People's Republic, 1969-1981 since 1990

People's Republic, 1981-1990

Administration . From 1972 to 1985, Henryk Jablonski served as Chairman of the Council of State; he was succeeded by General Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski, the man who had led the coup d'etat in 1981 and had been the dominant figure in Polish politics since. Poland was the world's only communist military dictatorship. Parliamentary elections were held in 1985.

Foreign Policy . Poland remained a loyal member of COMECON and Warsaw Pact.

Political History . President Jaruzelski imposed martial law, had Solidarnosz outlawed, Lech Walesa arrested (he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985). Solidarnosz continued to operate in the underground, printing its own newspapers; while the Communist Party seemed increasingly out-of-touch with the population, Solidarnosz attracted more and more followers. Another organization providing a rallying point for persons disaffected with the political system was the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II. (Karol Woytyla, 1978-2005) was a Pole as well as an outspoken critic of Catholicism; he visited Poland in June 1983, and in June 1987.
In 1983, Lech Walesa, founder of Solidarnosz and at that time held in a Polish prison, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The murder of Catholic priest Jerzy Popieluszko in 1984 by Polish Security Police officers was executed in such a clumsy way, that an eyewitness, Popieluszko's driver, could escape and identify the perpetrators. The trial in which the secret agents were accused of the act was a major embarrassment for the government and political system.
When Gorbachev, in the USSR, announced his policy of Glasnost and Perestroyka (1985), the tide in Poland began to turn. President Jaruzelski lost Soviet backing for a hardline policy; Round Table Conferences with participation of Solidarnosz were held. The years 1989 to 1990 saw the transition to a multiparty democracy. In 1989, the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP) declared bankrupcy.

The Economy . In the years 1956-1973, Poland had subsidized consumer goods and by doing so accumulated national debt. When the Oil Crisis struck in 1973, the country had to enter on a policy of cutting spending and of raising as much hard currency revenue as possible, in order to purchase the most vital imports; the economic situation of Poland deteriorated faster than that of her COMECON neighbours. Most quality meat was canned and sold, for low prices, to western European supermarket chains. In Poland, meanwhile, food coupons were reinroduced - an anomaly in peacetime.
In 1981, Poland produced 4.2 million metric tons of wheat, in 1988 7.5 million metric tons (IHS p.291).
Poland produced as much coal as possible, in mines with outdated, crumbling facilities, utilizing coal which contained a lot of pollutants. One area in which Poles were at the cutting edge of production was the restoration of historic buildings; wherever in Europe in the 1980es historic buildings were restored, Polish experst were consulted.

Social History . The standard of living in Poland had sunken significantly during the late 1970es and 1980es. In front of shops often people stood in line, at times without knowing what item would be on offer. If there was a line, something must have been on offer, and it must have been worth the wait.
Working-age Poles, in large numbers, tried to leave the country and find employment abroad, legally or illegally.
If a Polish soccer team visited a city in western Europe, on the way back many were missing - applying for asylum.

Cultural History . For papal visits see under political history.
Polish athletes boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles 1984, and participated in the Summer Olympics of Seoul 1988, where Poles took 2 gold medals.

Articles History of Poland (1945-1989), List of Pastoral Visits of Pope John Paul II. outside Italy, Elections in Poland, Jerzy Popieluszko, Lech Walesa, Polish United Workers' Party, Poland at the 1988 Summer Olympics, from Wikipedia
The Solidarity Movement in Poland, from Solidarity Museum
History of the Solidarity movement, by Kalmbach
The History of Solidarnosc: From Worker Rebellion in 1956 to the Election of Lech Walesa, by Stephen M. Scott
DOCUMENTS Brezhnev-Jaruzelski telephone conversation Oct. 19th. 1981, from CNN Cold War Site
Minutes No. 64 from an expanded meeting of the PZPR CC Secretariat of held on June 5, 1989, from The Revolutions of 1989, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 22 from GWU
Talks of Chancellor Kohl with the President of the "Solidarity" Trade Union, Walesa; Warsaw, 9 November 1989, from The Revolutions of 1989, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 22 from GWU
Ration Coupons, from Internet Museum of the Polish People's Republic, English comment
Polish banknotes, from Ron Wise's World Paper Money, and from Currency Museum
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, former president of Poland, 105th Landon Lecture, March 11, 1996, posted by Kansas State
Martial Law in Poland, Adopted by the TILC Conference, 27-31 December 1981, posted by International Trotskyist Opposition (partial)
REFERENCE Article Poland, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1982 pp.577-578, 1983 pp.570-571, 1984 pp.569-570, 1985 pp.550-551, 761, 1986 pp.545-547, 760, 1987 pp.516-517, 728, 1988 pp.471-472, 680, 1989 pp.473-474, 680, 1990 pp.489-491, 696 [G]
Article : Poland, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1983-1984 pp.991-1000, 1984-1985 pp.991-999, 1985-1986 pp.991-1000, 1986-1987 pp.991-1000, 1987-1988 pp.995-1004, 1988-1989 pp.997-1006, 1989-1990 pp.1009-1018, 1990-1991 pp.1011-1019 [G]
Article : Poland, in : The World in Figures 4th ed. 1984 pp.248-250 [G]
Article : Poland, in : Americana Annual 1988 pp.429-431, 1989 pp.430-432, 1990 pp.429-432 [G]
Article : Poland, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Encyclopedia Yearbook 1983 pp.331-333 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 21st 2007

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