- July 17, 2012
What is the image of a Pole and of Poland among the Lithuanian society?
What is the image of a Pole and ofPolandamong the Lithuanian society? – the answer to this question is attempted in the study “The Image of the Poles inLithuaniaand the Image of Poland among the Lithuanian society”, which was presented on Tuesday (17 July) at theVilniusUniversity. During the presentation, Professor Boguslavas Gruževskis, the Director of theInstituteofLabourand Social Research, emphasized that it is better if the relations between the two countries are based on scientific research and not on mystifications or emotions.
“I bet that everyone in this room has their own view on this subject. These opinions were often published in the press, but no one has approached the matter of the image of the Pole and ofPolandamong the Lithuanian society comprehensively,” the Polish ambassador inLithuania, Janusz Skolimowski, said in the introduction.
According to the embassy, which was the initiator of the research, so far only the so-called express surveys have been carried out, which presented an unoptimistic vision of the relations between various national groups in the Lithuanian society. This was especially true in the case of the relations with local Poles andPoland. The recent research had the purpose of “reading” the real tendencies in the Lithuanian society, concerning the responses to the Poles inLithuaniaand toPoland.
The research that has formed the basis of the study „The Image of the Poles and the image ofPolandamong the Lithuanian society”, was carried out between 23 January and20 February 2012. Its aim was, first of all, to determine the social distance between the various national groups in Lithuania, secondly – to identify the views of Lithuanians concerning Poland and persons of Polish ethnicity, and thirdly, to determine the level of interest among Lithuanians in Poland, its politics, culture and the contacts with it.
Irena Šutinienė of the Lithuanian Social Research Centre presented to the audience the prevalent view of common history among the Lithuanian society. “People consider attractive those moments or aspects of our history that are relevant today. They emphasized that the tolerance and multiculturalism of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is something very important to them,” said Šutinienė.
She also stressed that the person who today links the Lithuanians, Poles and Russians the most is Czesław Miłosz.
The authors of the research have also compared, among others, the estimation of Lucjan Żeligowski and Józef Piłsudski among the Lithuanian society, as well as among the Poles inLithuania, today and in 2007. It turned out that among both communities the number of people evaluating these historical figures positively has declined (e.g., in 2007, 18 percent of Lithuanians and 62 percent of Lithuanian Poles had a positive view of Piłsudski, in 2012 – 14 and 40 percent respectively), while the number of people evaluating them neutrally or not knowing them has increased (in the case of Piłsudski, 54 percent of Lithuanians and 35 percent of Poles had a neutral view of him in 2007, now it is 60 and 57 percent respectively).
The Lithuanian Poles about themselves
The research has show that the Lithuanian Poles accept such aspects of their own identity as the ability to speak Polish, being Polish, having Polish ancestors and being Catholic. The majority of the Lithuanian Poles identify themselves withLithuania, far fewer – withPoland, the Baltic region orEurope. Such tendencies has remained unchanged for almost ten years. Arvydas Matulionis, the Director of the Lithuanian Social Research Centre, noticed it, too. “Polish children sing in Polish, unlike the Russian children, who prefer to sing in English or Lithuanian,” Matulionis said.
According to the research, multilingualism prevails among the pupils of the schools in the Vilnius Region. The pupils speak a number of languages among themselves, they watch TV programmes and read press in different languages, and they even often communicate in a few languages with their family members.
The research has also pointed out the existence inLithuaniaof ethnicity-related limitations in workplace relations, although the majority of the local Poles who’d been approached said that they don’t really have problems on the level of personal relations. However, over half of those asked said that there is certain discrimination on the level of interethnic relations. 20.3 percent of the Poles approached admitted that they have experienced some forms of discrimination at work.
“The majority of the Poles approached said, however, that discrimination is too strong a word. They would rather use terms such as ignoring or limiting of rights. The majority noted that they have never experienced discrimination themselves, but rather heard about such cases from others,” Dr Jolanta Aleknevičienė, one of the authors of the research, explained.
