Geopolitics and Literature of Romanticism
Added: 2017-10-30
Added: 2017-10-30
Polityka zagraniczna pod znakiem romantyzmu

[in:] Przeklęte miejsce Europy? Dylematy polskiej geopolityki, OMP, Cracow 2009.


1. Explanations:

A look at geopolitical problems from the perspective of cultural history must be slightly different from their analysis from the viewpoint of classical political history. This follows from the fact that a cultural historian should pose questions that are usually ignored both by political historians and most literary scholars, those perceived as marginal to great politics and seen as just one of many contexts, measured by specific metrics, namely the achievements of literature, criticism, or philosophical and social thought. Meanwhile, this peculiar border area between Polish politics and culture in the period of romantic national uprisings and the Great Emigration seems to be, for several reasons, particularly relevant and attractive in cognitive terms.

First of all, during the series of political and military events which were of crucial importance for the Polish nation, from the Bar Confederation (1768-1772) to the Napoleonic wars and the Vienna Congress (1815), Poland’s fate depended, one time after another, on the changeable balance of international powers with a vast territory spanning all Europe – from Russia and Turkey in the east to England in the west. Secondly, Polish society of that period started to develop a strong awareness of the importance of those external conditions. Obviously, this resulted from the search for political support abroad and attempts to exploit the international situation by the leaders of the Bar Confederation, the Four-Year Sejm, or the Legions, as well as Pole’s first mass experiences of political emigration and the first wave of exiles to Siberia. Thus, in the period between the outbreak of the uprising started by the Bar Confederation and the creation of the Kingdom of Poland in 1815, three generations of Polish political elites and broad-ranging masses of ordinary participants in history were taught a practical and exceptionally painful lesson in geopolitics.

Another phenomenon which distinguished that period, especially in the eyes of a literary historian, was the emergence, in parallel to the thought of Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) and the books of Madame de Staël (1766-1817), of an awareness of the geocultural diversity of the European continent. The diversity was perceived as rooted in the primeval tribal heritage of the Romans, Germans and Slavs, and thus as determined by a distant history, but at the same time, as emanating onto the present and future of Europe. Historicism, which characterised culture in the first half of the 19th century, also entailed widespread thinking – not just about literature – in terms of geocultural oppositions. In literature, this was manifested by relying on such oppositions as that between the classical South and the romantic North, the rationalist West and the irrational East, and distinguishing between specific countries and regions, previously peripheral ones, and in the 1820s, by affording them new meanings: political or cultural ones. This was how Greece was perceived during the anti-Ottoman uprising of 1821-1829.

Romanticism was therefore rejecting the universalist model of thinking about civilization typical of the Enlightenment, focusing instead on the value of what was local and peculiar to individual nations and countries in the context of their history and cultural heritage. While the Enlightenment was essentially centralist in its perception of Europe – as a continent bound by a common culture of educated elites, based on the French language – romanticism created a picture of Europe as a mosaic of languages, cultures, historical and state traditions. The activity of the Polish political elites in the international arena, especially during the Great Emigration, was therefore determined in two ways: by the actual international situation, and by the specific culture of the epoch. In the Polish lands, this had, through literature, an influence – which is difficult to assess and which is not to be ignored – on the perception of the eternal place of our nation in Europe, and thus indirectly on concrete political concepts.

Romantics, whose position in this respect was best explained by Maurycy Mochnacki, placed Poland in the cultural North of the continent. According to Mochnacki, given its specificities, the Poles’ culture was distinguishable not for the classical Mediterranean heritage, but instead “Slavic antiquity, mythology of the North, and the spirit of the Middle Ages”[1]. Even though the above formula is taken from a text which can be considered a manifesto concerning poetry, poetics was not treated at the time in narrow aesthetic terms, but was considered as an aspect of the general theory of culture. In the above broad context, Romantic thought had its graspable and definable cultural and political implications. Thus, the cultural ennoblement of “the medieval spirit” entailed interest in the legendary origins of the Polish state and the Piast era, which attracted attention towards the cultural and geographical space of the Great Poland and Little Poland regions. On the other hand, preromantic medievalism led writers associated with Vilnius to a situation where they started to treat the history of the medieval, pagan Lithuania – the domains of Mindaugas, Gediminas, and Kęstutis – as an element of Polish cultural identity. The idea of ​​Slavonic antiquity, promoted at the time by Zorian Dołęga-Chodakowski, inspired the romantic Slavophilia, which – through the “Ukrainian school” of literature – nurtured, in the years 1830-1848, the political concepts of Polish-Ukrainian brotherhood and, around 1848, encouraged seeking opportunities for cooperation with the Bohemians, and later with the South Slavs.

