People’s Republic of Poland

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People’s Republic of Poland (1944-1952)Polish People’s Republic (1952-1989).

July 22, 1944 – December 31, 1989

Flag of the Polish People’s Republic

Emblem of the People’s Republic of Poland

Anthem: Dabrowski’s Mazurka


March Constitution (1944-1947)Little Constitution (1947-1952)Constitution of the People’s Republic of Poland (1952-1989)

Official language


Capital city


Political system

“leadership role of the working class”-dictatorship of the proletariat[1], mono-party system, power exercised by PPR, then PZPR and satellite groups, “people’s democracy”, later “real socialism”

Type of state

A satellite state of the USSR[2], part of the Eastern Bloc[2], defining itself as a so-called “people’s democracy.”[3]

Head of state

President (last) Wojciech Jaruzelski

Head of government

Prime Minister (last) Tadeusz Mazowiecki

Area – total

312,677[4] km²

Population (1989) – total – population density

37,970 155121 persons/km²

GDP (1980) – total – per capita

56.6 billion[5] USD1591.9[5] USD

GDP (PPS) (1980) – total – per capita

150.9 billion[5] international dollars4245.3[5] international dollars.


zloty (PLZ)

Method of creation: PKWN Manifesto – creation of a state dependent on the USSR

From the central territories of the Second Republic seized from German occupation by the USSR on July 22, 1944

Mode of liquidation: democratic transition, disintegration of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc

Change of the name of the state to the Republic of Poland and of the political system to democratic by the Sejm with a December amendment as of December 31, 1989[6].

Dominant religion

Officially state atheism[7][8], de facto Catholicism

Time zone

UTC +1 – winterUTC +2 – summer

ISO 3166 code


Internet domain

None (the .pl domain was not introduced until the Third Republic in 1990)

Car code


Telephone code


¹ This is the area of Poland’s territory, that is, the land area (including inland waters) – 311,904 km², the area of internal marine waters – 1991 km², and the territorial sea – 8682 km². The administrative area of Poland – 312,685 km², which is most often quoted in various sources, is the area within the administrative borders of the provinces and, in addition to the land area, includes part of the internal sea waters (the Vistula Lagoon, the Szczecin Lagoon, areas of port waters) [source: CSO].

Multimedia at Wikimedia Commons

Population of the Second Polish Republic, declaring Polish as their mother tongue, according to the 1931 census – genesis of the Curzon Line

Border changes and the Curzon Line

World War II anti-communist leaflet

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at the Yalta Conference, February 1945

Model 43 military eagle (the so-called Piast eagle)[9]

Jakub Berman (before 1949)

Edward Osóbka-Morawski

Polish People’s Republic (PRL) – the official name of the Polish state from 1952 to 1989. From 1944 to 1952, it functioned as the Republic of Poland. During the period 1944-1989, it was referred to as People’s Poland in propaganda, colloquially and sometimes in official government records[10]. During this period, Poland was a non-sovereign state under the political domination of the USSR[2][11]. It was ruled by the Communist Polish Workers’ Party and later by the Polish United Workers’ Party as the hegemonic party, with the formal existence of satellite groups, the so-called “allied parties” (United People’s Party, Democratic Party).

Table of contents

1 Establishment 2 Genesis

3 Republic of Poland (1944-1952)

3.1 Polish Committee for National Liberation 3.2 Operation “Storm” and the Warsaw Uprising

3.3 Repression apparatus of the communist authorities

3.3.1 Financing of the repression apparatus 3.3.2 NKVD troops and Soviet advisors in Poland 3.3.3 NKVD camps in Poland

3.4 The Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland 3.5 The Provisional Government of National Unity 3.6 The formation of Poland’s postwar borders

3.7 Liquidation of political opposition

3.7.1 The falsified popular referendum of 1946 and the elections to the Legislative Assembly of 1947 3.7.2 The breaking down of popular resistance

3.8 Liquidation of Ukrainian underground 3.9 Power camp, building support 3.10 Agrarian reform 3.11 Polish administration in western and northern lands, population migrations

3.12 Economy, social transformation

3.12.1 Opening balance sheet 3.12.2 Reconstruction of the country 3.12.3 Nationalization of industry 3.12.4 Progressive economic dependence on the USSR 3.12.5 Three-year plan 3.12.6 Six-year plan

3.13 Science, culture, social life 3.14 The concept of the “Polish road to socialism,” the split in the PPR leadership 3.15 Formation of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) in 1948 3.16 The military in the period of change 3.17 State-Church relations 1944-1952

4 The Polish People’s Republic (1952-1989)

4.1 The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Poland[208] 4.2 State-Church relations 1952-1956 4.3 The beginning of the thaw 4.4 The Poznan Uprising in 1956. 4.5 Polish October 1956

4.6 The rule of Wladyslaw Gomulka 1956-1970 – the departure from “October” and the “small stabilization” of the 1960s.

4.6.1 Economic policy of Gomulka’s team 4.6.2 Millennium of the Polish State, Millennium of the Baptism of Poland 4.6.3 March 1968 4.6.4 Rapacki Plan 4.6.5 Fight for recognition of the Polish western border

4.7 Revolt of the workers of the Coast in 1970 and removal of Wladyslaw Gomulka

4.8 Edward Gierek’s rule (1970-1980)

4.8.1 Economic and social policy in the 1970s 4.8.2 Foreign policy of Edward Gierek’s team 4.8.3 State-Church relations in the Gierek decade 4.8.4 First signs of economic crisis 4.8.5 Political crisis

4.9 Strikes of 1980 and the rise of “Solidarity” 4.10 Trial of strength by the authorities and “Solidarity” 1980-1981, economic crisis

4.11 Martial law, the rule of Wojciech Jaruzelski

4.11.1 Economy in the 1980s 4.11.2 State-Church relations 1980-1989 4.11.3 Changes in the system

4.12 Roundtable, contractual elections and the end of the People’s Republic of Poland

4.12.1 The road to the Round Table 4.12.2 Round Table negotiations 4.12.3 Contractual parliamentary elections on June 4, 1989 4.12.4 Change of the name of the state in 1989

