Resistance as Revolution and Resistance as Survival: A Case Study of the Resistance Movements of Yugoslavia and Poland

Student Project by Dane Eric Kirk

Autumn 2014 - History 3269
at The Ohio State University

My proposal for this research assignment was to compare and contrast the resistance movements in Poland and Yugoslavia. While these two nations reside in Eastern Europe their experiences during the war differ in several aspects. By looking at the unique experiences of both cases a set of patterns clearly distinguishes the two. First, Yugoslavia’s resistance took the form of a veritable civil war. This view of occupation as an opportunity for rebuilding of society led to the resistance to foreign occupation being driven mostly from within while the government in exile withered away.  On the other hand, in Poland there was a far more homogenous political landscape prior to invasion and the population stayed relatively united behind the government in exile. This led to Poland developing a resistance network headed by the government in exile with the goal of preservation rather than building a new society. Tempering this is the every-day life and various styles of resistance. In Yugoslavia resistance was revolutionary, practical, and for the most part militant. In Poland, however, resistance took the form of symbolic resistance, preserving the Polish national identity and culture in the face of those who wished to destroy it and shied away from large amounts of bloodshed on the grounds that the goal is to preserve the nation.  In the end the two movements embody two hallmark examples of why the oppressed turn to resistance: to preserve what once was and to fight for what could be for the future.

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