christ of nations.’ This sense of victimization has always been strong among Poles, and the Kaczyński brothers apply their rhetoric accordingly. This is the background of their foreign policy.”—from a book on eighteen populists from twelve European countries.
“Jarosław used the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Nazis’ infamous destruction of the Great Bialystok Synagogue—a major event of the Holocaust—to impart blame solely on Germany. He made no mention of Polish anti-Semitism or the Poles’ contribution to the Holocaust.”
“Poland has received one-and-half times more aid from the EU than did the sixteen countries receiving Marshall Plan assistance over a four-year period after World War II. Poland today is receiving $26.5 billion per year up through 2020. This lavish assistance provides an additional 5–7 percent to the county’s GDP.”
“To what extent have citizens accumulated, during the two decades of their post-’89 transitions to democracy, a sufficient buffer against authoritarian temptation? Is Poland, as in the old days, an exception or a model? In any case, the way Polish society responded to a series of authoritarian moves by the PiS government suggests that a successful Gleichschaltung and loyalty are unlikely: voice and exit are the main options.”
The history, achievements and failures of the open society concept re-examined.
“Before 1989, Czech and Polish dissidents would meet in the mountains at the border to discuss strategies of democratic change. Today, two former dissidents meet in the Tatra mountains calling for a ‘counter-revolution’ against liberal, permissive, decadent Europe.”
“Ironically, radical free-market reforms were introduced in Poland under the banner of a trade union called ‘Solidarity’! The Solidarity ethos on which the alliance of intellectuals and workers had been built in the previous decade disintegrated.”
“Shortly after Lithuania declared independence the Open Lithuania Fund was formed. Lithuanian- Polish relations were very important to the new Lithuanian state, especially given the painful and controversial history of these nations’ connections and separations.”—from Irena Veisaitė‘s memoir in conversations.
“The actor, visionary, and intensely creative Krzysztof Czyżewski, who founded and runs the Center of Borderland Cultures in Sejny—decided to award Arvo Pärt the honorary title of Borderland Person.”
“Czesław Miłosz was tired of being endlessly asked whether he was a Pole or a Lithuanian. He said that he was the last citizen of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.”
“Koršunovas’s 2015 interpretation of Słobodzianek’s play Our Class at the Oslo National Theatre was definitely one of the most powerful theatre experiences I have had in recent years.”
“Anti-apartheid activists paid close attention to Eastern European protests, and sought to emulate their tactics. Observation and imitation helped spread revolution from Poland to South Africa, producing a transnational moment of change.”—from the collection of essays on the afterlife of 1989.
“Although Deng evaluated the movement in China to be weaker than that in Poland, he nevertheless urged the leadership to be resolute and to avoid making concessions to the students, since concessions in Poland led to further concessions.”
“Michnik borrowed his conception of nonviolent resistance from King and Gandhi.
Since the collapse of communism in Europe and the emergence of a new Polish state, Michnik’s social criticism has had more and more to do with the distinction between secular democratic pluralism and a theocratic takeover of the state.”
The recent turbulances in Polish politics lend actuality to the exploration of the intellectual developments after the fall of the communist regime in regional comparison.
“Draw a thick line under the past.”—the phrase of Poland’s first non-communist prime minister was a call to reconciliation for some, and to amnesia for others.
“Conservatism was a school of dealing with the wave of changes that followed the occidentalization after 1989. It rose out of a religious outlook on reality, but gladly borrowed from the language of Anglo-Saxon neoconservatives”.
“Although in the election of 2001 the post-communists won decisively, the entrance of Samoobrona and Liga Polskich Rodzin to the parliament foreshadowed deep changes in Polish politics.”
“A re-conquest of the socio-cultural sphere is necessary, since that is where the permanence of the changes on the political sphere is decided.” The proposed area for this reconquest was schools, universities, publishing houses, and most of all, the media.
The reconciliatory tone of Putin's speech held at Westerplatte in 2009 surprised proponents of confrontational historical politics on both sides. Tension, however, was refueled soon both in Russia and Poland, playing into each other's hands, using the provocative statements of their opponents to legitimatize their own policies. This actually culminated in Lech Kaczyński's catastrophic "pilgrimage" to Katyń: his plain crashed in Smolensk… Ministry of Memory? The ironic question introduces the analysis of the Institute of National Remembrance of Poland, followed by a detailed discussion of the Jedwabne case.
“A complicated process of demystification of the German as the eternal enemy of the Poles and of the Piast myth took place in Wrocław. It started with the project of building a commemorative monument for non-existent cemeteries.”
Memory politics and the role of myths is discussed in a number of East-European countries.
“At Szczecin Central Cemetery, a fight was waged against prejudice. The tombstones were restored not only because they were reminders of the German past but also because they were works of art of great historic and aesthetic value.”