4.13 Political transformation

5 System 6 Administrative division 7 Social resistance

8 Evaluation of the People’s Republic of Poland – summary

8.1 Political issues

8.1.1 Political and civil rights 8.1.2 Justice 8.1.3 Censorship and information policy

8.2 Armed forces

8.3 Social and social issues

8.3.1 Social promotion 8.3.2 Egalitarianism 8.3.3 Health care 8.3.4 Education and upbringing of children and youth 8.3.5 Cultural policy 8.3.6 Sports

8.4 Economic issues

9 Holidays

9.1 Celebrated during the communist period 9.2 Abolished during the communist period

10 Status of the People’s Republic of Poland[427] 11 See also 12 Footnotes 13 Bibliography 14 External links

Uprising[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Polish Committee for National Liberation, Manifesto of the Polish Committee for National Liberation, Lublin Poland, Yalta Conference and International Recognition of the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile.

Under the terms of the Yalta Conference, the legitimization of power in Poland was to be achieved through democratic elections as soon as possible[12]. Until then, the Provisional Government of National Unity established during the Moscow Conference in June 1945, under the supervision of the three powers of the anti-Hitler coalition and recognized by them as the legitimate Polish government, was to rule, with Britain and the United States withdrawing recognition of the government of the Republic of Poland in exile. At the Potsdam Conference, Boleslaw Bierut pledged in writing to hold free and unfettered elections in early 1946 as a condition of Britain’s support for Polish territorial claims to Germany[13]. The elections were held a year later-January 19, 1947-and rigged by the police apparatus (the Ministry of Public Security subordinated to the PPR), with the direct participation of NKVD officers, using methods proven in the earlier People’s Referendum (1946)[14][15].

Separate articles: Referendum in Poland in 1946 and Parliamentary Elections in Poland in 1947.

The resulting electoral victory of the so-called Democratic Bloc (composed of the PPR, the concessionary PPS and groups satellite to the PPR) over the opposition Polish People’s Party was, under international law, a formal legitimization of the power of the Polish Workers’ Party, and its heirs, in Poland. Indeed, the results of the rigged elections were not questioned by Great Britain and the US, guarantors of the Yalta Agreement. The former Prime Minister of Poland, deputy prime minister of the TRJN and chairman of the PSL, Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, was (faced with the threat of arrest) forced to flee abroad[16].

Genesis[edit | edit code].

The concept of creating a communist state on the territory of Poland first appeared among Polish and Russian communists in reference to the idea of a worldwide communist revolution. As a result of the Bolshevik coup (October Revolution) in 1917, the communists seized power in the Russian Republic. The Russian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic, which they established, declared as an ideological goal the introduction of the communist system in neighboring countries by revolutionary methods, i.e. by armed means. On December 16, 1918, at a merger convention of the SDKPiL and PPS-Left, the Communist Workers’ Party of Poland (since 1925 the Communist Party of Poland) was established. The CPRP had been an illegal organization since 1919.

During the Polish-Soviet War, in the territories of Poland, Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine occupied by the Red Army, the Communists created ephemeral communist puppet states such as in 1920 the Galician Socialist Republic of Radium[17] or in 1919 the Lithuanian-Belarusian Socialist Republic of Councils (Litbiel) and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, as an instrument for overthrowing the independent democratic nation-states – the Republic of Poland, the Republic of Lithuania and the Ukrainian People’s Republic – that had been established in 1918 after the collapse of the Russian Empire.

The Polish Communists’ cooperation with Soviet Russia during the invasion of Poland included, in addition to fighting in the ranks of the Red Army against the Polish Army, the establishment of Polrewkom, a puppet government of the planned Polish Republic of Councils. The proclamation to seize power in Poland was announced on July 30 in Vilnius and again in Bialystok, the first major city behind the so-called Curzon Line, occupied by the Red Army on July 28, 1920. The short-lived permanent headquarters of the TKRP was the Branicki Palace in Bialystok[18]. Polrewkom, in its Manifesto to the Polish Working People of Towns and Villages (authored by Felix Dzerzhinsky) announced in Vilnius on July 30, 1920,[19] announced the creation of the Polish Socialist Republic of Councils as its main goal[20]. The Polrewkom, which was active in August 1920 and whose leadership (Julian Marchlewski, Feliks Dzerzhinsky and Feliks Kon) advanced by special train in the wake of the Red Army advancing on Warsaw, was a prototype of the Polish Committee of National Liberation, established in 1944[21].

Separate articles: Communist Party of Poland, the Polish-Bolshevik War and the Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Poland.

As a result of the defeat at the Battle of Warsaw, the Bolsheviks’ offensive collapsed and they were forced to recognize Poland’s independence by initially signing an armistice in Riga on October 12, 1920, and a peace treaty on March 18, 1921, which demarcated the Polish-Soviet border. This situation persisted until the aggression of the Third Reich and the USSR against Poland, after which, on September 28, 1939, the Third Reich and the USSR divided Polish territory between them according to the arrangements of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Eventually, after the end of World War II, as a result of the seizure of the territory of Central and Eastern Europe up to the Elbe River by the Red Army, the territories of the Polish state fell completely within the sphere of influence of Soviet Russia, and consequently the concept of communist Poland could be realized.

Throughout the existence of the Second Republic, the KPP, as a party aiming by violence to change Poland’s political system, as well as being subordinated to a foreign decision-making center (the Communist International (Comintern)) and financed from abroad, was an illegal party. The KPP called for the revision of Poland’s borders in favor of Germany (handing over Upper Silesia and Pomerania to Germany, and ethnically mixed territories east of the so-called Curzon Line to the USSR)[22][23]. The KPP operated through the legal organizations it controlled or infiltrated (political parties, associations, trade unions), published the official press in this way, and introduced deputies to the Polish Sejm (Tomasz Dąbal, Stanisław Łańcucki, Jerzy Czeszejko-Sochacki, Sylwester Wojewódzki, Tadeusz Żarski). At the same time, the Communists were active in Poland, carrying out assassinations (Hibner, Kniewski and Rutkowski – 1925) and conducting systematic intelligence activities for the benefit of the USSR (Military Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party). In turn, in the USSR, Polish autonomous districts were created in the BSSR and USSR territories in the 1920s: the so-called Dzerzhinsk and Marchlevsk, which were liquidated in the 1930s as part of the NKVD’s so-called Polish Operation, an important part of the so-called Great Purge. In August 1938, Stalin liquidated the KPP, having previously ordered the murder of most of its leaders since February 1937, accusing them of collaborating with the State Police and Branch II of the General Staff of the Polish Army.

