Challenging Multiculturalism: European Models of Diversity

By Raymond Taras | Go to book overview

Chapter Twelve
Poland: Multiculturalism in the Making?

Renata Włoch


Introduction

My working assumption is straightforward: there has been no articulated ideology or politics of multiculturalism in Poland. Even academic reflection on multiculturalism is scarce, as is multicultural discourse in the media (Grzymała-Kazłowska 2009; Weinar 2009). The explanation is simple: Poland is a notable exception in the set of nation states in representing a state made up of one nation. The 2002 census showed just 1.4 per cent of ethnic or national minorities in the country’s total population of 38 million. According to 2007 Eurostat estimates there are under 0.1 per cent of foreigners in the country. This paints a picture of one of the most homogeneous societies in the world.

Yet after 1989 the make-up of Polish society began to change in the mix of processes of democratization and globalization. Cultural differences became more visible with the growing assertiveness of the autochthon minorities, as well as the arrival of growing numbers of legal and illegal immigrants. The Polish state Europeanized its politics towards minorities and immigrants and introduced measures safeguarding the rights of its culturally different citizens and residents. Polish people began to get used to diversity, though not always without encountering problems.

This chapter describes the multicultural past of the Polish state and the politics on cultural pluralism during the communist period. It then examines the ethnic, national and religious landscape of contemporary Polish society. The third part identifies the incipient legal and institutional provisions safeguarding cultural pluralism. I then review the changes in attitudes of Poles on ethnic, national and religious difference. I conclude with an assessment of the future of cultural pluralism in Poland.

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