The establishment of geographic societies followed a period of geographic discovery, global expeditions, fieldwork in newly discovered territories, and a general spread of work and knowledge in the field of geography. Newly established geographic societies in Europe began to coordinate work in the fast emerging field of geography. The oldest geographic society was founded in 1684 in Venice – Accademia Cosmografica degli Argonauti. The Venetian society’s patrons included King Jan Sobieski III of Poland. The 19th century saw a marked increase in the number of geographic societies in Europe: Société de Géographie (Paris, 1821), Gesellschaft für Erdkunde (Berlin, 1828), Royal Geographical Society (London, 1830). The countries that had partitioned Poland in the late 18th century also began to establish geographic societies: Russkoje Geografičeskoje Obščestvo (Sankt Petersburg, 1845), Österreichische Geographische Gesellschaft (Vienna, 1856). A number of citizens of occupied Poland also became involved in geographic research throughout the world and many were accepted into leading European geographic societies in the 19th century.
The largest number of Polish research successes were achieved as part of the work of the Russian Geographic Society. This was especially true of Poles exiled to Siberia for their work on behalf of Poland’s independence. Those who chose to work with the Society received better living conditions in Siberia and permission to travel. In some cases, the Society offered a recommendation that made it possible for some exiles to return home with the Russian tsar’s permission. A number of Poles living and working in Russia of their own free will also did work with the Society on a variety of projects. These included Leon Barszczewski, Karol Bohdanowicz, Józef Chodźko, Aleksander Czekanowski, Jan Czerski, Benedykt Dybowski, Leonard Jaczewski, Mieczysław Ptaszycki, and Wacław Sieroszewski. In many cases, Polish researchers received gold medals, honorary membership, and other awards from the Russian Geographic Society. For example, Polish researcher Karol Bohdanowicz received the Great Medal of Przewalski in 1891. He would later become the Chair of the Polish Geographical Society (1920-1925). Another researcher, Paweł Edmund Strzelecki, became a member of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society in 1846. He was awarded the Gold Founder’s Medal.
The three great powers (Austria, Prussia, Russia) occupying 19th century Poland did not permit the establishment of Polish scientific societies. The government of Austria did relent in the late 19th century and the Tatra Society was established in Kraków in 1873. The Society became a gathering place for Polish geographers. Another Polish scientific society was established in the Austrian-occupied city of Lwów (Lemberg) – the Polish Commercial and Geographic Society (1894-1897). The main goal of the Society was to select lands in Brazil for new Polish settlers. In 1851 Russian authorities established a Vilnius branch of the Russian Geographic Society, also known as the Northwestern Branch. Vilnius had been the capital of Lithuania prior to Russian occupation and a city within the greater Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania. However, the Polish residents of Vilnius generally chose not to join the Vilnius branch. Another branch of the Russian Geographic Society was scheduled to be opened in Warsaw in 1875; however, this plan was never realized.
The idea for a Polish geographic society slowly gathered support in Polish academic circles in the late 19th century. The first Polish researcher to suggest this idea was Wacław Nałkowski in 1886. His article in the “Przegląd Tygodniowy” (“Weekly Review”) called for the establishment of such a society. Following the first Russian revolution in 1905, the Russian government began to permit the formation of Polish scientific societies in the Russian part of Poland. As a result, the Polish Sightseeing Society was established in Warsaw in 1906 and became a beacon of Polish geographic and patriotic awareness. This was especially true in the case of younger Poles. Wacław Nałkowski and Ludomir Sawicki as well as geographers from other parts of Poland actively participated in the formation of the Society. The Society began to publish a periodical in 1910 called “Ziemia” (“Earth”). According to Bolesław Olszewicz, the Polish Sightseeing Society laid the needed groundwork for the establishment of the Polish Geographical Society in 1918.
The idea to formally establish a Polish geographic society on Polish soil emerged in the autumn of 1917. It ecame clear at the time that occupied Poland would soon regain independence from Austria, Prussia, and Russia in the aftermath of World War I. Polish intellectuals from Warsaw such as Jan Lewiński, Stanisław Lencewicz, Bolesław Olszewicz, and Stanisław Poniatowski as well as Kraków intellectual L. Sawicki initiated the process of establishing such a society. Jerzy Loth (Warsaw) soon joined the effort as well.
