Politicizing Roots

Every once in a while we come across information that sheds some light on a particularly convoluted topic (which usually is a good opportunity to do some ranting – for those who do not care for rants, see you next time).

Sometimes, such information radically changes our previously held views, at other times it adds needed confirmation to what has long been suspected.  A fascinating example of the latter has come to our attention, courtesy of the University of Warsaw and the Polish Education Ministry.  But first for some brief background.

19th Century – First Half of the 20th Century

In this period, the discussion about Germans and Slavs on the territory of present Poland (specifically, in the Oder and Vistula area was a shouting match between the hyper nationalists of the German school who, in order to justify continued territorial claims in the East, concocted  theories that denied any room for the existence of Slavs in the same area (or indeed in Central Europe) before the 5th and maybe even 6th centuries.  There were many proponents of this view from:

  • the seemingly dim Johann Kaspar Zeuss, best remembered in the words of a poem:

Was man nicht deutsch erklären kann,

Das sieht man gleich als keltisch an

(What can’t possibly be explained as Germanic, that is immediately seen as Celtic)

  • the proto-Nazi Gustaf Kossina (member of the “Nordic Ring” society, loving teacher of such luminaries as SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans Schleiff), to
  • the Noble prize winning Theodor Mommsen – in eigenen Worten:

 “the Czech skull is impervious to reason, but it is susceptible to blows

and once more:

In any event, much more will fall away from the German Nation than the children of Israel, when its current form is corrected [durchkorrigiert] to fit with Tacitus’ Germania.  Mr. Quatrefages had shown many years ago that only the central states [of Germany] are truly German and that the Prussian race is a mass of peoples made up of reprobate Slavs and all kinds of other waste of humanity.

(to be clear, this was written by Mommsen to defend (!) Jews against Treitschke  In other words, Mommsen’s view was, “yes, Jews are, of course, not Germans but, come on, look at all the other crap that we have living here in Germany”)

And many, many others who sacrificed scientific objectivity for their exploration of inner demons, pursuit of careers and raw politics.


Mommsen’s “Durchkorrigierung” Begins

The fact that Mommsen was Danish and Kossina Polish should provide some exculpation for the Germans as well as a window into the twisted souls of some of these creatures (of course, if one were to go through Germany with a magnifying glass and see who actually has Scandinavian ancestors, many, many more Kossinas would first be found – many with names you would never have guessed were not Nordic).

14th December 1945: Huddling in blankets the only survivors of an original 150 Polish people who walked from Lodz in Poland to Berlin hoping to find food and shelter. They are waiting by a railway track hoping to be picked up by a British army train and given help. (Photo by Fred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images)

Side Effects of Mommsen’s “Durchkorrigierung”

Since, with the exception of tiny Serbia, there were no independent (not counting the Romanov Empire’s prison of nations) Slavic nation-states throughout most of the 19th century (people should remember that when bemoaning the effects of World War I), any response to this kind of “science” had to be a private one.  And, indeed, many Czechs, Poles and others undertook to tackle this kind of behaviour financing their activities and publications often out of their own private funds given official indifference or even hostility.  It was an uphill battle for it was fought against the machinery of the state but, in the end, it was victorious.

Even if for only a little while.

21st Century 

Compared to the many works produced by scholars roughly through the mid-20th century, what strikes one today is the paucity of decent (forget good, how about merely decent!) scholarship regarding Slavs.  There literally has not been a single respectable book published in English-speaking academia in over 50 years.  The situation in the local Slavic publishing world is not much better.  What gives?  People too busy with their every day lives to write or read about this stuff?  Maybe.  But is that it?

The response to the question of the autochtonous nature of the Slavs in Central Europe once again seems to shed some light on what may be going on.

If in the 19th century German historiography had a political goal of incorporating Slavs into the German nation – as Germans; if during the (late) Nazi time, the goal became separation and subjugation of those who would not hop on board; nowadays, a new goal is on the horizon.

Puzzle Palace

Whereas before Slavic autochtonism was a stumbling block on the road to consolidation of the lands of the overstretched reformed Germany Empire, now Slavic authochtonism is a major problem for the plans laid out for Europe in general.  Since, as we see recently, the party line is that anyone can come to Europe and anyone can be a European, the idea of a “native” or indigenous population is not too popular an idea.

After all, if there are “natives” then, one might ask, whether it is the natives that have a right to their lands – a right, tentatively speaking, greater than anybody else.  Greater than others from within Europe and certainly greater than others from outside.

But in the age of globalization this presents a problem.  The economics and demographics of Europe in relation to the economics and demographics of nearly everywhere else outside of Asia are such that a migration stream is all but inevitable as people are swept up by dreams of a better life somewhere else.

