Mateusz Ciołkowski: Professor, for Poles, the 19th century actually began at the end of the 18th century when the partitions took place. We lost sovereignty, statehood, and three invaders split our lands. On the other hand, we are beginning to deal with the phenomenon of the so-called ‘diplomacy without a State’. What do you mean by that? Which environments became the basis for the formation of the elites that wanted to place the Polish case on the international arena?
Professor Radosław Żurawski vel Grajewski: I would start with a question, which is perhaps the most fundamental one as it made us stand out as a nation in the environment, especially the surrounding environment, i.e. is absolute monarchies. We had republican traditions, even though we were a kingdom; in fact, the old Rzeczpospolita was the Nobles’ republic with the king at the helm. Of course, it also has to be noted that this was a moment when the concept of the nation, as well as its functioning in the political and public life, changed. The political nation, which we have certainly been since the 16th century (I mean the Nobles here), in the era that we want to talk about, begins its transformation into a nation based on ethnic factors. Of course, this was a process that lasted for decades. In the second half of the 19th century, it transpired that here, in this part of our Europe, there are several nations. But in spite of everything, a load of political experience of this nation (still understood in the way it functioned until the 18th century), a political nation, is transmitted into this new reality.
What do I want to say? Well, I would like to say that probably as early as at the end of the 18th century, we as Poles had a distinguished feeling of nationality (positive, in my opinion), understood as a certain political community which has not only its own tradition and political customs, but also a certain feeling of ownership of the State. Just like Louis XIV was able to say “L'État c'est moi” in the 18th century, our Nobles could surely say "L'État ce sont nous" – “We are the State”. We are the State, but it brings both positive and negative connotations, because the weakness of our political elites is apparent, at least in the first half of the 18th century. I will venture a less popular statement, that it was also an intellectual weakness of our political life, perhaps with some justification that would have to be taken into account after reading the books by Professor Zielińska, namely, that the possibilities of making any manoeuvres in the system of northern powers were limited. Simply speaking, external violence was too strong, but the sins resulting from our own weakness or certain carelessness also played an important role here.
What did this political tradition, inherited from the I Rzeczpospolita, give us? It gave us a sense of citizenship; a conviction that our state, political and, therefore, national community stems from the feeling that we are not only subjects of the same king, but we are also owners of our State and the king depends on us; this is our tradition. It is true that, at the same time, we feel remorse due to the fact that we have weakened this royal power, but this is a certain expression of our way of thinking about the State (without going into the assessment of the state of affairs now). It is also ours in the sense that we have the right to take an active part in the political life and this is a sphere of our freedom.
Therefore, it is not so that we are the more free, the less State we have, according to the statement: “I pay my taxes and let me be, I am free from the State, I am a private person and I seek refuge in this privacy in which the State cannot interfere”. In Poland, we learned to reason the opposite: I am free when I have some influence on the State, I can elect members of parliament and the king. That’s when I'm free, that’s when I'm a citizen. However, in Poland, the term ‘private people’ meant that we were dealing with the people of Radziwiłł, Potocki - these were private people, or servants of the magnate. Citizens, on the other hand, are those who have influence on the State.
We are entering the 19th century with a sense of being a certain political community and having in mind that the State depends on us; also, with a certain habit of organising actions with neighbours, organising actions in poviats in a situation when we don’t have our State. Due to the fact that the State has always been weak, now we will exaggerate a bit, but the ‘last foray in Lithuania’ described by Mickiewicz (which is, of course, a kind of licentia poetica), resulted from this very mentality. There is a court that hands down a judgement, but the execution depends on us. There is no state police who does it for us. We, the neighbours, gather together and we carry out the last foray in the Crown or in Lithuania. Therefore, the organisation of actions is also a certain habit and a natural habit in the former political life of Rzeczpospolita. On the one hand, it is a source of weakness, because there is no State, but on the other hand, once the country doesn’t exist in a literal sense after the partitions, we have become used to organising actions ourselves. This is a very important asset.
At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, when Rzeczpospolita no longer exists, very significant mentality changes are taking place, in my opinion. They can be clearly seen in our anthem, where the phrase: "We will pass Vistula and Warta / We shall be Polish" demonstrates the eighteenth-century and previous perception of what the nation really is. We shall be Polish, when we regain Poland, we will have the State; we are not Polish now that we don’t have our own country, we will only be ones when we pass Vistula, we will pass Warta, we shall be Polish. But soon after, it transpires (in the same anthem), that Poland isn’t dead as long as we live. It means that there is no State, but the nation exists, and, therefore, the nation is a different thing, separate from the State. In the nations of Europe, even in Western European languages, this distinction is not so obvious even today. We had ‘Société des Nations’ and now we have ‘League of Nations’, and in both these examples we speak about the league or organisation of States, not nations.
As for your question: the first thing that is certainly worth noting, especially with regard to the first half of the 19th century, is the fact that participation in political life is obviously the domain of elites which are aware of their role. Therefore, all the options are options of the Nobles: whether it is a pro-Russian or pro-French or Napoleonic option, we have basically the same families. Sometimes it is just a custom, also resulting from a certain mentality of the First Republic: to bet on all possible trends and have one brother in every camp, so that the property can be preserved in case of any problems.
We are ‘flexible’ [laughs[.
We are flexible, yes. The goods won’t be confiscated; they will only pass to the hands of one brother instead of another. This is how things sometimes look from a closer perspective, but generally speaking, we have two trends (of course, in the context of the question as to on whose side we have a better chance of regaining independence). The answers differ from each other, but, in my opinion, they both are very well motivated. The French option is “closer to the heart” because we do not have to compromise with an enemy. We are fighting for independence, and the French are helping us… How they are doing it is a separate issue, as we could name a long list of betrayals. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to take advantage of a situation when one of the European powers is fighting (and winning) against all our invaders, whose troops are entering the Polish territory. Then, an offer is made to create a political structure that would restore, at least to some extent, Polish national life (still dependent and imperfect). And so, we have the Duchy of Warsaw, the Sejm, the army, the administration, and we have a chance that it will be expanded. On the other hand, however, we have an option – let's call it a pro-Russian one, with Czartoryski at the helm, at least until a certain point in time. That option can be supported by equally important arguments resulting from political calculations, and it could also be an argument that could be used in a discussion and in defence of Prince Czartoryski to oppose the accusation of some kind of sentimentalism or political naivety.
What do you mean by that?
