Poles – Traitors or Lost Slavic Brothers?
Poles are probably the only one Slaves, who do not know… what it means. Almost whole Polish history is kind of quite sad tale about looking for identity and awareness. Searching unsuccessful, because the hardest thing is to find something that is not hidden at all.
Polish early history is determined by especially two moments, two turns on historical crosswords. First of course, that was acceptance of Christianity from the West; the second one – Mongolian lack of interest in the conquest of Polish lands in the 12th century. The first decision was, unfortunately, a conscious mistake of the elites at the time, but committed in certain circumstances an external threat from the West, from the advancing Germans. Paradoxically, however, born for Christianity in the 10th century, the Polish state fulfilled its role, shielding the Slavdom against Germanic pressure, because it cannot be entirely ruled out that without specific and unintentional Polish defence - the hearts of the Slavs, the Kievan Rus would endure Germanic aggression alone. For all knowing difficult history of Polish-Ruthenian struggle in the Middle Ages – I hope it is clear, that these were family conflict, even so dramatical, as intervention of Polish future King Bolesław the Brave [i] supporting Sviatopolk I [ii] in Kiev (10-5-1019) or Ruthenian and Cuman raids on Poland in the 12thCentury - did not differ much from argues and fights between descendants of Piast [iii] and Rurik[iv]themselves. But what could happen, if Western power, even only from Eastern March – stood on Ruthenian borders in the end of 10thCentury/beginning of the 11thone? And we should remember, that in the 11thand 12thCentury “The Drang Nach Osten” was provided not only by Marchs, as before, and by Knights Orders, as later, but by the Holly Empire itself, standing at the height of power. Were divided Kiev Rus’ able to defend, if in real Ruthenians had to wait till St. Alexander Nevsky [v] made his fundamental geopolitical choice, letting the Slaves to achieve the first such a great historic victory over the West? So, admiring the Battle of Ice[vi], please remember, that time to prepare to this success has been also given by these “traitors of the Slavdom”, who had won their own, small fight 276 years before[vii]…
Knowing that Western Slavic states already exist – enemies of the Slavdom changed their strategy. If they had problem to beat Poles and Bohemians – they decided to change them into their way. From the shield of the Slavs, turn them into a sword aimed at the East. Our Czechs brothers were to some extent defended by the Hussite movement and the Reformation (apart from the Semitic-Western genesis of this second this second process)– but Poland was getting deeper and deeper into slavery from the Holly Empire, Popes and in modern times – from the Jesuits. In the political dimension – that was of course the question of strengthening the position of the Catholic Church, subordinate to the external power centre.
But even more important was metapolitical, identity platform of changes. If we were just witnesses of increasing economic possession and political influences of Rome, bishops, monasteries – we could expect straight reaction, even resistance based on Slavic remembrance, the remains of pagan traditions mixed with new trends. But Catholicism in Poland he also understood the situation perfectly well and insured itself that almost all Slavic threads were removed from Polish, Catholic identity – and these, which remain - have been masked not to be associated with their roots.
Mongolian Yoke – Polish Lost Chance
These processes must have occurred in a favourable international environment. Weakening in the 12th century Poland ceased to be a significant international player, becoming just the area of crossing German, Bohemian, Hungarian and Ruthenian influences. And this is a point, when Polish, Westernize and standardized historiography surrenders. We have just few, rather technical and schematic studies regarding Mongol invasion of Poland, focused on military operations, without any deeper analysis of causes and effects – especially these ones we did not achieved. Meanwhile the truth is, that Poland become target of the First Mongol Invasion (1240-1241) only as a marginal Hungarian supporter – and the greatest disaster for Poles in this era was not the Battle of Liegnitz [viii] defeat, but fact, that Batu [ix], Baidar [x] and Subutai [xi] did not want Poland to be part of their empire.
