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Professor Ulam died on March 28, 2000. Excerpts follow from the appreciations of his life and work that appeared in newspapers here in the US and abroad:
. . .Dr. Ulam's. . .encyclopedic knowledge of the Soviet system -- from the roots of the Bolshevik Revolution in 19th Century Russia, to Stalin's strategies for terror; to arcane details of Politburo procedure -- was regarded to Harvard colleagues as without peer. . . He had a near photographic memory, and faculty and students at Harvard used to come to him rather than go to the library for details about the history of the Soviet Union.
The New York Times
The veteran Harvard professor Adam Ulam was a walking encyclopaedia on the history and politics of the Soviet Union. Best known for a succession of major works on the subject, he also played an influential role as tutor to a string of students who would later gain prominence in the wold of politics, including Robert Kennedy and Henry Kissinger. . . . Although the Soviet archives were still closed, he combined an intuitive genius with prodigious reading of open sources to produce works that have held up remarkably well amid fresh archival revelations since the collapse of the Soviet Union. . . . Ulam's survey of Soviet foreign policy, Expansion and Coexistence, first published in 1967, is often regarded as the most influential book on the subject ever to appear. . . . Ulam's scholarly writing was notable not only for the depth of his insights, but also for his light touch and wit. A reviewer of his biography of Stalin described the author as "a sardonic conoisseur of human folly." . . .Ulam was famed for refusing to take himself seriously. When the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev was unexpectedly purged in 1964, Ulam was asked why he had not predicted it. "If it came as a surprise to Khruschev, why wouldn't it come as a surprise to me?"
The Independent (London)
. . .The Polish-born Adam Bruno Ulam was a classic, almost stereotypical scholar, combining vast erudtition with a mismatched wardrobe and turbuent hairstyle. . . . The director of the Russian Research Centre at Harvard for nearly two decades, Ulam also possessed the true scholar's gift of being able first to master the details, and then to reach compelling broad conclusions and defend them with passion. He lived a long and satisfying life, fulfilling his promise abundantly. . . . All scholars should be so fortunate, and so admirable.
The Ottowa Citizen
. . .Mr. Ulam was widely known for his penetrating insights into the nature of the communist movement, his sardonic wit on subjects ranging from politics to baseball, and his artfullly disheveled bow ties. "Adam was one of the most unconventional academics I ever encountered," said Marshall I. Goldman, professor of Russian economics at Wellesley College and a longtime colleague at Harvard's Russian research Center, with which Mr. Ulam was affiliated for more than 20 years. "He followed almost none of the rules, did things his way, and was brilliant." . . .Throughout most of his career, Mr. Ulam was regarded as an enemy by the Soviets, Mr. Goldman said, and "the real payoff" for years of careful analysis came during the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, when, with Mr. Ulam approaching retirement, the New York correspondent for Izvestia wrote that "Adam Ulam had a better understanding of what was going on inside the Soviet Union than we did. If we had only paid more heed. . .we might have addressed our problems sooner and prevented them from becoming so severe. . . ."
The Boston Globe
. . .Many of Ulam's books, updated with several editions, remain classic textbooks for students of Russia and of communism. . . . Presidents, politicians and the public joined students in reading Ulam. . . .His scholarly work "was notable not only for the depth of his insights but also for the sparkling wit he displayed." . . .Although the topics Ulam was analyzing were often grim and deadly, he was able to highlight the absurdities of Soviet life in a way that kept his books from being ponderous. . . ."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
. . .Dr. Ulam was a member of the Harvard faculty for 45 years and twice served as director of Harvard's Russian Research Center, which under his leadership became one of the world's leading institutions for the study of the Soviet Union. . . . He wrote 18 books, including a 760-page biography of Soviet leader Josef Stalin. The Bolsheviks, published in 1965, is considered one of the definitive treatments of the party that seized power in Russia in 1917 and of its leader Vladimir Lenin. . . .From 1967 until re reitred from the Harvard faculty in 1992, Dr. Ulam trained thousands of students, including many who achieved high-level positions in government, academia and the media. Those included former Attorney General and New York senator Robert F. Kennedy and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. . . .
