1772 – 2022: Consequences of the Partitions. New perspectives on the aftermath of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

1772 – 2022: Consequences of the Partitions. New perspectives on the aftermath of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

Felix Ackermann, German Historical Institute in Warsaw; Agnieszka Pufelska, Nord-Ost-Institut Lüneburg; Maria Rhode, Universität Göttingen; Darius Staliunas, Institute of Lithuanian History, Vilnius
German Historical Institute Warsaw
Vom - Bis
22.06.2022 - 24.06.2022
Paula Lange, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Universität Wien

On the occasion of 250th anniversary of the First Partition the German Historical Institute in Warsaw hosted a conference which was devoted to an analysis of the long-term consequences of the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for communities living in the territories of the Russian, Habsburg and Prussian Empires.

Within the frame of the 23rd Joachim-Lelewel-Talks, the conference began with a discussion of the causes of the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian Empire as well as the long-term consequences of the partitions from an international perspective. CHRISTOPH AUGUSTYNOWICZ (Vienna) discussed phantom borders emerging in the aftermath of the partitions and becoming visible in relation to election results or infrastructure today. AGNIESZKA PUFELSKA (Lüneburg) emphasised the long-term impacts of the cultural, economic, and social changes resulting from the partitions as well as the strong effects on Polish national identity which is partly shaped by the partitions. RAMUNĖ ŠMIEGELSKYTE-STUKIENĖ (Vilnius) underlined the current war situation in Ukraine and similarities in the Russian occupation regime to illustrate the role of the partitions as a decisive factor in setting the course for the future destiny of Europe. More generally, the panellists advocated for a European perspective on the partitions and their consequences as well as a view which accounts for the multiple perspectives on the partitions and their ambivalent effects for different societies. They, moreover, advanced a plea to broaden the national categories to acknowledge national minorities and hybrid identity affiliations of the multi-ethnic population.

In the second section, MARKUS NESSELRODT (Frankfurt an der Oder) presented three events in an early phase of the first partition, at a time when Warsaw was under Prussian control between 1796 and 1806: the formation of the Prussian Royal Lyceum in 1804, the Warsaw Society of Friends of Learning in 1800, and the right of settlement for Jews in 1802. He argued that the creation of these institutions as well as the growing Jewish population led to economic growth and positively affected the educational and cultural development of the city. IVO CERMAN (Ĉeské Budejovice) compared the processes of abolishing serfdom in Bohemia and Galicia by Joseph II which started in 1781. He emphasised that the local versions of the abolition patents and reforms were influenced by regional circumstances. Agnieszka Pufelska acted as a discussant of this section and stressed that despite the violent manner in which sovereignty was achieved for the partitioning states, the partitions allowed for positive socio-economic transformations in different societal spheres.

Opening the third section, BARBARA SKINNER (Terre Haute) shed light on the striking confessional consequences in the lands of the Russian partitions. The environment of open interconfessional relations was replaced by one of separation and segregation, which was promoted as a way to “protect” Orthodox Christians from contact with other confessions. The discursive demonisation of the Catholic Church was used to justify the “reunion” of Uniates. The resulting policy of limited contact between Orthodox and Catholic believers provoked a feeling of hatred that, according to Skinner, is still reflected in present interconfessional animosities. ALEKSANDRA ONISZCZUK (Warsaw) discussed the Prussian setup of a “Jewish policy” and the adoption of this policy by the Duchy of Warsaw. More specifically, she showed the emergence of an eclectic, inconsistent, and paradoxical policy, and the continuation of this pattern in the Kingdom of Poland for multiple decades. This ambivalent policy included calls for the integration of Jews, accompanied by the conflicting practices of separation and segregation. ALENA LIUBAJA (Minsk) gave an account of the willingness of the Russian Empire to incorporate the Muslim population by granting them privileges and the status of noblemen of Russia but having no tools to implement these guaranteed privileges.

