Poland since 1944: A Portrait of Years

Poland since 1944: A Portrait of Years

Poland since 1944: A Portrait of Years

Poland since 1944: A Portrait of Years


"Much more than a recitation of well-known highlights from contemporary Polish history, this reference work provides a balanced and comprehensive year-by-year treatment of cumulatively powerful events. Jakub Karpinski, a prominent Polish intellectual and former dissident, incorporates his own insight and analysis of political trends as he creates a unique portrait of life in a central European country under communism and during the recent demise of the system. Each year's events are set in the context of the international trends that had a profound influence on the domestic scene in Poland. Karpinski delves into the role of the media, artists, and the opposition throughout the communist period; looks at the impact of government decisions on the daily lives of its citizens; and explores the fate of the victims of the regime." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


A portrait is not much; it is certainly not everything. A portrait comes into being on the basis of external observation. The model is presented with a certain appearance; a portrait makes use of perspective and simplifications. A good portrait conveys something; it enables us to know and to comprehend not only that which is shown ad oculus. But what is latent and internal is not directly shown in a portrait even if it is interesting and important in itself. A portrait does not permit a close look into anatomy, and even less into physiology. These require other materials and other methods of observation than those used in making portraits.

Historians of past epochs see and know more; they have broader horizons than most people they describe had. A historian of the Middle Ages knows more about the economy of that period than an excellently informed Venetian merchant did. Yet an author who writes about communism in our times often speaks with the voice of the man in the street and ignores things which were known only to the Communist rulers.

We move on the surface. We do not know all the attempts on the lives of Communist leaders; usually we do not know what instructions were received by official and unofficial Soviet representatives in a particular country. Very little is publicly known about what rulers said to one another, what information they used, who persuaded them to do what, and what they communicated to their direct subordinates.

We know about results and symptoms. Sudden political changes, arrests and price hikes are visible consequences of earlier conferences, instructions, and preparatory measures, but when issuing certain orders, their authors made a point not to leave any trace on paper. And it is reasonable to suppose that when such traces do exist, they are inaccessible, hidden in police archives and Communist party archives not only in Warsaw, but in Moscow as well. In important matters we are usually ignorant of how the Communist machine revolved and the flow of information and stimuli within that machine, the inside of which was particularly difficult for outsiders to inspect.

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