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In the Face of the West and the East – The Formation of the Identity of the Polish Intelligentsia after the End of World War II

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I. "The chasm today dividing East and West is opening wider with every step we take..."

Why did the monthly periodical published from 1947 in Paris by Jerzy Giedroyc take the name "Kultura" ("Culture")? Researchers must have asked themselves this question automatically. Behind this question there obviously lies the premise that the name of the monthly publication was not chosen at random. This must have been the case if only for the reason that all the periodicals published and edited by Giedroyć before the World War II [Korek 2000, 445-449] had names which clearly represented their character. For example, "Bunt Młodych" ("Youth Rebellion") indicated precisely who its publisher and potential readers were, while "Polityka" ("Politics") clearly defined the sphere of its interests and ambitions. During the first years of "Kultura", the problem of the adequacy of the name was not touched upon, which is symptomatic. It was not until the 1960s that comments began to appear about the discord between the name of the monthly and what it contained. In Poland there were even theories circulating accusing Giedroyc of choosing this title rather than another so that he could hide more easily under its "cloak" its anti-Communist message. It was not only the propagandists of the Polish People's Republic, however, who voiced objections to the name. Even Józef Czapski, a long-term colleague of Giedroyc, signalled his doubts at the beginning of the 1970s about the disagreement between the profile of the publication and its title:

Every attentive reader of "Kultura" knows that it wants in the first place to be a political publication. How much easier would be its position if it simply followed the exclusive line of culture and literature, as has been suggested many times [Czapski 1972, 4].

I would not like to claim already that Czapski's advisers were wrong, but I would mention that in giving this kind of advice they were betraying a certain ignorance about the intellectual formation that had created the publication and about the situation in which it first arose.
And the situation was, in fact, not at all clear. After the end of World War II, migratory chaos reigned in Europe compounded by the decisions taken at Yalta. On the continent ruined and devastated by the war, national crises and social dramas were combined with private tragedies. The state of temporariness and universal disquiet was deepened by administrative restrictions, ideological crises and political turbulence:

The birth and the beginnings of "Kultura" occurred in years of uncertainty and terror such as had not been seen in Europe since the time of the barbarian attacks and the fall of the Roman Empire [Hostowiec 1969, 6].

Jerzy Stempowski, writing about the anxiety and uncertainty, was not thinking, as might have been supposed, about the recently ended military conflicts. He was thinking about a "new terror", which appeared after the end of World War II, namely the danger of an outbreak of another military conflict on a continental or intercontinental scale. Together with the propaganda successes enjoyed by the Kremlin in the West, there arose the risk of Communist coups and the accompanying threat of Soviet military intervention. In France, in the autumn of 1947, a few months after the appearance of the first issue of "Kultura", there was a general strike and groups of Communist revolutionaries:

[...] occupied Marseille and other coastal towns on the Mediterranean as far as the Spanish border. From hour to hour news was awaited that the Soviet army, waiting in vast numbers in Hungary, had crossed the border and was moving through Lombardy in the direction of Spain [Hostowiec 1969, 6].

A similar situation existed in Italy and, let us note, the first number of "Kultura" was published in Rome. Stempowski, as he travelled through the country in December 1947, suffered the effects of the train strike, observed mass demonstrations and witnessed, as he called it, "the great fear" which gripped the central part of the Italian peninsula. In these areas, crammed full of Communist agents, as he put it, he saw no legally operating authorities or armed police, but he did see wells full of bodies.

The founders and writers of "Kultura" were convinced that they were in the midst of a whirlwind of events which could lead to the whole of Europe being overrun by Communism and to new wartime catastrophes. Their consciousness of this led them to take important life decisions:

Bobkowski [...] went to Guatemala - recalls Jerzy Giedroyć - since he was convinced that Communism would triumph in Europe and would flood everything. There was also in this a kind of disgust with Europe and a desire to start life anew. [...] he was convinced that the end of Europe was nigh [Giedroyc 1994, 133].

Bobkowski was not alone in leaving Europe. One of his colleagues in the Literary Institute founded in Italy, Tadeusz Siuta, left for Argentina [Chruślińska 1994, 49]. Many of the publication's writers, active in its columns towards the end of the 1940s, chose the United States, including Melchior Wańkowicz and Aleksander Janta-Połczyński. Not everyone decided on such a radical break with the old continent. A substantial number decided to go to Great Britain, separated from Europe not only by water but also by American guarantees - here the Soviet threat was not so intense. Among them was Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, who had co-edited the first issue in Rome and had then gone to England, and Juliusz Mieroszewski, who had begun cooperating with "Kultura" in 1949. Among the more unconventional were Jerzy Stempowski, who settled in neutral Switzerland, as well as those who decided to return to Poland, such as Tadeusz Kroński or Zbigniew Florczak, who left the West somewhat later. The latter had seriously considered going to Australia [Florczak 1995, 121]. These kinds of life decision were obviously very complicated and those making them were not driven solely by political convictions.

In the context of these geographical choices, the fact that the Editorial Board of "Kultura" moved from Italy to France had a certain resonance. The fact that Giedroyć refused to have his name included on the American evacuation list, drawn up in case of Soviet invasion, gave the whole an heroic dimension:

I said that if war breaks out I would return to Poland, swim against the tide, so no-one would pay me any attention and I would be able to do something in Poland. Zosia and Zygmunt [Hertz - J.K.] also refused [Giedroyc 1994, 133].

This decision was all the more significant because the political climate in Paris, where the second number appeared at the beginning of 1948, was not very receptive to the editors and writers of "Kultura":

At the beginning of our stay, relations in France were very unpleasant. The NKVD was abducting people on the streets and there was a Soviet-controlledcamp outside Paris. [...] The Communist "L'Humanité" published a photograph of the house where Czapski had his office, marking with crosses the windows behind which - as they explained - were hiding "Fascists from Anders' army" [Giedroyc 1994, 142].

This kind of incident as well as other slanders did not instil in the founders and writers of "Kultura" a positive attitude towards the countries that the émigrés had chosen to make their places of residence. It was the decisions taken at Yalta, however, that caused the greatest negative feelings towards the Western powers. The agreements made there, according to which Poland and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe found themselves within the Soviet sphere of influence, caused a great shock to the minds and consciences of many Poles. The "betrayal" was particularly painful for the soldiers of the Polish Army in exile, who had fought as allies alongside the British and Americans. The distrust evoked by the failure of France and Britain to fulfil the terms of the alliance agreements of 1939 now turned, after Yalta, into seething disenchantment with the whole of the West. In 1946, in one of the first publications of the Literary Institute, which Giedroyc regarded as a policy statement, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, with reference to Mickiewicz, wrote in the introduction:

Were we once again to have words stick in our throats - words of the highest condemnation addressed to the "French and English governments and know-alls", "merchants and traders of both nations, craving gold and paper and coins and sending freedom into oppression"? [Herling-Grudziński 1946, 6].

Criticism of the West's policies appeared in "Kultura" from the very first numbers. Giedroyc's standpoint, although he himself rarely reached for his pen in those days, was well expressed by his choice of materials to be published. His attitude to certain American institutions and initiatives at this time can be discerned from his later interviews and reminiscences. For example, this is how he recalls the treatment of escapees from beyond the Iron Curtain:

[...] they want to take care of these escapees but only because they want to train them as agents and send them back to Poland. This was done with total American brutality. I came into conflict on this issue with the Americans, because I tried to persuade the young people who had chosen freedom not to get involved in this [Giedroyc 1994, 152].

Also Jerzy Stempowski, at this time a close colleague of Giedroyc, expressed on the pages of the monthly his clear lack of trust in the activities of the Americans and British. He feared that the postwar "state of emergency", together with the administrative restrictions and political controls, could become the binding norm. Despite, however, the serious reservations addressed to the Americans and the whole of the West, the question of Yalta and the inclusion of Poland in the Eastern bloc was never discussed in "Kultura" as emotionally and with such ethical pathos as in the periodicals of other Polish émigré centres. On the contrary, this kind of event was accepted in the periodical without surprise, with stoical calm and analytical coldness, as if it had been expected.
Let us return for a moment to Bobkowski. His decision to leave the old continent was determined by something other than the disenchantment evoked by Yalta or the fears of a Communist coup or the encroachment of the Red Army into Western Europe. Among the other important reasons which led to his decision were "disgust with Europe" and the conviction of its impending "end". He wrote about this feeling of disgust and about the fall of European culture, not only in "Kultura" but also in his "Szkice piórkiem" ("Sketches with a Quill"), which had already begun to appear in occupied France. Bobkowski's state of mind was not exceptional at this time and not something confined to the chosen few. It was shared by many émigrés and to a very great degree by almost all the writers publishing in "Kultura" in the years 1947-1950.
Did this reflect the disenchantment of the émigrés caused by the confrontation between the myths about the West and the experiences that they faced in that West? To some extent, yes, but that was not all. Behind Giedroyc's criticism, Bobkowski's disgust, Stempowski's fears or the political neutralism promoted by the Klub Trzeciego Miejsca (Third Place Club), and represented by Florczak and Wańkowicz within the periodical, there lay yet another important factor.
Stempowski was convinced that in the case of both American restrictions and the Yalta agreements it was not simply a matter of pragmatism or tactical submissiveness towards a wartime ally. In his opinion, a considerable role was played here by the West's specific attitude towards the European "East". It was not very much different from the attitude the West previously shown had towards the lands it had colonised on other continents. The only difference was that the lands of Eastern Europe were not being colonised for their own benefit but were being given away at Yalta to be colonised by the Western powers' wartime ally. The West's very approach to the problem and its attitude towards the countries and nations being "rented out" were similar. This enabled the myths and stereotypes, the prejudices and superstitions about Eastern Europe, to be written into contemporary Western discourse and to become present in Western European culture. It justified the treatment of the unknown and abstract, but of course "primitive" and "worse", Eastern part of the continent as lands not worth the trouble. Whether it was Hitler or Stalin who occupied them was therefore irrelevant. As one headline in a French newspaper: L'Oeuvre in May 1939 expressed it: "Mourir pour Danzig?" (Die for Danzig? - Is it worth dying for Gdańsk?) [Deat, 1939].
This thread in Stempowski's anticipated recalled in essence the theses of the leading representative of the later postcolonial studies, the Palestinian scholar, Edward Said, who was also an émigré living in the West and who concerned himself with the image of the "real" (not European) East in Western literature and culture. He wrote:

The construction of fictions like 'East' and 'West', to say nothing of racialist essences like subject races, Orientals, Aryans, Negroes and the like, [...] I stated over and over again that mythical abstractions such as these were lies, as were the various rhetorics of blame they gave rise to; cultures are too intermingled, their contents and histories too interdependent and hybrid, for surgical separation into large and mostly ideological oppositions like Orient and Occident" [Said 1994, XI].

When considering, for example, the problem of refugees from Eastern European countries being sent back to the Soviet authorities by Western states, Stempowski wrote:

The chasm today dividing East and West is opening wider with every step we take. The refugees from the East are looked upon by the Anglo-American occupation forces today more or less in the same way as the Jews and the Gypsies were regarded by the Nazis. True, the refugees are not being burned in crematoria, but the effect is almost the same, as when the Western powers deny them the right to asylum, they try so oder so, as Hitler used to say, to move them back over the demarcation line with total contempt for life and human dignity [Stempowski 1971, 139].