After the dissolution of the KPP, the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the USSR’s aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939, the military occupation of the Polish territory by the Wehrmacht and the Red Army, and the subsequent formal partition treaty (pact on borders and friendship) concluded between the Third Reich and the USSR on September 28, 1939, and the annexation of the eastern territories of Poland by the USSR in October 1939, the idea of a communist Poland returned in Stalin’s political plans in 1940. A number of Polish Army officers, such as Zygmunt Berling, selected by the NKVD’s INO in camps at Kozelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk were not murdered in the spring of 1940 during the Katyn Massacre, but were held by the NKVD in relatively good conditions for use in the event of a conflict with the Third Reich. In the USSR, Polish-language newspapers and magazines (“Red Banner,” “New Vidnokręgi”) were published, and demonstratively celebrated on November 25-26, 1940, the so-called Mickiewicz Days[24].

After the aggression of the Third Reich, the USSR, under British pressure, was forced to restore diplomatic relations with the Polish Government, unilaterally broken on the day of the aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939, agree to release the citizens of the Republic arrested and deported by the NKVD, and to create the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR subordinated to the Government of the Republic, under the command of former Lupianka prisoner General Wladyslaw Anders. Stalin’s concessions were prompted by the USSR’s disastrous military situation in 1941 and the need for material assistance from Britain and the US. After the defeat of the Wehrmacht near Moscow, the Soviet side gradually began to withdraw from the agreements made. The summer of 1942 saw the evacuation to Iran of the troops of the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR (the so-called Anders Army). Berling and a group of a dozen Polish Army officers (soldiers of the Anders Army) remained in the USSR despite the order to leave and were later convicted in absentia as deserters by the court martial of the Polish Second Corps.

Separate articles: The USSR’s aggression against Poland, the Katyn Massacre, the Sikorski-May Pact and the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR (1941-1942).

Another step taken by Stalin after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war was the reactivation on the territory of the Third Reich-occupied Poland of the Communist Party, formally abolished by the Comintern on August 16, 1938. On January 5, 1942, in Warsaw, at the initiative of the Comintern, by Polish communists arriving from the USSR from the so-called “Initiative Group”. Initiative Group (parachuted by Soviet aviation on December 28, 1941 near Wiązowna[25]), by merging the organization Union of Liberation Struggle (formed in September 1941) with several existing underground communist groups, the Polish Workers’ Party (PPR) was formed.

The author of the party’s name was Joseph Stalin, who on August 27, 1941 gave instructions to Comintern General Secretary Georgi Dimitrov not to use the name “Communist Party,” as it could deter future members[26][27]. Dimitrov conveyed Stalin’s instructions to a group of Polish communists on August 29, 1941 (the party’s name devoid of the word “communist” raised a number of doubts among Polish communists in the USSR)[28]. The People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD)[29] handled the training of PPR activists forming the Initiative Group, among others, at a special center in Pushkino near Moscow. The activities of the PPR were subordinate to the leadership in Moscow, and for tactical reasons were not formally linked to the Comintern during its existence[30][31].

The revelation of the Katyn massacre in April 1943 and the request by the Polish Government-in-exile to the International Red Cross to investigate the case gave Stalin the pretext to break off diplomatic relations with the Polish Government in London on April 27, then to form the Union of Polish Patriots, which was subordinate to him, and to begin creating the 1st Infantry Division named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko. Tadeusz Kosciuszko from Poles who did not manage to arrive in the Anders Army from places of exile and gulags, with a cadre composed mostly of seconded Red Army officers and political officers from the Polish Communist milieu. Along with the Polish troops, Military Information was created, which was actually a branch of the Soviet counterintelligence Smersh in the Polish Army[32]. At the same time, cadres were being prepared for the communization of Poland at the NKVD school in Kuibyshev.

From the so-called Moscow Conference (October 18-November 3, 1943), it was clear that the Anglo-Saxon powers recognized that all countries liberated from Nazi occupation or occupied by the Red Army would remain in the Soviet sphere of influence (in return, Moscow guaranteed the same to the Anglo-Saxon powers in Western and Southern Europe)[33].

In the autumn of 1943, during the period of no radio contact with Moscow (until January 1944), the PPR formulated the concept of establishing its own center of power in the occupied country and building façade structures as an alternative to the Polish Underground State. In the occupied country on New Year’s Eve 1943/44, the PPR established the completely subordinate National National Council (KRN) as a self-proclaimed Polish parliament[34][35][36][37][38]. The KRN established as its own armed forces the People’s Army, transformed from the PPR’s military organization, the People’s Guard.

Separate articles: Polish Workers’ Party, the Union of Polish Patriots and the National People’s Council.

On January 4, 1944, troops of the Red Army’s 1st Ukrainian Front crossed the USSR’s pre-war border with Poland[39] in the Rokitno area.

In late January and early February 1944, in preparation for the communist takeover of Poland, Stalin, formally by decision of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (WKP(b)), established the Central Bureau of Communists of Poland under the Central Committee of the WKP(b)[40]. The organizers of the CBKP granted themselves a superior function over the PPR. The CBKP was a secret structure, and its personnel composition was kept secret even from those informed of the very fact of its existence. The PPR authorities learned of its existence in early August 1944 in Lublin, while PPR General Secretary Władysław Gomułka learned of its existence on July 18, 1944 in Warsaw, from the first dispatch received by the PPR from the CBKP the previous day[41]. The CBKP consisted of Aleksander Zawadzki as chairman, Stanisław Radkiewicz as secretary, members Karol Świerczewski, Jakub Berman, Wanda Wasilewska, plenipotentiaries: Hilary Minc and Stefan Wierbłowski. The work of the Bureau was actually directed by Berman. In August 1944, members of the Bureau formed a majority in the PPR Politburo, which was then established, also in secret. The PPR’s BP then included: Władysław Gomułka, Bolesław Bierut, Jakub Berman, Hilary Minc and Aleksander Zawadzki (the last three from the CBKP)[42]. Boleslaw Bierut, while entering the secret Politburo of the PPR, appeared in public (as chairman, then president of the NDC and president of the Republic of Poland) as a non-partisan person until 1948, at the behest of Joseph Stalin[43].