Finally, the third aspect which deserves interest from historians is the direct involvement of writers in political activities, especially at international level, which was characteristic of the whole epoch – from the Four Year Sejm to the January Uprising. Naturally, examples of politicians who engaged in literature and writers who dealt with politics, for examples as diplomats, are quite common in history. In Western Europe, this applies in particular to the times before the second half of the 19th century, when the literary profession and literature ultimately emerged as autonomous fields under the influence of the market and modernist trends. In the east of Europe and in the countries which were undergoing a national rebirth towards the end of the 19th century that linkage between literature and politics lasted longer. Naturally, in Poland, the fact that writers were brought closer to politics, including foreign policy, in the strict sense was caused by the Partitions, which deprived us of a sovereign state and, from the fall of the Kościuszko Uprising, forced the most active members of the elites dedicated to independence into emigration.


2. Concepts of the geocultural position of Poland in Europe

Understanding any concepts of the romantic Polish policy requires answering what specific cultural geographic area corresponded to the notion of Poland in the consciousness of writers and politicians of that epoch. Even a cursory review of writings in this regard leads to a conclusion that, at the time of the non-sovereign forms of Polish statehood, such as the Duchy of Warsaw or the Kingdom of Poland, which were limited territorially to the parts of the former Crown surrounding Warsaw, Poland was seen, in an obvious and common way, as the entire territory of the Commonwealth as it had existed before the First Partition. This can be concluded on the basis of both the late writings of Hugon Kołłątaj and Stanisław Staszic, as well as Poles’ attitude towards Napoleon’s war with Russia in 1812, which – as Adam Mickiewicz wrote after years – was widely welcomed as a liberation war aimed, from the Polish perspective, towards the unification of the Duchy of Warsaw and the parts of Poland lying east of the then border on the Niemen River. After 1815, the obviousness of the belief that Poland consisted of the lands of all the three Partitions was evidenced, in the first place, by the maintenance in the eastern ‘Taken Lands’ of the self-government of the Polish gentry, the Polish civil law (the Lithuanian Statutes applied there until the early 1840s), and the existence of autonomous Polish education in the Vilnius School District, with Vilnius University and the Krzemieniec Lyceum.  The students of those Polish schools, many of whom became the most eminent Polish Romanticists, would consolidate for the whole century the conviction that future Poland was to be seen as corresponding to the historical Poland: as a political entity uniting the Polish, Lithuanian, and Ruthenian territories.

At the time of the November Uprising, such perception of Poland was common among Polish elites, even though it took different forms on different sides of the political division. Already in the earliest hours of the November Uprising, in their talks with Grand Duke Konstantin, the representatives of the Provisional Polish Government indicated the need to incorporate the “Taken Lands” into the Kingdom of Poland, and soon thereafter, the envoys of the Government to Sankt Petersburg received instructions to address this subject during the negotiations. In addition, from the beginning of the Uprising, the leaders of the conspiracy sought the insurgent operations to spread to the territories behind the Bug River. This cause was advocated by Mochnacki in his Powstanie narodu polskiego (The Uprising of the Polish Nation), who considered extending the liberation war to the Eastern Borderlands to be an essential condition for the success of the insurgence as a whole:


The 29 November revolutionaries knew it well, even before the outbreak of the Uprising, that it was only by armed intrusion into the Taken Lands and turning all the dozen or so million Poles there (the whole southern (!) foundation of the State) against Moscow that the Uprising would mange to extricate itself from the series of events, which had no future, were deficient in terms of their purpose, and were unlikely to be successful in terms of their consequences[2].


