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Was Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth a Colonial Power? - Hieronim Grala

In recent years the theory that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was an example of a colonial state has found many supporters in Poland and abroad. In Poland, the main proponent of this view is a researcher named Jan Sowa1. A similar thinking can be found in the writings of contemporary Ukrainian historians (among them, Yaroslav Hrytsak) who make references to widely respected authorities like Daniel Beauvois. The latter was a real forefather in the process of deconstructing the myth of the Polish Borderlands (Kresy). A perfect illustration of this phenomenon is an interview that Hrytsak gave to Katarzyna Wężyk which was published with a telling title – “Our hell was your paradise”. In the interview, Hrytsak refers to some characteristic elements of post-colonial discourse. He closes his reflections with a clear conclusion: “When it comes to the Borderlands, my approach is similar to French historian, Daniel Beauvois, who sees similarities between the legacy of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth  in the Borderlands and the legacy of French colonialism in Northern Africa.”  Accusing Poland of open and brutal colonialism, Hrytsak further argues that “Colonialism always takes such phrases as to show that it is not a conquest, violence, but a civilizational mission. […] This is a typical colonial discourse. The French write the same about Algeria or the Brits about India.2

Such opinions generated a certain reaction, especially in Poland since the humanities have always been open to new approaches, methodologies and narratives. Thus, the possibility to use post-colonial discourse to analyse Poland’s history, especially in regards to the Borderlands which were often idealised in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s national tradition, has generated a vivid discussion among Polish academics. This discussion was not free from a deep methodological reflection, however its goal was much more pragmatic and aimed at answering some very specific questions. In this discussion, as well as the activities that were undertaken to establish a protocol of differences between the supporters and opponents of using post-colonial discourse in Polish history, a group of researchers gathered around the University of Warsaw’s “Artes Liberales” Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, which today is a department, played an important role. Consequently, two international debates were held in 2007 and 2016 respectively.3 Characteristically, despite some relatively strong disputes and noticeable divisions between the participants who were representing a variety of centres and academic disciplines, there was no confrontation between those who wanted and those who did not want to assign post-colonialism a dominant role in the humanities. Based on a very thorough diagnosis by Jan Kieniewicz, who was the main initiator of these meetings, it was agreed that “it made sense to somehow include a colonial approach in research into the widely understood Polish and Central and Eastern European studies.”4  Nevertheless, during the 2016 debate, there were also voices stressing a need for due diligence and the necessary academic rigour while applying this fashionable discourse in the descriptions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The author of this text was among those who shared this opinion.5 Taking into account later reactions, also by those who are very sensitive to “colonial” elements in the Polish historical narrative6, it is worth presenting one more analysis of this phenomenon in order to supplement, and arrange, the earlier argumentation. It is also worth answering the question whether the activity of all supporters of the post-colonial discourse, which is aimed at eliminating all elements of the “bad” historical tradition, is accidental in its current form? Or maybe in the post-colonial discourse, the Commonwealth is not only as a real entity, a subject of research analysis meeting academic rigour and carried out in the most objective manner, but also a historiosophical chimera, a projection of the researchers’ imagination? 

A colonial empire?

Let me start with an analysis of the earlier mentioned French-British comparison. Matter-of-factly, this catch-all comparison, when confronted with sources, turns out to be useless, at least in regards to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  It was indeed proved on many occasions that the expansion of Poland’s eastern lands was deprived of features characteristic for conquest. In other words, it lacked the original sin of colonialism.7  This was well articulated by Krzysztof Koehler who said: “I do not know on what basis we can talk in colonial categories about the Polish-Lithuanian Union. To my knowledge the Union was proceeded by a long and complicated political process and nobody has heard (or maybe Tokarczuk has!) about a military intervention; Polish troops neither entered Lithuania, nor was there a take-over of offices, currency, imposing of intendants, etc. The Union was simply established. […] I may be mistaken, as I am lacking in education, but – as I read in history books and the sources – the Union with the Polish Kingdom was strongly supported by the Ruthenian nobility from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, as they believed it gave them a chance to enter into the orbit of Poland’s laws which, in turn, were offering an escape from a strong grasp of Lithuanian magnates and an entrance into what Norman Davies called the sphere of “nobleman’s paradise.”8 This argument could be enforced by the fact that a significant – at times decisive – share of the Ruthenian nobility took part in the establishment of the Union against the will of the Lithuanians which, in turn, can be confirmed by the well-known fact that the Ruthenian nobility in Volhynia established a confederation in defence of the Union’s accomplishments during the 1572 interregnum. In a way it was a response to the revisionist temptations of Lithuanians. It is also worth mentioning here that the idea of an incorporation of the Kyiv voivodship that was put forward during the 1569 Lublin Sejm as not initiated by the supporters of the Polish Crown but the Ruthenian nobility from Volhynia!9

Thus, all stubborn references to questionable analogies and attempts to surprise others with an assumed Polish expansion into Ukrainian lands have recently reached not only the level of absurdity, but even bliss: Sowa’s definition assumes that there was even a “Polish Borderlands Company”10, which – if we dig deeper into his sources – turns out not to be so Polish after all. It is indeed regrettable that the above-mentioned researchers seemed to have omitted some reservations that Stefan Kieniewicz formulated against Beauvois 30 years ago, and which have not lost their accuracy until today: “The image of Polish life in Ukraine […] does not fully correspond to reality. A simplified classification of Ukraine’s residents divides them into masters (pany) – who arrived from Poland – and their subjects – the local peasants.  First of all, of Ruthenian origin were not only a few Borderland noble families that had been Polonised for a long time, but also a significant number of middle-level gentry that had purely Ruthenian family names: like the Bernatowiczs, the Bukars, the Hołowińskis, the Hulewiczs, the Iwanowskis, the Juriewiczs, the Kotiużyńskis, the Lenkiewiczs, the Morgulecs, the Podhorodeńkis, the Wyhowskis – and many, many more. If we add those with ancestors on their mother’s side we can say that a significant part of the Borderland nobility felt “local” for centuries. Secondly, since the 15th century not only the nobility but also Polish peasants were moving to the Borderlands, either as fugitives or settlers. These people were filling the gaps in a country butchered by the Ottoman yoke. Traces of this influx were noticeable in the 19th century in these “Mazurians” who were still Roman Catholics yet already Russified: a much larger number of settlers however converted into Christian Orthodoxy and blended with the locals. In Ukraine, language divisions gradually overlapped with class divisions and that is why it is difficult to compare […] those relations with the French antagonisms towards Arabs in Algeria”11. It is difficult indeed to name the subjects and victims of colonial expansion, those whom the father of Ukrainian historiography – Mykhailo Hrushevsky – correctly described as “sovereign princes of the new generation” and whose representatives, the Ruthenian dukes of the Ostrogskis, the Zasławskis, the Zbaraskis, the Sanguszkos, the Wiśniowieckis and the Koreckis held as many as 21 seats in the Senate of the Commonwealth in 1569 and 1648. Let me also add that their colonising activities, because of the massive use of the services of “Galician masters” who were Polonised indeed but had come from the Tsardom of Russia, is often seen as an almost consolidating factor in the history of the Ukrainian nation – a “Rus’ meets with the other Rus’” (N. Jakowenko12). Many different researchers like Aleksander Jabłonowski, Wiktor Czermak, Antoni J. Rolle or Vyacheslav Lypynsky analysed the ethnic as well as religious diversity of the Ukrainian nobility coming to different conclusions. However, they all agreed at least in one aspect, the weakness of excessive generalisation of schemes.13
Professional historians are required to formulate their research hypotheses based on rigorously presented sources. Otherwise, it is believed that false assumptions lead to erroneous conclusions and the final arguments do not reflect the truth. Let us then take a look at what, in the confrontation with sources, the detailed and seemingly rich evidence that has been collected by the supporters of the colonial nature of the First Polish Republic looks like. Let me start with the book which is now popular and widely discussed titled “Fantomowe ciało króla” (The Phantom Body of the King) authored by Jan Sowa. Contrary to the opinion of its author, the Sarmatian theory of conquest, which provided the Polish nobility with arguments to support their conviction of being different from other social groups and which in Sowa’s view is tantamount to colonisation14, was not something rare in a feudal reality. It is suffice here to point out to the Lithuanian nobility’s conviction of their Roman origins (My sut’ szlachta staraja rimskaja a Polaki sut’ ludi prostyi ¬¬- We are the old Roman nobility and the Poles are simple people), through which they stressed their difference not from a lower social strata but the Polish nobility. Per analogy, should this argument be used to prove that there was a separate Lithuanian colonialism, one that was addressed towards the Poles?