Separate article: Central Bureau of Communists of Poland.

As a consequence of the Belorussian offensive launched on June 22, 1944 (Operation Bagration), the Red Army pushed the Wehrmacht out of Belarus and the eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic, and was expected to enter Polish territory west of the so-called Curzon Line, recognized by Britain, the US and the USSR in a secret agreement at the Tehran Conference (28.XI – 1.XII.1943) as the post-war Polish-Soviet border.

Stalin acted in a multi-variant manner – the choice of the variant most favorable to the USSR depended on the current balance of forces, while he aimed in each variant to create a Polish government – dependent on the USSR[44].

Republic of Poland (1944-1952)[edit | edit code].

Polish Committee of National Liberation[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Polish Committee of National Liberation, Manifesto of the Polish Committee of National Liberation, People’s Army of Poland, Supreme Command of the Polish Army (1944), Republican Arrangements (1944), Decree on the Protection of the State and Augustówka.

PKWN Manifesto

On the evening of July 22, 1944, the establishment of the Polish Committee for National Liberation was announced on the airwaves of Radio Moscow. The PKWN, known in the West[45] as the Lublin Committee, was formally established by the National National Council (KRN) in Lublin on July 21, 1944, but in reality it had been formed two days earlier in Moscow,[46] where its first meeting was held on Pushetskaya Street[47]. Stalin’s aim was to create the impression that Poles were setting up a government on their own initiative in the lands of Poland liberated from German occupation, located between the Soviet-German front and the so-called Curzon Line[48]. Jozef Stalin chose Lublin[49] as the seat of the PKWN, a name suggested by Molotov[50].

In May 1944, the commander of the AK reported to London that the “isolation” of the PPR from society and other political groups had failed[51]. The expanding activities of the PPR and the possibility of increasing their influence worried the Polish Underground State. “The radicalism of the masses and the pressure of the Soviets are increasing the attractiveness of left-wing groups outside the PPR.” stated a Home Army Headquarters report[52].

On August 6, 1944, talks took place in Moscow between the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile Stanisław Mikołajczyk and representatives of the PKWN (including Bierut, Osóbka-Morawski, Żymierski), which ended in failure[53]. PKWN representatives offered Mikolajczyk the post of prime minister in the future government of national unity at the price of rejecting the April Constitution, and offered representatives of the government-in-exile 4 portfolios in the new cabinet[54].

The agrarian reform carried out by the PKWN in the territories under its administration began to produce political results favorable to the PPR, which gained the support of a part of the rural population. By the end of 1944, rural members accounted for about 70 percent of the party’s numbers[55].

Operation “Storm” and the Warsaw Uprising[edit | edit code].

Home Army soldiers during the “Storm” action in Lublin, July 1944

Separate articles: Operation “Storm” and the Warsaw Uprising.

Parallel to the PKWN, there was a Polish Government in Exile, legal from the point of view of international law, widely recognized in the world until July 1945 (the formation of the Provisional Government of National Unity), with a state apparatus in the country in the form of the Polish Underground State. The encroachment of the Red Army on Polish territory within the pre-war borders, the authorities of the Polish Underground State, in accordance with the directive of the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile, wanted to use to reveal the existing structures of the administration of the underground state (organized during the German occupation by the Government Delegation for Poland up to and including the district level) and thus rebuild the structures of an independent Polish state. Operation “Tempest” militarily targeted Germany, politically it was directed against the USSR’s plans to unilaterally change the Polish-Soviet border established in the Riga Treaty and to introduce an administration subordinate to Moscow on Polish territory. The Polish civil administration began operating in cities, counties and municipalities in central Poland. However, it was soon destroyed by the Soviet NKVD, NKGB, or Smiersz, and its officials arrested and mostly deported deep into the USSR. Although the Home Army assisted the Red Army as part of the Operation Tempest against the Germans in Poland, the Red Army and NKVD troops also systematically disarmed Home Army units and Home Army officers and soldiers were sent to NKVD prisons and camps (the most famous: Majdanek, Skrobow, Rembertów, Lublin Castle) and were later deported to camps in the USSR[56], or forcibly conscripted into the First Polish Army[57].

In July 1944, the Home Army Headquarters made the decision to conduct an armed standoff of the Home Army units in Warsaw and to reveal to the encroaching Red Army the central authorities of the Polish Underground State, including members of the National Council of Ministers, headed by Deputy Prime Minister of the Polish Government Jan Stanisław Jankowski (the incumbent Government Delegate for Poland), as well as the Home Army command with Home Army Commander-in-Chief Tadeusz Komorowski alias “Bor.” After receiving information on July 31, 1944 about the appearance of Red Army troops on the outskirts of Warsaw, it was decided to start the uprising the following day.

On August 6, Wanda Wasilewska, during a meeting of representatives of the government in exile with the KRN and PKWN, had a conversation with Stanislaw Mikolajczyk during which, not yet knowing about the outbreak of the uprising, she warned: “Do not forget the possibility of fratricidal fighting in Warsaw. (…) Because in Warsaw there are large forces of the Home Army and also there are large forces of the People’s Army. Instead of beating the Germans they will take each other head on. After all, this was the case in other areas. It will be more important for the Home Army and the administration of the Lords to mark their supremacy.”[58]

A parade of soldiers of the 1st Polish Army in Warsaw on January 19, 1945.