“Monuments, signboards, and cemeteries all over Poland were founded by local authorities and supported by local communities, often taking an active part in these initiatives. They emerged in defiance of the state’s historic policy, balancing between the idealistic image of Polish-German reconciliation and the populist effort to once again stoke fear of the German.”
However, “there are also civil servants, politicians, and even historians who opposed the recovery of the German memory in Nakomiady (Bismarck’s boulder) or the restoration of Wrocław Folk Hall’s former Prussian name, Centenary Hall.”
“The key difference between approaches to the two cities concerns the fact that Poland lacks the deeper-rooted sentimental or practical claim to Wrocław that Ukrainians have for Lviv.”—about Lviv and Wroclaw.
“The increasing affirmation of Polishness among Lviv’s Jews led to a change in many families who, once assimilated to German culture and language, now switched to Polish. Generations of young Jews were raised in the spirit of love for Polish culture.”
“Official narratives of World War II did not mention the overwhelming Polish majority in Lviv during the German occupation, the Poles’ role in reconquering the city from the Germans but were only about their unwillingness to leave for Poland.”
“A group of Ukrainian writers formed their literary identities around the old name of Ivano-Frankivsk, Stanislaviv, which was changed in 1962 by the Soviets in order to erase its Polish connotations.”
“Even though Poland’s transition to a market economy was far swifter and more successful than in most former communist countries, dislocation during the transition fueled a perception that the Round Table had been merely a conspiracy among elites to maintain an inequitable power structure in Poland.”
An attempt to keep the attention focused on the legacies of totalitarian experience in the space between Prague and Pyongyang.
“Some of the discussion in Poland at times took on ugly nationalist and anti-Semitic overtones, and several political commentators, especially those affiliated with the extreme-right Radio Maryja, invoked hoary notions of Judeo-Communism (Żydokomuna) and sought to exculpate the attackers.”
“If Jaruzelski’s version of events is problematic, the notion that the Soviet Union was willing to let Poland go its own way is even more dubious.”
“If Wałęsa had long ago acknowledged a link with the SB in the early 1970s and had explained that he was under great pressure at the time and did his best to keep his cooperation to a minimum, the controversy undoubtedly would have subsided relatively quickly and would have caused no significant damage to his reputation.”
Poland passed the comparative review of the control of political parties over the media in Eastern Europe rather favorably. The biggest in Eastern Europe, the polish media market can sustain a relatively strong press, and newspapers are less dependent on politically motivated funding than in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania or Slovenia, which were also involved in the analysis. Interviewed experts nevertheless told stories like the one about frequency allocation process being manipulated in favor of one media mogul who had close links to the country’s president through an individual who was first the entrepreneur’s driver and later the president’s ‘right-hand man’.
“The reformers decided to shift the economy into a market environment by liberalization and parallel stabilization as soon as possible. This was probably the toughest shock therapy approach in the whole Eastern Bloc.”
An analysis of economic development in Poland during the transformation period compared with the Czech Republic.
“Privatization was not part of the first reform package. At the end of the third year only 26 of the large companies and altogether only 556 companies out of 7,000 were sold. At the end of the fifth year just 13 percent of state companies were privatized.”
“Poland as well as Hungary improved their public finance after 1993 and in both countries—contrary to the Czech Republic—public debt was declining until the beginning of the twenty-first century.”
“The economic conditions started to improve and strong economic growth was achieved in the mid-1990s. Poland became the first country of the Eastern Bloc to reach the precrisis level of GDP in 1996.”
“In 2012, it is estimated that 100,000 people demonstrated in dozens of cities and smaller towns in Poland to show their objection to the ratification of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty.”
The editors of the book on the expansion and institutionalization of intellectual property norms in the twentieth century have met with no other instance where their subject has triggered social excitement at a similar scale.
“The idea that the ACTA treaty was in fact an injurious imposition by the American legal regime, resonates well with the long-standing Polish resistance to foreign power interventions in home affairs.”
“Whereas the West referred to unauthorized distribution as “theft” in the 1980s, from the 1960s to the early 1990s at least two generations of Poles perceived the unofficial circulation of music, literature, and press as a virtue in Poland the phenomenon of unofficial and illegal circulation of cultural goods dated back hundreds of years and therefore was as familiar to elder generations as to teenagers.”
Trust is a source of economic growth. The comparative empirical study that analyses the relationship between institutional trust and a country's growth potential has to tackle the embarrassing exception: in spite of its low level of trust, Poland has fared rather well during the crisis. Ironically there is logical connection. Low saturation with bank accounts among the population in a largely foreign-owned banking sector, institutional distrust and lessons from earlier failures induced prudent policies, especially at the National Bank. Combined with a large domestic market, utilization of EU cohesion funds, plus indeed the Euro 2012 football championship added up to avoiding recession.
