12th Conference June 14-28, 2014

The project creates a unique opportunity to change the image of Poland in the US and English-speaking countries, and, in fact, worldwide. The conferences have gained a significant reputation in the academic world; that is usually a long-term work. By involving representatives of the academic and publishing world in the project, the conferences exert a direct influence on the process of changing the image of Poland. The conference was attended by eight authors, five publishers, sixteen Polish and nine foreign experts.

Discussed texts:

  • Jesse Kauffman, Elusive Alliance: The German Occupation of Poland in World War I, Harvard University Press
  • Helga Mitterbauer, Carrie Smith-Prei, Central Europe: Continuities & Transformations, 1900-2000, University of Toronto Press
  • Kinga Pozniak, Nowa Huta: Generations of Change in a Model Socialist Town, University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, University of Toronto Press
  • Ronald Tiersky, Erik Jones & Benjamin Stanley (author of the chapter on Poland), Europe Today: A Twenty-first Century Introduction,
    Rowman & Littlefield
  • Theodore Weeks, Vilnius between Nations, 1795–2000, Northern Illinois University Press
  • Sharon Wolchik, Jane Curry, Central and East European Politics: From Communism to Democracy, Rowman & Littlefield

Examples of discussed publications

The first work discussed was Jesse Kauffman`s Elusive Alliance: The German Occupation of Poland in World War I. The author explained the process of topic narrowing (he started from research on the eastern policy of Germany) and at the same time explained his first steps in studying Polish language and becoming acquainted with Polish historiography. All discussion participants highly appreciated the work’s research idea, style and structure. American experts suggested the use of Belgian material to introduce certain analogies and a wider use of literature on the situation on the Western front to strengthen the thesis. A serious discussion was sparked by experts` remarks regarding the treatment of Dmowski and Piłsudski as nationalists. All the present English-speaking participants were extremely interested in this thread of the discussion, because this issue, in one form or another, still causes considerable disputes and misunderstandings. The experts drew attention to the assessment of Piłsudski`s activity, especially to the concept of the army subordinated to Germany and German policy towards Ukraine and Belarus, which contradicted Poland’s interests. Both the author and the editor sent letters expressing gratitude for the scholarly help they received.

The debate on Orest Subtelny`s Ukraine: A History, which took place in Lviv, was based on the third edition (previous ones were published in 1988 and 1994). The book significantly influenced the formation of consciousness of Ukrainian youth after its translation into Ukrainian in 1993. All the participants of the discussion drew attention to a paramount importance of this book, both for Ukrainian society and the students of English-speaking universities.

The discussion on the book Central and East European Politics: From Communism to Democracy by Sharon Wolchik and Jane Curry was based on supplemented and expanded texts prepared for the fourth edition. There is a great interest in the subject of this collective work — it is widely used in American colleges and universities. The book is a result of cooperation of 16 authors. It discusses general issues of the whole region, such as the dialectics of political changes, market development, ethnicity, nationalism and democracy, the role of women in post-communist political processes, and the expansion of the European Union to the East. The experts had many suggestions regarding the chapters devoted to Poland, former Yugoslavia and Hungary. The authors of the texts about Ukraine and Romania gathered the most praise. 

The discussion on the text Nowa Huta: Generations of Change in a Model Socialist Town by Kinga Pozniak, who returned to the city of her childhood to try and present its cultural record in mentality and artistic awareness, took place in Krakow. The text was highly appreciated by the experts who at the same time had numerous suggestions for extending the historical context of the book. Anthropological material built on a large number of interviews and memories needed a proper historical background. All the reviewers emphasized the author`s great achievement in showing the transformation of a large group of rural proletariat into an increasingly cohesive community ready to oppose the communist “constructors” of the city.

The discussion on the Vilnius between Nations, 1795–2000 by Theodore Weeks, who had already participated in the conference, was carried out in Vilnius. The book fits in a number of contemporary “biographies” of the most interesting cities in Europe and the world. The Lithuanian experts protested against the treatment of Vilnius as a multicultural city and emphasized the force of national separatisms, while specialists in the history of Poland and Belarus applauded the work as free from bias rooted in prejudices and traditional stereotypes. Theodore Weeks thanked all participants for careful reading and helpful proposals for changes.

The next book discussed was a collective work by Helga Mitterbauer and Carrie Smith-Prei entitled Central Europe: Continuities & Transformation, 1900-2000. As Helga Mitterbauer explained, the concept of the book was born in a large group of scholars who repeatedly gathered during the conferences at Graz University to discuss the tradition and continuity of the Austro-Hungarian idea, putting much more emphasis on the sphere of culture (literature and art) than political and economical issues. All the participants questioned the identification of Central Europe only with Austro-Hungarian territories and suggested that the discussion about transformation be extended into economics, social and political changes.

During the Conference, the invited authors and their publishers were able to become acquainted not only with the Polish scholarly world but also with the culture, history and tradition existing both in architecture and in painting. Similarly to previous seminar discussions and conferences, meetings were organized with representatives of municipalities (Krakow City Hall) and representatives of local and central authorities (Vilnius Constitutional Court, Voivode of Masovia) and employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Minister Bogusław Winid, Department of America, Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy).

Letter from Kathleen McDermott
Letter from Peter Kracht
Letter from Erik Jones
Letter from Jesse Kauffman
Letter from Theodore Weeks
Letter from Susan McEachern
Letter from James Collins