The Anglo-American authorities transported the refugees from Central and Eastern Europe beyond the border of Western law and order and thus rid themselves of not only a political problem. Michel Foucault, describing the policies of Western cities towards deranged people at the beginning of the modern era, wrote that they were loaded onto ships and taken as far away as possible from the walls of the city so that it would be rid of the "dark elements", "dark disorder" and "chaos" which disturbed order and threatened the "clear maturity and constancy of mind" of its citizens:

The gesture of banishment and enforced embarkation, was not merely aimed at social utility, or the safety of citizens. Its meanings were closer to rituals, and their trace is still discernible [Foucault 2006, 10].

What ritual could have been involved in the case of the deportation of the citizens of Eastern Europe? Here too we may be dealing with an attempt to "cast a spell" over the West's own fears and to dissipate its own anxieties. Unfamiliar in the consciousness of the West, Eastern Europe constituted a threatening element. In the ordered, pragmatic and predictable world, everything that is not known, not measured and not catalogued arouses fears, distrust and scepticism. Sending the Easterners back to the East restored the established order of the world. For Stempowski the proof that this was not just a few sporadic incidents but a consistent pattern of behaviour arising from an accepted mental attitude and a self-ascribed civilisational superiority, was the Holocaust. He considered that the whole of the West bore the responsibility for the extermination of the Jews. Despite documented proof of the pre-war discrimination against Jews in Germany and of their extermination in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe occupied by the Nazis, the West kept its eyes closed for a long time, even when earlier on it could at least have increased the quotas of Jewish immigrants it accepted:

The murder of several million European Jews was then a common enterprise of the great powers, out of which one took on the role of hunter, while others played the role of the battue, making sure that the quarry did not escape the pot [Hostowiec 1948, 16].

In the "hunting for Jews" figure of speech cited here, Stempowski not only described the hopeless situation in which the Jews found themselves, defenceless against the army, police and the administration of Western states. In this hunt (despite the metaphor of "the pot") the matter was not about "consuming the catch" but about disposing of what was "worse" and "dirty", about liquidating "wild beasts" which were impossible to control and threatening because of their unpredictability. The hunt, according to this view, may be put in the same category as such actions as "sweeping the floor, stigmatizing traitors or banishing strangers". These actions, according to Bauman:

[...] appear to stem from the same motive of the preservation of order, of making or keeping the environment understandable and hospitable to sensible action [Bauman 1997, 8].

I wish to emphasise that Stempowski wrote these remarks in 1948. Even then he understood that the modernist episteme of the West, its ritual pragmatism, its faith in reason, its imperial ideology and fear of the other, the stranger, its treatment of unknown cultures as intrinsically lower and of people outside its own sphere of geography and mentality as more primitive and less valuable not only facilitated the Nazis' realisation of the Holocaust but also enabled Yalta to occur and influenced the postwar policy of the West towards the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The editors and writers of the publication, as émigrés from the "East", were aware of their own cultural Otherness in the "West". They felt this as strongly as their political Difference, which divided them - "anti-Communist" enemies of the "fatherland of the proletariat" - from the leftward-leaning communities of Western Europe. They noticed their own "conservatism" and "primitivism", which were reflected in the eyes of Western Europeans. They saw their own "provincial" character and their exotic Eastern European traditions reflected in the mirror of the modern, pragmatic and progressively oriented West. One could of course escape from the threat of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe by going to Guatemala, Argentina or Australia. The observed differences and contrasts dividing the European East from Western Europe seemed harder to overcome:

Between the picture of the world remembered from childhood and the new reality a chasm had opened. Those looking into it would find their heads spinning and themselves doubting their own identity [Hostowiec 1969, 11].

The writers and founders of "Kultura", seeing at close hand the Western edge of the chasm, must have asked themselves questions about the essence of the second, Eastern edge and about their own localisation with respect to both. For questions about identity are born - according to one leading sociologist - when the foundations of the community previously regarded as one's own begin to sway and crumble ("we discover identity when it is no longer given..." - [Bauman 2004, 29]).
Why did "Kultura", despite its consciousness of its own Otherness and despite its perception of the chasm dividing Western and Eastern Europe, not opt for isolationism and a ghetto mentality, like so many Polish émigré groups after the World War II? This is all the more interesting because the crisis in individual identity was connected here with the crisis in national identity. In both these identities, the determinants of Polishness had been connected with the West. In both cases, Western culture and its tradition had constituted the most important formative factors and the main points of reference. Almost all Poles to this day - wrote Stempowski - despite the defeats and disasters "had unlimited trust in the power of the mind of the West from the time of the Renaissance" [Hostowiec 1969, 11]. As can be seen from analyses of Polish émigré journalism, among other things, [Ciołkoszowa 1965, 201-201] this trust had now come to an end. What allowed "Kultura" - if not to fill the chasm - at least to pull itself out of it and to come to terms with it?
Before I try to answer this question, I should mention that the word "chasm", as can be seen if only from the quotations cited to this point, was used unusually often at that time. "Chasm" or "abyss" seemed to reflect the specific nature of the existential situation in which the founders and writers of the publication found themselves in those years. At that time there were many crises for which "chasm" was a synonym[2]. The metaphor of the chasm expressed all of these crises in a succinct form: the political division of the world into two parts, the crumbling of the foundations of national identity, the bisecting of the individual, cultural "I". And there were also further crises: psychological, social and moral, which led to the loss of stable points of orientation in a world regarded until then as one's own.
I shall return to the question: What allowed "Kultura" - if not to fill this chasm - at least to pull itself out of it and to come to terms with it? It would seem that there are many answers. The first might be something like this: according to the attitudes expressed by the writers and founders of the publication, the crisis did not affect only Poles or only "Easterners". It did not embrace only Eastern Europe or only Central and Eastern Europe (Mitteleuropa).
The crisis affected all of European culture. Its effect was the unsettling of pan-European and common identities and their universal values. One of the causes of this, and at the same time one of the symptoms, was the "cracking" of Europe, i.e. the appearance of discourses dividing it into Eastern Europe and Western Europe (in another, not solely geographical, sense). The final result was the widening, after World War II, of the "chasm" (including the mental figure of the crisis of European identity) and the sanctioning of the political and administrative bisection of the continent and European culture at Yalta.
In "Kultura" the opinion was often voiced that the inhabitants of Western European countries were also experiencing a profound crisis of identity. The experience of the loss by the individual of the most important social and moral points of orientation, i.e. the crisis of individual identity, was one he or she shared with émigrés from the "East". Western individuals had been thrown off balance in a similar fashion, or perhaps even more so, by the recently concluded war, terrified by the impending new war catastrophe and the predicted rapid end of European culture[3].
Their private visions of the world were falling apart in a similar way to the world visions of the émigrés:

In these years, even settled people, having behind them several centuries of established borders and continuity in history, lost their scale of things as well as their sense of the border between that which is and that which is not [Hostowiec 1969, 10].

According to the writers of "Kultura," the experiences of World War II II were of course decisive here. The centuries-long order of reality, constituting, as it were, an ontological obviousness, had been, as a result of the war, shaken to its foundations. That which represented some value and that which was less important but one's own and accessible; that which was "natural" and "everyday", from the possibility of drinking a cup of coffee in the recently bombed café on the corner to the possibility of having one's shoes repaired by the cobbler from the town-house next door who had been gassed in a concentration camp; that which guaranteed a feeling of stability, government departments and institutions open for business, defined places in the social hierarchy, religious taboos and norms of behaviour - all of this had ceased to operate. It is noteworthy in this context that "the end" became the next keyword after "chasm".
In "Kultura" there existed, therefore, the consciousness that the order of reality, constituting an ontological obviousness, had been shaken to its foundations in Western Europe as well as in the East. The writers and founders of the publication were in a position to observe this primarily because the main context from which they too had emerged was the shared European culture. Writing about the end of Europe or the death of the West, they were also thinking about the end of the universalist European culture, in which the division into Easterners and Westerners did not exist. In the first number of the magazine issued in Paris we read:

We are of the opinion that the weakening of the ties between Poland and the West results not only from the fact that after World War II Poland found itself politically in the Soviet sphere of influence and interests. The reasons ought to be sought more deeply - in the phenomenon of the serious crisis that the whole of European culture is experiencing today. The whole system of notions, values and norms according to which we lived previously has been shaken. European culture has lost its consistency, its power of resistance and radiation [The Editorial Board of "Kultura" 1947, 4].

The second important reason for which the writers and editors of the Literary Institute and the monthly "Kultura" did not adopt an isolationist strategy following the "West's betrayal" (whose symbol was Yalta) was the conviction that the observed crisis had not been caused by the recently concluded war, but had started a long time earlier, at the beginning of the modern age, to be precise. In this way Yalta was for them one of a series of facts reflecting a similar paradigm. The observed processes were treated by the editors and writers of the monthly as a logical consequence of a centuries-long crumbling away of the models of European culture. These processes deepened drastically during World War II but the war was not their cause and they did not disappear after the end of the war. The corrosion of values and norms, intensifying at the beginning of the 20th century, manifested itself in the loss of their power to influence the behaviour of individuals, social groups and nations. Symptomatic for the monthly in understanding the crisis of identity were those things which together governed consciousness and shaped character and which therefore constituted the so-called "spiritual" aspect of culture (beliefs, art, inherited convictions, codes of honour and patterns of behaviour shaped by tradition etc.).
Historical and literary messages, legends, myths and tales were unusually important, for example, for Stempowski. He regarded the myths of Socrates and Seneca as key regulators of individual and social life. The crisis in European culture - in his opinion - was deepening, since myths of this kind, once its backbone, were losing their expressive power and their life. During World War II and the years of postwar Stalinist terror, this backbone had been so broken that it was difficult - in his opinion - to foresee the shape in which European culture would recover.
The fundamental message of the myth of Seneca was expressed by Stempowski in this way: "'Choose death, choose death,' whispered Seneca to those standing in the face of humiliation and capitulation" [Hostowiec 1960, 201]. The gravity of this message - in his opinion - had guaranteed that the writings of Seneca were still current after almost two thousand years. What was important in this myth was that one could always define for oneself the boundaries, following the crossing of which life would no longer be worth living. The boundary of dignity but not only: also the threshold of determination, beyond which life would become worthless and contempt towards death would appear. The boundary of which Stempowski wrote had not only a cultural character but also a psycho-physical one. He drew the sanction for its existence not only from the world of so-called values and not only from the human world:

The objective existence of this boundary appeared to find confirmation in the behaviour of animals, on which cynics modelled themselves. Animals also have their modest level of demands which they cannot give up. Below this level they lose their fur, become undernourished and die [Hostowiec 1960, 201].

Furthermore, this was not a boundary that should be remembered only in times of catastrophe and war or in other extreme situations. Also in times of peace, in the "normal" conditions of a functioning society, the possession of such a boundary was, according to Stempowski, very important:

(...) in a system of free competition, a high price, sometimes even a terrible price, has to be paid for life and one has to create the appearance that there exists a final boundary of concessions, below which one would rather choose death, so that one does not fall immediately in this market-place to the very bottom of existence [Hostowiec 1960, 202].

