Przegląd Geograficzny (2024) vol. 96, iss. 1

Main features and demands of the Kashubian regional movement after 1989

Mariusz Kowalski, Michał Konopski

Przegląd Geograficzny (2024) vol. 96, iss. 1, pp. 75-101 | Full text

The term regionalism has many definitions, most of which concern grassroots manifestations of community's identification with an inhabited fragment of space, including the search for one's own territorial identity (mainly local and regional). This term, was introduced by a French historian L. de Berluc Pérussis in the second half of the nineteenth century (Damrosz, 1987) much earlier than the adaptation of the phenomenon of identity in the social and geographical sciences, which dates only to the second half of the twentieth century (vide Erikson, 1959; Tajfel et al., 1971). This demonstrates the relevance of a region as a relatively objectively existing social entity and justifies the interest of researchers. It was in France, the cradle of regionalist movements, that the first association of this type - the Union of Breton Regionalists (Union régionaliste bretonne) - was founded in 1898 (Matykowski, 2017). Regionalism is identified with a spontaneous social movement aimed at protecting, preserving and transmitting valuable qualities of local and regional culture (Kwaśniewski, 1986). It can also be understood in the dimension of social consciousness operating among the inhabitants of a given territory. The manifestation of regionalism in this case is identification with the place of residence, defining a given piece of space as one's own, recognizing its peculiarities and differences from other territories and the communities living there. Regionalism also manifests itself in respecting cultural values, norms and behavioral patterns typical of the area of residence (region).

The Kashubians, unlike national minorities residing on Poland's territory (i.e., Germans, Ukrainians or Lithuanians) finding some support in the neighboring countries' organisms or ethnic minorities unanimously recognized around the world (e.g., the Roma community, the Tatars) were treated for years as an ethnographic group. The reason for this perception of the Kashubians was the alleged difficulty of defining their cultural or ethnic distinctiveness, and only the specificity of their material culture was emphasized (Synak, 1998). The political transformation in Poland taking place after 1989 gave the Kashubians a long-awaited opportunity to pursue similar rights as other minorities in Poland and a related change in the status of the community. The resurgence of Kashubian cultural consciousness in the early 1990s was marked by long-standing discrimination against the group.

The study presents the results of research conducted within the framework of the IMAJINE Project "Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe" carried out within the scope of Horizon 2020, in the part devoted to the issues of autonomy movements in the context of territorial, economic and social cohesion (Work Package 7 "Autonomy movements and territorial, economic and social cohesion"). The analysis included comparative research in 12 regions of Europe: Scotland, Wales, Catalonia, Galicia (Spain), Friesland (the Netherlands), Bavaria, Seclerland, Lombardy, Aosta Valley, Sardinia, Corsica and Kashubia. The analysis consisted of three sub-studies. The first focused on the history and current state of the selected regional communities and the regional movements representing them. The second consisted of a qualitative content analysis of the documents of political and social organizations working for regional autonomy in the period 1991-2018. In the third, in-depth expert interviews were conducted with leading representatives of the surveyed organizations.

This paper focuses on discussing the results of research on one of Poland's regional movements, obtained through the work of a team from the Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences, a member of the project research consortium. The selection of the research subject of the analysis was relatively self-evident. As a result of the territorial changes and population resettlements that were the consequences of World War II, Poland became a very eminently ethnically homogeneous country. Three regional communities in particular stand out in terms of their numbers, compactness of settlement and cultural distinctiveness: the Orthodox Podlachians (about 100-150 thousand), the Upper Silesians (about 1 million) and the Kashubians (300-500 thousand). The latter were selected for this analysis for being the most integrated, well-organized community, distinguished by unquestionable ethno-linguistic distinctiveness and forming a coherent settlement area in northern Poland. The aim of the study was to identify the foundations, objectives of aspirations and manifestations of the activities of Kashubian regionalists after 1989.

