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403 JERZY POMIANOWSKI THE WAY TO FREEDOM IN CULTURE EVERYTHING THAT OCCURRED during the postwar half century in Polish-Russian cultural relations is distinguished by the absence of certain features in areas that might appear to be more profound or have greater impact on the daily lives of the two societies, such as the economy, governance, legislation, and security. Culture has grown in significance everywhere, if only because the twentieth century saw a dramatic growth in the volume of information potentially accessible to everyone. The rapid development of media—radio, television, the Internet—meant that news, commentary, and related artistic works could bring awareness to everyone. Attempts by foreign occupiers or native authoritarian regimes to halt the process ultimately proved futile, despite their efforts , expenditures, and repression. In Poland, this process had a distinct tradition. The period when Poland was partitioned by foreign powers had deprived Poles of influence over the legal, administrative, and, as a result, material conditions of their existence. This gave greater significance to cultural activity and, hence, to the authority and influence of its representatives, including the unmatched adulation of national poets, the struggle to keep national themes in official education programs, and the determination to provide private and clandestine schooling and skills to publish and distribute illegal media. The failure of several successive armed uprisings only enhanced the importance of culture as a battlefield for preserving national identity and, importantly, for ensuring social development congruent with the vectors of Western civilization. The six-year period of German occupation convincingly demonstrated the significance of that tradition. The Polish network of clandestine schools (including universities ), the number of underground newspapers, numerous lectures, “home” theaters and self-published books, and the wealth of young talent that appeared in the process was unmatched elsewhere in a terrorized Europe. 404 JERZY POMIANOWSKI Salvation and Liberation The post-Yalta period did not allow us to forget that tradition. This author is not a proponent of the following assertion, which is rather widespread in Poland: “The end of the war meant the replacement of one occupation with another.” I believe that both we and the Russians should be more inclined to say that “the Poles were saved, but not liberated.” The Polish People’s Republic was a state politically, militarily, and economically dependent on the imperial center—the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its executive body, that is, the government. Yet, we must not lose sight of the significant differences in the weight of that dependency during the pre- and postwar periods and within various areas of Polish life. For example, the extent of Polish dependence on Russia’s strategic fuel supplies has remained the number-one problem for the present-day Polish economy, long sovereign in other areas. However, what happened with culture, even in the so-called previous period was—in contrast to the economy or government—more overt and thus better known to the public, even abroad. Moreover, at least in Poland, it was not subject to such close supervision or, in the event of divergence from the prescribed line, such harsh retaliation as was the case in other areas. That might have been because a measure of relaxation by the People’s Republic of Poland (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, or PRL) in matters of culture, and art was intended to be a showcase of the country’s autonomy. Thus, the period of the PRL must not be considered a black hole in Poland ’s history. The eradication of illiteracy was not the only lasting example of corrected prewar negligence, and the collaboration of Polish and Soviet nuclear scientists at Dubna was not the only instance of fruitful cultural cooperation in that first postwar decade, when repression was so prevalent. Paradoxes of Indoctrination It was culture and education that became more important to the communist authorities—in theory, if not in practice—than the system of repression. By this, I mean “indoctrination.” Originally, it was intended to exhort people to build—collectively and willingly—a world without exploitation, violence, racial prejudice, religious superstition, class privileges, or, above all, fear of the authorities. Alas, by the time Poland became involved in the operation, any chance of conducting this transformative education through persuasion had been exhausted. Soviet practice had effectively compromised the founding tenets of communism, and all attempts to put the system in place around the world produced the same results. The most visible feature was the need to use coercion and force in every sphere...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822980957
Related ISBN
9780822944409
MARC Record
OCLC
914230098
Pages
704
Launched on MUSE
2015-08-17
Language
English
Open Access
No
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