Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Dr Piotr Osęka

Fellow Piotr Osęka

July - December 2014
Mail: poseka(at)isppan.waw(dot)pl

Piotr Osęka is an Imre Kertész Kolleg Fellow from July to December 2014. He completed his PhD at the University of Warsaw in 2005; since then he has worked as a researcher at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. In 2001 Piotr Osęka began writing historical essays for Gazeta Wyborcza, Polityka and Newsweek From 2006 to 2010 he was a researcher on the "Around 1968: Activism, Networks, Trajectories" project directed by Prof. Robert Gildea at Oxford University. His own research is focused primarily on the political and social history of modern Poland, specifically collective biographies, political rituals, and totalitarian propaganda.

Research project at the Kolleg

Enforcers? A Collective Biography of Security Apparatus Officers in Communist Poland, 1944­-1989

The book will primarily address the following questions: Who were the secret police officers? What were their motives for joining the secret police? From what social groups, strata of society and political traditions did they come? Who were their parents? How did they construct their identities in CVs, personal statements and cover letters? What mechanisms shaped their careers? Why and under what circumstances did they leave the secret police? And to what extent were their individual career strategies in accord or at odds with the objectives of the institution? In my approach to the social history of the Polish security apparatus, I make use of the prosopographical method. This applied methodology, which combines techniques of quantitative history and of social science, lends itself especially well to the topic. A sample of several hundred officers' biographies has been created using a questionnaire that addresses basic information such as age, education and place of birth, as well as more complex information regarding cultural and political identities, career patterns (subsequent positions), marriages, professional development, and disciplinary records. Data drawn from archived personal files has been entered into a digital database in order to produce key career profiles. The results will be juxtaposed with numerous qualitative materials concerning the recruitment and cadre policies of the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of the Interior and the Polish United Workers Party. By reconstructing this collective biography of secret police officers, I will engage the question of social support for the regime; I aim to discover what types of personal experiences shaped those who were arguably the system's most ardent adherents. The project thus offers an opportunity to better understand the relationships between rulers and ruled in the Soviet bloc.

Main areas of research

  •     Political and social history of modern Poland
  •     Collective biography
  •     Political rituals
  •     Totalitarian propaganda

Positions and Memberships

  •     Assistant Professor, Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences


Ludzie z Marca. Autoportret pokolenia 1968 [People of March. Self-portrait of generation of 1968 in Poland], 2015.

Edited Volumes

Europe's 1968. Voices of Revolt, ed. by Robert Gildea, James Mark, Anette Warring, Oxford 2013 [co-author of the three chapters].

Mydlenie oczu. Przypadki propagandy w Polsce (The cases of propaganda in Poland), Kraków 2010.

Marzec'68 (March'68), Kraków 2008 Rytuały stalinizmu. Oficjalne święta i uroczystości rocznicowe w Polsce lat 1944-1956, Warszawa 2006 (The Rituals of Stalinism. Official holidays and anniversaries in Poland 1944-1956).

Syjoniści, inspiratorzy, wichrzyciele. Obraz wroga w propagandzie Marca 1968, Warszawa 1999 (The Image of Foe in the Propaganda of March 1968).


"We are with You, Vietnam": Transnational Solidarities in Socialist Hungary, Poland and Yugoslavia, [co-authored with James Mark, Peter Apor and Radina Vucetic, Journal of Contemporary History, 2015.

Elita Solidarności. Prozopografia Komisji Krajowej [Elites of Solidarity, Prosopography of National Commission of 1981] in: Solidarność od wewnątrz 1980-1981 [Solidarity from inside 1980-1981] ed. A. Friszke, K. Persak, P. Sowiński, Warszawa 2013.

Sumienie partii. Rola i znaczenie Centralnej Komisji Kontroli Partyjnej (The conscience of the party. The role and significance of the Central Commission for Party Control), in: PZPR jako machina władzy (Polish United Workers Party as a mechanism of the power), Warszawa 2012.

Ritual of the May Day Parade in Poland between 1945 and 1989, "Centropa", January 2012.

Breaking the walls of privacy. How rebellion came to the street [co-authors: Juliane Furst, Chris Reynolds], "Cultural and Social History", 4/2011.

'The people of March'. A self-portrait of Poland's generation '68, in: Anna von der Goltz ed., 'Talkin' 'bout my generation'. Conflicts of generation building and Europe's '1968', Wallstein Verlag, Gottingen 2011, p. 137-159.

Tajne spec. znaczenia. Modele debaty o PRL w przestrzeni publicznej (Top secret. Models of the debate on the People's Republic of Poland in the public sphere), in: Historia w kulturze współczesnej (History in the contemporary culture), Lublin 2011.
Miejsce plenum Komitetu Centralnego PZPR w systemie politycznym PRL w latach siedemdziesiątych (The position of the plenary sitting of the CC PUWP in the political system of the PPR in the 1970s), "Studia Polityczne" (Political Studies), vol. 24/2009.


F. Tych. M. Adamczyk-Garbowska eds. Następstwa zagłady Żydów. Polska 1944-2010 [The Aftermath of the Holocaust. Poland 1944-2010], Kwartalnik Historii Żydów [Jewish History Quarterly], 4/2013.