Eastern, Central, or East-Central Europe? Identity Dilemmas in Contemporary Poland

  • Abstract:

    Poland, from the United States’ perspective, is the matter of Eastern Europe, while for Western Europe it constitutes eastern borders of European Union. In turn, Polish neighbors – the Czechs (J. Kroutvor, M. Kundera, J. Křen, etc.) – are attached to the concept of Central Europe, what in the 1980s and 1990s found many followers in Poland. However, at present, the opinion that Poland is situated in East-Central Europe predominates in this country. All these terms bear various traditions and evoke different connections. Firstly, the objective of this paper is to show in what manner Central and East-Central Europe is perceived in Poland, secondly – to point at cultural and historical background and socio-political meaning of particular ideas. Since all these notions are casual and conditioned both politically and historically, and they also correspond with affairs of certain political, business and academic groups. What is more, ideas hidden behind these notions are intellectual constructs and as such they are often subjected to manipulations. In this context there are at least two pivotal questions: how these heritages form the present Polish identity? What kind of author’s strategies of contriving the problems mentioned above are possible? In the paper I will take into consideration different discourses in comparison, among the others historical/historiographical (Halecki, Kłoczowski, Wandycz, Piotrowski), cultural “activists” or “the practitioners of ideas” (Giedroyć, Czyżewski) and writers (Miłosz, Stasiuk). The paper is extension of my recent book Europa w dyskursie polskim, czeskim i chorwackim. Rekonfiguracje krytyczne [Europe in Polish, Czech and Croatian Discourse. Critical Reconfigurations, Toruń 2011] where I focus on transnational dimensions of the category of “Europe”, whereas herein I would like to take a step backwards to the Polish context, but with a deeper interpretation in junction with the problem of identity in the society in transition.