• March 5, 2012
  • 247

The integration of Lithuanian Poles or assimilation?

Vilius Ivanauskas © DELFI (A.Didžgalvio nuotr.)

During last year in relations between Poland and Lithuania more positive gestures effected on the cultural background, thanks to such event s like celebration of 100th anniversary of Cz. Miłosz  birthday, or 100th death anniversary of composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis.

Celebrations took place in Vilnius and Warsaw. There was also another one – discussion within intellectual society, illustrating junction of the cultural features and constituting symbols both societies throughout centuries, which are special for their similarities and so-called “thorns”. An aggressive tone towards neighbours which takes place in a political rhetoric, may be easily interpreted as an attack, and a society get into the influence of the old stereotypes. Is the problem of identity what is the clue of the common relations of our nations.

The  Integration of polish Lithuanians vs. an assimilation of them – limitations of education Poles in Lithuania – a claim which is both approved by Poland’s government and rejected by Lithuanian’s government. Lithuanian Act of Education Law illustrates good opinion of some part of Lithuanian politicians – in their minds increased amount of Lithuanian language classes would help local Poles in preparation to studies in the state language, and in further perspective – would lead to smoother and faster integration within  Lithuanian society and make them more successful as Lithuanian citizens.

Next some part of influential Lithuanian politicians have repeated these arguments, but most of them were just response for a complaint made by Poles and Polish political elites.

This issue seems to be worth reconsidering, from the management perspective. First – Lithuanian politicians have been accused of attempt to impose particular style of integration of polish community, which is related to violation of national minorities rights. there is some logical reasoning in the skeptical approach to an unilateral decision “we know better  how to help you”. But after all, i.e. in business, when we want to enter into the market, we used to explore our potential clients preferences first and to analyse how to choose the best way for a dialogue. There was a luck of an introductory outline, nor clear polls. Therefore it was not accidental that politicians both sides were permitted to manipulate society’s moods, which caused bilateral tensions within the society and spreaded stereotypes, etc. It seems   obvious  for all, that the most disturbing thing for polish community in Lithuania is a regulation regarding unification of exam in official language for both Lithuanian and minorities schools in 2013. The consensus that have been occurred, lies in extended temporary period, probably may be a evidence for the possibility to change disputable issues before it got crushed. Will we learn that lesson? Without doubt, situation was complicated much because of luck of some agreement, where the organizations or social groups within some sregions should be perceived as “causers” of this problem, attempt to start dialogue with EAPL did not succeed as well, another has not been started.

Second,  enhancing the fact of reciprocity, while in Poland Lithuanian minority must obey same rules, does not direct us to conclusion, that implementation of superiority official language, besides, not only issue of official language should be mentioned, but also case of providing minorities possibilities of using their languages in these states. Third, this Acts has been adopted in the time, when Poles still had their faith(who have been still keeping their faith) in case of using figures of the alphabet in documents and street’s names. This chronological accident has created conditions for strengthening dissatisfaction because of the interference into local Poles identity.

Such issues, related to intrastate management, are spreaded into  policy of identity plane. In which dimension polish patriotism might be coincided  with  Lithuanian one? Are we able to offer such type of civil patriotism, which national minorities would be fit ideally in? And where would be opportunity for identify themselves with, common for all, with no relation to particular background.  Ideal sample of such compatibility exposed Czesław Miłosz in identity of “Lithuanian Pole”, in which differences do not constitute borders for Lithuania. Maybe the “lithuano” is perceived through the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, if they want to identify themselves as Lithuanians, in citizenship dimension, is not necessary to speak fluently in Lithuanian, rather  to feel united with the territory, its statehood or authorities.

An historian  Rimantas Miknys sees it as a Chance to  self-identity of Lithuanian Poles, who have some problems with keeping it alive; even more and more common appears to be an approach “Poles of Lithuania’. Maybe from the historical point of view answer for this question can we find in research work  of Ms  Vitalia  Stravinskienė, which have been just released and its main concerns is a  post –war repatriation of local Poles do Poland. The research contains a circumstances, while from the Soviet Republic of Lithuania 190 thousand Poles living in Lithuania – in fact there were members of an emigration elite – the intelligentsia, teachers left the country. The ones who stood there, were working class or farmers. And the elites keep the identity alive. After watching the present time and evaluating the dissatisfaction of the leaders of Poles living in Lithuania, we can ask about the sense of current policy towards national minorities undertaken by the Lithuanian government.

The President of Commonwealth of National Minority Council, Vitalijus Karakorskis  has emphasized occurrence of situation, while we face a painful luck in this issue, and creates an opportunity to interfere in internal affairs by foreign states. “The effect  of current policy is, that we handed the affairs of Russian  minority over to the Russian Embassy, and Polish – to the Polish Embassy. If in Lithuania were an Israeli Embassy, it would definitely took over affairs of their minority, probably. This is nothing wrong with embassies communing and supporting their countrymen, but they should have been creating  a programs for them. Unfortunately, in Lithuania we have to deal with such harmful situation, because the state does not really  seem to take care of them.” In fact, we ought to reconsider, what can we do better in matter of national minorities policy  or in matter of civil society development.

The issue of polish minority appears nowadays to be the most vulnerable – but anyway in matter of elimination differences between Poles in Lithuania and Poles in Poland, could be found as failure of Lithuania policy. Who should be blamed for? Some responsible politicians claim, that efforts made by Poland with a view to defense interests of South-eastern Lithuania are inappropriate, and such efforts made by organization of national minorities , which are blamed for being “too local” (follow  speech of Vytautas  Landsbergis). Therefore we could ask, if there was enough provided help for Lithuanian Poles from political parties, state entities, or maybe not – there a luck left, which was just used by hostile forces?


Tłumaczenie Ewelina Targosz  w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Ewelina Targosz  within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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