07 September 2010

Summer of Memories # 2: Poland - parallel battles

The ongoing fight over whether to remove or keep the makeshift cross, erected outside Poland’s Presidential Palace in Warsaw to commemorate Lech Kaczynski, has been documented elsewhere in this blog (below). Its role in crystallizing discussions about contemporary Polish identity and, broadly defined, the politics of memory, are further highlighted by a comment piece in Gazeta Wyborcza, worth presenting here: ‘Battle of the Cross’ (‘Bitwę pod krzyzem’).



The article’s emblematic title is a reference to the Battle of Grünwald, a cornerstone of Poland’s longue durée cultural memory. The event took place in 1410, and resulted in the sound defeat of the Teutonic Knights at Polish hands; commemorating it reflects the elongated temporal horizon defined by Jan Assmann (1995) as a salient feature of cultural memory construction.

The 600th anniversary commemorations of this battle on 15 July 2010, complete with costumed, pitched battle re-enactments in Poland, thus form a colourful parallel to the events at the Presidential Palace, the memory of which is likely to remain rather more contested internally.

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