In his diaries, Prince Czartoryski mentioned how he went to St. Petersburg after the Third Partition, as a hostage, along with his brother. He wrote (I cannot quote the exact wording right now) that he was not able to look at Moskals because it made his blood boil. When we read these diaries, we will see a man overwhelmed with strong emotions. This hostility is strongly emphasised there. On the other hand, in a moment, he will become a close friend of the throne's successor, the future Tsar (i.e. Alexander) and an even closer friend of his wife. Therefore, personal relations with Russians will be established and they will be very close. This leads to the conclusion that there is no possibility to accuse him of some kind of phobia that would be blocking him, and at no time has his basic loyalty to Poland been questioned. He is obviously collaborating and is a personal friend of Alexander, but there are limits to this friendship when it comes to Poland's interests.
On the other hand, there is a certain awareness of the French factor, assessed in two ways. First of all, for Czartoryski, Napoleon is a person who grows out of the revolution – a destructor of order – and his morality is also questionable. He is also a person from a foreign world. But it is also the case (and this includes a certain political calculation) that Russia is constantly a part of the balance of power in this part of Europe, and then the French are coming. This raises a question: on what foundation is it possible to build something that would last when it comes to the political order in this part of the continent? Should it be done based on the factor which appeared and gave a certain offer, and by doing so, represents an opportunity, although we do not know how long it is going to stay here, or should it based on Russia, which will always be present in this part of Europe? There is probably a human factor in this as well, i.e. the close relations which Czartoryski managed to establish with Alexander. The tsar makes promises and makes an impression that he would be ready to open his heart to Poles, and, if he could, he would ‘erase’ the partitions and rebuild the former Rzeczpospolita. As it will transpire later, these are just stories, unsupported by actions. Yet, this has to be checked and it is difficult not to take up an offer like this.
However, when certain decisions are made and the Duchy of Warsaw is established, the Polish army is being formed, Czartoryski withdraws his support for the idea of separating the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and creating a ‘Polish-Lithuanian army on the Russian side.’ He believes that there was time for that before 1807, but now it is too late, because one cannot lead to a situation in which one Polish army would be juxtaposed against another Polish army. Tsar Alexander could have done this before the creation of the Duchy of Warsaw, but now such intention is not very likely and may cause a conflict or complications. Yet, there are people, such as: Tomasz Warzecki, Michał Kleofas Ogiński, and Prince Ksawery Drucki-Lubecki. It is difficult to attribute bad intentions to them, and these people believe that this offer should be accepted. As it transpires, the offer is illusory, but the argument is that if we administratively separate the Grand Duchy of Lithuania on the Russian side (before the war!), then, if the Franco-Russian war starts, it will be difficult for it to withdraw from these decisions, no matter which side wins. Therefore, if the French win, we will annex the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the Duchy of Warsaw and it will become clear what borders it will have. And if the Russians win, the Duchy of Warsaw will be annexed to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, in this way, we will reconstruct Poland. I think that this is a reasonable way of thinking. Yet, it turns out to be illusory, because Alexander talks a lot, but does very little. As a consequence, no Grand Duchy of Lithuania is separated. But Czartoryski stays away from these ideas. He is already past this mainstream trend of the pro-Russian option.
And in the case of the analysis of the programme, or the idea that guided Napoleon and his plans, was it rather an attempt to assess and, above all, be interested in his measurable decisions, such as, for example, the decision to create the Duchy of Warsaw, or were there persons or voices saying that Napoleon's universalist project would simply serve us? Were there any environments that were favourable to Napoleon's universalism?
I think that I cannot take responsibility for evaluating this situation, because I did not study the very era of the Duchy of Warsaw, but I believe that these were much simpler decisions, resulting from a rather rapid development of events that required some reaction. And, in addition, against such a development of events that was in line with emotions, the French entered and defeated Russians and Prussians, so what more could we want? However, of course, there was some disappointment with the fact that this piece of Poland was small.
On the other hand, it seems that the dependence of the Duchy of Warsaw on France was significant and there wasn’t much room for manoeuvre in this aspect. We simply accepted what Napoleon offered us, possibly asking if he could do anything else. The political – as well as territorial – shape of the state was determined by the French. The history of the Duchy of Warsaw brought us the only victorious war for us in the 19th century – a war, which, when it comes to the theatre of warfare, we were fighting alone in 1809. At the same time, we sent half of the army to Spain, which meant that we were, in fact, available.
But could we have behaved differently?
In this case, I do not see any particular chances against the power that Napoleon presented and in the face of the very likely and open chance that we would be able to rebuild the whole country at his side.
And what is the balance of the Napoleonic era?
In my opinion, it cannot be overestimated, because the whole game ended with a completely different result than in 1795, when Poland didn't exist. In this case, Poland was present, as well as the army which did not disperse. And the Polish issue was present at the Congress of Vienna – contrary to 1795, when Poland was erased from the map and political order of Europe. On the other hand, in 1814-1815, the Polish issue was raised at the Vienna Congress as one of the most important questions in the discussion between the superpowers.
Even a commission for Polish affairs was created at that time.
Yes, a separate special commission was formed among the ten commissions – including five territorial. It was the most difficult issue to resolve, even provoking war alarms due to the demands of the parties. Let us repeat some of the well-known facts about the creation of a kind of Russian-Prussian coalition on the one hand, and formerly British-Austrian coalition, later united with France, which opposed Russian ambitions in a situation where Alexander held most of the cards, as he had military control over the territory that was under discussion. Russian garrisons were set up not only in Warsaw, but also in Poznań, Toruń, Gdańsk, and Kraków, so he had everything he wanted.
He only lacked one thing: a legal basis to declare that he had some rights to govern the occupied territory. In historiography, there is a discussion, in which I will take a clear stand, because the question arises whether Alexander's motive was to remedy, at least in part, the moral and political harms that Poles had suffered at the end of the 18th century, or to obtain, in one form or another, more Polish lands in order to be able to control them. The reason for this was that he could not claim any hereditary right to these areas, because they were never Russian – after the Third Partition, they were Austrian or Prussian after all, so the only way to act on the international arena was to play the role of the benefactor of the Poles. He was perceived as the one who reconstructs Poland, obviously bound with Russia by a personal union, but existing as a separate state with a liberal constitution. And so, Alexander says something like this: “I will restore the name of Poles, because they deserve it. I will recreate Poland under my sceptre, acting out of noble motives, and everyone should understand this.” Especially the English looked at it differently, and this is also a reason for discussion; on the one hand, the discussion about the ideological foundations of foreign policy, and on the other, about the reality in which it functions.
Exactly, the Vienna Congress established the principle of balance of power. How do you think this principle defined the position of Poles? Was it beneficial for our future, or was it a problem? And how was it seen by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, who was present at the Congress?