While criticising the concept of Polish noble democracy and stressing that it lacked social inclusiveness15  Sowa omits an exceptionally large size of the ruling class which amounted to 8 to 10 percent and included all the elite of the adjacent provinces, regardless of their nationality and religion – a phenomenon which requires a separate analysis!16 Even more, it pushes aside the possibility to compare the socio-legal situation and the identity dilemmas of other nobility groups which were a minority, such as the Croat magnates in Hungary or the Germanised Czech nobility in the Habsburg Empire.17 It is especially tempting to ask the question in regards to the Habsburg state, that contrary to Poland, was a real empire: did the Croat elite that was calling up Coloman’s the Learned “Articles of Agreement” (1102), which were to connect their homeland with the Crown of the Arpads, feel that they were an object of colonial oppression (and if yes, which one? Hungarian or German?) in the early modern era?18  Seemingly there are no sources that could confirm such a thesis.

While writing about “detaching Ukraine from Lithuania and attaching it to Poland,”19 Sowa clearly does not understand the aspirations of the Ruthenian nobility. In the Grand Duchy not only the boyars but also the dukes (knyaz) faced numerous restrictions – including religious ones! – from the privileged Lithuanians (let me point here the scandal that erupted around the appointment of knyaz Kostanty Ostrogski, who had defeated Muscovy at the Battle of Orsha, as the voivode of Trakai and granting him the first place in rada hospodarska. At that time representatives of the Lithuanian elite were accusing King Sigismund I of Poland of breaching the stipulations of Union of Horodło which forbade granting Trakai and Vilnius voivodships to Ruthenians and non-Catholics).20 That is why, the Union was supported not only by the real leaders of Rus’ (the Ostrogskis, the Czartoryskis, the Wiśniowieckis and the Koreckis), but also by the local nobility that were seeking from the monarch and the state, which they recognised as their own, protection against the free will of the Lithuanian rulers. 

A union, not expansion

A detailed explanation is also needed in regards to Sowa’s statement that “by taking over Lithuanian voivodships and using them as a kind of a base for further expansion into the East, the Commonwealth in fact took on the role of a coloniser. […] New territories were not sought remotely, but nearby. They were taken over through conquest, bribery, political deals or in other ways they were introduced into the orbit of direct dependence on the metropolitan centre (Warsaw, Moscow).”21 I am not able to find resemblance between the colonisation of the Wild Steppe and Muscovy’s expansion into Siberia or the Spanish, Portuguese, English or Dutch colonial expansion. Our settlers – both the Cossack and the magnates – did not impropriate the local population of their wealth; they did not subordinate to themselves any Siberian native peoples as there were none of them there! At the same time, they played a positive role in the localities, protecting some centres from unexpected invaders who, before, could – without any difficulty – penetrate the uninhabited “no man’s lands”. In turn, Muscovy’s expansion was first meant to subordinate the Siberian peoples, who were perceived as first and foremost providers of fur “fluffy gold” without which the economic system of the 16th and 17th century Muscovy could not function, and which reveals some similarity to the situation in North America at that time.22 Also, I cannot recall any territories in the East of the Polish Republic that were acquired through conquest, bribery or political dealings. The territorial expansion which was a result of the 1618 Truce of Deulino and the 1634 Treaty of Polyanovka, all display features of the legally justified re-vindication of lands that had earlier been taken away as a result of Moscovy’s expansion. So where was the conquest? What does “enigmatic bribery” actually mean? In Władysław Godziszewski’s opinion it was rather the ability on Poland’s side to concede and make an unjustified correction of borders23. It also turns out that in the case of the Ukrainian lands it is impossible to apply Jürgen Osterhammel’s colonial typology as there was neither a massive settlement of the area by ethnic Poles (Siedlungskolonien) and the peasants remained Ruthenian nor was there a political subordination or economic exploitation of the province by the metropolis (Herrschaftskolonien) as the local “princes”, quite often of Ruthenian origin, continued to have a large impact on the fate of the state.24
Thus, the “Polonisation/colonisation25” connection that is used by the proponents of old Polish colonialism requires a correction. A common perception of the Polish Catholic dominance over the Ruthenian elite after the Union of Lublin (which is, as a matter of fact, exaggerated) omits two significant phenomena: the naturally dying out of parts of the Ruthenian elite and the Ruthenians’s departure from Eastern Orthodoxy, quite often under the influence of the Reformation, which can be illustrated by the famous work by Meletius Smotrytsky.26  This argumentation also puts aside, for example, Henryk Litwin’s assumption that it was the Khmelnytsky Uprising (and not the policies of the First Polish Republic) that decided on the Catholisation of the Kievan and Bracław nobility – which, when undertaken questioned not only the model but also the existence of the state and the class solidarity won over the religious one.27

The idiosyncrasies of the dual patriotism of the Borderland nobility, in this case Ruthenian, can be understood through the life of Adam Kisiel of Brusiłów. Brusiłów was a mediator between the Polish Republic and Bohdan Khmelnytsky, whose sacrifice was appreciated by Henryk Sienkiewicz and who was an admirer of Jarema Wiśniowiecki, a spokesman of calming down the Rus’ by pacifying the rebellion with blood. A reading of the historical sources, including Khmelnytsky’s correspondences, leaves no doubt on the relation between ethnicity and confession and class patriotism. If Khmelnytsky, who often declared his attachment to the religion of Rus’ and having had ancestors among the “ancient Ruthenian people”, is to be regarded as the model of a Ruthenian nobleman, it is worth recalling his speech to the Sejm in 1641 when, acting on behalf of the Kyiv, Volhynia, Bratslav and Chernihiv nobility, he made a reference to class unity and pointed out that the ancestors of the Ruthenian nobility had been guaranteed freedom of religion as they joined Poland by their own free will (“ad Sarmatos Polonos libere accesserunt”).28  Did Adam Kisiel, a voivode of Kyiv, feel “colonised” by the Poles? It would be difficult to prove the validity of such a thesis in the context of his speech at the 1648 Sejm when he straightforwardly said: “I am a Polish nobleman, and a senator at the same time […] I form no community with the Cossack rebels […] I am proud of being in one faith with them, but today I would like them all to be killed on a pole”29.  Such an attitude towards the Commonwealth as not uncommon for the representatives of the Ruthenian elite; as the highest representative of the local Eastern Orthodox Church – the Kyiv Metropolitan Peter Mogila – called the Polish state “our homeland” and proved his loyalty to it30.
Quite astonishing are also Sowa’s endeavours to assign the planning and coordination of Ukraine’s colonisation to some kind of “central authorities of the First Polish Republic”31, which seems to ignore the fact that the Ruthenians themselves played a larger role than the Poles from Wielkopolska or Kujawy. The families which were involved in private wars over land were almost solely Ruthenian noble families (the Wiśniowiekis, the Ostrogskis, the Różyński, the Koreckis and the Tyszkiewiczs)!
Quite surprising is also Sowa’s recent assertion that in 1569–1648 the number of inhabitants of the Chernigov Principality increased by 200 to 300 times:32  Firstly – these lands fell into the Commonwealth only in 1618, while the issue of its settlers and the mode of settlement of the territories “recuperated from Muscovy” require great caution. It is worth mentioning that the people settled there had proved themselves in battles with Muscovy; they included both professional soldiers and the Russian supporters of “Tsar Władysław IV” who had been forced to leave their homeland: the Sołtyks, the Trubeckis, the Hraznys and others.33  What is more, in the light of Peter Kułakowśki’s research it becomes clear that the colonisation of Kyiv and Chernigov regions were carried out – to a large extent – by force of the Ruthenian people (nobility from Volhynia, Rus’ and the Bełz voivodeship, but also from Mazovia and peasants from the Lutsk county (powiat), the Podole voivodship, the Mazyr county, and the Minsk and Nowogródek voivodships), which justifies why the Ukrainian academic, Mykola Krykun, uses the term exodus maximus to describe the process that was characterised by the Ruthenian pressure in the East.34 Contrarily, the real success of the Polish people in pushing out the local Ruthenian population took place in a different area; closer to Kraków and Warsaw, but also much earlier; the land in question is the Bełz Voivodship, which – nonetheless – cannot not be regarded as the Borderlands.35

