The Polish sociologist Zdzisław Krasnodębski considers Poland a postcolonial country and often employs the postcolonial as a concept to argue for understanding Polish history in terms of oppression and resistance. Postcolonial studies have influenced historians studying the modern history of Central and Eastern Europe for years and yet, this transfer of a theoretical framework calls for some critical remarks. Postcolonial theory can inspire the study of post-war Poland, but it needs to move beyond an epistemology of totalitarianism.
Krasnodębski and many other conservative Polish intellectuals tell the story of Communism and Soviet hegemony as a colonial experience, to be followed by a period of coming to terms with this experience after 1989. Here, Polish history revolves around the too easy antagonism of the Communist regime (or władza) and a society that resisted the Communist takeover and the re-making of Poland after the Second World War. To underpin this dichotomy, both research and popular discourse describe the Communist regime as totalitarian which goes along with a simplistic focus on a small elite of Communist officials. In recent years, such narratives often make uses of postcolonialism and present a heroic history of resisting society and essentially unstained national identity. Following various and complex political conflicts in today’s Polish society, these conservative intellectuals denounce many oppositional protagonists as de facto Communists or collaborators. Such patterns of interpretation are in fact rather anticolonial than postcolonial. Like it or not, this anticolonial effect is the point of reference for present day historical research on Poland. Continue reading