The Washington Post
. . .Ulam was not only a serious scholar, he was also a stylist. His books were pleasure to read in an era when good writing was going out of fashion in the academic world. But a few scholars from Issac Deutscher on the Trotskyite Left to Ulam himself on the Right, appealed to the public as much by their attractive prose and political fervour as by the quality of their research. Ulam never composed a dull paragraph. . . . He showed his brilliance as an analyst more than as an excavator of original materials. In all his books he tried to gauge the balance of the ideological and the pragmatic. Magisterial in his judgments, Ulam nevertheless let the reader know when he was guessing. . . . He readily poked fun at himself, and his lugubrious bass voice enhanced his sardonic wit. Not expecting too much of humankind, he enjoyed exposing the foibles of the Communist leaders. At the end of the analysis of the role of some figure in Soviet history, he would relish adding: "And then Stalin had him shot." Harvard was not over-populated with cheerful Sovietologists, and Ulam stood out. . . .
The Daily Telegraph (London)
Remembering Adam Ulam
The Kennan Institute
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
© June, 2002, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Reprinted by permission.
The Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies is a division of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Through its programs of residential scholarships, meetings, and publications, the Institute encourages scholarship on the former Soviet Union, embracing a broad range of fields in the social sciences and humanities. The Kennan Institute is supported by contributions from foundations, corporations, individuals, and the United States Government.
REMEMBERING ADAM ULAM
Adam Ulam was a towering figure in Russian and Soviet Studies, both literally and figuratively. He inspired generations of students at Harvard and scholars around the world to pursue the study of what was, for many, an intriguing, exotic, and often frustrating topic of academic endeavor. He entertained generations of scholars at the Harvard Russian Research Center during their morning coffee hour with erudite historical stories, be they about the British Empire, Russian poetry, Soviet skullduggery-or, his favorite, The Boston Red Sox. After his death, a group of his former students gather together at the Kennan Institute to honor him by speaking about a range of subjects that he had encouraged them to pursue. Three of them are presented in this occasional paper.
Adam belonged to that great generation of Soviet scholars who shaped the debate about communism and Soviet intentions for the entire Cold War period. Like many of the founding fathers of this discipline, he came to the United States as a refugee in the late 1930's. Born on 8 April 1922 in Lwów, then part of Poland, to an educated and prosperous family, he escaped Poland with his older brother and outstanding mathematician Stanislaus, literally at the last moment-two weeks before the Nazis attacked. He completed his undergraduate degree at Brown University and his Ph.D. at Harvard. He joined the Harvard Faculty in 1947 and went on to a distinguished academic career that included 18 books, many of which remain classics in the field. His biographies of Lenin and Stalin and his magisterial study of Soviet foreign policy, Expansion and Coexistence, are still among the best available. He also wrote books on British socialism, on Tito, and on what he viewed as the disastrous impact of the ferment of the 1960's on American academia. At the time of his death on 28 March 2000, he was working on his autobiography.
At the Kennan symposium, we had two panels. The first panel discussed Adam's role as a historian and featured talks by Professors Abbott Gleason of Brown University, whose paper is reproduced here, Professor Nina Tumarkin of Wellesley College, whose paper is also reproduced, Sanford Lieberman of the University of Massachusetts, and Dr. Mark Kramer of Harvard University. The second panel focused on Adam's work on foreign policy and featured Dr. Carol Saivetz of Harvard, Dr. Steven Sestanovich, former Ambassador-at-Large for the Newly Independent States, David Kramer of the State Department's Office of Global Affairs, and myself. Our talks mixed the scholarly with the personal. Adam inspired his students which such respect and affection that no scholarly presentation would have been complete without anecdotes about the milieu in which Adam and his students operated. He was an egalitarian professor who respected students and colleagues alike and judged them by their intelligence and wit, not by their status in the academic hierarchy.
