A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture

By Manfred Kridl; Olga Scherer-Virski | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER I
THE BEGINNINGS OF POLISH CULTURE

The nucleus of Polish culture was formed at the time when individual Slavic tribes began to emerge from the proto-Slavic community, each with its own language, beliefs, and customs, and to settle in particular territories. This occurred in a very early period, and the process of formation was slow. We can give only approximate dates and very general information. We know that Europe was for a long time inhabited by an unknown people and that they were later replaced by the so-called Aryans, forefathers of all the Aryan peoples of Europe. In the course of centuries these primitive Aryans separated into individual groups of related tribes, among them the proto-Baltic group, from which eventually emerged the proto-Slavic group. The latter originally constituted a group with a common religion, language, and mores, traces of which may still be found in the languages and customs of the various Slavic peoples. This unity lasted for centuries, probably until the fifth or sixth century A.D. It was then that the individual Slavic tribes, among them the Polish tribe, began to form, and Polish culture dates from this period.

We learn most about the culture and life of prehistoric Poland from archaeology,1 linguistics, and the information we have about the other Slavs; we suppose that the life of all the Slavs was originally similar in character.

The seat of the national ancestors of Poland was a country situated in the basins of the Oder, Warta, and part of the Vistula rivers, covered for the most part by tremendous forests and marshes, but with wide fields

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1
Especially from the excavations done since 1934 on the territory of Western Poland and Pomerania under the direction of Professor Józef Kostrzewski. The above presentation of the beginnings of Polish culture takes advantage of the findings collected in his book, Kultura prapolska ( Poznań, 1947), and of Zygmunt Wojciechowski PaŃstwo polskie w wiekach średnich ( Poznań, 1945).

-1-

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