15th Conference June 9-24, 2017

Experts who enthusiastically join the Recovering Forgotten History Conference become advocates for Polish historical policy. Thanks to the professional level of discussion, significant changes are being made to books planned for publication. Participants` personal involvement in discussions and ongoing conversations during joint visits to museums, castles, churches, and synagogues are effectively challenging stereotypes with which our guests have come to Poland. These “leisure activities” are of particular importance. The authors studied Polish, met Polish colleagues, and started to perceive Poles, Polish history and culture in a different way. They remember Versailles, El Escorial (Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial) and the Winter Palace, but learn to admire Wawel as well.

Instead of attending lengthy lectures, they discover Poland and its monuments. Consequently, they leave Poland different people than before; moreover, as they teach at the best universities, they may influence future elites.

Thanks to the help and involvement of PGNiG, information about the project was published in numerous radio and television programs as well as on the most popular internet portals with millions of readers in Poland and abroad. In cooperation with our Foundation, PGNiG has drafted the brochures that summarize our previous activities. The costs of publishing brochures in Polish and English were financed by PGNiG. The brochure in English was distributed during the 3rd Congress of International Researchers of Polish History, which took place on October 11-14, 2017 in Krakow.

The patrons and media partners of the project were: wSieci, wSieci Historia, TVP Info and PAP. Interviews with participants and organizers showed the importance of the project in promotion of Polish and East Central European history on the world arena, as well as the role of the seminar in changing the image of Poland abroad.

Discussed texts:

  • Gabor Agoston, The Ottomans in Europe, Princeton University Press
  • Fritz Bartel, The Privatization of the Cold War: Oil, Finance, and the Fall of Communism, Harvard University Press
  • Jadwiga Biskupska, Edge of Destruction: Warsaw Intelligentsia under Nazi Occupation, 1939-1944, Oxford University Press
  • R. Chris Davis, Hungarian Religion, Romanian Blood: A Minority's Struggle for National Belonging, 1920–1945, University of Wisconsin
  • Karin Friedrich, The Other Prussia: Royal Prussia, Poland and Liberty, 1569-1772, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh
  • Mark von Hagen, Wars, Revolutions, Peace Talks and the Politics of National Self-Determination: Ukraine and Its Borderlands, University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Erik Jones et al., Europe Today: A Twenty-first Century Introduction, Rowman & Littlefield
  • Anna Krakus, No End in Sight: Polish Cinema in the Late Socialist Period, University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Rita Krueger, Maria Theresa: A Dynastic Life, Oxford University Press
  • John McNeill, History of the World, W.W. Norton
  • Anna Procyk, Young Europe and the Birth of Modern Nationalism in the Slavic World, University of Toronto Press
  • Alexander Prusin, Gabriel Finder, Justice behind the Iron Curtain: Nazis on Trial in Communist Poland, University of Toronto Press
  • Magda Teter, Blood and Paper: European Diplomacy and Cultural Knowledge in the Aftermath of Anti-Jewish Libels, Harvard University Press
  • Leslie Waters, Borders on the Move: Identity Politics and Territorial Change in the Hungarian-Slovak Borderland, University of Rochester Press

Examples of discussed publications

With over a thousand pages, World History written by the world-renowned scholar John McNeill can become the most important textbook for hundreds of thousands of students. The history of the world is a compulsory subject for all students in the USA, so it is no wonder that the experts were pleased with the author`s request to include his manuscript into the list of the works discussed. His earlier book was also discussed in the project. Poland and its history are not alien to him. The author thanked the experts for extremely valuable comments, numerous additions and corrections.

Gabor Agoston, a well-known specialist in Ottoman history, presented a new work entitled The Ottomans in Europe. The chronological range covers the period from the 13th to the 18th century in the area of ​​the great empire which significantly influenced Polish history, national mythology and culture (the so called Sarmatian Orientalism). The Polish Crown and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later the Commonwealth, play a significant role in the textbook.

The discussion on Europe Today took an interesting course, because Erik Jones, a well-known expert in international affairs, asked experts for advice on how to change the thematic layout of the book (the previous edition of the textbook had been discussed in 2014). The Russian occupation of Crimea and aggressive actions in the Donbas, Brexit, growing populism and euroscepticism, and acrimonious disputes in the EU force us to reflect on and re-evaluate European political agenda. The experts proposed introduction of a new chapter devoted to Ukraine and revisions in the chapter devoted to Russia, so that readers would have a more realistic picture of Putin`s Russia.

In the manuscript entitled Blood and Paper: The Aftermath of Anti-Jewish Libels, Magda Teter analyzes the centuries-old “policy” of the Catholic Church towards blood libels. It also presents Jewish attempts to defend themselves against these accusations, their appeals to the Pope, and attempts to find protection of secular and church local authorities. The chronological and geographical scope of the work, as well as the extensive source base which the author had consulted, required in-depth discussion.

Anna Procyk`s Young Europe and the Birth of Modern Nationalism in the Slavic World is an important novelty not only because of the innovativeness of the subject. The author emphasized the great role of Polish radical democrats in the awakening of Ukrainian national movement in the 1830s and 1840s. All the experts recognized the value of the book. The author does not shy away from the suggestion that Polish assistance in opening Ukraine to Europe is still in progress and is extremely important. In her opinion, Moscow has been opposed to Polish-Ukrainian cooperation and Ukraine`s accession to the EU.

