I agree with the general point made by Professor Norman Davies (letter in SR, XII/1, January 1992) about the need to integrate East Central European Studies into general European courses and textbooks. I fail to see, however, why this should lead to an elimination of courses in regional history. Surely there is both a place and a need for such in the university curricula. We have Scandinavian studies, Balkan studies, Mediterranean studies, why not East Central European? Moreover, the latter region, often treated marginally in general European courses, should be available for in-depth study for those who want to probe deeper. Naturally, this must not be done in isolation. Whether this region be seen as "borderlands of Western civilization" (Halecki's term) or a transition zone between West and East, its study should help to understand better the complexity of Europe as a whole. As for the danger of inequality between "A" and "B" teams, a certain inequality for instance in economics is a fact, except that the "B" team comprises not only East Central Europe but also such "western" countries as Portugal, Ireland, southern Italy, Greece and for a long time Scandinavia.
Piotr S. Wandycz, Bradford Durfee Professor of History, Yale University
Professor Davies is correct that Western Civilization became reduced to the history of France, Germany, and England. What long has been passed off as Western Civ has actually been just the political and diplomatic history of a kind of geographical torso of Europe. All her geographical limbs - Ireland, Spain, Italy, East Central Euorpe, the Balkans, and North Africa (part of the Roman Empire and home of St. Augustine, a major theorist for the European Middle Ages) get short shrift. The interconnections between Europe and Turkic peoples from Attila to the Ottomans have remained a great piece of confusion for students and instructors alike.
What Professor Davies does not mention is that Western Civilization has come under serious fire recently from those who advocate a more global and less Eurocentric view of history. University of Michigan-Flint is no exception; it is moving toward a two-semester World Civilization course. Regardless of the various issues in the debate, I feel that one reason why Western Civ seems so inadequate now is precisely that it became reduced to a) just three countries and b) only their political and diplomatic histories. Economic history, intellectual history, religious and cultural history, art history were all seen as secondary, and social history has come to the fore only in the last 30 years...
However the Western versus World Civilization debate turns out, it seems to me to provide space for the promotion of Slavics. An incomparably large, more diverse, and truer Europe can be taught in which her many peoples and their contributions are explained, from the ancient Celts to the Slavs and the Jews. In the fates of her submerged, dominated, or even annihilated peoples the patterns of imperialism can be discerned. If there were ever a region where diversity and multiculturalism were a factor from earliest times, it is East Central Europe.
Theodosia S. Robertson, University of Michigan-Flint
In the course of editorial correspondence, my article on the Polish intelligentsia (SR, Vol. XII/1, January 1992) acquired a few errors. I do not wish to place Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewki among those opting for the "return" to Europe as envisioned by the secular European left. Dr. Zofia Kuratowska was wrongly identified as the Health Minister. She is a Senate member.
The explanation of how the proportional representation system came about needs further clarification. Unia Demokratyczna was at first in favor of the majority rule in its extreme, i.e., the British, form. However, in the British system, if there are more than two parties participating, there is a chance that the elections become a "personality contest". Having no possibility to outvote that system in the Seym otherwise than by voting for the proportional representation, Porozumienie Centrum chose to vote for the latter. The Seym recommended vaguely that the elections be arranged in accordance with the proportional representation system and appointed a parliamentary committee charged with working out the details. The dangers inherent in the proportional system were clear to each and everyone. President Walesa gave the committee the chance to include elements of the majority rule in the electoral system by sending in his own project of the ordination. But, with the UD's constituency declining in the meantime, the committee chaired by UD's Bronislaw Geremek upheld the proportional option.
In addition, the sentence on page 100, line 11 from bottom, should read as follows: Early in 1990, when it became clear that the UD would not be able to govern unchallenged...
Jacek Koronacki, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
The comment about a "Polish University in Vilnius" (SR, Vol. XII/1, January 1992) tends to give the impression that all is well with education for the Polish minority in Lithuania.
I visited Vilnius from December 24-28, 1991, and was privileged to meet with Mr. Jan Mincewicz, the Chairman of the Union of Poles in Lithuania [Zwiazek Polakow na Litwie] who reported that the fledgling Polish University is little more than an underground operation similar to those operating during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Your comment gives the wrong impression in that it neglects to say that the need for a Polish University was created by the action of the Sajudis Government in limiting access to the traditionally Polish University of Vilnius to students able to pass entrance examinations in the Lithuanian language.
