The Oppression of Poland During Joseph Conrad’s Childhood
Joseph Conrad was born in 1857 as Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in south-eastern Poland. He grew up during one of Poland’s most difficult times. The Polish people were oppressed by three imperial rulers. Joseph Conrad’s parents died as a result of the oppression imposed on the Polish population. Conrad ultimately left Poland mainly due to its political situation.
In 1795 Austria, Prussia, and Russia partitioned Poland for the third and last time. What was once a great empire stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea ceased to exist up until the end of World War I. Though all three countries were oppressive, none was more so than Russia. It occupied the most territory and most resistance occurred against Russian rule. The Polish people never ceased to resist the three imperialist rulers. When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1806, Poles lead the charge hoping the campaign would result in a free Poland. Unfortunately Napoleon’s campaign failed and the Poles that fought alongside of him either had to flee to Western Europe or face hard labor in Russia. Poles once again tried to free themselves in 1831 when they launched the ‘November Insurrection.’ After fighting for over a year, the Polish rebel army was forced to capitulate. Russia immediately punished the Polish population. All schools were closed down and over 40,000 families were sent to Siberia. Even though the Polish people faced harsh repression, their patriotic spirit never died.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, after almost 30 years of general calm, the Polish people once again began protesting Russian rule. Meetings were held and discussions raged about reforms and emancipation. Russian police was aware of the discontent and thousands of people were arrested. This further incited patriotic spirits and the first massive demonstration was held in June of 1860. It was a funeral procession for the wife of a veteran that fought in the ‘November Insurrection.’ Because the protests were peaceful and somber the Russian government was unable to interfere. In February of 1861, however, Russian police fired upon a demonstration killing five and wounding many more. This event enraged the Polish population. The Russian government, fearing a revolt, eased some of its policies toward occupied Poland. Schools and universities were reopened, but the government still employed several measures of repression. On one day when a massive demonstration was planned, the Russian government declared martial law. Churches were closed and thousands of people were arrested. Arrests were made without discrimination and thousands were deported to Russia and...