An organizational meeting of the newly emerging Polish Geographical Society was held in Warsaw on January 27, 1918. The first President of the Society was Professor Jan Lewiński of the University of Warsaw. The first headquarters of the Polish Geographical Society was located at the Warsaw Scientific Society on Śniadeckich Street. In the autumn of 1920, the Society moved to the Department of Geography at the University of Warsaw, located in Staszic Palace, where it would remain until September of 1939.
The Polish Geographical Society was a scientific society with national reach from the very beginning. The main purpose of the Society was to bring together Polish geographers from a variety of Polish regions divided by more than a century of foreign occupation. The hope was that a common meeting place would enhance the chances of the development of the field of geography in Poland following a long period of political and social division.
The functioning of the Society was always dependent on changing political and social conditions in Poland. Many decisions made by the Society were non-scientific in nature and reflected the politics of the day, which included key decisions on the financing of projects. Organizational evolution was another factor responsible for the rate of development of the organization.
The interwar years
The role of the members of the Polish Geographical Society in helping to reestablish Poland as an independent nation cannot be overstated. This was especially true in the period 1918-1926, which was a strong growth period for the Society, attracting new members from across newly independent Poland. Approximately 40 individuals helped establish the Society, which grew close to 150 members within its first year of existence. Every major geographer in Poland was a member of the Society. Most of the members were individuals from Warsaw including the following large institutions: University of Warsaw, Main School of Commerce, Polish Free University, various departments of Poland’s government. A smaller number of geographers came from Kraków (17) and Lwów (11). The majority of the Society’s members were individuals from the academic community. Only nine members came from outside the three cities listed above. For example, universities in Poznań and Vilnius were just becoming operational and did not send geography representatives to Warsaw. In 1919 four “collective members” were accepted by the Society – the Geographic Institute at Jagiellonian University, Geographic Department and Geological Department at the University of Warsaw, Mineralogy Department at Jagiellonian University.
The Polish Geographical Society opened its Kraków Branch in 1922. Its chairmen served in the following order: Michał Siedlecki, L. Sawicki, Jerzy Smoleński. The opening of the Kraków Branch helped increase total Society membership to 443 by 1926.
The early years of the Society were marked by rapid growth in scientific publishing, much of which retains the attention of contemporary Polish researchers. This is especially true of papers published in the Society’s periodicals including the “Przegląd Geograficzny” (“Geographic Review”, 1919-present) and “Wiadomości Geograficzne” (“Geographic News”, 1923-1939). Volume One of the “Geographic Review” included a meaningful manifesto by its Editor-in-Chief Ludomir Sawicki: National institutions and national geography. In the manifesto, Sawicki elaborated on a number of actions needed in order to help the field of geography develop in Poland following more than a century of foreign occupation and propaganda. The manifesto was meant to help bridge the era of foreign occupation and newly regained Polish independence. The quality of the work published in the “Przegląd Geograficzny” was later managed by its next Editor-in-Chief Stanisław Lencewicz (1923-1939). Another key publication – “Wiadomości Geograficzne” – was managed by L. Sawicki and Wiktor Rudolf Ormicki. In 1924 the Kraków Branch of the Society began to publish “Krakowskie Odczyty Geograficzne” (“Kraków Geographic Lectures”) under L. Sawicki and later J. Smoleński. A total of 14 issues were published.
In 1920 the Society produced and sent a white paper to the Polish government on the need to centralize work in the fields of geodesy, topography, and cartography at the national level. The appeal was supported by dozens of research institutions. In addition, the Society produced another document on the teaching of geography in high schools, which was sent to the Ministry of Education. The Society further noted the need for geography textbooks at Polish universities. A special commission was established to address this issue and included the following renowned geographers: Stanisław Pawłowski, Eugeniusz Romer, L. Sawicki, J. Smoleński.
In 1925 Eugeniusz Romer became the Chairman of the Polish Geographical Society. Romer had become an honorary member of the Society in 1920. He was the first geographer to join the Society.