The elites have no mechanisms for dealing with the underlying structural problems in the origin countries except foreign aid…  [Now, if you thought that the various foreign aid programs have an uncanny resemblance to the kind of “stipends” that the Byzantines and Romans paid to their barbarians, you would not be the only one thinking that (you’ve got to wonder how much of what got paid to Gothic kunungs and Avar khagans ended up back in Constantinople’s bank vaults).]

All the Western elites can really try to do is to try to influence (one way or another) the future host populations.

And whereas no one cares about migrations to third world countries because whatever strife or misery such a migration may cause, the global impact of such upheavals is unlikely to create anything other than misery and violence in the given locality, e.g., the UAE or South Africa – Europe (and America, Japan) is different.

If the Europeans were to try to object to all of this, things could get proverbially ugly.  Europe has, ahem, a history.  And Europe has the technological capabilities to create a rather nasty “reactionary” regime.  In this respect, realistically, a regime that could halt or reverse some of these global trends would not be a democratic regime and such a regime could, for example, seek nuclear weapons, etc, etc, etc.

This is a problem (though, again, not just for Europe) because while the rich and powerful of this world do not determine the world’s course and had not planned any of this, neither do they want to be swept along with all of its currents – if they were there just for the ride, they would not be rich and powerful for long.  And, once someone has power, then, of course, that someone is unlikely to willingly want to surrender it.  So managing inevitable change (or at least inevitable to those that believe that the cure would be worse than the disease) becomes extremely relevant.

In this respect, Germany is the key to Europe and it has recently become clear Germany has been either successfully pacified…

(Proponents of the “pacification view” point to recent events such as the fact that the German football team will no longer be the Nationalmannschaft – just the Mannschaft.  No more national, in other words, in Germany (whether this suggests that some players on the team are, ahem, not German or whether using the word “Mann” is offensive to women folk, are the kinds of political mines that we will let the Germans, or what’s left of them, decide)).

… or at least co-opted to play a policeman role (at least on this matter).

But to be serious, these people are not evil – rather, they have that endearing combination of both being robustly filled with utter certitude as well as being entirely clueless]

And the pacification or co-optation of Germany means that Germany can now be used (or, again, can do so, reassessing its interests, willingly) to pacify or co-opt others.  After all, it is a model democracy and the most inclusive country on the continent (and there is that export-driven economy which is its Achilles heel).  Why not use it as a cudgel to help others fall in line?  All you have to appeal to is German sense of humanity and democracy (for some would be cudgelers) and to German nationalism (for other, unreformed, cudgelers).  After all, in the end, it does not matter why they will do what they will do.

This is why, once again, historical truth regarding Slavs (and others) becomes hostage to the day’s politics – this time on a global stage.

Dispeling and Deconstructing “National Myths”

And so, it is difficult not to notice that, beginning in the 1990s (or late 1980s even) the German juggernaut was being repurposed as a steamroller against the resurgence of ugly Slavic nationalism.  Foundations and institutes were established.  Scientific articles were written.  And donations and subsidies were handed out to understanding individuals and various “independent” organizations all over Central Europe.

Sometimes, the results of such deconstructive scholarship were quite amusing:

  • as when one would be scholar of the topic tried to argue that a migration myth has always been an appealing myth to the Slavic nationalist.

Thereby wonderfully illustrating that all that took place in the ’90s was a dusting off of the various essays earlier written by the same crowd about the Germanen (who, if by this term we mean the Norse, in our view, really did – originally – come out of Scandinavia but did not then walk into empty lands);

To all prospective deconstructors: if you aim to deconstruct our national myths then, at least, have the common courtesy of deconstructing our national “myths” not those of other peoples!

  • or when another thinker constructed a theory of Slavic identity as imposed from above and the Slavic “nation” basically being a collection of pre-existing populations;

Then had to quickly backpedal when he realized that this effectively legitimized the so-called Venetic Theory…

In all of this, history and truth do not matter.  Europeans are being reeducated and Slavs were just accepted as full-fledged passengers on the Euro-tanic.

But we are being only half-serious when pointing the finger at the “globalists”.

Facts are what they are and the globalists only ride with them.  Moreover, the Germans, no doubt, think they have a very good reason to reeducate the East independent of any pan-European or globalist designs – the more accepting the Slavs are of “Others”, the fewer “Others” end up in Germany… The fewer riots in Germany, etc.

After all, wasn’t Poland the dumping ground of, to quote one illustrious German Noble Prize winner, “all kinds of … waste of humanity“? Why not again?

(stories about German industrial waste being dumped in Central Europe and Baltics are aplenty so why not refugees?)

