The Cultural Heritage of Interculturalism

What separates Inter-culture from Multi-culture? In the latter case several cultures, which are sufficiently distinct from each other, co-exist at best within a given geographical space be it in the eastern Mediterranean during Herder’s time, in those Trobriand islands which Malinowski studied, or in a differentiated and probably segregated multimillion city in today’s global setting. Under Multicultural conditions different cultures at best tolerate and respect each other. At worst the Multicultural logic provides or rather creates segregation between its component parts, i.e. between those cultures, which are rivals for hegemony within a given space.

The genealogy of the usage of culture starts with an absence or non-existence of culture as a concept of meaning in this context. It was for instance never used in that sense in Caesar’s time. Still Caesar made an influential division into the different readings of various cultures in Gallia: Galia est omnes divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, Galli appelantur. Hi omnes lingua, institutis, legibus inter se different (Quoted in Ingrid Piller 2011 Intercultural Communication. A Critical Introduction. Edinburgh University Press p. 18).

The meaning of culture was always contested. In recent decades, sociologists have been busy making a distinction between on the one hand culture, the unwieldy reckless creative genius, and on the other civilization, the orderly dependable often sophisticated mediocrity. Historians of whatever background have been less inclined to separate culture from civilization but rather point to their inherent interdependence. Moreover in recent decades we have also observed an offensive by evolutionary biologists (cf. Edward O. Wilson (2013) The Social Conquest of Earth. Liveright, New York) as well as evolutionary psychologists (cf. Steven Pinker (1998) How the Mind Works. Allan Lane, London) with their implicated claims that cultural production and by inference then also cultural heritage are limited by the capacity of what human genes, cells and brains may allow (for a critical discussion against see Hilary Rose & Steven Rose (2013) Genes, Cells and Brains. The Promethean Promises of the new Biology. Verso. London).

We have been through that discussion before but under different circumstances and conditions. During the 1930s the Frankfurt school under Adorno and Horkheimer developed their particular criticism of the techno-industrial culture which by dictating the frames of mind and thought proclaimed that the scope of what the arts and in particular literature could say had its limits. Then during the 1970s the meaning of technology-and-industry was subject to severe reduction. Today during the new millennium it has once again become fashionable to describe techno-industrial society as a political mistake since by implication it promoted the mantra that technology is the solution to every conceivable problem (cf. James Howard Kunstler (2004) The Long Emergency). This credo has distorted socio-political thinking to the extent that culture has become a political anomaly and is thus to be regarded as politically superfluous (Contemporary budget presentations by respectively the Centre-Left and the Centre-Right in Swedish politics have implied a slashing of the most vital cultural functions, which are regarded as superfluous obstacles to narrow political goals, see the debate in the Norwegian net edition of Kunstkritikk and in Swedish broadsheet as well as tabloid editorials).

The simple anthropological, and indeed biological, definition is that culture represents the combination of traits distinguishing one group from another. Two options do then present themselves: either there is a fierce competition between distinct cultures or there is an evolutionary growth spiral, prompted by cross-fertilization, where innovative impulses are readily shared between otherwise distinctly different cultures and thus contributing to new knowledge.

This process can be described as analogous to Inter-culture, which represents a cultural intermingling and an exchange of knowledge and resources across cultural borders. The result at best is cross fertilization of a degree that produces fundamentally new knowledge and elevates those people involved to higher levels and stages of mental consciousness. Such conditions and situations have occurred during specific circumstances throughout history as precursors to present experiences of an intercultural logic. This does not need to be a historicist approach since there exists a recurring pattern over time. The elements conditioning the setting in each case are inevitably different on each occasion. Patterns do tend to repeat themselves. To call this phenomenon historicism is then a great misnomer.

The main public discussion concerning culture remains at bottom the ideology of identity. When identity gradually became a political issue during the 1980s then the old ideological base of the politics of interest was marginalized. The dialectics of political interests based on class divisions and the capital vs. labour dichotomy gave way to the politics of cultural and ethnic divisions. The tendency to perceive identities as culturally determined rather than the outcome of individual achievements has gained significant momentum. UNESCO was highly instrumental in providing this change, which coincided with the great paradigmatic shift in 1980 that made neo-liberalism the main economic-cum-political logic to be followed. The politics of identity thus matched the post-modern orientation as well as the separate occurrence of a neo-liberal paradigm the impact of which stuck out.

