Was East-Central Europe a colony? Who was colonizer and who was colonized? Is postcolonial theory applicable to the study of East-Central Europe? These are some of the questions raised in a recent issue of Historyka, Studia Metodologiczne. Klemens Kaps and Jan Surman, young scholars of nineteenth-century Galicia, served as the guest editors of this issue of Historyka.
Colonialism, Kaps and Surman explain, has been widely discussed by scholars of literature and culture of Eastern and Central Europe, but so far has attracted little attention from historians of the region. Historians of colonialism have typically focused on European colonies in Asia and Africa and paid less attention to continental empires. The editors address this gap in scholarship in two ways: first, by placing Galicia within the discussion of colonialism; and second, by bringing together historians and specialists in literature and cultural studies. The issue includes an introduction by the editors, eleven articles, a review article on the "state of the art" of Russian studies in the United States, and several book reviews. The collection first appeared online and is now available at http://historyka.edu.pl/en/article/art/historica-2012-29. All of the articles online are published in the original languages as written by the authors (English, German, and Polish). The printed version of Historyka presents all texts in Polish translation. In my review, I analyze the print collection, focusing on several substantive articles and their place within the general scholarship of East (East-Central) Europe and Galicia. I refer to the original titles of the articles written in English. Translations of Polish and German titles for the purposes of this review are mine.
In the introduction, the editors suggest approaching Galicia as a palimpsest of sorts because of its multinational character. They produced this issue in an attempt to address the history of Galicia as a Habsburg province from the vantage point of "cultural marginalization and the 'colonial imaginary' - the perception of one's own colonial position and the feeling of a 'civilizing mission' as determinants of the cultural dependencies" (P. 9).
Several authors address the relationships between nationalities in the province by reconstructing the [End Page 350] matrix of empire and colonial rule. The notion of subalternation - sub alternacja - appears in several texts and refers to the subaltern status of one group in its relationship to the other. In her "Stefan Żeromski's Ashes as a Postcolonial Narrative," Ewa Thompson analyzes the novel Ashes by one of the leading Polish novelists of the nineteenth century. Żeromski tells the story of a Polish nobleman espousing the ideology of "Sarmatism" and his interaction with an Austrian bureaucrat symbolizing the modern and, in the Polish view, foreign state. Żeromski's novel, Thompson explains, reveals a typical colonial encounter: the nobleman refusing to comply with the norms of the new state, and the bureaucrat resorting to force as a means of imposing these norms.
The complex system of subordination and domination in Galicia is the subject of Danuta Sosnowska's text titled "Limitations and Possibilities of Postcolonial Criticism." Sosnowka tests the applicability of postcolonial theory to the study of Galicia. She finds that the relationships of Poles with neighboring peoples were sometimes "schizophrenic." On the one hand, they were driven by a feeling of superiority or even messianism toward Ruthenians and Lithuanians, but at the same time they experienced an inferiority complex regarding the rest of (Western) Europe.
Polish-Ruthenian relationships, Polish messianism, and Ruthenian subalternation are the subjects of Burkhard Wöller's article, "Civilization Mission or Alienation: The Annexation of Red Rus Under Kasimir III in the Colonial Discourses of Polish and Ruthenian Historians in Austrian Galicia." Wöller shows how several Polish writers and intellectuals - among them, Karol Szajnocha, Henryk Schmitt, and Michał Bobrzyński - justified Poland's occupation of the Red Rus (Rus' Czerwona) back in the fourteenth century by staking claims for Poland's civilizational superiority over the local...