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Book versus Power

Studies in the Relations between Politics and Culture in Polish History


Jacek Soszyński and Agnieszka Chamera-Nowak

This volume considers the various interactions between the culture of the book and politics in Polish history. Each of the fourteen authors deals with a different topic, chronologically starting with the beginnings of the early Piast monarchy in the 10th century up to contemporary times: for instance, E. Potkowski discusses the political ambitions of Duke Mieszko I and his descendants with regard to the introduction of early writing and reading in Poland; A. Kamler analyses the attitude of the Jagiellonian dynasty in the 1500s towards books and education; and D. Jarosz traces the changing approach of the communists towards book production and the promotion of readership in their attempts to persuade Polish society to accept their ideology.
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Communist Authorities, the Society, and the Book in Poland, 1945–1989: Mutual Relationships


If one examined the historical publications treating Polish culture during the period 1944/45–1989, published in Poland and outside the country prior to and after 1989, he would most probably learn that the dominating motifs were repressions aimed at intellectuals and artists, and restrictions imposed on the freedom of speech (including the censorship system, and efforts to overthrow it by the political opposition). This picture is obviously conditioned by certain characteristic features of post-1989 Polish historiography, determined to give priority to the subjects that had formerly been forbidden, first and foremost the repressiveness of the communist rule. According to this vision, the society was terrorized (or at least harassed) by the system, while the people responded with active and passive resistance.1

The figure of the Pole defying the system by, among other things, producing (and reading) illegal printed matter (including books) in the so-called “second circulation”—the one appearing without permission of the censors—went well with the above picture. Furthermore, all that appeared legally, in accord with this simplified vision, was necessarily less interesting, because of the “enslavement” by the oppressive, Kremlin-dependent, regime. And even if some of the book-historians were of different opinion and voiced judgements that could well be put alongside the mythology of the former period, their opinions influenced the discussion of cultural issues in communist Poland in a minimal degree.

This naive picture must necessarily be amended, nuanced, deepened, and broadened, which requires massive groundwork. Fortunately, studies, at least...

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