Post-modernism was hard to pass by. Its relativism could easily be related to ancient conditions. The mainly western cultural heritage has its roots in prototypical inter-cultural situations during the Ptolemaen reign over eastern Mediterranean lands as well as in the symbiotic relation between Rome and Athens. When Rome had conquered and politically subjugated Athens by force then Athens stroke back with a vengeance by dominating Rome culturally and by logic with its Greek language. The Roman political class as well as property owners and generally those learned spoke Greek with each other to distinguish themselves from ordinary Romans. When Cesar crossed the Rubicon he did not say “Alea iacta est” but the corresponding phrase in Greek. When on the verge of receiving the final stab by Brutus on the Ides of March in 44 BC Cesar did not say “Tu quoque, mi fili” and certainly not “Et tu Brute” but “Kai su teknon” in Greek meaning that you my son will have this coming to you too. Brutus was indeed the son of Cesar’s mistress Servilia and Cesar regarded him as his own.

In those days military prowess could not match cultural superiority. Thus Cicero spoke Greek in the senate of Syracuse but Emperor Tiberius, who as custom dictated had been raised in Greek and spoke it perfectly, was the first to make a point of breaking the habit by speaking Latin in the senate. If that should be seen as an act of opportune ingratiation by a controversial sovereign is anybody’s guess. It was for a fact a clean break with an epoch of inter-cultural cross-fertilization.

Greek speaking Alexandria was the archetypical location for the first well known intercultural encounter. Aristotle instructed his pupil Alexander the Great to establish a cultural foundation where the best brains of different disciplines and the best artists could meet and cross-fertilize. After his wide conquests and defeat of the Persians Alexander was the central ruler of the world and with enormous confidence he established Alexandria as a metropolis for culture. That orientation was followed up by Ptolemaios as well as Ptolemaios II. Alexandria became the prototypical intercultural centre where cross-fertilization was set in praxis.

It all began with Demetrios, an influential and celebrated philosopher who spoke in the Ionian dialect but who for specific reasons had fled Athens for Alexandria. He had a pupil, Theofrastos, who pointed out to Ptolemaos that in Alexandria’s most complete library of all there was one text missing, the Jewish text of laws. Ptolemaos immediately ordered a circle of Jewish translators into Greek to come and translate this very foreign language known as Hebrew. When Theofrastos saw the Jews as a people of philosophers Ptolemaos came to recognize them as more than that. They were seen as sometimes even more than being the equals of the Greek philosophers and writers. In this way the respective Greek and the Jewish philosophy and became more integrated only to live in symbiosis. Ptolemaos realized that a cultural heritage policy and culture as an expression of political prestige counted for much more than simple political power games, which more often than not depended on acts of violence. The Alexandrian Enlightenment implied the first interpretation of the integration of Greek polytheism and Jewish monotheism. Alexandria had about 300,000 inhabitants of whom 150,000 were Jews. “It was like NYC in modern days” has been a common and idealized comment by contemporary scholars. Alexandria’s inhabitants had already adopted Greek as their main language. At the same time the remarkable merging of Greek and Jewish cultures was the result of an inter-cultural cross-fertilization where every actor seemed prompted by the dynamic of curiosity.

As a central piece in all this, many fragments of a version of the Bible were found in Catharina Monastery in Sinai. An Austrian count von Tischendorf had accidentally stumbled upon it when he visited this Monastery. He brought the fragments with him for examination promising to return them later, which he never did. This most authentic version of the Bible was loaned to the empress of Russia at the end of the 1840s with the promise that she should share it with Britain. At this time it had become high politics which of the different versions of the Bible circulating in Mediterranean Europe was most authentic. The Russians stuck to their Code Sinaiticus as it was called by von Tischendorf. In the 1930s Stalin sold it back to the UK for an out of proportion sum of money. The whole of Europe avidly followed the press reports of this bizarre affair, which had been the result of collaboration between Greek and Jewish translators in Alexandria.

Translations represented a founding of inter-cultural projects. They were to have a similar importance for inter-cultural endeavours and achievements during later epochs and most notably during early modern times in Andalusia and elsewhere across the Iberian Peninsula. The necessity of doing translations was linked to political agendas. Control of langue et parole had strong political implications. Cultural power in terms of language hegemony was tantamount to the power struggle of species in natural sciences. A natural scientist turned linguist, A. Schleicher, preceded Darwin in presenting languages as separate and living organisms, which were susceptible to change by their environments. In 1816 the linguist F. Bopp wrote an influential essay with the grand title “Sur le système de conjugaison du Sanskrit comparé avec ceux des langues grecque, latine, persane et germanique” which became the founding oeuvre of grammar comparisons.