No peasant expulsion

The arguments that there was a “peasant expulsion” in the Borderlands is also dubious, since an analysis of the largest estates of this territory shows that many of them belonged to the Ruthenian elite (the Zbaraskis, the Zasławskis, the Czetwertyńskis, the Wiśniowieckis). This fact cannot be changed by calling duke (knyaz) Jarema a “Lithuanian magnate”.36 It is also impossible to prove that “Polish colonisers” dominated among the Kyiv nobility: Henryk Litwin’s analysis shows that in the years 1569–1648 the Sejm representation of this voivodship was, in a large part, composed of the representatives of Ruthenian noble families who had client relations with leading duke (knyaz) families.37

What also needs to be questioned is Sowa’s arbitrarily imposed general statement that “the First Polish Republic became even deeper tangled into colonialism than Western European powers did” as “the Lublin Union was a colonial act in a strong meaning of this word, as it was the basis why Poland became the owner of new territories to which it had no historical rights” while “Lithuania, which was incorporated into the phantom body of the kingdom, turned from a separate dynastic duchy into a province.”38 This opinion, as profane as it is, also shows its author’s lack of knowledge of the political system of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This is not the time and place to discuss the well-known information about the separate court system, the army, the treasury and offices. What seems more important here is to point out that the above quoted statements are deprived of reflection on which areas of the “Lithuanian province” were colonised by greedy Poles and where we should look for them.39 While we can point out to the vast estates of the Radziwiłłs, the Sapiehas, the Pacs, the Czartoryskis, and the Ogińskis that were on Polish territories, it is impossible to point to any accumulation of land by a Pole on the territory of the Grand Duchy and this holds true for the whole period of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth! It is also worth noting the diverse limitations for “foreigners” found in Lithuanian law.40 Finally, let me add that some of the popular and vociferous judgements, which can be found in our literature, have more resemblance of revelations than well-documented information. For example, a recent statement made by a distinct Lithuanian researcher that “After the 18th century the Lithuanian magnate families lost their importance, the highest offices of the Great Lithuanian Duchy were taken over by representatives of Polish magnate families”41 once confronted with the composition of the Great Lithuanian Duchy dignitaries proves completely ungrounded. It turns out that the position of the chancellor was filled by representatives of the Radziwiłłs, the Wiśniowieckis, the Sapiechas, the Czartoryskis and the Chreptowiczs42, the offices of the great hetmans were held by the Sapiehas, the Wiśniowieckis, the Ogińskis, the Pociejas, the Radziwiłłs, the Massalskis and the Ogińskis (only Szymon Kossakowski, a descendant of a noble family from the Łomża region who settled in Lithuania could be called a Pole), among the field hetmans were the descendants of the Słuszeks, the Ogińskis, the Wiśniowieckis, the Radziwiłłs, the Sapiehas, the Massalskis and the Zabiełłs (the only exception: Stanisław Denhoff), the great marshals: the Sapiehas, the Sanguszkas, the Wołłowiczs, the Ogińskis and the Tyszkiewiczs (exceptions were: Władysław Roch Gurowski and Roman Ignacy Potocki), Vilnius voivodes – the Wiśniowieckis, the Pociejas, the Ogińskis and the Radziwiłłs, the Vilnius castellans – the Radziwiłłs, the Pociejas, the Czartoryskis, the Ogińskis and the Massalskis. This shows that the share of Polish nobility among the elite of the Great Duchy was marginal, while “representatives of Polish magnate families” were members of the old Ruthenian noble families (from the Jagiellonian times) whose property, after the Union of Lublin, happened to be located in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This feature, however, cannot be treated as an indicator of Polishness as it was equally applicable to the representatives of the most Lithuanian family of all – the Radziwiłłs.

Here it is justified to mention Juliusz Bardach’s well-documented and convincing argumentation of the historical “two-levelled sense of nationality”43  that characterised Lithuanian nobility, which in the context of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – understood as a “wider homeland” – had a universal meaning, thus it could also be applied towards its Ruthenian lands and Royal Prussia. This model, expressed in the popular 19th century formula gente Ruthenus, natione Polonus (Ruthenian gentry, Polish nation) coined by Stanisław Orzechowski, was also applicable to other “nations” of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was recently questioned in the works by David Althoen and later by Ukrainian historiography.44 The view that emerged in the course of the discussion, which argued that since there is no identical statement to be found in Orzechowski’s work and the model is also fiction, seems unjustified. Indeed, Orzechowski, being a noble ideologue, introduced himself in his Annales as “Fidelis subditus Stanislaus Orichovius Roxolanus”45, using the term “Roxolanus” interchangeably with the world “Ruthenus” (in contemporary political-historical terms this would be a tautology) while the title pages of his works were marked with the note “gente Roxolani natione vero Poloni”, which allows us to believe that the formula reflected well the above mentioned two-level identity of the  Ruthenian nobility who did not feel that it was an object of colonial oppression.46

In the end, the favourite example of the Polish adherents to the colonial discourse is the argumentation by Paweł Palczowski that justified in the beginning of the Time of Troubles the planned conquest of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which he compared to “those Indias”47. The problem is that Palczowski’s argumentation, to a large degree reflecting his personal experience in Russian captivity, was calculated to have an immediate political effect in a complicated internal situation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: where one group of the nobility was engaged in supporting False Dmitry II while another was debating as to whether to support Sigismund III Vasa’s military plans against Moscovy which, in turn, was opposed by yet another group.48 Additionally, if we take into account the will for revenge the weakness of the colonial thesis becomes obvious. What is more, it is worth remembering that earlier (the mission of Lew Sapieha to Moscow in 1601) and a bit later (a prognosis of electing in 1610 the Polish prince Władysław IV Vasa as tsar), the Polish elite imagined completely differently relations with their eastern neighbour; their basis was foreseen as a “Polish–Lithuanian–Muscovite Commonwealth” or a dynastic state, which should give Poles (as well as Lithuanians and Ruthenians) access to “Muscovy” without depriving its Russian members of the same in regards to Poland.  Let us then point to one of the key places of the expansion model that was proposed by Palczowski: “And the last lands, dividing them into certain parts and leases, and through seigniory given to the nation, not only ours but also of the Muscovy, allowing them to our rights and liberties.”49 This postulate to expand the privileges of the nobility – the “pupils of freedom” – to possible future subjects does not go well with the poetics of colonial expansion, also if we put it together with the practices of the Muscovy authorities exercised not only in the remote Siberia, but also, more closely, in the Polish Livonia that had been conquered by Ivan the Terrible.50 Here, the interpretation of the phrase “our freedoms” is of key importance: these were not privileges that were reserved solely for the Poles, as they were designed for the whole noble political nation, namely the descendants of the mythical Sarmatians, among whom next to “Sarmatos Polonos” (Poles) was a numerous and influential group of “Sarmatos Rossii” (Ruthenians).   

Open to local elite

It is pointless to multiply examples of oblique statement, distortions, lack of accuracy and simplifications which can be found in the arsenal of the supporters of the “Old Polish colonialism”. Seemingly their register can be treated with a great probability as a pars pro toto (a part taken for the whole), which generates some scepticism towards any generalisation constructed on such a flawed foundation.51 And the point is not to defend the “Sarmatian Paradise” but also not to create an unreal Old Polish Mordor. That is why Filip Białek, also a critic of this construction, is correct in saying that “many texts written by the Sarmatians quite visibly show their efforts to point to their difference from the Ruthenians, include excerpts about an empty Ukraine that is waiting for someone to administer it, or there is even mention of a civilizational duty to keep this country within the Commonwealth (let us notice, however, that the narrative about the difference of the Sarmatians was used not only in regards to the inhabitants of Rus’, but also Polish peasants, the bourgeois, or people living in the West – Sarmatians felt that they were absolutely unique)”, which is of crucial importance to the East-West opposition constructed by Sowa. Not less justified, yet not free of spite, is the question that Białek poses: “In which way can Sowa reconcile the de-masking of the colonial attempts of the Polish nobility with his claim that the real civilizational centre is to be found in the West? Should we stick to the post-colonial thinking in all statements claiming the superiority of Western Europe would have to be deconstructed as well? In such a case we should treat Jan Sowa as a comprador who tries to convince people who have found themselves in a situation of dependence (Poles) into believing that such a situation is the most justified.”52

Let us once more return to the justification for using the earlier mentioned comparisons with Algeria and India. The flawed nature of this construction de-masks the basic question regarding the participation of the Deys and Maharajahs and finally the whole – relatively numerous! – local elite in the reality that was prepared for them by the colonists and especially the question regarding their position in the metropolis. While in the case of British India we can talk about taking advantage of the existing social order in the service to the Empire on the spot, we can also say that a search for representatives of the local elite in the House of Lords, or at least in the House of Commons, is a hopeless endeavour. In the case of the latter we can point to a short-term of a half-Indian in 1841, but there were no other representatives of the colony in the British Parliament until the 1890s.53 It turns out that even establishing the Empire of India (1877) did not bring the local elite increased opportunities for advancement within the British Empire. They were never granted the privilege to reach the level of peerage. In the case of the French Northern Africa the search for similarities with the First Polish Republic seem to make even less sense.