In my opinion, it was a burden for us… but it’s only one side of the matter, because, of course, there are no simple answers. On the other hand, it was the moment that provoked a dispute over the Polish issue. But now we would have to ask ourselves what would have been a better solution: a complete fulfilment of Czartoryski’s expectations, which would have been possible only in violation of the principle of balance of power? Let us assume that Alexander gets everything he wants, i.e. the entire Duchy of Warsaw.
The question arises as to whether the ‘internal expansion’ promised by him, i.e. annexation of former Polish provinces of the Russian Empire to the Polish Kingdom, could be accomplished. It is difficult to find convincing arguments that it could have been done. Nevertheless, there are opinions in the historiography that if the Duchy of Warsaw were to be entirely under the Russian sceptre, then, firstly, Prussia would be much less involved in the Polish case, and secondly – picturing the November Uprising, which still has resources in the form of Greater Poland, we would have to admit that it would be a strong positive foundation for the Polish side in the war with Russia in 1831. Yet, these are, of course, only speculations, since we do not know what would have really happened.
Besides, if the overwhelming part of the Polish territory remained in Russian hands, the other partitioning powers could be willing to look at the Polish issue differently. But how would it actually look? We do not know that. Still, we can answer the question about the effects of taking into account the situation of the balance of power. Well, this principle has led others (especially British diplomacy) to stand firmly in opposition to the ideas of Czartoryski and Alexander. Lord Castlereagh opposed the programme, formulated by them, which was designed to resolve the Polish issue at the Vienna Congress. Technically, he did this mainly by trying to expose the hypocrisy of Alexander I, that is, he proposed to restore Poland in the pre-partition borders, from before 1772, or from 1791. He reiterated the statement that if Alexander wishes to be so generous, he shouldn’t give away things at someone else's expense (he meant reconstructing Poland from the territories of the Austrian and Prussian partitions), but solely at his own. Of course, Alexander was not so generous as to give up any part of the Polish territory annexed by Russia. However, in order to visualise the strength of British diplomacy motives, we must look at the map of Europe in the year of the French Revolution. Once we are talking about the balance of power, let us also mention the principle of restoration, which was officially proclaimed at the Congress. Let's look at the map of Europe in 1789, and it will turn out that the borders of Russia are on the Daugava and Dnieper. And now, that is in 1815, those gathered in Vienna are asked to move them almost to the Oder. This is something extraordinary. This is almost half of Europe [laughs]. There is no way to agree to this, because it is a violation of the principle of balance of power. We would create the second hegemony. And we didn’t break the French hegemony in order to create Russian hegemony now, so it is obvious that this has to be opposed. In British diplomacy – I remember it well, because I have just read the correspondence from the Vienna Congress – there is a note of astonishment that Austria and Prussia are arguing with each other about German issues: who will get what part of Saxony, which is preventing them from building a united front against Russian claims. And there is also some kind of disappointment that the British are at the forefront of this resistance, instead of those whom it threatens the most.
If we accept Alexander's proposal, we will have a two days' marching distance to Berlin and three days' distance to Vienna – and they somehow do not see it, do they? [laughs]
The Austrians do, but the Prussians prefer to take advantage of the Russian support regarding Saxony rather than to see what is actually happening here. Thus, the proposal of British diplomacy – the real one (because in theory, it provides for restoration of independent Poland under a separate dynasty, but after all, these concepts are unrealistic and Castlereagh is perfectly aware of this fact, putting them forward only to reveal Alexander's hypocrisy) is nothing more than a suggestion to return to the situation from 1795, that is, to implement the worst possible scenario for us. It results from the aspiration to implement the principles of the balance of power in the decisions of the Congress and it is the answer to the question of what the full implementation of this principle would lead to: erasing any Polish statehood from the political map of Europe after the Vienna Congress.
This principle was unfavourable for us at that time, but on the other hand, the same principle involved the powers in the discussion on the Polish issue, because they wanted to maintain the balance of power. The final result (we will not repeat the well-known information on how these Polish lands were divided) is less favourable than it could be, but after the Vienna Congress, Poland still exists as a certain political entity. Non-sovereign, dependent, and tied with Russia, but it does exists. The Russians cannot rule here without any obligations.
After the November Uprising, it turns out that everyone remembers, thanks to Prince Czartoryski, that these Russian obligations are not only obligations towards the Poles. British or French diplomacy, based on memorials and ideas suggested by Czartoryski, argues that at the Congress of Vienna, the Polish case was settled by the powers, and not by the Poles and Russians. Therefore, the commitment to Poles is one thing, but there are commitments to other signatories of the Treaty of Vienna, the agreement formed as a result of the Congress of Vienna. In this way, Russia cannot free itself from them, referring to the rebellion of Poles.
At this moment, we can move to a new thread, concerning intra-Polish political discussions, especially on emigration. This method of focusing European diplomacy on the Polish issue, carried out by Czartoryski; a method based on the agreements of the Congress of Vienna, was the reason for very brutal criticism from the Democrats who accused Czartoryski of intending to rebuild ‘Viennese’ Poland and forgetting everything else.
Of course, in the lively political discussion, it often turns out that reality is one thing, but when you need a pretext for a witch-hunt, you will find it. Even being aware that the reality is different, you can still use it to hit the opposition. Therefore, I am not convinced that all of those who raised this accusing voice against Prince Czartoryski actually believed that he was such an evil-minded traitor whose only wish is to rebuild the ‘Viennese’ Poland. Obviously, there were those who believed in it, but there were also those who only proclaimed it publicly.
However, the Lambert Hotel formulated its position – and I wouldn’t like to leave any doubt about the fact that speaking up in defence of the Polish case is the right of the Western powers under the Vienna Treaty, because Russia and other invaders have made certain commitments to London or Paris. On the other hand, the agreements of the Congress of Vienna do not limit the rights of Poles in any way, because Poland was not represented there and we did not commit ourselves to anything. Therefore, the way that the Polish case was resolved at the Congress of Vienna does not create any obligations on the Polish side. It obliges the partitioning powers to respect these rights in relation to Great Britain and France, and, thus, gives us a tool to influence the diplomacy of these countries for the sake of the Polish case without renouncing the united and independent Rzeczpospolita.
What if we looked at the whole situation not from the Polish point of view, but we would ask a question as to why the British or French should actually be interested in the Polish case?
Exactly. Just like all other cases, the Polish case was merely a part of the puzzle. It was never like this that we had the Polish case which was being broadly discussed and everybody was wondering what to do with the matter. No, the Polish case was just one of many cards in the game, similarly to the Belgian case, the Eastern case, the case of civil wars in Spain... All other questions which were appearing, influenced one another. And for this reason, it is difficult to understand people’s behaviour in one case if we don’t know the context of other cases.
