Behind the Scenes of the Greater Poland Uprising

The idea of Independence in the Poznań Region

Janusz Karwat

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The country witnessed the growth of a new generation of positivists characterised by the Romantic spirit. The Congress of Grunwald held in 1910 in Cracow was an important opportunity to undertake practical military action. As a result of agitation initiated by national democrats from Poznań, contrary to the ban imposed by the Prussian administrative authorities and despite strong objections from conservatives, approximately 500 people from the Poznań region, led by M. Seyda, left for Krakow. B. Chrzanowski, K. Rzepecki, C. Rydlewski, Z. Sokolnicka, A. Trepiński and K. Zakrzewski, who held patronage over the illegal youth movement, swiftly slowed down its radicalism. As a political party, (Polish Democratic Society since 1901) National Democracy officially avoided slogans referring to independence. The views of the national democrats from the Poznań region on the matter of Poland and its perspectives reflected the tendencies and goals of the National League. National democrats from Greater Poland underwent the same evolution as national democrats in other partitioned territories, considering Germans their greatest enemy. ND activists from the Prussian Partition, led by M. Seyda, W. Korfanty and B. Chrzanowski, approved the solution of the Polish matter suggested by Roman Dmowski. The prospect of uniting Polish lands and granting autonomous rights as part of Russia seemed encouraging. It gave hope for the fuller satisfaction of national ambitions and greater development of social and economic initiatives than under Prussian domination. It also meant that the Prussian acts on expropriation and associations (both of 1908) would not apply. Besides, the consequences of the Tzar’s reign were barely visible in the Poznań region. Since 1903, this opinion was also shared by representatives of the bourgeoisie, namely the peasant party’s members which gathered around Roman Szymański and the “Orędownik” magazine.

In discussions among conservatives from the Prussian Partition, the matter of independence was barely raised. The issue was not part of their leading ideals, nor did it go beyond the limits of moderation they held so dear. Until the 1860s, conservatives were under pressure from the public who favoured the patriotic and Romantic approaches, and feared an outbreak of “national madness”, namely revolution. Approval of Catholic universal values was expressed through the criticism and rejection of new, radical projects concerning the organisation of social life. The Poznań-based conservatives of the second half of the 19th century rejected a programme focused on fighting for independence, not because they did not want Poland to be free - at least there is evidence for that - but because they did not see the possibility of success in the foreseeable future. They considered themselves the protectors of national tradition. Acknowledging the power of Germany and its attractiveness in terms of culture, they failed to notice the political changes in Europe or the appearance of strong anti-German tendencies that might affect the matter of Poland. Conservatives in the Poznań region had little to offer in terms of independence. They called German authorities to abide by the laws concerning Poles, and requested the autonomy of the Poznań region. After 1912, conservatives and national democrats were partly brought together. Facing the threat caused by the adoption of the appropriation act, the National Council (1913), led by Ludwik Mycielski, was formed. The main tasks of the Council included the education of the youth in a patriotic spirit and educational work in the borderlands of the Poznań region and among economic migrants.

The Polish Socialist Party of the Prussian Partition had to face particularly harsh conditions. Until 1910, in cooperation with the German Social Democratic Party, it advocated a programme of autonomy for the territories of the Prussian Partition. The growing reluctance of the SDP towards the PSP resulted from the fact that the pro-independence claims of the latter were becoming more and more radical, until they fully evolved into demands for full independence. The Polish socialist movement among ex-patriots in Germany and in the territory of the partition did not win broader support and was barely noticeable in cities such as Gniezno or Poznań.


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