Local elite never became a part of the elite of colonial powers, just as was the case with the Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch colonies.54 At the same time, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a very different case: regardless of the essence of the dispute, whether imposed or incorporated, the Lithuanians and Ruthenians constituted an important part of the elite in the state that they shared with Poland. At times the level of their power and wealth was much higher than that of the “Polish colonisers”.55 In fact, since the 1385 Union of Krewo until the partitions, representatives of the Polish nation were hard to find among those who occupied the seat of the Polish-Lithuanian throne, with the only exceptions being Stanisław Leszczyński and Jan Sobieski.  The Jagiełło dynasty (on a note; closely related to the Rurik dynasty) added to their Lithuanian-Ruthenian blood a few Habsburg and Italian drops, but not Polish ones. Namely, the Vazas, descendants, on the mother’s side, of the Lithuanian-Ruthenian Jagiełłos, did not have any of it while Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki had Ukrainian roots on the father’s side. Stanisław August Poniatowski indeed had ancestors (on his father’s side) among the Little-Poland’s nobility, but he moved up thanks to his mother’s belonging to the all-powerful Czartoryski “Family” – the Ruthenian knyazs.
Quite illustrative are also the statistics regarding the application of the unanimity voting rule called the liberum veto. It turns out that this institution, which was meant to conserve the socio-political system of the First Polish Republic, was more often used by the representatives of Lithuania (28) and Ruthenian lands (24) than the Polish Crown (21). Its register starts with the name of Władysław Siciński (year 1652), who was a client of the Radziwiłł family and who later, in 1655, signed the Union of Kieydany, which was a political transaction between hetman Janusz Radziwiłł and the Swedes. Jan Aleksander Olizar-Wołczkiewicz, the Kyiv sub-judge, also found a prominent place there (in 1669 he breached the Sejm, as he was representing the interests of Ukrainian nobility and was supported by Kyiv and Chernigov MPs with chamberlain Alexander Konstanty Woronicz – a representative of a distinct Ruthenian family – among them).56

Ruthenians and Lithuanians often held high level state offices. They were hetmans, chancellors, senators and MPs. Their language – unlike in the case of other colonised states – had a very important position among the official languages of the commonwealth, and was not only used by the provincial administration, but also was an official language and one in which laws were stipulated.57 Clearly, this was not the case of the Aztecs, the Incas, Huron people, the Iroquois, or even the Indians. Thus, it is worth pointing out that the Ruthenian nobility could enjoy all noble privileges and participated in the passing of the 1573 Act on the Warsaw General Confederation which obliged the citizens of the Polish Republic to preserve its unity and religious peace “between different people adhering to different faiths and services.” This document was rightfully placed on the UNESCO “Memory of the World” list which suggests that in the Borderlands there was something different than a colonial order and an elimination of the minority Ruthenian population. It also had no counterpart in any other colonial power that we know of.58 The greatness of this “minority” excluded its marginalisation. Thus, it was the unexpected increase in the size of the noble class throughout the empire which took place as a result of the partitions and that became a serious problem to the tsarist administration after 1795. And the latter was a state which, due to the size of its nobility and the general population, should not have had any problems with absorbing a whole group of subordinates. In that case was the position of the Lithuanian and Ruthenian nobility similar to that of the elite in the states that were once colonialized by France or England? This seems to be more than questionable: while the Ruthenian population can be considered a co-architect of the Union of Lublin (against the Lithuanian opposition), the effects of the political contract included equal rights to Ruthenians, which was in opposition to the tradition of the Lithuanian political system not the Polish one, where it was simply a norm since the times of king Casmir the Great. It was also understood by King Sigmund II Augustus as he showed during the Lublin Sejm when he answered knyaz Konstanty Wiśniowiecki who spoke on behalf of the Orthodox nobility appealing that they would not be “humiliated in faith”. The monarch addressed his speech to the Ruthenian nobility as those who “good-heartedly came from a noble nation”, meaning all members of the political nation59. A level of reflection over the political system that was demonstrated by both sides during the negotiations does not seem to confirm a supposition that the last king of the Jagiellonian dynasty was making deals with the local population, which was soon to be taken over by the “Polish Borderland Company”…

On Rus’ behalf, this contract was signed by a nobility that was politically experienced and aware of its rights and obligations and did not feel any coercion, but was rather hoping for some benefits. In fact, their descendants started to play, with time, an important cultural role; can we imagine today’s Polish culture without such names as Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Stanisław Moniuszko or Czesław Miłosz? Their input was so large that it even contributed to the traditions of other nations that succeeded from the First Polish Republic! Seemingly, this phenomenon has no counterpart in a Western European colonial experience: even Rabindranath Tagore, although raised in Victorian times and awarded knighthood in 1915 (which he gave up a few years later) belongs solely to the indigenous Indian culture, while the first celebrity in the Francophone world who had Algerian roots was probably the footballer Zinedine Zidane. What is more, in the case of French colonies their low social condition was not only caused by the locals: “The Algerian French are a bastard race, an effect of the most unexpected mixtures,” wrote Albert Camus, himself a son of a French blue-collar worker and a Catalonian woman. Let me now refer to the diagnosis of the Algerian reality that was authored by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu: “A European gradually recreated the environment which was his reflection and the world in which he did not feel alienated, and in which it was the Algerian who became an intruder.” In the researcher’s opinion Algeria, colonised by the French, turned into an area without history, while the Algerians into people without rights.60 In these images it is difficult to find similarities with Poland. It is quite surprising, however, that Beauvois, then by Sowa and Hrytsak, who further developed his ideas, omitted an attractive analogy that can be found in the history of France and that corresponds so well with our myth of the Borderlands. The myth in question is mystique d’Alsace – a phenomenon which has a similar historical foundation and emotional connotation. It relates to the memory of historical areas which were lost to the advantage of a neighbour and which before the First World War caused some secret trips of the French Army soldiers who would climb mountain peaks just to look at Kolmar (“our columns were gathering, gasped and speechless upon what they were seeing”61), which is similar to, for example, the tradition of the pre-war Polish Border Protection Corps who were nostalgically looking at the areas that were already on the Soviet side. For the Poles, the Borderland was not only an integral part of their historical territory, an area that forever belonged to them, but it was also a part of their state that had a special meaning to the Polish culture, both during the time of independence and under the partitions. That is why the postulate to recover these territories and maintain them has remained an imperative for generations of Poles. It seems that the attempts to attach both Vilnius and Lviv back to the Polish state, or even dreams to get Kamieniec Podolski back, have more in common with the French desire of revenge after the humiliating Frankfurt Treaty of 1871 when Alsace and a part of Lothringia became German, than with the colonists’ nostalgic memories of Algeria’s lost olive gardens and vineries.