In mid-August, reports from the insurgent authorities stated “(…) the total passivity of the Allies is incomprehensible to the public. (…) Against this background, pro-Russian sentiments arise, resentment against the AK is generated (…). (…) circles that are by no means leftist are bitter at Mikolajczyk for not leading to a settlement with the Chelm Committee.”[59]

Commanding the fighting units in Warsaw, General Chruściel – “Monter”, opposing the surrender talks with the Germans proposed by General Komorowski, considered that a better solution would be to ask the Polish communist military authorities to help the uprising. He stated: “I propose to call Żymierski to relief and pledge him loyal cooperation.” One of his close associates even noted that Chruściel wanted to bring about the merger of AK units with General Berling’s army[60].

At a meeting of the Polish Committee for National Liberation, held in Lublin on September 15, 1944, Boleslaw Bierut, Roman Zambrowski, Jakub Berman, and Michal Rola-Zymierski discussed possible developments in the event of an insurgent victory. At the time, Stanislaw Radkiewicz stated that it was unthinkable: that we would allow someone to take power with four divisions at our disposal. The military will hijack everything, and any attempt to illegally seize power must be curbed with the help of General Kieniewicz and our entire 1st Army. It was decided to create the Internal Troops, which, in the event of the defeat of the Germans, were to enter Warsaw and smash the victorious Home Army[61].

Repressive apparatus of the communist authorities[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Department of Public Security, Ministry of Public Security, General Information Board and Small Penal Code.

Monument to the Prisoners of the NKVD Camp in Rembertów.

Stanislaw Radkiewicz

The PKWN set about organizing “people’s power” in the area of Poland taken over by the USSR, west of the Curzon line. In 1944, the PKWN established the Civic Militia. Citizen Militia and Security Office posts were established[62].

After the first months of the new authorities’ relatively liberal policy toward members of the Home Army and the opposition (until October 1944, the military courts under the PKWN did not pass any death sentence for political reasons or desertion[63]), in October 1944, on Joseph Stalin’s order given to Boleslaw Bierut on the night of September 29/30, 1944, during the PKWN delegation’s visit to Moscow,[64][65] repressions by the PPR-led security apparatus against Polish society and the existing underground organizations intensified. On October 9, 1944, the sixteen-member plenum of the PPR Central Committee in Lublin listened to Stalin’s assessments and demands, presented by Bierut, and approved the decisions of the PPR Politburo. As a consequence, on the same day its vice-chairman and head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform Andrzej Witos was removed from the PKWN (the leadership of the ministry was taken over by Osóbka-Morawski), later (on November 20) the head of the Ministry of Public Administration Stanisław Kotek-Agroszewski was removed. Both were subsequently removed by the PPR from the People’s Party leadership as well. “From lawyering – probably hoping that the course of events itself would bring a consolidation of its power – the PPR moved suddenly and violently to open terror.”[66]

The legal instrument of terror became the Decree on the Protection of the State, issued by the PKWN on October 30, 1944, introducing the death penalty in 11 articles, with almost complete freedom of interpretation of punishable acts and introduced retroactively from August 15, 1944[67]. It was also expressed, among other things, in the introduction of police terror, the issuance of decrees providing for the death penalty for many politically motivated acts (e.g., the September 23, 1944 Polish Army Criminal Code), classified as “crimes,” as well as for such “offenses” as possession of a radio[68][69].

The scale of repression increased so much that it worried Gomulka. Gomulka told a PPR Central Committee plenum in May 1945[70]:

A second state is beginning to grow in our state above our heads. The security organs are making a certain policy themselves, in which no one is supposed to interfere (…) We are giving people animal conditions in our prisons. This must be stopped,” he said.

On May 15, 1945, Public Security Minister Stanislaw Radkiewicz issued Order No. 19 in connection with the fact that UB and MO officers were committing unlawful acts against detainees, using “often unacceptable methods of beating and abuse.” He stated that such methods “taken over from the Nazis and fascists” were unworthy of security personnel, and they should be held accountable[71].

Gomulka’s one-time warning about the “second state” was no longer repeated; on the contrary, on September 28, 1945, at a joint meeting of the PPR Central Committee and the PPS CEC, he stated:

“Security is the cleanest place in the state apparatus, it has not been littered by reaction and is a sure instrument of action for democratic power.”[72]

There was rivalry within the PPR between the various segments of the new government. The party apparatus tried to subjugate the security structures by criticizing their activities. An example of this was a meeting of the Central Committee Secretariat on March 21, 1946, at which Zenon Kliszko, a close associate of PPR General Secretary Władysław Gomułka, stated that “there are actually two parties: the Civil Party and the Security Party.” Politburo member Roman Zambrowski, who oversees the party apparatus, said: “Great damage is being done to us by the abuse of power by party officials working in Security. (…) There are incidents of Security workers carrying out searches and even murders for robbery purposes. Has there been a case of a district Security chief being (…) punished or expelled from the party to force the Ministry of Public Security to remove him from his job?”[73]

Andrzej Paczkowski:

As of July 17, 1946, the MBP employed 134,396 people. This was three times as many as the pre-war police force had, “serving” a country of thirty-five million people with revolted minorities. Employees of this ministry accounted for exactly 36.4% of state employees (including the prime minister) – so at least one in three state employees served in the “organs,” and there were 1.3 “Ubekahs” per one teacher[74]. In June 1945, Lieutenant Zdzislaw Bronski described the situation in the Lublin region in his diary as follows:

The persecution continues. Thousands of Poles – who have so far managed to escape [from] the hands of the sieges – are forced by rifle, pistol and grenade to defend their lives. Hence the formation of “gangs.” But whether they are gangs and whether these people should be called bandits – society will judge. (…) 3.a the territory of the Ludwin and Spiczyn municipalities during the five years of German occupation, not as many Poles were killed as were killed during the five months of “democratic independence.” Hundreds of people were hunted down and deported in an unknown direction. Local “democrats,” a blind tool in the hand of the enemy, began to arrive to burn buildings and destroy the achievements of the families of “Akow” criminals, imprison their brothers or fathers, and even execute them on the spot. After several hours of torture, the most innocent man – whose son is alleged to be in the “band” – was murdered. The corpse, which was difficult to identify, was dumped in the woods. It is difficult to stop the hand from retaliating. Especially since the perpetrators of these misfortunes are well known. Some have already suffered their well-deserved punishment, others the earth still bears…. Until. We know that we are engaged in a fratricidal struggle, and although the heart is divided, although the conscience flinches, we cannot avoid it, because we are not its provocateurs. We want Poland! We want peace! We want democracy! We want land reform! But above all, we want independence!”[75]

Financing of the repression apparatus[edit | edit code].

