Wrocław 1945–2008. Identity defined

Elżbieta Kaszuba
Original title: Wrocław 1945–2008. Definiowanie tożsamości
Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka 2010
Abstract

The history of post-war Wrocław distinctly presents both extreme and dramatic experience of the small communities of East-Central Europe in consequence of World War II. It is still possible to see somewhat cosmopolitan features in landscape of the city, a mixture of various long-term ethnic, national, religious and cultural influences – Czech, German, Polish, Lusatian and Jewish. Nevertheless, for near one and a half centuries, until the end of World War II, the Prussian-German tradition remained a dominant of the local identity. Post-war order ended the continuity of historic development of Wrocław that became part of Poland. The essence of such a sudden change without a precedent in the history of these lands, was an almost complete exchange of population, Poles replaced the Germans. Polish immigrants presented a regional mosaic, with soundly stressed intergroup separatisms and antagonisms. In this situation a complicated, long-lasting process of integration and adaptation was a condition for restoring a certain community in city. The taming of the foreign city required a new version of a local history that was a subject to mythologisation, that was deprived of the German elements and glorified the tradition of the Piast dynasty as clearly Polish. Interaction between regionalisms, cultural heritage, and the great symbols of the Eastern Poland brought by the people, and post-German material heritage, constituted a specific capital of the city. Unfortunately, a communist orthodoxy contributed to the disruption of these processes and prevented the creating of a specifically original identity that would strengthen the sense of belonging to the city population. Wroclaw, for decades chronically underinvested and degraded materially, became inevitably provincial. Return to the idea of regionalism came in 1900s together with the transformation of the political and economic system. Finally thanks to the support of the local authorities the importance history of Silesia, Wrocław and local culture for building local identity, was fully accepted.

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