Poor reading of sources

Social problems, next to ethnic and religious ones, played a significant role in the construction of the myth of the “Polish Borderland Company”. Here the issue is about the oppression of the “subject”, usually a Ukrainian (which leads to the question: what about a Belarusian or Polish peasant?) by a “master” (always a Pole) and adjusting this narration to adequately selected sources. Unfortunately, these sources raise some serious concerns. There is, for example, a tendency to compare the register of 19th century court statements from the Kyiv Administration which included cases of beating or killing peasants with an idealistic speech by Wolski in the 12th Book of Pan Tadeusz62.  However, while the former really is  proof of hideous acts of violence towards peasants that took place in 1837-1840, the latter does not relate to the idealisation of relations between the court and the peasants, but the harmony within the nobility, and – which is even more important – in the reality of the pre-partition Polish democracy.63” Thus, putting together the messages from such different sources makes no methodological sense. It would be more justified to refer to a classic text by Alexander Radishchev (Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, 1970), which illustrates the similarities in the forms of serfdom system in different areas of the Russian Empire that were outside of reach to the alleged Polish colonialism and – what is even more interesting – not in the Ural-Siberian peripheries (which would allow for some colonial similarities) but in European administrations, that is the historical core of Russian statehood. Finally – it would be worth comparing the above mentioned register with court documents from other European countries that date back to the times before the abolishment of serfdom and elimination of its relicts, which for the majority of countries on our continent is a phenomenon that took place not much earlier, and was usually linked with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic system. However, even the existence of such documents in these countries, or in the European parts of the Russian Empire, does not give researchers a reason to apply colonial discourse in regards to their social system.64 Cases of cruel tormenting of subjects, which were criticised by Stefan Żeromski, a Polish writer very sensitive to social injustice, did not show traces of ethnic conflict, unless we understand it backwards: consider that Żeromski’s protagonist, duke Gnitułt, was a Lithuanian nobleman who owned Polish peasants, which naturally questions the presumption that Polish nobility exploited the local population in the Borderlands. Żeromski, however, drew the right conclusions not only from the 1846 Galician Slaughter (the killing of Polish land owners was carried out by local Polish peasants) but also from the attitude of the peasantry towards the January Uprising.

On a side note, it is worth returning to the romantic narrative that was so much criticised by Beauvois – whose examples are not only a flawed supposition (like above) but also a violation of the content of the source material. The quoted motif of the Pamiątki Soplicy can be proof that the writers of noble origin glorified the obedience of the Borderlands’ gentry in regards to a court verdict issued for the cruelty towards peasants (apparently according to Henryk Rzewuski “without any police order they would go to court and themselves issue a penance of a few weeks of isolation and remorse”) while the story Pan Leszczyc talks about punishing a nobleman with a knife on the throat for kidnapping a noblewoman and incest. However, the described situations show the reality before the Bar Confederation and have nothing to do with the interclass relations at the time of Poland’s partitions.65 Another piece of evidence looks even worse: according to Beauvois “the understanding attitude which showed Father Robak as he forgave the sins of Klucznik, who carelessly ended up ‘killing an innocent slave’ was a result of the ‘killing of a peasant who was a serf and was not simply a crime’"66. However, Mickiewicz’s “slave” was not a serf peasant, but a tsarist mayor named Płut, who was a Russified Pole, a traitor and recreant (“a great villain”) who was taken to captivity and was eliminated by Gerwazy – aware of the sin – for the sake of the public, to save other citizens from tsarist repressions…67 The above examples lead to the sad conclusion that instead of using Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz as an apology for the alleged “colonial” relations, it would make more sense to use it as a source that was contemporary to the described reality, and one which includes ethnographic material.

A careful reading of Pan Tadeusz shows the weakness of the thesis that there was an expansion of Polish nobility in the area described by the Polish national poet, namely Lithuania. Were the Horoszkos, the Hreczechas, the Podhajskis, and the Birbaszóws – all “friends or kinsmen of the Judge”? It is suffice to relate to the reality described in Books VI and VII (The Hamlet and The Consultation): there, next to ethnic Poles – the Dobrzyńskis – who were different from the rest of nobility, were the descendants of the Skołubas, the Tarajewiczs, the Mickiewiczs, the Zans, and the Czeczots; in other words, representatives of the old Lithuanian nobility.68

Turning Mickiewicz into a defender of a social order that is based on the exploitation of peasantry in the Borderlands (based on quotes that show no connection with the peasant issue) is a manipulation. The poet described an abrupt reaction of the local nobleman to the statement made by a peasant about Russian orders (“For the gentry it is only half bad, but they skin us like linden bark.”) which was rooted in the conviction of different vocations of people: “You stupid son of Ham!” cried Skoluba, “It is easier for you; you peasants are as used to skinning as eels; but for us men of birth, us gentlemen accustomed to golden liberty! (IV, verses. 330–33469).” It does not seem probable that Mickiewicz was adhering to class superstitions if in Book XII, which is a laudation of Homeland, the issue of liberation and enfranchisement, or even turning them into nobility takes significant space (XII, verse 487–56470).

The lack of respect in regards to source material is certainly not solely limited to Beauvois. The measure of semantic abuse of his followers points to a link between the derogatory terms “blacks” and “black” which apparently were used by Poles in regards to the “indigenous Ukrainian peasants.”71 However, on the surface an impressive semantic game leads us nowhere, as these terms, popularised in Poland through the works of Henryk Sienkiewicz, are in in fact of eastern Slavic origin and legitimised by their ancient roots in the Old Ruthenian material! The term “black” refers to the commoners which was well confirmed in the 13th century (The First Novgorod Codex), while in the Polish language it is a clear borrowing from Ruthenian, one that owes its popularity not to the alleged “lay governments” and exploitation of Ukrainian peasants, but a huge impact of the medieval and later Ruthenian socio-legal tradition. This concept is a derivative of a term which was used back in Kievan Rus’ to refer to population that was dependant (“black people”) and which in numerous mutations entered the terminology of the legal and political system of the modern Russian state.

Considering the well-documented usage of this term towards representatives of lower social classes in the Russian language in the 19th and 20th century (when it is even more difficult to find Polish influences and the sense of ethnic alienation) one feels that it would be a good idea to recommend to the supporters of the discussed version the unquestionably inspirational “colonial” prose of Joseph Conrad (see Bogdan Huk’s statement of a “Polish heart of darkness”) as well as an obligatory reading of basic dictionaries.72

Seemingly, their selection of research material, as well as opponents, do not hold up to criticism.  Consumerist attitude towards sources, selective usage of historiography, a tendency to construct questionable comparisons and hypothesis that are unconstrained by sources, as well as a visible inclination for making generalisations, all resemble analytical nihilism. As a result, their struggles with the imagined monster of Polish colonialism generate careless speculations, instead of the truth.

While referring to the problem of post-colonial theory, which was thoroughly defined in the title of Aneta Pieniądz’s article Historians and the post-colonial theory – between lack of knowledge, refutation and criticism73, I would like to add one more element – objection. What I have in mind here is clearly not an objection towards the method, but rather a dispute over its rational use and boundaries of application. In this approach, the relation between the historian and the theory is characterised not only by a conviction that it is “an exotic novelty, generating reluctance, as seemingly hitting into the foundations of the historical method, obviously in the Rankowski (or maybe rather Handelsman’s) understanding of this term” (which is to lead to a self-defence that would mean discrediting a theory without getting to know it) nor a conviction that this is an attempt to exchange dogmas without taking into account the limited usefulness of the new methodology for specific areas and civilizations (Krzysztof Pomian criticized post-colonial theory based on these assumptions). Pieniądz was correct and witty in her diagnosis of a characteristic feature of this discourse: “for the criticism addressed to the historians who distance themselves from ‘new’ theories there is an incentive, directed at all the polemists, which suggests that before they close the archives to the historians, they themselves should go to the libraries and read a bit over there.”74

Seemingly, the situation is more dynamic and the position of historians more complex. In addition to the subconscious (or maybe conscious?) fear of getting tangled up in the dogmas and the only correct methodology, the objection towards its vulgar use and a rebuttal of assigning novel features to a new proposition to prove that this is a newly presented but already well-known interpretation, there is a fundamental issue of academic rigour. Overall the experience of applying post-colonial theory towards relations in our region, and especially in regards to the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth have not proved encouraging (which is also illustrated by the above examples). The dispute over the methodology gets to the point where it becomes a debate on the principles of the profession and artisanship. Acts of ignorance in regards to detailed theories for the sake of a broad perspective or a highly generalised model lead to a negation of the fundamental principle of diversity and equal treatment of research experience. Even worse, a significant number of the post-colonial theory defenders use it in areas that are limited by time and geography. Indeed the sine quo non condition for applying instruments that are regarded as universal is verification of their usefulness to broad material and a reference to rigorous and methodologically well-conducted comparative research. Yet, in the case of the alleged colonialism in the clearly backward Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth nobody risked using the Ottoman or Russian experience. Even the easily noticed differences between expansion by sea and land (Russia, the Ottoman Porte, Byzantium, China, etc.), which establishes one of the most important differences between Russian and Western European colonialism, do not find a clear reflection in the Polish analyses into the usefulness, or lack thereof, of the colonial discourse in regards to Poland’s history. Let me add that it is impossible not to agree with the conclusion of Jan Kieniewicz that the processes that are analysed by the adherers of colonial theories “can be described and interpreted in classical terms, be it by the Webberian or Marxist school, and do not benefit from the introduction of terminology or the way of thinking developed in post-colonial studies.”75
While discussing the usefulness of post-colonial research for Polish history we should notice its usefulness but in regards to a different epoch, which took place after the partitions, and especially during the Romanov Empire (as it was correctly concluded by Jan Kieniewicz “Russia established colonial relations even though it did not want to admit it”). It seems justified to treat Poland of that time as a “space of colonial expansion and colonialism”, one on which the three powers with different intensity and success were trying to cement their authority. However, we cannot also be blind to the fact that while in service to these three powers the Poles themselves participated in the process of establishing colonial domination over other peoples.  The colonial situation was indeed something that we experienced, but it was not during the pre-partition Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth…

