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Multicultural Commonwealth: Diverse Identities in Poland-Lithuania


Thursday, 14 December 2017, 10:30am - 5:30pm

William Mong Hall, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge


A free, one-day conference on the extraordinary diversity of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, an early modern state that integrated various different ethnic groups, cultures, languages and religions, often with relative mutual respect and tolerance. At the same time, diversity also led to conflicts and controversies. The conference included Polish, Lithuanian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Jewish, German and Ottoman perspectives on the Commonwealth.


Click here for photos from the event.

Audio recordings from the event can be found on the Cambridge Polish Studies YouTube channel through the links below:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3


Speakers included some of the most distinguished names in scholarship and creative work on the Commonwealth:


Norman Davies, St Antony's College, Oxford

Karin Friedrich, University of Aberdeen

Robert Frost, University of Aberdeen 

Tomasz Grusiecki, Central European University

Leszek Korporowicz, Jagiellonian University, Kraków

Simon Lewis, Freie Universität Berlin       

Olenka Pevny, University of Cambridge  

Kristina Sabaliauskaitė, novelist and art historian

Magda Teter, Fordham University



10:00am – 10:45am:             Coffee

10:45am – 11:00am:             Welcome and Introduction: Stanley Bill.


11:00am – 12:30pm:             Session 1

Leszek Korporowicz:          Bridging Cultural Diversity: Axiological Roots of the Jagiellonian Commonwealth.

Karin Friedrich:                   ‘Into hell, where a third of all devils speak German’: The Polish Reformation between Wittenberg and the Torun Colloquy of 1645.

Magda Teter:                       How Jewish is Polish History?


12:30pm – 1:30pm:              Lunch Break


1:30pm – 3:00pm:                Session 2

Olenka Pevny:                     Restaging Orthodoxy: Metropolitan Peter Mohyla’s renovation of medieval churches in early-modern Kyiv.

Tomasz Grusiecki:              Ottomanisation as Europeanisation: Polish-Lithuanian Costume and the Search for a Shared Past.

Robert Frost:                       Competitive Cosmography: Observations on the 500th Anniversary of the Publication of Maciej Miechowita's Treatise on the Two Sarmatias.


3:00pm – 3:30pm:                 Coffee


3:30pm – 5:00pm:                 Session 3

Kristina Sabaliauskaitė:      Reconstructing 17th- and 18th-Century Wilno in a Novel: Silva Rerum as a Multilingual Chorus of Cultures and Narratives.

Simon Lewis:                       Belarus and the Commonwealth: Between Diversity and Difference.

Norman Davies:                   National Perspectives on a Multinational Commonwealth.


5:00pm – 5:30pm:                 Final Discussion