It appeared that nothing could disrupt the growth of the Society; however, something did. In 1926 a number of regional factions unexpectedly began to emerge driven by personal ambition, different views on growth strategies, and unnecessary emotions over various issues. E. Romer established the Lwów Geographical Society in 1926. S. Pawłowski established the Poznań Geographical Society in 1928. While both men argued for the establishment of a national Union of Polish Geographical Societies, this type of integration did not occur until 1946.
Despite these various difficulties, the Polish Geographical Society did continue to function and achieve a number of successes thanks to the following branches(active until 1939):
- Kraków Branch (est. 1922);
- Łódź Branch (1929-1933), absorbed by the Warsaw Branch; led by Jakub Stefan Cezak;
- Silesian Branch, Katowice (1929-1934), later absorbed by the Kraków Branch. Silesian Branch led by Wacław Olszewicz, Stanisław Warcholik, Zofia Buczkówna;
- Vilnius Branch (1935 – Sept. 17, 1939);
- Warsaw Branch (1935), main branch of the Society; led by Stanisław Lencewicz.
Principal accomplishments of the Polish Geographical Society after 1926 included extensive work on the organization of two geography conferences: (1) Second Congress of Slavic Geographers and Ethnographers (June 1-11, 1927), (2) Fourteenth Congress of the International Geographical Union (Warsaw, August 21-31, 1934). The latter congress was sponsored by two honorary patrons: (1) Marshall of Poland Józef Piłsudski, (2) President of Poland Ignacy Mościcki. Other examples of the work of the Society included efforts to train teachers. The Kraków, Łódź, and Silesia Branch of the Society were particularly active in this area. The Society was an active sponsor of research expeditions to polar regions and high mountain regions. For example, expeditions led by L. Sawicki were sponsored by the Society. On the initiative of the Society, the world celebrations of the memory of Roald Amundsen took place on 14 December 1928. In Poland, they were organized in Warsaw, Krakow and Łódź. On the 4th and 5th of May 1929, the Krakow Branch of the Polish Geographical Society prepared the “Tatra Conferences” devoted to the discussion on the need for scientific research in the Tatras and in the Sub-Tatra region.
In the 1930s, members of the Polish Geographical Society including Karol Bromek, Bonifacy Gajdzik, Stanisław Leszczycki, W. R. Ormicki, J. Smoleński, Tadeusz Wilgat, Antoni Wrzosek, and Bogdan Zaborski worked together in the emerging fields of spatial and regional planning. Franciszek Uhorczak worked in this field at the Lwów Geographical Society. Rajmund Galon and S. Pawłowski also worked in this field at the Poznań Geographical Society. Institutions emerged whose purpose was to create regional plans for selected areas. Geographers formed a large group of workers at such institutions. Key accomplishments in this field included regional plans designated “Functional Warsaw” and “Central Industrial Region” as well as “Podhale Region”. Most of the work in the area of regional planning was performed in Warsaw and Kraków.
The Polish Geographical Society published a large number of works prior to World War II. A total of 435 sheets were printed between 1918 and 1939. The various branches of the Society also held lectures and published papers. Other endeavors included field trips and courses for teachers.
The Society also attempted to create a nonpartisan forum for all Polish geography organizations to come together and work together. One example of this type of forum was the Association of Polish Geography Teachers established in 1922 in Łódź by Juliusz Jurczyński. The two consecutive chairmen of the Association were E. Romer and S. Pawłowski. In 1923 the Association began to publish the “Czasopismo Geograficzne” (“Geographic Journal”), which eventually became a key publication of the geographic societies of Lwów and Poznań. In spite of this, all Polish geographers were able to publish their papers in the “Journal”.
The Association functioned as a labor union for teachers and organized conventions of Polish geography teachers. The Association also held a national meeting every year. The last prewar meeting took place on May 28-30, 1939. Many different individuals associated with Polish geography were allowed to participate in the conventions including many members of the Polish Geographical Society and other institutions. The conventions played an important role in the growth of the field of geography in Poland.
Another organization facilitating collaboration between Polish geographers was the Intercollegiate Geographic Commission created at the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków in 1924. The Commission also assumed the administrative duties of the National Geographic Committee, which had represented Polish geographers at the International Geographical Union.