An image of Poland extending from the south, across the Ukrainian borderlands, to the Lithuanian and Samogitian north also emerges from the Song of Our Land (Pieśń o ziemi naszej, 1842) by Wincenty Pol. Certainly, the author of this popular poem, participant in the Uprising in Lithuania, poet and geographer, had the greatest effect on the shape of the Polish patriotic geography throughout the Partition period. As he wrote in it, “And do you, young brother / know those families of yours? / The Highlanders and Lithuanians, / and the holy Samogitia and Ruthenians?”. In general, before Sienkiewicz, it was precisely the culture of the Romantic period that had the greatest contribution to the eastward shift of the Polish cultural and political centre. Antoni Malczewski’s Maria (1825), Bohdan Zaleski’s dumkas, and Juliusz Slowacki’s poems made the Poles look at the Ukrainian steppe not only as a scenery of Polish national history, but also as a typically Polish, native landscape. This can even be said about the work of Zygmunt Krasiński, whose family was – after all – from Mazovia, but who placed some of the action of the Non-Divine Comedy (Nie-Boska Komedia) in Okopy Svyatoyi Triytsi (in Podolia), and who confronted, in his Daybreak (Przedświt, 1843), visions of the southern Alpine landscape with the image of snow-covered steppe as a symbolic equivalent of typical Polish scenery: “Do you know the silent winter steppe / Where the spirits of your fathers sleep in graves?"

The territorial-cultural boundaries of Poland and Polishness, which comprised, from the times of Mickiewicz to as far as Piłsudski, Lithuania and Ruthenia, defined, firstly, the peculiar understanding of those notions as such, and secondly, determined in a new and essential manner the overall nature of the pro-independence thinking and action of the post-Partition generations. The underlying concept at the beginning and the end of the above thinking was the same: Poland as a territorially vast state with a political form uniting three great nations and cultures. Such Poland was not to neighbour on Lithuania and Ukraine to the east, but instead on Russia and Turkey. Such an image of Poland, which as if pre-defined the horizons of the Polish Romantic geopolitics, was best summerised by the literary critic Michał Grabowski. Notably, he did it in a text published in Russian and intended for Russian readers, perhaps because explaining this to the Poles would be considered as stating the obvious. When comparing the cause to be advocated by the Polish historical novel to that previously addressed by Walter Scott, who had ulogised the history of the small Scotland, Grabowski wrote the following:


Scotland and its history are only a small part of the family of European nations, while Poland is not a separate nation, but a great political system, incorporating the history of several nations, and as such, it occupies a greater and more prominent place. Before Russia emerged on the European political scene, it had been Poland that had represented the entire north-east of the continent, and Polish literature expressed its internal life, showing the existence of all the nations of Eastern Europe for several centuries[3].


The author, who remained a political loyalist throughout his life, believed that the Poland he was referring to had fallen and had been replaced in its role as the organiser of life in the north-east of the continent by the Russian empire. But the pro-independent Romantics, who did not want to reconcile with such realities, sought to rebuild precisely the Poland Grabowski was referring to in a past tense, one that would not be “a separate nation, but a great political system.” For this reason, their attempt to revive the pre-Partition Commonwealth as the political organiser of the entire region inevitably gave their actions an international dimension and continent-wide horizons.


3. Poland and Russia

The generation of the November Uprising, who included all the writers and political activists relevant in our context, were the last one for whom tsarist Russia was the sole opponent in the plans to restore the pre-Partition Poland. At the time, no such obstacle was posed by national pro-independence movements of the Ukrainians and Lithuanians, which emerged and entered the game later on. Our Romanticists did not generally anticipate the kind of consequences of their own agenda for awakening national cultures, namely the formation, after years, of the cultural and political Ukrainian and Lithuanian nationalism. They considered their own proposals, which boiled down to the restoration of the Commonwealth and democratisation and modernisation of the social relations within its borders, to be sufficiently attractive also for the Ukrainian and Lithuanian peoples. Apart from disputable exceptions, Polish Romantics failed to foresee the subsequent eruption of pro-independence aspirations on the part of the Ukrainians and Lithuanians, and failed to prepare any response strategies. In this regard, the views of the poets of the “Ukrainian school”, Mickiewicz, Słowacki, and other members of the emigrant Lithuanian and Ruthenian Lands Society (Towarzystwo Litewskie i Ziem Ruskich) proved to be largely utopian, which seems to have been proven by the failure of Pilsudski’s federalisation plans in the next century.

However, the question is whether they were utopian at the beginning too, and whether, had Poland regained independence as a result of the ‘miracle’ heralded in Sir Thaddeus, during the Spring of Nations or as a result of the Crimean War, the common political fate of the Poles, Ukrainians and Lithuanians would not have been utterly different. The optimistic assumptions of the romantic pro-independence thought included efforts towards a quick defeat of the Russian empire, and thus its rapid downfall, over a period spanning one generation. Michał Grabowski’s friends from the society of writers known as the ‘Saint Petersburg Coterie,’ saw it differently, more realistically, but emigrant writers could not have known that Tsarist Russia would last until 1917, and thus were unaware of all the negative events and processes for the Poles which would take place in the Eastern Borderlands until the outbreak of World War I and later.