“After the rather sluggish practice of the 1990s, 1999 and 2000 witnessed skyrocketing privatization activity in Poland. This was due to the direct sale method and the denationalization of some large banks and service providers. However, this momentum stopped in 2001, when the previous sluggish insider-oriented methods continued.”—from a comparative analysis of the role of state in capitalist economies.
“There have been some changes to methods of milking state assets during the thirty years of transition. Initially, the main source of cash revenue was privatization. Even more important than corruption was the support of clients in obtaining valuable state assets at rock bottom prices. In the case of Poland, rent seeking during the privatization process was perhaps less widespread due to more transparent privatization transactions.”
An erudite and sweeping essay on the political economy of transition from command to market economy celebrates the historic triumph of miracle over misery, "to learn more about the nature of this miracle to avoid new misery." In today's atmosphere and zeitgeist this book is a rare and spirited defense of market capitalism and liberal democracy, of Western civilization. The analysis goes back to the roots, the conception of command economy in the early Soviet command society, and follows practically till our days - with Poland as an important actor and scene.
What qualified Poland a "trouble maker" in connection to Sapard (the agricultural fund with which the European Union assists candidate countries)? Have Polish economists noticed new institutionalism? Such are the questions discussed in the book on how East-European mindset adapts to capitalism.
The second paragraph in the book on Holocaust memory in contemporary art:
“For his video Spielberg’s List, Israeli artist Omer Fast made interviews with the Polish extras who had acted in the film Schindler’s List. While listening to the voices of the walk-ons, we see the scenery for a concentration camp, the one that was built for the filming of Schindler’s List. Both the technique of the interviews and the long shots on the settings built for the film remind us of the testimonies in Claude Lanzmann’s classic documentary Shoah as well as its bleak Auschwitz-Birkenau scenes. In his video 80064, Polish artist Artur Żmijewski had a slightly faded Auschwitz ID number re-tattooed on the arm of 92-year-old Józef Tarnawa. Instead of getting Tarnawa to return to the site of the traumatic event in order to recount his story, as survivors are made to do in Lanzmann’s famous film, in Żmijewski’s video we are witness to the process by which the artist persuades the elderly man in a tattoo studio to ‘renew’ his number. Both works show that something has happened in contemporary art regarding the use of testimony and the topography of trauma”.
The analysis of the dramatic transition from communism to capitalism in rural communities is based on 54 village studies. The Polish findings are matched against experiences in Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, and Slovak villages. Poland’s abandoning of collectivization in 1956 meant that it lacked one of the central features of the rural post-socialist transformation elsewhere: the restructuring of agricultural producer co-operatives. But if this major drama for rural actors did not take place, restitution issues emerged in relation to the state sector in farming nevertheless, even though the Polish government failed to pass restitution legislation before Poland’s entry into the EU.
The cruel irony of dissidents' being more often coerced to act as informers of the secret police than supporters of the regime were, and the subsequent dramas are discussed in a chapter of the volume on re-interpreting 1989; which volume also matches the seminal CEU Press book in exposing the background of the demise of the Soviet bloc.
“Bush: Our talk with Jaruzelski was good, substantive. He is an interesting person and a strong leader who inherited a difficult situation. But I think he chose the right road.
Gorbachev: Jaruzelski called me and told about your visit and conversation with you. He spoke well about you personally”. (December 10, 1987)
Face to face conversations of superpower leaders on 1000 pages, now also in paperback.
“Bush: I’m not enthralled when I hear Poland might want the Soviets to stay because of the issue of the Polish-German border”. (February 24, 1990)
“Gorbachev: A few days ago a delegation of ethnic Poles came to Moscow and declared that in the case of Lithuania’s secession they would like to join with the Russian Federation”. (May 18, 1990)
“Gorbachev: Tomorrow there will be talk of Poland’s western territories, about Transylvania, Macedonia. About a million Turks live in Bulgaria. In a word, if we do not keep the issue of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders under control, chaos will break out from which we will never extricate ourselves.
Baker: What you said is absolutely true. Right now Russians are turning into second-class citizens, and in Lithuania the Poles also. We remember well the statements Landsbergis made and can clearly see what is happening now”. (July 31, 1991)
“Certain political milieus expanded a thesis about the existence of a post-communist Network (Układ), which supposedly decisively influenced the economic and political life after 1989 and was even part of the onset of systemic transformation... Some publicists attempted to prove that the Solidarity leader, as a secret informer of the security service, from the time of his arrest at the time of the strike, had been a lackey of the communists. Moreover, they tried to show how while Wałęsa was President, he came to their assistance by protecting the Network.”
Ambivalences of settling accounts with communism and of Catholic-Jewish relations in Poland.