A monograph of Rita Krueger, entitled Maria Theresa: A Dynastic Life, depicting the long years of Maria Teresa’s reign, met with great interest among Polish and Hungarian historians. The experts` comments focused on proposals for changes regarding the principles of constitutional legality in the Hungarian monarchy, privileges of estates in Bohemia, events in Poland, and support from Enlightenment religiousness. It was believed that the issue of Maria Teresa's conflicts with her daughters and her responsibility for raising and educating her children should be further clarified.

Mark von Hagen aroused experts` interest with his book entitled Wars, Revolutions, Peace Talks and the Politics of National Self-Determination. The author, presenting the history of revolutions and attempts to build new states in the period between 1914 and 1922, accommodated the opinions and actions of Kyiv, Warsaw, Vilnius and Minsk. It differs greatly from a common concentration of Western historiography on Moscow, Berlin and Vienna. The experts` suggestions concerned the assessment of pogroms and acts of violence against Jews, history of Polish Legions, Piłsudski`s policy towards Germany and Austria, as well as the situation in Warsaw occupied by the Germans.

According to our experts, Fritz Bartel wrote one of the best books that explain the processes of system transformation that began during the Cold War and ended in the 1990s (The Privatization of the Cold War: Oil, Finance, and the Fall of Communism). The author was highly successful in his analysis of economic factors that led to the fall of communism in the countries of the Soviet bloc and in the Soviet Union itself. The experts suggested extending the text to include Polish archival materials and offered to arrange meetings with Polish specialists on the subject.

During our seminar, we discussed two books on Hungarian-Romanian and Hungarian-Slovak relations. The discussion on these texts was to take place in Hungary with the participation of Hungarian specialists, but was canceled by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Finally, discussions took place in Poland as organizers did not want to disappoint the editors working closely with the conference and cancel the meeting.

In the manuscript titled Hungarian Religion, Romanian Blood: A Minority's Struggle for National Belonging, 1920–1945, R. Chris Davies presented the fate of Csangos — a Catholic population of Hungarian origin living in Moldova since the early Middle Ages. During World War II, Romania and Hungary attempted to relocate this Hungarian group to the areas located near Novi Sad, which had been “cleaned up” of murdered Jews and Serbs.

The manuscript called Borders on the Move: Identity Policy and Territorial Change in the Hungarian-Slovak Borderland by Leslie Waters was devoted to the shifts of the Hungarian-Slovakian border since World War I till the end of the World War II. The experts proposed the addition of the “Slovak” version of the events.

Karin Friedrich`s The Other Prussia: Prussia, Poland and Liberty, 1569-1772 is an example of implementation of Poland`s historical policy. In agreement with Igor Kąkolewski, our permanent expert in the project and deputy director of the Center for Historical Research in Berlin of the Polish Academy of Sciences , we decided to invite the German publisher to take part in our project. The cooperation began with the publication of a book on Polish-German history, which after several years from the first publication by Cambridge University Press, is to be published in German. The book questioned both German and Polish versions of the history of Royal Prussia. The author made a great ‘breakthrough’ in historiography, but her work has not entered the mainstream of German historiography yet. It influenced a small group of researchers dealing with the “East”, but is still unknown to German historians. Taking into account the value of this work, the experts drew attention to the necessity of its publication in German.

All the experts expressed their conviction that Alexander Prusin and Gabriel Finder wrote an interesting synthetic work based on extensive source material. It allows us to assess the legality of post-war Polish courts conducting trials against Nazi criminals (Justice behind the Iron Curtain: Nazis on Trial in Communist Poland). The experts` suggestions centered on the issue of anti-Semitism and the evaluation of the massacre in Kielce (1946), incidents in Krakow and other cities, the legitimacy of the government in exile, and the character of the Home Army.

During the discussion on the manuscript entitled No End in Sight: Polish Cinema in the Late Socialist Period by Anna Krakus, the experts regarded it as innovative and very interesting, and suggested an extension of the political and social background, particularly important for foreign-language audience.

In the work entitled Edge of Destruction: Warsaw Intelligentsia under Nazi Occupation, 1939-1944, Jadwiga Biskupska deals with a subject that is still neglected in historiography. The author collected extensive materials about the period of German occupation of Poland. The experts suggested that the author expand some chapters and devote more attention to the definition of intelligentsia as a social group.

The guests visited a number of museums in Warsaw, including the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and the Royal Castle. Director of the Adam Mickiewicz Museum, Dr. Krzysztof Olendzki, invited project participants to the Grand Theatre for an opening night. During the stay in Krakow, a trip to the Museum in Auschwitz-Birkenau and visits to the Wawel Castle and the Cathedral and Collegium Maius were organized. The guests visited the Jewish quarter in Kazimierz. The Dean of the Faculty of Historical Sciences, Prof. Stanisław Roszak, was the organizer of our visit in Toruń. Michał Targowski from the Faculty of Historical Sciences was our guide in Toruń, presenting the most important city monuments. Finally, the participants visited the Museum of Gingerbread, where the enthused guests were able to prepare gingerbread themselves. The City Hall of Toruń paid a visit to the participants, offering souvenirs.