The Department/Ministry of Public Security were equipped from the beginning of their existence in 1944/45 with broad powers, giving them essentially unlimited authority. The MBP was allocated enormous financial resources, by the standards of a war-ravaged country’s capabilities, allowing it to expand its apparatus of violence. By 1955, it was generally the second-largest item in the state budget (after the Ministry of Defense), far exceeding the funds allocated by the state for reconstruction. The amounts allocated to the Ministry of Defense and the MBP consumed about 30% of the state budget. In 1946, the MBP budget amounted to 19,590 thousand zlotys. It surpassed the budgets of the Ministry of Education (19,490 thousand zlotys), the Ministry of Health (1,244 thousand zlotys) and the Ministry of Labor (1113 thousand zlotys). Eight times less than the MBP budget was allocated for reconstruction in 1946. For 1947, 17,010 thousand zlotys were allocated for the MBP, which was more than the budgets of the Ministry of Recovered Territories, the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Public Administration combined. In 1948, the MBP received ten times more funds than were allocated for national reconstruction[76].

NKVD troops and Soviet advisors in Poland[edit | edit code].

See also categories: Soviet authorities in Poland, Soviet officers in the People’s Polish Army.

To liquidate the Polish troops, Joseph Stalin allocated forces equal to 3 armies: to the area of the Lithuanian SSR, the 4th Rifle Division of the NKVD Internal Troops and 17 detached regiments were directed. For the area of the Belarusian SSR, 3 divisions (6, 7, 10) and 4 separate regiments. For the pacification of Lublin Poland were used: 62nd, 63rd and 64th Collective Divisions of the NKVD Internal Troops[77].

Initially, the USSR bore the brunt of the fighting against the resistance to the self-imposed communist regime in Poland. Wladyslaw Gomulka himself admitted in May 1945 that “we are unable to carry out the struggle against reaction[78] without the Red Army.” The number of regular Red Army units stationed in Poland between 1944 and 1947 ranged between 200,000 and 3 million soldiers. Stalin sent 3 NKVD divisions here, including the 64th Collective Division of the NKVD Internal Troops. The 64th Division alone arrested 60,000 people. Several other NKVD divisions operated in the Eastern Borderlands, fighting Polish partisans on both sides of the new Polish-Soviet border and crossing it at their discretion.

So-called “advisors” were sent to the security apparatus and the army from the NKVD and the Red Army. A number of USSR citizens were sent to serve as so-called “popi” (acting Poles). In March 1945, popi accounted for almost 53% of all officers in the armed forces of the People’s Republic of Poland. Between 1945 and 1947, 16,460 Soviet officers were transferred to the People’s Polish Army. In December 1945, 54 out of 63 Polish generals (86%) and 228 out of 309 colonels (74%) were Red Army officers. In total, these officers made up about 40% of the officer corps of the People’s Army[79].

On July 27, 1946, Lavrenty Beria instructed his representatives in Warsaw to discuss with Polish authorities the urgent withdrawal of NKVD units. USSR Interior Minister Sergei Kruglov reported to Beria in October 1946: President Bierut believes that in the present situation the troops of the [Soviet] Interior Ministry are necessarily needed and asks that they remain in Poland until March 1947. As late as May 20, 1946, another report by Kruglov enumerated the NKVD units then in Poland. This was the 64th division of the internal troops, numbering 4199 men, two border protection regiments, numbering 2897 men, and government communications units, numbering 6434 – a total of about 13,500 men[80].

Stalin recalled the compact NKVD troops from Poland only in 1947, after the PPR rigged elections to the Legislative Sejm.

NKVD camps in Poland[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: NKVD camp at Majdanek, NKVD camp in Skrobow, NKVD camp in Rembertów, NKVD camps for Polish prisoners of war, and the Augustow Manhunt.

In the occupied territories, the Red Army and the security services of the USSR (NKVD, Smiersz) operated independently of the PKWN authorities[81]. In accordance with the agreement between the PKWN and the USSR government, Soviet soldiers and functionaries remained outside the reach of Polish law, while the NKVD arrested people associated with the Home Army and other independence organizations and the Polish government-in-exile, organized their deportation to gulags in the USSR, and collaborated with the “people’s” authorities, supervising them through a network of so-called advisors. The NKVD had a network of its own camps[82][dead link][83]. About 25,000 people are believed to have died in such camps between 1944 and 1950[84]. In July 1945, the NKVD arrested about 2,000 people in the vicinity of Gib during the so-called Augustow Manhunt, 600 of whom did not return; their graves have not been found either. Many of them were murdered and buried in secret. The bodies of many of them were not found until after 1989[85]. In the Rzeszow region, concentration camps for Home Army officers and Polish activists from the German occupation were organized among the Kraskow Wlodawa swamps in 1944. Near Siedlce, in the village of Kruślin, the NKVD organized a concentration camp for arrested Polish activists, who were placed in pits 8 meters deep and 2 by 2 meters in area, where the water reached up to their knees[86].

The Lublin government and the NKVD fight ruthlessly against anyone who does not cooperate. Terror intensifies, overcrowded prisons. Numerous concentration camps. The largest: Rembertów, Sikawa near Lodz and Myslowice.

Colonel Jan Rzepecki’s report to Headquarters, May 3, 1945[87].

Terror and misery reign in the country. Wandering bands of Soviet soldiers and displaced persons are robbing and devastating and setting fire to towns captured in the west.

Deposits of Colonel Jan Rzepecki, Government Delegate for Poland, to Headquarters, transmitted on May 25, 1945[88].