“Polska Rada Chrześcijan i Żydów did not emerge until 1991. Such contacts existed from 1946 in France, Germany, and Switzerland, in part due to the work of U.S. occupation forces, who transported American models of interfaith cooperation to Europe.”
Why do some nations fail and others strive?—asks one of the best known and most accomplished Polish economists in the international arena. Jan Winiecki presents a penetrating, empirically based analysis of the concurrent development strategies. The book unmasks the theoretical and philosophical fallacies of the statist systems and explains why they have failed economically.
A parable in the book contrasts the way a Polish socialist, Prof. Witold Kula and a future Nobel Prize winner in economics, Milton Friedman looked upon female lipstick from the point of view of economic planning. For the one the state, while guiding the economy, should “decisively put a stop to the production of luxury versions of consumer goods,” while for the other lipstick was a typical case of “incentive consumer goods,” which raise the aspirations to consume and—consequently—to work, earn, and save.
Under the communist regimes underground unofficial publications (“samizdats”) were produced most profusely in Poland, especially after the formation of KOR (Komitet Obrony Robotników), the Workers’ Defense Committee, in 1976. Poland was the model, often also the logistical basis for other countries, first of all to Hungary.
“Metaphorically and psychologically I lived in Poland. The first time I ever physically set foot in Poland was in ’95, but I followed the Polish events so much. For me, Zbigniew Bujak and Andrzej Gazda and all these people, my heroes…” – says one former Hungarian dissident. Some historians even argue that Poland was the only East European country that actually “had an opposition, which imagined itself as civil society.”
“The theatre director sees the presence of the Russian governor as an opportunity to shake hands and meet a powerful master on whose good will depends the fate of thousands of Poles.” Staging Tartuffe in the eighteenth century Russian-occupied Wilno (Vilnius), the revered Polish actor Bogusławski bypasses both the theater director and the tsar’s officials to enact a courageous protest against the tsar. All this in a play written in 1983.
The book on the many ways as east-European playwrights used the stage to voice their denunciation of the oppressive political regime by drawing from the classical plays of Shakespeare, Molière, or Chekhov discusses how Wojciech Bogusławski (1725–1829) becomes a dramatic opportunity to unmask censorship and Stalinist ideology in the Soviet bloc.
An exhibition in the National Museum of Poland in 2007 triggered the project that culminated in a collective book with 35 contributors. The volume presents and analyzes artistic interactions both within the Soviet bloc and with the West between 1945 and 1989.
Besides presenting how progressive trends in the arts—ideas, people and objects—found their way into the communist bloc, the other direction is also portrayed. Artists in the west who considered their art “progressive” in a different sense, cultivating socialist realism, found in the east supporters, buyers and interlocutors.
The position of Poland was unique. At that time it was a kind of gate to modernity for the Eastern Bloc. Thanks to its backing in the art community, mainly from Tadeusz Kantor and Ryszard Stanisławski, the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw entered the international art scene during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“Censorship in Poland was more strict than in Yugoslavia, so that Polish filmgoers did not get to see Dr. Zhivago until 1989, and neither could they watch any of the James Bond movies.”
From a monograph on the Americanization of Yugoslav culture in the sixties.
“Research carried out in Poland demonstrates that Willis Conovers was considered to be “the best-known living American.”
“During the 1956/57 season, seventeen Western plays were to be performed in Poland, whole there was not a single one from the Soviet Union; the musical Kiss Me, Kate was also what sold the most tickets in Poland, and the 1960s saw a great number of performances of works by Miller, Williams, and Albee.”
“In Poland, more open to Western trends, Coca-Cola cropped up in 1972.”
“In addition to ‘Soviet jeans,’ ones made in Poland and East Germany were also acceptable in the USSR, but they never managed to win the ‘hearts and souls’ of young people.”
“The émigré publishing world was dominated by two men who began their careers in the interwar years in Warsaw: Jerzy Giedroyc and Mieczysław Grydzewski.”—from a book on the relevance of the concept of Central Europe.
“Those in the deep diaspora could get news of Poland and frozen memories of Polish culture from Wiadomości, but by sending a donation to Kultura, they could actually come into virtual contact with Poland.”
“Could Poles in emigration leave the nationbuilding literature to socialist realists in Warsaw? Because of the political constraints in Poland, this function was left to the emigration as well.”
“Sąsiedzi was published in 2000, but it was not until the English-language translation Neighbors came out in 2001 that the book started to provoke a transatlantic conversation between Polish Jewish émigrés abroad, their American audience, and the Polish audience at home.”
“The Polish representative Professor Oskar Lange was very active and full of enthusiasm about the future” of a Committee for the Promotion of International Trade in 1952 – yet the Soviet side drifted away and stated “that further existence of the Committee was not expedient.”
But then “détente started in 1953 and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. ”Essays offer a new, Euro-centered account of the Cold War beside the US-dominated narrative of the “victory in the Cold War.”