That which Stempowski called the myth of Seneca and which he regarded as crucial for European culture was thus something very concrete, finding its application also in contemporary everyday life. The existence of a boundary, following whose crossing there arose the question of the sense of further life affected not only the life of individuals. It could also have a political significance, affecting the behaviour of social groups, since "Even bloody tyrants refrained from many excesses for fear that their subjects would cease to value life and would be ready to offer resistance." [Hostowiec 1960, 202].
Stempowski recognised as one of the signs of the erosion of the myth of Seneca the fact that the boundary which he had set had now moved so far that people were ceasing to react to even the most extreme cases of injustice or become angry with the most humiliating conditions of life. He also indicated the causes of this state of things. For example, he pointed out the difference in the relative power of subjects and rulers, which in the past, according to him, had not been so terribly large. The disaffected had rebelled more eagerly and striven to usurp the rulers or to defeat the occupiers, because the latter had not possessed such an overwhelming advantage. The smaller difference in power meant that attempts at rebellion had found their place in the human imagination and that rebellion had a chance of success.
The second myth discussed by Stempowski arose from the trial of Socrates and carried the message: "you may treat your own opinion with greater weight than your life" [Hostowiec 1960, 201]. The bankruptcy of this myth can be proved by the many examples of collaboration and activities inconsistent with accepted principles or of actions taken against one's own interests or those of one's family during World War II. Also, after the conclusion of the war, there were many examples of such incidents, thus confirming the defeat of this myth. He gave here as an example the Stalinist trials, during which the innocent often confessed to crimes had not committed.
The particular weakening of the myths of European culture had occurred, in Stempowski's opinion, during the lifetime of the generation to which the founders and the writers of the monthly belonged. This generation:

[...] was faced with facts not lying within the notions of classicists and humanists. It turned out that endurance, patience and attachment to life were immeasurably greater than had been supposed and that most people maintain their existence in conditions in which animals could not survive and that there is no boundary where death would be chosen. [...] This abyss is not beyond the mountains but somewhere very close, just beyond the demarcation line or, like the hell of old, under our feet [Hostowiec 1960, 203].

On the other hand, this generation, or rather the founders and writers of the monthly who belonged to it, had been prepared in some way for such a turn of events. This is the third answer to the question as to why they were not surprised by Yalta and why they did not choose an isolationist strategy towards the European West (or the Communist East). They did not choose this because the earlier journals "Bunt Młodych" and "Polityka", and hence Giedroyc's pre-war milieu, had been conscious of the threat to Poland and European democracy from German and Soviet totalitarianism as early as the inter-war period. World War II was an event already taken into account and to some extent predicted in the columns of these publications [Korek 2000, 450-453]. The similarly widespread theories at the time about the "end of the West" or the death of European culture were not unknown to the young generation growing up in interwar Poland. People in Poland read the works of Western catastrophists, such as Oswald Spengler, Ortega y Gasset and Gustav Le Bon. Considerable popularity was also enjoyed by the Polish school of cultural pessimism, which included Marian Zdziechowski, Florian Znaniecki and the younger and even more popular Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz.
This does not mean that Giedroyć himself and his closest colleagues were among the followers of catastrophic thinking. On the contrary, they regarded the visions of the pessimists as one of the symptoms of the contemporary crisis in worldview. Because these visions, in their opinion, were conducive to the spreading of moods of resignation, passivity, egoism together with, on the economic plane, autarchy and, on the political plane, state nationalism:

[...] by means of apocalyptic catastrophism, German imperialism and nationalism were destroying all the nations of Europe. They weakened their will to fight and poisoned them with thoughts of death. For indeed why fight and what is there to defend in the face of universal Untergang [...]? [Kultura 1947, 1].

According to the founders and close collaborators of "Kultura", the popularity of catastrophic ideas in the 1930s was not the only aspect of the crisis of thought affecting Europe. At the same time:

The greatest position of authority was enjoyed by [...] neo-positivism. [...] Evaluatory judgements were to disappear entirely from the language of academics. [...] The crusade of philosophers against evaluatory judgements coincided with Hitler's rise to power. Faithful to their philosophy, the academic folk in their white coats did not commit the faux pas of expressing evaluatory judgements on this subject and thus they kept silent [Hostowiec 1968, 15-16].

Another symptom of the pre-war crisis in European culture was its elevation to the highest pedestal of scientific objectivity, which, in the opinion of the "Kultura" writers, led all too easily to an undesirable moral relativisation. By putting "evaluation" in brackets in the research process, i.e. by separating ethics from science, scientists made it an obedient tool of the politics that harnessed the adherents of "pure" science to the production of weapons of mass destruction.
But none of this was quite as simple and obvious as I am suggesting here. The clear profile of the monthly, the discourse of "Kultura" which I am trying to recreate with the hindsight of many years and with the knowledge of how this adventure ended, was at that time still being crystallised and was still not fully formed. The abyss described by the "Kultura" writers did not, for them, lie "outside" like Pan Cogito's chasm, which could be bypassed or jumped over[4]. The gulf described here gaped in their hearts and minds, opening at the same time under their feet and depriving them of solid ground on which to stand. In writing about it, they fell into its depths. The published texts, therefore, were not devoid of contradictions, paradoxical assessments, illogical ideas or hasty conclusions. The loss of any measure of reality, according to Stempowski, led some writers to seek any handhold, any external support for their own "I" as it fell into the abyss. Some tried to latch onto and find certainty in Marxist determinism (at times identified with the might of the Red Army), such as the aforementioned Zbigniew Florczak [Florczak 1949]. Others clutched at a different kind of determinism, founded on biology, such as Melchior Wańkowicz, who reached for the Spenglerian model of the dying of cultures, which were supposed to succumb to a vegetative cycle [Wańkowicz 1949]. This model not only justified passivity and the slogan of abandoning Europe (since it was dying anyway) but also saw in the Soviet Union an effective and desirable tool of euthanasia, which was liquidating, along the way, all the troubles of the 20th century. Yet others, while tumbling down into chasm, defended European humanism as if nothing had happened in recent years and encouraged everyone, citing the words of thinkers close to their own hearts,"to fight [...] for our churches and our homes and defend them to the last" [Croce 1947, 6]. In the same first number of the publication, Tymon Terlecki contrasted the "materialist mythology" of Marxism (and Soviet Communism), which "mutilated man", with Christian Socialism and its ethical message. The echoes of Christian Socialism would also resound in the "Democratic Manifesto", regarded by Giedroyc and "Kultura" as a policy statement[5].
The strong conviction, present from the very first issue, that catastrophic visions should be opposed did not lead, however, to the conclusion that they should be replaced by optimistic visions, i.e. that the shining utopias of Marxism and/or Leninism should be propagated:

Historical materialism, which presents itself as the philosophy of history, is at best a commentary on fragment of the history of humanity. [...] utopia, a golden age, is the end of a fairy tale for children, where the classless society "lives happily ever after" - this is not history [Jeleński 1950, 23-24]

Christian eschatological visions liewise did not appear to the monthly as something that could conquer the prevalent crisis of thought and revive European culture. They brought with them an image of the apocalypse and, therefore, like the Spenglerian message about the "death of the West" or the Marxist prediction of "the end of history", also anticipated "the end of the human world":

[...] this expectation of a worldly or semi-mystical millennium resides somewhere deep down in the subconsciousness of every European. Europeans feel that the forces beyond their control are pushing our civilisation into the chasm [Jeleński 1950, 23-24].

Finally, the standpoint was accepted that neither catastrophic ideologies à la Spengler nor Communist utopias nor codified Christian visions were solutions that could be relied upon. All of them carried with them strong deterministic and collectivist messages about the inevitable end. This led to an undermining of the autonomy of the individual and to a negation of the individual's potential to influence the shape of culture. This was one of the main reasons why Giedroyc "closed down" the "Third Place Club" in his periodical and broke off in practice his collaboration with Wańkowicz. Determinism paralysed the creative forces of the individual, that were so necessary to tame history, which "had slipped its chains", and to understand the events taking place at that time. For the editors of the monthly, just as for the previously-cited Jeleński, the means of extracting themselves from the chasm in which they found themselves was the "free choice and action" of the individual. Only the freedom of the individual and his or her belief in its creative potential and in individual action, based on historical thinking, could - as they saw it[6] - lead to a reconstruction of postwar life and a rebirth of European culture. Until the arrival of the end of the world, it was necessary to act as if it would never happen:

[...] the defence of our civilisation in its most fundamental aspects is not exclusively a question of moral choice but is also a standpoint we can adopt by committing the whole of our being. That is why any consideration of whether after the fall of our civilisation there will come eternal night or whether a new civilisation will arise in which man's striving for freedom will once again find expression, albeit a different one, has a significance that is purely theoretical [Jeleński 1950, 27].

The postwar era could not be and was not supposed to be, according to "Kultura", merely a continuation of history up until that time. Nor should it shape itself, on a total negation of the past. Not only because Communist reality, whose project "Kultura" rejected in its central points, had formed itself in radical opposition to the past. The traditions and elements of the culture of previous epochs were to be an integral part of the new era (obviously in a form modified by the experiences of the 20th century and two world wars):

[...] the period of postwar danger [...] will end the moment that real Europeans of every nation and race undertake the difficult task of defending, arranging and creatively reconstructing the principles of life and thought which shaped our past and which are still capable, despite everything, of shaping our future [Kultura Editorial Board 1947, 4].

That which is to come should not break off ties entirely with that which went before and particularly not with those values which have not yet been totally compromised, such as individualism, tolerance, pluralism, democracy. That which was to come was to change the attitude towards tradition only after a critical rethink and a reformulation of the premises on which tradition was based; in particular, of those of its components which had seriously affected the crisis on pan-European culture, shattered the European community and led to two world wars. In the first number of the monthly we read[7]:

[...] all the great features of the Germanic peoples did more evil than idleness created misdeeds. We saw with our own eyes how conscientious work, solid education, great discipline and diligence were adapted to terrible aims [Valéry 1947, 3].

The new epoch should rid itself of belief not only in the myth of Absolute Reason but also in the myth of Absolute Freedom. It should negate the myth of Absolute Progress but it should also not trust the myth of the Absolute End. "Kultura" proposed to concern itself with those principles and mythologies hitherto regarded as reliable (in order "to rethink everything anew"), to point out the totalitarian premises of thought ("including on our side of the barricade") and to repeal the right, ceded to it by modern reason, to the full and exclusive organisation and control of reality.
This kind of historiosophy, in which pride of place is given to great cultural formations, also explains, or so it seems to me, the specific relationship which occurred in the discourse of the monthly between culture and politics. Politics was for Giedroyć and his closest colleagues always an intrinsic part of culture:

The attempt to eliminate politics from culture or to set one totally against the other is undoubtedly a symptom of the decadence of culture. Great political events - the more destructive, the more surely so - are symptoms of cultural changes. If their result is a distancing of the intelligentsia from politics - as is so often the case nowadays - the fault never lies with politics but in the neglect of the intelligentsia in fulfilling its functions in cultural life [Ulatowski 1948, 7].

