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Poland: The irreducible autonomy of Silesia
Hospodářské noviny Prague ^ | 3/31/2011 | Leoš Kyša

Posted on 03/31/2011 11:58:29 PM PDT by bruinbirdman

Silesians. They have their own language, a long history and they live in one of the richest regions of Poland. Today their calls for autonomy are echoing louder and louder. When they enjoyed unexpected success in regional elections last autumn for the first time in twenty years, Warsaw woke up to a problem in its territories along the Czech border.


Katowice (Poland) A march organised by Silesian autonomists

At the congress of the Movement for Silesian Autonomy, in Katowice, a triumphal mood reigns. Delegates, some hundred and thirty of them who arrived in early March, some in traditional Silesian garb, exchange friendly greetings and embraces with the crowd. Silesians make up a good tenth of the population of Poland, so it is understandable that the electoral success of the movement calling for autonomy has caused a political upheaval in Warsaw.

The congress is being held in a historic building which today houses the Lower Silesian Regional Assembly, or Sejmik. The monumental building, however, was built for the Government and Parliament of a Silesia that enjoyed autonomy between the two world wars. At that time, it was even eyeing independence. The autonomous Silesian government had its own treasury, levied its own taxes and fees and drew up some of its own laws. That’s just what Silesians are longing for again today.

“It’s odd that the Czechs couldn’t care less about what’s happening at their borders, and yet a good chunk of historical Silesia is within the Czech Republic and they’re also our important neighbour.” I’m told this by one of the delegates, who keenly appreciates that the Silesian eagle is on the Czech national emblem. He asks how our Czech Silesians were able to get it there. Explaining to him that the Czech Silesians, unlike their Polish counterparts, have no desire for emancipation, let alone strong autonomy, proves really difficult. It’s obvious that he has trouble grasping the idea, and the problem is not just the language barrier. Although, in truth, like many other delegates he speaks with a Silesian accent and uses many pure Silesian expressions. Even native Poles often have a problem understanding Silesians.

As if they never existed

In dealing with Polish Silesia, particularly the part that includes the industrialised and mineral-rich Lower Silesian Voivodeship, or province, Polish politicians have been asking for trouble for the last twenty years. “The politicians who drew up the new Poland after the fall of the communist dictatorship were, like the communists before them, convinced that a multiethnic country is less stable than a nationally homogenous state. That’s why they have been acting as if there’s no such thing as a Silesian,” explains Marek Plura, a member of the Polish Parliament from Premier Donald Tusk’s ruling party, Civic Platform.

“Ruch Autonomii Slaska (RAS, or the Silesian Autonomy Movement) is creating a lot of work for all Silesians. It has allowed us to say once again with pride that we are Silesians, and it has unleashed a debate about history and our language,” is how he explains the policy of engagement, which is indeed in favour of emancipation in Silesia, but at the same time opposes autonomy. The same attitude is also shared by another influential Polish politician who came to the congress, Tomasz Tomczykiewicz, Civic Platform’s parliamentary leader. It seems that both showed up for the event not just because they are Silesians, but also to take some wind out of the sails of the radical RAS. Proceedings at the Congress, however, quickly reveal that Silesians cannot be so easily tamed.

Young and educated

The leader of the Silesian autonomists is Jerzy Gorzelik (born 1971), who holds a doctorate in art history from the University of Silesia in Katowice. One of his great-grandfathers was among the rebels in the 1919-1921 uprising, when Silesians fought for independence from Germany. He certainly does not come across as a charismatic leader. A small, quiet man, he seems perfectly cut out for a career as a university teacher of art history – not as the leader of a breakaway movement.

“Autonomy is our fundamental platform and we won’t water it down,” he protests when I ask him if, now that his movement has participated in regional government, it’s not time to draw in the horns a little. According to this man, who refers to himself consistently as a Silesian, not a Pole, Silesia should achieve autonomy by 2020, and that autonomy should have the same outline as it did seventy years ago. “With Warsaw we want only shared defense, foreign policy, currency and national infrastructure. The rest, mainly finance, should be the responsibility of the autonomous government,” he says. He admits that Silesians want to manage the revenues from taxes on its territory because, among other things, it is one of the richest regions of Poland. The Silesians are the ones who subsidise the poor regions bordering the Ukrainian and who of course pump a lot of money into Poland’s bureaucratic machinery nation-wide.

“Let us be very clear: we will not renounce solidarity with other Polish regions. However, the transfer of money to them, as well as to the central treasury, must be transparent. As it is, our money is disappearing into a black hole.”

Only Gorzelik belongs to the original core of the RAS, which grew out of Silesian nationalism and the nostalgia of the older generation for the pre-war autonomy.

Thirty-two year old Piotr Dlugosz shares the same opinion. “We want autonomy not because we resent the rest of Poland, but because we believe it will better help us to defend our rights and handle public funds. Autonomy for us is not a journey into the past. On the contrary, it’s the future – a way to resolve the current political crisis in the European nation states,” insists the specialist in German culture from Opole, who believes that the modern movement for autonomy will gradually spread to the other countries of Europe.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Germany; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: autonomy; czechrepublic; europeanunion; falloftheussr; germany; poland; secession; silesia

1 posted on 03/31/2011 11:58:31 PM PDT by bruinbirdman
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To: bruinbirdman

Has France surrendered yet?


2 posted on 04/01/2011 12:00:25 AM PDT by OldNewYork (social justice isn't justice; it's just socialism)
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To: bruinbirdman

Don’t start again, these “autonomy” calls bring only trouble. They are al in EU, no???


