Poland's Dream of Past Glory

Norman Davies finds that Poland is a repository of ideas and values which can outlast any number of military and political catastrophies.

For far longer than anyone living can remember Polish history has been marked by disaster. Ever since the beginning of the eighteenth century, when a Russian Protectorate was first established by Peter the Great, Poland has been the scene of endless wars, risings, invasions, famines, and epidemics. From Charles XII and Frederick the Great to Napoleon, Hindenburg, Hitler and Stalin, Poland has involuntarily provided the battleground for other people's conflicts and for Eastern Europe's most bloody and protracted wars. On the internal front, every single Polish generation without exception has been subjected to the ravages and agonies of a violent insurrection against the country's foreign or native oppressors. Peace and prosperity have passed Poland by. Conflict and deprivation have become the expected lot. Today after forty years of communist rule imposed at the end of a war which left six million dead, Poland is gripped by yet another political and economic crisis of frightening proportions. A whole generation of back-breaking reconstruction from the ruins of war has been rewarded with martial law, internment camps, censorship, rationing, and bread-queues.

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