The editors and writers of the publication were characterised by a broad understanding of culture as the arena of the unbridled creativity of free individuals from many mutually intertwined intellectual spheres and fields of activity. The best answer to the advice given to Józef Czapski (which I mentioned at the beginning), namely that Giedroyc's monthly should concern itself only with culture and literature (and not with politics) are the words of Jan Ulatowski, quoted above, one of Giedroyc's close colleagues at that time. In accordance with such reasoning, a periodical writing about political subjects did not forfeit the right to call itself "Kultura" ("Culture"). The right to the name "Kultura" also gave a "right to integralism", as formulated by Juliusz Mieroszewski, the leading political journalist of the monthly. This right stated that "all cultural phenomena of a given period constitute an organic whole and are subject to a common rhythm of development" [Mieroszewski 1949, 135].
"Kultura" therefore did not wish to be merely a propaganda centre, to which attempts were often made to reduce it. It proposed a change in the states of mind of both Eastern and Western Europeans and wanted to change the structure of feeling and thinking about the postwar world. From inside the crisis, from the brink of the end, from the depths of humiliation and death, and thus from the bottom of the chasm, it managed to utter "a free voice safeguarding freedom". The specific discourse of "Kultura" was born, as I trust I have shown, not so much out of outrage at the short-term political situation that existed after Yalta and not only out of the consciousness of the postwar crisis of individual and national identities. Drawing on its conviction about a centuries-long crisis in European culture, it formed itself in opposition to the relativist attitudes of the modern mind, as well as the face of the hidden, colonising premises of the modernist project of the West and the utopian ideologies and totalitarian practices of the Soviet East.

II. Between millstones - Central and Eastern Europe as the key to European peace


An important feature of the postwar discourse of the editors and writers of "Kultura" was, as may already have become apparent, its emergence as an opposition to both the "West" and the "East". The often recurring metaphor of the "chasm" reflected not only the political disenchantment with Yalta but also the whole complicated existential situation of those using this discourse (which, for ease of expression, I shall call a discourse of "between"). The next question that arises would seem to be of crucial interest: did this discourse have any effect, and if so of what kind, on the political conceptions of the periodical? Not only on those which arose in the immediate postwar period, but also those which appeared later, during the almost fifty-year-long activity of the periodical. A good starting-point for considerations of this type would seem to be the question of Central and Eastern Europe, its political organisation, the vision of the co-existence of the nations living there or the approach to its multi-culturalism. The problem of the reconciliation, agreement or political and economic integration of the nations and states of Central and Eastern Europe was one of the most important for "Kultura" and an ever-present one. Its editors and journalists, writers and poets, authors of various nations, ceaselessly broached this subject. It can safely be said that a several discursive formations[8], whose object was Central and Eastern Europe, began to appear in the columns of the periodical. I should add here that, on the matter of Central and Eastern Europe, the influence of "Kultura" and Giedroyc are frequently cited today - correctly or incorrectly - by every second Polish politician, while journalists from nations bordering on Poland often recall them as a certain model of thinking about this region of Europe.
The main axis around which most of the deliberations and discussions in "Kultura" about Central and Eastern Europe took place was the idea of federation. I shall first of all present the federationist concepts put forward by the periodical in the chronological order in which they appeared on its pages. For I see them not as an emanation of one idea, always the same and never-changing, to which Giedroyc and "Kultura" remained faithful to the end of the periodical's activity, but as a group of statements, emerging in many genres and in fragments, whose system was transformed while crystallising into a later and clearer discursive formation. This formation had certain constant and repeated threads, in constant motion and changing over time, depending on the experiences and deliberations of its propounders. Such a view is justified at least by the large number of federationist ideas, plans and concepts which we can find in "Kultura". It would be impossible to enumerate them or present brief characteristics of the most important concepts without devoting a sizeable book to the subject. Since the federationist concepts presented in the periodical were dependent on the general transformations in the political strategy of "Kultura", I shall concentrate only on those concepts in which the fundamental premises of this strategy were also changed.

The concepts of "A United World" and of "Pan-Europe"

Federationist deliberations appeared in "Kultura" in its very first issues. This was not surprising in the context of the economic and political reconstructions and the defensive strengthening of the West and East after the end of the World War II. Loose ideas, general concepts and propositions, including the draft federation plans arranged themselves into two discursive sub-groups. The main subject of the first was "the uniting of the world" and of the second "the uniting of Europe". In the first case, reference was made to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty and the American vision of the postwar world order ("Pax Americana"). In the second case, concepts of "Pan-Europe" (as I shall call it) were discussed in connection with contemporary processes for the economic and political integration of Western Europe[9]. Like the initiators of these processes, the authors of "Kultura" supposed that a return to the pre-war international system was neither possible nor desirable. In the future united world, it should not be possible, in their opinion, for any national egoism or imperial dreams about the power of particular countries to play a decisive role. Unity would be brought about by a new administrative, economic and political division of the world based on completely different principles. The order existing hitherto would have to be changed so that the policies of nation-state "units", including and perhaps above all those which were most powerful, would not be entirely free and sovereign. They would have to be subordinated to international law and be synchronised with the policies of the federal economic and political bodies of the continental space (Pan-Europe) or an inter-continental one (Pax Americana).
Federationism was regarded by "Kultura" at that time as the main principle of the nascent postwar world order. This principle was to be followed also in the event of the defeat of the Soviet Union, for at "Kultura" they were still counting on an outbreak of war between the West and the USSR and on the resulting collapse of the Yalta Agreement:

Whichever side wins, it will not rebuild the European order from before 1939 [...] If the Americans and their allies win, then Poland will enter the framework of the European federal system, and Poland's international and political situation will be completely different from that of the twenty-year interwar period [Mieroszewski 1951a, 4].

In writing about the "European federal system", the periodical included in it at this time not only Poland and the satellite countries of Moscow, but also the European nations and states annexed by the USSR[10]: "These nations, including Ukraine, should have the possibility of joining the European federation, should they so desire" [Mieroszewski 1951 b, 46].
According to the "united world" discourse, however, the states and nations which would become independent after the fall of the USSR would not only participate in federal unions but also in a just international system guaranteed by a "world government" (the UNO) and the power of the United States.
In comparison to the overlapping integration processes taking place in the world and Western Europe, the federationist deliberations of "Kultura" may appear somewhat abstract. "Kultura", however, was in a doubly difficult situation since having rejected Yalta it first had to find some other strategy according to which the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe might take place. The general and metaphorical nature of both discourses about "unification" derived from the impossibility of formulating sensible conclusions in a situation where it was not clear whether the as yet not fully hardened Iron Curtain would be torn down militarily or removed diplomatically, over and above the heads of the nations of Central and Eastern Europe.
In both "uniting" discourses, however, a link was made between the specific national aims of each member of the federation and wider regional desires, pan-European plans and general world visions. This was also a result of from the ideological justifications formulated within the framework of the federationist discourse at that time. With time these justifications acquired a collective name in "Kultura": "freedom ideology". The major feature was the link between the "national" and the "supra-national". The premise was that to become national again (to regain independence), nations first had first to become "supra-national" (to accept a renouncement of part of their independence in favour of a regional, European or world union). Such an approach also explains many later federation initiatives in "Kultura". "The Polish question", for example, was hardly ever examined separately in isolation from Poland's neighbours and always in the regional context of Central and Eastern Europe.

Concepts of a Federation of Central and Eastern Europe

Concepts of a Federation of Central and Eastern Europe, understood as an independent administrative and political unit, appeared in "Kultura" for the first time at the beginning of the 1950s. This was more or less at the same time as the afore-mentioned concepts of "Pan-Europe" and "A United World".
These concepts were not reformulated until 1955. It was then that considerable changes in the political strategy of "Kultura" occurred. The periodical's federationist deliberations in the period from 1950 to 1955 had developed into four discursive groups, depending on the aims set for the projected union and on the body politic with which the realisation of the federation plans were connected. Thus the creation of the federation was considered from the point of view of: 1. defending its members against the expansion of a future united and reconstructed Germany (although a version of creating a federation that included an understanding with Germany was also considered); 2. designing a federation as a defensive pact against the aggression of a future post-Communist Russia; 3. defending the federation against a possible understanding between Russia and Germany aimed at a mutual "development" of the terrains lying between them. "Kultura" also highlighted the need to create a federation in Central and Eastern Europe in a fourth sense by emphasising the necessity of maintaining a balance of power in Europe in the event of the British not supporting integration and not wishing to become involved with the structures of the European Economic Community. This was a very interesting concept, since its pillar was cooperation between two sub-regional federations working in close relationship and cooperation with one another:

A Central and Eastern European federation united in one organisational whole with a Western European federation would constitute a solution to both the German problem and the Russian one in Europe. We have to think, therefore, today about a future non-Soviet Russia, which, although it would retreat to its 1939 borders (or further), would not forget that for years Russsians had looked at Europe through the windows of Berlin [Mieroszewski 1952, 126].

Such concepts discussed in the columns of the periodical less and less useful month by month however, since, despite all the projects, plans and concepts for a federation under discussion at that time in Western Europe, none of these undertook, despite the calculations of "Kultura's" authors, the question of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. On the contrary, many Western politicians thought that work on the federation should proceed in accordance with a vision of recreating the empire of Charlemagne. "Kultura" criticised these politicians not so much for omitting the demand of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe for liberation, but for not taking into consideration at all the fact that these countries might one day become members of the union that was being created in the West. This was one of the more important reasons why the periodical soon moved the idea of "Pan-Europe" onto the back burner. On the other hand, they did realise that the Western European movement for unification was not strong enough to make an impact or play a serious role in world politics, because it had a problems with creating its own structures as well as with its own self-definition.
A similar fate befell the concept of "A United World". Giedroyc came to the conclusion that the assumption that the United States, in accordance with the "ideology of liberty" it was promoting, would start to liberate the oppressed nations, was erroneous. This is why ideas looking to the United States as the centre of a new system of world security (Pax Americana) and seeing in the United States a guarantee of freedom for all nations were subjected to revision and (self-)criticism:

The average American thinks in pragmatic categories and does not have a sense of any 'historic' or any other mission. Pax Americana, 'one world', 'universal civilisation' etc. - should they ever happen, would certainly not be created in the 'ideological laboratories' of writers and men of letters but would be the consequence of strictly political and strategic solutions [Londyńczyk 1954, 117].

American policy, as "Kultura" was beginning to realise, was driven above all by the desire to safeguard America's own territory and its own political and economic interests. For Giedroyc this meant that support from the United States could only be counted on if there were a threat to the military and political dominance of this superpower itself. A good example of the changes in the thinking of the periodical was its attitude to the so-called "liberation doctrine", which was regarded by "Kultura" as, above all, an element in the propaganda war. In reality, and as Giedroyc thought at the time, the occupation of Eastern Europe by the USSR was becoming unimportant for Washington since it did not constitute a direct threat to the United States.