In 1833 Bopp wrote “Grammaire comparée du Sanskrit, du zend, du latin, du lituanien, du vieux-slave, du gotique et de l’allemand” where he set out with a statement saying that “les langues doivent être considerées comme des corps naturels qui sont construits selon des lois et portent en leur sein un principe de vie” where he frequently used expressions such as “physiologie des languages ou l’anatomie linguistique” (Quoted in A. Schleicher 1865 “Über die Bedeutung der Sprache für die Naturgeschichte des Menschen”. Leipzig). In fact this way of looking at it fell back on Leibniz, who had studied Semitic languages in terms of human genealogy (Claude Hagège, 2002, Halte à la mort des langues p.24). Darwin himself realized that in order to make his zoological classifications understandable he used Bopp’s scheme of linguistic change as a metaphor. Before Darwin, Schleicher had also emphasized the gradual character of change in both species and languages. Then in 1863 Schleicher had written a public letter with the title “La theorie darwinienne et la linguistic” where he specified the unique organism quality of languages (Ibid. p. 25; F. Jaquesson 1998 p.121). In other words Schleicher ignored the Darwinian notion of natural selection as he persisted in seeing languages as part of the natural sciences rather than as an effect of social and humane processes.

Schleicher represented an influential view during the 19th century that was only modified towards the end of that century by an anthropological pioneer, A. Hovelacque. He too saw languages from a materialistic scientific angle as living entities but in contrast to his colleagues he did not see any link between race and language. This deviation by Hovelacque marked the first step in a different direction of understanding the nature of languages that was famously further developed by Ferdinand de Saussure, who saw languages as mirrors of cultures. That was also the view later adopted by Joshua Fishman in Tel Aviv (see further on).

The linguistic aspects are fundamental for understanding inter-cultural processes. The next important stop in the trajectory of inter-culture can be located to Medieval Andalusia on the Iberian Peninsula. During the 17th century Madrid had been subject to much mythmaking around its name and origin. In fact it was actually a Muslim military fort established in 850s by Muhammad I of the Ommayads that eventually extended across three quarters of southern Iberia thus forming the biggest state building in Europe at the time.

The capital of Andalusia was al-Qurtuba or Cordoba and it was located far from any front towards the enemy. Thus Madrid came to shoulder the bellicose task of front line base against those northern forces which were threatening both Madrid and dependent vassals. It was easy to get across Spain by water in 800 to 1300. Thus contact could be maintained between disparate parts which were ruled by Muslims or Christians and sometimes in symbiosis. In Cordoba for instance the majority of the population was Christian under Muslim rule. Minor internal skirmishes were common between Christian Asturians on one side and Muslims and Jews on the other. But Muslim and Christian interests readily joined forces either to solve some major infrastructural problem or to face together any third part or even Muslims helping out in solving violent conflicts between Christian tribes. The same happened in return as infighting broke out between various Muslim interests, which then called upon Christians to solve their violent internal conflicts.

There was no clear dividing line between the adherents of opposed theological schools that assumed teleological interests, which more often than not tended to be confluent. In a practical sense there was a famous division of labour between Jews and Muslims. The Ummayad kalif Abd-al Rahman III (912-961) and his regime represented the absolute political and cultural peak of al-Andalusia. He recruited both texts and experts from the Middle East and notably from Greater Syria. In this context Jewish scholars helped interpret what written material there was from the Greek heritage. This process of interpreting a whole heritage that to a large extent had been endowed in Alexandria turned out to be an endurable one. It was crowned in the early 12th century by Ibn Rushd or Averroes who brought Aristoteles and his philosophy to the fore. Aristoteles inspired Christian Philosophers of late medieval times such as Thomas a Aquino, who integrated the dialectics of Aristoteles into his pious teaching of everything’s origin. This changed the direction of Christianity and made more secular interpretations of existence more commonplace.

Several Andalusian urban areas and most famously Cordoba, Toledo and also Sevilla had now acquired intercultural characteristics. Cordoba had been a centre for Latin cultural establishments already 2,000 years ago as Seneca had dominated the scene there for quite a while. The main street through the urban centre housed not only Seneca but 11 centuries later also Ibn Rushd or Averroes and Maimonides, the most illustrious of Jewish scientists and hommes des lettres. Ibn Rushd and Maimonides grew up as buddies at the same time in that very street with Averroes being some few years older. While Averroes focused on translations of Greek dramas and epics into Arabic he was incidentally intrigued by the fact that he did not know what to do with the divisions into Comedy and Tragedy since there was no corresponding concepts In Arabic. In reality people of 12th century Cordoba saw this division as blurred, which complicated the translation task even more for Averroes and his team. Similarly the amalgamation of Christian and Muslim values and insignia had begun already during the 10th century. Christian priests are more at home with Arabic idioms and discourse than with the sources in Latin. Under Abd-al-Rahman III in 10th century Cordoba Two famous Christian bishops were named Abu al-Harit and Rabi Ibn Zaid. Abdallah Gonzáles and Abdulkarim Garcia were common names among Christian citizens in Léon and elsewhere across Spain. In reverse, during the latter half of the 15th century the largest morerias or Muslim quarters were to be found in Segovia, Ávila, Madrid and Valladolid. In Segovia the grand mufti had to have the holy Muslim writ translated into Spanish in order to be understood by the local Muslim population. Later enlightened Castilian rulers had all the Arabic versions of the Greek heritage translated into Latin. Hence the intercultural heritage that took shape in Greek-Jewish Alexandria eventually found its way into the deep forests of northern Europe.

