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Commemorations and the Shaping of Modern Poland

Patrice M. Dabrowski

Publication Year: 2004

"This book represents the most sophisticated historiographical approach to understanding nation-building. Patrice Dabrowski demonstrates tremendous erudition... making brilliant use of contemporary newspapers and journals, as well as archival material." -- Larry Wolff, Boston College, author of Inventing Eastern Europe

Patrice M. Dabrowski investigates the nation-building activities of Poles during the decades preceding World War I, when the stateless Poles were minorities within the empires of Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. Could Poles maintain a sense of national identity, or would they become Germans, Austrians, or Russians? Dabrowski demonstrates that Poles availed themselves of the ability to celebrate anniversaries of past deeds and personages to strengthen their nation from within, providing a ground for a national discourse capable of unifying Poles across political boundaries and social and cultural differences. Public commemorations such as the jubilee of the writer Jozef Kraszewski, the bicentennial of the Relief of Vienna, and the return to Poland of the remains of the poet Adam Mickiewicz are reconstructed here in vivid detail.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication Page

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pp. iii-v


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pp. ix


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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xv

That Poland was an entity that could be invented, much less reinvented, was something I began to fathom as a graduate student at Harvard University. It was there, under the tutelage of Roman Szporluk, that I first encountered the notion that nations were not immutable. This opened new vistas for historical investigation: how did people come to see themselves as Poles, and what did they understand by the term...

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pp. 1-21

A crown, a scepter, a pair of spurs, a pile of bones—a treasure, chanced upon on June 14, 1869. The royal remains of Casimir the Great (1333– 70), the only Polish monarch awarded that designation, had been discovered in Wawel Cathedral. At the time, minor repairs were being made to what had long been thought to be only a cenotaph, or monument, to the Polish king. While inspecting the foundation, a workman dislodged a stone, revealing an...


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ONE: Polish Phoenix: The Kraszewski Jubilee of 1879

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pp. 25-48

The 1879 celebration of the writer Józef Ignacy Kraszewski in Cracow has been called the “first pan-Polish manifestation of the national spirit.”¹ It brought about what some considered a miracle: a coming together of Poles that showed no signs of turning into revolution. This gathering countered stereotypes of the nation still in currency after the Insurrection of 1863–64. Even the foreign press expressed its wonder: “In what...

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TWO: The Relief of Vienna, 1683–1883: Celebrating Victory

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pp. 49-74

Not long after the Kraszewski jubilee, the idea of celebrating a major Polish national anniversary was raised by a group of young Poles in Vienna.

Part Two: THE 1890s

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THREE: Eloquent Ashes: The Translation of Adam Mickiewicz’s Remains

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pp. 77-100

The celebrations of the 1870s and 1880s belonged to the initial phase of commemorating the Polish past. Many were events of a somewhat elitist nature, dominated by local and provincial notables, and their demonstrations of Polishness were in keeping with the Austrian regime’s allowances for the preservation of nationality and local traditions within the multinational empire. The commemorations of 1890 and beyond were...

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FOUR: “Poland Has Not Yet Perished”: From the Third of May to the Kościuszko Insurrection

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pp. 101-132

A string of important anniversaries followed the Mickiewicz translation in the first half of the 1890s. These dates included the centennials of the final years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—dates of immense significance for the nation. The events began with initiatives produced by a four-year-long session of the Sejm (1788–92), the most important of which was the Constitution of May 3, 1791. This first European...

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FIVE: Bronzing the Bard: The Mickiewicz Monuments of 1898

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pp. 133-156

While the Racławice Panorama served as a kind of national memorial, it was not, as we know, the only landmark in the Polish commemorative landscape. Preexisting locales, such as Old Cloth Hall, were being infused with national significance. The Wawel crypts had gained a new set of relics, the remains of Mickiewicz, whose bones—it was hoped—would speak to the people and inspire them in ways that would benefit the nation.


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pp. 157

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SIX: Teutons versus Slavs? Commemorating the Battle of Grunwald

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pp. 159-183

Events of the first years of the twentieth century exacerbated conflicts between the inhabitants of Central and Eastern Europe. The rise of a more aggressive German nationalism since the birth of the German Empire in 1871 posed problems for the Poles as well as for the rest of Europe. Poles constituted a significant national minority in the east of the empire. By the turn of the century, the Poles of Poznania, Pomerania, Silesia, Warmia, and...

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SEVEN: Poles in Arms: Insurrectionary Legacies

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pp. 184-210

In the first years of the twentieth century, the specter of war loomed large. The Great Powers were engaged in an arms race: Germany hurried to build up its navy to compete with that of Great Britain. The annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary in October 1908 and the outbreak of the First Balkan War four years later rocked the international scene. The very real threat of impending European war cast a new shadow...

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pp. 211-234

While the Polish predicament remained—the Poles were still a nation without a state in 1914—much had been accomplished over the space of thirty-odd years. The anniversary celebrations that preceded the reestablishment of an independent Polish state were not simply “pageants.” Nor were they unhealthy signs of national activity, as some conservatives and their allies would have us believe, speaking of a “mania of celebrations...


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pp. 235-281


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pp. 283-303

INDEX [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 305-313

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110282
E-ISBN-10: 0253110289
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344298

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 25 b&w photos, 1 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2004