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Polish Patriotism after 1989

Concepts, Debates, Identities


Dorota Szeligowska

This book analyses the concept of patriotism and the contestation over its meaning in key public debates in Poland over the last twenty-five years. It focuses on the strategies used to define, re-shape and «bend» the notion of patriotism, which during this period has become a central issue in Polish political discourse. Contemporary Polish society is characterized by a growing polarization of the public sphere. Rivalry between former communists and former dissidents has been progressively replaced by internal opposition within the ranks of once-dissident allies, now divided into civic-minded «critical» patriots and nationalist-oriented «traditional» patriots. This division re-emerges regularly during key moments in Polish public life – most recently in the aftermath of the highly contested 2015 parliamentary elections. By tracing the evolution of the debate over patriotism since 1989, this book provides crucial insights into the current political situation.
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Chapter 6: The Divisive Effect of Romantic Patriotism: National Mourning Following the Smolensk Crash in 2010


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The Divisive Effect of Romantic Patriotism: National Mourning Following the Smolensk Crash in 20101

The two previous chapters have shown the progressive polarization of the public discourse after 2000. This polarization stemmed from the emergence of a strong circle of conservative intellectuals, and its gradual involvement in politics. The conservative intellectuals provided the conservative party PiS with a conceptual framework, which proved instrumental for a PiS victory in the legislative elections in 2005. The polarization and radicalization of the discourse were reinforced by the emergence of a circle of right-wing Publizists, as well as the right-wing turn of public institutions such as the IPN after 2005. However, previous chapters have also epitomized the continuous vivacity of discussions about the concept of patriotism, and numerous attempts at proposing a new, or modern, vision of this concept.

This final empirical chapter focuses on the aftermath of the catastrophe of the presidential aircraft in 2010, near Smolensk, flying to Russia for the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. This shocking moment for the community will be used as a litmus test to verify whether earlier intellectual developments concerning patriotism provided a lasting cultural code and intellectual tools to deal with the national mourning.

Within the discussion of this last ‘discursive event,’ a number of topics will be singled out, in order to better assess whether the nature of the contestation over patriotism changed in this key moment. The argument...

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