We haven’t mentioned before that in his biography, Prince Czartoryski also had an episode when he was the minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Empire. He had a clear picture of the situation in the territories of interest to Russian diplomacy and he knew (as he created them himself) certain directions of Russian political thinking regarding the future policy in the Balkans, the Caucasus or the Eastern question. A certain paradox of history was that after the November Uprising, he dealt with the same territories, but the task was the opposite, i.e. what to do in order to block Russia in these areas? And if that was so, he had some experience, some knowledge, which we could call expert knowledge, regarding the territories, and having these advantages, he decided to emigrate.
If we are to talk about the beginning of emigration, we must mention that we have a Belgian-Dutch conflict that has been developing since the revolution in Brussels in August 1830, therefore, it is ongoing during the November Uprising. At that time, Czartoryski, as the head of foreign affairs of the insurgent government, initiates political activity regarding this issue. We have Roman Załuski's mission to Brussels in 1831, and, subsequently, this activity is smoothly taken over by the Lambert Hotel, or by the Czartoryski’s circles. It is a continuation of what was carried out during the uprising, by representatives of the emigration.
These structures, which we will define as diplomatic missions, previously the structures of the insurgent government, are now at the disposal of Czartoryski. And so: Niemcewicz is in London, Kniaziewicz and Plater are in Paris; all this is still working under the influence of the Prince, while the Prince himself is in London in December 1831. And what transpired then? If we look at it from the Polish point of view, we receive a picture of a certain naive sentimentality, although I would primarily attribute it to Niemcewicz (still, we have to remember that he was a poet). We expect that, based on the Congress of Vienna, Great Britain or France will now demand, as promised, that the political situation in Poland be at least prevented from deterioration.
If we look at it through the eyes of the British, we receive the Polish case which is going on in Poland. Morally, the Poles are right, but at the same time, we have the Belgian-Dutch conflict. Suddenly, in August 1831, the Danes attacked Belgium and, in reaction to this, the French entered it from the west and they defeated the Dutch army. In this situation, we, the British, need Russia. We don't need it so that it would enter Western Europe, because we do not want it to intervene in favour of the Netherlands against Belgium, but so that it could enter Western Europe (that is, we want the French to know that Russia can enter here, that there is a possibility which the French would have to respect and, consequently, they wouldn’t exaggerate with their ambitions regarding Belgium at any time). We don’t want the French to incorporate it (God forbid!); after all, half of the territory of Belgium (Walloons) speak French.
So we are checkmating France with the Russians, and we are collaborating with the French to prevent Russia from entering the Netherlands, because if this happens, the French will enter Belgium, a war will ensue, and we, the British, won’t be able to trade. And so, what do we have to obtain?
We must obtain Nicholas' consent to the closure of the Belgian case, which will consist in recognising Belgium's independence. The issue is not at all easy because we have previously obliged Russia, at the Congress of Vienna, that it would never allow Belgium to separate itself from the Netherlands and that Russia would oppose it by all means; we have even promised Russia that we will pay it certain amounts of money in instalments from the so-called ‘Dutch loan’. Still, now we have decided to keep paying these instalments, but it is in exchange for Russia’s consent to the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands. However, the tsar, for various reasons, including ideological, is against any revolutions. And so, he is also against the Belgians. Yes, we have already persuaded Austrians and Prussians to support our British ideas of resolving the Belgian-Dutch conflict, but not the tsar; not yet. And so, what can be done now?
If we take this perspective when looking at the fact that Czartoryski was hosted at a private dinner by Prime Minister Gray in December 1831, and later, at the Polish debate in the British Parliament, for example on 18 April, i.e. when the agreement on the Belgian case was signed by Prussia and Austria, but not by Russia, the coincidence of the dates - 18 April, does not seem accidental at all. Once Russia is still preventing the closure of the Belgian issue, what is happening? We have a discussion in the British Parliament, where, colloquially speaking, we show to the Russians the following perspective: “Friends, if you continue to discuss the Belgian case, we will start a discussion about the Polish case”. This discussion is not pleasant for St. Petersburg. It is a powerful propaganda blow to the image of Russia and its ruler; it is reported by all major dailies on both sides of the English Channel. The opinions expressed during the discussion can be read in the newspapers of the whole of Europe. And during the discussion, very strong epithets are used against the tsar. He is labelled a ‘monster’, or ‘Herod, murdering Polish children and having Polish blood on his hands’. In this regard, especially Daniel O'Connell, the leader of the national Irish movement, allowed himself to utter very strong words when speaking about Nicholas I and expressed strong criticism of the tsar in the House of Commons. And so, we have a stormy debate in April on the Polish case, and once it hasn't helped much, we have another one in June. In August, in turn, Czartoryski makes another attempt to provoke a debate, but the first two were prepared by him with the consent and in cooperation with the British government, while the third was prepared against its wishes. Without the support of His Majesty's government, however, the third debate fails. Hence, this shows the place of the Polish case and it repeats in the subsequent games, with the Kraków case, where (without going into details), it wasn’t about the fact that Kraków was incorporated into Austria; it was about the fact that it was a violation of basic standards of international law which undermined the entire international system. Kraków is a pretext here, but from London's point of view, what happened?
Well, it transpired that the three powers granted themselves the right to liquidate a state in Europe without asking Great Britain and France for permission. And it happened to be Kraków. It was only Kraków, but everyone was aware that it did not disturb the European balance, as this was a tiny State, but it cannot be accepted that one can break solemn treaties without any reason, without any pretext. And even if we were to admit that Kraków was a hot spot of conspiracies and revolutions (that’s the argument which the invaders used to justify its incorporation into Austria), the path should be the following: a congress of all those who were participating in the Vienna discussion, should have been convened and they should have decided on the fate of Krakow following a thorough consideration of what to do with this issue. They might have even considered that there is no other way out but to incorporate Kraków into Austria, but they should have asked about it first.
We probably don’t realise this, looking at it from the point of view of Poland, but from the perspective of the Polish raison d'état it is primarily national harm, while for European diplomacy, it is a diplomatic robbery; a very dangerous precedent. One cannot agree to this way of developing international relations.
In this situation, small and medium States are left without any defence. The big States will defend themselves, but the small ones ... if the great neighbours grant themselves the right of incorporation, what will it look like? This undermines the credibility of the entire international system.