Therefore writers of the Great Emigration were justified in their seeing Russia as the sole enemy. Furthermore, the perception of Russia was the second – in addition to the agenda for the restitution of the pre-Partition Commonwealth – determinant of all Polish political strategies. The Polish attitude towards Russia which emerged during and after the fall of the November Uprising was based on two major disappointments. The first of these was the disappointment with Alexander I of Russia, who, in the early years of the Kingdom of Poland, was seen by the Polish elites in Warsaw and Vilnius almost as a saviour – a ruler who guaranteed that the boundaries of the Kingdom he had created would rejoin with the “Taken Lands”, and who gave hopes that “a Poland” would be rebuild in alliance with Russia, and – perhaps – that Russia itself would undergo liberalisation.

The second Polish disappointment connected with Russia was the failure of the Decembrist revolt, or rather failure of the illusory Polish expectations that the ideas of freedom in Russia were capable of surviving the execution of Ryleyev and other conspirators, or that there would be any significant response to the Polish slogan “for your and our freedom.” Although the Polish call was indeed noticed by some Decembrists (those who survived) and by the young Herzen, the Russians mainly sent hostile replies, including poems by Pushkin (To the Slanderers of Russia) and Vasily Zhukovsky (Song on the Capture of Warsaw), which were in defiance of the Polish myatezhniks (Russian for rebels)[4]. Mickiewicz aptly commented on both these disappointments in hisForefathers’ Eve Part III. The poem, and in particular its epic “Ustęp” (Epilogue), also provided the most evocative vision of the rule of the Russian empire, an archetypal picture of the Russian natural scenery, an analysis of the slave soul of the Russian people, and a satire on the official culture of the Tsarist state as a superficial imitation and unintended parody of the Western European Enlightenment.

In his later Lectures on Slavic Literature, Mickiewicz stressed even more powerfully the influence of the Mongol rule on the character of the Russians, the emergence of the Muscovy, its political system and the necessity of external expansion as the key principle and purpose underlying its existence. Obviously, it would be impossible to summarise here, even briefly, the concepts concerning Russia, both those proposed by the poet himself, and his numerous followers, such as Zygmunt Krasiński, Henryk Kamieński or, towards the end of the epoch, Apollo Nałęcz-Korzeniowski. Suffice it to say that the mainstream political thought of Polish Romanticism always depicted Russia as the opposite of the type of civilisation represented by Poland, its republican political system, its political objectives and interests, and – despite the frequently stressed fact that both nations have the same Slavic roots – its national uniqueness. No agreement could be sought with the Russia as it was perceived by the Poles during the November Uprising and thereafter[5]. In order for such agreement to be reached, Poles would have to admit that they had been ultimately defeated; and the attempts to conduct the Realpolitik as proposed by the Saint Petersburgh Coterie resulted from doubts, if not definitive abandonment of hopes for future independence.

However, for an overwhelming majority of the public in Poland and for all the émigrés this was unacceptable. Therefore, any pro-independence political initiatives of the Romantic period were directed at the tsar and his interests. Consequently, apart from some Russian revolutionaries exiled to Siberia, allies for such initiatives could only be found among the governments and nations engaged in a permanent or temporary conflict with Russia. At the time, only Turkey remained in a lasting conflict of interest with St. Petersburg, while two Western Powers, England and France, were engaged in a temporary dispute with the Tsarist empire during the Crimean War. In spite of this, the diplomatic efforts of the Hôtel Lambert and the propaganda of the entire Polish emigration were oriented to persuading the public and politicians representing the West that Russia is a serious threat not only to Poland but also to them. Such were basically the determinants of Polish geopolitics in the first half of the post-Partition period.


