Romanticism and martyrology have had a very big impact on Polish culture and Polish people throughout history. All of this comes down to our very turbulent and sad history of almost constant wars and the partitions of Poland between the major empires. In this report I’m going to focus on whether romanticism and martyrology can be considered as Polish cultural values or norms.
I chose this topic mainly because of the impact that romanticism had on Polish society and our overall history. romanticism is also the origin of many interesting phenomena that we can observe, like martyrology which origins are from the earlier mentioned – romanticism. In Poland this topic is examined very thoroughly in middle and high schools because of authors like Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz S?owacki which could be considered as the creators of Polish romanticism. It is also worth to mention that because of such extensive learning about this topic not only on history classes but also during polish classes it have got me really interested on how romanticism was created (in what circumstances) and what impact does it have on future generations of Poles. romanticism and martyrology, as i learned, have had a very big impact on Polish people.
Most of the fights and uprisings against the occupants were motivated to some extent by the ideas of romanticism and martyrology. It would be really hard not to see how these phenomena exist still among polish people. The easiest example of how romanticism and martyrology still exist is the novembers nationalist march. On 11th of november, Polish nationalists organized a march to “celebrate” 99 years of Polish independence. During that march many scanded racist chants or implied that Poland is the defender of European christendom. This shows how Polish people are attached to the idea of Poland being the “jesus of nations”, the idea that romanticism and martyrology created.
It is hard to imagine how people from other cultures reacted when a banner was hanged on the bridge saying “lets pray for islamic holocaust”. It is even more disturbing when we think that Polish nations was one of the most damaged ones by the nazis and holocaust. As i said before, it is hard to argue with the fact that romanticism and martyrology are polish cultural values and norms. There are many books and scientific articles proving that point.
My report is going to rely mainly on books and scientific articles but also on legitimate historic events. Firstly I’m going to talk about how our geographic location, being between two major empires, Germany and Russia influenced Polish people. For that I’m going to use a book “Kulturowe ramy zachowa? spo?ecznych.” by Pawe? Boski. I’m focusing on how three hundred years of constant danger, loss, regaining and unstable sovereignty shaped Polish culture.
As it is said, the starting point of the Commonwealth began at a loss of a war back in the XVIII century. The end point of that period would easily be the system transformation back in the 1989/1990. That being said, we could estimate the period of constant danger from foreign powers to three hundred years. During that period there were no generation that wouldn’t suffer from war.
Just by that fact we can think how big of a psychological impact that must have made on the society. Boski refers to patriotism in his book on how it is more of a collective consciousness phenomena then it is being present in everyday people’s behaviour. In the past, patriotism meant sacrificing your own life and suffering for the greater good and the greater good was the independence of your beloved country. The main problem then was the fact that the fight for independence was a lost cause. Because of that it is very apparent how Polish society cultivates more their losses than wins. The attitude towards neighbours that were our invaders was filled with hatred which was patriotic back then.
The hatred was characterised by active battle with the occupant by deceiving or by non-violent resistance. Throughout all these three hundred years, the model of patriotism persisted and already solidified, so when moving on to our recent times, being patriotic still means same things and doesn’t influence collectively working with other people on building a better future for our country. One may ask, how does that relate to romanticism? To explain that I’m going to refer to a sub-article by Sylwia Lasota “Romantyzm – niezwyk?y czas polskiego patriotyzmu”. Polish romanticism flourished between the years 1822 and 1863. The beginning mark of romanticism was the release of the first tome of “Poezja” by Adam Mickiewicz.
The endpoint of romanticism is the January uprising. By establishing the boundaries of Polish romanticism doesn’t mean that romantic thoughts didn’t exist before. In fact, they started crystallizing in 1797, just after the third partition when the song “pie?? legionów polskich” was created. This song was to some extent an announcement that Poles are not going to give away their sovereignty that easily. During that period of time, there was also anarchistic romanticism in England and France.
Polish people changed that and created their own and unique romanticism. Anarchism have been changed into faithfulness for the idea of national sovereignty. One of the biggest if not the biggest authors of the Romantic era was Adam Mickiewicz and his biggest work was the national drama called “Dziady”. In his book, he created a romantic character, a role model of a patriot, that became an example for the Polish youth.
The aim for the youth wasn’t an accident made by Mickiewicz. He purposefully used that, because he thought that the only hope for Poland to become independent was the youth. Back then, youth was portrayed as the biggest value a nation can have. What was the patriot role-model that Mickiewicz created? We can see it in the third part of “dziady”.
