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At the Crossroads: 1865–1918

A History of the Polish Intelligentsia – Part 3, Edited by Jerzy Jedlicki

Series:

Magdalena Micińska

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. The third part deals with the period between 1865 and 1918. It is the period of numerical growth of the intelligentsia, growth of its self-consciousness and at the same time of growing struggles and rivalries of various political streams. The study concludes with the moment when Poland regained the independence that had been lost in 1795. 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 6: The Polish intelligentsia in Europe. The influence of pan-European trends on Poland

Extract

The existence of immensely important opinion-forming milieus outside the country, in the emigration (as a broad concept), was the factor of essence that informed the shape and reach of cultural, intellectual or scientific Polishness during the whole Partition period. The phenomenon was first recorded before the final collapse of the First Republic (i.e. the Commonwealth), with the first wave of emigration of Polish elites to Saxony and to the west of Europe, following the defeat in the war with Russia in 1792, and the abolition of the Third-of-May Constitution. In the course of the subsequent century, the emigration always co-created, and indeed even dictated, in certain periods, the shape of Polish intellectual and artistic life. While in the former half of the 19th century, determined outside the divided country were the most important findings in the domain of literature and, to an extent, other fine arts and political thought, after 1870, once higher scientific institutions were abolished in the Kingdom of Poland, a number of important scientific milieus gathered in exile, along with student, artistic, journalistic, and political environments. As a social and cultural phenomenon, Polish emigration subsequently lasted till the beginning of the 21st century, at least. Clearly, it was not a specifically Polish phenomenon, but rather, a trait typical to all the nations destitute of their own sovereign state and peripheral in relation to the centres – particularly, to the neighbouring nations of this part of Europe. Ukrainians, Slovaks, Croatians and, especially, eastern-European Jews moved in the same directions...

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