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October 29, 2012

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Richard J

Excuse the bloody odd font on this - I copied and pasted from another program, and I can't figure out what Jamie's using...

CMcM

Interesting post, about a book I now want to read.

But surely the most important reason no one in Poland made a serious fuss about their 'lost territories' was the consequences for Poland of folk making a fuss about the German 'lost territories'? Or is this a platitude non experts like me cling to, but with which Snyder doesn't agree?

Richard J

But surely the most important reason no one in Poland made a serious fuss about their 'lost territories' was the consequences for Poland of folk making a fuss about the German 'lost territories'

In broad outline, yes, but the argument is a bit more subtle - by consciously setting the groundwork from the 70s onwards that a free Poland would seek to accept the post-War settlement in line with European Community (as was) norms about territorial integrity, Polish emigrés helped bring such norms into existence in the first place, which is one of the reasons Poland was one of the Eastern European countries so keen to push for EEC/EU expansion ASAP.

ajay

the dog that didn't bark - why did a newly free Poland not seek to recover the lost territories

Surely the answer is: Because they were owned by (indeed, formed the richer half of) Ukraine, which was (in 1989) still part of the USSR and (in 1991) part of a large, military-heavy and temporarily nuclear-armed country with very close ties to Russia.

Richard J

Fair point about Ukraine, but don't forget, you're also looking at quite a lot of Lithuania, (including Vilnius), large chunks of Byelorussia - the argument is that there was a conscious stepping away from the past in favour of a situation in which it was 'entirely possible for large elements of Polish society to be nostalgic for the Lithuanian fatherland, fearful of the Ukranian borderland, while concerned most of all for the security of a Polish homeland'.

Phil

I don't know anything about "lost territories", but I have always wondered why my (late) Ukrainian mother-in-law's friends all seemed to be Polish - the languages can't be that close, can they? If large parts of pre-war Ukraine were in fact Polish (living in brackets), that would explain that one.

I think we tended to view the Banderistas through a cold war prism

Speak for yourself - I've always viewed them as Whites at best, assets of Cold War anti-Communism at worst.

Richard J

Speak for yourself - I've always viewed them as Whites at best, assets of Cold War anti-Communism at worst.

We may disagree on whether this is a good thing or not, but a focus on the bigger picture rather distorts what their actual motivations were...

a3t

I dunno. Poland, after all, is not the only country in central and eastern Europe which failed to lapse into an orgy of irredentist land-grabbing after 1990. Romanian troops also failed to sweep across the Prut to grab Balti and Chisinau, and Hungarian frogmen didn't cross the Danube to seize Komarno.

And that's not for want of nutters. There were plenty of moderately influential people who wanted Hungary to seize the 'opportunity' handed it by the Yugoslav wars to seize back the Vojvodina, and some of them were exiles.

There were, doubtless, some Polish exiles who beneficently worked to refashion the Polish identity so it would relate only in the most healthy fashion possible to Lithuania - but, if the Canadian Hungarian community is any guide, there was no shortage of angry nationalists either.

Surely the best explanation is the simplest. Every country in the region could see where the only real money was going to come from for the next decade or so. And Kohl and Bush really, really didn't want them to go out settling scores from the 1930s.

Phil

We may disagree on whether this is a good thing or not

For clarity, when I say 'Whites' I mean people from whom I'd never expect anything good, and when I say 'assets of Cold War anti-Communism' I mean people from whom I'd expect quite a lot, and all of it bad. (There are cases of hopeful patriots getting used, but they don't tend to make it as far as being assets.) "Parallels with the Ustashe" sounds about right.

john b

Every country in the region could see where the only real money was going to come from for the next decade or so.

...except for the ones who didn't? I'm not sure "people in collapsed post-communist states whose best short-term chance of poverty avoidance is EU aid will avoid settling pre-WWII ethnic scores" is a particularly empirically valid proposition.

teraz kurwa my

the languages can't be that close, can they?

On the couple occasions I've spoken to Western Ukrainians then as long as they speak in their local version of Ukrainian I can understand them pretty well. Things were even more mixed up back in the mid nineteenth century before the various local peasants began to adopt a nationality, and with it a language, based on whether they were Orthodox (Uniate) or Roman Catholic.

As for irrendentism, there was very little of it. It's not like there are that many Poles living in the Ukrainian areas - they were always a minority except for a few islands which gave them a narrow plurality in two of the four provinces, and most got kicked out in 1945 (you can go west or you can go east, your choice). There are large Polish minorities in western Belarus and southern Lithuania, but even there they don't form local majorities with the exception of the countryside surrounding Vilnius.

teraz kurwa my

Interestingly enough, once 1989 rolled along, there was an explosion of interest among Polish living in the 'Recovered Territories' in exploring the German past of their hometowns. That included everything from reaching out to the Vertriebeneverbande to putting up plaques and statues honoring various German things, and writing novels set partly in the German past, e.g. Poland's most popular mystery series stars a morally ambivalent senior Breslau police official in the Nazi period (The first novel 'Death in Breslau' was recently published in the US.

