"It's difficult to admit the obvious"
political world

Myths and realities in eastern Europe

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The author surveys the claims of nations and nationalities in some detail. Unfortunately, he treats all the conflicting claims on a more-or-less coeval basis—as if all the claims had equivalent credibility and support.

I focus on a few items of lasting interest.

THE POLESIANS—A SEPARATE NATIONALITY?


Myths and realities in eastern Europe        

In the past, Poles commonly thought of the Belarussian identity as an amorphous one. For example, Roman Catholic Belarussians were, in some way, considered Poles. Russians, on the other hand, tended to treat the Belarussians (and Ukrainians) as just another branch of the Russian peoples. Interestingly, however, some Russians thought of at least the Polesians as a separate nationality. Kolarz comments, (quote) In North-eastern Poland (or South-western White Russia—which term we use entirely depends on our political sympathies) is to be found another linguistic and ethnological curiosity, the “Pinchuki”, who live in the marshy country of Polesia or Pinshchina (around the town of Pinsk) which is one of the areas contested between the Poles and the Soviets. They have a number…Polish statistics record over 700,000 of such Pinchuki who are simply described as “locals”…the “Pinchuki” are not a Polish invention but were recognized by Russian ethnographers long before the first World War. (unquote). (p. 17).

JEWS AND CONFLICTED IDENTITY

Kolarz writes, (quote) Secondly, there were Jews whose assimilation had been complicated by the fact that they lived in a multi-national country or in an area of mixed language. In such cases it very often happened that Jews between two censuses or over a longer period withdrew form one ethnical group and attached themselves to the other. In some towns of Bohemia and Moravia, for instance, from the end of the nineteenth century onward, and ever-growing number of German Jews have changed over to the Czech nation. On a smaller scale the same thing happened in Slovakia, where a part of the Jews gave up their membership in the Magyar ethnical community and became Slovaks…Finally, there were the Jews who were indifferent to the rival claims of nationalities, and these were the majority. (unquote). (p. 23).

Now consider the implications. Roman Dmowski, while always realizing that some Polish Jews become genuine patriotic Poles, pointed out that most Jews (of eastern Europe) had no real attachment to the nations in which they lived. Even those that did often did not remain that way. He cited the example of Hungarian Jews as ones whose assimilated status, and patriotic identification with Hungary [including that of the Israelitish Magyars], turned out to be a chameleon-like ephemeral loyalty. He feared that the same could happen with Poland-identifying Polish Jews. Kolarz's statements, quoted above, though not presented as such, indicate that Dmowski's concerns had some foundation.
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