Sub-Imperial Public Sphere and Its Legacies. Russian Poland in Asymmetrical Comparison

Wiktor Marzec, University of Warsaw

Sub-imperial public spheres and its aftermaths. Russian Poland in asymmetrical comparison The aim of the paper is to offer a transferable perspective on the public sphere and its organizing cleavages in the sub-imperial contexts, characterized by multiple dependencies. I will focus on Russian Poland, seen against the backdrop of developments in other fringe, borderland regions of the empire, that is Finland, Georgia and Latvia. Cleavages organizing political conflict in all cases were characterized by similar multi-polar entanglements. The local (native or ‘foreign’) elites adopted various positions in respect to the imperial (Russian) center – the source of political power, privilege and income, but in cultural terms seen ambiguously in respect to the domestic national aspirations and “civilizational” hierarchies, in all cases oriented rather westwards. The multiple diversities of the local populations produced various “center-periphery” splits, not reducible to a single gradient. Drawing from comparative historical sociology of empires, new imperial history and field (of power) analysis applied to sub-imperial (not necessarily colonial) regions, I will point at two aspects: the imperial orientation is an important defining element of the power struggle and there are various options available: pro-imperial state loyalism, external dependent orientation (usually west-bound), domestic self-assertion, or pan-imperial transformation. At the same time, the great imperial crisis brought forth reconfiguration of state affiliations, property structures and commodity chains. This made forms of wealth and power usually accumulated in “core” states less valuable, fostering turn to cultural capital and making the domestic, national hierarchies an attractive option instead of competition framed in less parochial terms. These features have produced legacies and refractions spanning far beyond the imperial period and marking the public sphere long afterwards.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 127. European Politics