4. Towards the West

In general, the pro-French orientation of the Polish independence policy in the period from the Bar Confederation to Napoleon’s defeat started to be verified after 1815, when the ruling elite of the Kingdom of Poland diverted its attention to the English political model and began to look for opportunities for political and economic cooperation with England[6]. That policy shift resulted from the perception of the British constitutional monarchy as an optimal model of the state system, which was a view shared by Adam Czartoryski and the liberal ‘Kalisz Opposition’ movement. Thus the 1820s can be considered to be the true beginning of the history of Polish orientation towards England. Incidentally, the Anglophilic political views of the Polish elites coincided with their developing a great fondness of English literature, including Shakespeare, the British novel (Walter Scott) and poetry by Byron. The then stereotypical image of England as an “island of freedom” and the liberal cult of Cromwell (common to the insurgents in Warsaw and Paris before the July Revolution) were reflected in Juliusz Słowacki’s Ode to Freedom, written at the beginning of December 1830. In August 1831, its author would travel to London as a diplomatic courier, carrying correspondence on a loan the Polish National Government was requesting from England, and which was not ultimately granted on account of the previous defeat of the Uprising. The echoes of Słowacki’s English experience would soon reverberate in the second act of Kordian.

However, the English diplomatic episode in Słowacki’s biography and his literary interest in England were preceded by publications and experience of other Polish authors. Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, who arrived in England (via Sweden) together with Tadeusz Kościuszko in 1797, after he had been freed from Russian prison, was the first and most important link between Warsaw and the world of English (and American) literature and politics. Niemcewicz was the first Polish translator of English romantic ballads and maintained literary and political relations in England, also during and after the November Uprising. As early as the 1820s, two interesting accounts of journey to England and Scotland were produced: by Krystyn Lach-Szyrma and Karol Sienkiewicz, who were tutors for the Czartoryskis, and the purpose of their trips to Great Britain, which was still an exotic country to Poles, was to gather information about various aspects of British life, from agriculture to literature, and then share them with the Polish public[7]. This made them highly useful for the political agenda pursued by Adam Czartoryski. Soon, Polish aristocratic families started to send their sons to study in Edinburgh (the Czartoryski, Zamoyski, Łubienski families), and in Geneva Zygmunt Krasinski became friends with Henry Reeve, who, at the beginning of his long political career, visited Kraków in 1836, and recommended the British government to establish a British consulate in the Republic of Cracow (which unfortunately did not happen). Earlier, endeavours to create such a consulate in Warsaw had been made in London on behalf of Adam Czartoryski by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, who would often meet with leading English politicians (Grey, Palmenston) in 1830-1832, insisting just before the defeat of the Uprising that the British government should recognise the independence of Warsaw, and after the defeat, issued diplomatic notes against the violation of the rights of nations by Russia. His efforts remained ineffective, contrary to the actions addressed to the English public, who sympathised with Poland, as evidenced by the activity of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland, numerous publications and rallies, as well as practical aid for emigrants.

As is commonly known, after the defeat of the Uprising, Paris became the main arena for Polish émigrés’ activities, while the policy of the French government and the attitude of the French would once again become the most important external point of reference for the Polish cause. However, before the soldiers and other Polish exiles arrived in Paris, they spent several months, at the turn of 1831-1832, in the German countries. It is well known that this was a period of exceptional German sympathy for the Polish cause, documented in literature by the Polenlieder (Songs of Poland). On the Polish part, a key role in organising aid for the exiles, and in establishing and sustaining the cordial relations with the Germans was played by Wincenty Pol, who was, at the time, the most active collaborator of General Józef Ben and had a perfect command of German, which he had learnt in his family home. Acting as a liaison between the Poles and Germans, he participated, with his characteristic vigour and effectiveness, in the preparation and staging of the triumphant march across Germany and France, which gave the Polish cause the much needed support from Western societies[8]. From the perspective of propaganda, an important element underlying this support was the general conviction among the Poles and their Western friends that the Polish uprising had saved France from an armed intervention by the Russians. Although not all, including the French themselves, shared that belief[9]. However, it contributed to the revival of the old myth of Poland as the “bulwark of Europe” – a myth that was strictly geopolitical in nature and which become a key element of the Polish romantic messianism, as conceived by our poets and strengthened among the community of émigrés.

Presenting even a brief discussion of the involvement of Polish emigrant writers in establishing contacts with the French public and political circles after 1831 in this article would be impossible. However, it can be concluded that all of them were somehow involved in emigrant diplomacy, each of them representing their own political faction and views. Mickiewicz was originally associated with the liberal-Catholic circles, sharing the views of Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais and L’Avenir, and maintaining contacts with Karol Montalembert. As a publicist, he analysed the French political press in 1833, defined the purposes and methods for influencing the French public opinion through propaganda, which was to be done using a Polish daily published in French. His pragmatic attitude was initially accompanied by the expectation of a rapid outbreak of a “general war for the freedom of the peoples”, which followed from the obvious overestimation of the scale of revolutionary sentiments in Western countries. As a result of his conviction that a continent-wide revolt of allied peoples (nations) against the political order maintained by the monarchs was the only way for Poland to regain independence Mickiewicz felt there was no need for diplomatic efforts at European courts. On the other hand, this meant that – as he put it – “the freedom cause was a European cause.” According to this assumption, Mickiewicz conducted all his later activities in an effort to exert influence on the French politics (through his lectures at the Collège de France), on the Italian policy (at the time when the Legion[10] was being formed, in 1848), and – the following year – again on the situation in France, in La Tribune des Peuples (People’s Tribune), by reporting on and evaluating revolutionary developments in several European countries.