Translated by Iwona Reichardt

  1. Cf.. J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało króla. Peryferyjne zmagania z nowoczesną formą, Universitas, 2011; Idem, Inna Rzeczpospolita jest możliwa! Widma przeszłości, wizje przyszłości, Grupa Wydawnicza Foksal, 2015.  
  2. K. Wężyk, Kresy. Dla nas piekło, dla was raj. Rozmowa z Jarosławem Hrycakiem, ”Wyborcza.pl – Maga¬zyn Świąteczny”, 25 July 2015, http://wyborcza.pl; por. D. Beauvois, Trójkąt ukraiński. Szlachta, carat i lud na Wołyniu, Podolu i Kijowszczyźnie 1793–1914, Wydawnictwo UMCS, 2011, pp. 7–8, 17; J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., pp. 322, 443–444. It is worth mentioning here the opinion of Beauvois who said in an authoritative way: ”There is no doubt that there was exploitation of the Ukrainian people by Polish gentry [...] the serfdom of the Ruthenian peasants was close to slavery. The relations between the court and the village were so cruel that they resembled those of the American cotton plantations, French Martinique or some place in Africa (Demokracji szlacheckiej nie było, www.archiwum.wyborcza.pl). Polish researchers had some reservations in regards to this interview. Cf. articles published on the web portal przodek.pl. It is also worth noticing that Beauvois’s views got more radical between the January 2005 and February 2011 edition of his work, which can be seen in the forward to the last edition (p. 7). This is quite surprising, given the fact that this researcher, as it can be proved from his polemic with Ewa Thompson during the debate at the Warsaw University (22 June 2007 ) was, on the one hand, quite critical in regards to using colonial discourse towards our region (and especially the policies of Russia, which he called “a bit unfair” as “Poland was also guilty of colonial experiences”) and instead he proposed the enigmatic concept of “conquest” (see: “Debaty IBI AL”, vol. 1, 2008, pp. 27–28), presenting, on the other hand, a restrained position, stressing the external similarities between colonialism and eastern Slavic serfdom taking place “on everyday basis, in real life situations” as “the phenomenon itself was quite different, we are in a different world”. We are not in colonies but in a world of serfdom, in a class-based society where the exploitation is awful […] but […] a result of the feudal situation” (ibidem, p. 30). Seemingly, this reduction in Beauvois’s opinions were not noticed by his admirers and followers. Interestingly, the object of the researcher’s attacks were the theses of the author of a popular work on the post-colonial aspect of Russian literature. See: E.M. Thompson, Imperial Knowl¬edge. Russian Literature and Colonialism, Greenwood Press, 2000.

