After the Great War, instead of being divided between the Austro-Hungary, Germany and Russia, Poland emerged from the Treaty of Versailles as an independent nation. Despite being granted independence, Poland was immediately drawn into a series of border wars with the Soviet Union, Lithuania and the Ukraine. As Poland fought with neighbors to define its borders, it also sought to create a truly democratic state. Paul Brykczynski’s new book Primed for Violence: Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland published by the University of Wisconsin Press explores the tragic efforts of the Polish people to create a new democratic state after electing their first President, Gabriel Narutowicz.
Paul Brykczynski received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in European History and Primed for Violence is currently being translated into Polish.
Here is our interview Dr. Brykczynski.
How did you become interested in writing about interbellum Poland?
The interbellum period was a fascinating age of experiments and extremes. The radical right and radical left had not yet discredited themselves with the crimes of Nazism and Stalinism, and the political horizon appeared to be wide open for all kinds of potential solutions to political, social, and economic problems. Advocates of democracy, authoritarianism, liberalism, socialism, communism, nationalism, fascism, and other ideologies all vied for power in the multitude of small states created by the collapse of old empires. In Poland, nationalism and anti-Semitism played an ever bigger role in politics. I wanted to understand why this was the case, and what this can tell us about the relationship between politics, ideology, and violence more generally.