The international nature of Mickiewicz’s activities and the exceptionally sharp and morally motivated (which is generally underestimated) contestation of the official policy and diplomacy were characteristic of the poet’s political stance, at least from the time when he published his Books and the Pilgrimage of the Polish Nation (1833). But in his attitude to France and, more generally, to the whole of the West, one can also see some characteristic ambivalence. Mickiewicz the publicist believed that it was the people, a category he understood in his own peculiar way, that were Poland’s sole ally in the West. By contrast, he referred to the Western elites: economic, political, and – importantly – also intellectual ones (“wise men”), with repeated, ironic and indiscriminate criticism. This creates an apparent contradiction, which is sometimes  overestimated by researchers, between the messianism of the Books and the Pilgrimage of the Polish Nation and the Polish-French messianism dating back to the period of the Paris Lectures. This dualism, which is not actually a contradiction, is clearly reflected in the two different ways in which Mickiewicz defined the relations between the Poles and the peoples of Western Europe. On the one hand, he saw Polish culture as a reflection and integral part of the European, Western civilisation associated with Christianity. On the other, he saw Poland as the exact opposite of the West, on account of it being a Slavic country and the historical “bulwark of Christianity,” which was faithful to the evangelical principles, but shielded the Europe of absolute monarchs, enlightened philosophers, and capitalists from the east. This paradox is only ostensible. Even though, at times it led him to formulate various strong anti-Western views, their strength should be attributed to the poet’s emigrant nostalgia and should not be seen as indicative of plans or even a vision of Poland’s future as a country politically (or culturally) detached from the west and south of the continent.

Similar dualism in the perception of the relations between Poland and the West is also demonstrated by Słowacki and Krasiński, and it always appears in the works of all the three poets in the context of messianism. This is best exemplified by Krasiński’s writings. In his emotional and visionary Daybreak (1843), he proclaims a contradiction between the Christian and knightly Poland of the 17th century and the materialised, mercantile Europe of the modern period. But in his political addresses (memoriały polityczne) to the leaders of the West, Krasiński consistently depicts Poland as the vanguard of the Western civilization in the East. For example, when addressing Pius IX, Krasiński presents Poland as a bastion of Catholicism, while in his writings to Lamartine and Guizot, he emphasises the social uniqueness of the Polish gentry as the actual counterpart of the French third state in the East European realities[11]. In conclusion, leaving nuances aside, it can be said that the difference between his Daybreak and the political addresses is one between political poetry and political prose. Contrary to the prevailing stereotype, the romantics were also apt at using political prose.


5. In Turkey and in the Balkans

As is well known, the last act of Adam Mickiewicz’s political involvement was his departure to Turkey in the autumn of 1855. Although the author of Sir Thaddeus was an exceptional poet, his political experience was not unique against the background of a large proportion of the Polish writers of his period, especially émigrés. Their dedication to conspiracy, their fight as insurgents, and finally their participation in diplomatic missions and acting as political correspondents (agents) in different countries was typical of writers throughout the period spanning the Polish national uprisings. The wide array of such personalities includes three names of esteemed Polish authors with merit to Polish literature who combined their literary interests with active political activity in the lands of South Slavs and Tyrkey[12]. They were Michał Czajkowski (1804-1886), Roman Zmorski (1822-1867), and Zygmunt Miłkowski (1824-1915), who was active for much longer and was known under the penname ‘Teodor Tomasz Jeż.’

