Prof. Krzysztof Pomian becomes doctor honoris causa of the University of Gdańsk


Prof. Krzysztof Pomian, an outstanding philosopher, historian, and publicist, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Gdańsk. The ceremony to confer the honorary dignity took place in Artus Court on May 10, this year.

‘The title of doctor honoris causa is the highest honorary dignity at a university. At the University of Gdańsk we award it to outstanding personalities who have an impact not only on science, but also on our life, including non-academic life,' said the Rector of the University of Gdańsk, prof. Piotr Stepnowski. ‘Not only do we honour distinguished personalities, but we also enrich our community in this way with their experience and wisdom. It is trite but true to say that history is made every day, enabling us to understand the present and prepare for the future by benefiting from the experience of previous generations.’

Professor Krzysztof Pomian is the eighth historian and the seventy-first person to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Gdańsk. The committee reviewing the awarding of this honourary title was composed of: the Dean of the Faculty of History dr hab. Arkadiusz Janicki, prof. UG, prof. dr hab. Stanisław Rosiek, and prof. dr hab. Wiesław Długokęcki,  while the reviewers were prof. dr hab. Tomasz Jasiński, prof.dr hab.  Antoni Ziemba, and prof. dr hab. Małgorzata Omilanowska-Kiljańczyk.

Prof. Małgorzata Omilanowska-Kiljańczyk also delivered the laudation. In her speech, she referred to the beginnings of Prof. Krzysztof Pomian's academic career at the University of Warsaw, where he defended his doctoral thesis in 1965 and his habilitation thesis in 1968. In the same year, he was expelled from the university for his participation in the March events.

‘The professor was involved in preparing Gdańsk's application for the title of European Capital of Culture. For many years, he supported the construction of the permanent exhibition of the Second World War Museum with his knowledge as a member of the Programme College,’ the laudator mentioned. ‘Between 2008 and 2016, he was a member of the jury of the European Poet of Freedom literary award and regularly came to Gdańsk for the meetings of this body, giving lectures and readings on the occasion.’

After the laudation, the Dean of the Faculty of History, prof. UG Arkadiusz Janicki, read out the diploma, and the Rector, prof. Piotr Stepnowski, on the basis of a resolution of the UG Senate, officially awarded prof. Krzysztof Pomian an honorary doctorate from the University of Gdańsk for ‘daring to follow the untrodden paths of knowledge and the search for truth; for marking out new areas of research; for his contribution to the development of the global humanities, and for his research into the history of world museology’.

Prof. Krzysztof Pomian himself also spoke about his ties to Gdańsk in his lecture. In addition to the experiences mentioned by prof. Małgorzata Omilanowska-Kiljańczyk, he also talked about his cooperation with the Gdańsk-based publishing house słowo/obraz terytoria and the Neptun Prize, which he received in 2018 from the hands of the Mayor of the City of Gdańsk Paweł Adamowicz.

A significant part of prof. Krzysztof Pomian's speech was devoted to transgression. In particular, the transgression of borders in European culture and the effects of these actions, from religious wars to colonisation to recent history. The very choice of the lecture's topic was a subtle nod to Gdańsk, as 'Transgressions' is the title of a publishing series edited by prof. Maria Janion, who is strongly associated with Gdańsk.

‘For in the 20th century, transgression initiated by cognitive dynamics resulted in yet another transgression of the boundaries of humanity on an unprecedented scale, first in the trenches of the First World War, and later in the crimes of totalitarianism: in the Holocaust and the Gulag. The history of transgression was a history of creation and progress - and at the same time, a history of destruction and bestiality. Could it have been different? There is no unanimous answer and there cannot be. Can and should it be different in the future? And if the answer is yes, how to make it so?’ professor Krzysztof Pomian concluded his speech.

On behalf of the Mayor of the City of Gdańsk, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, her deputy Piotr Grzelak congratulated the new doctor honoris causa of the University of Gdańsk. In her congratulatory letter, the Mayor expressed particular thanks for the professor's promotion of European values and the project of a common Europe. Then, on behalf of the Pomeranian Voivode Beata Rutkiewicz, the floor was taken by the Deputy Voivode Emil Rojek, who thanked prof. Krzysztof Pomian for all his scientific, teaching, and museum activities.

The ceremony concluded with a performance by the Academic Choir of the University of Gdańsk. Assistant conductor Filip Cieszynski performed Fryderyk Chopin's Prelude in D flat major Op. 28 No. 15, also known as the ‘Rain Prelude’, and the choristers sang a song by South American Indians from the Ketchua tribe entitled 'Hymn to the Sun'.

Marcel Jakubowski; photo Alan Stocki