Reviews of Books

Those streets over there

Thursday 24 June 2004 London Review of Books, John Connelly
Rising '44
Davies is reiterating what is known in Poland as the ‘romantic’ position. For romantics, Poland is endowed with a mission to defy tyranny, by armed force if necessary, as in the 19th century, when Poles tried to break free of Russian rule. Russian armies crushed the rebellions, with devastating effects for Polish nationhood. After the defeat of 1863, Poles were denied any form of self-rule, and the tsarist state attempted to make them into Russians, suppressing their religion, denying them higher education in their own language, rewarding assimilation. The trauma produced a counter-tendency to romanticism: positivism. Positivists judged their lot according to the possibilities for ‘real’ action: they promoted libraries, education and mutual aid societies, and abhorred insurgencies that had no chance of success. Modern Poland’s positivists are known as ‘realists’.

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