Ideas for neutralising Central Europe (1955-1964)


After 1955 most of the space in "Kultura" was devoted to considerations about neutralising Central and Eastern Europe. The world, divided into two blocs, was beginning to move, in accordance with "the spirit of Geneva", towards so-called co-existence. Détente tendencies also caused a change in the horizon of "Kultura's" political expectations. The periodical opted for a less ambitious but more realistic aim. It recommended that the West (mainly the United States) took on the role of negotiator and brought about the creation of a neutral zone dividing Western Europe from the Communist East.
The concepts of a neutral zone as discussed in "Kultura" embraced at this time only the satellite states of the Eastern bloc, and the Federal Republic of Germany and Austria from Western Europe. The inclusion of only the satellite states of the Eastern bloc (and not one of USSR's European republisc) prompted by the desire to avoid - in accordance with the spirit of détente - military confrontation with the USSR. "Kultura" did not suppose, however, that the Kremlin would give up any of "its" republics or leave the territories of the countries it had annexed, allowing them to be included in the neutral zone. This did not mean, however, that the periodical felt that the problem of the self-determination of the nations and countries incorporated into the USSR had already been resolved and should not be reconsidered.
Just as it had done earlier, "Kultura" considered the possibility of creating a neutral zone from the perspective of almost all the players then taking part in the negotiations between the West and the East. Apart from ideas that might have interested the United States, the periodical tried to analyse the neutralisation plans that were attractive to Western Europe and West Germany. The novelty was that for the first time serious consideration was given to ideas that might also interest the USSR[11].
The continuing de-Stalinisation of the Communist world allowed for the supposition among the magazine's journalists that internal changes could occur there prompted by decentralising and opposition forces. There even appeared the concept of neutralisation, which included one solution that Moscow could possibly accept[12].
In the most optimistic version, "Kultura" assumed that the Soviet Union would be ready - in return for the withdrawal of American troops from Europe - to agree to the creation of a neutral belt, which would embrace Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and a united Germany. The latter country could be united only and exclusively within this neutral belt and as a demilitarised state.
The neutralisation ideas, particularly those taking into consideration the participation of Moscow, were treated initially in "Kultura" as classic tactical moves, whose acceptance by Western diplomats would help to change the situation of the satellite states. In time these conceptions lost their purely tactical character and "neutralisation" became recognised as an acceptable long-term solution, since it would be a better alternative to the present situation of the satellite states. This was particularly so if the driving force behind these desirable changes were to be West Germany. "Kultura" considered that Bonn's desire for reunification should be exploited so that, apart from Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary could also be included in the neutral belt. In the opinion of "Kultura", the countries of Central and Eastern Europe should be neutralised, if only because their new status would make the possibility of armed Soviet intervention more difficult. The periodical expressed the hope that this would then lead to the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the demilitarisation of the whole neutral zone and the creation of international organs controlling the neutral belt. The fulfilment of these conditions, according to "Kultura", would naturally bring an improvement in the social and political conditions of these countries and lead to the end of their unilateral dependence on Moscow. As a final aim, they considered that the Central and Eastern region would integrate more closely with the rest of Western Europe. This is why, in presenting his proposal for of a Polish-German understanding in 1957, the chief journalist of "Kultura", Juliusz Mieroszewski, suggested to his readers not only the limited perspective of creating a common neutral belt. He also returned to federationist conceptions, suggesting that in accepting the plan Germany would have the opportunity to "become the co-initiator of a new Central and Eastern European system" [Mieroszewski 1957, 47].
Détente and the stabilisation of the two-bloc division of the world were leaving their mark on the neutralisation discourse of the periodical. Its having become accustomed to the thought of neutralisation led, at the beginning of the 1960s, to ideological arguments being added to the military and geopolitical reasons for effecting neutralisation. "Kultura" attempted at this time to reconcile the "socialist" option, which was being aired in the periodical, with the more elastic American line in foreign policy after the inauguration of President Kennedy (1961). This was obviously not about acceptance of the real Soviet or Polish "socialism" but about the calculation that the democratic socialism of the West could become a factor in liberalising the Communist system. The neutral belt could become - according to "Kultura" - an area where the previously undesirable compromise ideology of "the third place" could be worked out. Poland and the remaining satellite states could play the role of intermediaries between the Soviet Union and America or the rest of the so-called West. On the territory of the created neutral belt, it was assumed that "Eastern" and "Western" political and social solutions could be tested out and then only the best of both systems introduced in each country. The neutral belt would thus fulfil the role of a laboratory guinea-pig and an ideological melting-pot, "in which Poles, Czechs and Hungarians would work out in time a compromise system model, which would be neither communism nor capitalism and would raise itself above one and the other" [Mieroszewski 1961, 61].
The flaw in all these conceptions of the neutral belt was the fact that they asumed dynamic activity on the part of the diplomatic centres of the West, or at least their desire to engage with the foreign policy of the Kremlin. Despite "Kultura's" initial hopes, Western diplomats did not give the question of the satellite states or the problems of Central and Eastern Europe the appropriate priority. The problem was not even put on the agenda of the Geneva talks in 1955. This fact and similar omissions repeated later were criticised in the periodical and led to the conception of neutralisation being abandoned by the mid-1960s.

Concepts of a Federation of Central and Eastern Europe after 1964

At the beginning of the 1960s, "Kultura" was still considering the possibility of creating a neutral belt and of democratising the Communist system. Giedroyc was having increasing doubts as to whether the United States and Western Europe would undertake concrete negotiations with Moscow on the subject of the neutral belt, and took the view that it was not enough to wait for help from outside and that reforms in the countries of the Eastern Bloc would have to start "on their own". This related not only to an increased revisionism within the Communist Parties but also to the activities of the nascent (illegal) opposition as well as the "legal" pressure from activists and societies in Central and Eastern Europe[13]. The possibility of changes in the system were confirmed by the continuing processes of polycentrism[14], by the declarations of the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the subject of further de-Stalinisation and by the promises of a more liberal social and economic policy.
"Kultura" was now concentrating ever more attention on the political and social phenomena within the Eastern Bloc. The periodical was interested in ideological trends within the Communist Party and in the creation of political opposition groups in Poland and in the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. All of this changed considerably the political discourse of "Kultura". This became very evident after the end of the Cold War[15] and even more so after 1964 (in the United States - following the death of President Kennedy; in the USSR - after the removal of Khrushchev from power).
At the same time as all these changes were taking place, the periodical began to discuss so-called "evolutionism"[16]. This was a theory which sought the achievement of the same political aims as had been propounded earlier by the periodical, but now through other peaceful means. In contrast to the earlier plans, and in accordance with the theory of evolutionism, it was to be the elites and the societies of the countries of the Eastern Bloc themselves who were to bring about change and not the West.

The Federation of Central and Eastern Europe and the New "Spring of Nations"

The acceptance of the premise that nobody else would bring about a change of system if the societies of the Eastern Bloc did not do it themselves, led to a reevaluation of the concepts and plans for a federation. In "Kultura" the conviction began to grow that the situation of Poland and other countries in this region of Europe would not change even if the neutralisation ideas promoted in previous years proved successful. Even if it was possible, by some miracle, to "negotiate out" the satellite states and to create a neutral belt from them, then in any case, in Mieroszewski's opinion, it would not be possible to create a federal union. Countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, even if they disposed of their "Communist governments, would still be de facto Soviet states. "No federation" would be able to arise against Moscow's will" [Londyńczyk 1964, 72]. Only a collapse of the structures of the USSR seemed to be a solution to the problem. The periodical entertained the thought both of a violent collapse, i.e. a "new Spring of Nations", and a peaceful deconstruction of the Eastern Bloc, i.e. its "decolonisation". By making the realisation of its plans for a federation dependent on the disappearance of the structures of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc, the conceptions of "Kultura" regained their original, broader geographical range (broader, that is, than the theory of the neutral belt):

We are victims of Soviet imperialism in analogous measure to Ukraine or Georgia and our liberation, like that of other victims of Soviet imperialism, must signify the decolonisation of the Soviet Union [Londyńczyk 1964, 72].

These are the words of Juliusz Mieroszewski's written in 1964. The thesis about the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union was formulated by Jerzy Giedroyć in his letters as far back as 1963. He considered that in the whole Bloc opposition feelings were growing and that:

... in Russia there exists clear opposition in intellectual circles, Khrushchev's position is weak, the Party is weakened by internal battles, economic difficulties are growing and there is conflict with China. We should expect great shake-ups in the very near future and we may even be on "the eve of revolution [Giedroyc 1995, 22-23].

The writers of "Kultura", however, and this is worth emphasising, having taken into account this possible "explosion", did not opt for such a scenario of events, since they did not believe with any certainty that such a premature explosion would not end in defeat and tragedy. Fearing that, despite everything, it might yet happen, they appealed for careful preparation in advance.
The accuracy of "Kultura"'s conviction about the growth of internal criticism, the increase in opposition feelings and the strengthening of decentralist tendencies was confirmed in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Giedroyc felt that this might even lead to a turning-point and to a revolution, which would spread in turn to the neighbouring countries and to the whole Eastern Bloc. This dramatic opinion was confirmed by journalists who announced that the prevailing situation was "a classic revolutionary situation, devoid of safety valves for the rulers" [Grudziński, 1968, 78].
In the face of such a situation and the expected "Spring of Nations" within the whole bloc, "Kultura", at the beginning of 1968, put its evolutionist and revisionist conceptions onto the back burner, and suggested instead an agreement between émigré groups and opposition groups in the countries of the Eastern Bloc, because:

Revisionists, even of the revolutionary type, like Kuroń or Modzelewski, had not crossed the Rubicon which divides communism from democratic socialism. [...] today there cannot be the slightest doubt that we overestimated the Polish Marxist revisionists [Mieroszewski 1968, 88-89].

When these words were written, it was felt that revisionist proposals, useful in the evolutionary democratisation of the system and necessary in the phase of increasing social protest, did not lead to changes in the system. The programme of the revisionists did not contain (or foresee) a democratic order or the demands for national independence.

The Federation of Central and Eastern Europe and the ULB (Ukraine-Lithuania-Belarus) area after 1968

The crushing of the Prague Spring and the détente which took place between the USSR and the West after 1968 led paradoxically to a radicalisation of the stance of "Kultura". The situation confirmed once again Giedroyc's opinion that countries had to rely on themselves and not expect help from the West, unless the latter was presented with a fait accompli. This conviction obviously influenced the shape of the periodical's then current conception of a Central and Eastern European federation. This conception was a kind of synthesis of earlier initiatives and considerations. This could be seen in its new approach, which no longer confined itself to enumerating aims and threats but indicated the necessary practical steps to be taken, the order in which they should implemented and the preparatory activities which would lead to the formation of the federation. As the first step in this direction, "Kultura" designated the acceptance by the Germans of the western border of Poland. In this way the barrier that made an agreement between Poland and Czechoslovakia impossible, would disappear. The signing of an agreement between Poland and Czechoslovakia would in turn begin, or so it was assumed, the process of the accession of other small and medium-sized countries of the region to this initially two-country federation. Not only would this increase the chances of forming the federation, but it would also remove the causes of any Polish-German border disputes. The next step towards creating the federation should be taken, according to "Kultura", the moment the Soviet empire fell apart. Until this point "Kultura" had merely been repeating its earlier ideas, adapting them to the new circumstances. The novelty now was the laying of particular emphasis on the creation of sovereign and democratic states: Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus. These states should be taken into account in future federationist initiatives, since, together with the creation of the ULB area, as it came to be called in "Kultura", the security of small and medium-sized nations in the region of Central and Eastern Europe would also grow.
Giedroyc felt that, in order to accelerate this process, work should begin immediately on the political programmes and that initial agreements should be signed as soon as possible between the nations inhabiting the ULB area and the remaining nations of Central and Eastern Europe. These agreements should regulate the most sensitive questions, which were hindering rapprochement, and define the principles of mutual relations in post-Soviet times. At this juncture, "Kultura" also repeated the declaration about "renouncing claims to Vilnius and Lviv":

Since agreement and a united front of the subjected nations constitutes a fundamental condition for the liquidation - in favourable circumstances - of Russian Imperialism, we should assure the Ukrainians and Lithuanians not only that we [the Poles - J.K.] do not have any claims of repossession towards Vilnius and Lviv but also that we will not strive militarily for these cities, even if in a given situation circumstances were to be conducive [Mieroszewski 1973, 76].