Eugeniusz Romer was elected Vice-President of the International Geographical Union at the Union’s convention in Paris in 1931 and again in Warsaw in 1934. Another geographer from Poland, Stanisław Pawłowski, replaced Romer at the Amsterdam Convention in 1938.
Difficult war years
The Polish Geographical Society formally suspended all organizational and research work during World War II. However, secret meetings were held in Warsaw and Kraków in order to discuss scientific issues, provide a forum for lectures, and discuss the future of the discipline in Poland. The years 1942-1944 were a period of heightened activity. Members of the Society were active in combat against both German and Soviet invaders. Some also chose to fight the enemy by publishing research papers with secret publishing operations run by Poland’s Home Army. Others secretly taught geography at the high school and university levels. Geographers played an important role in Underground Poland (secret government) and the Home Army. The Society also participated in work on Poland’s stance on the expected postwar change in national borders (S. Leszczycki, Stanisław Pietkiewicz, E. Romer, A. Wrzosek).
Many members of the Polish Geographical Society died during the period of German and Soviet occupation (1939-1945). Many were secretly murdered by German and Soviet authorities and some were killed in action. Examples include Antoni Sujkowski (President of the Polish Geographical Society, 1942), J. Smoleński (Chairman of the Kraków Branch, 1940), S. Pawłowski (Vice-President of the International Geographical Union, Chairman of the Poznań Geographic Society, 1940), Jakub Stefan Cezak (former Chairman of the Łódź Branch, 1940) and S. Lencewicz (Editor-in-Chief of the “Przegląd Geograficzny”, Chairman of the Warsaw Branch, 1944). A number of members of the Polish Geographical Society died at German concentration camps and Soviet labor camps. Many Polish military geographers were murdered by the Soviets at Katyń Forest in western Russia. The Polish geographer Eugeniusz Romer only survived the war by hiding. He was pursued by German authorities who sought to put him to death for publishing the Geographic and Statistical Atlas of Poland in 1916. Romer’s atlas had been used by the Allies to decide Poland’s borders in 1918, which resulted in the annexation of parts of German-occupied territory. The German government had accused Romer of high treason, a charge also supported by world renowned geomorphologist Albrecht Penck.
Despite many dangers, the Polish Geographical Society did not interrupt its activity and continued it underground. Geographers’ associations also functioned in prisoner-of-war camps, among others in Oflag II C Woldenberg (Dobiegniewo). In Warsaw, meetings of the Polish Geographical Society began on 21 April 1942. They were inaugurated by S. Lencewicz. Meetings were held mainly in private apartments. Meetings of the Polish Geographical Society were also held in Krakow. After 1943, anticipating high demand for teaching staff after the war, work on the reconstruction of geographic studies was started, and a proposal of a simplified and accelerated course of studies was developed. The necessity of reforming the activity of the Society was discussed.
The unification of the geographic movement and the development of the Society
World War II was followed by a transitional period that lasted for two years. The first postwar meeting of the leadership of the Polish Geographical Society was held in May of 1945. The meeting was ordered by the Society’s Vice-President Stanisław Srokowski. A temporary board was elected and the Warsaw Branch was organized. The Society’s Kraków Branch (led by S. Leszczycki) and the Lublin Branch (led by Adam Malicki) were also established in 1945. The Society’s leading publication – “Przegląd Geograficzny” – was revived by early 1946. Eugeniusz Romer was re-elected vice-president of the International Geographic Union. Immediately after the war, IGU President Emmanuel de Martonne learned about the murder of IGU Vice-President Pawłowski by the Germans in 1940 and, on his own responsibility, having ignored all the formalities, demanded that Romer perform the function. He emphasized that this was a function which had been intended for Polish geography. Romer performed this function until 1949, and only formally. The communist authorities refused to grant him permission to go abroad. After the war, the two geographers never saw each other. It was only from time to time that Romer received messages from de Martonne.
