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Age of Enlightenment in Poland?


not_polish
10 Aug 2015  #1
Hi!

I am very interested in history, especially the Enlightenment.

Before the Enlightenment, Europe was a backwards, savage place, replete with crusades, witch trials, persecution of minorites, and brutally stupid superstitions such as transubstantiation, stigmata, and exorcism.

While modern Europe is repulsed by such disgusting behavior, medieval barbarism once reigned.

I am very fond of people like Frederick the Great got rid of such superstitions from Prussia and made Germany such an amazing country.

I was wondering when, if ever, the Enlightenment came to Poland?

Can anyone here enlighten me on this?
Lyzko 22 | 6,538
10 Aug 2015  #2
There's been a tendency, at least here in the States, to imagine 18th century Poland, as some sort of Slavic backwater, both hopelessly behind the plough as well as the times. While it is true that up until the mid-to late 19th century Poland was more rustic/rural than much of North Central Europe, Poland did indeed have her own Enlightenment, just a bit later than France, England or Germany. Poland's crowning jewels in the crown of Slavic culture include Chopin and Mickiewicz, among those later part of the Romantic and Nationalist movements!
jon357 63 | 14,122
10 Aug 2015  #3
There was a lot of culture and deep thought in Europe, especially in the richer and more populated parts, long before the enlightenment however in Poland, that's when it mostly started. There was a great flowering of learning and liberal thought in the late Eighteenth Century.

Just look at Lazienki Palace in Warsaw, the plays of Fredro, the National Education Commission, Cardinal Podolski et al.
Lyzko 22 | 6,538
10 Aug 2015  #4
Thanks, jon! Yes, I forgot to mention those as well:-)
jon357 63 | 14,122
10 Aug 2015  #5
There was also quite a lot going on in Kraków a couple of centuries before. There was the Reformation, before in Poland it was cursed with becoming the counter reformation and there was Dr Dee plus other distinguished visitors. The Enlightenment did however become very significant in Warsaw with Russia opening up and Warsaw being on the route. Both Casanova and Cagliostro spent a lot of time there as I think did a young (wasn't he always young) Comte de St. German.

Also musicians like Elsner, writers like ETA Hoffman as well as great cultural influences from France.
OP not_polish
10 Aug 2015  #6
What I wonder about, however, is the Russian influence. Russians are no more Europeans than are Mongols, and they had a huge influence in Poland.
jon357 63 | 14,122
10 Aug 2015  #7
Some are very European, and the Russian Aristocracy always had the Gedymin strain from Lithuania as well as the eastern strain. In fact the best families always had both (and when talking about the Enlightenment we are after all talking about those who could afford to patronise the arts). Although the Enlightenment came later to Russia, they were still westward-looking, their Empress was German and there was considerable migration from Poland and Germany.

In Poland however, they wee much more westward looking. Increased trade (some of it to/from Russia) passed through Poland and there were strong links with the UK, France and the Netherlands. There were also Polish figures like Kosciuszko and others who took part in the revolutionary spirit of the age. Freemasonry, very fashionable then, was particularly popular among the better educated in Warsaw and there was a great flowering of architecture and art.

The social structure in Poland with the szlachty (gentlefolk) making up between 12 and 18% of the population. Though some of them were coarse, it does mean that there was a class of people who valued learning.

The peasantry of course were poor, illiterate, religious, didn't travel and didn't necessarily consider themselves Polish, identifying more with their region - this was normal for those times.
OP not_polish
10 Aug 2015  #8
What did the peasantry consider themselves if not Polish?
jon357 63 | 14,122
10 Aug 2015  #9
Whatever their region was.

