How does Norman Davies view Poland’s role in today’s political landscape?

On November 16th, Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University hosted an event as a part of the Blanka Rosenstiel Lecture Series on Poland titled, “Shifting Political Landscapes in Today’s Europe: Poland’s Role”. The opening remarks were given by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the United States, Piotr Wilczek, and the lecture series was presented by Norman Davies, a Welsh-Polish historian known for expertise in European and Polish history. The hour-long event covered topics such as the history of Poland and the role it plays in current affairs. 

Davies began with a reflection of Poland’s history and how it has been defined over the centuries and to this day. This includes the Polish-Ottoman War in the 15th and 16th centuries, the role of Christianity and its deep-rooted history, the Confederation of Warsaw, Poland acting as a haven for the Jewish population, the triumph of the counter-reformation, and the Siege of Vienna. 

The historian expanded on a concept that has been seen all over the world, but more recently in Europe: that all political “organisms” or states are mortal, meaning that they are born, consist of a lifespan, and then become extinct. This is due to the vast changes in political landscapes, resulting in many nations seizing to exist and eventually “falling” from the map. Davies explained this concept with two specific examples: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the USSR. In 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was created with the marriage of Queen Jadwiga and Grand Duke Jagiello and spanned a life of 233 years. By the end of the 18th century, the partitions of Poland had already taken place resulting in the elimination of its presence on a map and instead representing a “vanished kingdom”. Similarly can be said for the satellite states of the USSR; since its collapse in 1991, both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia have vanished, changing the political landscape of Europe. Davies compares such collapses to an avalanche: “you can’t see what is happening today, but you’ll see the consequences, whatever they are, will be swept away.”

Davies emphasized that a major shift in the European landscape has occurred since the end of the millennium, and will continue to define the continent and international organizations for years, if not decades, to come. This includes: 

  • The rise of Putin’s Russia since 1999; the current leader rescued Russia from disintegration but has transformed it into a nation characterized by expansion and aggression. 
  • The rise of China and its role as the world’s second-biggest superpower. 
  • The Eurozone crisis that has caused an imbalance between Northern and Southern Europe.
  • The European Union’s move to expand its membership in 2004, adding ten new member states.  
  • The Orange Revolution of 2004 in Ukraine as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea. 
  • The increasing momentum of populism, which began in France and was accelerated by Hungary. 
  • The unregulated immigration crisis that will continue to rise in the future. 
  • The separatist movement, as demonstrated by Catalonia and Scotland. 

In regards to Poland’s role in these issues, Davies explains that it either has the option of acting independently or taking on the consequences of aligning itself with the European Union or North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As a middle size country, its place as an independent sovereign state allows it to either stand alone or act collectively with international organizations it is a member of. 

To watch the event, visit:

by PAC Intern Kamila Magiera

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