In 2007, the Polish
authorities for the first time adopted a government program to promote
cooperation with the Polish diaspora (Polonia) and Poles abroad. In 2002, they
introduced May 2 as Day of Polonia and Poles Abroad.
The strategic objectives of
this program for 2015-2020 include support for the development of Polish
language and culture among Poles abroad, strengthening Polish national identity
among representatives of Polonia, contributing to the popularity of Polonian
organizations abroad and the return of Poles living abroad to their homeland,
establishing economic, scientific and cultural contacts between Poland and Polonia
The Polish Foreign Ministry
estimates the number of members of the Polish diaspora, including ethnic Poles
and people of Polish descent, at 18-20 million, one third of them were born in
Poland. Polonia and the Poles rank the sixth if we compare the proportion of
members of the diaspora abroad with the population of the country of origin.
18% of tourists visiting Poland are members of Polish organizations abroad and
The largest Polish diasporas
are in the USA (9.6 million according to 2012 reports), in Germany (1.5
million) and Canada (1 million). Poles are also living in France and the United
Kingdom (0.8 million in each), the Netherlands (0.2 million), Ireland and Italy
(0.15 million in each), the Czech Republic (0.12 million), Sweden and Norway (
0.11 million in either), Belgium (0.1 million). In countries such as Austria,
Spain, Denmark, and Iceland, members of the Polish diasporas number less than
100 thousand people.
According to the Polish
Foreign Ministry, more than 1 million Poles and people of Polish descent live
in post-Soviet countries. According to the ministry, these estimates are not
accurate – for one, in Belarus, the most “Polish” republic of the former
USSR, the number of Poles and people of Polish origin could amount to up to 1
million (official reports estimate the number of Poles living in Belarus at 295
Lithuania comes second by the
number of Poles residing there – (250 thousand), the third is Ukraine (144
thousand), then Russia (47 thousand), Latvia (46 thousand) and Kazakhstan (34
thousand) – the fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Polonia is conditionally
divided by the Polish Foreign Ministry into ten functionality-based
geographical groups: 1. Lithuania 2. Belarus 3. Ukraine 4. Latvia, Moldova,
Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic 5. Western European countries
(Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, etc.). 6.
USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand 7. Other European countries 8. Russia, the
Caucasus, Central Asia 9. Brazil, Argentina 10.Other countries of the world.
This division was carried out
on the functional, rather than numerical basis and there is no universal
approach as to how to categorize Poles living abroad – each of the above
mentioned countries sets its own requirements for working with Polonia. People
who have Polish roots but do not speak Polish and who reside in the USA,
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil are regarded as Polish
diaspora by Warsaw. In this case, there is a need to popularize Polish
informational and ideological products for Polonia in these countries in the
language of the country of residence with emphasis on the economic and cultural
components and projects for the study of the Polish language.
The latter bears particular
importance. In Brazil, for one, there are more than a dozen Polish language
courses. People who go there are provided with social benefits and all the
necessary documents – student ID passes for students, work certificates for
teaching staff (teachers get discounts 33% to 49% on public and rail transport
in Poland, etc.), certificates of Polish
schools for distance learning, etc.
Given the presence of
anti-Russian sentiment in Poland’s policy, it is not surprising that Russia,
the republics of the Caucasus, and countries of Central Asia are among those
that Warsaw accuses of breaching the rights of ethnic minorities, including
Poles, which is not true. Working with Polonia in these regions carries a clear
ideological touch, as historical grievances prevail over culture and economy.
By intentionally inciting conflict, concocting accusations of violating the
rights of ethnic minorities,Warsaw equips itself with ideological tools to
justify its aggressive Eastern policy towards Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
In particular, there are
noticeable attempts by Warsaw to force Polish organizations in Russia to
participate in anti-Russian propaganda campaigns, especially regarding
retrospective assessments of Russian-Polish and Soviet-Polish relations. Polish
diplomacy cites the unsuccessful Polish uprisings of the 18th-19th centuries,
exiled and repressed Poles of the tsarist and Stalinist times, return of
Poland’s western lands to Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus following the Red
Army’s Polish campaign in 1939, etc.
The Polish Institute of
National Memory (PINP), being an exclusively ideological structure, is on the
list of state institutions and ministries that are responsible for cooperating
with Polonia. A projecttitled “The Next Stop is History” has been launched in
order to promote the historical and ideological heritage of Poland.
Implemented within the framework of the Polish diaspora program of the
Department of National Education of PINP in several countries at once
(conferences, exhibitions, symposia, film screenings, lectures, military sports
games), the project has no geographical restrictions and is conducted with the
participation of certified teachers.
Let us focus on some characteristic
features of the Polish diaspora policy:
– the prevalence of economic aspects while establishing cooperation with
ethnic Poles living in the USA, EU and South America;
powerful propagandistic and political emphasis and a minimal presence of
economy while dealing with Polonia in countries of the former USSR;
abandoning tactics of interaction with Polonia which presuppose acting through
Polonian organizations only and which have proved ineffective;
coverage by social, cultural and other projects of the largest possible number
of ethnic Poles, in the first place, those who are not members of diaspora
absence of heavy vertical hierarchy in disapora organizations in favor of
horizontal links and shuttle diplomacy;
contribute to the formation of a protest and opposition-minded stratum amongst
the young in countries of the former USSR (Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine)
with further placement of its representatives in local government structures,
the media and other socially important projects.
Summing up, we can say that
Warsaw’s diaspora politics abroad are focused on strengthening its positions in
the Western community and pursuing unilateral and controversial goals in the
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