  3.   See: “Debaty IBI AL” vol. I, 2008, pp. 12–72; J. Kieniewicz (ed.), Perspektywy postkolonializmu w Pol¬sce, Polska w perspektywie postkolonialnej, Debaty Artes Liberales, vol. X, 2016.  
  4.   J. Kieniewicz, Od Redaktora, in: J. Kieniewicz (ed.), op. cit., p. 8.
  5.   See: H. Grala, Rzeczpospolita Szlachecka – twór kolonialny?, in: J. Kieniewicz (ed.), op. cit., pp. 275–299.  
  6.   The mentioned work was published in Belarusian. See: H. Grala, Ci była Recz Paspalitaja kałanijalnym utwarenniem?, ”Biełaruski Histaryczny Ahlad / Belarusian Historical Review” 2016, vol. 23, no. 1–2 (44–45), pp. 185–208.  
  7.   Cf. J. Kieniewicz, O perspektywę dla Polski, in: J. Kieniewicz (ed.), op. cit., pp. 74–76, 81.
  8.   K. Koehler, Samozwańcza nauczycielka historii, ”Rzeczpospolita” 12 October 2015., www.rp.pl.  
  9.   See: H. Grala, J. Krawczyk, Zaprzepaszczone szanse? (Polska i Ukraina między unią lubelską i ugodą hadziacką), in: O. Hnatiuk, J. Krawczyk (eds.), Historia alternatywna. Spotkanie polsko-ukraińskie, Fun¬dacja im. S. Batorego, ”Mówią Wieki”, 2000, pp. 15–17; K. Mazur, W stronę integracji z Koroną. Sejmiki Wołynia i Ukrainy w latach 1569–1648, Neriton, 2006, pp. 33–36, 40–41; Cf. H. Lulewicz, Gniewów o unię ciąg dalszy. Stosunki polsko-litewskie w latach 1569–1588, Neriton, IH PAN, 2002, pp. 105–106. Sowa’s argument that according to the findings of J. Peleński one of the crucial reasons for the Volhynia’s nobility support towards the Union of Lublin was the will to avoid “regular bandit attacks” of the Polish nobility from Mazowsze (See: J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 320; J. Peleński, Inkorporacja ukraińskich ziem dawnej Rusi do Korony. Ideologia i korzyści – próba nowego spojrzenia, ”Przegląd Historyczny” 1974, vol. 65, issue 2, p. 248), based on the lack of understanding of the essence of the problem: regardless of the conflicts between the Polish Crown and the Great Duchy of Lithuania around the issue of Volhynia during the Jagiellonian times (Sowa probably did not know the findings of O. Halecki on the pushing out of the Ruthenian people by the Lithuanian dukes and masters who arrived there from the Great Duchy) it is worth remembering about the difficulties in resolving legal problems and neighbours’ disputes in a dual system of laws. An institution of a foray, common in the political system of the Polish Republic was often used in the Ukrainian lands of the Crown, which was an illustration of the legal culture of that time, and not an instrument of ethnic expansion. Following false traces it is easy for an absurdity: if the forays of Polish nobility were an expression of Polish expansions, the forays of Ruthenians should be treated in the same way. The ironic remark of J. Sowa that “the attractiveness of the Polish system was in its ability to protect…. against the Poles” (J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 321) finds no ground: does it mean that during the Lublin Sejm sly nobility from Volhynia wanted to protect the Kievans from the Polish expansion? 
  10.   J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 327 and subsequent. 
  11.   Cf. S. Kieniewicz, Daniel Beauvois o kresach południowych (w związku z pracą D. Beauvois, Le oble, le serf et le revisor. La noblesse polonaise entre le tsarisme et les masses ukrainiennes (1831–1863), Paris-Montreaux 1985), “Przegląd Historyczny” 1986, vol. 77, no. 4, p. 772.  
  12.   N. Jakowenko, Historia Ukrainy od czasów najdawniejszych do końca XVIII wieku, Instytut Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej, 2000, pp. 155–158.  
  13.   Cf. W. Lipiński, Stanisław Michał Krzyczewski. Z dziejów walki szlachty ukraińskiej w szeregach powstańczych pod wodzą Bohdana Chmielnickiego, Napoleon V, 2016 (re-edition of the 1912 publication), pp. 15–17, 19–41.  
  14.   J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 262.  
  15.   Ibidem, pp. 289–290.  
  16.   This phenomenon, commonly recognised in historiography, was condescendingly called by the author a “dogma”, which is not accepted by everyone, in a reference to a one-time publication of J. Topolski. See:   
  17. J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 297. Not much would change decreasing this size even by half, which – as a matter of fact – is debatable. It would be recommendable for the author to look at the valuable work of Orest Subtelny who compared, in numbers, the condition of local elites in the perspective of Eastern Europe (based on the example of the First Polish Republic, Habsburg Hungary, Livonia, Moldavia, and Cossack territories). See: O. Subtelny, Domi¬nation of Eastern Europe. Native Nobilities and Foreign Absolutism, 1500–1715, McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press, A. Sutton, 1986, pp. 12–52.  
  18.   See. B. Zientara, Świt narodów europejskich. Powstawanie świadomości narodowej na obszarze Europy pokarolińskiej, PIW, 1985, p. 356; Cf. J. Bardach, O dawnej i niedawnej Litwie, Wydawnictwo Nauko¬we Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza, 1988, p. 200. Interesting material can also be found in the research of I. Auerbach, Stände in Ostmitteleuropa. Alternativen zum monarchischen Prinzip in der frühen Neuzeit. Litauen und Böhmen, Sagner, 1997.
  19.   To learn more about the treaty see: N. Jakšić, Materijalni odrazi Kolomanove vojne u Sjevernoj Dalmaciji, „Povijesni prilozi” 1998, vol. 17, pp. 269–286.  
  20.   J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 321.  
  21.   A. Łapiński, Zygmunt Stary a kościół prawosławny, Tow. Naukowe Warszawskie, 1937, pp. 151–156.  
  22.   J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 322.
  23.   Cf. H. Grala, Mieżdu dwuch impierij: Sibir’ w kołonialnom diskursie (XVI – naczało XX w.). Nieskolko soobrażenij s polskoj pierspiektiwy, in: A. Bazarow, J. Kieniewicz (eds.), Wstriecza na Bajkale.Wriemia pro-szłogo, wyzowy buduszczego, Ulan-Ude, 2014, pp. 277–281, 299–300. To learn more about the specifics of the Muscovy expansion see: H. Łaszkiewicz, Wędrówka na Wschód Carstwa Moskiewskiego: wieki XVI i XVII. Jakim kosztem i z jakim skutkiem, w: Rzeczpospolita vs Carstwo – spór cywilizacyjny czy walka imperiów, Instytut Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej, 2011, pp. 129–139; Cf. A. Gil, Cztery odsłony imperium: Rosja – Syberia Zachodnia – Azja Centralna – Mołdawia, Wydawnictwo KUL, 2014, pp. 56–65.  
  24.   W. Godziszewski, Granica polsko-moskiewska wedle pokoju polanowskiego (wytyczona w latach 1634–1648), Prace Komisji Atlasu Historycznego Polski z. III, Kraków, 1935, pp. 1–96.  
  25.   Cf. J. Osterhammel, Kolonialismus, CH Beck, 1995, pp. 17–18.  
  26.   Cf. J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., pp. 322–327.
  27.   Much more constrained are in this regards the reflections of a Ukrainian researcher, often quoted by Sowa. See: N. Jakowenko, op. cit., pp. 180–182. For the Reformation’s impact for the process of the Ruthenian nobility’s departing from religion and language of their ancestors see: J. Bardach, op. cit., pp. 198–199.  
  28.   H. Litwin, Katolicyzacja szlachty ruskiej 1569–1648. Stosunki wyznaniowe na Kijowszczyźnie i Bra-cławszczyźnie, ”Przegląd Powszechny” 1985, no. 10 (770),  p. 70. For a thorough analysis of the religious situation in Kyiv Oblast see: idem, Struktura wyznaniowa szlachty kijowskiej 1569–1648, ”Odrodzenie i reformacja w Polsce” 2004, vol. 48, pp. 199–220.  
  29.   S. Gołubiew, Kijewskij mitropolit Pietr Mogiła i jego spodwiżniki, vol. II: Priłożenija, Kijew 1898, pp. 153–154; Cf. J. Dzięgielewski, O tolerancję dla zdominowanych. Polityka wyznaniowa Rzeczypospolitej w latach panowania Władysława IV, PWN, 1986, p. 191.
  30.   Cf. Z. Wójcik, Kisiel Adam, in: ”Polski Słownik Biograficzny”, vol. 12, 1966, p. 486; Cf. H. Grala, Rzecz o „Panu z Brusiłowa“ (w związku z książką Franka Sysyna, Between Poland and Ukraine. The Dilem¬ma of Adam Kysil. 1600–1653, Cambridge Mass. 1985), “Przegląd Historyczny” 1989, vol. 80, issue 2, p. 177.  
  31.   See: I. Ševèenko, Ukraine between East and West. Essays on Cultural History to the Early Eighteent Century, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1996, pp. 179–180.  
  32.   J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 327.  
  33.   Ibidem.  
  34.   It seems that the author, who likes to make references to selected works of Kułakowśkyi, missed one of his fundamental monographies, which describes in detail migration and colonisation processes on the analysed territory. See:  Czernihowo-Siwerszczynau składi Reczi Pospołytoi (1618–1648), Tempora, 2006.  
  35.   P. Kułakowśkyj, Kolonizacja Kijowszczyzny i Czernihowszczyzny (1569–1648), in: M. Dygo, S. Gaw¬las, H. Grala (eds.), Modernizacja struktur władzy w warunkach opóźnienia. Europa Środkowa i Wschodnia na przełomie średniowiecza i czasów nowożytnych, ”DiG”, 1999, pp. 164–165, 171–172.  
  36.   Cf. A. Janeczek, Osadnictwo pogranicza polsko-ruskiego. Województwo bełskie od schyłku XIV do początku XVII w., Ossolineum, 1991, pp. 120–124.  
  37.   J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., pp. 328–329.  
  38.   H. Litwin, Równi do równych. Kijowska reprezentacja sejmowa 1569–1648, ”DiG”, 2009, pp. 144–152.  
  39.   J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., p. 333.
  40.   Cf. The remarks of the inflow of Poles into the territory of the Grand Duchy before the Union of Lublin and after it. J. Bardach, op. cit., pp. 197–201. To learn more about the relationship between the Soplicas, the Horeszkos and the local nobility. See: S. Breyer, Spór Horeszków z Soplicami. Studium z dziedziny problematyki prawnej „Pana Tadeusza”, Wydaw. Prawnicze, 1955, pp. 71–79.  
