Marek Karp

Marek Karp was born on 2 July 1952 in Zamość. He was bringing back the traditions of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania and felt responsible for the legacy of Lithuanian members of the Karp family. In 1980, he graduated from the University of Warsaw Institute of History (with a thesis on the awareness of state and regional community in medieval myths about the origins of Poland). His passions included the history of art and architecture. In the 1980s, he published papers on the history of Central Europe (through underground publishing organisations), co-created the underground periodical “Res Publica” for which he also worked as a journalist, and participated in the independent forum “Polska w Europie” (“Poland in Europe”). Between 1986 and 1990, he was head of the Main Library of Academy of Arts in Warsaw and lectured on the history of arts at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. Between 1989-1991, Marek Karp worked as a researcher at the University of Warsaw Department of Baltic Studies where he specialised in the history of Lithuania. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he actively supported the Lithuanian independence movement Sajudis. During Lithuania’s critical moments he was a contact point between the Tadeusz Mazowiecki government and the Sajudis leaders.

Marek Karp developed the idea of the Centre for Eastern Studies, established in late 1990 by the Mazowiecki government, and was the Director of OSW for many years. He was an advocate of dialogue with the countries which emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. He died on 12 September 2004 during the treatment of injuries suffered as a result of a car accident which had occurred one month earlier near Biała Podlaska.

Marek Karp was awarded the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas by the Lithuanian authorities. He also received the Aleksander Gieysztor award granted by the editorial board of "Przegląd Wschodni", and the Jerzy Giedroyć award (posthumously, together with OSW). He was also awarded the Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by the Polish president (posthumously) for his contribution to the development of co-operation between the nations of Central and Eastern Europe.

Marek never sought publicity. He was a modest man with a great heart, respectful to others, direct and willing to disinterestedly help other people. He will always remain a role model for us.

Origins of the Centre

“[…] Stanisław Swianiewicz had been a soldier of the Polish Military Organisation (POW) in 1919 and had fought in the wars of 1920 and September 1939, but such biographies were not uncommon among the other prisoners of the Soviet camps in Kozelsk, Starobilsk and Ostashkov. What really interested the NKVD officers was the research done by Prof. Swianiewicz at the Institute for Eastern European Research in Vilnius. The Institute had done pioneering work in many areas, including a comparative study of the economies of totalitarian states, i.e. fascist Germany and the Soviet Union (Swianiewicz) or research into the Soviet Union’s internal evolution (Wiktor Sukiennicki), and most importantly, had developed an innovative methodology which consisted in thoroughly analysing the propaganda and official data in order to observe, over longer periods, the changes revealing the processes actually taking place in totalitarian states separated from the rest of the world by secret police, censorship and the propaganda apparatus.

[...] In the 1980s, a young man started to visit Prof. Swianiewicz. It was Marek Karp..."

Quotation: "Okręt Koszykowa", ed. Jacek Borkowicz, Jacek Cichocki, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa 2007


Creation of the Centre for Eastern Studies

“ ... The lack of thorough knowledge on the economic and social situation in the USSR, in Moscow, in the individual union republics and autonomous regions, in provinces, was a problem for our ministries focused on the economy and our entrepreneurs, as it limited the opportunities for reviving Polish exports. It was with immense interest that in spring 1990 I became familiar with the project of a data base on the USSR containing information gathered using open-source intelligence methods, i.e. analysing newspaper articles, official publications, radio and TV broadcasts etc. The project had been devised by Marek Karp, art historian, co-editor of “Res Publica”, director of the Main Library of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, a man of impressive knowledge and persistence. Trying to make his concept reality, Marek was invincible, and I helped him a little, raising funds and breaking legal barriers. In December 1990, together with minister Marcin Święcicki, I signed the founding act of the Centre for Eastern Studies at the Ministry for International Economic Cooperation. Nineteen years later I can certainly say that the decision was right. World-class experts on Eastern affairs are impressed by the precision and extent of OSW’s analytical expertise. Admittedly, there have been a couple of activists calling for the Centre to be liquidated – according to an old Polish rule that if something is working well, it should be destroyed – but fortunately none of the ministers of the economy has ever done what these mistaken advisers suggested”.