It must be emphasised that the afore-mentioned conception of "Kultura" assumed cooperation with those Russians who accepted the principle of the self-determination of other nations and who were ruled by democratic principles. In this context it is understandable why Jerzy Giedroyc attached such great significance to the "Declaration on the Issue of Ukraine", published in 1977. This was in a sense a summary of "Kultura's" attempts over the years to create an émigré circle prepared to make a mutual statement about the issue of Central and Eastern Europe. The declaration, which was signed by Czech, Hungarian, Russian and Polish émigrés, apart from the problem mentioned in the title (Ukrainian independence), also raised the question of the remaining nations within the USSR:

[...] there will be no really free Poles, Czechs or Hungarians without free Ukrainians, Belarusians or Lithuanians. And, in the final reckoning, without free Russians [Deklaracja... 1977, 67].

In the political situation of the 1970s, the ideas of "Kultura" assumed a cooperation between émigré centres and democratic opposition groups in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In cooperating with one another, they were to be directed by the principle of partnership; the premise of the future independence of their countries and their activity was to prepare the foundations for their democratic coexistence in post-Soviet times. It must be added that "Kultura", also in this period, did not write about the institutional character of the union within which the ULB countries were to cooperate with the rest of the federated countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It was probably thought that, just as in the 1950s, concrete border proposals and institutional plans were not possible without discussion with the interested parties, and discussion at that time was impossible. The very fact of the imminent end to the dependence of the ULB countries on Russia and the beginning of the democratic processes would lead in the right direction, or so it was thought. The democratic states of Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus would be able to hold the balance of power, together with the countries of Central Europe, between a democratised Russia and the reunified democratic Germany. Only a Central and Eastern Europe bound by mutual agreements, as a partner of both Russia and Germany, could guarantee - according to the latest conception of "Kultura" - the future existence of the small and medium-sized nations desiring democracy and independence.

III. In the valley of the Dnister, i.e. at the foundations root of "Kultura's" political thinking

When we try to make "Kultura's" federation plans and concepts more specific, it transpires that this is no easy matter. Let us start with geography. How should we, for example, on the basis the concepts discussed in the periodical draw a map of the rivers, towns, regions and countries that were to enter the planned federation? What did the following formulation, or similar ones used in the periodical's discursive practice, actually mean: "a federation of countries in Central and Eastern Europe"? What were to be the institutional structures of the postulated union? Precisely which countries and nations were to enter it in the end? On the terminological level we already have a problem: why speak about one federation and not many? Why a federation of "Central and Eastern Europe" and not "Central Europe" or - even more concretely - a Polish-Czechoslovak federation or a Czechoslovak-Polish-German federation? "Kultura", during its almost fifty-year-long existence, elaborated on the prospects for all of the above-mentioned unions (moreover, in federated, confederated and other versions). The difficulty in establishing the organisational and geographical details perhaps confirms something that we have come to realise in the course of this discussion, namely that for "Kultura" the reasons for creating federationist concepts were not administrative or strictly geographical. More accurately, it was not these that decided in the first place about the shape of the planned federation.
What we can say without any reservation about the map created on the basis of the concepts analysed in "Kultura" is that it was a map of terrains between. For "Kultura," the primary perspective from which the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were being analysed was their very location between "West" and "East", between Russia and Germany, between the Soviet Union and the United States, between the NIS (Newly Independent States) and the (Western) European Union and so on. The greatest threat to the sovereignty of the nations inhabiting this area was the political and military agreement between those states, empires and federated bodies whose aim was to occupy, divide and colonise the terrains lying between (classic examples being the partitions of Poland or the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact).

The issue, therefore, that was unconditionally constant and consistent in "Kultura" was how to free, strengthen the potential of, and guarantee the security of the small and medium-sized nations and lands of Central and Eastern Europe. In seeking an answer to this question, the editors and writers of "Kultura" re-evaluated, updated and perfected their own political ideas. They managed along the way to create, or so it would seem, a specific political philosophy, which held that the states and nations lying between the "West" and the "East" ought to conduct flexible policies towards both sides and try to obtain the most beneficial compromises. On the other hand, however, these states and nations ought (simultaneously!) to create a system of safeguards which would make them as independent as possible and defend them from any neighbour who might declare colonising intentions. The best way to guard against the domination of such hegemony was, for "Kultura", to come to an understanding and to create a union of the small and medium-sized countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This union was understood as a relatively cohesive political, economic and military structure, which would provide support not only during regional political horse-trading in Europe but also at times when questions relating to the wider continental or world order were being settled.
So it was not geography but geopolitics that constituted one of the main starting-points for "Kultura's" ideas, which thus spoke about the need to construct a supra-national union in this region of Europe. This is why it was stressed that such a creation could take on various organisational forms and that its eventual shape would depend on the will of those political entities responsible for its co-creation. "Kultura" did not rule out in advance any possible alliances. The Central and Eastern European union could be federated in numerous ways or linked according to different, looser principles and it could assume various geographical shapes just as long as its potential was sufficient for its members to decide about their own fate.
As I have already suggested, it was not exclusively geography or geopolitics that caused the editors and writers of "Kultura" to avoid institutional definitions and to establish once and for all the territorial boundaries of the projected federation. Another reason for the geographical imprecision and the abstract nature of the proposed organisational structures was history. But neither could history be the foundation for the construction of the desired federal community because it testified clearly (meeting geography on the matter of border disputes) to the tendencies of small and medium-sized nations to xenophobia, hatred and chauvinism. In 1951 Józef Czapski said at the Congress in Defence of the Freedom of Culture held in Berlin:

Old revisionisms, old reheated nationalisms cannot be the starting-point for the reconstruction of Europe [...] Sorel said about the Balkans that it is a basket of crabs. Each chef brings crabs in order to throw them in a moment into boiling water - the crabs are still fighting with one another and cutting off each other's claws. This comparison can be used with reference to the whole of Eastern Europe. [...] Beyond the Iron Curtain there still exist 38 border disputes. In order to move the borders by a few kilometres masses of people are ready to kill and die, always certain that the truth of history and justice are on their side [Czapski 1951, 112].

Any accurate map drawn up by "Kultura" in this situation would have led to violent protests by the potential members of the federal community, precisely because of recriminations or historical wounds. It was not assumed in "Kultura" that it would be possible to undertake concrete activity to create a federation of Central and Eastern Europe before the age-old prejudices and suspicions had been dealt with, and before the doubts surrounding the intentions and desires of the Poles had been cleared up:

[...] the Jagiellonian epoch, which we regard as a blessed period, is regarded by others as a cursed time of union with Poland, which polonised the leading strata of the federated nations. The name of the Jagiellonians, so dear to us, is no less hated by the nations on our borders. Personally, it seems to me that the hardest point in the Polish federationist policy is the demand for a complete break with history [Londyńczyk 1951, 127].

The history of Poland, according to the periodical, did not only provide encouraging and convincing arguments in favour of creating the desired federation. Many events that were crucial to Polish identity were interpreted in the historical narratives of its neighbours as examples of "disguised" Polish imperialism.
The fact that the fears of the Lithuanians or Ukrainians were not simply plucked from thin air was discussed by many commentators, including Jerzy Stempowski. He was surprised to learn in the 1960s that there were still Poles for whom the words "Ukraine" or "Ukrainians" stuck in their throats. The following remark was made on the occasion of a review of a book about Ukraine, which had been published abroad by Polish émigrés. In it one of its authors exclusively used the terms "Ukrainian lands" or "in Ruthenia":

This terminology evokes the impression that reference is being made to the territories and possessions owned by Poles 'in Ruthenia', more or less like the French owned them in the Far East or the Dutch in Indonesia [Stempowski 1993 b, 100-101].

This implies that even in the 1960s discourses were still alive in which the Polish presence in Ukraine before World War II was seen and accepted in terms of a colonising mission. The "colonisers", almost twenty years after the end of World War II, still could not entertain the thought that they were no longer "owners" of the terrains which they had had to leave. This not only reflected an understandable lack of acceptance of the post-Yalta status quo and the political and ideological changes within the framework of the Eastern Bloc. It was also about something more. Stempowski demanded a realistic "leave-taking" of Ukraine. In writing about this, he was thinking not so much about momentary changes of mood or the occasional expressions of friendship towards the repressed Ukrainian oppositionists. He was thinking rather about the kind of attitude that the former (Western) European colonialists had adopted:

Two years ago, a well-known Swiss social activist told me about her meeting with Wilhelmina, the former Queen of Holland. When the conversation turned to Indonesia, the old queen became thoughtful and said: 'Now I can die in peace: they are free' [Stempowski 1993 b, 102].

Stempowski suggested that the Polish "colonisers" ought to behave like their Dutch counterparts. This was only possible, obviously, in émigré communities. In emigration, and not in the home country which was hampered by censorship, the real leave-taking process could begin. The obduracy of the "colonisers" was, despite everything, to be anticipated, if only because of its twofold trauma (displacement and emigration), which Queen Wilhelmina had avoided. What was not understandable, according to Stempowski, was the "wait-and-see" attitude of the majority of the Polish intelligentsia. Polish literature and journalism, he thought, "[...] had not yet provided a successful verbal formula to express the feelings of Poles taking their leave of Ukraine" [Stempowski, 1993/1960, 102]. In the case of the intelligentsia in the home country, a partial explanation could be once again the impossibility of conducting a real dialogue in the Communist reality of the Eastern Bloc. The return of Ukraine to the mentality of people in Poland began seriously only in the 1980s and this was thanks above all to "Kultura" and the Literary Institute in Paris. Before then, the situation was as described by one literary critic, who was born in Poland in the 1950s:

For years Ukraine was for me a region not so much mythical as in essence unreal. [...] I managed somehow [...] to accept the meanderings of the River Wilejka visited by Tadeusz Konwicki, the lands of Huculszczyzna of Stanisław Vincenz, the Lithuania of Czesław Miłosz, the lands around Vilnius of Zbigniew Żakiewicz, but Ukraine for a long time remained the land I had encountered during childhood in Sienkiewicz's books, something older people had told me about or I had heard about from tourists coming back from the Soviet Union [Adamiec 1995, 159].

It would seem to me, by the way, that it was not until December 2004 that the Poles finally took their leave of Ukraine, and that this was an ultimate leave-taking, when they supported, on the streets of Kyiv during the Orange Revolution, new elections, democracy and Ukrainian sovereignty.

Let us return, however, to the previously cited Juliusz Mieroszewski. In writing about the former polonisation of the Lithuanians or Ukrainians, he drew attention to another important matter, namely the problem of the Poles imposing their own language and culture on other nations, which could be seen as an element of colonising policy. Was it right, as the writers and editors of the Paris monthly were suggesting, to plan a federation of Central and Eastern Europe on the basis of one lingua franca or upon certain strictly defined cultural foundations? In this case, however, "Kultura's" federation concepts did not suggest to potential members of the federal union the acceptance of any one "chosen" cultural tradition. It was thought, quite simply, that no homogeneous indisputable cultural ground existed on which the identity of the federated community could be built. Similarly, the any thought was rejected regarding attempts to create a single homogeneous identity to compete with homo sovieticus as imposed by the Kremlin. The national, religious and state homogenisation of postwar Poland was, for example, regarded by the editors and writers of "Kultura" as one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the country:

All that was necessary was one "summit" conference, a few signatures and misty communiqués for Poland to rid itself of the last elements of Jagiellonianism and to return to the Piast borders. No Grand Duchy of Lithuania, no "Eastern borderlands", no national minorities; one nation, one state, one language, one faith and one party; almost ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer [Stempowski 1993 b, 96].

