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2009 | 35 | 4(134) | 67-88

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NATIONAL/RACIAL WAR. THE FIRST WORLD WAR AND NATIONAL CHARACTER (Wojna narodów - wojna ras. Charakterologia narodowa i pierwsza wojna swiatowa)


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The First World War mobilised whole societies including scholars. Among the various motives that accompanied the phenomenon of the 'Krieg der Geister', the völkisch-racial complex of ideas played an important role. Notions of Volkstum, race, nation and Kultur enriched the vocabulary of social scientists far beyond circles of the organised movement for racial hygiene. The author focuses on the academic discourse on the national character of the war enemy, mainly represented psychiatry and anthropology publications. In the second part of the text, he traces the interconnections between these scientific genres and other areas of characteristic thought during the First World War and immediate post-war period. Among the discussed narrative strategies, the author identifies the 'feminisation' of the war enemy, manifesting itself in the psychological theories of suggestiveness, barbarianism, amorality, neurasthenia, depression and hysteria towards certain social and national groups. All of them are typically confronted with the manliness of one owns nation. Some Polish and Ukrainian authors of the period seemed to use the same argument against other nationalities, namely Russians. Publications by J. K. Kochanowski and W. Lutosławski show another possibility for intellectual refuge in the gender trap - the reformulation of some aspects of femininity as a positive self-stereotype. Another important mechanism of wartime publications could be summarised as symbolical exclusion from the European community of nations. German authors quite naturally labelled Russia as an Asiatic state, whereas their Polish and Ukrainian colleagues pushed the argument further to discover the non-Slavic ethnicity of the Russians. The symbolic exclusion of Russia and Russians was concluded with the help of both 'modern' racial and anthropological arguments and 'old' references to the Asiatism of their cultural and psychological formation.


  • Maciej Gorny, Centrum Badan Historycznych PAN w Berlinie, Majakowskiring 47, 13156 Berlin, Bundesrepublik Deutschland


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