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Klaczko, Julian

(1825–1906), political activist and journalist. Julian Klaczko was born to a wealthy merchant family in Vilna. Influenced by his father’s Haskalah ideology, he was educated in both Hebrew and Polish, and was tutored by Shemu’el Yosef Fuenn, among others. Klaczko published his first poems when he was 13, initially in Polish in the collection Pierwsza ofiara (The First Sacrifice; 1838) and then in Hebrew in the volume Dudaim (1842). Other texts in Hebrew such as the novel The Fisherman remained unpublished. Those works were strongly influenced by the poetry of Adam Mickiewicz.

In 1840, Klaczko studied at the university in Königsberg and later in Heidelberg. Around 1844, he lost interest in Jewish matters and never returned to them in subsequent writing. He only referred to his origins when he was aggrieved by apparent insults about his roots (the most famous instance was his conflict with the writer Zygmunt Krasiński). Klaczko’s break with Jewishness was sealed by his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1856 after his father’s death.

In 1847, Klaczko received his doctoral degree and began to write for the liberal periodical Deutsche Zeitung. He then moved to Berlin, where he took part in events associated with the 1848 Revolution. After its defeat, he moved to Paris, writing for Polish and French periodicals. In the 1860s, he acquired his reputation as the leading columnist in France.

Klaczko was close to the conservative Polish émigré circles of the Hotel Lambert and during the insurrection of 1863 initiated diplomatic activities in their name. In 1870, he undertook a brief diplomatic mission on behalf of Austria and accepted a high government post in Vienna. His activities aimed to strengthen Austrian–Polish cooperation against Prussian aspirations for domination in Europe. The defeat of France in the latter war put an end to his political activities but not to his political journalism. His study Deux chanceliers (Two Chancellors; 1875–1876), discouraged an alliance between Russia and Prussia, and received great publicity. In 1887, he settled in Kraków, where he played a considerable role in Galician conservative circles.

Klaczko gained fame as an exquisite stylist in Polish, German and—above all—French, in which he wrote his most important works of cultural history, especially Causeries florentines (Florentine Evenings; 1880), and Rome et la Renaissance Jules II (Rome and the Renaissance: Julius II; 1893). In Polish literature he supported the poetry of Zygmunt Krasiński and Adam Mickiewicz.

Suggested Reading

Roman Brandstaetter, “Tragedja Juljana Klaczki,” Miesięcznik żydowski 2 (1932): 383–412; Stanisław Tarnowski, Julian Klaczko, 2 vols. (Kraków, 1909).



Translated from Polish by Bartek Madejski