The Polish issue remained a centerpiece all along the period. In the aftermath of the martial law, Reagan was out for “a total economic quarantine of the Soviet Union.” Moreover, he considered the Helsinki process “null and void.” Initially, “no détente” was his credo. By contrast, his allies in Europe were eager to keep détente alive.
In early 1982, the US was pressing for an immediate termination of the NATO meeting in Madrid as a response to events in Poland, despite opposition from West Europeans, primarily West Germany and Denmark. Yet “Soviet crisis management during the Polish crisis demonstrated that Moscow was keen to preserve the chance for East-West dialogue”.
Archival analysis of the first 20 years of the huge book distribution program of the CIA that reached hundreds of thousand East-Europeans and involved a broad network of institutional and private supporters in the west. Poles could learn more about it from the Nowak-Jeziorański - Giedroyc correspondence published in 2001.
A related title: the impact of Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America on Poland (and other parts of eastern Europe), and the reaction of the Communist power to cold war broadcasting.
“In Poland, where the party-state lacked legitimization, and where the memory of interwar unemployment was still vivid, ‘full employment’ gave the communists a chance to build a kind of consensus with workers.”—from a book on labor under communism.
“Postwar Poland experienced the largest baby boom in history; natural increase reached 18 per thousand. However, it is striking that in the mid-1950s this phenomenon was associated with unemployment; at that moment hundreds of thousands of potential new workers were still children or even babies.”
“Framed as a ‘fight against the enemies of socialism,’ the war on manko, against petty theft and cash shortages in socialist trade, became a landmark of Stalinist economic policy.”
“The Czechoslovak textile factory Jitka described the Polish employees’ work performance as ‘bad’ and noted that it has been pointed out to the Polish workers that they were paid for the work that they actually performed, not merely for being present during the shift.”
“Escaped death only to find themselves imprisoned for life”—after West Belarus was annexed from Poland to the Soviet Union in the fall of 1939, the Jewish communities of Pinsk, Brest, Grodno, Baranovichi, Novogrudok, Volozhyn, Rakov, and other places appealed to world public opinion for help in vain. The Soviet–Polish Agreement of 1944 granted the right of repatriation to former Polish citizens. There were a few thousand Jews among them who survived the horrors of the war, and they were soon to depart for Palestine. The remaining few lived the life of Jews in post-war Belarus, who suffered possibly considerably more than Jews in other regions of the USSR.
“The eight-hour workday was introduced in Czechoslovakia in 1918 and in Poland in 1919.”—from a comparative analysis of economic conditions.
“The levels of development stood considerably closer to Western European averages in the interwar period—Czechoslovakia’s and Poland’s in 1929 and Hungary’s in 1939—than they ever have since.”
“Early in the communist era, special shops with otherwise unobtainable goods and lower prices, like the Pewex network in Poland or the Tuzex shops in Czechoslovakia, were established for the socialist aristocracy, that is, the upper stratum of the nomenklatura.”
“At its peak in 1993, unemployment hit 16.4 percent in Poland, which was the highest level recorded anywhere in the region during the entire transformational crisis.”
“In 1989, the wait for a Soviet-manufactured Lada car, the design of which was based on an early-1960s Fiat, was five to six years in Poland, three to four years in Czechoslovakia, and four to six years in Hungary.”
Based on a wealth of archival materials, a critical overview is taken of the main stages and features of the collectivization of agriculture in the former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. Resistance and repressions are also discussed. “Women played a central role in resistance to collectivization. As they had in Soviet Russia, Polish women interrupted cooperative meetings, heckled pro-collectivization leaders and supporters, sang religious hymns and recited prayers, stomped their feet when supporters spoke, and walked out of meetings in protest.” With Gomułka’s reforms, a vast majority of cooperatives collapsed in a short period of time from October to December 1956, which helped trigger the Polish October of 1956.
“I joined the resistance movement inspired by my teacher, who incorporated our whole class group into a Home Army unit… We went to the Wyszków forest, where we met a group of boys from the Jewish Combat Organization who told us about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. They had taken refuge in the forest, protected by the Home Army, and were awaiting a new chance to fight against the Germans… When the Warsaw Uprising finally broke out on 1 August, 1944, my regiment engaged the enemy in the Mokotów distict.”— conversations with four medievalists include Jerzy Kłoczowski.
“I could always count on the support of Primate Stefan Wyszyński and Archbishop of Cracow Karol Wojtyła for my projects promoting the new approach to studying the history of the church. In the 1970s, Wojtyła, who had a strong philosophical background, asked me for help in organizing three congresses concerning the history of the Diocese of Cracow.”
“Polish 19th-century culture penetrated as far as Kharkiv University, whereas Kyiv University, founded as a Russian imperial response to Polonization, had more Polish than Russian and Ukrainian students around 1850.”—from the book on regional specificities in Ukraine.