Michał Czajkowski, who arrived in Constantinople in 1841 as the leading agent of the the Hôtel Lambert in the East, was to contribute – through the informal relationships he established at the Sultan’s court – to the outbreak of the Crimean War. He was supported by his wife Ludwika Śniadecka, the eccentric daughter of Jędrzej Śniadecki, and Juliusz Słowacki’s youthful love, who had long lived in Turkey. The political role of Czajkowski at the time requires further research, but if it was not as great as he himself claimed in his memoirs, it must nevertheless be remembered that his conversion to Islam in 1850 was forced by Russian pressure to expel him from Turkey[13]. This implied that the Russians (as well as the Austrians) considered him at the time to be an influential – and from their perspective – dangerous politician. Most probably, Mehmet Sadyk Pasha, as Czajkowski was also called, owes his success at the Sultan’s court to his eastern mentality (a Polish count with matrilinear Ukrainian roots) and his oriental political ideology, whereby he idealised the Ukrainian Cossacks and dreamed of the restoration by means of the latter of Poland as a monarchy open to the east. While in exile, he committed his ideology to paper by writing novels and short stories, first devoted to Ukrainian topics (Wernyhora, Ukrainian Women, Koshevata), and later to Balkan-Turkish ones (Kirdzali). During the Crimean War, he tried to practice his ideology politically as a commander of the Ottoman Cossack regimens.

Roman Zmorski, another political agent of the Hôtel Lambert, who was on a mission to Serbia during the Crimean War, was among the Polish conspirators of the so-called Second Generation of Romantics, who combined their political activities (and if necessary disguised them) with ethnographic interests. Zmorski, who was implementing his tasks for the Hôtel Lambert in 1855, did so under the pretext of studying Serbian literature, which he actually did. His special merits include translation into Polish of the then highly popular folk songs of the South Slavs (in 1859, his translation of the Serbian epic poem Prince Marko was published)[14]. The example of Zmorski, as well as another Polish poet, Ryszard Berwiński, who, after leaving the Great Poland via Paris, arrived in Constantinople to serve as a captain in an Ottoman Cossack regiment, reveals an interesting regularity. In Poland, both poets were associated with radical democratic circles. However, on account of their emigration and involvement in the Balkans, they had no difficulty establishing links with the Hôtel Lambert, which was the centre of the foreign policy of the émigrés, and certainly the centre of diplomacy.

However, this was not the case for Zygmunt Miłkowski, who after leaving the Partition and joining the Polish Democratic Society became an agent of the Central Committee of the European Democracy in Moldova, and acted, in the following years, often in disguise, as an emissary in Serbia and Bulgaria, and tried to form his own legion in the Turkish Army in 1853-1855. Later he was active in Galicia, and during the January Uprising formed a unit which tried to invade Russia from Romania, but had been earlier disarmed by the Romanians. As late as during the Franco-Prussian War he served as a Turkish military correspondent in Paris[15].

The rich literary writings of Tomasz Teodor Jeż novels is the most powerful expression of the interest in the history, culture and political fate of the South Slavs in all Polish literature. His numerous works dedicated to this subject matter include the following novels, which enjoyed high popularity until mid-20th century: Szandor Kowacz, Uskoki, Narzeczona Hararmbaszy, Rotułowicze, Dachijszczyzna, Herzog słowiański – and many more[16]. Their author was well aware of the great problem of the attitude Poles had towards the Balkans at the time, which lied in their inability to support either side in the Hungarian-Serbian conflict that emerged during the Spring of Nations[17]. On the one hand, the Poles supported the Hungarians on a mass scale, especially in Galicia, with Polish troops joining the Hungarian uprising. On the other hand, the pro-Hungarian attitude of the Poles was an obstacle to their political cooperation with the Croatians and the Serbs, and was in conflict with the romantic idea of Slavophila. This was clearly noticed by Zygmund Krasiński, who regretted in his letters – probably as the only one – the involvement of Poles in the Hungarian uprising, which he saw as a threat to the good relationships with the South Slavs. However, the political involvement of Polish émigrés in the Balkans bore literary rather than political fruit, as it soon became clear that it was Russia that became the main embodiment of Slavophilic ideas in the Balkans.


6. Conclusions

Was the foreign policy our writers participated in a “literary policy,” that is an unrealistic one? After all, it failed to change the English policy after 1830, it did not save Cracow’s autonomy after 1846, did not obtain anything from Napoleon III, and it failed to achieve any of its intended goals during the Crimean War. However, the answer to this question seems a bit more complicated. Given that rebuilding Poland was not actually possible, whether by means of diplomacy or through revolution, placing the Polish cause on the agenda of every European crisis was a value in itself[18]. If the Poles had not championed their cause during each of the romantic revolutions, both in Poland and abroad, granting autonomy to Galicia would not have been an option considered by Vienna at all. The experience of the Great Emigration involved conducting foreign policy without a state. Thus, the people in charge of the policy were not professional diplomats or officials, but instead educated romantic writers, who were ready for everything.