An organizational meeting was held in Wrocław on June 9-12, 1946 in order to help geography-oriented organizations and societies get reacquainted with one another – Polish Geographical Society, Poznań Geographical Society, as well as the Association of Polish Geography Teachers. The meeting attracted about 400 participants and was the first large postwar gathering of Polish geographers. Eugeniusz Romer gave the keynote address: The spiritual structure of Poland. A new President of the Polish Geographical Society was also elected – S. Srokowski. New rules and regulations were adopted. Two special departments were created within the Society: Research Department headed by S. Leszczycki and School Geography Department headed by August Zierhoffer. The meeting prompted many cities across Poland to establish local branches of the Polish Geographical Society. The prewar “Czasopismo Geograficzne” was revived in Wrocław as a quarterly of the Polish Geographical Society. In 1950 the Society moved to its current headquarters at Uruskich-Czetwertyńskich Palace in Warsaw, which is also the home of the Department of Geography at the University of Warsaw.
The Polish Geographical Society became the leading organizer of scientific life in the field of geography at the time. The Society initiated an array of research projects including those partly based at its own field research stations in Mikołajki, Wojcieszów, and Hala Gąsienicowa. In addition, the Society served as a publishing house for geographers. National conventions held by the Society became a forum for lively scientific discussion. A new popular science magazine called “Poznaj Świat” (“Discover the World”) was published for the first time in Kraków in 1948 by Editor-in-Chief Władysław Milata. The magazine was published for two years and was revived in 1956 in Warsaw. Its longtime Editor-in-Chief was S. Berezowski. The Polish Geographical Society ceased to publish “Poznaj Świat” in 2002 largely for financial reasons. The magazine was acquired by a private publishing house and remains a commercial publication today. In 1948 the Society began to work closely with the publisher of a magazine designed for teachers called “Geografia w Szkole” (“Geography in School”). The first Editor-in-Chief of the magazine was Polish Geographical Society Chairman S. Srokowski. In 1949 the Society actively contributed to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the formal study of geography in Poland in the Jagellonian University.
By the decision of state authorities, the Institute of Geography of the Polish Academy of Sciences was established in 1953 on the basis of the Department of Science of the Polish Geographical Society. S. Leszczycki, the then President of the Society, was appointed director of the new institution. On 13 December 1953, an Extraordinary General Meeting was held during which he resigned from office.
The new Institute of Geography was assigned the library collection maintained by the Polish Geographical Society. The collection had been maintained since 1918 and included 18,617 journal issues, books, publishing series, as well as 331 atlases and 8,140 map sheets. In addition, the Society was forced to give up some of its key assets including field research stations and publishing offices. One “victim” of this property transfer was the journal “Przegląd Geograficzny”.
This forced transfer of property also reduced the Society’s status in Poland and abroad. The mission of the Society also temporarily changed as a result. Its research projects became smaller and its main mission now was to popularize geography and address issues in school geography. The one large publication that remained in the hands of the Polish Geographical Society was the “Czasopismo Geograficzne.”
In search of a new identity
A number of years went by before the Polish Geographical Society could reshape its identity. One basic problem that persists in Poland even today is the generally low level of awareness of geography. Polish society tends to view geography as a memorization science based on encyclopedic knowledge. Geography is often seen as a laundry list of mountains, rivers, manufacturing data, and population densities. This is by no means an accident. This view persists today due to a low level of geography education at schools and universities as well as a relative inability to popularize the discipline. Furthermore, a closer look at other countries reveals that the above mentioned problems are not specific to Poland.
One sign that the field of geography is advancing in Poland is the designation of Poles to high-ranking positions within the International Geographical Union. Three geographers from Poland have served as Vice-Presidents of the Union: Eugeniusz Romer (1945-1949), Stanisław Leszczycki (1964-1968 and 1972-1976), Jerzy Kostrowicki (1976-1984). In addition, Leszek Kosiński served as Secretary General and Treasurer of the Union from 1984 to 1992. The greatest political success for Poland in the field of geography was the election of S. Leszczycki as President of the International Geographical Union (1968-1972). Leszczycki was the first Polish citizen to serve as President of the Union. All three men were active longtime members of the Polish Geographical Society.
Despite the unfavourable conditions, the Society decided to switch to other courses of action, which provided a guarantee for its further existence. The credit for this went to the successive presidents, prominent scholars, enjoying great authority at national and international level. Almost the entire environment of Polish geographers, both academics and teachers, as well as employees of various institutions, supported them in this endeavour. In 1958, the 6th National Congress of Geographers was held (5-8 September, Krakow-Zakopane), which was for the first time after the war attended by guests from abroad.