The character is a young man which is suffering. The reason for his suffering is the unfortunate fate of the polish nation. He is a very sensitive and empathetic person and can feel not only for himself but also for the entire nation. The protagonist thinks of himself very highly, he thinks that he is the salvation for the Polish nation. He is isolated because no one can understand what he goes through. He wishes for all Polish people to be happy and can sacrifice anything to liberate his country from the Tsars iron fist.
Through this hero, Mickiewicz underlined the importance of an individual in the fight for national sovereignty. However, after the january uprising, after seeing that only by collective fight, independence can be won, he wrote another work titled as “Pan Tadeusz”. In this work, as the opposition to “dziady”, Mickiewicz focused on how the strength is in the hands of many, not in an individual. These two works were one of the biggest of not only the romantic era but also the general Polish era. To this day they are considered as one of the greatest books made by a Polish author and are mentioned in all Polish schools.
Of course, romanticism could not last forever. Once Polish people had regained their independence, did romanticism become threatened with the loss of its significance? Could it turn into a monument standing in a national museum among other historical ideas? In Polish culture exists a phenomena which merely is a “crisis of romanticism” which happens from time to time in Polish consciousness. It favours convictions that want to relegate romanticism back into nineteenth century and treats it at times as a phantom that once was, will never return. Nevertheless, after regaining independence, Polish cultural reality continued to confirm the endurance of romanticism. If this is the case, then the reason probably lies in the fact that romanticism had created not a transitory or particular formula of culture, but a universal one, which, despite the altered course of national fate, does not fade in significance. On the contrary, it appears to be gaining a higher rank.
When talking about romanticism it is hard not to mention messianism. According to the creator, Adam Mickiewicz himself, it is a mission set before the Polish nation. It comes down to several features that, according to the author, emerge as an outcome of extensive analysis of literature, history and the works of other authors. Essential features of Polish messianism are very similar to the role-model of a patriot which i mentioned earlier. These features include the need for sacrifice for the greater good, the need for death and rebirth, and the universal nature of the national mission. One may ask, what is the that national mission? Namely, the mission of the Polish nation was to consist in serving mankind and solving the problems of other Slavic nations.
What is more Adam Mickiewicz tried to portray the tasks facing the nation as the embodiment of Christianity. Jesus’s crucifixion was used by Adam Mickiewicz and he relied on it while creating his vision of the Polish mission. What he did is he basically christianized the political life of a nation.
In his book he changed the instruments of evil into the three major powers that took place during the partitions of Poland. The mission of the Poles, the nation whose political crucifixion, like the crucifixion of Christ, was in fact the fulfilment of the providential plan of salvation, was seen in the overthrow of the ‘pagan idols’ of European politics (Domination, Honour, Commerce, Welfare, etc.), in the regeneration of the spirit of faith and sacrifice, and finally, in the Christianization of political life.
This mission was to be fulfilled by the sword, by means of a revolutionary crusade against the corrupt old world. It is also worth to mention how Polish messianism is to some extent a form of modern social utopianism according to Andrzej Walicki’s article. As he says, the same fact is true for the other prophetic poets of Polish romanticism. From the historical point of view, Polish messianism seems as an extremely rewarding, but still much neglected field of study.
It cannot be considered as some kind of religious sectarianism and on the other hand is still not a form of a social movement. According to mr. Walicki, as i said before, Polish messianism was in fact a form of modern social utopianism.
However, this form was religiously inspired and adapted the old millenarian patterns. “It was not a survival of a genuinely archaic structure of thought, nor was it a relic of pre-political and pre-philosophical thinking; on the contrary, it was rather a deliberate romantic attempt at a peculiar ‘millenarization’ of some modern political and philosophical ideas (particularly of the idea of progress)”. It is also worth to mention that Polish messianism was caused by a national catastrophe in 1831, when the november uprising fell. Not only that was the catastrophe but also the political emigration that followed this tragic event.
Messianism may be defined by more general terms as well like a hope born out of despair or as result of another deprivation. It is worth to mention the fact that the messianism of Mickiewicz, S?owacki and Krasi?ski was not a perfect continuation of religious messianism. It was in fact a part of the nineteenth century European romanticism.
The importance of Polish romantic messianism for europe lies in the fact that all these romantic tendencies and social thoughts were most distinctly expressed. As a result we can safely say that indeed Polish messianism was exploited to the fullest in terms of logical conclusions. When writing about Polish messianism we also have to mention martyrology.