It also had other repercussions, namely, it compromised several governments, but, above all, it compromised Metternich, even in the eyes of conservatives, and the Austrian conservatives. The incorporation of Kraków, the Galician revolt - i.e. inciting lower strata against the Nobles and the aristocracy by the government which claimed to be conservative, had strong repercussions. It meant that the good name of the leading European conservative who resorted to methods like this, was destroyed. On the other hand, it put in a very delicate situation, Guizot and Louis Philippe, the July monarchy which bought Austria’s favour of their concept of Spanish marriages at a price (as the French public opinion assessed) of the subordination of French foreign policy to the interest of the dynasty of Orleans, i.e. not the French raison d'etat, but the self-interest of the ruling dynasty. ‘It cannot continue this way’, the French thought at the time. With some delay, the price was nevertheless paid for it by Louis Philippe and Metternich, but if we look at it in this way, then we will see that this is a part of the puzzle, of a much larger puzzle.
Here, we have a certain element of Palmerston's personal dislike towards Guizot, which can be seen in the press, in articles, in correspondence. It was Palmerston who hated Guizot rather than the other way round, but it was evident. On the other hand, the deep political culture of the British elites is demonstrated here. The government, represented by the minister, i.e. Palmerston, pursued a policy to which he had a mandate, and implemented it effectively, but, at the same time, he faced strong, open and justified criticism of a significant part of its elites who saw tawdriness of their minister in this behaviour.
Here, I would like to dwell on the issue of Czartoryski and the Lambert Hotel, just as you mentioned. Was there any vision of a perfect international order within this environment, or a counter-proposal of this idea of the balance of powers? Czartoryski thought of a morality-based order. Could you explain it, please?
This question should be answered as follows: these proposals were obviously formed by Czartoryski, but he formed them in the era before the November Uprising. The final achievement is the Essai sur la diplomatie, published just before the November Uprising. It presents a certain idea of building an international order based on morality, justice and balance of powers, where Poland also found its place in Europe based on these principles. Generally, the idea of international order, proclaimed at the time by Czartoryski, boiled down to the statement that since the ultimate goal of all diplomacy is to stabilise the system, then it cannot be achieved otherwise than by basing this international order on fair principles having their foundation in moral rules. If it is based on injustice and violation of morality, the aggrieved parties, forced to functioning within its framework, will seek to destroy it, i.e. destabilise it.
Later, we are dealing with a hard diplomatic game, the aim of which, from Czartoryski's point of view, isn’t to create a stable international order, but rather to destabilise Europe, because we need war, not peace. Therefore, we seize every opportunity to provoke a conflict between the great powers, because Poland can only emerge from the war, and this is a common belief for the Lambert Hotel and the entire emigration. "Oh Lord, for a universal war for the freedom of the nations, we beseech Thee, Oh, Lord!" - Mickiewicz prayed.
The only question mark is the form of the war; whether we should trigger a revolution in the entire Europe, like the Democrats would like, or create a conflict between the great powers, which Czartoryski is trying to do, but we definitely need war. And, therefore, everyone is striving to fuel every conflict, even those which seem to be only appearing on the horizon. I think that this question is appreciated by specialists, but among historians of a broader scope, among the ‘public opinion of historians’, if you will, I will venture to say that the importance of the Eastern question is underestimated. We do remember some European cases, but I believe that one of the essential elements shaping or conditioning the international game in the 19th century, was the Eastern issue. From Czartoryski's point of view, it created an opportunity for an international clash between the great powers.
Of course, it would have to be done in many stages, as we have the Eastern issue understood as the task of creating a new formula in the relations between the great powers at the time of the expected collapse of the Turkish Empire. In other words: what will happen when the Turkish empire collapses? How can you ‘share the inheritance” in such a way which will not lead to a war for the heirloom from it? We also have the Eastern issue in a very broad sense, i.e. meaning the territory from Morocco to the borders of India. And in this broad sense, Algeria, conquered by France, is a part of the Eastern issue. Of course, the entire Turkish empire, but also the Caucasus, Persia, Afghanistan, Central Asia, where the Russians are carrying out their expansion - all these territories form the Eastern issue. It is worth noting that what was called the East and today is the Middle East and the Balkans, attracted the attention of all European powers, although Prussia was the least interested in it, but the remaining ones, i.e. Russia and Austria had a keen interest in it, similarly to France and Great Britain. Still, in the case of Asia, we only have Central Russia and Great Britain, and that is where the conflict seems quite probable. Therefore, it is possible to provoke a war and here, indeed, Czartoryski is striving to provoke the war.
But it seems that it wasn’t only there?
Of course, because he also tried to do so in the Belgian issue with the scandal involving Skrzynecki, in the Caucasus, with the issue of the ‘Vixen’ ship and everywhere else; wherever it was possible. Lest we forget that the Polish emigration was active during various revolutions, from Frankfurt, to German, Savoyard, Italian to Hungarian, and from the Crimean War to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
It’s interesting, in the context of our conversation, that when we were talking about possible allies, you referred to Russia and France as certain reference points for our independence work, but you didn’t mention Prussia.
Let’s put it this way: from Czartoryski's point of view, there were a few disappointments, because Russia was a constant and unchanging enemy since the November Uprising; it was recognised as a factor whose domination over Poland will have to be eliminated by force. We won’t be able to avoid a war with Russia, but since we were looking for a chance to win this war, we also checked (unfortunately, with negative effect) the possibility of dragging some of other invaders onto the side of the Western countries. At first, it was Austria, but the year 1846 verified this option very negatively. However, up to that time, such ideas did appear. Władysław Zamoyski, Czartoryski's nephew, tried to convince Palmerston that British diplomacy should show the Austrians, the benefits of rebuilding Poland, because it would be obviously a beneficial solution for it. In this approach, Poland would serve Vienna as a shield against Russia, and, in addition, the Balkans would be freed from the pressure exterted by St. Petersburg. In a word, it seemed that this should be a fantastic idea from the Austrian point of view, but somehow the Austrians did not want to understand it. Besides, Palmerston himself was skeptical about the possibility to persuade them. After 1846, Austria becomes one of the main enemies.
On the other hand, the change on the Prussian throne (when Frederick William IV ascended the throne in 1840) caused certain hopes to arise, also in the British political elites. The hopes were that Prussia would step onto the path of liberalisation. In general, Prussia was perceived as a well-organised State, with reasonable political elites who are now looking for a possibility of reforming the state, once they obtained a reasonable monarch - that’s how I perceive it. The British treated Prussia as a state belonging, in some way, to (I am afraid to risk this statement) the same civilisation of the Protestant spirit, in the meaning of being pragmatic, reasonable, devoid of emotion and striving to achieve a good organisation of the state.
