Dr. Piotr Osęka

Curriculum Vitae

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