Aleksander Brückner

Aleksander Brückner was born in 1856 near Tarnopol (now Ternopil) in Austrian Galicia. As a graduate of the German Gymnasium in Lemberg (now L'viv), and as a student of Classical, Indo-European, and Polish philology in Lemberg and Vienna, Brückner had an equally good knowledge of Polish and German, and probably of Ukrainian as well. After completing his dissertation on Slavic loanwords in Lithuanian (Die slavischen Fremdwörter im Litauischen) in Vienna, his language skills permitted him to continue his Slavic studies in Leipzig and Berlin. In 1878, he completed his habilitation in Leipzig on Slavic settlements in Altmark and around Magdeburg (Die slavischen Ansiedelungen in der Altmark und im Magdeburgischen). After a short tenure as a lecturer in Lemberg, he was appointed professor for Slavic studies in Berlin in 1881 and given full professorial status in 1892. He would continue to conduct research and teach in Berlin for 58 years, until his death in May 1939. He remained in continual contact with researchers in Poland and other countries of East Central Europe

Brückner's academic work is both impressive in its size and pronouncedly diverse in its method and content. In addition to his important work on Slavic linguistics and literature, Brückner published numerous trailblazing studies on the cultural history of Poland, the history of the Reformation, ethnology, and archeology. His strong interest in the ethnic, religious, and linguistic complexity of Polish history and culture is of particular note. In Germany, Aleksander Brückner made a significant contribution toward achieving recognition for the academic study of the languages and cultures of Eastern Europe. Brückner, moreover, played an active role in the cultural and political dialogue between Poland and Germany.

In Brückner’s footsteps

How can we design research today on Poland, past and present? What role can references to Brückner's life and academic work play to this end? His example is of particular significance to our interdisciplinary aims, as he personally embodies a pursuit of research on Poland that crosses all boundaries. This applies to the frequently shifting political borders of Poland throughout history, to the linguistic boundaries, as well as those between academic disciplines. The polymath Aleksander Brückner can inspire us in our studies, as we strive toward an academic view of the subject of Poland that is as comprehensive as possible, while anchored in the core disciplines of history and Slavic studies.

This can, however, no longer be the endeavor of a single person that it was in Brückner's day, but is made possible through intensive communications between numerous researchers in a variety of disciplines.