And what did the good organisation of the state mean from this perspective?
It meant that one should go in the liberal direction, refrain from copying Asian despots, and follow in the path of the European civilisation. And Prussia, as everyone expected, was to make a step in this direction very shortly. But for some reason, time was passing and nothing was happening. Still, from the beginning of the forties until the Spring of Nations, such an expectation of Prussia existed. Although we also have memorials in which Ludwik Bystrzonowski, one of the important persons of the Lambert Hotel, openly informs the British about a deliberate, hard and premeditated policy of Germanisation on the territory annexed by Prussia. And here, there are no illusions; these are our enemies. Nevertheless, the Spring of Nations was the apogee of hopes in this respect, with Czartoryski's visit to Berlin, although he wasn’t received by any of the ministers, but the prince was striving to do something about it and it was negatively verified as well.
But there were grounds to make such attempt, because after March 1848, a partial repolonisation of the administration in the Grand Duchy of Poznań took place. Polish troops weren’t formed to fight Prussia, but Russia, waiting for possible Russian intervention against the liberal revolution in Prussia. However, since the Prussian revolution was suppressed without any help from abroad, Poles ceased to be needed in the war against Russia; instead, they became a formidable burden that could provoke Russian intervention. For this reason, they were conquered in a dozen-day campaign in the Greater Poland Uprising. So, those lesser invaders, if you will, found themselves in certain periods as the subjects of the ‘work’ of the Lambert Hotel diplomacy, which, at some point, even checked (being convinced of the feasibility of such a programme), whether they could be linked to the coalition of the Western powers, and oppose Russia.
We should also bear in mind that the year 1866, i.e. the Prussian-Austrian war, caused evident support of Austria among the Polish emigration. The war was so short that we didn’t make it to do too much - affinities were on the Austrian side, while Prussia was considered, along with Russia, to be the main opponent. Therefore, shortly after the war, i.e. in 1867, with unofficial support from French and Austrian intelligence, a Polish news agency was established and named ‘Correspondence du Nord-Est’.
What were its goals?
It served not only as an information provider; it had its own agendas in various capitals of this part of Europe. The news obtained was delivered to the press, but not only there; it was also transferred to French and Austrian intelligence. The agency collected information mainly about Russia, but also about Prussia, and transferred it to the French, and even to the Danes, and, of course, to the Turks, too. It was one of the last manifestations of quite a large and modern (because it was a modern press agency) activity of the Great Emigration. It is because the structure associated with the Lambert Hotel was active under this banner.
This era ends irreversibly at the turn of 1870-1871, following the reunification of Germany. With the fall of the Second Empire, the Third French Republic is established. When it comes to personal contacts, we don’t have any contacts with the new French Republic. There are completely different elites in the Republic now and we don’t know these people. Whereas before, we were received in every monarchy: the July Monarchy, the Second Republic and the Second Empire, we had access to the royal court everywhere, and it was a direct contact, or even some family associations could be found, the Third Republic, especially after the Paris Commune, in which many Poles took part, is hostile to the Polish case. In this situation, our main achievement is easing the oppression of our expatriates in Paris or France who are being accused of supporting the Commune. Political reality fundamentally changes in such a way that the fields of the game that existed so far, disappear. For soon, it will begin to transpire more and more that Poles, as an anti-Russian factor in European politics, cannot be a subject of anyone’s interest.
This was most clearly noticed by Dmowski, as he made the statement, but it seems to me that this very observation became the basis of his study Germany, Russia and the Polish issue. I wouldn’t like it to sound like an assessment that he did not believe that Germany was the main opponent, and Russia wasn’t, or that Dmowski cynically wrote what he wrote, but I think he wrote it with the awareness of what I am going to say in a moment, namely, that he realised that Western powers cannot be interested in the Polish case as an anti-Russian factor.
In fact, this state of affairs existed, as you said, from the 1870s until the beginning of the 20th century.
Yes, it existed until the 20th century, when France began to look for an anti-German factor, not an anti-Russian one. Then, it began to fear the Germans, not Russia. As a result, Poles weren’t needed as an anti-Russian factor; what’s more, they were an obstacle, as Russia seemed to be the best anti-German factor. Therefore, all the issues that threatened cooperation with Russia, had to be eliminated. It appears from this that this seemingly permanent element of support for the Polish case in the form of France as an anti-Russian factor supporting this issue, ended after 1871. It ended also because, while between the Napoleonic era and the fall of the Second Empire, it was possible to imagine that the French regiments would come to the Vistula River, as they did in 1807, and render assistance to us, after 1871 everyone realised that it would be impossible, because the Germans were united and, therefore, the French wouldn’t come here anymore. Defending themselves would be already a great achievement, let alone coming to the Vistula River. Therefore, it was obvious that we couldn’t count on any assistance on the part of France; on that of Great Britain all the more. And as for the British ... here, we could have some deep deliberation about their attitude towards the January Uprising.
What was the function of the uprising from the perspective that you have mentioned, namely, that the Polish issue was part of a certain game, and from the perspective of Western states?
If we were to talk about the place of the January Uprising in the international game, we would have to go back to the Italian issue. This is, of course, the beginning of the game. I will present the way it looked from the point of view of the most important players involved in the game, namely: Russia, France, Great Britain, Austria and Prussia. This is the big five that is playing with each other.
After the Crimean War, in 1857, Napoleon III and Alexander II met in Stuttgart, where both monarchs entered into an informal alliance. The Russians were furious at the attitude of Austria during the Crimean War, which they regarded as a treacherous betrayal in the light of the benefits of the assistance which they offered to the Habsburgs fighting against Hungary during the Spring of Nations. And suddenly, the wicked Austrians prevented them from winning during the Crimean War, and they almost joined the anti-Russian coalition and, therefore, they deserve punishment. The Russians would be eager to harm the Habsburgs, but Napoleon was already planning the French action in Italy. Of course, the action was of an anti-Austrian nature and it consisted in removing the Austrian influence and replacing it with French.
So it wasn’t about unification of Italy, it was rather about replacing one hegemony with another. But the Italians took matters into their own hands and the history unfolded differently?
Yes. Besides, it was the beginning of fruitful cooperation between France and Russia, which had just been fighting each other in the Crimean War, and in 1857, they began to cooperate. For France, the profit was that Russia promised to set up an observation corps on the Galician border in order to disperse the Austrian forces. The French benefited from this during the Italian campaign. In return, they supported Russian interests against Austria in the Balkans.