As Adam's former students, we are grateful to the Kennan Institute and to its Director, Blair Ruble, for enabling us to hold this symposium, and we encourage you to read and reread Adam's seminal works on Russia and the Soviet Union. They will enlighten you with the wisdom, imagination, and erudition of a cosmopolitan, cultured European scholar, for whom intellectual integrity, not transient academic fashion, was the basis of the life of the mind.
ADAM ULAM AS HISTORIAN
Abbott Gleason, Brown University
Adam Ulam never lost his appetite for his subject. He was a man extraordinarily well matched with the circumstances of his academic career. I used to imagine at times that he saw the Cold War as what amounted to a vast multidimensional board game, with both geographic and temporal dimensions. He played this game with verve, gusto, and absorption for almost fifty years, utilizing his extraordinary memory and his flare for systemic analysis, which it seemed to me must have some kind of genetic relationship with his brother Stan's remarkable mathematical abilities.
Adam also had something in common with Mycroft Holmes, famous again recently as "Sherlock Holmes's smarter brother." Only instead of ensconcing himself at the Diogenes Club in London, it was Harvard's Russian Research Center (now the Davis Center) at 1737 Cambridge Street to which Adam repaired almost daily for those five decades. Student research assistants would bring him piles of books and periodicals and he would pillage them for his East-West board game. He was utterly dependent on his office, and almost as much so on his daily colloquies with his colleagues over coffee.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle told us that the sedentary Mycroft would have excelled his younger brother had he only had the energy to examine muddy footprints on the field or the Trichinopoly cigar ash on the carpet at the murder scene the way Sherlock did. Here the parallel with Ulam becomes more complex. Ulam was neither portly nor physically inactive, but his abilities and temperament were ideally suited to a universe in which the sources came to him, rather than his having to go to them. Travel in the physical world made him nervous, whereas the opposite was true for the world as it was found in books. And for that, his situation five minutes walk from Widener was ideal. Not that Adam went to the library very often; his emissaries brought what he wanted to his desk. This mirrored a process in which Adam did not go out to the world; he sucked it in and filtered it through his powerful and systematizing intellect, of Hegelian scope but Bismarckian in its view of power and human folly.
Adam liked the idea that he only worked a a measured and regular portion of each day, filling the rest of his time with games and social life. To some extent this aristocratic self-conception was true. He was a genuine hedonist and needed companionship on a regular basis, but one way or another he was playing his gigantic board game most of the time, even as he read himself to sleep at night.
Turning more narrowly to his work, Adam Ulam had little interest in historiography, although he had a great love of history. He took no interest at all in what the dominant paradigms were, in what work "needed to be done" or anything like that. Self-conscious employment of "theory" was anathema. He knew what interested him, he was convinced he knew what was important, he had a sense of what would interest the public, and he wrote about those things. So his work cannot easily be correlated to the methodological preoccupations of scholars, then or (especially) now. He often used the term "totalitarianism" but was wholly indifferent to the quarrels between those who had rejected the term and those who defended it. To his gifts as a systemic thinker, he added those of a keen and sardonic student of the human comedy; a connoisseur ofof human experience, from the revealing anecdote to the full-dress biography. He was also an inveterate reader of spy and detective stories and of nineteenth-century European fiction more generally. No one not well versed in nineteenth-century novels could have written The Bolsheviks, and yet it was not self-consciously novelistic.
Adam directed his books to the educated general reader, rather than to his scholarly peers, who were often exasperated by his hit-or-miss footnoting, his refusal to "keep up," and his lack of interest in regnant paradigms. He was an individual in these as well as in other matters and he seems never to have lost his extraordinary intellectual self-confidence. Looking back on his career, one is struck by the sheer chutzpah of what he attempted (and largely accomplished): a study of the Tito-Stalin break in 1948, biographies of Lenin and Stalin, an attempt to narrate half a century of Soviet foreign policy in three volumes, a book on the appeal of Marxism to industrializing states in the non-Western world, the Kirov novel, ..., not to speak of all those shorter pieces.
All of this worked for him in his time. His books were translated into many European and Asian languages, partly because the succeeded almost as well as popular history as they did as academic history. He never accepted the loss of a popular audience, to which most academic historians have been resigned for so long that they scarcely think of it any more. All his books were in his own voice; all of them relied on what are today disparagingly known as "master narratives." One can hardly imagine it being any other way.
