Old Poland Historiography (Post-)Colonially Split? Maciej Stryjkowski and his Epic History of Lithuania

Towards the end of the twentieth-century, Alexander Kiossev proposed a postcolonial model to assess the condition of East, Central, and Southern European Culture – cultures he described as “self-colonizing.” For Kiossev, the nuances of this persistent historical phenomenon consisted of the construction of national identity on the basis of foreign models assimilated from cultures more developed (in terms of historiography, literature, art, and even political, legislative, and economic structures) than the “self-colonizing” cultures. At the heart of the historian’s argument lies the claim that peripheral formations adopt inferior positions vis-à-vis the center not because they have succumbed to a compulsory dependency on outside forces, but because even in the nascent developmental state of national subjectivity, they embraced a model of their own inferiority. This situation stems from recognizing one’s cultural otherness in relation to a set of values deemed universal, and from consciously reckoning with the fact that as “inferior” cultures, they are a reservoir of societal lacks. One such lack was the presumed dearth of grand historical narratives on the early origins of the nations of East-Central Europe– narratives formed in the medieval and renaissance eras in the spirit of dominant ideology: the more deeply rooted a culture is in antiquity, the greater its inherent value and entitlement to nobility.