The NKVD’s activities in Poland raised doubts among some PPR activists. Wladyslaw Gomulka repeatedly criticized the practices of Soviet security organs on the territory of postwar Poland, stating, among other things: “On the territory of Poland, Soviet organs cannot do searches or arrests. (…) it must be demanded that this be stopped and that people be released. People cannot simply be killed. This is our sovereignty[89].” At the May 1945 plenum of the PPR Central Committee, Edward Ochab stated that the chief problem in the context of Soviet policy is now state sovereignty. Also, Franciszek Jóźwiak, commander-in-chief of the MO, described as “unnatural” the fight against the underground by Soviet security forces.”[70]

According to Andrzej Werblan’s note from a 1981 conversation with Gomulka:

“In 1945, while in Moscow, he intervened with Stalin regarding the arrest by Soviet authorities of the underground leadership of the London camp in Poland (Gen. Okulicki and others). Gomulka argued that this was a violation of Polish sovereignty with consequences unfavorable to the PPR, the people’s government and the Soviet Union itself. Stalin retorted: “You speak as if you were the head of a great power, and you are the leader of a weak party and a weak country that we liberated. They fired on our people and we will hold them accountable for it.” Gomulka replied that the London camp used terror to an even greater extent against PPR activists and functionaries of the people’s government. The Polish authorities would also have held the guilty responsible and punished them more severely perhaps than the Soviet authorities. However, they would have avoided international complications and charges of violation of sovereignty. Stalin reflected and conceded Gomulka’s point, saying, however, that it was too late to correct these matters. The point, he said, is that “Chekists” are such a type of people (“takoy narod”) that once they grab a fish by the tail, they drag it straight to the basket, and the basket here in Lubianka. The conversation later turned to other matters. At the farewell, however, he returned to the topic and, saying goodbye, said: “Serov [head of Soviet counterintelligence], however, I will remove. He has turned out to be a fool.”[90]

Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland.

On December 31, 1944, the KRN formally transformed the PKWN into the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland; in fact, it was a political decision by Stalin[91]. The Prime Minister of the Provisional Government was the former Chairman of the PKWN Edward Osóbka-Morawski. Wladyslaw Gomulka (PPR) became the 1st Vice-Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and Stanislaw Janusz (SL) became the 2nd Vice-Chairman[92]. This was an element of the “policy of accomplished facts” on Stalin’s part – a political preparation before the Red Army’s winter offensive to seize all Polish lands within their pre-war borders. At the same time, the move demonstrated a significant stiffening of the USSR’s position vis-à-vis Britain and the US regarding the role of the Polish Government in Exile in the formation of Poland’s post-war government before the planned February 1945 conference of the Big Three powers at Yalta.

January 3, 1945. The Provisional Government passed a resolution “to leave Warsaw as the capital of Poland.”[93]

Provisional Government of National Unity[edit | edit code].

Stanisław Mikołajczyk

Manifestation in front of the building of the Railway Directorate on Wilenska Street in Warsaw in honor of the Provisional Government of National Unity after the return of its members from Moscow, June 27, 1945

Separate articles: The Trial of the Sixteen and the Provisional Government of National Unity.

As part of the implementation of the provisions of the Yalta Conference, talks were held in Moscow in June 1945 on how to establish a Polish government recognized by both the USSR and Great Britain and the US – the so-called Moscow Conference. The talks were attended by representatives of the Provisional Government and arbitrarily appointed by the USSR and the US and British ambassadors to the USSR political activists from home and in exile, including Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, Stanislaw Grabski and Zygmunt Zulawski. The most important participants in the meeting were Bierut, a representative of the KRN, PPR and RTRP, and, on the other hand, Mikolajczyk – until November 1944, prime minister of the Polish Government in exile and leader of the People’s Party. During the talks Władysław Gomułka declared: We will never give up power once gained (…) You can still shout that the blood of the Polish people is being poured, that the NKVD rules Poland, but this will not turn us back[94]. As a result of the talks, the Provisional Government of National Unity was established. Edward Osóbka-Morawski (hitherto Prime Minister of the Provisional Government) was appointed Prime Minister of the TRJN, and Władysław Gomułka (Deputy Prime Minister of the Provisional Government and General Secretary of the PPR) and Stanisław Mikołajczyk were appointed Deputy Prime Ministers. Mikolajczyk was also to become Minister of Agriculture, and Gomulka was to become Minister of the Regained Territories. The three parties to the talks – the Provisional Government, “Poles from the country” and “Poles in exile.” – were formally guaranteed parity in the composition of the government, which was to be – and was – recognized by all the powers. The final shape of power in Poland was to be decided by free elections within a pluralistic party system, under the supervision of the three powers – the guarantors of the agreement. Of the 24 ministries of the TRJN, seven were placed in the hands of the Polish Workers’ Party, including the key Ministry of Public Security; the rest were staffed by PPR satellite groups (6 – Polish Socialist Party, 2 – People’s Party, 2 – Democratic Party), or persons appointed by the PPR and controlled by the PPR at the level of deputy ministers; three ministries formally in the hands of the PSL were secondary and in fact systematically deprived of power. Stanislaw Grabski and Wincenty Witos were co-opted to the KRN as vice-presidents (Witos did not take office), and PSL representatives were also to be co-opted to the Council.

The Moscow Accord was disobeyed by the USSR and the PPR at home from the very beginning and was treated by them as an instrument to seize full power, while internationally legitimizing PPR rule in Poland. Parallel to the Moscow conference, a show trial of sixteen leaders of the Polish Underground State was held in Moscow.

The persecution that thousands of Poles are now enduring in Poland, and which is being applied with particular viciousness to those Polish citizens who with great devotion defended freedom and independence against the German invaders – proves beyond any doubt that the so-called Provisional Government of National Unity in no way expresses the will of the people, for it is a servile body imposed on Poland from outside.

Note from Polish Ambassador to Great Britain Edward Raczynski protesting the British government’s recognition of the TRJN[88].

