The Polish language and the national consciousness throughout the ages

Janusz Tazbir

Abstract


During the Middle Ages only a small part of Polish inhabitants had national consciousness; the others, although also used the same language were unaware of it. As far as assimilation was concerned the nobility turned out to be the most sensitive group. Assimilation was at that time a fully voluntary process. It was only in the Enlightenment period that assimilation was extended to other ethnic groups as Ukrainians or Jews. The loss of independence (1795) ruined this process. Nevertheless, due to the great development of Polish culture and many insurrections, the circle of people with Polish national consciousness broadened definitely in the 19th century. After the restoration of the Polish State (1918) their number amounted to ca. 70% of its inhabitants. The fear that the Polish language might gradually disappear because of the germanization or russification conducted by the invaders, did not come true. It looks as if neither English which replaced French, spread in all Europe, and earlier Latin, will be more successful in ousting Polish in the 21st century.

Keywords


assimilation; Polish language; coercion

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