Analysis of the documents showed that most of the demands were directed toward the state (71.5%), and only secondarily toward the region (25.2%). Given the circumstances, this seems understandable. The demands of the Kashubian organizations were to correct the administrative division, to give more power to the voivodship governments (decentralization), to give the Kashubian language the status of a regional language (auxiliary in offices and taught in schools). Recently, the Kashubian Community's (WK) demand for recognition of Kashubians as an ethnic minority was also added. Implementation of these demands was, or still is, the responsibility of the state authorities. In 1999, as a result of the territorial administration reform, self-governing regions (large voivodships) began to function, equipped with much greater powers than the previous administrative units of the same order (small voivodships). For this reason, regional (provincial) authorities became the second level capable of implementing some Kashubian demands.

The analysis of documents prepared by Kashubian organizations showed that most (64.4%) of the territorial demands appearing in them would refer to activities of a political nature. However, it turns out that only one document, announced in 2002 by the Gdynia branch of the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association (ZKP), is responsible for this. This document deals with the demand to change the name of the voivodship from Pomeranian to Kashubian-Pomeranian, and contains arguments in support of this demand.After the collapse of the communist system, Kashubians hoped that in free Poland, they would be able to claim their rights as a separate regional community. The revived Kashubian-Pomeranian Association (ZKP) and Kashubian activists within the nationwide liberal and center-right political parties became the bearers of these demands. The limited nature of Kashubian demands meant that they were able to implement them within the mainstream of Polish politics. Also due to the small size of the Kashubian community, this proved to be an effective tactic. Well-organized Kashubian activists were able to achieve much more by appearing as influential national party activists than merely as activists in the Kashubian movement, which could count on only about 1% of the electorate nationwide.

The moderate nature of the mainstream Kashubian movement is reflected in the analyzed documents and opinions of Kashubian activists. The main demands of the Kashubian community were to unite all the area of Kashubian settlement in one province, to give such a region a broad self-government (on a par with other voivodships) and to take into account the cultural and linguistic distinctiveness of the Kashubian community. For this reason, the few territorial demands were for stronger regionalization, changes in administrative boundaries and greater self-government, which would promote the preservation and strengthening of the cultural identity of the Kashubians, and strengthen their impact on regional policy-making. They ceased to be raised after 1998, i.e. after the creation of the self-governing Pomeranian voivodship, covering all Kashubian lands, and after 2005, i.e. following the recognition of Kashubian as a regional language and Kashubs as a linguistic minority. After this breakthrough, the demands of the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association concerned only the full realization of the rights obtained. The exception was the proposal, which appeared from time to time, that the Pomeranian voivodship should be called Kashubian-Pomeranian, which would symbolically emphasize the special importance of the Kashubians as the hosts of the region.

The moderate nature of ZKP's activities after 2000 resulted in a split in the Kashubian movement and the separation of activists gathered around a new organization, Kashubian Community (WK; established in 2011). In their view, the solutions introduced only to some extent met the expectations of the Kashubian community. According to them, the Kashubs are a separate nation, and should be recognized as an ethnic minority under Polish legislation. They also emphasize much more strongly various shortcomings related to the activities of regional self-government, and the interference of the nationwide center in the life of the region, which is too strong in their opinion. This attitude is reflected in the analyzed documents. However, it should be remembered that the Kashubian Community grows out of a minority stream of Kashubian society (a few percent of supporters) and has so far failed to broaden its social base.

Keywords: regionalism, Kashubia, Kashubian organizations, Pomeranian voivodship

Mariusz Kowalski [], Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. S. Leszczyckiego PAN
Michał Konopski [], Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. S. Leszczyckiego PAN


APA: Kowalski, M., & Konopski, M. (2024). Główne cechy i postulaty kaszubskiego ruchu regionalnego po 1989 r.. Przegląd Geograficzny, 96(1), 75-101.

MLA: Kowalski, Mariusz and Konopski, Michał. "Główne cechy i postulaty kaszubskiego ruchu regionalnego po 1989 r.". Przegląd Geograficzny, vol. 96, no. 1, 2024, pp. 75-101.

Chicago: Kowalski, Mariusz and Konopski, Michał. "Główne cechy i postulaty kaszubskiego ruchu regionalnego po 1989 r.". Przegląd Geograficzny 96, no. 1 (2024): 75-101.

Harvard: Kowalski, M., & Konopski, M. 2024. "Główne cechy i postulaty kaszubskiego ruchu regionalnego po 1989 r.". Przegląd Geograficzny, vol. 96, no. 1, pp. 75-101.