Ever since the partitions of the late eighteenth century Poland had ceased to exist as an independent state, Polish territories and populations becoming part of the Russian, Austrian and German empires. Although Western Europe and the Americas were the foremost destinations of Polish migrations, a Polish community of up to ten thousand individuals formed in Manchuria and smaller groups of Poles lived in various Chinese treaty ports. The end of the First World War saw the fall of empires, the reshuffling of European borders and the creation of the Polish Second Republic. As in all centres with sizeable Polish diasporic communities, nationalist activists formed Polish independence committees in Harbin, Shanghai, Tianjin and other Chinese cities in 1918. Among others, these committees dealt with applications for Polish citizenship that individuals with a Polish background were supposed to acquire in exchange for Russian, Austrian or German citizenship. Based on a microhistorical analysis of biographical notes, letters and other artefacts preserved in the Central Archives of Modern Records (Archiwum Akt Nowych) in Warsaw, this paper discusses applications for Polish citizenship submitted to the Polish Independence Association (Związek Polski Niepodległościowy) in Tianjin in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. Decisions to apply for Polish citizenship were often made out of immediate practical considerations and were sometimes later revoked. Rather than a matter of fact that only needed formal approval, the change of citizenship was subject to negotiation. This paper considers how the change or non-change of nationality added a further border-crossing dimension to the lives of Poles in East Asia who without doubt – in terms of a social history of globalization – were “transnational actors” with “global lives” and “imperial biographies”. Copyright © 2019 AAWH.
|Publication status||Published - Jan 2019|