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Legal Culture under Stalinism in Poland

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Legal Culture (Legal Culture under Stalinism in Poland)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

"The objective of the project ""Legal Culture under Stalinism in Poland"" was to describe the legal culture in Poland under communism on the basis of cultural texts, especially films and literature.
The experience of communism caused Polish citizens to distance themselves from laws and legally binding regulations and to use the strategy of “playing the law”. This means that members of the democratic opposition, while they understood that authorities treated communist law instrumentally, acted as if their basic rights were binding both for them, and for the authorities. The strategy in the long run was of considerable importance for the evolutionary exit from communism. Cultural texts: films and literature, serve as a rich source of information about popular ways of on the one hand, using the law by the authorities, and on the other, understanding the law by the citizens and reacting to it in everyday life.

Legal culture is one of the most important spaces where European integration takes place. The implementation of European law in CEE cannot proceed by means of thoughtlessly copying the solutions from Western legal culture. This has been particularly well visible since in countries like Poland and Hungary in the recent years took on a new course towards the rule of law and European Union.
This project's aim was to develop a context-sensitive conception of legal norms implementation by investigating the deep roots of a particular legal culture. This was done with the consciousness that such a task should not be left to a small number of directly engaged officials and administrators, but should be supported by the best methodology and the most innovative scholarly research.
The project provided the framework of notions, tools, and materials, needed to undertake such a process of understanding.

Conducting comparative research on the basis of cultural texts and currently available works of historians and sociologists allowed me to investigate:
(1) How the contents of these texts reflected and reacted to the oppression from the communist regime;
(2) To what extent cultural texts were a medium in which strategies of ""playing the law"" were negotiated;
(3) To what extent the rule-of-law environment of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is different from that of Western Europe, and
(4) To what extent the Polish example might help formulate more general conclusions about the previous and further implementation of EU legal norms in Poland and CEE, and might help us understand both the current crisis of the rule of law and constitutionalism in Poland, and the legal culture of new democracies, e.g. countries which participated in the Arab Spring."
"The project was realized in Copenhagen, at the SAXO Institute, a part of the University of Copenhagen. A part of the fellowship I spent on St. Antony's College, University of Oxford.
The work performed in this project included: collecting materials, interpretation of materials, completion of the 3 articles dedicated for peer reviewed journals, co-organizing an international conference, conducting courses on Law, Film, and Literature in Central and Eastern European (CEE) context, advising students working on masters dissertations on Law, Film, and Literature in CEE context, communication and dissemination of the results of the project.

The main results of the project include:
1) Three new scholarly articles submitted to three peer review journals.
2) Three additional scholarly publications in Polish.
3) Eighteen scholarly presentations to international audience, including the Association for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies Annual Convention in 2016; the University of Copenhagen Law School, St. Antony's College and Wolfson College at University of Oxford, University of Warsaw, IHTP CNRS in Paris.
4) Organization of international conference ""The Rule of Law, the Humanities and History"" at Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warsaw, 13 October 2017.
5) Conducting and co-conducting seminars for international students at the University of Copenhagen, with Prof. Helle Porsdam and Prof. Krzysztof Stala.
6) Written documentation of the documentation completed during the project.
7) Popularizing presentations for NGOs, like the Danish Foreign Policy Society and Kultura Liberalna Foundation, popularizing publications and apearances in the media: ""Die Tageszeitung"", ""Weekendavisen"", Radio TOK FM, ""Kultura Liberalna"".
8) Further communication and dissemination work: A website of the project on the site of University of Copenhagen, updated with news, videos, and pictures.
9) Advice to students working on their PHDs.
10) International cooperation established between: University of Warsaw, University of Copenhagen, University of Oxford.
The project presented a valuable contribution to laying the foundation and the same time initialized analytical research on law, literature, and film in the CEE context.
This project went beyond the state of the art in two dimensions. First, this happened in the global context. Second, it went beyond the state of the art also in my local, Polish context. Therefore, it filled a significant gap in the research.
The major part of the research undertaken dealt with cultural texts created in democratic countries. This project, for the first time, focused on law and film in undemocratic regimes. It has used the existing research on Stalinist legal culture and combined it with law and humanities approaches to reflect on a range of topics that have not yet been subject to scholarly research. This has not yet been done by any researcher.
Reflecting on law and film in undemocratic regimes is particularly interesting for several reasons. First, under totalitarian and semi-totalitarian conditions, cinematic works were not created independently of the socio-political situation. Second, narratives around law and justice were of special importance because they concerned the very foundations of the communist system. For this reason, in the period 1945-1989, both narratives around the history of law and film narratives reflected the influence of the communist ideology (strongly at the beginning and gradually diminishing with the passage of time). Third, procedures observed in the establishment and application of laws were similar to those applied to film releases (e.g. using censorship of the contents put into circulation or having informal power centres exert an influence on the content of cultural texts).
The short-term impact of the project is be the development of knowledge on law, film, and literature in CEE and in Western Europe resulting in journal articles, media coverage, and participation in international conferences. Already during the fellowship, but also after the grant period, my own contact network as well as the networks of my supervisors and of the host institution have been enlarging.
In the long term, the results of the project provide guidance for further implementation of EU legal norms in Poland and CEE and to help understand the legal culture of new democracies. In the future, they may become the basis for creating new textbooks as well as for preparing strategies of implementing reforms in CEE and in countries of new democracies. The long-term impact will also be the improvement and maximization of social access and the re-use of research data generated by the project.