“In the postwar period Poles fell into an intermediate category between ignored and undesirable. 745,000 Poles and 30,000 Jews were resettled to Poland in 1944–1947. Conversely, 323,000 ethnic Ukrainians were resettled to the western oblasts from Poland.”
“The Polish legacy is seen by at least parts of Ukrainian society in surprisingly positive terms. Polish post-communist governments have made a conscious and successful effort to repair the Polish–Ukrainian relationship, renouncing all territorial revisionism and lending strong support both on the occasion of the Orange and the Euromaidan Revolutions.”
“In contrast to Russia or Poland, the new political elites in Ukraine neglected culture as an aspect of development.”
“The Lemkos are unique among all of Europe’s Carpatho-Rusyns in that they hold the dubious and unenviable distinction of having been removed from their homes and settled permanently elsewhere.”
Some of the darkest pages in the encyclopedic volume on the Carpatho-Rusyns refer to the Lemko people.
“A regional term is of recent origin but that since the early twentieth century has become the primary self-designation among Rusyns living north of the Carpathians in what is today Poland. The term is Lemko, or the variant, Lemko-Rusyn.”
In 1947, “20,000 Polish army troops were sent to the region to carry out the so-called Akcja Wisła . An estimated 155,000 people, of whom about 35,000 were Lemkos, were forcibly evacuated from their homes and resettled mostly in the southwestern (Lower Silesia) and west-central (Lubuskie) areas of postwar Poland... By the late 1990s an estimated 6,000 (perhaps 10,000) Lemko families managed to return to their Carpathian homeland. This, of course, was only a fraction of the 140,000 individuals that had lived in the Lemko Region on the eve of World War II.”
“For me, Tuwim was a breath of fresh air, a rebel against two literary traditions, strong in Poland: verse with an ideological, political burden; and symbolic, metaphysical verse. The two traditions, both deeply serious, sometimes mingle. Tuwim, on the other hand, liked to have fun.”—from a book on the transnational aspects of contemporary literature.
“In Lutnia Puszkina (1937) Tuwim had transported the Russian poet to another country, another century, another language and culture, somehow keeping him alive and breathing in the process. How did he manage this? I found a connecting parallel between the lives of these two poets: Pushkin had trouble fitting in partly because of his African ancestry; Tuwim had trouble fitting in partly because he was Jewish.”
“Stalin, after initially supporting Trotsky at the Politburo meeting in 1920, eventually changed his mind and supported Lenin, contributing to the majority decision that resulted in the Red Army being sent into Poland on a disastrous mission.”—from the book on non-democracies.
“In addition to the Soviet communist, Fascist, Nazi, and Spanish anarchist cases, I also discuss the advantages and vulnerabilities of liberal democracy, and examine the erosion of democracy in recent years in Hungary, Poland, and the United States of America.”
“While members of the EU Commission studied the new Polish legislation and discussed how the EU might respond, Viktor Orbán offered his support to his fellow ‘illiberal’ and pledged to block any sanctions the EU might think of imposing on Poland.”
“A united and independent Polish state with an access to the sea constitutes one of the conditions of a solid and fair peace, and of a rule of law in Europe,” (declared during the Versailles inter-allied conference of June 1918)—from the book on big powers’ interfering into middle Europe.
“Regarding Danzig and the ‘Polish corridor’ along the river Vistula, where the ethnic Germans were in absolute majority, French leaders, and especially Georges Clemenceau, were ready to sacrifice the principle of self-determination to strategic considerations.”
“The Germans had to accept Foch’s demarcation line and to admit the Polish authority in insurgent territories. The purpose was clearly to make such a Poland France’s key strategic ally and an enemy of Germany.”
“In 1939, France was completely eliminated from the Polish oil industry and the Soviet Union took control of the Galician oil output, transferring large stocks of oil to Germany under the economic clauses of the Soviet-German pact.”
“Poland’s history is a tale of hideous and tragic mistakes, which frequently resulted from weakness. The first cardinal mistake was the choice of the West over Byzantium as the source of our Christian religion and civilization. Poles are always ahead of everyone! This brings disgrace upon us because it contradicts the idea of our possessing any racial or social instinct. Polish culture lacks any structuring. We adopt random ideas from outside, have splendid beginnings but no endings”.
Apart from Witkacy, the author of these bitter statements, in Anti-modernism Roman Dmowski represents Poles. The last volume of the grand CEU Press undertaking entitled Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe 1770–1945 presents forty-six texts. The series is a challenging collection of essential primary sources, accompanied by introductory essays and contextual analyses.