But his success had a certain price. He created no school and in a certain sense broke no new intellectual ground, found no new subject matter for historical treatment. I would venture to say that although he had many admirers, he had no real disciples-what would it mean to be a disciple of Adam Ulam? How would one do it? He found no trove of new information in archives or elsewhere. It was his peculiar combination of gifts that marked his work, his personality and sensibility, but also his ability to create a tapestry, coherent both aesthetically and intellectually at the same time. It was his voice: the voice of a European storyteller, loving a joke (but generally at the right time), intolerant of cant or even much earnestness, aristocratic in its acceptance of the world of power as it was, but not without pity. This voice could first be heard in its maturity in The Bolsheviks, which will remain around for a long time, because it is such a good read, even as we know more and more about Lenin's life, as we have already begun to do. Expansion and Coexistence, a really grand and magisterial synthesis, has already been somewhat dated by recently published archival information, and it has slightly less of Adam's charm to keep us interested. But it too will endure until someone has the sheer courage to undertake something comparable by way of a synthesis, or perhaps until people have abandoned the aspiration to do work on this scale.
ADAM ULAM AS WRITER
Nina Tumarkin, Harvard University
Some twenty years ago, when I was in the throes of writing my first book, Lenin Lives! The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia-the book that I later dedicated to Adam-I always kept on my bedside table two books, some pages I would read and reread nightly before going to sleep. They were: A Collection of Essays by George Orwell, and Adam Ulam's The Bolsheviks. At the time I had no idea, really, how to craft a book and hoped that these exemplary models would provide both inspiration and guidance.
Orwell I chose because I then considered (and still do consider) his essays the finest examples of expository writing in the English language. And why Adam Ulam's biography of Lenin? As delightful as Adam's prose could be at its sparkly best, with its witticisms, whimsical phrases, and footnotes consisting of asides, anecdotes, and Mishnaic commentaries, I sought and found in The Bolsheviks a different kind of inspiration and influence: its author's philosophical approach toward writing history and biography. I was determined to understand the operating principles according to which Adam wrote about the men who would shape the Soviet experience-but especially about Lenin, whose interpretative biography I myself was writing for inclusion in my book on the Lenin cult. I thus had the experience of reading many of the same source that Adam had used in his book-plus a good many others-and then reconstructing some of his conceptual and logistical premises and steps.
Adam helped form me fundamentally, not as a historian-not in showing me how to find and select my evidence, or even how to read and interpret it. But he helped to turn me into a writer of history and biography. According to what assumptions, rules and aesthetic imperatives would I take my pen (I wrote Lenin Lives! with a fountain pen!) and word by word, cigarette by cigarette, create a narrative, an argument, a page, a chapter, a book? My understanding of this fundamental (and at the time, terrifying) process was in part derived from reading and rereading The Bolsheviks. Here is some of what I found and took from that book, influencing all my professional work-both my writing and teaching:
In the last chapters of Lenin Lives!, and in my second book, The Living and the Dead, about the cult and memory of World War II in Russia, I sought to exercise a measure of the writer's freedom that I had breathed in from The Bolsheviks. Some of my writing resembled Adam's, for example, in its use of question marks and the associative phrases and asides. And some did not, such as the personal and autobiographical voice I assumed in The Living and the Dead. But Adam had given me the courage and inspiration to make my writing my own, to go beyond the limits of traditional genres and look for new ones.
ADAM ULAM AS FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST
Angela Stent, Georgetown University
Adam Ulam's legacy is rich and multifaceted, but perhaps his most important contribution for those of us who write about foreign policy is how he inspired us to think about Russia and the world outside. He taught his students the best methodology-common sense. Adam's reply to behavioral political scientists who sought to quantify foreign relations was to show that the only way to understand the Soviet leadership's motivations and actions was to put oneself in its shoes, to speculate creatively about how members of the Politburo might have approached the challenges they faced, to imagine that one was Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, or Gromyko. The opening up of Soviet archives since the collapse of communism has shown that most of Adam's conclusions about Soviet motivations and actions that he discussed in Expansion and Coexistence or The Rivals were both perceptive and accurate, even though he had no access to any archives. He instinctively understood Soviet foreign policy behavior and his writings on these issues will outlive those more ephemeral "scientific" contributions to the discipline.