The third section of the conference was concerned with the analysis of hitherto unexplored sources, starting with a paper by JERZY DŁUGOSZ and TOMASZ PANECKI (Warsaw) on the secret mapping of the Kingdom of Poland. By exhibiting detailed map extracts, they demonstrated the differences between the Russian, Austrian and German topographic mapping. Combining historical, geographical, and cartographic perspectives, the authors, moreover, emphasised the role of cartography and mapping as powerful tools in the hands of the Empires. WIESŁAWA DUŻY (Warsaw) presented the case studies of Warmia, Warsaw, Toruń und Biełsko-Biała as examples of early attempts to organise state administrations in the 18th and 19th century. In particular, she stressed the importance of local conditions for these attempts and their manifold administrative and political consequences. OLIVER ZAJAC (Warsaw) detailed the dynamics of migration in the context of the November Uprising in 1830/31 and linked teleological narratives surrounding the Uprising to the legacies of the previous partitions. He showed how the shifts of former Polish-Lithuanian borders affected the (im)possibilites for emigrants to return. This spatial dimension of history was identified as the common denominator of this panel by MACIEJ JANOWSKI (Warsaw), who commented on the entire panel and encouraged the inclusion of new sources in future research agendas.

The last section of the day was dedicated to post-colonial encounters. ELŻBIETA KWIECIŃSKA (Warsaw) presented Prussian politicians’ strategies to legitimise their “civilizing mission“ vis-à-vis the Polish population. By focussing on multiple narratives such as “Polish anarchy“ or “polnische Wirtschaft“ she furthermore pointed to the continuous presence of partition-time stereotypes in recent media coverage of social, economic and political issues in Central and Eastern Europe. MARIA RHODE (Göttingen) focussed on the consequences of the partitions for Prussian ethnographic-anthropological studies, which is considered a prototype of ethnology. She discussed the mismatch between the results of some anthropological surveys and common colonial stereotypes, and the resulting political inexpediency to use these surveys as a legitimation tool for Prussian colonial practices towards the Polish population. ROII BALL (Münster) discussed the complex nature of German colonisation practices, particularly the German settlement in former Polish territories. By presenting photographs and architectural drawings of social housing projects, he revealed the constructed character of the internal colonisation and the difficulties of the policy of Germanisation due to a very diverse multiethnic, multireligious and multilingual population in this area. The comments for this section were provided by NICOLA CAMILLERI (Padua) who advocated for an integration of the perspectives of the colonized population into the research agendas of post-colonial studies on these topics.

The first section of the last day was dedicated to the various consequences of the partitions. DARIUS STALIUNAS (Vilnius) highlighted the various types of miscalculation, inconsistency, and rivalry between different Russian government institutions as reasons for the failure of the tsarist regime in Lithuania. He, moreover, discussed how the establishment of national movements and policies towards minorities (e.g. the Jewish population) were used in Russia’s occupation policy. According to GRZEGORZ KRZYWIEC (Warsaw), the Prussian policy concerning the empire’s biggest minority, the Poles, was relatively successful in implementing an efficient economic system in the region of Wielkopolska. The development of capitalism and the German legal culture observably shaped the area in various ways. More specifically, both elements were crucial factors in shaping the population to the extent that both a socially conservative disposition, and a civilisational affiliation with Western political culture became common characteristics of political discourse in that area. KLEMENS KAPS (Linz) gave a detailed review of the design and implementation of protectionist measures in the Habsburg Empire in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 1873 with a focus on Galicia. He showe¬d that the protectionist measures affected state-building efforts in various ways and was controversially discussed along national, but also generational lines until the outbreak of the First World War.

The panel was followed by a round table discussion moderated by FELIX ACKERMANN (Warsaw) with Christoph Augustynowicz, MILOŠ ŘEZNIK (Warsaw) and Maria Rhode who commended the comparative perspective of the conference which turned out to be an appropriate approach to relate the Russian, the Prussian, and the Habsburg Empires to each other, but also to emphasise the different historical circumstances within the partitioning states. This comprehensive approach as well as the account of the longue durée allowed for a discussion of the diverse, non-linear, and fragmented character of the transitions caused by the partitions.