The epoch also bequeathed a new political culture in the field of international relations. It was based on a common conviction that Poland’s chances of regaining independence depended essentially on favourable international developments. This awareness was transplanted, inter alia by such publicists as Julian Klaczko, to the politics and press of the autonomous Galicia. As a result, around 1900, at the famous country wedding in Bronowice, a local farmer named Czepiec was able to ask the journalist of the Czas daily from Cracow, who was also one of the wedding guests, about the political situation in... China.

[1] M. Mochnacki, Pisma krytyczne i polityczne, ed. J. Kubiak, E. Nowicka, Z. Przychodniak, Kraków 1996, v. I, p. 57.

[2] M. Mochnacki, Powstanie narodu polskiego, Warsaw 1981, v. II, p. 52.

[3] M. Grabowski, Wybór pism krytycznych, ed. A. Waśko, Kraków 2005, p. 239.

[4] This is discussed more broadly in articles by B. Białokozowicz, H. Cybienko and Z. Chołoninej [in] Dziedzictwo powstania listopadowego w literaturach obcych, edited by Z. Sudolski, Warsaw 1986.

[5] This syndrome is discussed extensively using the example of Z. Krasiński’s views by J. Fryczko in his book Rosja Krasińskiego. Rzecz o nieprzejednaniu, Poznań 2005.

[6] See W. Lipoński, Polska a Brytania: 1801-1830. Próby politycznego i cywilizacyjnego dźwignięcia kraju w oparciu o Wielką Brytanię, Poznań 1978.

[7] See K. Lach-Szyrma, Anglia i Szkocja. Przypomnienia z podróży roku 1820-1824 odbytej…, ed. P. Hertz, Warsaw 1981; K. Sienkiewicz, Dziennik podróży po Anglii 1820-1821, based on manuscript ed. B. Horodyski, Warsaw 2007.

[8] W. Pol, Pamiętniki, ed. K. Lewicki, Kraków 1960.

[9] This is illustrated for example by the conversation between the Minister of War in the Government of Louis Philippe, Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, and General Karol Kniaziewicz, see S. Kalembka, Wielka Emigracja. Polskie wychodźstwo polityczne w latach 1831-1862, Warsaw 1971, pp. 37-38.

[10] The activities of the Legion are described by H. Batowski in his book Legion Mickiewicza w kampanii włosko-austriackiej 1848 roku, Warsaw 1956.

[11] Z. Krasiński, Pisma filozoficzne i polityczne, ed. P. Hertz, Warsaw 1999, p. 87, passim.

[12] Naturally, the activity of Poles in that region has been studied widely by a number of historians. See A. Lewak, Dzieje emigracji polskiej w Turcji (1831-1878), Warsaw 1935; J. Skowronek, Polityka bałkańska Hotelu Lambert (1833-1856), Warsaw 1976, K. Dach, Polsko-rumuńska współpraca polityczna w latach 1831-1852, Warsaw 1981.

[13] See M. Czajkowski (Mehmed Sadyk Pasza), Moje wspomnienia o wojnie 1854 roku, z rękopisu wydał, wstępem i przypisami opatrzył J. Fijałek, Warsaw 1962; J. Chudzikowska, Dziwne życie Sadyka Paszy. O Michale Czajkowskim, Warsaw 1971.

[14] See R. Zmorski, Nad Sawą i Drawą, Lublin 1956; E. Pieścikowski, Poeta-tułacz. Biografia literacka Romana Zmorskiego, Poznań 1964.

[15] J. L. Popławski, Życie i czyny pułkownika Zygmunta Miłkowskiego (T. T. Jeża), Lviv 1902.

[16] The “Balkan” novels of T.T. Jeż arose interest in 20th-century Yugoslavia, which was expressed in the works of S. Subotin, including his Romani Teodora Tomaša Jeża (Zygmunta Miłkowskog) o Jugoslovenima, Beograd 1966. 

[17] This was discussed among others by H. Batowski in his sketch Polacy, Chorwaci i Węgrzy w roku 1848-1849, Warsaw 1937.

[18] A similar view was formulated by S. Kozicki in his unjustly forgotten book Dziedzictwo polityczne trzech wieszczów, Warsaw 1949.

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