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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 4: The End of Tsar Nicholas’s epoch

Extract

“Don’t you trifle with scoundrels”, the Emperor wrote in 1846 to his loyal Viceroy in Warsaw, “but court-martial them mercilessly, there is no other way to tackle them. If there is a number of guilty ones in that gymnasium, you do order to close it down. […] Send the youngsters to their parents, and dispatch the teachers into the depths of Russia, if they are dubious but a little; and so you do in the future too.”132 Paskevich followed the recommendation and this gendarme-style socio-technology proved extremely effectual. 1846 saw Krakow and Galicia seethe, whereas the lands subdued to Russian rule were the scene of just one incident, which paid the price of three plotters hanged and the other few sent to katorga. In the Empire’s Lithuanian guberniyas, small groups of complotting Poles did not even dare to take up arms, but the police agents picked up their trail all the same: the Wilno and Kowno Inquiry Committees were kept busy for many months.

In the spring of 1848, almost the whole of Europe was shaken – Russia remaining unaffected. Notified of the revolutions in France, Austria and Prussia, Nicholas I put his army, gendarmerie, spies, and civil servants on the highest alert. Reinforced troops were sent to the western border, with more censors dispatched to post-offices to unseal letters and read them. Uvarov, the Minister of Education, ordered the superintendents to keep an eye open for “the spirit of what is lectured at schools” as well as “the...

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