National erindring i Polen

Adelina Anna Zych

Student thesis: Master thesis


Collective memory in Poland In the turmoil after the plane crash of 10 April 2010 that killed president Lech Kaczyński and a number of Polish high rank state officials, it became evident that the Polish society was split in regard to the interpretation of the surrounding world and the future. A combi-nation of this split and the dominating role of history in Polish political discourse provided me with a stimulus to analyse Polish collective memory, its evolution throughout the communist period and after the reintroduction of democracy, as well as the existing legacy of conflict between two major politicians of the interwar Poland: Józef Piłsudski and Ro-man Dmowski. The aim of the thesis is to investigate what contemporary Polish collective memory is comprised of, and whether there exist one or multiple collective memories sim-ultaneously. Collective memory is understood in this thesis in the view of the theories of M. Halbwachs, J. Assmann, P. Connerton, and P. Nora. Empirical data in the form of results of sociological surveys are based on the most recent works of two sociologists – B. Szacka and P. T. Kwiatkowski. Works of N. Davies served as the basis for description of the his-torical background. Two specialists in Polish collective memory have been interviewed for the purpose of this thesis: B. Törnquist-Plewa from the University of Lund and B. Szacka, Polish professor in sociology. As the Polish nation has undergone a substantial change in its ethnic structure in the course of the 20th century, some ethnic groups, especially Jews, Lithuanians and Germans, who previously had an impact on Polish national memory, are no longer a part of the Polish nation. As a consequence, the Polish nation is to a major extent ethnically homogenous. Polish collective memory has been formed as a result of influence of various factors: pri-mary socialisation within the family on one hand, and external factors, such as school edu-cation, tv, political discourse, institutions and the Catholic church on the other hand. Polish collective memory can be divided into two categories: events that have existed in the memory for a sufficiently long time and thus there is a consensus in the nation in re-gard to their evaluation, and more recent events, the evaluation of which is still highly controversial. The former can be further categorised as myths and universal elements of the Polish memory Myths are described as past events that have functioned in national memory for a long time, whose details have been gradually forgotten. As a result, their memory has been highly distorted. Polish myths include the memory of Poland’s greatness, the myth of the “golden freedom” and the notion of Poland as “antemurale christanitatis”. The past events whose evaluation is no longer controversial include the period of partitions (1795-1918) and World War II. The recent events still causing controversy within the Polish society are related to the pe-riod of communism. The communist regime sought to legitimate through its policy of col-lective memory. As the official discourse provided a different version of the past that the one provided by the family memory, the national memory has split into two kinds: official and vernacular. The policy of collective memory realised by the opposition contributed to the increasingly negative evaluation of the communist period, which has continued to this day, especially among the well-educated and wealthy. In the political discourse, the cult of J. Piłsudski, a pre-war socialist and federalist, can be observed. However, his ideology has been replaced with that of his political opponent, R. Dmowski. Dmowski’s legacy is particularly noticeable in the discourse of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS). Collective memory is linked with collective forgetting. The events that have been forgotten by the Polish nation include the Polish participation during Holocaust. Recent works on the subject by J. T. Gross have contributed to a public debate and opened a possibility of future inclusion of this issue in Polish memory. The conclusion of the thesis is that there exists only one Polish national memory, providing a picture of Poland as a once-great and free country that has been a victim of its neigh-bours’ aggression and the motherland of great patriotic soldiers. Recent history contributes to a division that exists to a far lesser extent within the society than among the political elites, primarily between the extreme right wing, which is using the past to obtain political objectives, and the liberals, who avoid using history in their political programme.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages92