Date of Award
Master of Arts
School of Arts and Humanities
Professor Quentin Beresford
Dr Genevieve Hohnen
The period between 1944 and 1956, also known as the “Stalinist period”, is one of the most controversial and turbulent in Polish history. The Polish communist party launched the project of restructuring Polish society, whose historically wellestablished national identity seemed incompatible with the communist project. Firstly, the communists effected a demographic change that resulted in a near monoethnic state. Simultaneously, they introduced a centrally planned economy, transformed state symbolism, initiated a national education system, attempted to reshape popular attitudes to religion, and launched a massive propaganda campaign to reinforce and popularize their objectives.
This study seeks to investigate the communists’ attempts to accommodate Polish nationalism, the impact these attempts had on the success of the communist project in Poland and, by implication, the governments’ relationship with Poles and the USSR. By exploring these aspects of the debate, the author discovered that Polish communists, Poles themselves in most cases, struggled to find a balance between their national identity and the communist ideology. In fact, the thesis argues that leaders of the Polish communist government developed a dual identity in their approach to governing Poland: that is, they were primarily nationalists rather than Stalinist communists, but retained some key elements of the ideological and totalitarian framework. As a result, the Polish communist project deviated from the Soviet model and ultimately failed to produce a new and coherent narrative. Crucially, the spread of literacy and education throughout Polish society served to reinforce historic national identity. In 1956, due to popular unrest, the quasitotalitarian Polish state had to abandon Stalinist style rule and effectively the nationalist component from thereon dominated the narrative of the regime.
Kozdra, J. R. (2017). “What sort of communists are you?” The struggle between nationalism and ideology in Poland between 1944 and 1956. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/1955