Historical story

Aryan Republic. Were the January insurgents racists?

Last updated:2022-07-25

This is not an absurd question at all, at least in the light of Marcin Wolniewicz's findings. A historian of the Polish Academy of Science proves that racial arguments were very important in Polish independence propaganda. Also those referring to the Aryan race.

During the uprising, they were provided mainly by the historian and ethnographer Franciszek Henryk Duchiński (1816-1893). In his publications, he argued that Poles and Ruthenians (the ancestors of today's Ukrainians and Belarusians) belonged to one Aryan race and on this basis they once created their common state - the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Moscow in turn (the scholar denied Russia its proud name) was to be inhabited by the Turanian people, common to Asian peoples such as the Turks and Mongols. The undeniable differences between the two races were, of course, to outweigh the "accidental" similarity of the Russian and Ruthenian languages.

Scientific propaganda

The Polish political elite of the January Uprising had a clearly defined, though utopian, goal:the rebirth of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth within the pre-partitions borders. The Western powers were to help in the work of reconstruction, so they had to be convinced that it was not only necessary, but also just. In the 1860s it was not an easy matter.

Franciszek Duchiński. Patriot and racist?

In Europe, the view that national borders should correspond to ethnic divisions was becoming more and more popular. Russian propaganda took advantage of this, arguing about the linguistic and cultural unity of the lands of former Kievan Rus, from Lviv to Włodzimierz and Suzdal. Poland was, according to this interpretation, the oppressor of the Ruthenians later liberated by Russia.

Therefore, Polish diplomats and journalists active in Western Europe, especially in France, argued that ethnic divisions were of secondary importance. What mattered, in their opinion, were fundamental differences - the racial ones. Thanks to this presentation of the case, the revival of the Commonwealth within the borders of 1772 was to gain scientific justification. It was becoming a step towards rebuilding a one-race state.

Polish-Russian race conflict

When the Western powers were wondering what position to take on the January Uprising, in May 1863 two works were published in Paris which, using racial arguments, justified the Polish demands concerning the Ruthenian lands.

Emmanuel – Henri – Victurnien, Marquis de Noailles

The author of the first of them was the French journalist Victor de Mars, inspired by Duchiński. Marcin Wolniewicz describes his views as follows:

He pointed to the Dnieper as the border between the Slavic world and the "foreign, Czudic, Finnish and Uralic world". (...) Moscow (...) succumbed to the moral influence of the Mongols related to it, but no assimilation was possible in the case of Russia. (...) Therefore, the Polish-Lithuanian union was voluntary, unlike the Moscow conquests.

Similar views were expressed by Emmanuel-Henri-Victurnien, the Marquis de Noailles, whose book Polska i her borders was translated into English at the request of Polish diplomats and presented, among others, to British Foreign Minister. Wolniewicz also summarizes his opinions:

The Dnieper Line - he argued - "this is the logical border between Asia and Europe, based on the difference of races, while the division of modern geography, which places the border on the Urals, is arbitrary" because "The race that lives on both sides of the Urals is the same Asian race."

The news is based on an article from Przegląd Historyczny.

In the opinion of the French scientist, the Mongol invasion abolished the division in the Slavic region caused by the Varangian rule and made Ruthenians able to unite with their Slavic brothers from Poland. Russia, in turn, developed, as Wolniewicz writes, in the lands of "Uralic tribes belonging to the Asian race and language".

It was very easy to discern the purely political basis of Polish racial propaganda. Nevertheless, it gained a certain group of supporters in Western Europe. Much too small, however, to have any impact on the fate of the uprising.

The source of the above news is:

Marcin Wolniewicz, "Let Moscow be Moscow". Racial discourse in the Polish propaganda of the January Uprising (1863–1864) , "Przegląd Historyczny", vol. 104 (2013), issue 4, pp. 659-680.

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