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The Kashubs: Past and Present

Past and Present

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Edited By Cezary Obracht-Prondzynski and Tomasz Wicherkiewicz

The Kashubs, a regional autochthonous group inhabiting northern Poland, represent one of the most dynamic ethnic groups in Europe. As a community, they have undergone significant political, social, economic and cultural change over the last hundred years. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Kashubs were citizens of Germany. In the period between the two World Wars they were divided between three political entities: the Republic of Poland, the Free City of Danzig and Germany. During the Second World War, many Kashubs were murdered, and communist Poland subsequently tried to destroy the social ties that bound the community together. The year 1989 finally brought about a democratic breakthrough, at which point the Kashubs became actively engaged in the construction of their regional identity, with the Kashubian language performing a particularly important role.
This volume is the first scholarly monograph on the history, culture and language of the Kashubs to be published in English since 1935. The book systematically explores the most important aspects of Kashubian identity – national, regional, linguistic, cultural and religious – from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

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Cezary Obracht-ProndzyńskiDilemmas of Modern Kashubian Identity and Culture 179

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Cezary Obracht-Prondzyński Dilemmas of Modern Kashubian Identity and Culture From the time that scholars first started to show an interest in matters Kashubian, the central question has been: ‘Who are the Kashubs?’ – who do they feel themselves to be, who are they considered to be by others, and what is the nature of their self-identification? It might seem that these are not dif ficult issues, but the complicated history of the Kashubs, and their centuries-long existence in a cultural borderland between larger and stronger ethnic groups (the Germans and the Poles), have caused major dif ficulties for the Kashubs in determining their identity, as it has changed throughout the course of history. This is particularly obvious in the context of developments in the twentieth century: two world wars, the partition of the Kashubian community among three states in the interwar period, the communist era and the unfriendly policy of the communist authorities, as well as the social and cultural transformations after 1989. Research carried out since the 1970s by sociologists and ethnologists (Synak 1998b; Latoszek 1995; Obracht-Prondzyński 2004c; Kucharska 1985; Mazurek 2008a; Mazurek 2008b; Galus 1990), supported by his- torians and linguists, has started to define the specificity of Kashubian identity, and to formulate the dynamics of change. The research results suggest that the foundation of the Kashubs’ identity is their culture, and the Kashubian ethos consists of such values as: language, religion (ecclesiasticism), family, origin (genealogy), and territory in its fourfold meaning: the dwelling place, the...

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