And what happened? It transpired that, following Austria's defeat, the Italian issue was settled without any involvement of Great Britain, which has been eliminated from this game. And so, from London's point of view, the situation looks as follows: a diplomatic and political French-Russian coalition is emerging, and these are the two largest powers on the continent, so if they establish cooperation with each other on a permanent basis, they will be setting all European issues without asking for London's opinion.
For example: Italy.
They settled the matter and they didn't even ask. And now they are making arrangements regarding the Balkans. Creating such a system in Europe is dangerous for the British, because it means eliminating their influence on the situation. And it is even more dangerous (deadly threatening) for Prussia.
Therefore, from this point of view, something should be done to disrupt the Franco-Russian cooperation – that’s how these capital cities were perceiving this emerging problem. Franco-Russian cooperation is not easy; there are two pitfalls in this field. On the one hand, Napoleon has to reckon with his own public opinion, which is, traditionally, very pro-Polish. As a result, already at the peace congress in Paris, which ended the Crimean war, Russians assumed some informal obligations towards Poland – regarding liberalisation and the Post-Sevastopol Thaw. Let us use it as a kind of a slogan, since there were no formal commitments.
The Russians were aware that liberalisation policy in the Kingdom of Poland was necessary in the international game, so that Napoleon could justify his cooperation with Russia before his own public opinion, which he had to take into account. Napoleon, on the other hand, was aware that he could not lay out any demands regarding the Polish case to the Russian government. If he made them publicly, he would only stiffen up the position, because the Russians couldn’t allow a situation in which someone demands something from them and they have to yield to the demands. And so, they can give something of their own choosing, but they do not want to make any commitments. And both sides were aware of the delicacy of this situation. The French officially don’t demand anything in the Polish case, while the Russians are liberalising – knowing that if this cooperation is to be continued, Napoleon must have some arguments for his public opinion; otherwise, they will say that the tsar is oppressing Poles and Napoleon cooperates with him. Therefore, this cooperation is facing a threat and that threat is the Polish issue.
On the other hand, the unification of Italy gives Poles the conviction that it is possible to achieve national goals. National unification, independence, and all that with the support of one of the superpowers: France. So these are not only dreams; after all, once the Italians succeeded, why shouldn’t we try to do the same? And we have a fresh example, because the Italians managed to achieve national unification with the support of France. However, our analysts missed the fact that Italy was dealing with a single European power which opposed their national objectives…
And it was not Russia [laughs].
And it was not Russia, that's the point. In addition, they bordered with France, so its assistance was easier to achieve than in the case of Poland, which would require opposing the three superpowers in a situation of considerable distance to the Polish territories, with which, after all, France had no borders. Well, but “these are only details.”
All this lasts until 1863, but let us mention that since the early 1860s, that is in 1861, 1862, Western public opinion and diplomats are getting accustomed to the fact that something is happening in Poland: the tension is gradually increasing. We have five fallen ones, then we have a slaughter at the Castle Square, we have martial law – obviously, something is constantly happening here. This is not yet an armed crisis, but they know that Poland is troubled and the tension is growing. At the same time, the policy of liberalisation is maintained until a certain point in time. On the one hand, there is oppression. On the other hand, there is Wielopolski, so the Russians can claim that the policy of concessions is being continued. Of course, there are some troublemakers and they have to be stopped, but in general, the line of conduct towards Poles, which is expected by Paris, is followed. This, in turn, allows Napoleon to maintain good relations with Russia.
In this case, the turning point is the Alvensleben Convention of 8 February 1863, on cooperation with Prussia in the fight against the January Uprising. This creates a situation in which the Polish case, which has so far had an intra-Russian dimension, becomes the subject of an international (Prussian-Russian) agreement.
So if the Prussians can take a stand on the previously internal Russian case, then the French can do the same.
But in the event of a conflict with Russia, the French have nothing to win and everything to lose. The aim of French policy is to achieve the natural French border on the Rhine, and this can be achieved in Prussia, not Russia. Therefore, the entire activity of the French diplomacy, following the Alvensleben Convention, is directed against Prussia. Hence, the proposal addressed to London is a proposal of a joint French-British diplomatic intervention in the Polish case in Berlin – that is in Prussia, not Russia.
And how do the British react to this?
Of course, they see it as an opportunity. If you have a situation in which a great European superpower, in an unprovoked and openly unfair manner ,announces conscription to the Russian army, thus provoking defenceless people to grab weapons (which they actually don't have) in despair, and that superpower has a huge advantage over them, then you are dealing with a giant who oppresses an innocent weakling and forces him to rise up. At the same time, another superpower joins in. This is, in the eyes of the British, a breach of all fair play rules in general: two bullies beating a small and defenceless person. For this reason, the British public opinion reacts very unfavourably to Russia.
But the diplomats are looking at this completely differently, namely: “The French want to persuade us to support the Polish case, but in Berlin, they want us to intervene against the Prussians. And our aim is to disrupt the Franco-Russian cooperation; to destroy the tandem that decided on the fate of Europe without our participation. In such circumstances, we will propose a joint intervention with France in St. Petersburg. After all, the French has just publicly announced that they supported Poles, so now they cannot refuse our proposal and say “No, no, we can support you in Berlin, but not in St. Petersburg.” It turns out that the proposal of the British note to St. Petersburg is even more strict than the French one. And the French… They cannot refuse, since they were the first to support Poles. They have no choice but to get involved. This means that a diplomatic conflict with Russia is starting. Hence, the existing agreement is broken. In fact, this is probably a mutual step: when the Russians enter into an agreement with Prussia on the Polish issue, they respond to French notes in a rather unceremonious manner, which Paris may perceive as a pro-Prussian turn in Russian policy. In any case, it transpires that the Polish issue (without going into further games, because there will still be a couple of these), from the British point of view, is a certain tool for destroying the Franco-Russian cooperation, which constitutes a threat to British influence. And from the Austrian point of view, the January Uprising is a desirable problem for Russia.
Since the Russians must now deal with the Poles, their pressure on the Balkans must be reduced. Austrian behaviour is completely different from Prussian. Insurgent troops are forming in Galicia, they cross the border and march in order to join the uprising, and the Austrians are turning a blind eye on these events throughout 1863. This, in turn, creates an impression of ambiguity in St. Petersburg about Vienna's attitude towards the insurrection in the Russian Partition. This impression is unjustified, because there is a kind of passivity in Austrian policy; at first, the local administration does not really know how to respond to the Polish uprising. The commands are unclear – they order to intern all those crossing the border from the Kingdom or from the Russian Partition to Galicia, but they do not say anything about those who cross it in the other direction [laughs]. And here, it turns out that such an unforeseen phenomenon exists, so the troops from Galicia can enter the Kingdom. On the border, the Austrians are detaining those fleeing from the battlefield, but not those who are entering it, at least not at the beginning. This is left to the decision of the local administration, which does not want to take responsibility for exacerbating the situation. And so, from St. Petersburg's point of view, this gives an impression of Austria's tacit support of the uprising. Probably, this cannot be interpreted in this way, but such an impression arises among the Russian authorities, especially in contrast to Prussia’s readiness to join the suppression of the uprising.