Martin Wisse

I read the Reconstruction of Nations last year or so, great book indeed.

Speaking of books, what ever happened to B&T's book review annex?

Phil

A friend of mine at work is German. He was telling me a while back about his project to visit his grandfather's grave - his g'f had died long before he was born, and because of the location of his grave he'd never managed to visit it until now. The location in question being Kiev.

The weird thing is, it really doesn't matter. I don't think I'd necessarily want to introduce the guy to my mother-in-law's friends, but in this generation you just think, I'm not my grandfather's keeper. Time may not heal all wounds, but it ceratinly makes them seem less urgent.

CMcM

I'm not my grandfather's keeper.

The absence of any re-emergence of any "dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone Lvov and Vilnius" is surely a Good Thing. But, my, didn't those steeples rise up in the former Yugoslavia?(& for that matter, I'm not convinced they've totally sunk into irrecoverable obscurity in Fermanagh and Tyrone).

As I have only read Snyder's later book, the thought that won't go away for me is simply that if you live in, or your family comes from, the Bloodlands it really, really is best to not be your grandfather's keeper.

a3t

There were civil wars in Yugoslavia and Moldova, but afaik no pre-existing states went to war with each other.

Charlie - that might be it. You look to your past when the future looks hopeless.

Rather than credit the promise of EU money, John, what about this: for the people that ran those countries, for the new political classes, the early years after 1990 were a very hopeful time in central Europe. There was much to aspire to, and every reason to think the future was going to be good. Under those circumstances, there was no compelling reason to start looking enviously across the national frontiers.

Less so now, as Mr Orban is showing us.

Richard J

for that matter, I'm not convinced they've totally sunk into irrecoverable obscurity in Fermanagh and Tyrone).

One of the things that came to mind in reading the book is that Ireland, which comes naturally to most English speakers' minds when we think of nationalist revivals, is actually a pretty unusual case; that there was such a clear cut genealogical (in the non-Foucauldian sense) split between the linguistic communities with such a clearly imported rentier class (after the first set of colonists went inconveniently native), is pretty damn unusual in having such obvious fracture points to construct modern national identities on.

Chris williams

Revanchist nationalism was a significant precipitator of the events of 1988 in Hungary. Mr Orban himself was not much to blame, being still a Young Liberal at the time. To a large extent, the CSCE kept the lid on eastern europe in the early 90s.

CMcM

pretty damn unusual in having such obvious fracture points to construct modern national identities on.

Richard: good point on the difference between Ireland & Eastern Europe. But I'm not so sure which is most typical. I haven't read it for years bit, AFAIR, Benedict Anderson in the original Imagined Communities argued that nationalism in its modern sense precisely first developed amongst the imported rentier classes of Spanish America who somehow manged to hitch their nationalist wagon to the native peasantry's long standing resentment of foreign domination. One can certainly see a distorted & partial reflection of 1798 in this perspective. I'm just not well read enough to know if it also works for Eastern Europe.

CMcM

If jamie does temporarily close comments due to the unpleasant nature of this current crop of spam - and I can see why he might want too, all in all - can I suggest we reconvene here.

Phil

Oh pigging Ada... Jamie?

my, didn't those steeples rise up in the former Yugoslavia?

The thing about the former Yugoslavia is that there had only been a thick line on the map with that particular shape for 70-odd years. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a Serb monarchy, Tito's Yugoslavia was a delicate balancing-act trading off the threat of rival revanchisms, and you don't want to ask what happened in between the two. If you go further back, you rapidly get into Croats celebrating liberation from Hungarians and Serbs celebrating victory over Albanians. Wilsonian national self-determination for "Czechoslovaks" wasn't such a crazy idea - the package certainly took a good long time to come undone. By comparison, NSD for "Yugoslavs" was only ever an oddly-shaped package with wires sticking out.

It's the difference between "your lot invaded our lot once" and "our lot have always defined ourselves by our resistance to the barbarous yoke of your lot, except when we were subjecting you to our barbarous yoke (and serve you right)".

Igor Belanov

ISTR reading in various sources that there was an 'Illyrian' nationalism active during the 19th century that aimed to unite the various 'South Slavs'. I think that creating Yugoslavia wasn't such a strange idea as hindsight makes it appear, though setting it up under the Serb monarchy was probably a concession to pragmatism that proved rather impractical and self-defeating in the end.

