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Prometheism

Prometheism (Polish: "Prometeizm") was a political project initiated by Poland's Józef Piłsudski. Its aim was to weaken Tsarist Russia and its successor state, the Soviet Union, by supporting nationalist independence movements among the major non-Russian peoples that lived within the borders of Russia and the Soviet Union.

Between the World Wars, Prometheism and Piłsudski's other concept of an "Intermarum federation" constituted two complementary geopolitical strategies for him and some of his political heirs.

Piłsudski's elaboration of Prometheism had been aided by an intimate knowledge of the Russian Empire gained while exiled by its government to eastern Siberia. The term "Prometheism" was suggested by the Greek myth of Prometheus, whose gift of fire to mankind, in defiance of Zeus, came to symbolize enlightenment and resistance to despotic authority.

A brief history of Poland's Promethean endeavor was set down on February 12, 1940, by Edmund Charaszkiewicz, a Polish military intelligence officer whose responsibilities from 1927 until the outbreak of World War II in Europe in September 1939 had included the coordination of Poland's Promethean program. Charaszkiewicz wrote his paper in Paris after escaping from a Poland overrun by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

 
The creator and soul of the Promethean concept [wrote Charaszkiewicz] was Marshal Piłsudski, who as early as 1904, in a memorandum to the Japanese government, pointed out the need to employ, in the struggle against Russia, the numerous non-Russian nations that inhabited the basins of the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas, and emphasized that the Polish nation, by virtue of its history, love of freedom, and uncompromising stance toward [the three empires that had partitioned Poland out of political existence at the end of the 18th century] would, in that struggle, doubtless take a leading place and help work the emancipation of other nations oppressed by Russia.
 
A key excerpt from Piłsudski's 1904 memorandum declared:  
 
Poland's strength and importance among the constituent parts of the Russian state embolden us to set ourselves the political goal of breaking up the Russian state into its main constituents and emancipating the countries that have been forcibly incorporated into that empire. We regard this not only as the fulfilment of our country's cultural strivings for independent existence, but also as a guarantee of that existence, since a Russia divested of her conquests will be sufficiently weakened that she will cease to be a formidable and dangerous neighbor.
The Promethean movement, according to Charaszkiewicz, took its genesis from a national renaissance that began in the late 19th century among many peoples of the Russian Empire. That renaissance stemmed from a social process that led in Russia to revolution. Nearly all the socialist parties created in the ethnically non-Russian communities assumed a national character and placed independence at the tops of their agendas: this was so in Poland, Ukraine, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia and Azerbaijan. These socialist parties would take the lead in their respective peoples' independence movements.
 
While all these countries harbored organizations of a purely national character that likewise championed independence, the socialist parties, precisely because they associated the fulfilment of their strivings for independence with the social movement in Russia, showed the greater dynamism. Ultimately the peoples of the Baltic Sea basin — Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — won and, until World War II, all kept their independence. The peoples of the Black and Caspian Sea basins — Ukraine, Don Cossacks, Kuban, Crimea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Northern Caucasus — emancipated themselves politically in 1919–1921 but then lost their independence to Soviet Russia.
 
In 1917–21, according to Charaszkiewicz, as the nations of the Baltic, Black and Caspian Sea basins were freeing themselves from Russia's tutelage, Poland was the only country that worked actively together with those peoples. In these efforts, Poland met with opposition from the western coalition; the latter backed the (anticommunist) "White" Russians in their endeavor to rebuild the erstwhile Russian Empire. At the same time, according to Charaszkiewicz, Germany, with her occupation forces, strengthened her influences in Lithuania and Latvia, manipulated Ukraine's Lt. Gen. Pavlo Skoropadsky toward Ukrainian federation with a possible future non-Bolshevik Russia, and attempted a German hegemony in the Caucasus against the political interests of Germany's ally, Turkey. Germany's true intentions were at last made manifest in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, concluded with the Bolsheviks in 1918.
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