As noted above the dialectics of Aristoteles made a deep impression upon Christian philosophy of late medieval times. Thomas of Aquino and his followers, known as Thomists, had changed the direction of Christian thought during the long period between the 13th and 17th centuries. A profoundly Catholic scientist such as Déscartes laid the foundation of the dualism between body and soul thus questioning some of Christianity’s cardinal beliefs. At the same time Leiden, the Dutch university town, became the hub of 17th century Radical Enlightenment. Baruch Spinoza was the most noted scholar in Leiden where he began to publish heretic philosophical tracts as of 1656. His impact in England, Germany and France was immediate and enormous. Spinoza had a Sephardic background in Spain and thus he preferred writing in Spanish but since he gathered an important international following not only in Leiden but across Europe he began writing in French, the lingua franca at the time.

The confluence of heretic ideas eventually forming Radical Enlightenment concurred with decisively destabilizing political events such as Les Frondes in France 1648-1653, La Révolte des Gentilhommes and les Guerres des Sabotiers. Some veterans from Frondes combat arenas such as Gilles du Hamel took rescue in Leiden. This Dutch nexus of radical questioning was undoubtedly the one best placed to forge links between political disaffection on the one hand and the new destabilizing force of radical philosophy on the other. The first step in the direction of intercultural exchange came with the consensus that all forms of superstition inherent in religions should be condemned and abandoned. The critical view that absolute monarchs above all exploited superstition in religion to subdue people emerged as a central political one.

Reason was held as the opposite of superstition. It had reigned since the Greek philosophers had been made available through translations. Ibn Rushd elaborated its importance and Thomas of Aquino promoted Aristoteles version of the primacy of reason. Reason opened up for a critical hammering of the church. Spinoza saw similar harmful superstition in Judaism. Rabbis offered him many ways to reconciliation since they did not want to expel him or rather be without him but Spinoza took the consequences and left the religious community while never renouncing the importance of the cultural heritage of his Sephardic past.

Half a century later Johann Franz Buddeus wrote one widely read and very influential work – De atheismo et Superstitione (Jena 1717, in 1740 published in French as Traité de l’athéisme et de la superstition) – that summed up the impact of Spinoza in Leiden. Buddeus here affirmed that Spinoza “est estimé avec raison le chef et le maître des athées de notre siècle” (Buddeus pp. 120-121). Inspired by Pierre Bayle, who placed Spinoza at the heart of all ancient, medieval and modern intellectual debate (Bayle “Historical and Critical Dictionary” pp. 366-372), Buddeus insisted on Spinoza’s role “as the prime integrating force in the evolution of modern philosophical incredulity” (quoted in J. Israel 2002 p. 634) that questioned authority and the insignia of the church such as providence, miracles, Christ’s divinity and resurrection and like mysteries and eventually toppling l’ancien regime. Spinoza planted the first seed that grew into the French Revolution in 1789 (J. Israel 2002; Conor Cruise O’Brien 1989)

The initial radical enlightenment spawned in Leiden had curious repercussions well into the 20th century. Egalitarianism turned out to be an important precondition of the intercultural feature of the new anti-superstition movement. For true intercultural cross-fertilization to occur both anti-authoritarian and egalitarian currents had to be robust. Pieter Cornelis Plockhoy was part of the Collegiants already in the 1640s when he elaborated the egalitarian ideas of the day in both Holland and England. Hence he was spontaneously chosen to be the spiritual father of the Manchester Co-operative Union in 1934, which proclaimed that “if our cooperative movement must have a father or a founder Pieter Cornelis Plockhoy has an excellent claim to that distinction” (J. Israel 2002 p. 177). The coop was to share ownership, profits equitably, risk, capital and work and no form of hierarchy would be allowed. Plockhoy was an ardent advocate of equality and unrestricted religious tolerance and he turned out to be the teacher of several of the more influential Leiden philosophers such as the atheist Cartesian Franciscus van den Enden. The latter was outspokenly articulate in speaking for republicanism as part of a wider set of principles relating to the role of religion, philosophy, education and government. In his major work Vrye Politijke Stellingen (Free Political Institutions) he saw religion as an organized political device on the part of the sovereign to discipline and control the ignorant and credulous mass of subjects. His vision of a harmonious coexistence of private interest and the common good in a people’s commonwealth preceded and indeed predicted the concept of general will later developed by Diderot and Rousseau.