Richard J

That's one of the reasons I liked the book, Phil. It made me (personally) think harder about statements along those lines - as pretty much every state in Eastern Europe was about the same age, and pretty much all had their national identities and heritage, um, rediscovered in the late 19th century, digging a bit harder into the reasons why, say, several vigorously competing identities emerged in what would become Yugoslavia as a consequence of this process compared to elsewhere in the region repays some research (after all, I don't think it's entirely too cynical to say that the primary difference between a Serb, a Croat and a Bosnian in 1800 was which alphabet you were illiterate in, and which religion you ignored.)

CMcM

I find the whole idea of 'the Yugosphere' fascinating.

Looked at from a certain angle, it could be seen as a emergent sense of having a regional identity, of being the Balkan version of 'Scandinavian' as it were, as well as having a particular nationality.

(&, yeah, I know it's hard to find recent examples of intra-Scandinavian mass murder. But [*handwaves madly*] y'know what I mean)

teraz kurwa my

In Eastern Europe those places where you had a native nobility the national identity grew out of the caste/state identity of that nobility. Poland is the strongest example, but it's also true of Hungary. What little there was of an ethnic Polish and Hungarian urban bourgeoisie joined in pretty much immediately the moment the nobility began speaking in French Revolution style concepts of national community. Even as the growth of capitalism led to the formation of a local bourgeoisie, it's ethnic Polish/Hungarian components tended to either be of noble background or assimilated Germans or Jews, rather than upwardly mobile ex peasants.

The peasants were much less likely to see themselves as part of the same community. Famously, during the 1846 uprising against the Austrians in Galicia, the peasants responded with a pro-Habsburg jacquerie, telling reporters 'they're Poles, not us'. Ironically, the nobles were a radical bunch calling for emancipation and partial expropriation of noble landholdings. In the Prussian and Rusian partitions religious differences helped change this (Bismarck to the Polish speaking pesants: Your priests and the Church suck because they're evil Poles. Peasants: Huh, I guess we're Poles after all.)

Richard J

In Eastern Europe those places where you had a native nobility the national identity grew out of the caste/state identity of that nobility. Poland is the strongest example, but it's also true of Hungary.

Counter-example: Finland.

teraz kurwa my

Didn't the Finnish nobility mainly speak Swedish back when the Finnish national movement began? If so, and my knowledge of Finnish history is rather thin so I may well be wrong, Finland is more similar to the Czech lands or Lithuania where the local nobility had been mostly Germanized/Polonized. Not that the local nobilities couldn't have strong local territorial identities. Poland's national poem famously begins 'Lithuania, my fatherland', written by a Polish noble from Belarus.

dominic

Even better: the last line of the Dutch national anthem is "I have always been a loyal subject of the King of Spain"

Keir

(&, yeah, I know it's hard to find recent examples of intra-Scandinavian mass murder. But [*handwaves madly*] y'know what I mean)

Erm. Ah. Erm. I think this may not have been quite the right phrasing of this point.

des von bladet

Even better: the last line of the Dutch national anthem is "I have always been a loyal subject of the King of Spain

The opening of the Dutch national anthem is of course "I am Willem of Nassau". A lot of the Dutchpersons I know are not in fact Willem of Nassau, subjects of the King of Spain (loyal or otherwise), or unaware of the historical context of all this.

Richard J

I, like many others, will be sorely disappointed if the second line of the Dutch national anthem is not 'I am'.

ajay

Or, indeed, "And so is my wife".

des von bladet

Sadly, "of German blood".

(Really, "I'm Henery the Eighth I am" was a 1965 Billboard #1 hit?!)

In other random anthem trivia, did it make the Britosphere what happened when someone asked Yves Leterme (then prime minister of Belgium) to sing his country's national anthem?

Richard J

It did, but as a very 'and finally' type item. Googling for it made me wish I'd known more abot it.

It certainly gives me a chance to rag on a Belgian colleague next time I speak with him.

Phil

I guess it's too late to point out that the "Mae" in the title is surplus - "Hen wlad fy nhadau" means "[an] old land of my fathers" (Welsh not having a definite article). "Mae" is part of the verb "to be", and takes a weird verb-first word-order; the closest to a literal translation of the first line

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi

would be "There is an old land of my fathers, dear to me". ("Yn" is not "is"; "yn" isn't anything, in fact, it just connects the adjectival phrase to the noun phrase.)

If it had meant "The old land of my fathers is dear to me" (as usually translated) there would have been a definite article, "Mae'r hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi", which literally translates as "There exists the old land of my fathers, dear to me". Which isn't quite the same statement, but it's as far as I go - I never did the O Level.

Where *is* Dan, anyway?

Phil

Ach! I'm sure half of that is wrong, but this bit should have been right:

"Hen wlad fy nhadau" means "[an] old land of my fathers" (Welsh not having an indefinite article)

Richard J

Having family from Cumberland, and therefore being an Anglicised Welshman suffering from a crippling false consciousness, I'm kicking myself, that's all I can say.

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