Poland – 100 years of sovereignty, 100 years of activity

Kinga Redlowska – Programme Director Institute for Eastern Studies

The year 2018 is extremely important for both Poland and Georgia. Both countries celebrate in it the 100th anniversary of regaining independence.On this occasion, a special publication written by Jan Rokita and General Waldemar Skrzypaczak was published.

The 100th anniversary of the Polish restitution, following the First World War and 123 years of forced partition between Poland’s three neighbours, is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the country’s past years, as well as devise strategies for the future. This volume aims to fulfil such goals. It contains two insightful papers dealing with the most pressing challenges awaiting Poland, as seen through the lens of the centenary of its modern statehood.

In “Independence of Poland: Meanders of the Polish Sovereignty” Waldemar Skrzypczak, former commander of the Polish Land Forces, highlights the fact that Poland has been at the heart of European history for at least 1000 years. “Poland’s location on the axis of Paris-Berlin-Warsaw-Minsk-Moscow is the reason why Poles have always been involved in whatever crucial was going on the continent” he writes, arguing that the Polish fight for an independent state throughout much of the 19th century was a reflection of historical justice, stemming from the significant input of the Polish nation in European values. The 100 years which followed 1918 were, in the eyes of the author, “times of the national collective effort”. After the Second World War and decades of communist government “the Polish political and military elites strived to convince Western politicians that Poland deserved a place among political, economic and military leaders in Europe”. This culminated in Poland acceding to NATO and the European Union. In the second half of the paper Skrzypczak focuses on the major threats facing these two organisations and Poland as part of them. The crisis in Ukraine, Russian imperialism, wars and humanitarian disasters of the Middle East and Africa, or the Korean political developments are among the key challenges identified by the author as those defining the future of the West. Skrzypczak concludes with a suggestion that Poland and her Allies need to rebuild their military potential, as well as political cooperation in order to deter potential aggressors in the future.

The second paper titled “Poland towards the world. One hundred years after regaining independence (1918-2018)” sees columnist Jan Rokita concluding that “despite internal crises, Polish politics is well known, tested, comprehensible and credible for allies and partners”. Throughout the last 100 years several axioms of Polish politics have become apparent and these do not disappear despite internal conflicts. Poland, according to Rokita, is a staunch Atlanticist, relying on its special military alliance with the United States. Following 1989, “Poland acted with the idea that in this way it best invests in the durability of the newly regained self-independence” the author claims. The other priorities of the country include the support for Europeanisation and westernisation of its eastern neighbours, specifically Ukraine. Much of those efforts, according to Rokita, are an attempt to get over the wrongdoings of the Second World War. The exception is Russia, which in the view of Poland turned to authoritarianism after 2000 and remains an existential threat. The author writes that “today in Poland there is a fairly common conviction that Russia under the rule of President Vladimir Putin has become a dangerous country, openly seeking a change in the political order that was created in Europe after the breakup of the USSR”. This is of course incompatible with the third axiom identified by Rokita and that is staying part of the European integration process, whether through keeping faith in common institutions or via intergovernmental agreements.

This volume succeeds in presenting the Polish centenary as a celebration of a certain consequence of Polish politics. Both authors highlight the Polish tradition and various trends which define the modern actions of the Polish nation. We hope that it will be a significant contribution to the further study of subjects revolving around Polish statehood and its mission in the modern World. For the last 100 years and for the 100 years to come.

Read all publication here.