“Planners of the Zionist project may have been largely inspired by the German effort starting in the 1880s to turn the ethno-demographic mix of the ‘Polish Provinces’ annexed to Prussia in the 1795 Partition of Poland in favor of ethnic Germans.”—from a book on nationalism and the economy.
“Poland repeatedly clashed with the European Commission because of tariff concessions granted to the newly arrived carmakers, and spent a good deal of EU membership negotiations fighting to preserve the incentives it had already granted to investors, but which were deemed excessive under the EU rules.”
“Following the First World War, Poland fulfilled her responsibility to act as a cordon sanitaire to protect the rest of Europe from diseases that were perceived to be ‘oriental’ or ‘bolshevik’ plagues.”
The intertwined relationship between public health and the biopolitical dimensions of state- and nation building in East Europe.
“In the spring of 1913, Posen, the capital of the Prussian province of the same name, witnessed the dedication of the new building for the Institute of Hygiene.”
“The connection between ‘race’ and eugenics never gained a strong position in Poland. Eugenic ideas in Poland appeared rather among liberals and in circles of progressive social reformers, who called for more education and enlightenment in all questions of health, hygiene, and birth control.”
In the Polish Army, “Soldiers who were identified as Ukrainians were seen as good soldiers, although at times they were under suspicion because of their national consciousness, but in the end they made valuable and disciplined soldiers, just like the Germans… The Jewish soldier, ever ready to desert, physically a weakling, fearful and lacking in obedience, is poor raw material for a strong, fighting soldier.”
Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal predicted that Warsaw would become the biggest European city in the 20th century. In the early 1930s the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) was the spearhead of the modernist movement in architecture. For a while, Warsaw, and the momentous Warszawa Funkcjonalna master plan were in the focus of CIAM attention. The case is analyzed alongside the metropolitan aspirations of Athens, Helsinki, Kaunas, Kiev, Moscow, Riga, Sofia, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Zagreb. Also of Vilnius, or rather Wilno at that time. Besides symbolic steps like changing street names like Gubernatorskaia to Żeligowskiego, Orenburgskaia to Śmigłego-Rydza or Automobilnaia to Szara, “surprisingly little was done to adorn the cityscape with new monuments or public art—the Polish government preferred to expend its main efforts at modernization on Warsaw”.
“The place of Lithuanians in the Jewish politics of the late imperial period was marginal and almost unimportant. The primary reason for such alienation was the nonexistence of Jewish acculturation and assimilation into Lithuanian culture. The cultural ties that connected Jewish intelligentsia with the Russian and Polish societies and made its participation in Russian and Polish politics active and even prominent, was completely absent in the Lithuanian case”.
“Poles refused to acknowledge the Jews as equal partners. In this situation, particularly with the deepening Polish-Lithuanian territorial conflict, the leaders of the Vilnius Jews were inclined to look for a compromise with the Lithuanians”.
Essays and archival documents help understand the convolutions of the Polish-Jewish-Lithuanian triangle at the beginning of the past century.
"The most severe and best-known pogrom occurred not during ‘freedom days’ in the second half of October 1905, but on June 1–3, 1906, in Belostok”.
The bloody events in Białystok are discussed in the book that explores anti-Jewish violence in Russian-ruled Lithuania.
According to the government, the main perpetrators of the pogrom were the revolutionaries (in other words, the Jews), who terrorized both officials and peaceful civilians for a year and finally, on June 1, began to shoot at Catholic and Orthodox religious processions. In the course of three days, 75 Jews and 7 Christians were killed.
“An unidentified Orthodox believer testified to the Duma committee that those participating in the pogrom included ‘Poles and many railway employees; officials of the state bank, post office, and telegraph, along with Russian commercial school students, led the perpetrators. The public distinguishes between Jews and revolutionaries’.”
“I really feel that I am a citizen of the world of Polish extraction” – said the exceptional ethnographer-novelist Wacław Sieroszewski. Following a stormy beginning of his revolutionary career, this Siberian variant of Joseph Conrad studied the language and customs of the Yakuts in his exile. Sieroszewski became an important figure of the history of ethnography in imperial Russia and the USSR. “Imagining a past Polish empire had been an important element in nineteenth-century Polish political discourse – goes a remark in one essay of the book. Ukraine played a major part in this political fiction, which also influenced the image of the Eastern territories (kresy) in post-WWI independent Poland. Polish ethnography dealt with the ‘backward’ Eastern Slavs in terms of a Polish civilizing mission”.
“Various versions of Mitteleuropa existed in discourse from around 1800 onwards, but the definition of a German core and a non-German periphery, which was constructed as a de facto colonial empire, were particularly prominent in the German imperialist imagination”.
The nation-building processes within the German and the Habsburg Empire are examined in parallel with related trajectories in other empires in Europe.
“Privileging the noble nationalities of Poles and Croats fuelled dissatisfaction among nationalities who were not dominated by nobles, but by peasants, workers, or urban middle classes—first of all the Czechs, who represented a possible republican challenge toward dynastic reign”.