In sum, the papers presented in the conference addressed the aftermath of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from various perspectives, using new approaches, such as post-colonial perspectives, and revealing the ambivalent consequences of the partitions for the affected communities. Bringing together analyses of all three partition areas amounted to a very productive approach, generating new insights and foregrounding novel perspectives. Yet, despite the various presented approaches that highlight the multiple perspective of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the aftermath of its partitions, there is still lack of research on the question of how the partitions affected the Empires themselves and the broader global context of the 19th century more generally. Whether post-colonial theory is a fruitful approach to this research agenda and how post-colonial methodology can be adapted remain open questions. Nevertheless, over the course of the conference there emerged a strong agreement that post-colonial theory is a promising tool to question and reflect upon national narratives and interpretations.

Conference overview:

Lelewel conversation: A new Europe? The partitions revisited
Moderation: Ruth Leiserowitz (Warsaw)

Christoph Augustynowicz (Vienna) / Agnieszka Pufelska (Lüneburg) / Ramunė Šmigelskytė-Stukienė (Vilnius)

Session 1: The Aftermath of the Partitions
Moderation: Felix Ackermann (Warsaw)

Markus Nesselrodt (Frankfurt an der Oder): Visions of a city: Governing socio-cultural diversity in Prussian Warsaw (1796–1806)

Ivo Cerman (České Budejovice): Abolishing Serfdom in Bohemia and Galicia. Comparison as an investigative method

Comment: Agnieszka Pufelska (Lüneburg)

Session 2: Religious Communities in Flux
Moderation: Agnieszka Pufelska, Lüneburg

Barbara Skinner (Terre Haute): Confessional Interaction, Privilege, and Repression in the Lands of the Russian Partitions – Legacy or Reaction?

Aleksandra Oniszczuk (Warsaw): Prussian Conceptualisation of Jewish Policy and Its Career in a Napoleonic State

Alena Liubaja (Minsk): Inni ludzie wyznania muzułmańskiego: integracja tatarów z terenów dawnej Rzeczy Pospolitej do społeczeństawa dworianskiego w kontekście polityki wobec ludności muzulmanskiej Imperium Rosyjskiego

Comment: Darius Staliunas (Vilnius)

Session 3: Reading New Sources
Moderation: Maria Rhode (Göttingen)

Tomasz Panecki / Jerzy Długosz (Warsaw): Secret mapping of the Kingdom of Poland. How did Austrian and German topographers surveyed Kielce and its surroundings at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries?

Wiesława Duży (Warsaw): Dividing territory. On administrative units in Polish territory in the 18th and 19th century

Oliver Zajac (Warsaw): „His only bad luck ist hat he was born in Russia“: The shifts of former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth borders and their consequences on the life of Polish emigrés after 1831

Comment: Maciej Janowski (Warsaw)

Session 4: Post-Colonial Encounters
Moderation: Agnieszka Pufelska (Lüneburg)

Elżbieta Kwiecińska (Warsaw): The concept of the German colonial ‘civilizing mission’ and legitimizing partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Roii Ball (Münster): Materializing Difference: Work, Racialization, and Spatial Organization in the Internal Colonization of Polish Prussia, 1890s-1920s

Maria Rhode (Göttingen): Between the Self and the Other. Poland in Prussian ethnogragraphic-anthropological discources

Comment: Nicola Camilleri (Padua)

Session 5: Consequences of the partitions
Moderation: Felix Ackermann (Warsaw)

Darius Staliunas (Vilnius): Why The Tsarist Russia Has Failed in Lithuania?

Grzegorz Krzywiec (Warsaw): How trans-national was the fate of the Greater Poland? Toward a new cultural and social history of the so called Prussian Poland. (ca.1871-1939)

Klemens Kaps (Linz): Impulses for territorializing economic circuits and state-building: Galician economists’ and politicians’ role in shaping interventionist and protectionist policies in the late Habsburg Empire (1870-1914)

Comment: Dariusz Adamczyk (Warsaw)

Round table: New perspectives for a long term perspective
Moderation: Felix Ackermann (Warsaw)

Christoph Augustynowicz (Vienna) / Miloš Řezník (Warsaw) / Maria Rhode (Göttingen)