Let’s stay for a moment and look for a coalition formed ad hoc to defend against Mongols. As we know – Hungary was main target of their invasion at 1240 and it was geopolitically compatible with interests of Western Ruthenia, which in this time faced powerful civilizational pression of Rome, carried out via Poland – and Hungary. Western alliance against Mongols included the same powers, which were interested in influence in Ruthenia: The Catholic Church, mainly German Military Orders (Knights Templar and Teutonic Knights), but main effort, costs and sacrifices belonged to Polish Dukes and Princes (waiting vainly for Bohemian help). It's hard to get a better quintessence of the last few centuries of Polish history! West and East chose Poland for the battlefield, naive Poles believed, that we are “crusaders – defenders of the Civilization/Christianity”, and the real geopolitics took place over heads of our ancestors.
Meanwhile, as we can notice now - much cleaver (but not obvious then) Polish choice would be to stand AGAINST false and alleged allies, accepting protection the protection of the Mongolian Empire, following these Ruthenian dukes, who even had not understand how lucky their countries had been. It is enough to say, that the powers, which “helpedand supported” Polish Duke Henry II the Pious[xii]to fight(and to be defeated) by Mongols – that were the same, which divided Poland among themselves among next Century: Teutonic Knights taking Pomerania, Bohemians taking supremacy over Silesia, Hungarians reaching for Polish crown (and also Galicia–Volhynia), and Catholic Church dominating political life for centuries, earning numerous privileges and becoming main creator of Polish awareness. As we understand now – there was no civilization chance to hold back Mongols from returning to the steppes. Russian historians proofed that military costs of Mongolian invasion were not especially high, the same as tiredness of warriors (used in the Western historiography to explain why Mongols stopped). Mongolian army just did not need the West, they find enough land and wealth in Ruthenia, and preferred just to consume fruits of previous victories. Like many times in next Centuries – that was Poland, which should decide: if belongs to the West or to the East. And like always – someone decided for us, and Poles lost our chance to gain geopolitical, Eurasian perspective and adopt patterns of the best-organized state of that era. These obvious benefits, (together with protection from the Western infiltration and the creation of the Church state inside the state) – have been earned by Ruthenia, growing up to Russia.
Later history of Poland (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) should be warning for any Russian and not only Russian historians and writers believing, that “The Age of Tatar Rule was only range of tragedy”, not a great opportunity for development and keeping the true Slavic spirit – mixed with showing the right direction of further expansion. Of course, Grand Duchy of Lithuania and next common Polish-Lithuanian state tried to take part in these processes, but as an external power (even including some parts of Ruthenian lands) they stood on clearly weaker positions, than Moscow after St. Dmitry Donskoy[xiii]. But on the other hand – Algirdas’ [xiv] (Władysław) Jogaila’s[xv] and Vytautas’ [xvi] attempts to intervene in affairs of Ruthenia and the Golden Horde– can be consideredas almost last vision of non-Moscow, but also non-Western organisation of the doors of the Heartland. Symbolic end of this very short period – was The Battle of the Vorskla River (1399)[xvii], although even after this date Polish-Lithuanian state from time to time tried to recall elements of Eurasian programme – looking at affairs of the Novgorod The Great or helping to establish The Crimea Khanat (just creating further problems for whole this part of the Continent). But these were just intuitive flashes, not geopolitical awareness. Just because this was permanently disturbed by the Western occupation of Polish minds...
Sarmatism – Polish Eurasian Spirit?
We have to return to the first and main for Poles question: who we are for real? Slavs, who has forgotten what the Slavdom is, but still feel and act the same way, as our brothers. Someone has fooled us. We have fooled ourselves! We believed, that e.g. we had anticipated “modern democracy” – although it was just the Veche, perverted into the “Democracy of Nobles”. We have always tried to imitate the West, we followed its traced – always delayed, always anachronic. Poles in turmoil built gothic cathedrals, when the West was opening for the Renaissance modernity, we were indifferent when the Western Europeans were dying for the faith and ideology and became fanatics when this trend was over. We have always come to the party on not proper day…
Poles have always wanted to be a great ethnos, but in the best times had only quite a big, but weak state. All these complexes mixed create something really abnormal, but fascinating – Polish idea of the Sarmatism. Let’s think – Slaves, who believe in the West, who have found themselves as the “Antemurale Christianitatis” (against not only the Islam, but also “the Schismatics”, the whole East in general) – they create completely new identity for the whole political nation, and that is completely opposite, to the Western conceptions!