Remember people had very little concept of what was going on outside their immediate sphere and many had never been to their nearest town let alone further. News travelled slowly even for the rich and educated. For the peasantry major changes outside their region barely touched them.
OP not_polish
10 Aug 2015  #10
Yes! that makes sense, especially considering countries like Italy, that still considers itself more regional-oriented than nationalist.
jon357 63 | 14,122
10 Aug 2015  #11
Yes, but remember how the back end of the Enlghtenment coincided with the partitions in Poalnd. This strengthened the national identity among the educated which led to very strong nation building when they got independence back. That sense of national identity (and conscious cohesion) is something we still see today and isn't going away anytime soon.
OP not_polish
10 Aug 2015  #12
Yes! I have noticed this, and tell me if I'm wrong - it seems that this romantic nationalism that they have is basically a haphazardly constructed false-history created by aspiring elites in literate circles in larger cities? Isn't this why ever Polish peasant is a "pan?"

It seems that Polish culture is an invented tradition based on a past that never was.

Not every Polish was walking around a large estate like Pan Tadeusz, most of them lived next to the cow dung in the horse stalls and were whipped daily by said Pan.
jon357 63 | 14,122
10 Aug 2015  #13
Your first paragraph is close to the truth if a little negative since there was always something to base the construct on, your second would apply to just about every developed society and your third is a picturesque but highly exaggerated analogy - like a Kossak painting without the rosy cheeked girl.

Remember that a

Pan

wasnt necessarily much better off that those he would look down on. Much the same in Russia at that time.
Lyzko 22 | 6,538
10 Aug 2015  #14
Ukrainian also has the historic "Pan", no?
OP not_polish
10 Aug 2015  #15
I don't know Jon, I'm not contradicting you, but from my personal understanding, the Pan, or in Russia the "boyar" were extremely violent, brutal people that could rape, kill peasants without any pretense at all. I wouldn't want to be a peasant back then!

And this is my experience here!

For example - no one seems to have a classic liberal view of anything, there is no "golden rule" here, everyone screws everyone else over and might is right! There is no "protestant work ethic" there is more a central asian style survival of the most devious.
jon357 63 | 14,122
11 Aug 2015  #16
Doubtless some were pretty vile - in a challenging environment it's often the psychopaths who rise to the top of the pile and this is the same pretty well everywhere - I'm not sure I'd like to live in rural Sicily even now; however people like the Devil of £ancuch were very much the exception rather than the rule and there were always very cultured people among the elite. Most were somewhere on a continuum between the two extremes.

Even Downton Abbey has been criticised for the way the Family behave positively and decently to their servants and even today at Palm Jumeirah I've seen Arabs and richer Indians treating Filipino serving staff in a way you would not expect to see nowadays in Europe.

It's true that things were primitive in Russia and the rich got away with more however Poland is not Russia. It's also easy to make generalisations without considering variations of time and place - Poland is and was a large and relatively developed society.

Edit.

Looking at your second post of the two, I'd say partly yes, partly no. There has always been a strong liberal tradition in Poland, especially in Warsaw and this goes back centuries, however the society has faced extreme challenges during the Twentieth Century that are barely settling down now and the sink or swim lives that people have had to face has produced some very negative effects. Still, there is culture and decency, even if you yourself may not always notice it.

As Norman Davies wrote, in Poland you can find the absolute best people and the absolute worst people. That's why it's such an interesting place.
OP not_polish
11 Aug 2015  #17
But Jon, I keep reading here all these comments about how "communism" hurt Polish people and screwed them up, BUT....

Every single rendition of the people from the 19th century is the same as they are now - Doestowevsky portrayed the Polish character exactly like they are now, as did Clausewitz - the social chaos, the disorganization, the cruelty, superstiion and hatred.

I'm not saying I like Russian culture, I consider them vile Borat-people, I just wish Poland would allow itself proper Germanization for its own sake.

I don't think Poland has ever had an enlightenment, not one that trickled down - most of these people, the peasants in rural areas as still mentally in the medieval times.
jon357 63 | 14,122
11 Aug 2015  #18
Why on earth would Poland want what you call 'proper Germanisation for its own sake'? It already has a culture without the Russian things you mention and the Enlightenment in Poland happened very nicely and the effects we see today.

