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The Vicious Circle 1832–1864

A History of the Polish Intelligentsia – Part 2


Edited By Jerzy Jedlicki

The three-part work provides a first synthetic account of the history of the Polish intelligentsia from the days of its formation to World War I. Part two (1832-1864) analyses the growing importance of the intelligentsia in the epoch marked by the triumph of the Polish romanticism. The stress is put on the debates of the position of intelligentsia in the society, as well as on tensions between great romantic ideas and realities of everyday life. A substantial part deals with the genesis, outbreak and defeat as well as the consequences of the national uprising in 1863, whose preparation was to a high degree the work of the intelligentsia. The work combines social and intellectual history, tracing both the formation of the intelligentsia as a social stratum and the forms of engagement of the intelligentsia in the public discourse. Thus, it offers a broad view of the group’s transformations which immensely influenced the course of the Polish history.


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Chapter 5: The struggle for primacy


At home and in exile, 1857-1862 1. Latency They waited all day long, till dusk fell. “All the apartments were deserted, prob- ably, in the whole of Warsaw”, a diarist noted down. The folks were waiting, and so were the society gentlemen and ladies. The flambeaux were lit. Only at ten at night did the imperial carriage appear from the bridge’s side, in Zjazd Street, and flashed by to the Castle, at full gallop. Warsaw, the diarist reassures, “was over- whelmed by a frenzy of rapture”.197 For it was their emperor, nonetheless. For a mere year now, he had ruled a power that was still tremendous but had been humiliated with the lost war and the dictated peace conditions: accordingly, people dared to expect a change, in Russia and Poland, all the more so. In Petersburg and Moscow, even the press expressed a visible intensified ferment in the minds of the slender local liberal intelligentsia, as well as among the Slavophiles. “One cannot be there in Europe, and refrain from its overall development”, historian Nikolai Pogodin wrote already during the time of warfare – a man otherwise convinced that Russia was marching along its own peculiar path.198 Alexander Herzen, then based in London, summoned the new tsar to wash the shameful stigma of serfdom from Russia, giving freedom and land to the peasants, and freedom of speech to the enlightened. Warsaw, which had already become customary for it, did not take much interest in the intellectual and literary life of...

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