Polish nobles in the 16th, 17th and 18th Century introduced themselves as the only one and unique descendants of the ancient Sarmatians. Everything in Polish culture and awareness – art, design fashion, political philosophy – was subordinated to this vision/ideology, which gave Poland the most… Eurasian look in this age. Appearances were promising, but under the Sarmatian skin there were Jesuitism, Poland as the “Paradis Judaeorum” and only one truly Slavic feature – passivity. All these three together hunted Poland into the grave…
Fighting against the Ottoman Empire and Crimea, reaching Moscow and the throne of Tsars – Poles from the 17thCentury did not implement their own program – but conceptions of the Popes and others Western powers. They retained Slavic traits, they were East, because they seemed to be more effective, but they were mercenaries not their own cause. It is a tragic contradiction – Poles are not in any case the most Westernize Slavic nation, we have never approached the stadium of Slovenes, Croatians or also Czechs, but in some areas, we have been even more harmful for the vision of Eurasia. Of course, some part of Polish-Lithuanian elites felt our true roots, and from this source came conceptions of integration of the whole region (Ivan the Terrible[xviii], his son Tsar Feodor I[xix]and especially Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich[xx]were very serious candidates for Polish-Lithuanian throne, with strong support of more conscious part of the nobles), but the mainstream – the same as today – was more and more airy-fairy. And in the same time, we have always understood, that the West would never fully accept us, that we do not suit there, that only Eurasia could be our real home.
But to gain something we had to lose something. And more specifically - our independence.
Practice, Vision, Program, Prophecy – Legacy
When danger of Polish-Russian cooperation in 18thCentury was to close – British and Prussian policy led together to collapse of Polish statehood. For the nation it was trauma, but at the same moment we were illuminated by kind of rejection of barriers and restrictions embarrassing Polish identity and ethnogenetic development. As a part of the Russian Empire – in 19thCentury Poland contributed in exploration of Siberia the Central Asia, Polish travelers, researchers, soldiers in common, Eurasian case took a part in The Great Game[xxi]. Persons like as Józef Sękowski [xxii] (who wrote a prophetic motto not only for Poles: “Messieurs, il est deja temps de s’orientaliser et de se metamorphoser, cet a dire de se russifier [xxiii]”), Jan Prosper Witkiewicz [xxiv] or Bronisław Grąbczewski [xxv] proofed, that not all Poles were able only to arise uprisings in interest of foreign powers. They were just individuals – someone could say. Well, first of all only outstanding individuals can understand geopolitical and identical necessity. And (what is particularly important for us now) all these efforts are legacy to which we can appeal.
Especially because under the Russian rule some Poles were not only loyal participants of the great Eurasian visions and instincts, but also overworked our own programs and conceptions. From todays perspective we should focus on three examples.
Polish count, romantic writer and political thinker, Henryk Rzewuski [xxvi] in the middle of 19thCentury made a synthesis of the Sarmatian tradition and its true, Eurasian roots. Called “Polish de Maistre” Rzewuski with whole his traditional outlook in completely different way saw fatalism of the history and the only hope for the World of order and values. “We, from divine verdicts, becoming a part of a powerful association of Russians, we bring our provincial products to the general and common treasury[xxvii]” – Rzewuski wrote and despite a furious attack of Polish Westernizeds continue: “In politics, the Polish question is only partial. The Slavic question is total and we can conclude it from historical experience. The unification of total Slavdom in the future is an irrefutable certainty [xxviii]”. From the Russian perspective the Slavophilia often disturbed Eurasian track, but for Poles realization of being part of the bigger entirety - was a huge leap of consciousness. Writing ten years after the November Uprising[xxix](provoked by London to disturb Russian in competition in the area Khiva and Bukhara), count Rzewuski saw clearly position of Poland in the great God’s plan, which for the whole World, threatened with the Revolution and the Enlightenment – should fulfil at the areas of the Heartland.
