People's Republic, 1981-1990

Poland, since 1990

Administration . The (Communist) constitution of 1952 was amended in 1992 and replaced by a democratic constitution in 1997.
From 1990 to 1995, the presidency was held by Lech Walesa; from 1995 to 2005 by Alexander Kwasniewski, since 2005 by Lech Alexander Kaczynski. The office of PM was held by Tadeusz Mazowiecki (NSZZ/UD) from 1989 to 1991, by Jan K. Bielecki (KLD) in 1991, by Jan Olszewski (PC) 1991-1992, by Waldemar Pawlak (PSL) 1992 and 1993-1995, by Hanna Suchocka (UD) 1992-1993, by Jozef Oleksy (SdRP/SLD) 1995-1996, by Wlodimierz Cimoscewicz (SdRP/SLD) 1996-1997, by Jerzy Karol Buzek (AWS) 1997-2001, by Leszek Cezary Miller (SLD) 2001-2004, Marek Belka (SLD) 2004-2005, by Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PiS) 2005-2006, by Jaroslaw Kaczynski (PiS) since 2006.
Parliamentary elections were held in 1991, 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2005. The capital is Warszawa (Warsaw).

Foreign Policy . COMECON and Warsaw Pact, both of which Poland had been a founder member of, became obsolete by 1991.
In 1999, Poland joined NATO and in 2004 the EU. Soviet troops began to leave Polish territory in 1992. Poland contributed forces to the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 (Operation Desert Storm), supported Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan since 2001, joined the Coalition of the Willing in 2003, contributed forces (the third largest contingent, after the U.S. and U.K., but before Australia) to the occupation of Iraq.
Poland supported the democratic forces in Belarus and Ukraine, and has good relations with the administration which came to power in Ukraine in the Orange Revolution (2004-2005); relations with Belarus and Russia are poor. When the U.S. administration announced plans to station anti-missile batteries in Poland (2007), Russia objected.
When Germany and Russia in 2005 announced plans to lay a gas pipeline from Vyborg to Greifswald on the bottom of the Baltic sea, to be finished by 2010, Poland (through which gas hitherto was delivered from Russia to Germany, the Druzhba Pipeline) expressed concerns that this might lead to gas supplies to Poland being cut in the future.
In 2007, during negotiations toward a reform of the decisionmaking process within the EU, Poland criticized initial proposals for reducing the influence of Poland within the EU.

Political History . Under President Lech Walesa a number of short-lived cabinets implemented a policy of transition from a Communist state-planned economy to a free market economy; this policy caused hardship, as the country experienced inflation, a lowering of the standard of living, the closure of industrial enterprises, rising unemployment.
President Alexander Kwasniewski (1995-2005) brought an economic upturn, and political stability, the cabinets led by J.K. Buzek and L.C. Miller lasting for several years each.

The Economy . In 1990 the Polish state began the process of eliminating mechanisms to control the country's economy. Price fixation by the state was abolished, the national currency, the Zloty, allowed to float, state subsidies for businesses cut, state-owned businesses privatized. The Gdansk Shipyard, where Lech Walesa had worked as an electrician, narrowly avoided having to declare bankrupcy. From 1992 onward Poland experienced significant economic growth.
The Warsaw Stock Exchange was reestablished in 1991.

Social History . Transition from a Communist society to a free democratic society was painful, brought a sharp decline in the standard of living in 1989-1991. Since, Poland has made progress; yet the per-capita GDP is considerably lower than that of Poland's neighbour to the west.

Cultural History . Polish athletes participated in the Summer Olympics of Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. Poles took 3 gold in Barcelona, 7 in Atlanta, 6 in Sydney and 3 in Athens.
In 1999, German author Günter Grass, a native of Danzig (Gdansk), was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Many of his novels feature in Danzig.
In 2000, Krakow (Cracow) was European capital of culture.
The publication of Microcosm : Portrait of a Central European City (= Wroclaw / Breslau) by British historians Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse (2002) marks a turning point in the historiography of an area long contested by Polish and German historiography - a "first" written neither from a Polish nor a German perspective.
The Old City of Zamosc was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, the Teutonic Order castle in Malbork (Marienburg) and the medieval city of Torun (Thorn) in 1997, the landscape park in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in 1999, the churches of Jawor (Jauer) and Swiednica (Schwiednitz) in 2001, the wooden churches of southern Little Poland in 2003, the Muskauer Park / Park Muzakowski (partially located in Germany) in 2004, the Centennial Hall in Wroclaw (Breslau) in 2006.

Articles History of Poland (1989-present), Politics of Poland, Economy of Poland, Constitution of the Republic of Poland, Elections in Poland, Operation Enduring Freedom : Allies, Gulf War : Building a Coalition, Multinational force in Iraq, Poland at the 1992 Summer Olympics, Poland at the 1996 Summer Olympics, Poland at the 2000 Summer Olympics, Poland at the 2004 Summer Olympics, European Capital of Culture, List of World Heritage Sites : Europe - Poland, from Wikipedia
Timeline, from BBC News
REFERENCE Article : Poland, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1991-1992 pp.1011-1019, 1992-1993 pp.1098-1106, 1993-1994 pp.1096-1104, 1994-1995 pp.1095-1103, 1995-1996 pp.1088-1096, 1996-1997 pp.1042-1049, 1997-1998 pp.1048-1055, 1998-1999 pp.1129-1138, 2000 pp.1277-1286, 2001 pp.1245-1254, 2002 pp.1295-1305, 2003 pp.1294-1303, 2004 pp.1299-1308, 2005 pp.1310-1319, 2006 pp.1318-1327 [G]
Entry : Travel Warning - Poland, pp.576-578, in : Countries of the World and their Leaders Yearbook, 2000, Supplement [G]
Entry : Republic of Poland, Cabinet p.81, Background Notes : Poland, pp.1045-1050, in : Countries of the World and their Leaders Yearbook, 2003 [G]
Entry : Poland, pp.832-837 in : IMF, International Financial Statistics Yearbook 2001 [G]
Article : Poland, in : Americana Annual 1992 pp.430-433, 1993 pp.433-435, 1994 pp.432-434, 1998 pp.411-413, 2006 pp.302-303 [G]
Article : Poland, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1991 pp.472-473, 682, 1992 pp.457-459, 1993 pp.448-449, 694, 1994 pp.447-448, 694, 1995 pp.458-459, 693, 1996 pp.456-457, 1997 pp.462, 691, 2002 pp.479-480, 704 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted November 1st 2006, last revised on March 21st 2007

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