Russians in Warsaw : Imperialism and national identity, 1863-1915
Przygrodzki, Robert L.
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“Russians in Warsaw: Imperialism and National Identity, 1863-1915” examines the links between the Russian imperial projeet in Poland and Russian national identities. By studying the development of Russian national identity in the context of the Russo- Polish conflict, I am able to define its contours in an important Russian borderland. Through the use of archival documents, memoirs, the local Russian press, and the annual reports of Varsovian Russian organizations, which I collected in Warsaw’s repositories as a Fulbright researcher, I have found that the local Russian leadership was anxious about the preservation of Russianness within their community. The leadership of the Russian colony worried that the lower strata of their membership might become Polonized if Russians did not take steps to champion an alternative Russian identity. The danger of intermarriage with Polish Catholic women (who would then become mothers of “Russian” children), the growth in poverty and orphans among poorer Russians, the absence of a vibrant Russian culture in Warsaw, and the weak position of the Orthodox Church in Warsaw’s public spaces all became matters of great concern to those Russians who feared the possibility of nativization. Also contributing to these fears was an ambivalence over Russia’s place within Western civilization, particularly when Poles confidently placed themselves within that European tradition. The Russian responses to this imagined Polish threat manifested themselves in numerous architectural projects that solidified a Russian historical and Orthodox presence, the creation of charitable organizations that focused on Russian needs, and imperial tours that lauded Russian history, culture, and other achievements. As was true elsewhere in the empire, local Russians increasingly identified Russianness with the Russian Orthodox faith and language. Dynastic loyalty also continued to mold their identity. Varsovian Russians insisted on propagating what they believed was truly Russian on the imperial periphery as a means of ensuring their own national identities and as proof of the permanence of their presence there. The importance of this work lies in uncovering the influence of local initiative upon the imperial project that Warsaw’s Russians took in order to address their particular concerns and the responses of Poles to that project.