As a writer – Rzewuski presented a literary vision of Polish true identity, purified from Western accretions (although with preservations of Catholic character). Influential, beloved and hated – count was not a politician, and remained on the margins of events. To write a real political program - a politician was needed. And that politician had to wait for a moment of national awaking, of course after another historical disaster, defeat of the fatal January Uprising[xxx](being British answer for expanding Russian influences in Shymkent, Turkestan, and finally Tashkent). Almost ten years after this tragedy and act of treason - Kazimierz Krzywicki [xxxi] (one of the closest co-workers of hero of Polish-Russian cooperation, Aleksander margrave Wielopolski [xxxii]) wrote a small book “Polska i Rossyaw 1872 [xxxiii]”. Till today is the most realistic and current program of unifications of Polish-Russian efforts, creating a new quality based on common, traditional and integral foundations. This prophetical publication anticipated lability of the Austro-Hungary, German-Russian conflict and the final Russian victory[xxxiv], scale of the Russian civilization mission[xxxv], but also internal threatens[xxxvi]. What common sense was seen by Krzywicki? “Political union with the Russian nation forever, and through Russia, with the rest of the Slavdom. Civilization, and through it a moral union with Humanity. Invulnerability of conscience. Justice in rights. Respect for work, persons and property. Moral and legal raise of the family. Paternal and solicitous education of the youth. Enlightenment of the lower classes. Moralization of all social classes. Fidelity to the Monarch and Dynasty as a warranty and the basis of everything [xxxvii]”. Quite up-to-date, with just small corrections, isn’t it? And what in exchange? “We want to be faithful, your most faithful allies in every honest work, in any field that celebrates human beings. We will not leave you in any need, we will not bind anyone against you - is it not enough for you? [xxxviii]” – yes, in this declaration nothing should be changed even now, even after all known Polish treasons. That is a platform we all must return to.
But learning from 19th Century experiences – we should recognize one more conscious Pole. Adam count Gurowski [xxxix] was one of the greatest minds of his time, drawing attention, but also concern both – Nicholas II and Abraham Lincoln. Gurowski was this thinker, who had found the Slavic identity and its geopolitical destiny, and then… seemed to betray it. Disappointed in his hopes in Tsar, he saw the potential and future of the New World, which perfectly symbolizes ideological doubts, but also the tearing of even a few conscious Poles, not mention the rest of the nation. But was it really a treason, or just a perspicacity?
Count Gurowski, former Polish radical and insurgent and the most penetrating visionary (maybe next to acting on another field Józef count Hoene-Wroński [xl]) was the only one, who first defined the essence of the Slavic spirit and Tsarist Samoderzhaviye [xli], putting pathetic Westernize-Polish efforts in right perspective – but after that made one step more, noticing the exhaustion of the Tsars’ mission [xlii]and describing the World of the future – with America and Russia constituting global order (with some of Germany's leading participation in the declining Europe) – and he saw that in 1857! Not known in Poland enough (or misunderstood) Gurowski was of the most influent writers and theorists promoting vision of Russian Nation organizing Eurasian continent in cooperation with America appearing not as the new Ocean Power, but as the second, equal Continent against old, crumbling power of Europe, especially of course Britain. His World-famous works, “America and Europe” (1857) and “Russia as it is” (1854) with often published separately article “Manifest Destiny” were sometimes used as kind ofa lampoon against Russia – but in real it is great conception of two nations unifying ideas of freedom and communality to ensure peace and happiness of humanity. In the 19thCentury, with The Imperial Russian Navy ships supporting the North in the American harbours in 1863 – that programme seemed to be hope for the future. As we now know – the enemies also did not sleep, and the USA from the ally and geopolitical partner has changed into a deadly enemy of Eurasia and whole humanity. But global perspective of Polish-Slavic-American writer count Gurowski – still shows us possible way of evolution.
We will not change the religion of most Poles. It is not only the Mongols that will not invade us, but even Russia would hardly be persuaded today to liberate Poland again, as many times in history despite herself. Left us only thoughts that we can reach for and creatively process. Poland seems to be still noble, so we need Rzewuski to give proper meaning this “Polish Mastership”. Poland needs a program - so someone must be Krzywicki of our time. And above all, we all need to reverse the curse of Gurowski, defeat the false American Katehon and find our geopolitical, Eurasian destiny. We cannot just get lost through all the history – and the future!