It is symptomatic and indicative that Leibniz on hearing about Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus in 1669 at first set out to dispute it but later found that he shared most of Spinoza’s ideas. Leibniz rated Spinoza along with Bacon and Hobbes as the most important philosopher of his time and recommended sceptics to go to the roots in Euclidean mathematics in order to find geometric certainties of physical realities reflecting the interaction of real things in accordance with Spinoza’s definitions (J. Israel 2002).

Radical Enlightenment emanated into the great 18th century Enlightenment that paved the way for the French Revolution and the establishment of the nation-state. If every inhabitant of the new French republic were to be equal citizens by law then hierarchies, also spiritual ones, would by definition be artificial social constructs engineered by dysfunctional political power processes. The new nation-state at the same time embodied a dual contradictory process in the inward consolidation of homogenous values for the “chosen people” and the openness towards non-hierarchical inter-cultural impulses and values.

With the Napoleonic era Enlightenment successively travelled eastwards in Europe. Jewish intellectuals and professionals were instrumental in that process that was called Hashkala. The most prominent of Jewish poets turned to France for inter-cultural solace. As the prototypically multicultural Habsburgian Empire emerged with Vienna as a centripetal force for innovative activity inter-cultural cross-fertilization increased to new heights. Within the Habsburg domain 15 different languages were spoken. It thus roomed 15 varying world views and 15 different accumulations of cognitive values. Interdependence forced them to interact and more often than not cross-fertilizing processes produced exciting and path-breaking art (Klimt, Schiele, Kokoshka) and music (Schönberg, Kodalhy, Brahms and Bartok) as well as literature (Kraus, Broch, Musil, Roth). In science and philosophy several names represented path-breaking findings. Freud, Ernst Mach and Wittgenstein were only three names.

The vast domains to the east of Vienna, Prague and Budapest began to open up with young nationalist movements, which saw Enlightenment as one way to liberalize and democratize their subjugated populations.

If Vienna was an urban prototype for future European integration then patterns became more uncertain and tangled up further to the East. Lemberg (later Polish Lvov and Ukrainian Lviv) was indeed a centre of enormous historical importance where layer by layer in the city’s urban landscape told its history. But national, ethnic and linguistic cultures overlapped to an extent that made the region encompassing Poland, Galicia, Ruthenia, Belarus, and the bulk rest of Ukraine only too ripe for conflict or at best inter-cultural exchange. Ernest Gellner famously likened the ethnic cultural map of East-Central and eastern Europe at that time to a painting by Kokoschka.

That region remains a high potency conflict area in spite of or perhaps due to the monstrosities committed in that region during the 1930s and 1940s, which once again according to Gellner likened it to a painting by Modigliani (See above all the admirable documentations in Timothy Snyder’s seminal work “Bloodlands” from 2010). Today Ukraine has come into focus as an inter-cultural failure potentially threatening world peace. The larger Russian political interests involved under the autocratic Putin era have destroyed latent inter-cultural emancipation among Ukrainians and their neighbours.

The historical background of Ukraine is as highly complex as today’s conflicts are difficult to solve. The shuffling around of borders for the past 1,100 years has created a quest for stable ones. However, the geographical notion of Ukraine remains uncertain, its language is distinct but contested, the roots of Ukrainian identity are debateable and Ukraine’s claim to separate nation statehood has always been denied by Russia. Ukrainian historians argue that the Russians and Ukrainians have always pursued separate paths where either Rus constituted a loose agglomeration of peoples or it was a relatively united early Ukrainian state called Ukraine-Rus out of which the Russian nation later emerged as a belated off-shot. Moreover the name Ukraine derives from a Russian perspective as a border area. Up to now the West has tended to adjust to the Russian version that no Ukrainian state exists. Hence the 180 degrees turnaround by the West was bound to create a major upheaval.

Many factors have been active in the direction of an EU bias. First and perhaps foremost integration has been surprisingly smooth up to now at the same time as severe insufficiencies are glaring every pro-integrationist in the face. Inexperience in handling delicate matters such as practical integration of immigrants is clearly hampering opinion-formation. Hence, there arose a strong wave of extremism in the form of Right-Wing Populism such as UKIP in the UK and Front National in France and the Sweden Democrats in Sweden. The logic that was used for arguing against any movement of immigrants whether they were desperate refugees or labour migrants tended to be to raise the primitive banner of narrow minded nationalism.

