The Szlonzoks and their Language: between Germany, Poland and Szlonzokian nationalism
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Citation:Tomasz Kamusella, The Szlonzoks and their language: between Germany, Poland and Szlonzokian nationalism, Florence: European University Institute, Department of History and Culture, 2003
This article analyzes the emergence of the Szlonzokian ethnic group or protonation in the context of the use of language as an instrument of nationalism in Central Europe. When language was legislated into the statistical measure of nationality in the second half of the nineteenth century, Berlin pressured the Slavophone Catholic peasant-cum-worker population of Upper Silesia to become `proper Germans?, this is, German-speaking and Protestant. To the German ennationalizing2 pressure the Polish equivalent was added after the division of Upper Silesia between Poland and Germany in 1922. The borders and ennationalizing policies changed in 1939 when the entire region was reincorporated into wartime Germany, and, again, in 1945 following the incorporation of Upper Silesia into postwar Poland. The frequent changes of borders and ennationalizing pressures produced some Germans and Poles, but, above all, the two conflicting nationalisms nullified one another, this solidifying the Szlonzokian ethnicity of the majority of the population. Communism further alienated the Szlonzoks vis-a-vis Polishdom; and the possibility of emigrating to West Germany made them closer to Germandom. Since 1989 those Szlonzoks who have obtained German passports without leaving Poland declare themselves to be Germans, whereas the majority who have not and who feel to have been abused by the Polish state, declare themselves to be Szlonzoks and increasingly express this identity in national terms. All these policy and identification changes have been legitimized through the Szlonzoks? multilingual social reality. Berlin, Warsaw and the Szlonzoks have interpreted this multilingualism and specific social behavior patterns connected to it, accordingly, as `German?,`Polish?, or `Szlonzokian?.
Publisher:European University Institute, Department of History and Culture, Florence
Series/Report no:HEC Working papers