This text was originally published in “Journal of Eurasian Affairs”, vol.5, Num.1, 2018
[i]Boleslaw the Brave (967-1025) – Polish Duke and first King of Poland, attempted to build “Slavic Empire” in the Central Europe, including Poland, Bohemia, Slovakia, Bautzen, Strehla and Meissen, with influences in Ruthenia. His state did not outlast his death.
[ii]Sviatopolk the Accursed (980-1019) - Grand Prince of Kiev (1015-1019), Bolesław the Brave’s son-in-law.
[iii]Piast the Wheelwright (probably between 740/1 and 861) - a semi-legendary founder of the Piast Dynasty, ruling Poland till 14thCentury and Silesia till 17thCentury.
[iv]Rurik (app. 830 – 879) - the founder of the Rurik Dynasty, ruling the Kievan Rus' and its successor states, including the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Tsardom of Russia, until the 17th Century.
[v]St. Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky (1221-1263) - a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, Prince of Novgorod (1236–52), Grand Prince of Kiev (1236–52) and Grand Prince of Vladimir (1252–63), one of the greatest victors in the Slavic history.
[vi]Battle on The Ice (5thApril 1242, Lake Peipus) – victory of St. Alexander Nevsky’s Ruthenian army over the Western crusader army led by the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights.
[vii]Battle of Cedynia (24 June 972) – victory of Duke Mieszko I’s Polish army over German army of Odo I, Margrave of the Saxon Ostmark
[viii]Battle of Liegnitz/Legnica (9 April 1241) – during the First Mongolian Invasion of Poland, defeat of Polish army, supported by German knights.
[ix]Batu Khan (1207-1255) - a Mongol ruler and founder of the Golden Horde, grandson of Genghis Khan
[x]Baidar - he second son of Chagatai Khan, Mongolian commander-in-chief during First Invasion of Poland
[xi]Subutai (1175–1248) - general, and the primary military strategist of Genghis Khan and Ögedei Khan.
[xii]Henry II the Pious (1196 – 9 April 1241) - Duke of Silesia at Wrocław and Duke of Kraków and thus High Duke of all Poland, commander-in-chief Western army during the Battle of Liegnitz.
[xiii]St. Dmitry Ivanovich Donskoy (1359-1389) - a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, Prince of Moscow from 1359 and Grand Prince of Vladimir from 1363 to his death, victorious in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380)
[xiv]Algirdas (1296-1377) - Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1345 till his death
[xv]Władysław II Jogaila – (1352-1434), the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1377–1434) and then the King of Poland (1386–1434), victorious in the great Battle of Grunwald (1410) against the Teutonic Knights and other Western Crusaders
[xvi]Vitautas the Great (1350-1430) - a ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Jogaila’s cousin.
[xvii]Battle of the Vorskla River (12 August 1399) – victory of the Tatars, under Edigu and Temur Qutlugh over the armies of Tokhtamysh and Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania.
[xviii]Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) - he Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547, then first Tsar of All the Russias until his death in 1584.
[xix]Feodor I Ioannovich (1557 – 1598) – Ivan the Terrible’s son, the last Rurikid Tsar of Russia (1584–1598).
[xx]Aleksey Mikhailovich Romanov (1629-1676) - the Tsar of Russia from 12 July 1645 until his death.
[xxi]Look further into K. Rekas “Poland in the Great Game”, geopolitica.ru/en, 6.09.2017
[xxii]Józef Sękowski (1800-1858) – Polish orientalist, writer, poet and musician, assigned to the Russian mission in Constantinople, traveller to Egypt, Syria and Nubia, professor of oriental languages at the University of St Petersburg
[xxiii]Quoted in Stanisław Morawski, W Peterburku 1827-1838, Poznań, 1927
[xxiv]Jan Prosper Witkiewicz (1808-1839) - a Polish orientalist, explorer and diplomat in the Russian service.The agent of Russia at Kabul just before the First Anglo-Afghan War. Murdered probably by the British intelligence.
