Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (1872-1905)

Timothy Snyder

Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe:
A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (1872-1905)

Winner Oskar Halecki Polish and East Central European History Award, awarded by the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America

Timothy Snyder presents the often overlooked life and thought of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz, an important Polish intellectual at the beginning of this century, and thereby opens a new path in the understanding of modern nationalism and twentieth-century socialism. During his brief life in Poland, Paris, and Vienna, Kelles-Krauz influenced or infuriated most of the leaders of the various socialist movements of Central Europe and France. His central ideas ultimately were not accepted by the socialist mainstream at the time of his death. However, ninety years later, we see that his theories anticipated late twentieth-century thought on the importance of nationalism as a social force and the parameters of socialism in political theory and praxis. Kelles-Krauz was one of the only theoreticians of his age to advocate Jewish and Ukrainian national rights as being equivalent to, for example, Polish national rights, and he correctly foresaw the struggle for national sovereignty as being central to future events in Europe.

“In his magisterial Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe…Timothy Snyder re-evaluates an intellectual prodigy whose death from tuberculosis at the tragically early age of thirty-three robbed Polish socialism of a political talent to rival that of more long-lived luminaries…Employing the collected letters of Kelles-Krauz published in 1984, together with primary sources located in archives from Warsaw to Stanford, Snyder has set out to provide a corrective to [earlier biographies], throwing a spotlight on his shadowy subject without exaggerating his ideological and historical stature…Snyder has been indefatigable in his original research and scrupulous in his overall judgement…[His] thoughtful investigation into the world so briefly inhabited by Kelles-Krauz is richly informative, with illuminating insights into, in particular, the divisive but ineffectual squabbles endemic to the international socialist intelligentsia and the lonely, suicide-prone existence of the political emigrÔ
- Raymond Pearson, English Historical Review

“This work is an impressive intellectual biography of a Polish socialist, Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz. While little known outside of Poland, his writings occupy a key position in the Marxist debates from the turn of the century concerning nationalism and the aspirations for national independence of different nationalities in the large European empires…In writing this biography of Kelles-Krauz, Snyder has given us a comprehensive intellectual portrait of an entire age. His discussion of the main issues of the time is sweeping in scope, and he has provided meticulous references to guide the reader to the source material. The book presupposes some familiarity with the topic, but will be very useful to any serious reader interested in a more complete understanding of the emergence of modern nationalism, as well as of the debates within the socialist movement in response to this phenomenon.”
- James H. Satterwhite, Slavic and East European Journal

“What Snyder offers is a stimulating political and intellectual biography of an overlooked theoretician from the gentry intelligentsia. This political class brought modern political parties to Russian Poland, led these parties, and built the Second Republic…Snyder establishes Kelles-Krauz’s place within Polish political history alongside Pilsudski, Luxemburg, Max Weber, and Gyorgy Lukacs…The biography is intellectually rich and challenging scholarship. It rests upon an extensive reading of politics, history, sociology, philosophy, and economy and enlarges our knowledge of European and Polish socialism.”
- Stanislaus A. Blejwas, Slavic Review

Harvard University Press, 1998