The Intermarium: Common history, open future

Dr. Chodakiewicz addresses the Polish American Congress of Southern California on Central and Eastern Europe

November 19, 2012  |  KOSCIUSZKO CHAIR

Upon the invitation of the Polish American Congress' Southern California Division, Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz delivered a lecture on Central and Eastern Europe on 8 November at the Church of Our Lady of Jasna Góra in Los Angeles, California. The presentation's title encapsulated the topic: "The Intermarium: Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine: A common history, but what kind of a future?" This important question is also the subject of Dr. Chodakiewicz's new book, Intermarium: The Land between the Black and Baltic Seas (New Brunswick, USA & London, UK: Transaction Publishers, 2012).

The Intermarium is a conception that is at once geographic, historic, and cultural. Its literal meaning - the "land between the seas" - can encompass two definitions: the greater Intermarium between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas; and the lesser Intermarium, restricted to the region north of the Carpathians and between the Black and Baltic Seas. The event focused mostly on the latter.

The Intermarium has a common history and was united - from the late 14th to the late 18th centuries-under the auspices of the Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian state, which was officially promoted to the status of a Commonwealth in 1569 during the Union of Lublin. At the beginning of the 16th century, in fact, the Polish-Lithuanian Jagiellonian Dynasty also reigned over the kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary, thereby consolidating under their scepter most of the Intermarium all the way south to the Adriatic and the Danube. The dynasty even projected its power into the Christian Balkans, which it strove to defend against invasions by the Muslim Turks. Over the centuries, the region established its reputation as the eastern bulwark of Western Civilization.

Eventually, however, the indigenous powers of the Intermarium succumbed to external conquerors, and even the Commonwealth, after a period of decline, was partitioned by Prussia, Austria, and Russia. The exogenous powers now attempted to force the area into their own geopolitical and ideological conceptions. Thus, Wilhelmian Germany pushed to expand its own empire under the guise of Mitteleuropa, while Russia sought to dominate under the banner of Pan-Slavism. However, the First World War led to the collapse of the partitioning empires and the rebirth of indigenous states, albeit the eastern parts of the region fell to the Soviets. The Intermarium idea resurfaced during the interwar years, and was particularly promoted by Poland. The Second World War, of course, once again brought foreign invasion and occupation: a short one by the Germans, who attempted to carve out their colonial Lebensraum, and a half-century-long Soviet yoke, when the Intermarium served as Moscow's communized, western buffer zone. As a result of the many occupations during the modern era, many in the West continue to view the Intermarium not as an entity of its own, but merely as an eastern march of Germany or a western "near abroad" of Russia.

In addition, as Dr. Chodakiewicz emphasized, overcoming the bloody and destructive legacy of communism has proven particularly difficult, especially in areas occupied by the Bolsheviks for over seven decades. The implosion of the Soviet Bloc did not automatically and necessarily result in freedom and democracy. Rather, many old pathologies lingered on in the form of post-communism. Meanwhile, as the denizens of the region have struggled to restore their collective memories and heal the wounds inflicted by totalitarianism, geopolitics has returned with a vengeance.

The dissolution of the Soviet Empire finally created opportunities for indigenous attempts to recreate the Intermarium as a geopolitical bloc. The nations of the region moved towards this idea, particularly in the mid-2000s, when the two pivotal nations - Poland and Ukraine - were governed by pro-Western anti-communists. In general, however, an Intermarium federation (or confederation) remains an unrealized dream. Many in the region became enamored with the EU, and believed that joining the Union spelled the "end of history." The post-Soviet Russia of Putin, meanwhile, has been increasingly assertive in its strategy of reintegrating the post-Soviet space under Moscow's domination. Under the slogan of "resetting" relations with Russia, Obama's America has largely pulled out and chosen to focus on more important domestic and international matters, thereby conveying that the Intermarium is not a priority. Concurrently, powers such as Germany, China, Turkey, and even Saudi Arabia, have worked to increase their influence between the Baltic and Black Seas. An Intermarium that is close-knit and allied with the United States is, Prof. Chodakiewicz argues, the most attractive solution.

The most important challenge facing the peoples of the region, however, is to rediscover their history and restore their collective memory. For these efforts to succeed, there must be political, economic, and academic freedom.

To purchase a copy of Dr. Chodakiewicz's newest book, please visit Amazon.