3 posted on 04/01/2011 12:39:35 AM PDT by mewykwistmas (We can either have a free market economy or socialism, TARPers, GM and GE can't have it both ways.)
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To: bruinbirdman

Classic example of what happens when one group fails to assimilate into the main country, much like the illegals want to do to the USA. You can’t have two different cultures living in the same country and have harmony, it doesn’t work.


4 posted on 04/01/2011 1:08:16 AM PDT by calex59
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To: bruinbirdman

The Conrad Stargard novels by Leo Frankowski taught me a great deal about the proud Silesian people. There are some prurient moments in the novels, but overall excellent. Think a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court, except in Lower Silesia. The 13th century Silesians think 20th century Conrad has a funny accent, but otherwise can understand him just fine.


5 posted on 04/01/2011 3:02:29 AM PDT by backwoods-engineer (Any politician who holds that the state accords rights is an oathbreaker and an "enemy... domestic.")
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To: bruinbirdman

The sad thing is that most of these “autonomy” movements would not even exist if their countries’ governments would stop being so centralized. A highly centralized government only works in countries where everyone thinks alike, acts alike, and wants the same things (ie: a homogeneous culture).

In countries where this isn’t the case, they really need a federal system with very independent states/provinces/cantons/whatever.

For that gets the different cultures their autonomy without haveing the stink.


6 posted on 04/01/2011 4:04:30 AM PDT by gogogodzilla (Live free or die!)
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To: bruinbirdman; mewykwistmas
I'm an American living in Poland and can tell you that the Poles don't completely understand this -- just like they can't understand the Kashubians

To their credit the Poles are not like the communists before or the current French government who tried to stamp out all regional differences

The problem is that Poland since 1945 is completely unlike Poland has ever been in it's 1054 year history

During the heights of the Polish Rzeczpospolitej, the country was a mixture of Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians (present day Ukrainians and Belarussians), Jews, Germans, Hungarians and Romanians and Gypsies. It had 4 major religions living in peace

But the nationalistic sentiments after WWI expressed by Dmowski and exacerbated by the German leibensraum killed all of Piłsudski's good work

7 posted on 04/01/2011 4:22:30 AM PDT by Cronos (The OPC/PCA donÂ’t worship the same God we Christians do:)
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To: mewykwistmas

Though the EU does have a good side in this — it helps by giving regional autonomy, like what has been done in Alsace and Lorraine, in the Trentino region of Italy etc where minorities are able to co-exist and this has resulted in outbreaks of peace :)


8 posted on 04/01/2011 4:24:09 AM PDT by Cronos (The OPC/PCA donÂ’t worship the same God we Christians do:)
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To: bruinbirdman

Will have to check with some family members to find out how to translate “Tea Party” into Polish (and then into Silesian).


9 posted on 04/01/2011 5:12:30 AM PDT by Stosh
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To: calex59

Silesia is a region that has been fought over by empires for a thousand years. There are sub-regions within the area that have historically been more in 1 empire’s orbit than the others. I’m talking about Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia & Poland. (Sorry Poland, but your holding the bag on this one!)


10 posted on 04/01/2011 5:35:56 AM PDT by Tallguy (Received a fine from the NFL for a helmet-to-helmet hit.)
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To: Tallguy

Isn’t this area considered the old East Prussia?


11 posted on 04/01/2011 6:03:12 AM PDT by Amberdawn
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To: calex59
Your example is ludicrous. These people are not illegal. They have been living there for hundreds of years. They had their own country and should have it again.
12 posted on 04/01/2011 7:07:52 AM PDT by kabumpo (Kabumpo)
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To: Amberdawn

I don’t believe so. Silesia is down closer to Bohemia (Czech Republic) and other former Habsburg (Austrian) dominated lands.

Prussia (and later Germany) was one of the players in the game to dominate Silesia, however.


13 posted on 04/01/2011 9:00:16 AM PDT by Tallguy (Received a fine from the NFL for a helmet-to-helmet hit.)
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To: Amberdawn

Silesians speak german, czech or polish...depending on which country they live in. Prussian was spoken in the regions of Masuria, Silesian I seem to remember was a part of Bohemia.


14 posted on 04/01/2011 9:00:16 AM PDT by Katya (Homo Nosce Te Ipsum)
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To: Katya

OK, Thanks to both Tallguy and you, Katya.


15 posted on 04/01/2011 12:20:37 PM PDT by Amberdawn
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To: Katya
Silesia belonged to Austria until 1740. On the death of Charles VI, when Maria Theresa inherited the throne, Frederick II invaded Silesia and touched off the War of the Austrian Succession. Maria Theresa managed to hold on to her other possessions but finally had to give up on regaining Silesia (at most she may have kept a very small piece of it).

I think it was mainly German-speaking until 1945 but the Germans were forced out when the western border of Poland was set at the Oder-Neisse line.

16 posted on 04/01/2011 7:09:59 PM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: kabumpo

“They had their own country and should have it again.”

Against will of at least 97% of people living there ? Fascinating.


17 posted on 04/03/2011 5:05:11 AM PDT by Grzegorz 246
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To: kabumpo

If you don’t have anything clever to say, don’t say anything.


18 posted on 04/05/2011 6:16:43 AM PDT by Kozik
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To: Kozik

I see that you don’t take your own advice.


19 posted on 04/05/2011 7:44:00 AM PDT by kabumpo (Kabumpo)
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To: AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Berosus; bigheadfred; Bockscar; cardinal4; ColdOne; ...
Note: this topic was posted 4/1/2011. Thanks bruinbirdman.
20 posted on 03/23/2014 6:17:57 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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Silesian push for autonomy tests Poland’s unity ahead of polls
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7ff14a52-74a2-11e3-9125-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2wq3ZqsUI

Silesian Autonomy Movement
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silesian_Autonomy_Movement


21 posted on 03/23/2014 6:19:39 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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