chapter  1
28 Pages

Historic Discontinuities: Shaping Poland's Political Traditions

WithMarjorie Castle, Ray Taras

Historical grievances often serve as powerful forces for national mobilization long after the events in question have passed. This chapter considers the importance of the many other regimes — monarchies, republics, and foreign occupations — experienced by Poland before the communists came to power. The gentry in the Commonwealth of Poland invoked its supposed Sarmatian origins to justify its assuming of all the obligations associated with Poland's manifest destiny. In spite of political divisions, the Polish resistance movement was arguably the most effective of any established in a Nazi-occupied country. Although the Polish state had devised an ingenious system of checks and balances meant to preserve the democracy of the gentry, this system generated self-destructive tendencies that, when artfully exploited by its foes, were to spell the end of an independent Poland. On the eve of World War I political leaders envisaged very different programs and alliances that could lead to the reemergence of a strong Poland.