Despite the regrets about the Jagiellonian period, these words were written by the same author who had blamed the Poles for their colonising instincts and their unwillingness to take their leave of Ukraine. To Stempowski, however, "Jagiellonianism" meant something completely different than it did to the all centrally-oriented builders of the empire. He obviously blamed Yalta for reducing Poland to its Piast borders yet "Jagiellonian Poland" meant to him above all pluralism, the multi-culturalism, multi-lingualism and multi-religiousness of communities, nations and ethnic groups living together side by side, polycentrically.
Yalta finally buried the idea of such a Poland and such a Central and Eastern Europe. He did not consider, however, that it was Yalta that had begun the civilisational process which had led to this situation. According to him, the process had begun long before - and moreover in the West. It was from there that the modern idea for a national state had come with its national egoism and nationalist ideology and the imperialist attitude connected with them.
It was this wave of national imperialism that had brought Hitler to power in Germany - he wanted to conquer Europe and the world in the name of one ethnic community. The multi-culturalism, multi-ethnicity and multi-lingualism of Stempowski's Central and Eastern Europe (and that of other writers and editors of "Kultura") were substituted in Hitler's vision by an ethnic Aryan Europe, speaking German. The primacy of nationality, as well as the treatment of nations according to the organic pattern of a single individual fighting egoistically against others for biological survival, came from the West. For Stempowski, the concept of "nationality" was not what it had become for the citizen of a modern state in the 20th century, namely an identity determined by the blood of one's parents, a fate inherited because of race or class. To the valley of the Dnister, where Stempowski grew up, this type of concept:

[...] was transferred from the West relatively late and I am not sure whether even today it is not a new and strange thing. In the west of Europe, everywhere along linguistic borders, we can see fortified castles, walls, earthworks, all testifying to the fact that wars have been waged there for centuries for every village and field. [...] In the fire of these battles the nations of the west managed here and there to establish their borders more or less, to displace strangers, to deny visas to foreigners and to create the impression of internal homogeneousness [Stempowski 1993 a, 9-10].

To the editors of "Kultura" and to many of its writers, "nationality" was not a necessity established once and for all by one's surroundings. Norbert Żaba, one of the collaborators of "Kultura" associated with Giedroyc for the longest period, repeatedly said that he did not become a Pole by accident, that is by birth. Despite his Russian, Swedish and Estonian forebears, he became a Pole by choice, which made his patriotism, or so he claimed, stronger and more enduring.
At "Kultura" they not only realised that there were religious and cultural differences between the particular nations and ethnic groups that were to become part of the suggested federal bodies. They also realised that each was owed the freedom to choose its own national option. It did not cross anyone's mind at the periodical to persuade people to change their identity by coercion, deprivation of national identity or imposition of other cultural patterns. That is why the periodical never reached for nationalist, ethnic or religious criteria. They did not seek support in concepts of nineteenth-century pan-Slavism, which based the idea of a union of nations on common linguistic foundations. A similar attitude prevailed in the case of religion. No-one at "Kultura" postulated a preference for any faith, sect or church. On the political level, it preferred not the dominance of the strongest nation but partnership and cooperation between nations, not an apodictically ruling centre but a multiplicity of sovereign centres of power rooted in particular regions, countries and cultural and geographical areas.
If, therefore, it was not religion, history, language or cultural tradition that would be regarded by the majority of nations and ethnic and social groups as an acceptable foundation for the creation of a federation, what would form the basis of the Central and Eastern European body as planned by "Kultura"? What could be, according to "Kultura", the "bonding agent" for its Central and Eastern European federation?
The answer was that it ought to be the very multi-ethnicity, cultural pluralism and multi-lingualism of its potential members. Such a perspective took shape in the periodical in opposition to the "colonising" concepts of both the "West and the "East", which aimed to achieve national homogeneity, ethnic uniformity, cultural unification and religious or political totalitarianism.
Multi-culturalism, multi-lingualism and multi-ethnicity were perceived, in this way of thinking, not as obstacles to the formation of a federation - but as quite the opposite; they constituted one of the most important arguments for its construction. The feeling of one's own ethnic and national individuality was combined here with a concept of supra-national community that could accept these differences. The whole concept of a federation was in fact, in this version, founded on differences. The federation was seen as a vessel which must include and protect individuals and their freedom of choice and guarantee ethnic diversity and a multiplicity of cultures and faiths. I should add here that Giedroyc was not only a defender of democracy but he was also a supporter of legalism; he was in favour of an efficiently operating administration system, whether this concerned state institutions or the structure of the proposed federation.
The periodical's émigré address and the émigré experiences of its collaborators undoubtedly influenced the shape of the federationist discourse in "Kultura". This shape was also determined by their interwar experiences and the shock of World War II and Yalta, as I mentioned earlier in analysing the Poles' crisis of identity in the postwar discourse iof "Kultura". However, at the heart of the periodical's federationist concept and source of the political thinking of its editors and writers there can also be found something which might be called a utopia or a myth, and which I would like to call the myth of the Dnister Valley. This is the myth of a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-ethnic land where everyone lives his own life, is safe, lives in peace with his neighbours and without fear of attack by someone stronger, but more modern, disciplined and self-disciplined, and equipped with the homogeneous ideology of a Coloniser. Such a land was perhaps best described by Stempowski:

The whole enormous part of Europe between the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Adriatic was one great chessboard of peoples, full of islands, enclaves and the strangest combinations of mixed populations. In many places, each village, each social group, each profession almost, spoke a different language. In my native valley of the Middle Dnister, the landowners spoke Polish, the peasants spoke Ukrainian, the officials spoke Russian with an Odessa tone, the merchants spoke Jewish [sic!], the carpenters and joiners - as Philipponen and Old Believers - spoke Russian with a Novgorod accent, the swine-herds spoke their own dialect. Apart from that, in the neighbourhood there were still some villages belonging to noble homesteaders speaking Polish and others speaking Ukrainian, Moldavian villages speaking Romanian, Gipsies speaking Romany; there were admittedly no Turks but in Chocim, on the other side of the River Dnister, their minarets were still standing. [...] In the ravines and forests outside the settlements there lived the so-called ravine people, with unkempt beards and uncertain expressions, who seemed to speak no language at all. I will not even mention here the smaller peculiarities like Bucniowiec, where all the Jews were Turkish citizens and had never served in the army because the youngest of them, according to their passports, was fifty years of age.
All of these national and linguistic shades were found moreover in a partially fluid state. The sons of Poles became Ukrainians, the sons of Germans and Frenchmen became Poles. In Odessa uncommon things happened: Greeks became Russians and Poles were seen to join the Union of the Russian Nation. Even stranger combinations arose as a result of mixed marriages [Stempowski 1993 a, 10-11].

And the final question: how was it possible to reconcile the fact that the federationist concepts of "Kultura" were shaped on the one hand by the demands of geopolitics and political pragmatism and on the other, by the ancient myth of the multi-cultural Jagiellonian Poland?[17] Well, in the "Kultura" discourse, these were not mutually exclusive perspectives. The vision based on myth and the pragmatism were in fact complementary. Mieroszewski wrote many times about Central and Eastern Europe as the "key" to the stability of the continent, to peace in the East, to the solution of many other important problems. A key does not take up much space in one's pocket and hardly any geographical space, and yet it opens or closes doors; what counts is its function. On the other hand, however, it was precisely this type of pragmatic thinking (which is not as paradoxical as it may seem) that urged the "Kultura" writers to project the solutions rooted in the myth onto the future (since history was not glorious and the present was unacceptable).

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Ulatowski, J., 1948, Polityczna funkcja inteligencji, "Kultura" No. 4, Paris.
Valéry, P., 1947, Z "Kryzysu ducha", "Kultura" No. 1, Paris.
Wańkowicz, M., 1949, Klub Trzeciego Miejsca, "Kultura", No. 6, Paris.
Zespół Kultury, (Kultura Editorial Board), 1947, "Kultura" No. 2/3, p.1, Paris.

Translated into English by Tadeusz Z. Wolański


[1] Based on the discourse of the monthly "Kultura" (1947- 2000). The magazine was created by expatriate Poles, who chose to stay in the West following the Yalta Agreements. Thanks to the original profile of the magazine and its political philosophy it has managed to group around itself numerous outstanding Polish writers and commentators, both those active in the émigré communities and those living in Poland. Also Western authors as well as writers and commentators from other countries in Central and Eastern Europe published their texts on the magazines pages.

[2]A description of the rhetoric of crisis, which was very widespread at this time in the columns of "Kultura", would require a separate book. The more so as the notion of crisis was connected with such categories as "culture", "civilisation" and "the West". I shall therefore, make only a few essential observations. Firstly, the characteristic feature of the period from 1950 is the multiplicity of crises described in "Kultura" (directly or indirectly). Among the most important types there may be listed: postwar crises in particular fields (economic, social, political, ideological, religious), ethical crises (and ideological ones, including secularisation), crises understood as a breakdown of hitherto existing values (caused by World War II and/or because of the demise of European culture, and thus a process begun long before World War II), the crisis of culture (and/or civilisation) caused by a move away from the (variously understood) Europeans tradition (including Americanisation versus Sovietisation and the spread of mass culture), the crisis of modernity (the modernist project), crisis as a subjectively experienced feeling of threat, the crisis of humanity understood as its absolute end (including the physical end of Europe as a result of a new war). Even within the framework of this same discourse (of which several variations appeared in the publication at this time) very different conceptions of the crisis (or crises), as well as various definitions of (European) culture and contradictory ideas about the West, may be observed This led at times to logical acrobatics and also to the formulation of contradictory charges laid against this culture and contradictory diagnoses of its crisis. Definitions of culture vied with one another, the range of notions about the West (variously defined, even geographically) were mutually exclusive, as the crises bid against each other with their varying range and depth. The least space was devoted to the idea of crisis understood in a universal way, namely the one ascribed to the human condition itself, irrespective of time and place. The greatest popularity was enjoyed by crisis understood as the final resolution, the definitive boundary, the end of history and human activity, which was reflected in the rhetoric used about "the end" (of European culture), "the death" (of the West, the epoch etc.). With the passage of time, the normalisation of the postwar situation, intellectual rebirth, economic reconstruction and the creation of new political structures, a clear concretisation of the crisis may be seen. At the beginning of the 1950s, it was presented less and less as an immeasurable chasm and more and more as a crisis in a defined area of science or the art or in a clearly defined area of human activity, such as the economy, medicine, education etc.

