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Independence DayMyth, Symbol, and the Creation of Modern Poland$
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M. B. B. Biskupski

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658817

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658817.001.0001

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Introduction: The Myths and Symbols of Independence Day

Introduction: The Myths and Symbols of Independence Day

(p.1) 1 Introduction: The Myths and Symbols of Independence Day
Independence Day

M. B. B. Biskupski

Oxford University Press

November 11th, 1918 symbolizes a number of traditions appearing in late nineteenth-century Poland. These include the rise of Neo-Romanticism in literature and the arts; the conviction that struggle rather than acceptance of the reality of trifurcation and foreign occupation was the correct disposition for Poles, and the closely associated reappearance of the insurrectionary tradition as a plausible means for the Poles to re-achieve independence. The chapter also discusses the rapid rise of the cult of Kościuszko, seen as the ideal, indeed, providential leader. This, in turn, reflected the hero theme in Polish lore which argued that Poland's position was so dismal that only a hero such as suggested in Wyspiański's Wesele could rouse Poland from its despair. These themes were subsumed under a new martial discourse in Polish politics which argued that Polish military formations — the Legions — could awaken the nation and form the model for a future Polish polity. The Legions would reflect old Polish military glories but also continue the heroic struggles of the nineteenth century. These Legions would be led by Piłsudski who was, in effect, Kościuszko reborn. Moreover, the Legions would be in reality the old Polish gentry, now transformed into the intelligentsia, again assuming its role as leaders of the nation. Piłsudski led the Legions and the Legions represented the Polish military tradition, which harkened back to the greatness of pre-partitioned Poland. Thus Piłsudski represented the greatness of Poland personified. November 11th was the day on which these various legends and symbols combined to revive an independent Poland. Hence Independence Day is more than just a moment; it is a symbol of ancillary myths and symbols. He who accepts the date as the rebirth of Polish independence accepts, to considerable degree, the series of myths and symbols in which culminate on that day. November 11th is a Piłsudskite ideology composed of many intertwined elements.

Keywords:   legions, Kościuszko, November 11, romanticism, Wyspiański, World War I

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