The issue of Russia's perception of its place and role in the Eurasian land mass was one with which Adam dealt at length in his writings and which remains a key question as we debate Russia's role in the twenty-first century. To what extent is Russia capable of becoming a European power, in the sense that this concept is understood today? In other words, what do Adam's writings teach us about Russia's ability to become more fully integrated into Euro-Atlantic structures, or is Russia more likely to remain poised between Europe and Asia, seeking an elusive Eurasian identity and place in the world?
Russia's ambivalent identity and contradictory attitude toward its geostrategic role, argued Adam, was a product of both history and ideology. Adam was not a historical determinist, and did not believe that Russia was incapable of becoming integrated into Europe because it had not experienced the Renaissance, Reformation, or Enlightenment. Indeed, Russia's pre-Revolutionary ruling elite was thoroughly Europeanized. Nevertheless, Russia's expansionist policies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries made Russia a Eurasian power in a military sense and its rulers made choices that delayed its modernization. After the revolution, Soviet ideology, with its dialectical world view that outlived the belief in Marxist-Leninist tenets, created generations of apparatchiki who viewed the West with a mixture of suspicion, superiority, and inferiority, and rejected the idea of integration with the West.
Much of Adam's best work dealt with the first generation of Soviet leaders, most of whom-with the important exception of Josef Stalin-had direct experience in Europe and understood its culture and norms, even if they rejected them. Stalin, of course, was the ultimate Eurasian and he eliminated most of the remaining Bolsheviks who had any affinity for European norms. Thus, for the last half of the twentieth century, the USSR was ruled by men who were inculcated with a Soviet-Eurasian world view. Many of Russia's current leaders still subscribe to this view of Russia's identity.
The postwar Soviet Union was a European power in a military-geographic sense. Its empire reached to the Elbe river. Nevertheless, it was not a European power in a political-cultural sense, because it rejected those institutions and values that we define today as "European"-democracy, transparent markets, rule of law, active civil society, respect for human rights, tolerance of different religions and ethnic origins, political pluralism. A European power in contemporary definition practices coexistence, not expansion, in its foreign policy. Gorbachev's perestroika and commitment to a "common European home" represented the beginning of a move away from Soviet norms toward European norms, but Russia today still faces a major challenge in deciding how far it seeks to become integrated with the West and devising strategies for pursuing that integration.
Since Adam wrote his foreign policy books, there have been significant domestic changes in Russia that could facilitate Russia's greater integration with the West. Soviet ideology is dead, yet the dialectical approach to foreign policy that Adam described has not yet disappeared. As new forms of nationalism replace the old ideology and reinforce Russia's desire to be accepted as a great power, Russians continue to debate their identity and interests, but suspicion of western motives remains. On the other hand, Russia's adoption of a market system-albeit an imperfect one-and its integration into the global capitalist system represents a major break with its previous isolation from the global economy. Nevertheless, a country can be part of the global economy without internalizing the values and norms of Euro-Atlantic societies.
One major barrier to Russia becoming a European power is the state's failure, so far, to come to terms with the Soviet past, to engage in what the Germans call Vergangenheitsbeweltigung, confronting and overcoming one's past. With the exception of a few groups such as Memorial, there has been no concerted effort on the government's part to confront what Stalinism was, why it developed, and what should be done to prevent the Russian people from having to endure similar horrors again. Examining and accepting responsibility for the past is an integral part of what is needed for Russia to become a European power.
Did Adam believe that geography and history were destiny? Is Russia predestined to remain outside the Euro-Atlantic mainstream? Despite Adam's emphasis on historical continuity, he also understood that society was not static and that change was possible both in domestic and foreign policy behavior. Russia could one day become a European power, but it would have to undergo a major transformation, including dealing fully with its imperial and communist legacies and developing a post-imperial foreign policy concept. The concept would stress coexistence rather than expansion and would be a product of a genuine willingness to live with its partners as a European power with limited ambitions. Russia would have to learn to be a good neighbor.
