From the Editor

This issue is devoted to Polish-Russian relations. These relations have generally been viewed with painful excitement by Poles, with condescending solicitation by democratic Russians, and with annoyed indifference by the American political establishment. The latter sees Poles, and some other Central and Eastern Europeans, as carriers of the anti-Russian complex, and therefore incapable of sober vision. This interpretation reinforces the terms of discourse conceived in the colonial period of European history, when stronger European countries engaged in colonial conquest of their contiguous neighbors. Such political terminology locks out the concerns of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. It eschews the word "colonialism," so copiously used in regard to the nonwhite world. Within the range of this Polonophobic terminology, it is assumed that the historically unprecedented expansion of Russia to the West was not "colonialist," and that therefore it is not necessary to consider the relationship of ethnic Russia with her neighbors in the way in which the relations between African colonies and European powers have been viewed, as encompassing colonial exploitation and postcolonial dependency.

Andrzej Nowak's outline of Polish-Russian relations runs counter to these customary expectations. While covering territory that is generally known to students of Slavic affairs, it shifts the terms of discourse from "neutral" (used when discussing relations between European countries in the modern era) to "charged" (such as when he points out that the consistent policy of the Russian governments since Peter the Great has been to "corrupt" Polish elites). While a good measure of responsibility for failures in foreign policy lies with the Poles, the resources used in the process of "corrupting the elites" also need to be considered in scholarship.

As an illustration of these colonial woes, we have translated a report about the death of Jan Zygadlo, a 36-years-old forest ranger and a father of three. He "fell ill and died" in 1942, during a deportation of Poles from territories annexed to the Soviet Union as a result of the 1939 Soviet aggression against Poland. Why was this document chosen rather than many others of similar content? Both Zygadlo and Kazimierz Kret, another deportee and co-author of the report, came from Switez, a Polish-speaking Lithuanian hamlet associated with peace and serenity, medieval romance and tradition, and made famous by Adam Mickiewicz's early poems about the lake from which the hamlet took its name.

We are pleased to publish in this issue a poem about Chechnya which reflects the intensity of the desire for freedom among peoples whose voices are seldom heard in the mass media.

Michael S. Bernstam's expert outline of the vicissitudes of postcommunist economy makes clear that the so-called recovery in Poland has been largely limited to the recovery of the previously existing industrial capacity. In the meantime, billions of dollars spent for educating the skilled (and now unemployed) workers have been lost, and Poland's industrial labor base has been weakened.

A word about local developments. Last October, Houston's Polish community hosted former president of Poland, Lech Walesa. The visit was a joyous demonstration of Polish unity. Some have taken a critical view of President Walesa's current attempts to maneuver out of the political scene his former Solidarity buddy Jan Olszewski, a poor politician but one of the few Polish public figures who can claim a spotless record. Another joyful occasion was a poetry reading organized at Rice University by Waclaw Mucha, Lecturer in Slavic Studies, and Jan Rybicki, Visiting Assistant Professor of Polish (whose visit to Rice is sponsored by the Kosciuszko Foundation), on the occasion of Wislawa Szymborska's Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. The bilingual poetry reading was done by students from local universities.

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The Sarmatian Review
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