  41.   Cf. P. Dąbkowski, Stanowisko cudzoziemców w prawie litewskiem w drugiej połowie XV i w XVI wie¬ku (1447–1588), Towarzystwo dla Popierania Nauki Polskiej, 1912.  
  42.   A. Bumblauskas, Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie. Wspólna historia, podzielona pamięć, Muzeum Historii Polski, Bellona, 2013, p. 108.  
  43.   See: H. Lulewicz, A. Rachuba (oprac.), Urzędnicy centralni i dygnitarze Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskie¬go XIV–XVIII wieku. Spisy, Biblioteka Kórnicka, 1994, pp. 43–45, 47–48, 53; A. Rachuba, H. Lulewicz and others. (eds.), Urzędnicy Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego. Spisy, t.1: Województwo wileńskie XIV–XVIII wiek, ”DiG”, 2004, pp. 113–114, 196–198; Cf. J. Wolff, Senatorowie i dygnitarze Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego 1386–1795, Kraków 1885, passim.
  44.   J. Bardach, op. cit., pp. 200–203.  
  45.   D. Althoen, Natione Polonus and the Naród Szlachecki. Two myths of national identity and noble soli¬darity, “Zeitschrift fur Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung” 2003, no. 53, pp. 475–508; Cf. S. Plokhy, The Origins of the Slavic Nations. Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 169–173. Also, for a change, an opinion of a German researcher about this work was “based on a small number of sources presents too far-fetched conclusions”, See: M. Niendorf, Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie. Studia nad kształtowaniem się narodu u progu epoki nowożytnej (1569–1795), Wyd. Poznańskie, 2011, p. 117.  
  46.   Cf: S. Orzechowski, Wybór pism, Ossolineum, 1972, p. XXXIII; Cf. J. Bardach, op. cit., p. 201.  
  47.   Cf. A. Świątek, Przypadek gente Rutheni natione Poloni w Galicji, Zeszyty Naukowe UJ. Prace Historyczne no. 144, 2017, pp. 303–304; Cf. M. Niendorf, op. cit., pp. 117–119 (including the description of national features of Lithuanian clergy, and among them the formula “natione Lithuanus gente Polo¬nus”, p. 119). Unfortunately, this issue was not noticed by the author of the most recent analysis of the views of the Przemyśl canon priest, See: P. Krzywoszyński, Stanisław Orzechowski – ideolog demokracji szlacheckiej, Wyd. Po-znańskie, 2010.  
  48.   J. Sowa, Fantomowe ciało…, op. cit., pp. 329–332.  
  49.   Cf. J. Maciszewski, Polska a Moskwa 1603–1618. Opinia i stanowiska szlachty polskiej, PWN, 1968, pp. 173–177, 185–189.  
  50.   Cf. G. Franczak, Moskwa – polskie Indie Zachodnie. O pewnym mirażu kolonialnym z początku XVII wieku, w: M. Di Salvo, G. Moracci, G. Siedina, Nel mondo degli Slavi: Incontri e dialoghi tra culture: Studi in onore di Giovanna Brogi Bercoff, vol. I, Firenze University Press, 2008, pp. 155–163; Cf. G. Franczak, Wstęp, in: P. Palczowski, Kolęda Moskiewska, Neriton, 2010, pp. 24–45.
  51.   See: H. Grala, Pax Moscovitica? Wokół rosyjskiego władztwa w Inflantach w epoce Iwana IV Groźnego w: A. Odrzywolska-Kidawa (red.), Klio viae et invia. Opuscula Marco Cetwinski dedicata, ”DiG”, 2010, pp. 673–696; H. Grala, ”In der Tyrannen Hand”: russkaja kołonizacyja Liwonii wo wtoro połowinie XVI w. Płany i riezultaty, ”Studia Slavica et Balcanica Petropolitana” 2014, no. 2, pp. 175–193.  
  52.   This diagnosis is not the only one. See: R. Stobiecki, Różne oblicza historycznego rewizjoni¬zmu, ”Sensus Historiae” 2015, vol. XIX, issue 2, pp. 35–36; Cf. H. Grala, Rzeczpospolita szlachecka – twór kolonialny?, op. cit., p. 289; See also the commentary of Krzysztof Koehler to the interview with Olga Tokarczuk on October 7 2015 for TVP Info (”We have created a history of Poland as a tolerant, open, country which was not marked by anything bad in regards to its minorities. And yet we did terrible things as colonists, the ethnic majority, which was surprising minorities, slave owners”). Koehler in a clear and precise manner showed the weaknesses of Tokarczuk’s argumentation, assuming that this argumentation as a result of a mixing up of concepts: colonialism and colonialization, and pointing to the real source of these revelations. “I am guessing what is the source of the inspiration of these statements: probably Tokarczuk’s research for the documentation of a novel, but also a fashionable, in recent times, ”discourse” which undertakes the criticism or deconstruction of  certain, one would think well-grounded, historical narrative about Poland. The goal of this activity is to change the place of the Poles in the post-colonial interpretation of contemporary history.[…] In those words one can hear the echo of a different novel, which is also becoming very popular. This is a social and…. racial story. Thus, in the works of Jan Sowa and other similar researchers there are more and more mentions of Polish nobility as an exploiting class, ”slave owners” who built (backward, of course) economy of the Polish Republic on the cruel exploitation of peasants. […] I believe that Olga Tokarczuk talks about colonialism (as this is seen probably only by Jan Sowa) in the context of the Polish settlement over Ukrainian lands after the Union of Lublin (1569), or maybe in the context of the decision of King Sigismund August II to incorporate into the Polish Crown the lands of Volhynia, Kyiv, Bratslav. I do not know what else could she have in mind? […] Similarly, I have no idea on which basis we can recognise the fact of colonisation (that is settlement) of the lands, (later) called the Borderlands as ”colonization” understood in the terms of the 19th century African or American conquest by European states. Maybe there was some kind of mixing of concepts, equalizing the process of colonising with colonization. Yes, Polish nobility settled on the territories of the Grand Duchy, but can we call this process a colonization? It is worth remembering that the great families of the 17th century and with some strong influence in the 18th century […] came from the territories that are today often called as “colonized” territories.”: See: K. Koehler, op. cit.  
  53.   See: F. Białek, Realne, czyli polskość, ”Nove peryferie”, 22 November 2012, http://nowe-peryferie.pl.  
  54.   Cf. M.H. Fisher, Counterflows to colonialism: Indian travellers and settlers in Britain, 1600–1857, Orient Blackswan, 2006, p. 318; S. Mukherjee, “Narrow-majority” and “Bow-and-agree”: Public Attitudes  towards the Election of the First Asian MPs in Britain, Dadabhai Naoroji and Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownaggree, 1885–1906, “Journal of the Oxford History Society” 2004, issue 2, pp. 1–20.  
  55.   Cf. J. Kieniewicz, O perspektywę dla Polski, op. cit., pp. 76–77.  
  56.   Ibidem, p. 76.
  57.   See: M. Kulecki, Wygnańcy ze Wschodu. Egzulanci w Rzeczypospolitej w ostatnich latach panowa¬nia Jana Kazimierza i za panowania Michała Korybuta Wiśniowieckiego, Naczelna Dyrekcja Archiwów Państwowych, ”DiG”, 1997, pp. 107–109. To learn more about the position of the families of the Ruthenian origin see: Index in: H. Litwin, Równi do równych…, op. cit.  
  58.   Cf. P. Kułakowśkyj, Kancelarija Ruśkoji (Wołynśkoji) metryky 1569–1673 rr.: Studija z istoriji ukrajinśkoho rehionalizmu w Reczi Pospołytij, Ostroh–Lwiw, 2002.  
  59.   Cf. Akt Konfederacji Generalnej Warszawskiej z 1573 roku na liście UNESCO „Pamięć Świata”, Wy¬daw. Sejmowe, NDAP 2004. As Janusz Tazbir noticed the Polish law was a result of collective work and probably half of its signatories were Catholics (ibidem).
  60.   Cf. K. Chodynicki, Geneza równouprawnienia schizmatyków w Wielkim Księstwie Litewskim. Stosu¬nek Zygmunta Augusta do wyznania grecko-wschodniego, ”Przegląd Historyczny”1919–1920, issue 22, p. 41.  
  61.   M. Staniul, Francuskie zbrodnie w wojnie o niepodległość Algierii, ”WP Opinie”, 28 March 2014, http://opinie.wp.pl.
  62.   B.W. Tuchman, Sierpniowe salwy, Czytelnik, 1984, pp. 61–62.  
  63.   See: D. Beauvois, op. cit., pp. 271–272; Cf. J. Sowa, Inna Rzeczpospolita, op. cit., p. 59; idem, Fanto¬mowe ciało…, op. cit., pp. 338–339.  
  64.   A. Mickiewicz, Pan Tadeusz czyli ostatni zajazd na Litwie. Historia szlachecka z r. 1811 i 1812 we dwu¬nastu księgach wierszem, Czytelnik, 1953, pp. 332–333 (Book XII, verse 111–119).  
  65.   Critical remarks were made by Jan Dzięgielewski, See: Daniel Beauvois wyważył dawno otwarte drzwi… – rozmowa z prof. Janem Dzięgielewskim, ”Glaukopis” 2006, no. 5–6, www.glaukopis.pl.  
  66.   D. Beauvois, op. cit., p. 272; Cf. H. Rzewuski, Pamiątki Soplicy, PIW, 1961, pp. 194–198.  
  67.   D. Beauvois, op. cit., p. 272.  
  68.   A. Mickiewicz, op. cit., p. 275; Płut’s characteristics ibidem, p. 244.  
  69.   A. Mickiewicz, op. cit., pp. 112, 181, 198.  
  70.   Ibidem, p. 111.  
  71.   Ibidem, pp. 344–347.  
  72.   J. Sowa, Inna Rzeczpospolita, op. cit., p. 65. The author justifies his argumentation by references to 
  73. B. Huk, Ukraina. Polskie jądro ciemności, Stowarzyszenie Ukraińskie Dziedzictwo, 2013.  
  74.   See: I.I. Sriezniewskij, Słowarʹ driewnierusskogo jazyka, vol. III, part 2, Kniga, 1989, col. 1564. Cf. W. Dal, Tołkowyje słowa żywogowielikorusskogo jazyka, vol. IV, And the opinion of M.O. Wolfa, 1882, p. 595.
  75.   See: J. Kieniewicz (ed.), op. cit., pp. 105–117.  
  76.   Ibidem, pp. 114–115.
  77.   J. Kieniewicz, O perspektywę dla Polski, op. cit., p. 77.  
  78.   Ibidem, p. 79; Cf. idem, Polski los w imperium rosyjskim jako sytuacja kolonialna, in: idem, Ekspansja, kolonializm, cywilizacja, ”DiG”, IBI AL, 2008, pp. 244–262.

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