If Russia does not undergo this transformation in the next decades, then it could become a weak Eurasian power. It would draw closer to some parts of the former Soviet Union and focus on its relations with China, India, and other Asian and Middle Eastern nations. It could still retain institutional links to Euro-Atlantic structures but would remain outside the West's political and economic mainstream.
In his last book, Understanding the Cold War, Adam wrote, "It is the lack of predictability that defines this era in Russia." That quote will remain valid for the foreseeable future. It is the scholarly community's loss that we will not have Adam to guide us with wisdom and humor through the maze that is contemporary Russia, with its unexpected endings and beginnings.
at a meeting with Jewish and Polish-Jewish communities
dedicated to the memory of Professor Jan Karski.
Georgetown University, Washington, D. C., July 17, 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure for me to meet today representatives of Jewish and Polish-Jewish communities in the United States. I am appearing here first of all as a countryman of Jan Karski, Georgetown University professor: a man who was one of the first to bring to the Allies the shocking news about the extermination of Jews in Nazi-ocupied Poland. A man who was once referred to by Elie Wiesel as not only a brave man, but better: a just man. This Polish citizen, an honorary citizen of Israel, was a living bridge between our nations. In his memoirs he once wrote about his mother: "She believed that there was one God, but differently revealed to people. She took enormous tolerance from that and was fervently convinced that God required it in our relations to others."
Jan Karski's upbringing in an atmosphere of tolerance was rooted in the beautiful traditions of the ethnically and culturally diverse Polish Republic. Respect for other cultures and openness enabled Poland in the 14th and 15th centuries to become a shelter for Jews persecuted in other European countries. It was in Polish territory that Jewish religious and philosophical thought developed throughout the centuries, where magnificent synagogues were built, and where the modern Jewish nation was taking shape. In the land on the Vistula River the unique Jewish parliament was debating -- Vaad of the Four Lands (Waad Arba Aratzot). Talmudic schools functioned; religious currents, of which the leading was chassidism, flowed; Haskala, Jewish enlightenment, found its supporters; literature in Yiddish was born. And over the centuries Polish Jews created along with us our very identity and culture: from Berek Joselewicz, the hero of our struggle for freedom, fighting arm-in-arm with Kosciuszko, through the great artists Izaak Beszewis Singer, Szolem Asz and Julian Tuwim, to a very special teacher: Janusz Korczak.
Among outstanding Jewish minds formed by the Second Polish Republic we find also the brothers Ulam, Stanislaw and Adam, who managed to escape the Holocaust and find shelter in the United States. The first one, an eminent mathematician and physicist, contributed to strengthening the American defense potential; the other one, a great historian, by his works greatly contributed to our knowledge about the mechanisms of power in the Soviet Union. There are many more such examples: in nearly every branch of science and arts we would encounter the names of important Polish Jews.
The Nazis murdered millions of Jews on our soil, but they also mutilated terribly our country and its culture. Only today, in free Poland, are we fully aware of the magnitude of our loss. More and more Poles are ready to repeat the words of Professor Karski, that all people murdered in the concentration camps and the ghettos have become our family. Not without reason was it the last wish of Professor Karski to be buried with a Jewish cloth patch on his suit, the star of David insignia that Jews were forced to wear during the war.