[3] The notion of "culture" appeared in the publication many times during this period but it was used with various meanings. It often appeared in an evaluatory version, where the possession of culture was contrasted with its lack, which was often a feature of some of the writers' ideological opponents. (Western) European culture was usually evaluated positively when contrasted with Eastern, Communist and/or Soviet barbarism. Something different occurred in analyses concerning only Western culture itself, particularly those which concentrated on the 20th century. Its classic brief definition went as follows: "Culture does not mean any more than what was encompassed by it at the end of the 19th century. Its essence is humanism, which grew out of the Christian and the ancient world and which flourished in the Age of Enlightenment. There is no other culture than this. For us, obviously, Western people." [Goetel 1948, 3]. In time there began to appear notions closer to our times and reminiscent of an anthropological understanding of culture. The notion of culture was additionally unclear since it had to compete with the rival notion of "civilisation". These notions were defined only in exceptional cases and were used with various meanings. Understandings of these two notions typical for the writers of "Kultura" may be found in the writings of Andrzej Bobkowski (from 24.9.1940): "Listen. This electric light switched on in the tent, this whole garden with its rubbish dump, its wash-basins and its sanitary pit, this is civilisation. However, if we can learn to use all this as we should, if we do not steal the light-bulb or use the cable to tie up our luggage, if we do not foul the corners, if we do not strip the privy for firewood, and if we can leave here tomorrow without arguing with the caretaker and without punching him in the mouth as a sign of farewell, that will be CULTURE. Civilisation and culture are like an order and its response during military exercises. [...] Culture, the higher kind, the next step of culture, would also become appear if I were to tell you, by the light of this light-bulb, the history of illuminations..." [Bobkowski 1985, 175].

[4] Pan Cogito "could have, if he had wanted, filled in his chasm with a few handfuls of sand or left it outside, covering it carefully with a piece of old material" [Herbert 1982, 212].

[5] The whole editorial board of "Kultura" signed their names under the text which was written by Father Innocenty Maria Bocheński O.P. [Bocheński 1951].

[6]Also Stempowski was not, as was accurately pointed out by Andrzej Stanisław Kowalczyk, "an adherent of determinism and he saw in man a being capable of realising his freedom (although this rarely occurred). He believed in the saving power of culture" [Kowalczyk 1990, 91].

[7]It is symptomatic that the text quoted from Valéry, published in a very prominent place in "Kultura" in 1947, was written in 1919 and referred, therefore, to World War I!

[8] "Whenever one can describe, between a number of statements, such a system of dispersion, whenever, between objects, types of statement, concepts, or thematic choices, one can define a regularity (an order, correlations, positions and functionings, transformations), we will say, for the sake of convenience, that we are dealing with a discursive formation [...]" [Foucault 1997, 38].

[9] This refers to the creation of the federation of the Benelux countries (which would later, together with Great Britain and France, sign the Brussels Treaty creating the Western Union), the Marshall Plan, the creation of the Monetary Union and the so-called Schumann Plan, which saw the light of day in 1950. The countries forming this union also signed at that time an understanding regarding the creation of a European Army, subordinated to NATO, and began work on the preparation of a constitution for the future federation of the European Econmic Community.

[10] In "Kultura" the situation was presented in this way even in 1951, when the Western world was discussing the new "pro-Russian" doctrine of American policy. This found its fullest expression in the "Manifesto of the Western World" by George F. Kennan ["Foreign Affairs", no 3, Vol. 29, 1951]. "Kultura" realised the weight of the demands and obviously accepted Kennan's postulates regarding the overthrowing of the Soviet regime and the departure of Soviet troops from the satellite states. It criticised him, however, for not touching upon the question of Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and the Baltic states. The minimum that should have been demanded, according to "Kultura", was a promise by Moscow that in the future these nations would have "[...] the right to a free choice - to maintain or to sever the ties linking them with Russia." [Mieroszewski 1951a, 4]

[11] The prototype for this kind of neutralisation concept was an idea which had appeared in writing as early as 1953. "Kultura" felt then that the Western powers ought to exploit the Kremlin's proposition that it would be ready to accept the reunification of Germany in return for the British and Americans withdrawing from mainland Europe. In addition to the condition of German reunification, the West ought also to have put forward the demand that the USSR should withdraw from its satellite states in Eastern Europe. Then the American forces could have left Western Europe. In its talks with Moscow, "Kultura" suggested, the West should also try to obtain for these countries the political status and internal conditions that were to obtain in the reunified Germany. Let us add that, in putting forward its own idea of a Europe "without the forces of the superpowers", "Kultura" was assuming that the Soviet proposal ought to be exploited only in order to reunite Germany and to "liberate" the satellite countries. The periodical adopted at that time a pro-American and anti-Communist position. The postulate that the Soviet armies should depart from Eastern Europe was accompanied by the condition that they should return to the 1939 borders.

[12] A plan of this type (having as its aim "pan-European" neutralisation) appeared in "Kultura" in 1955. It referred to the proposition put forward by Moscow at the Berlin conference at the turn of January and February 1954. On this occasion Molotov presented a sketch of a common pan-European security pact, in which all European countries would be involved, including both German states. A curiosity worth mentioning is that after proposing this plan the USSR announced its proposal to join NATO. "Kultura's" proposition was published shortly before the first "summit" talks in Geneva. It was suggested that an answer should be given to Moscow's proposal, which agreed to the unification of Germany in return for the withdrawal of British and American troops from Europe. Instead of negotiating with Moscow "on the subject of particular questions - like Austria or Germany - we should test the possibility of talks on the political status of the whole of Europe" [Mieroszewski, 1955, 108]. Following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the countries of Eastern Europe and that of British and American troops from Western Europe, the area of the whole continent would become a neutral zone, controlled by a commission of the United Nations Organisation. Mieroszewski felt that if the West were to present such a proposition as a compromise (in his opinion), then it could lead to a breaking of the impasse in which the Soviet-American talks on the reunification of Germany had found themselves. Moscow would gain what it wanted, namely a neutralisation of this country and the withdrawal of American troops from the continent. The Americans would maintain their bases in Great Britain and Spain and, therefore, their atomic control over Europe. They would also gain economically as they would be relieved of the costs associated with maintaining armies in the European zone. According to the author of the piece in "Kultura", Europe would also benefit from this, as its inhabitants would lose their constant fear that the area in which they lived could at any moment be transformed into the arena of a new world war.

[13] It was assumed, among other things, that the gradual democratisation and decolonisation of the USSR would be brought about by forces acting officially and by internal processes initiated by groups demanding the civil liberties which were in theory guaranteed. It was felt, for example, that efforts should be made to attain the same status for the countries and republics annexed by the USSR as enjoyed by the satellite states. This would increase the sphere of their internal freedom and protect them from encroaching Russification. "The advance of the Soviet Union's republics to the status of satellite states," wrote Mieroszewski, "would automatically bring with it the fall of the concept of a "Soviet nation'." Only afterwards could they begin to think about further steps towards emancipation and more radical decolonising demands. In the first phase, therefore, all opportunities for change offered by the system should be exploited. "Kultura" regarded legalism, i.e. activities aiming to carry out the letter of the law, as one of the methods for hastening the decolonisation of the Eastern Bloc. The paragraphs and the laws written into the Constitution of the USSR and the countries of the Eastern Bloc were hardly ever exploited in practice. Here are some of the more spectacular examples quoted by the periodical: the possibility for each republic to leave the Union; the appointment of a Minister for National Defence and a Foreign Minister by each Union republic; the participation of delegations from the republics in the work of the UNO or UNESCO. The activists and "ordinary" citizens should, therefore, demand, according to "Kultura", the observation of the already existing laws and make use in practice of their theoretically guaranteed liberties. "Kultura" assumed that the Kremlin had two paths from which to choose: agreement to voluntary changes and peaceful decolonisation, or the dismantling of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc by politically radical and aware internal forces.

[14] This concerned the loss, at the beginning of the 1960s, of the monolithic character of the Communist system. Many Communist countries began to call into question the role of the Kremlin as an ideological centre. The beginning of this process was the move by China and Albania, which criticised Moscow and undermined its status as an infallible interpreter of Communism. The Soviet-Chinese schism and the example of tiny Albania, which opposed the Soviet superpower, encouraged also, according to "Kultura", other Communist states to undertake reforms by themselves. The more so, since Moscow's reaction to these events - expressed at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1961 - was interpreted in the periodical as support for the transformations: "[...] dogmatism, aggressiveness, threats of war, 'partyism' in science and philosophy, 'administrative methods', institutional Marxism - the whole legacy of Stalinism was schematically and symbolically shifted at the 22nd Congress onto a new adversary - China and Albania." [Jeleński 1962, 19] "Kultura" regarded the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as a breakthrough, since it contained a rejection of those principles that had previously made a reform of the system impossible.

[15] The signing of the treaty in August 1963 banning tests of nuclear weapons in space, under water and in the air is regarded as marking the end of the Cold War. The treaty between the USA, Great Britain and the USSR was signed by a further 90 countries.

[16] Among others, there arose conceptions of evolutionism that were 1) "economic" and 2) "cultural". 1) The basis of this conception was the premise that contact with the West, and above all with its technology and its pragmatism, would lead in time to changes in the USSR and in the whole bloc. It was in turn based on the conviction that together with industrialisation and modernisation there would come transformations such as had occured in the highly industrialised countries of the West. Industrialisation was to bring with it not only an increase in living standards and in so-called free time, but also a growth in the level of education and political awareness. It was supposed to lead to a liberalisation of the system in the USSR and the whole Eastern Bloc. 2) This version of evolutionism was based on a democratisation of the Communist system through contacts with Western culture. The idea that this could lead to the liberalisation and democratisation of the East appeared in the periodical at the very moment Moscow announced its desire to increase its cooperation with the West. The contact with Western culture made possible, in the periodical's opinion, a comparison between the systems, the free flow of influences, attitudes and solutions. It could thus lead to the desired liberalisation, democratic changes and the "disarmament" of Communism. "This is a difficult and long-lasting programme but in all certainty more realistic than the programme of liquidating Communism and would also at the same time exclude war. With this complex of peaceful means, it is possible to influence evolution, but liquidation is only possible with the use of force" [Mieroszewski 1960, 142].

[17] I have deliberately omitted here the interwar tradition that constitutes an important context for the federationalist discourse of "Kultura". At that time the concepts known as the "Jagiellonian idea" and the "Inter-sea idea" were becoming popular. The "Jagiellonian idea" assumed the construction, on the basis of Poland's potential, of a federated body which was as broad as possible and made up of the nations and states of Eastern Europe (including a sovereign Ukraine). As the largest nation in Central and Eastern Europe and as the initiator of the whole enterprise, Poland would fulfil the role of the centre around which the federation would crystallise. The best-known version of this concept was based on the plans and ideas of Józef Piłsudski. They referred to the traditions of a multi-national Republic of Poland. In propagating the principle of the self-determination of nations, Piłsudski assumed voluntary accession to the planned federation. That is why, as well as for other reasons, he did not take into account Lithuania, which was not interested in any union with Poland. In the case of Belarus, however, it was necessary, according to this concept, to enable its population to strengthen its national identity so that it could in time create the structure of its own state within the framework of the federation. As a complement to the "Jagiellonian idea" Poles were to consider the idea of "splitting up" the Soviet empire by supporting decentralist national movements. This idea, known as "Prometheanism", was already being put into practice. It depended, among other things, on making contact with non-Russian revolutionary and national movements in order to create a mutual coalition against the Communist centre in Moscow. The "Inter-sea idea", on the other hand, had as its aim the creation of political ties between the Baltic Sea states (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland) to the Black Sea (Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria). This concept, citing the then popular geopolitics, indicated only a general principle of constructing the desired alliance. The "inter-sea" body had, therefore, many variant forms with respect to the number and potential composition of its members and to their mutual dependency.


[From: Korek. J. (edit.) From Sovietology to Postcoloniality. Poland and
Ukraine in the Postcolonial Perspective, Södertörn Academic Studies 32,
Stockholm, 2007, ss. 229-269]

 

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