Dr. Maciej Górny

  • Posted on: 8 September 2015
  • By: marijke
About the participant: 

Maciej Górny is assistant professor at the Historical Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences since 2006 (extraordinary professor since 2015). Currently he is also professor at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw. He was a research associate at the Centre for Historical Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin from 2006 to 2010. Górny research interests are Central-Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th century, history of historiography, discourses on race and the First World War.


Title of lecture: 
War of Spirits in the East. East Central and Southeast European Intellectuals and the First World War

War cannot be said to have come as a complete surprise to the intellectual elites of Europe. Some indeed looked to it with hope. This attitude drastically hastened the spontaneous mobilization of the intellectual strata. This manifested itself in a specific form. Opinions on cultures and national character of the warring sides filtered through the dynamically developing apparatuses of propaganda and censorship formed into a genre named then “Krieg der Geister” (War of Spirits). After two years, however, the emotional engagement waned, as did the general interest in those issues and, consequently, the ‘War of Spirits’ in the West reduced to a conventional daily skirmish.

Up until 1918, the Eastern, Central and Southeastern European region was by and large a recipient rather than a producer of wartime propaganda, for fairly obvious reasons. However, if we approach the problem of ‘War of Spirits’ from a slightly broader perspective, the resulting image will prove richer and more complex than that of a war’s periphery. Representatives of nationalities engaging in a struggle for self-determination exercised impressive creative autonomy. The broadening of the research field of intellectual combat toward Eastern, Central and Southeastern Europe necessitates another reconfiguration with regard to common perceptions of World War I. First, the time-frame of the conflict in the East differed from that in the West. East of Germany, war did not begin in 1914, nor did it end in 1918. Second, ‘War of Spirits’ frequently saw allies engage in conflict with one another. Many of such conflicts, at first expressed primarily in magazine articles, transformed into actual wars after 1918. Some simmered on in political and scholarly articles published in the newly-established nation-states. Broken down into a myriad of minor sections, the Eastern front of ‘War of Spirits’ proved by and large to anticipate the post-war situation in the region.