Read up on Ciemnogrod. Although there are those who would positively welcome it, most would doubtless not.
OP not_polish
11 Aug 2015  #19
The problem with Polish culture is that its not "Polish," it comes from the Roman Papist curia, its a construct of Italian priestcraft - its brutal, superstitious and outdated.
Roger5 1 | 1,458
11 Aug 2015  #20
nd this is my experience here!

For example - no one seems to have a classic liberal view of anything, there is no "golden rule" here, everyone screws everyone else over and might is right! There is no "protestant work ethic" there is more a central asian style survival of the most devious.

Could you give a bit more detail regarding your experience here in Poland, e.g. long long you've been here, what circles you've mixed in, where you've travelled to?
OP not_polish
11 Aug 2015  #21
5+ years, every major city, married to Polish woman (regarding mixing), extremely frustrated by lack of cultural progress and complete social disregard for one's fellow human beings, not to mention, petty chauvinism and brutal ways of dealing with each other.

When I first came, I swallowed the Polish worldview fully. Now, my doubts are overwhelming.
Roger5 1 | 1,458
11 Aug 2015  #22
Well, we've had very different experiences. Perhaps it's time for another move.
OP not_polish
11 Aug 2015  #23
Love it or leave it?

Nahh....lets change it. For the better.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,485
11 Aug 2015  #24
Love it or leave it?

Definitely leave it and never return.
OP not_polish
11 Aug 2015  #25
Well, in America we have a first amendment - freedom of speech. an idea from the Englightenment, actually.

I hope one day to introduce this concept here.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,626
11 Aug 2015  #26
I hope one day to introduce this concept here.

It already exists.

5 years in Poland and you didn't know about it?
OP not_polish
11 Aug 2015  #27
Last I heard, people could be prosecuted here for insulting the papacy or even politicians.

Even this thread is an example that the concept is foreign - one single American questioning a few believes and they want to remove me from the country?

This shows that the level of tolerance here is basically zero.

My country allowed in millions of Polish and some rednecks here are threatened and afraid of a single American living here who does not worship every single cultural item that exists in this country.

This is problematic.
Roger5 1 | 1,458
11 Aug 2015  #28
Actually, it's quite refreshing to hear from an American who has really lived here and doesn't like what they see. We usually get the nostalgia-suffering deluded, whose great grandmothers came from Poland and who believe that it is a heaven on earth. Nobody is telling you what to say, or that you should leave. Lighten up and try to see the positive side. There must be something you like.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,626
11 Aug 2015  #29
Last I heard, people could be prosecuted here for insulting the papacy or even politicians.

Criminal libel. It exists in most European countries.

Even this thread is an example that the concept is foreign - one single American questioning a few believes and they want to remove me from the country?

Could the mods perhaps clarify if the poster is actually in PL or not?

This shows that the level of tolerance here is basically zero.

Towards trolls, yep.

My country allowed in millions of Polish and some rednecks here are threatened and afraid of a single American living here who does not worship every single cultural item that exists in this country.

You should respect your host country and understand that everyone - from the millionaire to the poor farmer is a Polish citizen and equal under the law.
OP not_polish
11 Aug 2015  #30
Its not my "host" country.

I'm a citizen here now, and have as much rights as you do.

I will not bow down to a redneck like you.

Sorry.

Actually, it's quite refreshing to hear from an American who has really lived here and doesn't like what they see. We usually get the nostalgia-suffering deluded, whose great grandmothers came from Poland and who believe that it is a heaven on earth. Nobody is telling you what to say, or that you should leave. Lighten up and try to see the positive side. There must be something you like.

Well, there are actually MANY things that I LOVE about Poland, but I usually share these with my own friends and family.

Some things would be - the honest in prices - I don't get ripped off here the way I would in other countries.

The beautiful scenery.

The relaxed pace of life, with lots of holidiays, etc.

What I don't like is for example - the complete inhospitable attitude towards foreigners, the xenophobia, the stubbornness and the supersition.

Weren't you the guy who wanted to force me to leave here?


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