European University Institute, Department of History and Culture, Florence
Tomasz Kamusella, The Szlonzoks and their language: between Germany, Poland and Szlonzokian nationalism, Florence: European University Institute, Department of History and Culture, 2003
HEC Working papers 2003/1
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-à-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’.
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