[xxv]Bronisław Grąbczewski (1855–1926) - Polish explorer/spy in Russian service, recognized as a main counterpart to the British military-explorer Francis Younghusband.
[xxvi]Henryk count Rzewuski (1791 – 1866) - a Polish Romantic-era journalist and novelist, reactionary political thinker.
[xxvii]Henryk Rzewuski, Mieszaniny obyczajowe przez Jarosza Bejłę, Wilno, 1841, s. 235
[xxviii]H. Rzewuski, Tetrowianki, czyli listy powiatowe przez Rajmunada Hreczkę, manuscript
[xxix]The November Uprising (1830-1831) – provoked by Brits, Masonry and Carbonaries Polish revolutionary action against common, Polish-Russian Monarch – Nicholas I.
[xxx]The January Uprising (1863-1864) – provoked by Brits Polish revolutionary action against Russian rule in Poland and Poland's Civil Government of Aleksander margrave Wielopolski.
[xxxi]Kazimierz Krzywicki (1820-1883) – Polish politician, member of the Council of State of the Kingdom of Poland.
[xxxii]Aleksander margrave Wielopolski (1803-1877) – Polish statesman, head of Poland's Civil Government within the Russian Empire under Tsar Alexander II.
[xxxiii]Polska i Rossya w 1872 przez b. członka Rady Stanu, Dresden 1872
[xxxiv]“(…) to whatever extent Russia would suffer a defeat, it would be certain that the Russians would persevere and be capable of great sacrifices, in any case would not give up their own Slav mission. At every opportunity, he would return to the battle to get the torn provinces back” – op. cit, p. 27
[xxxv]„The hopes of all Slavs rest upon you: this honor belongs to you rightly and since a long time; among all Slavic peoples you, the most persistent, have felt in these last days to a mission aimed at bringing together all our tribes in a single union. You too, among all the Slavs, have been able to preserve the national independence until now, to create elements of enormous power in you and faced the countries of the World with a position that does not precede any” – op. cit p. 73-74
[xxxvi]„You have heavy social infirmities at home; you can notice among yourselves symptoms of dangerous moral decay which should be prevented in advance. Your own journals with heart-rending sorrow, proclaiming how many of your youth have been morally lost even since the age of twelve. The political process, last summer in St. Petersburg, reveals to the eyes of an attentive investigator the terrible devastation among you by mindless social doctrines and philosophical theories. You do not have good schools, because of lack of good teachers. You do not have also good officials, nor so the people ready for any selfless private action, as it is understood by Germans, and as it should be understood to reach such an intellectual and economic culture as their ones” – op. cit. p 72-73
[xxxvii]Op. cit., p. 76
[xxxviii]Op. cit,, p. 72
[xxxix]Adam count Gurowski (1805-1866) – Polish writer, thinker.
[xl]Józef Maria count Hoene-Wroński (1776-1853) - Polish Messianist philosopher, mathematician, physicist, inventor, lawyer, and economist.
[xli]Adam Gurowski, La verite sur la Russie et sur la revolte de provinces polonaises, Paris, 1834, La civilisation et la Russie, St. Petersburg, 1840 and Le Panslavisme, (Florence, 1848
[xlii]Yet in the 30’s of 19thCentury Gurowski wrote: “A great power is needed to unite Asia and Europe and to initiate and bring together this moment of this final union, which is the goal to which humanity is moving with great effort. The most powerful element of this union is the Slavic personalized in Russia, who in turn is personified by her power” op. cit. A. Gurowski, La verite…, p. 71. But in Le Panslavismewhole authors attentions is focused on integral Russian society, especially rural communities, described in that manner: “The Russian-Slavic nation, more than other ones, is able to march under the banner of work. And much more natural is its tendency to associate. These two great ideas of humanity should be accomplished in the Christianized way, giving a dominant tone to social life. This is probably the main mission of the Slavic race”, op. cit. Le Panslavisme, p. 312