And this should help answer the question of why the nature of Slavic scholarship is – recently – of such very, very poor quality.

A Case in Point

Let’s just take a look at one modest example.

This Polish website:  www.mpov.uw.edu.pl is advertised as created by the “National Center for Science” (“national” for how much longer?) which on its page states:

“There is urgent [sic] need for a thorough new study of the cultural, social, ethnic, demographic and environmental transition observed in Central Europe during the Migration Period. A greatly improved recognition of these processes may be gained by taking a diachronic and interdisciplinary approach.  This is precisely the aim of our 5-year Project began in mid-2012 – to investigate in a comprehensive manner processes observed between the late 4th and early 7th century on the Odra and the Vistula. This region could be crucial for tracing the processes sweeping across Europe. From here the Germans – the Goths and the Vandals spilled out and played their part in the fall of the Western Roman Empire, setting up their first states over its ruins.”

One might ask, why is there an “urgent” need to study these processes of “transition” now?  What makes it urgent now?  Is it perhaps the fact that Europe is experiencing an unprecedented migration by non-Europeans – something that was entirely foreseeable for the last 50 years?

The website states its purpose in plain (albeit slightly broken) English:

“Input from our Project is expected to essentially alter views commonly accepted in archaeology, late Antiquity and early medieval history, palaeodemography and palaeobotany, especially, on the causes and course of settlement in Central Europe on the turn of Antiquity and Middle Ages, demographic and ethnic processes, the extent of colonisation, destruction and regeneration of the natural environment. We expect a significant impact on the public in and outside Poland, particularly, their sense of identity which has its roots in the Migration Period, the time of the first medieval states established over the ruins of the Roman Empire and its periphery.  The fictitious “proto-Slav past” of Poland will now be replaced with hard facts.  By broadcasting the research results, both in traditional form (conferences, publications and exhibitions) and especially, in an interactive form (e.g., presentations on the web, including social networking sites, and also, during themed picnics), and through mass media, we expect to promote interest, especially of the younger generation, in past changes in civilisation for a better understanding of the modern age.

[note that the underlined language was highlighted by the authors of this quote]

This is not a conspiracy.  It’s a consensus.  It’s as open as possible.  They are basically saying that:

  • ONE: the dispute about the proto-Slavic past is now over and Proto-Slavs re a “fiction”

Notice this itself is a curious claim – have there been new sources of information discovered?  Did someone find Cassiodorus’ Chronicle and we just missed it?;  if the dispute is, in fact, over then why does the Project have to “essentially alter views commonly accepted in archaeology, late Antiquity and early medieval history, palaeodemography and palaeobotany.”  These are not views of the “common people” after all.  (If you have a neighbor that is hard-core into palaeobotany, please let us know, we’ll get him on Oprah).

Why do the views of a scientific community have to be “essentially altered” if this is all so uncontroversial?

  • TWO: the aim of the project is to change the sense of identity of the Poles (though we can only assume that similar projects are underway in other European and Slavic countries) especially young people.

Now, almost all of the team members of this illustrious Project team are Polish.  Although you get some curious cases such as Jan Schuster and others either have German names or some past German connection.  Nonetheless, some of that is to be expected given the geographic closeness of Poland and Germany and, in and of itself, would not raise many eyebrows.

But then we get to the Steering Committee.  After all, you just can’t have a serious vehicle for change if the vehicle is improperly steered.  So who are the political officers of this outfit and where do they hail from?

  • Prof. dr hab. Karl-Ernst Behre
    • Niedersaechsisches Institut fuer historische Kuestenforschung
      Viktoriastrasse 26-28, D-26382 Wilhelmshaven
  • Prof. dr hab. Claus von Carnap-Bornheim
    • Zentrum für Baltische und Skandinavische Archäologie
      Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinnische Landesmuseen
      Schloss Gottorf D-24837 Schleswig but also
      Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte
      Christian-Albrecht Universität zu Kiel
      Johanna-Mestorf-Straße 2-6
      D-24098 Kiel
  • Prof. Ulla Lund Hansen
    • Saxo-Instituttet
      København Universitet
      Njalsgade 80
      DK-2300 København

Thankfully, the natives (sorry, not natives, Slavs) are represented as well!

  • Prof. dr hab. Andrzej Kokowski
    • Instytut Areologii
      Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej
      Pl. Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej 4
      PL-20-031 Lublin
  • Prof. dr hab. Piotr Kaczanowski
    • [DECEASED]

Needless to say the Polish Culture Ministry also has no funds to sponsor digs to test the Y-DNA of Roman and pre-Roman age populations on the territory of Poland.

Go figure.


Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2015, All Rights Reserved

July 1, 2015

5 thoughts on “Politicizing Roots

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