To explain it the easiest it is the suffering of the nation. Martyrology is very similar to messianism in some ways. Both of these ideas include the fact that the Polish nation is destined to reach its fate.
In messianism though it means that Poland has to suffer and die to be reborn. Martyrology does not offer that kind of a “happy ending”. According to martyrology, Polish nation is destined for suffering and pain, and this idea does not include anything other than that. There is no hidden message like in messianism. Of course, martyrology wouldn’t exist without messianism so it would be worth to mention the fact that martyrology is a smaller though than the concept of messianism.
Martyrology, as i said, originated in messianism, so was also created by Romantic authors. Here comes again the book by Adam Mickiewicz titled “dziady”. In this book he depicted the suffering of Polish people in a couple of ways. He referred all the time to the Tsar as him being the biggest evil living on earth. All of these aspects come down to the main question posed, that can romanticism and martyrology be considered as Polish cultural values or norms? To help us find the answer to this question we should look into the definition of both, cultural values and cultural norms. According to a psychology dictionary, a cultural norm is “a cultural regulation, moral or guideline which designates an approved and proper action within the framework of a particular society type.
“. A value on the other hand is “a moral, social, or aesthetic standard accepted by a person or culture as a rule of what is good, favorable, or imperative.”. According to these definitions we may think about how romanticism can really be considered both, a norm or a value. But the main difference between these two is the fact that we would consider patriotism as a value more than a norm.
We know that patriotism in Poland originates strongly from the romantic era of Polish history. That way we can come to a conclusion that romanticism is more of a cultural norm than a value. But that still doesn’t say to us if romanticism is only a Polish cultural norm. Of course one could argue that every culture has his own values and norms but when referencing to romanticism it is worth to check if other cultures have had the same ideas throughout history and if they did, then check if they had differed at all from the Polish romanticism.
Just by looking at Polish history we could say that our romanticism has to be different than romanticism in other countries. There is no other country in Europe that had such a turbulent history. On the other hand it has to be said that if not for other cultures, like the French culture, Polish romanticism could look very different than it does now. It is caused by the fact that many emigrants, with Adam Mickiewicz being one of them, lived in France and have been greatly influenced by its culture.
I have mentioned earlier in the report one of the main differences between Polish romanticism and English and French romanticism. England and France developed an anarchistic type of romanticism. Polish romanticism on the other hand had changed anarchism into faithfulness for the idea of national sovereignty. It has to be said that in fact, Polish messianism and romanticism and its principal ideas were Polish re-interpretations of French ideas. For instance, the idea of expiation used by the French to justify the French revolution was taken by the Poles and changed into the idea of messianistic expiation of the Polish nation.
Now there is the last thing to solve, if romanticism is a Polish cultural norm, we should see it nowadays. And we can see it easily and its effects. I have referred to the nationalist march on purpose. That march is one of the prime examples that romanticism, martyrology and messianism are still apparent in the Polish culture.
Not only the nationalist march proves it but also the government. The current Polish government tries to portray itself as very patriotic and religious. How do they portray themselves as patriotic? Not by the patriotic standards that have been set by other countries but by the standards that have been set by Polish romanticism. A prime example of that is the ministry of foreign relations. During the last 2 years of governing, our relations with the neighbouring countries got worse just because, being patriotic for Polish people means to be hostile to neighbours like Germans or Russians.
That leads us to the conclusion. Polish romanticism can and should be considered as a Polish cultural norm. Throughout the report we met with numerous examples on how Polish romanticism is different than other romantic ideas and how apparent it is to this day.
Our present experiences with rising nationalism and the Polish current government lead us to a no other conclusion than to the fact that Polish romanticism is a cultural norm.Bibliography:Boski, P. (2010). Kulturowe ramy zachowa? spo?ecznych: podr?cznik psychologii mi?dzykulturowej.
Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.Janion, M. (2000). ROMANTICISM AND THE BEGINNING OF THE MODERN WORLD.
Dialogue & Universalism, 10(9/10), 45LASOTA, S., & Policji, W. S. (2011). Romantyzm – niezwyk?y czas polskiego patriotyzmu. PATRIOTYZM FUNDAMENTEM BEZPIECZE?STWA NARODOWEGO RP W XXI WIEKU, 31.
Mickiewicz, A., Ludwikowska, J., & Rzehak, W. (2017). Dziady. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Greg.
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