Polish St. Petersburg

Polish St. Petersburg

In February 2012 Bogdan Zdrojewski, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland, and Alexander Avdeyev, the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, made a decision to announce 2015 as the Year of Polish Culture in Russia and the Year of Russian Culture in Poland. 

At the time, the partners discussed the organisation of a board-and-multimedia exhibition within the frameworks of the celebration of the Year of Polish Culture in Russia under a working title Polish St. Petersburg. The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage commissioned the ICC to organise the exhibition together with a Russian partner – the State Historical Archives of Russia (RGIA). However, by the first half of 2013, the concept for the exhibition changed in favour of an object-based display. At the same time, the Likachev Foundation became the new main Russian partner of the ICC. 

The decision was made that the two organisations would work in the mode of partnership cooperation and mutual dialogue to develop within the frameworks of the Year of Polish Culture in Russia 2015 the programme Poland and St. Petersburg. Its aim was to present the role of Poles in social, cultural, academic, artistic, economic, and political life of the former capital of Russia from the 18th century to the present day. An important element was also to present motifs related to St. Petersburg in Poland, e.g. on the example of mutual inspirations and artistic contacts. 

The basic elements of the programme included: organisation of an object-based exhibition Poland and St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, organisation of an international academic congress to be open concurrently with the opening of the exhibition, as well as starting a website which was partly to inform about the progress of the works and the events taking part within the frameworks of the programme, as well as to create a database, available after the closing of the Polish Year 2015 in the form of an electronic encyclopaedia titled Polish St. Petersburg. The museum partners were the Museum of the History of St. Petersburg (municipal institution subject to the governor) and the State Museum of Political History of Russia (federal institution subject to the Ministry of Culture of the RF) – institutions whose headquarters (Peter and Paul Fortress and Matylda Krzesińska Palace) can be said to have had particular connections with the complex history of Poles living in the Russian capital. The exhibition and the congress were to be accompanied by a publication of a catalogue (2015) and conference proceedings (2016). In 2015, we were also planning other events related to the exhibition, i.e. concerts, lectures, guided tours and theme-based city tours. 

Due to dynamic changes in the political situation and Polish-Russian relations, leading, among others, to Poland’s decline from organising the Polish Year in Russia, the ICC faced the necessity to suspend all the actions related to the programme “Poland and St. Petersburg”, in particular the exhibition Poland and St. Petersburg and the concurrent international congress. 

In the light of the above, the ICC decided to make use of the already conducted research and of the established connections in academic circles that stemmed from our input in the programme Poland and St. Petersburg, as well as to continue the research that would introduce to the wider public the issue of Polish presence in St. Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad. To achieve these goals, the ICC made efforts to initiate a semi-academic Polish St. Petersburg online encyclopaedia. The LF decided to join this initiative. The ICC will work as an administrator and publisher of the Polish-language version of the encyclopaedia, while the LF will manage and publish the version in Russian. 

The encyclopaedia, dedicated to the multi-dimensional Polish presence in St. Petersburg, will present the history and works of Poles living in St. Petersburg from the late 18th century to the present day in the context of this multi-ethnic and multicultural city. Apart from biographical and theme-focused entries that emphasise among others the creative input of Poles in the development of modern St. Petersburg, the encyclopaedia will also present rich visual material. We trust that over time it will become an important interdisciplinary compendium of knowledge on Polish presence in St. Petersburg addressed to a wide public in both countries. 

We are convinced that due to the recent promotion of the input of various national diasporas in the history and culture of the former capital of the Russian Empire, this is a particularly important task. It is so because the citizens of St. Petersburg demonstrate very limited knowledge on the Polish community in their city, which in the early 20th century amounted to 60 thousand individuals actively participating in the social, cultural, academic, economic, and political life of the metropolis. The knowledge of this topic in Poland remains equally limited to a narrow group of specialists in the field. The encyclopaedia will be available in its pilot version by the end of 2015. 

Polish Petersurg website
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