This article deals with the postwar confrontation of the rural and the urban in Poland. It sheds light on a time of mass migration to the cities and the postwar reconstruction in Central Europe, heading towards state-socialism, and focuses on official discourses concerning peasants as new social and political subjects and the intelligentsia’s response to rural newcomers. A testing ground for these processes was the Polish city of Łódź, the biggest textile industrial centre.
These processes became the subject of both journalistic and academic inquiries framed by political efforts to reshape the ‘social imaginary’ (Taylor) through the state’s ‘socialist modernization’. Along with the scale of migration, there was another unprecedented aspect: peasants were becoming citizens, recognised political subjects, later even as privileged representatives of the People’s Republic. The postwar press and political speeches encouraged them to become a part of the modernisation project. Almost immediately, counter-narratives followed and lamented the newcomers’ ‘improper’ uses of the city. The term ‘ruralisation of the city’ was coined to describe the misuses of urban spaces, a moral decline and even the negative influence of peasants on the urban working class.