Nationalism in eastern Europe and in the West had fundamentally different backgrounds. The first one was based on a hibernated sense of national emancipation. The second one blamed all social evils on the cost of immigrants that had caused a severe neglect of caring for certain groups such as the too vastly impoverished category of pensioners and schoolchildren from socially exposed homes. The curious aspect was that both categories blamed the European Union in equal measure for current problems. Thus an anti-globalism current united neo-fascist political parties and organizations within the European Union with the ultra-nationalist authoritarianism of Russia since 2000, Belarus since 1994, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan since early 1990s, etc. Most serious opposition has fled abroad. Boris Nemtsov is, for instance, biding his time in Tel Aviv where he is joined by some of the more significant Russian opposition figures who for obvious reasons remain invisible in the Russian context.

The breaking up of Russian dominance established in the 16th century came as several groups of special interests began a local rising in what was known as the Ruthenian Ukraine. The Cossack uprisings during the 17th century came close to the paradox of an acephalous society in a complex plural setting. At the same time the struggle of the Cossack Ukraine for political independence was connected to the defence of Orthodoxy against the double threat of Islam and Roman Catholicism out of which the Uniate Church had emerged as an independent religious force away from the despotism of Russian Orthodoxy.

Much importance was accorded the partition of Poland beginning in 1772. Its southern part came under Habsburg rule and under the name of Galicia. The crucial factor throughout the 19th century remained the question of language. The so called Ruthenian Triad that consisted of three young men of letters, – the leading personality Markiian Shashkevych died already 32 years old, Iakiv Holovats’kyi and Ivan Vahylevych  who tried to establish a Ukrainian literary language and literary tradition, constitute a symptomatic example of the difficulties involved. The Ruthenian vernacular was always considered an inferior peasant one in relation to Polish and German.

The inter-cultural confluence that consisted of a hierarchy of the imperial cultures of Russian and German, the emancipatory national Magyar and Polish ones and the motley assembly of minority ones, of which the Triad had made Ruthenian/Ukrainian a salient one, affected each other through struggle for influence and visibility. One inspiration and obvious model for the latter, the Triad as the Galician “Awakeners”, was the achievements of the Czech national movement. Holovats’kyi and Vahylevich had established close contacts with Czech Slavicists and contributed to the most prominent Prague periodicals. Leading Czechs called Ukraine “a lamb between two wolves”, Russia and Poland (Ivan Rudnytsky 1982 “The Ukrainians in Galicia Under Austrian Rule” in A. Markovits & F. Sysyn eds. “Nationbuilding and the Politics of Nationalism” Harvard, p. 28).

After 1848 and even more in the 1860s the persistent tug of war between Polish and Ukrainian influence ended in a successive Polish domination. The importance of Ukrainian culture and relative political influence in Galicia, which during those decades was gradually marginalized, remained its gateway to Europe for Dnieper-Ukraine i.e. the relatively remote eastern part of the Ukrainian commonwealth to be. Since then it has been clear that the cultural and institutional differences have become far more important than the relative differences between the intertwined east Slavonic languages such as Russian, Belarussian and Ukrainian. The language issue has been more of an artificial weapon in the frequent propaganda battles. Ukrainians in general wish to realize a functioning judicial system since a notable freedom of speech belongs to the Ukrainian cultural heritage. In Russia that has only concerned the Europeanized liberal elite. This means that the inter-cultural cross-fertilization had more of a one way impact in the case of most of Ukraine.

Attempts at russification recurred during the years of the First World War but the proclamation of Ukrainian independence on the 16th of July in 1917 was well received in western capitals and notably in Paris (cf Gustave Cvengros 1995 “La République Démocratique Ukrainienne – la République Francaise 1917-1922 p.16). The leading Ukrainian socialist, Volodymyr Vynnytchenko, stated to the French press that: “Plus on s’oppose à nos exigencies, plus certains Ukrainiens tournent leur regards du coté de l’Autriche et de l’Allemagne. Un certain nombre de germanophiles siègent dans la Rada.” (Gustave Cvengros op.cit. p. 17)

In March 1917 the Council of the Ukraine People’s Republic (UNR) elected an intellectual, the historian Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, its first president. The UNR had no army since its idealist intellectual elite preferred a people’s militia, nor had it anything but a rudimentary state administration. However, it did flaunt a currency, the hryvnia, and a flag. The fragile and shaky basis of the new Ukrainian state was already in 1918 exposed to threats by the new Bolshevik regime in Russia. An intermittent but short-lived Ukrainian “Hetmanate” (derived from Bohdan Khmelnytskyi’s 17th century “liberation” of Ruthenia) was established by stooges to the anti-Bolshevik Whites, who mainly consisted of large landowners such as descendants of legendary aristocrats described by the writer Bulgakov as comic opera characters.

