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Title: Stosunki narodowościowe na Wileńszczyźnie w latach 1920-1939
Authors: Januszewska-Jurkiewicz, Joanna
Keywords: Wilno; mniejszości; stosunki międzyetniczne; międzywojnie
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: Katowice : Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
Abstract: During the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century the territories of the former Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie experienced the process of shaping modem nationalistic movements. At the end of the 19th century, the area of the Polish-Lithuanian-Belorussian language borderline was located in the Vilnius region, whereas Vilnius itself was an important centre of the Polish and Jewish culture. The majority of the population of the Lithuanian language started to identify themselves with the Lithuanian nation. Active, though not numerous, Belorussian elites appeared, and it was not only the representatives of noble families and Christian intelligentsia in Vilnius, but also the majority of the plebs around Vilnius that identified themselves with the Polish culture and nationality. The Vilnius region was to a large extent inhabited by the representatives of other ethnicreligious groups, such as Jews, Russians (old-rites and Orthodox ones), Tatars and Karaims. A multicoloured world of different languages, cultures, beliefs the Vilnius region constituted in the first half of the 20th century fascinates with its wealthness, variety and contrasts. In the final period of the World War I (between 1919—1920), the Belorussians tried to realize the conception of the „West Belorussia” in the territories of the Vilnius region whereas the Lithuanians fought for Vilnius as the capital of their ethnographic country. The Polish population — strongly diversified — hesitated between the conception of an organic inclusion of the Vilnius region into the Polish nation and an attempt to build the cantonal structure in which the capital city of Vilnius would be the centre of the linguistically Polish segment of the Lithuanian country at the same time, connected with the federation bonds with Poland. Although in 1922 the Vilnius region found itself within the scope of the Polish nation, some of the nationalities did not agree with the role of an ethnic minority for a longer period of time. After the inclusion of the Vilnius territory to Poland, the relations with small ethnicreligious groups turned out positive. They received the new possibilities of development. The acceptance of their independence was treated as the evidence of the Polish policy of tolerance towards different beliefs and languages. What was important was the fact that the very communities, in view of their number and disperse, could not be irredentistic in nature. Sometimes their elites became assimilated (Tatars) or the principle of loyalty towards each national authority was a constantly practised means of saving identity (Karaims). The activity of the Lithuanian organizations aimed at consolidating communities, separating them from any Polish influences, reinforcing the national awareness and treating the affiliation to the Polish nation as a temporary state. Under the influence of Kovno, people avoided the participation in the life of the Polish nation, for example, restraining themselves from the participation in the parliamentary elections. In such a situation, the local relations between the Polish and Lithuanian population were tense, too. They led to conflicts within the church or school context. However, many Polish-Lithuanian bonds, deriving from a longlasting neighborhood, family relations, similar mentality and economic conditions, did not disappear totally. The leaders of such a diversified Jewish community initially approved of supporting the Lithuanian aspiration. It was connected with the assumption that the Lithuanian country which, in comparison to Poland, promised the Jews the cultural-national autonomy, would provide the Jewish population with broad national laws and considerable influence on its life. The elites of the Jewish community finally accepted the inclusion of the Vilnius territory to the Polish nation. A compromise was established, consisting in the introduction of the principle of financing Jewish education and charity institutions from the Vilnius budget proportionally to the percentage of their inhabitants. At the same time, the admirable development of culture in jidish language eliminated the factor of reluctance, strong on the Polish side right after the war, namely the fear of a Russification role of the Jewish community in Vilnius. The attitude of the Belorussian activists was not homogeneous. Some of them were in favour of supporting Lithuanian aspirations, counting on the promised autonomy or even a Lithuanian-Belorussian nation. As the second step to the independence, some of them engaged in an attempt to free the Belorussian territories from the Soviet ruling. After the inclusion of the Vilnius region into Poland, they demanded the autonomy for the area inhabited by the population of the Belorussian language, and soon, some of the Belorussian elites accepted the postulate of the separation of the “West Belorussia” from the Polish country. The lack of political and economic stability in the period of parliamentary democracy delayed the precision of the Polish programme within the scope of the ethnic policy. It was only after the acceptance of laws in 1925 and the creation of the Vilnius voivodship at the end of the very year that contributed to the creation of the basis of the relations between Poland and its institutions and nationalities inhabiting this voivodship. In the period preceding the outbreak of the World War II, the action of reinforcing Polishness in the borderlands, and aiming at the elimination of the factors accused of hostility towards the country affected the relations between the voivodship administration and a part of the Polish society and ethnic minorities. Lithuanians and Belorussians were practically devoid of their own schooling and structure of the national-educational organizations. In spite of some improvement in the very relations, starting from 1938, the very last period constituted a burden overloading the Polish-Belorussian and Polish-Lithuanian relations on the eve of the World War II.
ISBN: 9788322618172
Appears in Collections:Książki/rozdziały (W.Hum.)

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