Since 2008, congresses of the Polish Geographical Society have been held every two years. Apart from nationwide meetings, there have also been regional congresses of the Polish Geographical Society (the first one held in Katowice in 1955). There are numerous conferences and conventions organized by individual Committees. Every year, the Polish Geographical Society provides patronage for about 20 scientific meetings of different kinds, many of which are international. The number of Branches has increased from 12 in 1946, to 18 in 1968, and 21 in 2017 (17 regional branches and 4 specialized ones). The number of members ranged from about 400 in 1946, to about 3,200 at the beginning of 1968, 2,310 in 1992, and nearly 1,200 at the end of 2016. Most members belong to the Krakow Branch (14%), Lublin Branch (12%), Katowice and Toruń Branches (11% each). Each branch pursues its own agenda with excursions in Poland and abroad, geography workshops, geo-ecological workshops abroad, geography contests for school students, and lectures for geography teachers. The Society’s general lectures have always been popular events, with more than 5,000 attendees each year. Special lectures for school students at various levels are also quite popular. A variety of different types of schools take part in these lectures. The Society also hosts a national convention every two years. Its various commissions also regularly host conferences and smaller meetings.
In 1964 the Polish Geographical Society began to create commissions of specialists and scientists in the following areas of the discipline – photo interpretation, hydrography, cartography, applied geography. The number of commissions increased with every year. Some of the commissions began to leave the Society in order to become independent. For example, the Geomorphology Commission was established within the Polish Geographical Society in 1982, but left to form its own Association of Polish Geomorphologists in 1991. Another example is the Landscape Ecology Club established in 1988, which left the Society to form its own Polish Landscape Ecology Association in 1992.
The first postwar research expeditions organized by the Polish Geographical Society took place in the 1960s. These included the yacht (“Śmiały”) expedition to South America in conjunction with fieldwork in Chile (1965-1966, Leader: T. Wilgat) and the expedition to Iceland in order to study the foreland of Skeidarár Glacier (1968, Leader: R. Galon). The Society also organized a number of polar expeditions. Its Polar Club was established in 1974, which was designed to bring together geographers as well as other researchers studying polar regions. The Club became an official branch of the Society in 1985. The founder and first Chairman of the Polar Club was Alfred Jahn. The Club began to publish the “Biuletyn Polarny” (“Polar Bulletin”) in 1993.
In 1974 the Polish Geographical Society and Poland’s Ministry of Education together began to organize Scholastic Geographic Olympiads. In 1991 the Olympiad changed its name to the Geographic and Nautical Olympiad in order to better reflect its content. In 2011 the name was changed once again to the Geographic Olympiad. The founder and longtime Chair of the Olympiad was Anna Dylikowa.
In 1983 the Polish Geographical Society initiated a process designed to integrate the Polish geography community, coordinate research, and provide a forum for the exchange of scientific information. One means of accomplishing these three goals was the concept of the Convention of Polish Geographers. The first such convention was held in Toruń in 1983. Another was held in Łódź (1986) and yet another in Poznań (1989). The conventions were abandoned once Poland made the transition from socialism to capitalism in 1989 mainly due to financial reasons. In 2006 the Society was designated a commonwealth organization, which is associated with a variety of tax benefits. This designation was largely due to the work of the Society’s Chairman Andrzej T. Jankowski.
In 2007, the Polish Geographical Society and its President Prof. Jerzy Bański took measures for the Society to play the leading role in our region. To this end, a meeting of representatives of geographical societies from Central and Eastern Europe was held in Kielce. It was attended by the presidents or representatives of the Geographical Societies of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Poland, and Russia.
The highest award offered by the Society is its Honorary Membership. A total of 150 individuals have received this award between 1920 and 2017. Sixty three of the honorary members came from outside of Poland (47.7%). Only eight of these awards were given prior to World War II. A total of 23 countries are represented by the honorary members from abroad. The largest number of foreign honorary members are from Russia and Great Britain (eight each). France and the Czech Republic are next with five awards each. Finally, three awards were given to researchers from each of the following countries: Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, United States, Holland.
