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The Vicious Circle 1832–1864

A History of the Polish Intelligentsia – Part 2

Series:

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 3: Crisis

← 108 | 109 → Chapter 3: Crisis

Extract

The Poznań Province and Galicia, 1846-1857

Prepare an insurrection: what did that actually mean? Conspirators debated and disputed this at their secret assignations: is the Kingdom ready yet? Is Ruthenia? How about Galicia? And, the Poznań Province? No, said some, the country has not grown ripe yet, more campaigning is required in towns and in the countryside. Act, and there’s the best canvassing method, those less patient responded. There’s no point just waiting, and waiting, forever: people will get disheartened, the zeal will abate. The police will spot us all; the movement’s whole managing team. Extended preparation time, wider propaganda, implies a greater risk of betrayal.

Better preparation, others argued, means more people are able to comprehend the purpose of the uprising, and are ready to appear at the fixed day and place. And then? The very first day, it is a must that the peasants, in the Russian and Austrian districts, will be announced to that from now on, they shall be free and receive the land they cultivate as their property. No serfdom shall be continued ever since, whatsoever – which has, by the forties, become an axiom. The peasants will join the uprising as one; from then on, the uprising will become their own cause.

But what if not all the landlords are willing to announce the remittal of the statute labour? Or, if not all the population will obey the revolutionary authority? A form of ‘terrorism’ has been prepared in case...

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