Peculiarities of the Concept of Nation, Society and State in the Intellectual Environment of Vilnius in the Early Twentieth Century

Rimantas Miknys (PDF)

In the nineteenth century, the structural division of feudal society into classes was disappearing. The multi-ethnic nature of the former lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) created the conditions for national conflicts. In the early twentieth century, the competition and confrontation between the Poles, who had a long cultural tradition in Vilnius, and the revived Lithuanian ethnocultural groups rapidly gaining strength was particularly acute. The Polish intelligentsia in Vilnius were the most numerous. Most of them were related to the nobility of the GDL. Regarding social status, they originated from large and medium-sized landowners, minor nobility and townsmen. Jews, the second most numerous ethnocultural group of the Vilnius intelligentsia, were associated with the urban population. The Vilnius intelligentsia can be divided according to their political-social orientations into the Krajowcy Conservative Traditionalists, Krajowcy Conservative Democrats and Endecja. Conservative traditionalists conceived of society as homogenous and multilingual. They considered the territory of Lithuania-Belarus to be a united and indivisible entity. The Krajowcy Democrats perceived the society as civic-democratic. At the core of their concept was the idea of a federation of Poland and historical Lithuania, defined as a union of two independent states. Unlike their opponents, the endecja in Vilnius did not consider the integral historical Lithuanian society and had no plans for its future. They identified the concept of an ethno-cultural nation with that of a political nation.

Keywords: Poles, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Jews, Krajowcy, Endecja