Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Łódź: Industry, Religion, and Nationalism in Russian Poland, 1880–1914
by Kanfer, Yedida Sharona, Ph.D., Yale University, 2011, 392; 3467904
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a political, social, and religious history of the city of Łódź, or the 'Polish Manchester.' Over the years 1880–1914, Łódź emerged as the industrial center of Russian Poland and a textile hub of the Russian empire. Łódź grew exponentially in its production of cotton textiles; it surpassed West European cities in its rate of demographic growth and expanded its markets as far as Central Asia. It achieved an ethnic and social diversity unparalleled in Poland, with German and Jewish factory owners at the top of the social hierarchy and a working population of (largely female) Polish industrial workers and German and Jewish hand-weavers. In an era of mass politics and new ideologies, Łódź became a center of vibrant religious belief and practice. Its leaders, Jewish, Catholic and Lutheran, contributed to broader processes of religious reform, challenging their religious systems to meet the demands of an industrial city—and of modern life in the broader sense.

The history of Polish industrialization bridges empires. Łódź inherited the multi-ethnic diversity of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, even as it came to rely increasingly on Russian imperial networks and markets. Łódź became central to conversations regarding industrial growth in the Russian empire as a whole: the role of the state in promoting development and the role of ethnic minorities in achieving it. Łódź workers led their Russian counterparts in two incidents of spontaneous labor unrest: the Łódź strike of 1892, the first general strike in Poland, and the Russian Revolution of 1905–7.

The Revolution contributed to the formation of mass socialist and nationalist parties in Łódź; it also facilitated religious organization and practice across the social hierarchy. Łódź boasted the only Chief Rabbinate, or institution of Jewish religious and administrative leadership, in the entire Russian empire. It was also a center of Protestant missionary activity and sectarian revival. Both Catholic clergymen and Capuchin orders ministered to Łódź's women workers, and during the Revolution, Łódź became the center of the Polish 'Mariavite' movement, a Catholic Marian dissident sect committed to the goal of clerical reform.

Łódź offers an alternative to the history of a region told through separate and separating national narratives. It owed its origins to an enlightened ideal of industrial progress that was predicated upon the contributions and co-existence of ethnic minorities. For Catholics, Jews, and Protestants in Poland, the industrial poverty of Łódź stimulated debates on clerical activism and proved ripe ground for clerical organization. In a city that rose to prominence over a forty year period, social, national, imperial and religious identities overlapped; and modernity came to mean a varied mix of old and new.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Engelstein, Laura
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 72/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Russian history
Keywords: Industry, Lodz, Nationalism, Poland, Religion, Russian Empire
Publication Number: 3467904
ISBN: 978-1-124-80579-5
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