In 1919 the Bolshevik regime launched an assault on Ukraine. This made western Ukraine create its own national version separate from eastern Ukraine and after the fall of the Habsburg Empire the west Ukrainians established a third Ukrainian state with the name West Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR). It encompassed eastern Galicia, Bukovyna, Transcarpatia and the now Polish territories of Peremyshyl, Kholm, Pidlachia and the Lemko region. ZUNR represented a maximum definition of ethnographic Ukraine and it was indeed regarded as a valid state as long as Habsburg protection lasted but in July 1919 it was overpowered by a much stronger Polish army. Between 1918-1922 the redivision of Ukrainian lands were as follows: Galicia and Volhynia went to the newly independent Poland; Transcarpathia to Czechoslovakia, Bykovyna to Romania and the rest fell to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic minus Crimea which was a separate Autonomous Republic.

The result was a radical ethno-nationalist alternative that sprung from an anti-Russian and anti-Polish western Ukraine. At the time of upheavals after the Great War Ukrainian national identity was left marauded between what Ukrainians saw as the two evils of Polish and Russian nationalism. Poland played the role of the oppressor and Russia was Ukraine’s existential anti-thesis, which incidentally Russia was to the whole of Europe, according to Ukraine’s main ideologist of the new identity, Dmytro Dontsov (1883-1973).

The inter-cultural cross-fertilization that took place under Viennese influence during the Habsburg era’s belle époque was perhaps the most powerful noted in history. Minority cultures within the ambit of the Galician surrounding provided the Centre with innovative approaches to literature (Kafka, Joseph Roth, Bulgakov), philosophy and linguistics at the same time as minority representatives got the opportunity to become world famous through Vienna.

The sharp controversies and open hostilities between hegemonic and minority cultures in Habsburg’s Vienna often led to ferocious propaganda wars where cultural heritage and identity were commonly the first victims. This is still the case in this region but even more so. Certain factors may have an attenuating effect. The foremost linguist and cultural scholar within the realm of the Slavonic world, Ignacy Baudoin de Courtenay, did not support any nation but referred objectively to two Slavic dialects “Wielkoruski” or Russian and “Maloruski” or Ukrainian. At an international congress of Slavists held in St Petersburg in 1904 he pointed out that the use of any existing literary language should be not only permitted but welcomed as enriching all cultures involved.

Baudoin de Courtenay saw that the anti-Ukrainian attitudes among Poles and Russians could be derived from their respective “archeological psychology” that was drawn from the cemetery of history. Baudoin criticized both Russians and and Poles for simply seeing Ukrainians as “ethnographic material” to be colonized. Today Poland’s foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski takes the enlightened opposite view to Putin’s Russia which as a defensive measure for the retention of the regime’s own power is stuck with 19th century predatory propaganda. Since Baudoin clearly discerned the common interests between Slavic nations he insisted on promoting their peaceful coexistence and benevolent collaboration (see Robert Rothstein 1992 “Baudoin de Courtenay and the Ukrainian question”, in Harvard Ukrainian Studies Vol. CVI, Number ¾ December 1992 p. 316f). From what we have seen of current movements to re-establish formerly subjugated nations into modern nation-states we may conclude that tendencies to suppress such a process in the form of forced denationalizations have only provoked national hyper-estesthesia i.e. abnormal sensitivity to the national question (R. Rothstein op.cit. pp. 317-319).

It may well be asked if the inter-cultural processes within the Habsburg ambit did not gain by the relatively sharp competitive conditions between those many rich cultures endeavouring not only respectful say but at the same time absorbing evolutionary features from others. The paradox of Habsburg inter-cultural cross-fertilization was that it took place relative intolerance notwithstanding. After the fall of Habsburg’s main and dreaded rival, the Ottoman Empire, many former non-Islamic residents of the latter testified that its cultural tolerance had been markedly more salient than the case had been in the Habsburg Empire. Still the same sort of inter-cultural cross-fertilization did not occur under the Ottomans simply because each culture lived its own life without bothering about each other.

Under Habsburg there grew a palpable and in the end dominating influence from Jewish scholars, architects, musicologists, writers, publishers and artists. Their obvious advantage was that they wielded their scholarly and artistic as well as often political influence in major urban settings and national regions (Galicia) all over the Empire and not only in Vienna. Galicia became a major testing ground for more independent Jewish social movements and their political impact. Due to the Holocaust and the Stalinist oppression this influence, where it managed to survive in diaspora, has duly spread across the world.

Galicia was the crucial crucible, both in terms of inter-cultural fomentation and innovative fertility the main beneficiary of which Vienna came to be. Demographically it consisted broadly speaking of an urban Jewish population and a rural mix of Ukrainian peasants and Polish estate holders and craftsmen. The new national movements, Young Poland and the Zionist organizations, thrived in Galicia which enjoyed considerably more of autonomy within Austria-Hungary after 1867. Most of leading Jewish spokesmen did however liken the situation and the safety aspect in Galicia to sitting on a volcano.

