The Beginning of Congress Poland in the Discourse of the French Press

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The article focuses on the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian discourse by the French press and its interpretation by Russian intellectuals in 1815-1825. The image of Alexander I and his policy towards Congress Poland obviously underwent a complex transformation. French publicists rejoiced at the decisions of the Congress of Vienna and the declaration of constitution on the affiliated territories. The press articulated a liberator-tsar discourse: Alexander did not defeat Napoleon to become a new Napoleon himself. He only cared about the well-being of his new subjects: due to the Russian Emperor the Poles received long-awaited freedom embodied in the constitution. The French press featured Alexander I not only as a liberator-tsar, but as a ruler guided by a national idea about national interests. Praising its new idol the French press managed to convince Russian and Polish public of their protagonist's polonophilia. This gave rise to debates among the intellectuals, who mostly thought negatively of Alexander's intentions. Concerns intensified after his famous Warsaw Speech. However, in 1820, the Emperor's interest in the Polish-Lithuanian affairs subsided, with the policy towards them becoming more conservative. Eventually, French newspapers reverted to the discourse of an uncivilized eastern neighbor. Thus, the image of a liberator-tsar gave way to that of a cruel despot and usurper eager to subdue European territories. The rhetoric of liberal publicists found some support in the Russian society, but mostly it contributed to the growth of Anti-Polish sentiments. The same dialectic unity and clash of opinions, articulated both due to the French Journalism and contrary to it, is found in the Decembrist milieu.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1195-1212
JournalVestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo Universiteta, Istoriya
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2019


Scopus subject areas

  • History

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