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The Vicious Circle 1832–1864

A History of the Polish Intelligentsia – Part 2

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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 2: Inheritors

← 52 | 53 → Chapter 2: Inheritors

Extract

At home, 1832-1845

Emperor Nicholas comprehended the Polish revolution as an insane rebellion against the legitimate and sanctified authority. Any and all measures called for were taken in order to knock out from the Poles’ heads any similar designs, and turn them into obedient and grateful subjects of the Russian Empire. Such ­intent was however burdened with a contradiction. The emperor and his ministers primarily charged the military and civil leaders of the insurrection – mostly, the ­nobility – with responsibility for this rebellion. Still, they did not intend or ­actually will to alter the composition of social relations in Poland, as such a pattern could have been dangerous for Russia itself. Thus, the nobility deserved its punishment, its political rights taken away, its nobility patents verified with competent offices; but apart from confiscated properties of émigrés and of some deportees, the nobility was still to have its proprietary rights and primacy in ­access to offices and military grades.

A similar instability was the case with administrative reforms as well. The Kingdom’s autonomy was abolished together with the constitution, sejm ­assemblies and Polish army; all the same, the Kingdom was protected against being formally incorporated in the Kingdom by the legitimistic attitude of the ­European powers – signatories to the 1815 Vienna Treaty. Although the political lot of Poles was of little significance to the superpowers’ rulers and ministers, a ­renouncement of the Vienna Congress provisions would imply an upset of the European balance. This being the case,...

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