This Issue Back Issues Editorial Board Contact Information



September 2008

Volume XXVIII, No. 3

Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, no. 12 (83), December 2007, 116 pages and a DVD; nos. 1-2 (84–85), January-February 2008, 200 pages, and a DVD on “Fighting Solidarity” in the 1980s. Edited by Jan Žaryn, Jan Ruman, et al. Published by the Institute of National Memory, 28 Towarowa Street, Warsaw 00-839 ( In Polish.

The Bulletin is a serial dedicated to the part of Polish history that could not be investigated or discussed in Soviet-occupied Poland. The December 2007 issue contains a remarkable article by Zdzisław Zblewski about the role of the communist security apparatus in Poland. While it is common knowledge that one of the tasks of the political police was to destroy the anticommunist opposition, its function was also to enable the communist party to rule in a totalitarian fashion. The Bezpieka, as it was known in Poland (this neologism is also a pun), aspired to control private life in addition to the public life. While the communist police were free to arrest, torture, kill, blackmail, and intimidate, the emphasis on these ways of controlling society varied according to need. In the 1940s methods of control were more brutal than in the 1970s, when foreign media gained a foothold in Poland and the communist security apparatus began to pay attention to public relations. It was at that time that the sentencing of opposition members began to be less severe: people would get a few years instead of a death sentence. Lesser terror generated more opposition; attempts to counter it with propaganda largely failed.

In 1953 the communist secret police had 85,000 secret spies who penetrated most social institutions but not the Catholic Church, which was penetrated only sporadically. The lowest number of secret spies was registered in 1960: only 8,700. The number of spies increased with the increase of opposition to communism: in 1988 the number had reached 88,000. The totalitarian state could not function without this apparatus of repression. American academic studies of communist societies routinely disregard the terror factor in assessing and evaluating communist achievements and successes.

The January-February 2008 issue of the Bulletin is dedicated to the anti-communist underground in Poland between 1945–1954 when virtually all members of anticommunist partisan groups had already been captured and executed. The largest anticommunist organization in Poland was WiN (Wolność i Niezawisłość, or Liberty and Independence). Articles in the Bulletin detail the struggle of members of this organization against the Soviets in Mazovia, Podlasie, and elsewhere. The brutality with which WiN members were chased down and eliminated was matched only by heroic devotion to the cause of freedom by WiN members. The DVD contains interviews with survivors, some old amateur films, and an unforgettable photograph of an execution of a young anticommunist partisan. The Bulletin is well worth subscribing to.

Przedziwna Matka Stworzyciela Swego. Antologia dawnej polskiej poezji maryjnej (Mysterious Mother of Your Creator: An Anthology of Old Polish Marian Poetry), edited by Roman Mazurkiewicz. Warsaw: Marian Fathers Press, 2008. 584 pages. Notes on authors, notes on anonymous poems, index of first lines, index of authors. ISBN 978-83-7502-094-6. Hardcover. In Polish.

This anthology, “a collection of flowers” as the editor calls it, is the first comprehensive volume of Polish poetry dedicated to the Mother of God. Beginning with Bogurodzica, a twelfth-century hymn to Mary, it covers five centuries and contains over 300 poems, many of them culled from manuscripts and incunabula. Some were written by well-known poets, such as Mikołaj Sęp-Szarzyński, Sebastian Grabowiecki, Wespazjan Kochowski, and Franciszek Karpiński; others by anonymous versifiers. Taken together, they reveal a profound tradition of Marian veneration in Poland, celebrating in prayers, songs, hymns, salutations, and meditations the joyful and dolorous mysteries of the divine motherhood of Mary, her eternal virginity, heavenly glory, and intercession with her Son. They eloquently witness to the Marian devotion that is a substantial aspect of Christian piety in Poland. (MJM)

The Archeology of Early Medieval Poland: Discoveries—Hypotheses—Interpretations, by Andrzej Buko. Translated by Sylvia Twardo. East, Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450–1450 series, vol. 1, under the general editorship of Florin Curta. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2008. xxix + 475 pages. Index, bibliography, color photographs. ISBN978-90-04-26230-3. Hardcover. $199.00 on

This comprehensive scholarly volume describes nineteenth-century beginnings of the study of Polish archeology (the interest developed from attempts to define a Polish/Slavic identity), and goes on to outline the present status of archeological research in Poland. It details the early medieval archeological sites and methods of investigating them, and on that basis addresses the possible routes through which Slavs arrived in what now is Polish territory. The author examines pagan burial rites and early medieval strongholds, with particular attention paid to mounds, a characteristic feature of the pagan Slavic rituals that survived to the present day in the legend of the “Wanda mound” near Kraków. Buko then addresses the pre-Christian tablets found in one of the archeological sites, and what script they contained. He shows the beginnings of Poland as it developed between the Baltic Sea, the Sudeten Mountains, and the Carpathians in the south. The book’s strictly scholarly argument is enlivened by such digressions as “Who built ancient Wrocław?” and “The first Benedictine abbeys.” A reader of this book cannot fail to realize that Poland was a remarkably nonaggressive nation throughout its history, and that ancestors of contemporary Poles settled in, and did not move from, the areas that are commonly known as “Piast Poland.” Unlike Eastern Slavs, the Central European Slavs were not bent on expanding their territory. Based on recent research, Buko’s book is a monumental oeuvre that will serve scholars for decades.

Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower, by Zbigniew Brzezinski. New York: Basic Books (, 2007. 234 pages. Detailed index, graphs. ISBN 13: 978-0-465-00252-8. Library of Congress book number: JZ1480.B69 2007. Hardcover.

The three presidents in question are George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. The time frame is 1990–2006, or the pinnacle of Western and American power (while communism and the USSR disintegrated), and ending with the signs of American economic and political decline. In the meantime, globalization and attempts to acquire nuclear capability by several Asian countries have taught the world that American power is not infinite. September 11, 2001, “shock[ed] the United States into a state of fear and the pursuit of unilateral policies” (13). The “war on terror” followed.

Brzezinski is a master of global vision, and he provides an unmatched analysis of world situation. He also sketches out the possibility of regaining and consolidating international prestige and power. While doing so he provides an insight into the problems that globalization, technology, and the rise of the Asian powers have created: “The basic requirements of global leadership are now vastly different from what they were during the British empire. No longer is military power, reinforced by economic prowess and exercised by a superior elite pursuing a sophisticated strategy, sufficient to sustain imperial domination. In the past, power to control exceeded power to destroy. It took less effort and cost to govern a million people than to kill a million people. Today the opposite is true: power to destroy exceeds the power to control” (215).

Even though he is not a member of the present cabinet, Brzezinski is in many ways a Washington insider. Therefore, his remarks about lobbying should be taken with utmost seriousness: “[T]he capacity to raise and target electoral campaign funds has become a more important source of influence for foreign policy lobbies than their claimed voting strength. Increased congressional dependence on costly and almost permanent campaigning is the root cause of this trend. The high expense of TV campaigns has turned targeted funding support (or opposition) into a crucial instrument for gaining influence” (197). Need we add that the Polish American lobby has relied on dreams rather than dollars in this regard?

Back to the September 2008 Issue
The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 12/5/08