Research in Poland

25.10.2018

Academic mobility support is one of the priorities for the Centre for German and European Studies. CGES regularly sponsors research trips of young scientists conducting research in Europe.

Alexander Vasiukov, a PhD student at the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg and a finalist of the CGES PhD Fellowship contest, was awarded with such a travel-grant. Alexander spent two weeks in Poland, studying the opinions of Kashubian and Silesian movements’ activists about granting them the status of an ethnic minority. During the trip, he managed to conduct interviews with 21 activist in 6 Polish cities.

Alexander shares some of his findings:

«Kashubians and Silesians are the small Slavic ethnocultural groups living in Poland. My task was to analyze the range of opinions among the activists representing the leading Kashubian and Silesian NKOs to understand what they think about the achievement of an ethnic minority status by their groups.

Despite the fundamental disagreements among Kashubian and Silesian NGOs about the ethnic minority status, the activists are often  concurrent members in several of them. Different mechanisms of “inclusion” and “exclusion” help to cross ideological boundaries among these organizations. Generally, such situation is not problematic, but some respondents faced criticism of simultaneous membership in organizations that have different opinions on the achievement of the ethnic minority status.

Almost all of the respondents had negative experience connected to their own Kashubian or Silesian origin, native culture or language. For someone it was limited to pejorative stereotypes describing Kashubian and Silesian culture as not prestigious, rural and primitive; for some the policy of a repolonization after the World War was a traumatic part of the general family memory; some respondents went through assimilation at a high school.

Most of the activists are not satisfied with their community status. The main reasons for that are non-recognition of the community as the separate ethnic group and low interest of central and regional authorities in Kashubian and Silesian cultures and languages. At the same time, many activists mark a steady tradition of negative and suspicious perception of culturally and ethnically distinguished groups in Poland. The open support of a group recognition as an ethnic minority is often associated by the Poles with separatism and disloyalty to the state. Moreover, many respondents are skeptical about the results of the Polish censuses and evaluate the revealed number of Kashubians and Silesians as strongly underreported.

However, considerable changes in perception of ethnic and national minorities in Poland were noted owing to the opening of a discussion about the status and problems of such groups, the growth of knowledge among the Poles about the country’s ethnic composition, and influence of the European Union. Many respondents have positive expectations for the future of Kashubian and Silesian movements in Poland. Activists believe the most effective strategies to achieve the ethnic minority status are the creation of an advocacy group in parliament, the growth of an own new elite, the cultivation of a positive and attractive image of Kashubians and Silesians and their cultures in Polish society».

A paper with the research results will be published in the CGES Working Papers series.

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