A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture

By Manfred Kridl; Olga Scherer-Virski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
POLISH ROMANTICISM AFTER 1831

The November Insurrection has been evaluated differently by the various Polish historians. It seems, however, to have been a historical necessity; it is, therefore, quite useless to argue whether it followed the path of a realistic and practical policy. It was a historical necessity since an artificial state such as the Congress Kingdom could neither exist nor grow normally and successfully in a personal union with Tsarist Russia, as has already been indicated. Furthermore, it was difficult for the Polish nation to consent to the status quo, to feel satisfied with one-fifth of the territory of the former Republic, or to forget about brothers on the other side of what were now Russian, Prussian, and Austrian frontiers. There was then sufficient ground for dissatisfaction and embitterment; there was also a well-grounded belief that Russian policy would continuously and consistently push toward a gradual limitation of the autonomy of the kingdom until finally that autonomy would simply become nominal.

It is to these conditions and circumstances that one must look for the genesis of the November Insurrection. It was a spontaneous outburst, an ill-prepared and ill-directed one, started by ardent, inexperienced youths who too eagerly mistook the fire of their own hearts for that of the whole country, and believed that the entire nation, and particularly its official leaders, thought and felt the way they did. The Insurrection soon came under the leadership of the Administrational Council, which was composed of highly respected men who were not possessed of the spirit of insurrection, many of them being downright sceptical about the possible success of an armed movement. Hence the long conferences with the Grand Duke Constantine, who was then camping at a village near Warsaw; hence the waste of a few valuable months and the negative attitude toward the universal mobilization (the calling of all the peasants under arms) which Mochnacki and the Democratic Club demanded. At

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