Vogue Displaced Borussia
Wrocław, Poland. Photograph by Hans Permana
March 2018 saw the publication of the first Polish issue of the monthly magazine Vogue. There would have been nothing remarkable about this, except for the fact that it coincided with the appearance of the sixtieth – and final – issue of Borussia. Published by the ‘Borussia’ Cultural Community Association in the Masuria region since 1991, Borussia (the Latin name for Prussia) was seen as important for the community it served. In a parting statement, the editors wrote: ‘We have failed to establish a formal editorial office. We were unable to convince the authorities (regional or national) of the need for a regular regional periodical that would also have broader, more universal appeal and serve as a workshop for new, progressive thinking … in a democratic Poland as well as in a peaceful and unified Europe.’
Can these simultaneous events be seen as evidence of the same process – a race to catch up with the West, underway since 1989? Has Poland’s post-socialist, parochial complex led to the marginalisation of all standards that raise and refine those of the market, capital and the entertainment industry? And has this happened at the expense of high culture, political and social engagement and critical reflection?
If so, it would mean that Vogue displaced Borussia because Vogue is the agent of the global market, while Borussia expressed no more than local, grassroots aspirations. More broadly, it would mean that the ‘dependence doxa’, the term which refers to the naturalization and resultant relative invisibility of the dependence of Central Europe from the western core, must be widened to take account of geopolitical narratives, neo-imperialism and the distribution of capital. And it would mean that the history of Polish cultural journals appearing since 1989 can also be seen as a political and social history of contemporary Poland.