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Chauvinism, Polish Style

The Case of Roman Dmowski (Beginnings: 1886–1905)

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Grzegorz Krzywiec

The book addresses the genesis of Polish integral nationalism and the role of Roman Dmowski as a co-founder of this phenomenon in the development of Polish political thought at the fin-de-siècle. Based on extensive documentary research, it attempts to show a broader picture of modern Polish political and social thinking in context of the late 19 th and early 20 th East Central Europe. The author reflects on the significance of racial thinking and Social Darwinism of the new nationalist imagination, arguing that its intellectual foundations came from anti-positivist and anti-Enlightenment tradition. He challenges the widespread assumption that Polish nationalism in its early version cherished somehow mild attitudes toward minorities, especially the Jews, claiming instead that enmity toward «Otherness» constitutes its ideological core. A major feature of the book is the contextualization of Polish nationalism against the backdrop of the fin-de-siècle European political thought.
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Chapter One: The Birth of A Generation

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Chapter One The Birth of A Generation

Rebellion at School

Self-study groups – one of the more important, even key experiences of the generation of people Bohdan Cywiński dubbed ‘the rebels’ – were born at the turn of the 1870s and 1880s. For the whole generation of political campaigners at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in the Russian Partition, the experience of going to a Russian school was significant. In fact, it was the atmosphere in a Russian school of the time that allowed many radical personalities, ‘people/deviants’, as Florian Znaniecki later called them, to emerge. The young people’s generational rebellion – colliding with imposed Russification – rapidly assumed the form of a patriotic revolt.

This happened in one of Warsaw’s best secondary schools: State Grammar School No. 3. This school’s case was an interesting one for a great many reasons. In the second half of the 19th century, a cohort of people, later to become famous and active in public life, passed their school years here. This establishment, where a number of energetic Russifying campaigners were to be found, might have served the authorities as a convenient laboratory of the new order. The school eventually found a distinguished chronicler in Stanisław Czekanowski, later a well-known campaigner for the gentry. His account is one of the most wide-reaching reports on the political crisis among young people at that time.1

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