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IWP hosts Kosciuszko Chair Spring Symposium

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On Saturday, May 21, the Institute hosted the First Annual Kościuszko Chair Spring Symposium. 

The event was dedicated to “Current Issues in Polish and Central-Eastern European Affairs.”  The symposium was moderated by Prof. Marek Chodakiewicz, the current holder of the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies at IWP.  Four significant and related issues were discussed.

Dr. Adam Szafrański, visiting Research Fellow at IWP and Adjunct Professor at Warsaw University’s Department of Law, delivered the keynote address and an introductory lecture on energy policy. Dr. Szafrański pointed out Russo-German efforts to construct natural gas and oil pipelines to circumvent the Central and Eastern European Intermarium states, or to render them dependent on Russian natural resources. He also mentioned solutions to remedy this situation, such as liquefied natural gas terminals in coastal cities; tapping domestic shale gas deposits and geothermal springs; and building alternative pipelines from Norway or the Caspian-Caucasian region.

Professors Marek Chodakiewicz and Juliana Geran Pilon, the head of IWP’s Center for Culture and Security, addressed property restitution in the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In general, the vested interests of the post-communist “new elites” have posed the greatest obstacle to property restitution in this part of the world. Mart Laar’s Estonia, which sought to return to the pre-Soviet-invasion status quo ante, stands out as a positive exception. 

Prof. Chodakiewicz demonstrated the sheer complexity of restitution for Jewish Poles. In short, the Nazis confiscated all Jewish property and a large portion of Christian property. As Third Reich properties, they were in turn taken over by the communist state. Right after the Second  World War, the Soviets’ communist puppets returned many Jewish properties. Yet, this was merely a tactic aimed to generate good will in the West. Soon, this property was reconfiscated by the communists, and only those Jews who managed to convert it into cash proved lucky. The fact that various new owners maintained many of these properties for decades further complicates the issue. 

Dr. Pilon stated that property restitution for émigrés (whether Christian or Jewish) would pose many challenges and difficulties. She underscored the practical and moral obstacles that make restitution extremely problematic. Each property claim, therefore, should be considered in context, depending on circumstances. 

Dr. Tania Mastrapa, Secretary of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), discussed the massive expropriations conducted by the communists in Cuba and the disintegration of this confiscated property. She also noted that the rhetoric of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is identical with that of Fidel Castro, though the former has been implementing his designs at a slower pace. 

Ms. Lucie Adamski, an IWP alumna and Ph.D. candidate at the Catholic University of America, discussed the discrimination of the Polish minority in Lithuania, a case study on the national minority question in the post-Soviet sphere in general. Ms. Adamski emphasized that freedom, in the spirit of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, is the only feasible solution. Coercive assimilation may potentially produce a hostile reaction. Last but not least, Lithuanian-Polish conflict may easily be exploited by third parties. 

Dr. S. Eugene Poteat, IWP professor and president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, illuminated the technical side of the Smolensk air disaster of 10 April 2010, which claimed the lives of the late Polish President Lech Kaczyński, along with ninety-five other representatives of Poland’s political elite. 

Dr. Poteat deployed his fifty years of experience, and particularly his technical expertise, observing that killing their political opponents had been the standard modus operandi of the Soviets throughout the Bolshevik Empire’s existence. This method continues to be utilized as a tool in modern-day, post-Soviet Russia’s arsenal. 

Mr. Paweł Styrna, the Kościuszko Chair’s research assistant, delved into the diplomatic aspect of the air catastrophe and provided the necessary historical background. He noted that Russia’s uncooperative and defensive attitude towards the plane crash investigation, along with the Polish government’s docile and passive behavior, ultimately hurts the image of both countries and hampers profound Polish-Russian reconciliation.

The text of Mr. Styrna’s presentation may be accessed here: Download file Smolensk Discussion, Pawel Styrna, May 21, 2011 

Here is his accompanying power point presentation: Download file Smolensk Presentation, Pawel Styrna, May 21, 2011  

The Institute wishes to thank Adam and Ava Bąk for sponsoring the event, and everyone else who helped make the Spring Symposium a success. 


Marek Chodakiewicz, Kosciuszko Chair Spring Symposium 2011

Gene Poteat, Kosciuszko Chair Spring Symposium 2011

Please click here to view more photos of the event.