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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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Independence Day and the Celebration of Piłsudski's Legend, 1935–39

Independence Day and the Celebration of Piłsudski's Legend, 1935–39

(p.83) 5 Independence Day and the Celebration of Piłsudski's Legend, 1935–39
Independence Day

M. B. B. Biskupski

Oxford University Press

Piłsudski's death in 1935 meant profound changes for Independence Day. The extraordinary elevation of Piłsudski to God-like status meant the subordination of November 11th as the focus of patriotic attention. The holiday became something akin to a day to remember Piłsudski rather than Independence Day which he had done so much to bring about. November 11th ceremonies nonetheless retained the grand dimensions of the previous years. This was, in part, because the Piłsudskiites in power were in chaos without him to guide and focus their efforts. An effort was made to salvage some sense of continuity by elevating Śmigły-Rydz to Piłsudski's rank of Marshal and to insist that he had replaced him. This was a largely unsuccessful effort. As the international situation darkened the 11th became ever more a demonstration of Polish military abilities. A powerful film, The Standard of Freedom [Sztandar Wolności], was perhaps the regime's last gasp to place its case before the Polish public. By the use of documentary and other footage, the film argued that the origins of independence extended back to the advent of military thinking among Polish revolutionary forces who eventually created the Legions which, in turn, refocused Polish attention on the military tradition. Piłsudski was the link between the modern military and the tradition of the past — of which the Poles were inordinately proud. Piłsudski gave Poland November 11th which equaled an independent state and Piłsudski and the eagle of Poland, which we are shown in a closing montage, have blended together to form the new Poland whose birthday is the 11th. Nonetheless, the Piłsudskiite regime in power gradually lost the support of the masses, especially the young, which were won over by the nationalist right. By the end of the interwar period, November 11th was in crisis as the major Polish patriotic ceremony. The advent of the right threatened the essentially Piłsudskiite explanation for independence which the 11th had represented.

Keywords:   Piłsudski, Śmigły-rydz, Sztandar wolnosci, Ozon, Owp, Endecja

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