“National elites forged alliances with the imperial core, despite the presence of a national awakening that sought self-determination. These tactical alliances aimed at maintaining regional hegemony over ethnic rivals (e.g. Galician Poles versus Ruthenian claims, Littoral and Dalmatian Italians versus Croat and Slovene aspirations)”.
A monograph presents the deeds and vicissitudes of Jesuit communities on the peripheries of the Habsburg empire, including in Spisz (Zips, Szepesség), which at that time belonged to Poland.
“The Ukrainian trial records use the Polish term czary to cover all kinds of magic activities.”—from a book on witchcraft.
“Most of the records are written in Polish with some insertions of legal terms in Latin, Occasionally the scribe would write down a Ruthenian term when unable to find a proper Polish translation.”
“The norm adopted from Saxon law: ‘One who has disclaimed the Christian faith is to be burnt,’ seems to have been rarely applied in Ukraine; out of my sample of 198 trials, there is documentary evidence for only 13 executions. This number is very low in comparison to other lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.”
“The main anti-hero for the Poles during this period was the Cossack leader Bohdan Khmelnytsky. He tried to use witchcraft in the Battle of Zbarazh (July 1649); at least this is how the Poles interpreted a bolt of lightning that broke the flagstaff in the Polish camp.”
“The Polish duke, Mieszko, whom no man could surpass in cunning, soon took away the city of Cracow by a trick and put to the sword all the Czechs that he found there.” (Nam dux Poloniensis Mesco, quo non fuit alter dolosior homo, mox urbem Kracov abstulit dolo, omnibus quos ibi invenit Boemiis extinctis gladio.)—from the bilingual edition of The Chronicle of the Czechs.
“The new duke, Břetislav the Younger, was an outstanding prince, a duke welcomed in camp, and an invincible knight in arms. Whenever he invaded Poland, he always returned with great triumph. In the year of the incarnation of the Lord 1093, the first year of his reign, he destroyed it by repeated raids so that not a soul remained on this side of the river Oder from Castle Ryczyn to the city of Glogow, only in Niemcza.”
CEU Press offers a lot more on the past and present of Poles in comparative and collective volumes:
- Titles in the Discourses series quotes and comments specimens from texts that shaped national identities in east Europe. The wake of the Polish nation in the age of late enlightenment is presented with annotated excerpts from Staszic, Jezierski, Wybicki, Kosciuszko, and Feliński; national romanticism is portrayed with samples from Lelewel, Mochnacki, Rzewuski, Buszczyński, Kamieński, and of course Mickiewicz; the quest for modern Poland is illustrated with texts by Szujski 1867, Bobrzyński 1879, Swiętochowski 1882, Sienkiewicz 1883, Górski 1898, Piłsudski 1902 (his speech in Wilno/Vilnius, coupled with the response from Michał Römer), Gombrowicz 1937, and Kamiński 1943;
- An easy metaphore: the division and reintegration of the body of St. Stanislaus and the Polish state;
- The fate of the Greek-Catholic (Uniate) Church in the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation;
- In all three volumes of the set on demons, spirits and witches, the Polish connection appears;
- The book on east Europeans travelling in Europe discusses Słowacki’s journey to Greece, and a 1954 sketchbook of London by Jan Lenica;
- A biographical dictionary contains entries on the following Polish women: Budzińska-Tylicka, Bujwidowa, Daszyńska-Golińska, Kuczalska-Reinschmit, Męczkowska, Moraczewska, Moszczeńska, Orzeszkowa, Szelagowska, Szeliga, and Żmichowska, as well as on Żeleński (Boy);
- Religion in everyday life in 19th c. Lódz, this book also discusses religious affairs in postwar Poland;
- How the nazis tried to identify the blood group specific to their ideal German race, using also the findings of the Polish scientist Hirszfeld about blood types;
- The book on the eugenics movement in east-central Europe analyzes racial nationalism and eugenics in pre-war Poland;
- The conquest of Stalinism in east-central Europe is re-examined from various angles;
- How different from Paris: 1968 in Poland with spoiled children, Marxists, and Jews;
- Nearly one third of the comparative monograph on intellectual opposition to communist rule in east-central Europe is on Poland;
- A recurrent issue in the book on geopolitical cores and peripheries is the gap between east and west in Europe, historically and actually - no wonder Poland is cited extensively;
- Poles cannot be indifferent towards Belarusian identity struggle;
- Primary and secondary privatisation in the 1990s in a number of countries, including Poland;
- Stimulating essays discuss ways of presenting the recent past in contemporary Polish films, museums, historical studies and theory;
- Issues of present day journalism and the commercial press are discussed against a European background, also media policies in general, and in relation to national identities.