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Swedish politician repeats call for return of Laski Statute to Poland

Jacek Turczyk/PAP

Swedish parliamentarian Bjoern Soeder has repeated his call for the Swedish government to return to Poland the 1506 Laski Statute, currently held in the special collection of the Uppsala University Library.

In July, the then Social Democratic Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde, refused to hand over the document to Poland. The politician, in her reply to Soeder, referred to the “restrictive practice on the return of the spoils of war, used by most countries” and added that “The spoils of war from the 17th century are legal gains under the international law of that time”.

In a new inquiry to the head of Swedish diplomacy Tobias Billstroem, who replaced Linde, Soeder cited additional information from the Uppsala University Library. According to Swedish librarians, “most of the evidence indicates that the document did not reach Sweden by plunder in the 17th century,” that is, during the Swedish Deluge (1655-60).

“On the title page of the book there is the signature of King Gustav II Adolf and the year 1616. This makes it too early to be a spoil of war. The first plunder sanctioned by the Swedish state took place during the occupation of Riga in 1621,” said the librarians.

“It was not the custom for a king to sign books obtained as spoils of war,” the Swedish experts wrote, “however, it does suggest that the book was a gift from a high-ranking person, whom we cannot identify today, and Gustav II Adolf appreciated the gift and included it in his book collection,” they added.

Soeder noted that “the return of the Laski Statute should be less problematic as it does not appear to be a spoil of war.”

Billstroem has until November 16 to express his position on the matter.

The Laski Statute of 1506 (passed in 1505) is the first published collection of the laws of the Kingdom of Poland dating back to the times of King Casimir the Great. It was issued on the order of King Aleksander Jagiellonczyk, and the initiator of the project was Crown Chancellor Jan Laski, later archbishop of Gniezno and the primate of Poland, from whom the statute took its name. One copy is kept in the collections of the Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw, and the other in the Uppsala University Library. In 2016, the documents were added to the Polish List of UNESCO’s National Memory of the World Programme. 


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