We Poles have a special duty to care for the memory of the Jewish people's tragedy, and to care for the extraordinary heritage of the Jews living in Poland. Together with regaining our freedom, we began the difficult process of clearing our conscience and learning the full, and sometimes bitter, truth. A powerful testimony to this effort was the national discussion about the crime at Jedwabne, which shattered our conscience, but which also helped us realize that we can begin to build our future only if we base ourselves on complete historic truth. During the ceremonies commemorating the victims of the murder in Jedwabne I asked for forgiveness on behalf of those who understand well that one cannot be proud of Polish history if one does not express regret for the evil Poles did to the others. I am saying this again after the completion of an investigation conducted by the appropriate judicial authorities in Poland. Despite the great length of time that has passed since that moment, and despite there being few witnesses and little evidence, the findings unequivocally state that the people of Jedwabne were murdered by their Polish neighbors. The confession of guilt and words of apology were very important to us. We commemorate the victims, and we feel shame for those who failed in that most trying moment, who failed as human beings and Poles. These painful experiences should not however lead to distorting the history, or to questioning the fact of Polish suffering. Let us remember that every third tree at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has a Polish name, and that the whole of the Polish Republic tragically experienced the nightmare of the war. The Nazis murdered nearly six million Polish citizens, half of whom were Polish Jews.
In the aftermath of World War II and the changes brought by that cataclysm, Poland was brutally deprived of its centuries-old multicultural character and color. The German plan for the "final solution," the redrawing of the borders and the resettlement of peoples caused our country for the first time in its long history to become a nearly single nation-state. The post-war Polish authorities strengthened this new image of Polish society, making it one of the chief tenets of their internal policy, policy that affected all the national minorities of Jews, Ukrainians, Germans, Belarussians, Lithuanians and others. The post-war generations of Poles knew nothing of the issue of minorities. Jews were a taboo subject; they practically did not exist in the political discourse or broader social awareness. The infamous events of 1946 and 1968 were part of this atmosphere. Forty five years of Polish-Jewish relations in the People's Republic of Poland were characterized by a conspiracy of silence. Today, in free Poland, we are restoring our knowledge and sensitivity, our remembrance and respect for the historical heritage of the multicultural Polish Republic.
Thanks to the opportunities in recent years for unrestricted public discussion of our history, the awareness of Polish citizens has developed enormously. We feel that we are the heirs of Jan Karski, and we want to remain so as we work on Polish-Jewish reconciliation and understanding. We wish to contribute basing ourselves upon the education of young people. We have to tell them everything about the Holocaust and the historical sources of anti-Semitism. At the same time we must remember that the idea of anti-Semitism passed down through the generations is not valid. Anti-Semitism has always been a conscious and in the present moment violation of ethical norms. And everybody is individually responsible for it. The teaching and pronouncements of our great countryman, Pope John Paul II, play a very big role in recognizing that. He was the first Pope in history to pray in a synagogue, and he did not leave a trace of doubt that anti-Semitism is not only shameful, but also, from the perspective of the Church, sinful. Uncompromising censure of anti-Semitism was of great help to all of good will who fervently wish to realize Polish-Jewish reconciliation in Poland.
For over ten years we have been able to do much for the reconciliation that we envision. The dialogue between our two nations has taken place on various levels. Democracy and freedom have by themselves helped the establishment and functioning of numerous foundations, associations and spontaneous initiatives. Organizations that have been working in Poland for years, such as the Roland S. Lauder Foundation or the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, have contributed importantly.
As President of the Republic of Poland I seek to support all undertakings serving the cause of reconciliation between Jews and Poles. For these reasons I have taken on the sponsorship of the construction of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, in Warsaw. Its task will be to promote knowledge of the history, customs and traditions of the Jewish community in the territory of Poland. I also strongly support the development of meetings and discussions such as, for example, the recent Forum for Polish-German-Jewish Dialogue, whose participants I have welcomed to the Presidential Palace. I have earlier spoken of the importance of involvement of young people in this national effort, and the new school contests about the history and culture of Polish Jews and knowledge about Israel today have a special role to play. This year nearly a thousand schools have applied to participate in this voluntary competition. About ten thousand students took part in the previous runnings of this race for knowledge! Polish youngsters are looking spontaneously for what their parents were deprived of for years. The numbers speak for themselves. They are a testimony that Polish-Jewish dialogue does not limit itself to lofty declarations, but is full of life, and of concrete initiatives.