During my visit I was struck how the Polish population seems to be in a state of shock, reeling from repeated repressive measures against them, including the projected creation of a "Greater Vilnius" within which farm land tilled by Poles for centuries but collectivized under Stalin will indeed be privatized - but only Lithuanian citizens will be allowed to purchase. And Lithuanian citizens are defined as those who had the notation "Lithuanian" in their old Soviet internal passports, or others who took a loyalty oath (the deadline was November 3, 1991) and passed an examination in the Lithuanian language. It is estimated that about 4,000 peasant families will permanently be deprived of their livelihood by this legislation if enacted. Another act of political repression was to replace elected leaders in two Polish majority districts with non-Polish speaking Lithuanian officials, under the pretext that the former leaders had supported the August coup in the Soviet Union. The councils in those districts were closed down as well.
Another Sajudis brainstorm is their proposal to redistrict the political districts to break up the Polish population into many pieces to be attached to predominantly Lithuanian peopled districts....
Mincewicz stated that the Polish University has no actual venue, little equipment or books and few students or classes. The climate of repression and fear is the principal villain.
Recently I received telephonic reports from Vilnius that a gathering of pre-teen and teenage Polish youth was broken up by kalashnikov firing Lithuanians who, although firing in the air, caused serious injury to several of the panicking children...
Theodore P. Jakaboski, PC, Houston, Texas
As long as states with borders are a part of European culture, it is the obligation of all citizens of a state to learn to function in the language of that state. We do not condone intimidation and harassment of young and old alike, of the kind M r. Jakaboski describes, but we have no more sympathy for an ethnic Pole living in Lithuania who refuses to master Lithuanian than we have for an ethnic German living in Poland who refuses to master Polish.
If Poles want to live in Lithuania, or in Belarus, or in Ukraine, or in the United States, then they had best learn the national languages of those countries. More than that, they should realize that just as the undoubted first national loyalty of a Polish American is to the United States, just so the first loyalty of a Polish Lithuanian should be to Lithuania. Does this mean that a Polish university in Vilnius is a bad idea? Obviously not. But it does mean that the old petty hostilities between Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians are not to be nurtured, and the settling of old scores should be abandoned.
Polish Americans can best help the Polish minority in Lithuania by helping them to negotiate their grievances with the Lithuanian authorities, teaching them the American ways, explaining to them the necessity of loyalty to Lithuania, and offering them financial help. Fostering Polish-Lithuanian resentments runs counter to the Polish national interests, and it plays right into the hands of Poland's and Lithuania's enemies.
In assessing the ways to improve Polish-Lithuanian relations, facts such as one reported by the Paris Kultura (No. 1/532-2/533, Jan-Feb 1992) have also to be taken into account: one of Lithuania's greatest Polonophobes, co-founder of Sajudis and advisor to President Landsbergis, Vergilijus Czepaitis, has recently been discovered to be a KGB agent.
Poles must give other nations the kind of respect they demand for Poland. Surely if the agony of the last 50 years has taught us nothing else, we have learned at least this basic bit of survival reality.
The Polish Minister of Education, Andrzej Stelmachowski, gave the following advice to Polish Lithuanians: use the legal system of free Lithuania to form businesses. Struggle to get educated. Get wealthy. Remain loyal to the Republic of Lithuania. And then, negotiate your schools and cultural institutions from the position of strength. In his efforts to build a Polish University in Vilnius in the spirit of cooperation with and loyalty to the Lithuanian authorities, Rector Brazis has our full support.
I would like to congratulate you on your excellent choice of articles covering a variety of issues. In particular, the section of book and film reviews is worth complimenting....
Paradoxically, no such periodical is published in the Midwest....
Andrzej Jaroszynski, Acting Consul General, Consulate General of the Republic of Poland, Chicago
Please change the title of your section "The Dead Carp Award" to "The Hall of Shame Award" with apologies to the carp.
Stanley M.Garstka, Riverside, California
We have consulted with the Carp and he has permitted us to use his generic name free of charge. Ed.