Quotation from: "Historia z konsekwencjami" [History with consequences], a conversation between Krzysztof Kozłowski and Michał Komar, Świat Książki, Warszawa 2009


The Centre for Eastern Studies was established on the basis of Order no. 15 of the Minister of Foreign Economic Cooperation Marcin Święcicki - it entered into force on 1 January 1991. Marek Karp was appointed the first director of the newly established institution. The head office was organized in a couple of rooms in a tenement house formerly owned by RSW “Ruch” (the media company of Communist Poland) in 6a Koszykowa Street.


“[...] In that initial period there was no expertise or experience that could be used in creating an analytic institution within the state administration. The few people who did have the necessary skills had already been engaged elsewhere. Therefore, in the early days the Centre developed based on intuition and a certain vision of what an analytic institution should be, which was to be tested in practice later on, as we gathered experience.”

Quotation: "Okręt Koszykowa", ed. Jacek Borkowicz, Jacek Cichocki, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa 2007



Mid-1990’s was a period of major changes within OSW. Originally, the Centre would split its activities into information gathering and analysis. Since 1995 the institution has been a purely analytical centre.

“[…] The Centre has moved from asking the question ‘what is happening’ to trying to explain ‘why it is happening’. It has made a major leap and adjusted itself to the expectations of its audience. The specific nature of OSW’s organization involves, among other things, constant internal critical assessment of the Centre’s own activities. This is because ongoing self-regulation is an element of the institution’s organizational culture.”

The second half of the decade was a time of dynamic technological development connected with the emergence of the Internet. This contributed to making the Centre’s work more efficient and the Centre itself “becoming open” to recipients other than state administration. This was when our first website was created containing materials available to anyone interested.

Quotation: "Okręt Koszykowa", ed. Jacek Borkowicz, Jacek Cichocki, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa 2007


Not only the East

The continuously unstable situation in the Balkans and the growing importance of Poland’ s southern neighbours in the context of NATO enlargement convinced the Centre to expand its area of interest by the region of Central Europe and the Balkans.


Death of Marek Karp

Marek Karp – the initiator and founder of the Centre for Eastern Studies – died on 12 September 2004, after a month of hospital treatment following a car accident.

“[…] The Centre was the biggest accomplishment in the colourful life of Marek Karp – it was a fulfilment of his big dream which involved working for an independent Polish state and conducting in-depth research into the East.

[…] Over these almost twenty years he managed to protect OSW from external attacks; he himself was a rare example of a man who was valued by everyone in Poland, regardless of their political background. In 2005 Marek Karp (posthumously) and OSW received the prestigious Jerzy Giedroyć award. On 12 September 2006 minister of the economy Piotr Woźniak officially named the Centre after its founder and the first director.”

Marek Karp’s successor as OSW director was Jacek Cichocki.

Quotation: "Okręt Koszykowa", ed. Jacek Borkowicz, Jacek Cichocki, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa 2007


Further expansion of the area of interest

Poland’s joining the European Union had generated the need to relate OSW’s analytical activities also to the policy of the West, which resulted in the creation of the German Department in 2005.


Change of command onboard the Koszykowa Ship

In 2007 Jacek Cichocki resigned from the post of executive director of OSW to start his work in the government of the Republic of Poland. Dr Jolanta Darczewska was appointed the new executive director. In 2011 she was succeeded by Olaf Osica.


Turkey and the Baltic-Nordic region

On 1 January 2012 the Centre’s area of interest expanded further to include Turkey and the Baltic-Nordic region.

In the same year the long awaited Act on the Centre for Eastern Studies named after Marek Karp came into effect


On 15 February 2016 Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland nominated Adam Eberhardt for the office of executive director of the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW). Mateusz Gniazdowski has became the new deputy director.