Bismarck is, of course, extremely anti-Polish and he pushes forward the statement that if the Russians withdraw, then the Prussians will have to intervene; that is clear. Then Napoleon's game begins. His family and court environment, semi-officially formulates various ideas about remodelling of the European map. They suggest that Austria would give up Galicia in exchange for Moldavia and Walachia and that there would be various reshuffles as well. Yet, these proposals essentially require Austria to take the main risk, for which it is obviously not ready, because, first, it would have to renounce Venice, their influence in Italy, and Galicia, and they would benefit only if the war is won.
From the Austrian point of view, these French proposals are completely untrustworthy, and in Vienna, it is well remembered that the Sardinian-French alliance ‘expired’ in the middle of the war. The French committed themselves to helping Italy recover Venice and Lombardy, while, in fact, they withdrew before the war ended. So who knows, perhaps, they will abandon the Austrians now? As a result, building something on French solidity is not the best idea, and a war with Russia is not at all a tempting idea to anyone. On the other hand, the Austrians are aware that if war broke out in connection with the Polish case, they would have to take sides and they would probably choose France and Great Britain. Yet, in Great Britain, nobody wants to hear about a war with Russia over the Polish issue.
The situation on the islands, as rightly and interestingly pointed out by Wereszycki, is different than it was on the eve of the Crimean War. First of all, there is no longer a feeling that Russia – just like during the reign of Nicholas I – is a huge, growing power that has to be broken before it is too late. No, currently, Russia is a country that was beaten in the Crimean War. It is not so dangerous anymore, not so strong, so there is no fear of its omnipotence. Secondly, there is also no significant factor, let us call it a lobbyist one, that existed during the Crimean War, namely, the East India Company, which was interested in breaking the Russian power and expanding in Asia towards India. The East India Company no longer exists, so there is no environment that would push the British government towards a conflict with Russia. Of course, the British support the Poles in a moral sense, that is, they would have nothing against a form of Poland being created, but they imagine it in a scale of the Congress Kingdom or the Duchy of Warsaw; as some kind of a buffer state between Prussia and Russia, which would be primarily weakening for Russia. But they do not want it to be bigger, because bigger and more powerful Poland would be a bastion of French influence.
In addition, the British and Austrians have common interests in the Balkans, as both powers wish to stop Russia and this is their platform for cooperation, but it is distorted by other views on Austria's future in Italy. That is why Palmerston wanted the Austrians to get rid of Venice, focus on the Balkans and defend themselves from Russian influence, instead of getting into trouble in Italy and carrying out disputes with France. Therefore, Austrian-British cooperation in this field would be useful, but it also has its limitations. And the Austrians, of course, are very reluctant to think about a war with Russia, and they think that it would only be possible after France and Great Britain would start it; not before then.
On the other hand, France's attitude is described in the literature as quite a vivid comparison, which is in contrast to certain behaviours of Napoleonic officers of the First Empire who, by their personal example, encouraged their soldiers to attack. Meanwhile, Julian Klaczko, one of the Polish commentators at that time, described the attitude of Napoleon III towards the January Uprising in the following way: France, speaking about this issue on the international arena, is shouting: “Go! I will follow you” – instead of calling: “I'm going! Follow me!”. It was clear that in this way, nobody would be persuaded to take responsibility for causing the conflict.
It also transpires that Russians are enduring the pressure from diplomacy of the European powers, that is the three notes on the Polish case filed in St. Petersburg in April, June, and August, 1863, each time by France, Austria and Great Britain. The third ones, filed in August, were, in fact, just a confession of failure; an attempt to withdraw from a worrying situation and a statement that the responsibility for further development of events in Poland falls on the Russian side. And Russia replies: “Yes, it does. So what?”. And, actually, it turned out that no one was prepared to intervene in favour of the Polish case. But the diplomacy goals of some of the superpowers taking part in this game have been achieved. Franco-Russian cooperation has been destroyed, which was the goal of London, and France has lost another element in the European game (Russia), on which it could rely. This was Paris's path towards solitude, which would manifest itself in 1871. France is now in conflict with Russia. It is in conflict with Austria as well (regarding the Italian matters), and Prussia is an obvious opponent. And so, only Great Britain remains, and it is looking at France of the Second Empire with mixed feelings, constantly wondering what Napoleon III will come up with next. Russia remains victorious because it repulsed the diplomatic pressure of all the powers. Poles are the biggest loser, and Prussia finishes the game with the biggest profits, although immediately after the Alvensleben Convention, they have a moment of panic and fear. But, ultimately, it transpires that the balance is as follows: they get another credit of trust in St. Petersburg, Russia will trust their actions on the international arena and it will allow them to unite Germany (or, actually, it will be too late for Russia to realise that things are going in a direction, inconvenient to it). In the eyes of St. Petersburg, Austria confirms the opinion of perfidious Vienna. The Austrians, along with Paris and London, send a note to St. Petersburg on the Polish issue, albeit with different content than other powers. At the same time, the ambassador handing these notes takes out some correspondence and says: “In fact - you can read it – we don’t want to make any trouble, but we must formally support the position of the Western powers”. This is a kind of duality of Austrian diplomacy, which publicly, on the international arena, wants to appear as a fair power that supports the oppressed Poles (or at least speaks in favour of them in some way) and, at the same time, behind the scenes, tells Russia that it's all just a bluff. They explain to the Russians that they have to act in this way, but in reality, they don't want to become involved in a conflict with Russia. In the eyes of Russian diplomacy, this is a two-faced game, confirming the opinion about Austria from the time of the Crimean War, that it is a state that should not be trusted and, in fact, the real relations with such a neighbour will always be suspicious.
Therefore, the Polish case serves as one of the elements of a game, a very complicated game in which every player has its own goals and finding a final solution to the Polish issue isn’t anyone’s ultimate goal. This is not a game about the Polish issue; it is a game which merely involves the issue. This is how it can be summed up, although with a reservation that this may be the very nature of politics; that’s how all of its games are played. Only some of them will reach a stage in which an issue, functioning as an element of a certain puzzle, becomes the leading issue for some reasons and, consequently, becomes resolved.