The Polish Geographical Society introduced a number of new awards after World War II including the Medal (1963), which is awarded for exceptional work and service in the field of the geography of Poland and other areas of geography (115). Another award created after World War II is the Gold Badge (1967, 902 recipients to date). In 1985 the Society also started a national contest for the best master’s thesis in geography. By 2018, more than 30 laureates of the 1st place have been selected. Many of them decide to pursue an academic career.
Today the Polish Geographical Society publishes the following array of periodicals and publishing series: “Czasopismo Geograficzne” (“Geographic Journal”), “Polski Przegląd Kartograficzny” ( “Polish Cartographic Review”), “Teledetekcja Środowiska” (“Environmental Remote Sensing”), “Biuletyn Polarny” (“Polar Bulletin”), “Prace Komisji Geografii Przemysłu Polskiego Towarzystwa Geograficznego” (“Papers of the Commission of the Geography of Industry of the Polish Geographical Society”,) “Prace Komisji Krajobrazu Kulturowego” (“Papers of the Commission of the Cultural Landscape”), “Prace Komisji Geografii Komunikacji” (“Papers of the Commission of the Geography of Communication”), “Studia Obszarów Wiejskich” (“Rural Area Studies”), “Europa XXI”, “Przedsiębiorczość-Edukacja” (“Entrepreneurship and Education”), “Badania I podróże naukowe krakowskich geografów” (“The Research and Travels of Geographers from Kraków”), “Prace Komisji Edukacji Geograficznej” (“Papers of the Commission of the Geography Education”). In addition to periodicals, the Society also publishes or assists in the publication of 15 to 20 books each year. Finally, the Polish Geographical Society also sponsors about twenty scientific meetings per year, many of which are international in nature.
Poland was selected to host the Regional Conference of the International Geographical Union to be held on August 18-22, 2014. The host city will be Kraków. The selection of Kraków took place in Moscow in 2009 by the Executive Committee of the International Geographical Union. Professor Jerzy Bański, Chairman of the Polish Geographical Society at the time, led the effort to select Poland to host the conference. This will be the second major conference organized by the International Geographical Union to be held in Poland. The first conference was held in 1934 or eighty years ago. The Polish Geographical Society was one of the main organizers of this event via its role in the Steering Committee managing the organizational process. The conference entitled Changes, Challenges, Responsibility was held at the Campus of the 600th anniversary of the Jagiellonian University. President of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski took it under his patronage. It was attended by about 1,400 geographers from 64 countries. The conference sessions were accompanied by the exhibition organized in Collegium Maius (Museum of the Jagiellonian University) under the title The development of geographic thought in Poland, the first of its kind in the history of Polish geography (its authors were Małgorzata Taborska and Antoni Jackowski). The exhibition was available to visitors until 15 January 2015, and was visited by over 10,000 people.
In the autumn of 2012, the Executive Committee undertook activities related to the preparation of the 100th anniversary of the Polish Geographical Society in 2018. The discussions held in the various circles of the Society, as well as in other geographical assemblies, allowed to develop a programme of the jubilee celebrations. At the request of the Society, the Committee of Geographical Sciences adopted in 2016 a resolution recognizing the year 2018 as The Year of Polish Geography.
The jubilee celebrations associated with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Polish Geographical Society were inaugurated on 1-4 June 2016 in Paris by the International Congress Assises franco-polonaises de Géographie, and an occasional exhibition. The undertaking was held under the patronage of the Polish Ambassador to France dr Andrzej Byrt, who opened the congress and the exhibition, and the Rector of the Jagiellonian University prof. dr hab. med. Wojciech Nowak. The role of the host was performed by the Director of the Scientific Station of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Paris prof. dr hab. Marek Więckowski. The congress sessions were held at the Polish Embassy (plenary session), the Scientific Station of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and in the Polish Library. The tradition of Polish-French co-operation in the field of geography, current research links, and the possibilities of their development in the present century were discussed. Former heads or representatives of all co-operating geographic centres, as well as geographers from institutions interested in undertaking joint research, were present.
