Dr. Olga Gontarska

Dr. Olga Gontarska, Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute Warsaw

Research Project

My research (tentative title: Euroscepticism in the Polish debate on the shared European past) concerns eurosceptic attitudes and positions in Poland from 1989 to the recent past. I will examine the public debate on European integration with special attention to the discussion on the shared European history. The aim will be to mark the actors (both individual, collective and institutional) active in the debate and contextualizing their statements (media, financial support, political affiliation). However, the key element will be to identify ideas from the different historical periods that were evoked and instrumentalized in the debate (i.e. the betrayal of the West, the Polish Messianism, Polonia Antemurale Christianitatis etc.).

My interest in the Project

There has been little historical research referring to the transformation and the post-1989 period in Poland so far and most of the papers represent political science approach (Siebold, 2013; Holmes, Krastew 2020; Dudek 2016). Despite the claims of many social science researchers, a longer temporal perspective cannot be a sufficient indicator of the historical approach. Therefore, it seems crucial to address the question of Euroscepticism and its historical references with an interdisciplinary approach including both elements of Qualitative Discourse analysis (QDA) comprised with sorting the content, marking the actors and the ideas and the use of traditional historical source analysis i.e. contextualizing discourse in a broader context. The tentative thesis in the research is that transformation experience could have been fueling eurosceptic attitudes (the European East as ‘heroic Europe’s Others’ and concept of the ‘epigonal Europe’ forever ‘catching up’ with the West – see M. Boatcă). It could have shaped strong ‘europhile europessimists’ (Kopecky & Mudde, 2002) attitudes. Hence, the aim is to use the case of the Polish debate to complete (renegotiate) the common definition of Euroscepticism and Europeanization with the perspective of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.  The research may help to describe dynamics of the debate and define the role of historical turning points starting from 1989—i.e. EU accession (2004), Schengen zone enlargement (2007) and parliamentary voting in 2015 (internal periodization within the timeframe). 

Next working steps

The initial step, in this case, will be conducting empirical research by gathering data (paper and online media articles and interviews). In the context of the preliminary research special attention will be paid to the debate on the House of European History (2017) and Museum of the Second World War in Poland as a case study. After identifying the ideas and main actors the research will be developed according the results.

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