Nevertheless it so happened that the Polish nationalists, who were often of the broadminded kind, learned from Zionism how to form more stringency in an intellectual sense. Conversely the Zionist organizations as well as the socialist Bund found a surprising support from many Polish actors both in Galicia and in proper Polish territories. Both had the same interests in shaking off of an imperial and oppressive yoke. Even more interestingly there were some Ruthenians such as the leader of the Ruthenian Club in the Reichsrat and of the Ukrainian National Democratic Party, Dr Iulian Romanchuk, who declared himself in favour of national Jewish autonomy in public debates. The Jewish daily Togblat expressed its thanks and leading Jewish spokesman in Vienna, Nathan Birnbaum expressed gratitude to the Ruthenians for recognizing Jews as a people in a modern, anti-Semitic way. Romanchuk, in turn, made suggestions on how Jews should begin to stand up for their rights. The less privileged mass of Polish and Ruthenian peasants did, on the other hand, remain ferociously hostile to the Shlachta, estate-managers and Jews alike. What could be perceived as the class issue was exploited by unscrupulous anti-Semites. If the leading segments among the Ruthenians tried to create an alliance with Zionist organizations against the factual Polish rule of Galicia then some leading strata among the Poles also tried to win the Zionists’ sympathy against the Ruthenians and other minorities. At the same time the Zionists as well as the Socialist Bund were highly sceptical against both due to occurring pogroms. Hence in reality the powder-keg metaphor remained very much alive throughout the period of special focus on Galicia.

The general uncertainties around the status and rule of Ukraine became manifest during the inter-war period. During the Soviet regime’s first 5-year plan in Ukraine rapid industrialization was the order of the day and quite consequently the industrial centre of Kharkov (Kharkiv in Ukrainian) became the flagship of Soviet Ukraine and its capital until early 1934. One engineer, Oleksander Einhorn and one architect, Oleksander Kasaniev were put in charge of developing a Masterplan for Kharkov, which was to become the dominating multi-million city of the entire southern USSR. When it was established as such in the minds of its developers then its function of capital was transferred back to Kiev. But a more recent municipal document, The 1984 – 2004 Master Plan, was a direct successor with the never receding ambition to have now Kharkiv once again fulfilling the role of both industrial centre and capital (Titus Hewryk 1992 “Planning of the capital in Kharkiv” in Harvard Ukrainian Studies Vol. XVI No 3-4 December 1992 pp.325-359; Andrew Wilson 2002 “The Ukrainians. Unexpected Nation” Yale University Press, Chapter 8).

After the Fall of the Wall in November 1989 Lviv became the natural centre of conveying the modernist European project forth to the entire Ukraine. Kiev followed suit with the new generations of profuse international contacts. Moreover in 1997 a census was made regarding the presumably contested issue of use of language in Ukraine. It turned out that 56% spoke Ukrainian only versus 11% of only Russian speakers, while 27% spoke both languages of whom 14% spoke both in equal measure and 7% spoke more Ukrainian and 5% more Russian. More than 20% of the population was considered to be of Russian stock but many of those had not only integrated with Ukraine but actively embraced Ukrainian identity (Andrew Wilson, op.cit. pp 218-219).

This overview of East-Central Europe demonstrates the extent to which this complex region served as a fulcrum for intense inter-cultural struggles and cross-fertilizations. Today much of Europe’s future will be decided here. The long term inter-cultural impact in the interaction between Ukraine and the Europe of the European Union is deeper and more resilient than perceived by the rather primitive Putin-regime in Russia. This implies a danger. Putin managed to destroy what existed in terms of progressive inter-cultural relations between Russia and the West during the 1990s. Putin’s propaganda machine has effectively created a world view among those 85% of Russians who are said to support him and that is diametrically opposite to world views outside Russia perhaps with the exception of all those Extreme Right-Wing and Neo-Fascist parties who are supporting Putin and are getting funds from the Russian regime.



Concluding remarks

The examples of inter-cultural impacts given here do have this in common that they have all had long term and wide effects in terms of time and space. The choice of East-Central Europe during recent centuries rather than the hub of technocratic interfaces in post-1957 Brussels is obvious. What Vienna represented a century ago laid much of the foundation of a decisive unravelling of a complex European identity. Brussels has often been derided for being too artificial in the EU’s strenuous attempts at devising identity symbols. In East-Central Europe and Vienna in particular diverse orientations crossed each other and spawned entirely new directions of knowledge and perceptions which opened up for the strong European plural cultural identity in the sense that completely different and opposed artists such as Fellini and Bergman, Kafka and Joyce, Stravinsky and Debussy, Kokoschka and Chagall could be identified with the epitome of long-term European cultural heritages.



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