Russia, Poland, and the West: Essays in Literary and Cultural History

Russia, Poland, and the West: Essays in Literary and Cultural History

Russia, Poland, and the West: Essays in Literary and Cultural History

Russia, Poland, and the West: Essays in Literary and Cultural History

Excerpt

One of the greatest problems in Russian history is Russia's relations with the West. For several centuries Russian and Western statesmen have been preoccupied with this problem, and for more than a century the historical significance of these relations has attracted the attention of Russian and Western thinkers. And there is certainly no greater world problem at the present time than the dilemma of Russia and the West. The present book in its entirety deals with this fateful historical question within the frames of Russian and European thought of the prerevolutionary era.

Besides considering the general question of Russia and the West, I have dealt with the problem of Russian-Polish relations, studied here as a component part of the general problem and as an illustration of it.

After thirty years of work devoted to studies of Russian-Polish relations in literary, cultural and political fields, I have come to the conclusion that the "Russian-Polish Thebaid" is, for the scholar, one of the richest episodes in European history. The Russian-Polish conflict is a focus in which is concentrated the essence of Eastern and Western historical trends. Around this conflict are crystallized the chief Eastern and Western principles and conceptions of individual and collective life. For centuries Russia and Poland opposed to each other the elemental trends of their historical development. This ancient conflict continually mobilized the basic forces of their respective civilizations. Geographically and historically, during the thousand years of her existence, Poland has been an outpost of the West, to which she was allied by her own free will as well as by circumstances. Her geographical situation, her political development and activities, her cultural traditions made of her a missionary of the West; she was preserving and spreading the ideas of Western civilization. For these reasons, after centuries of fighting for this civilization, although having been so often betrayed by Europe, Poland's ties with the West resulted in a particularly deep and indestructible attachment to Europe, to her ideals, concepts and beliefs. In a sense, therefore, Poland has always . . .

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