Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)
Type of Culminating Activity
Master of Arts in History
Nicholas Miller, Ph.D.
Joanne Klein, Ph.D.
Lynn Lubamersky, Ph.D.
As the Bolsheviks attempted to assert their control over the territory of the Russian Empire during the chaotic years of the Russian Civil War many ethnic groups and nations formerly part of the empire declared their independence. Józef Piłsudski as the leader of the Second Polish Republic implemented a strategy called Prometheanism that sought to secure Poland’s newly won independence by helping neighboring nations, such as Ukraine, break away from Russian control. Promethean ideas survived the destruction of the Polish state in 1939 when Poles with ties to Piłsudski or Prometheanism who fled to the West after the start of war continued their work in foreign lands. These Polish expatriates influenced the foreign policy of both post-communist Polish foreign policy and of the United States.
A study of Prometheanism is important for several reasons. The most obvious is that it helps explain some of the geopolitical and strategic currents at work in the Eurasia today, in particular Eastern Europe. A closer study of Prometheanism helps to highlight the importance of immigration in shaping policy, as well as showing some of the positive and negative aspects of liberal immigration and refugee policies for both the source and destination countries.
The purpose of this paper is to show how Polish émigrés kept the principles of Prometheanism alive in exile. This study shows that Prometheanism is not an obscure policy of a failed state but rather an important idea whose influence can still be seen today. Additionally, the paper will examine the role of émigrés and immigrants in the formation of a state’s foreign policy and how they bring different experiences and perspectives that influence the host country in both positive and negative manners. The paper will first cover the origins of Prometheanism and its implementation under Piłsudski. Then it will discuss the editor and writers of Kultura who adapted the principles of Prometheanism to Poland’s post war reality and how this new vision played an important role in shaping Poland’s foreign policy after 1989. Finally, the paper will show how Polish Americans lobbied for the United States to adopt policies towards the Soviet Union and Russia that bear a striking similarity to Prometheanism.
The paper will deal with what scholars of immigration history call the “Transatlantic exchange.” This concept sees immigration as a two way exchange of ideas and culture rather than a one way flow of people. From 1945 to 1989 only in other countries could Poles think about Poland’s foreign policy and place in the world. Some of these Polish émigrés focused their thinking on what Poland should do to restore its independence. Others used their experiences in Poland to help inform the foreign policies of their host nations. Their example shows what impact immigrant groups have on their host country; in this case how highly educated Polish Americans influenced the United States.
Turner, Phillip Tadeusz, "The Evolution of Prometheanism: Józef Piłsudski’s Strategy and Its Impact on Twenty-first Century World Affairs" (2015). Boise State University Theses and Dissertations. 934.