I want to emphasize here that in Poland the authorities have been making every effort to compensate all the citizens of the Polish Republic for material losses they suffered during the great period of upheaval. The issue of the restitution of certain types of corporate property has already been adressed in the law. Jewish religious communities are gradually getting back their former property, first of all synagogues, houses of prayer, schools and cemeteries. The Polish authorities, as an accomodation, will postpone the established deadline for filing applications for the restitution of property to churches, including the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland. I welcomed with satisfaction the establishment of foundations of Polish and outland autonomous social organizations that are to act as trustees for the property of Polish Jews.
The problem that remains to be solved in Poland is the restitution of, or rather compensation for, the lost private property of all who had Polish citizenship in 1939, regardless of their religion or nationality. Right now, a re-privatization law is being prepared. This law is meant to compensate everybody illegally deprived of their property, in the spirit of equality before the law. Redressing the wrongs of history is a long-term process. So far we have not been able to craft a good law on re-privatization because of the magnitude of the problem and numerous stiuational difficulties. This is why the solutions now in process will be a compromise. I intend to support a law that will be just but also realistic, so that it does not impose on the state commitments that cannot be met, but only those that can be fulfilled. It will not be easy. But I do believe that we will be able to find the right way to solve this problem.
Since 1989 Polish foreign policy has been based upon a striving for understanding and agreement. Despite the all the harms and tragedies of the past, the Polish-German reconciliation, to the surprise of the whole world, has become a fact. We have been developing harmonious relations with all our neighbors, including Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania. We have based our relations with Israel upon the same ethical principles. It is geographically distant, but so close to us; still today one can hear Polish being spoken in the streets of Israel. We Poles feel that we are friends of the Jewish people. Today, at the time of unceasing terror attacks on the citizens of Israel, we strongly support this state in the exercise of its right to peaceful existence. Because of our historical experiences we want to carry out a mission of bringing peace and reconciliation between the contending peoples. This process is difficult but viable. We know this, since frequently in the past Poles, despite pain and suffering inflicted upon one another, could bring themselves to understanding. We wish the same to Israelis and Palestinians. We wish the establishment of a just peace in the Middle East as soon as possible. Such a peace will give Palestinians a chance for the creation of a democratic state, free from fundamentalism, terror and crime. The international community, first of all the United States, but also the states of Europe, bear a special responsibility for this process. However, none weighs more heavily than that upon the Arab countries, which after the end of hostilities could enjoy the immense benefits of peace in that region. Poland, as it has done so far by the deployment of our soldiers to the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese border in the context of UN-led operations, will continue to support actively all international efforts to solve the Middle-East conflict. And this is so because there is no other way to lasting peace.
Jan Karski, a Polish soldier and hero, like the servant of Job brought to America the terrible news about Nazi crimes visited on helpless Jewish people. His example allows us to see that so very often what our nations have in common flows from suffering and grief. But today we can set forth with optimism and look boldly into the future. Europe has changed. Poland has changed, too. Today we are one of few countries where the number of members of a Jewish community is steadily growing. It is a great joy for me that news that is brought today from Poland is news about life: Jewish life being restored in my country. Schools are being founded, kindergartens, youth clubs and Jewish educational institutions. Many people are discovering their Jewish roots; others become fascinated with Jewish history and culture, reading the many books on this subject that have filled the shelves of bookstores all over Poland. After years of a dull and gray monotony a beautiful tradition revives of a culturally and ethnically diverse Poland. All of this is sound reason for our immense pride and joy.
As I conclude, I must mention something with a bit of wistfulness. It is too late for you to come to the Festival of Jewish Culture in Cracow's Kazimierz district this year, and missing it is to be regretted! If you find time next year, please, do come. When you see the pre-war architecture of that part of town, its narrow streets, full of corners and courtyards where Polish Jews stroll who have come to this event from all over the world, your hearts will beat faster with pure emotion. The Festival in Kazimierz brings back to that place at least for a couple of days its old, unique climate and atmosphere . In Szeroka street you will see Polish and Jewish young people dancing together to the rhythm of Klezmer music. You must come to Kazimierz to see this and to witness right now the birth of a shared Polish-Jewish future. A future that will be determined by wise, open and tolerant people, such as Professor Jan Karski.