The exhibition Polish geography – tradition and modernity was organized at the premises of the Scientific Station of the Polish Academy of Sciences by the Polish Geographical Society, the Museum of the Jagiellonian University, and the Institute of Geography and Spatial Management of the Jagiellonian University. The developers of its concept, curators, and main authors were Antoni Jackowski (Institute of Geography and Spatial Management of the Jagiellonian University) and Małgorzata Taborska (the Museum of the Jagiellonian University). The most important events in Polish geography from the 15th century up to the present day were presented on 40 display-boards. The history of the Society was especially highlighted. The exhibition was available to visitors until September 2016. It was the third exhibition of this kind in Paris. The first two were organized by Eugeniusz Romer (1919, 1931).
During the Congress, a five-year Convention on scientific co-operation between Polish and French geographers was signed at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland. The signatories were professors Antoine le Blanc (Comité National Francais de Géographie – National Geographic Committee of France), Marek Degórski (National Geographic Committee of Poland), and Antoni Jackowski (Polish Geographical Society).
Following through the history of the Polish Geographical Society, we arrive at one main conclusion, i.e. that most of the 100-year period has fallen on difficult and sometimes even dangerous times. The Society was formed at the end of partitioned Poland, when the First World War was still in progress. At the dawn of Polish independence, the Polish-Bolshevik war broke out (1919-1921), in which many geographers took active part. It was followed by the time of the Society’s spontaneous development, which was disrupted by the break-up of the geographic movement, as well as by the general economic depression of the 1920s and 1930s. In spite of all attempts, the Society did not show such vital force as it had in its first period of existence. This situation was not changed by the two great international geographic events that took place in Poland, i.e. the 2nd Congress of Slavic Geographers and Ethnographers (1927), and the 14th Congress of International Geographic Union (1934). Alterations to the organizational structure did not help much, either. All these conditions resulted in the fact that the Polish Geographical Society did not achieve the status of a significant scientific and social organization, corresponding to the aspirations of the geographers of an important European state, which was Poland. Then came the difficult years of World War II, during which the Germans and the Soviets murdered many geographers, including the activists of the Polish Geographic Society, and the property of the Society was also destroyed. Almost immediately after the end of the war, attempts were made to unite the geographic movement. It took place during the Wrocław congress in 1946. What followed was a period of dynamic development of the Society, which became the coordinator of all activities related to geography. Its Branches enabled the Society to cover various social groups. A group of active members who, throughout the whole period, were and still are the “salt” of the Society, began to form at that time. These actions were not disrupted even during the so-called Stalinist times, when communist repressions affected some geographers. This highly promising process was abruptly stopped and discontinued by political decisions taken outside the Society. The obligation to hand over to the Institute of Geography of the Polish Academy of Sciences a considerable part of material and non-material resources caused a deep crisis in the later activity of the Polish Geographical Society, and its effects are still visible today. For many years the Society was downgraded to the role of a minor association, which in social awareness was associated almost exclusively with school geography and the popularization of geographic knowledge. Thanks to the effort of its members, the Society slowly began to recover its losses, although its former glory was far away. And when it just seemed that the chances of its revival had materialised, a new threat in the form of disconnecting some problem committees from the Society and establishing by them their own independent associations, appeared. Next, there were serious problems, mostly financial, related to the process of the socio-economic and political transformation after 1989. Again, it took years to consolidate and adapt to the new situation.
At present, it is hoped that the Society will again play a significant role in the scientific, social, cultural and economic life of Poland. This optimistic feeling arises from the level of scientific achievements attained by the problem committees and the specialized departments, as well as from the activity of the Society’s branches. Increasingly, experts of the Polish Geographical Society are invited by state and local authorities to co-operate in various areas of public life. The Committee for Geographic Education, the proposals of which have been largely taken into account by educational authorities, can boast some significant achievements.
Over the past 100 years, the Polish Geographical Society has continually made Poles aware of the important role that geography plays in economic and social, as well as in cultural life. Our ancestors proved it in various historical periods. It was geography that, alongside history, was the main source of patriotic education for many generations of Polish young people. Now, action is needed to improve the relationships between the environment of geographers and the Society. Wanting to attract new members, the traditions and achievements of the Society should be popularized. It should be hoped that the immediate future, and especially the jubilee events, will be a sufficient inspiration for the Society’s revival.