It hasn’t escaped the researchers’ notice that in the field of employment, the Polish respondents very often use the help of relatives or other Poles who can offer jobs. They try to look for work above all within their own community. The majority of the Poles, who took part in the research, work in the private sector or in the service industry.
The opinions of the experts representing the Lithuanian Poles were also presented as part of the research. 30 people, representing various social groups, were interviewed. “As an outside person, I found it very interesting to learn their opinions. We gathered around 300 pages of information. These are very reliable opinions, based on facts, not on emotions,” said Dr Aleknevičienė.
Lithuanians aboutPolandand Poles
Analysing the media, the researchers found that a negative image of a Pole dominates in the Lithuanian press. The “Polish” subjects most often raised by the media concern the issues of the “Polish minority education” and “minority policy”. In the news, the Pole is very often presented as a person not integrated into the Lithuanian society, not speaking the Lithuanian language, and harming or discriminating against the Lithuanians. This is an important observation, as according to the research, most Lithuanians (68 percent) get their information aboutPolandand Poles from the Lithuanian press.
The research has also found that 58 percent of Lithuanians have never had any contact with the citizens of Polish origin. Nonetheless, the image of the Pole among the Lithuanian society is positive. The Poles, according to the Lithuanians, are above all religious (73 percent), efficient (66 percent), educated (62 percent), modern (61 percent), cheerful (57 percent), hard-working (54 percent), and neat (52 percent). Only 16 percent of Lithuanians wouldn’t like a Pole for a neighbour, whereas 20 percent wouldn’t like their children to marry a Polish person.
Contrary to appearances, Lithuanians also think positively ofPolandas a country. According to them,Polandis an important political partner forLithuaniaon the international arena (74 percent), in the matters of international security (70 percent) and in the power industry cooperation (59 percent). 71 percent of the Lithuanians asked stated that the living conditions inPolandare better than inLithuania, while 57 percent thought that the conditions for business activity are also better inPoland. One third believe that the current Lithuanian-Polish relations are good, and thatPolandis a country friendly towardsLithuania. The Lithuanians also said thatPolandis a good place to do shopping.
The results are optimistic
According to Boguslavas Gruževskis, one of the authors of the research, such attitude instils optimism, because people tend to attribute only negative traits to those they don’t like. “It suggests that the Lithuanian society has a rather pragmatic approach to the Polish issue,” Gruževskis said.
Arvydas Matulionis had reservations about the editors of the research, but he assessed positively the research itself. “I would accuse the editors of sloppiness, for example in one place the name ofLithuaniais written in lower case. I think it all needs correction before publication,” Matulionis said. The Director of the Centre also didn’t like the word “experts” used in the case of some of the representatives of the Polish minority cited in the study. “They are informers, since expert after all means something else,” Matulionis explained. Ewa Figel, Head of the political-economic section of the Polish embassy inVilnius, assured the audience that the mistakes were unintended and that they will be corrected soon.
According to a parliamentary deputy, Algirdas Sysas, the editorial errors are not significant. The deputy thinks that the study will be very helpful in the improvement of the Polish-Lithuanian relations. “Research shows that in 2006 our relations were better than they are now, but then the Polish-Lithuanian parliamentary group used to meet twice a year. At the moment, we haven’t met for three years. And such are the results of not talking to each other,” Sysas said.
Małgorzata Kasner, the director of the Polish Institute inPoland, thinks alike. The research is a good basis for discussion. “It is very important that we return to it, for example in autumn, and together with younger researchers we work on getting to know each other better,” Kasner said.
“There’s little ofPolandinLithuania, and I think the same can be said aboutLithuaniainPoland. . . We don’t need any revolutionary action, but systematic work,” Boguslavas Gruževskis added.
Tłumaczenie Aleksandra Musiał w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Aleksandra Musiał within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.