A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture

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

CHAPTER X
POSITIVISM AND REALISM

Less than thirty-two years after the failure of the November Insurrection a new insurrection broke out under Russian occupation during the night of January 22, 1863. Like the November Insurrection, it was also viewed with misgivings by the conservative groups of the nation -- their doubts persist among some Polish historians. It seems, however, to have been unavoidable. Its causes were many, beginning simply with the national aspiration towards freedom and independence which had never been extinguished and which could not be satisfied by the incomplete concessions of the Russian government. These feelings mingled with a deep-rooted skepticism as to living under the Russian system, not to mention the decided impossibility of normal national growth within this system. There were in Poland prominent men of good intention who sincerely believed in that possibility which they sincerely sought to realize. One of the most outstanding was the Margrave Aleksander Wielopolski, potentially a statesman of great distinction, had he been given the opportunity to work in normal times and circumstances. Placed at the head of the civil administration of the Kingdom at a time when the Russian government inclined towards mild liberalism and intended to give the country reforms, Wielopolski did everything he could to gain the greatest profit for Poland; and he gained a great deal, especially in the field of education and internal administration. It was during that period that Warsaw saw the founding of the Szkoła Główna ('Principal School'), in fact a University which attracted many of the serious scholarly and pedagogical minds of the time, and which numbered many later outstanding men among its students. Nevertheless, Wielopolski could not make the whole nation follow him. He was opposed not only in democratic and revolutionary but in part also in conservative circles, the latter being represented by Count Andrew Zamoyski, another prominent but unpopular man of this period.

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