In April 1945, a Polish-Soviet treaty on friendship, mutual assistance and postwar cooperation was signed, later extended in 1965, and in the following years Poland concluded similar agreements with the other countries of the “people’s democracy.” In July 1945, at the Potsdam Conference, the course of Poland’s western and northern borders was determined. In October 1945, Poland signed the Charter of the United Nations.

The formation of Poland’s postwar borders[edit | edit code].

The area of the First and Second Republics in the modern Polish borders established at the beginning of the Polish People’s Republic

CDU election poster for the 1947 Landtag elections in North Rhine-Westphalia.

During Prime Minister Sikorski’s visit to Moscow in December 1941, Stalin suggested to him the need to discuss border issues between Poland and the USSR, saying: “We should determine our common borders ourselves, earlier before the peace conference, as soon as the Polish army goes into battle.” Sikorski countered: “The borders of 1939 cannot be questioned.” Poland, unable to arrange bilateral relations with the USSR on its own thereafter, relied on the intermediation of London and Washington, and the future of the borders became a function of British-American-Soviet relations.

The turning point in the formation of the post-war Polish border was the Tehran Conference (November 28-December 1, 1943). It was then that the leaders of the three Allied powers of the USSR, the US and Great Britain concluded a preliminary agreement on the issue. As Winston Churchill stated in a conversation with Joseph Stalin: “nothing is more important than the security of Russia’s western border,” and Poland should “move westward like soldiers moving two steps to the left.” Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed with this position, but because of the upcoming U.S. presidential election and the possible reaction of the American Polish community, he did not want to talk about it publicly. The consensus among the deliberators was that Poland’s eastern border was to run along the so-called Curzon Line, roughly the border of the Third Partition of Poland, and more recently the Soviet-German border line after September 1939. Only the question of the belonging of Lviv was the subject of ambiguity. As for the western border, the discrepancies were significant. It was only agreed that the Polish border was to be based on the Oder River and that Poland was to obtain part of East Prussia. The Anglo-Saxon side wanted Poland’s acquisitions at the expense of Germany to be limited, the Soviet side wanted them maximized.

The next stage in the determination of the Polish border was the conference of the three powers at Yalta (February 4 – 11, 1945). It was finally decided there that Lvov would remain outside the Polish borders. As for the western border, Stalin pressed for it to be based on the Oder and Neisse rivers, specifying that it was the Lusatian Neisse. The main opponent of such a solution was Churchill stating during the deliberations: “I have no intention of strangling the Polish goose before it falls from German indigestion.” The final communiqué stated: “(…) the eastern border of Poland should run along the Curzon line, deviating from it in some areas 5 to 8 kilometers in favor of Poland. Recognizing that Poland must receive sizable territorial acquisitions in the north and west. (…) at the appropriate time, the opinion of the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity should be consulted as to the extent of these acquisitions, and therefore that, ultimately, the demarcation of Poland’s western border should wait until the Peace Conference.”[95]

Thanks to the Yalta and Potsdam agreements, post-war Poland went from being a territory 51% of which belonged to Prussia/Germany before 1914 to a Central European state[96].

Elimination of political opposition[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Polish People’s Party (1945-1949) and Labor Party.

The political system that emerged, in practice, ensured the real power of the apparatus of the Polish Workers’ Party (PPR) in the state in the face of the PPR’s retention in power of the coercive apparatus (MBP and the army) and, consequently, control of the state authorities and institutions, political parties, social organizations, the economy, under conditions of limited Polish sovereignty.

By 1947, the PPR had consolidated its power in the country, virtually liquidating the opposition political and armed underground and eliminating from political life the only legal opposition force – the Polish People’s Party, legalized in July 1945 in accordance with the Yalta Agreements, under the leadership of Stanisław Mikołajczyk. The opposition was concentrated in the Mikolajczyk-led PSL[97]. In the 1947 elections, the Polish Socialist Party, led by Osóbka-Morawski, also took part in a joint election list with the PPR and its satellites, but it was not independent, as its leadership included many activists subservient to the PPR[98]. Founded in 1944, the PPS (referred to as the “Lublin” or “concessionary” PPS) was largely powered by former members of the Workers’ Party of Polish Socialists and activists arriving from the USSR. Despite the sidelining of the PPS and attempts to make it dependent on Stalinist authorities, party activists managed to restore pre-war social organizations such as the Workers’ University Society and trade unions[99]. In opposition to the concessionary PPS, the independent WRN was active in 1946-1947. It was part of the opposition Committee of Arrangement of Underground Polish Organizations, but by the second half of the 1940s the marginalized party had already ceased its activities. Many WRN members managed to join the PPS; these activists were opposed to agreements with the communist authorities.

See also category: Political prisoners in People’s Poland 1944-1956.

Falsified popular referendum 1946 and elections to the Legislative Assembly 1947[edit | edit code].

Propaganda boards calling for voting in the 1946 referendum

Election proclamation of the Polish People’s Party, December 1946

Separate articles: Referendum in Poland in 1946 and Parliamentary elections in Poland in 1947.

Formal victory for the PPR, PPS, SL and SD bloc came with the official (actually falsified) results of the referendum (the famous 3 x YES) on June 30, 1946 and the elections to the Legislative Sejm – the Polish Constituent Assembly – on January 19, 1947. This is because the results of the falsified elections were not questioned by Great Britain and the US, guarantors of the Yalta Agreement.

In July 1947, Jozef Cyrankiewicz’s government, formed after the PPR’s falsified elections to the Legislative Sejm, was forced by the USSR to withdraw from the agreement it had already tentatively given for Poland’s participation in the Marshall Plan. Poland (like Czechoslovakia) was thus removed from participation in the plan for the economic reconstruction of Europe. This was a confirmation of the satellite status to the USSR of both countries and the beginning of tying their economies to the command-and-control war economy of the USSR, with a gradual severing of ties with the economies of the rest of Europe[100].

Separate articles: The Marshall Plan and Jozef Cyrankiewicz’s First Government.

Breaking down popular resistance[edit | edit code].

ORMO members

Separate articles: Armed operations of the anti-communist underground in Poland, Soldiers of the Ex-Communists, Zrzeszenie Wolność i Niezawisłość and National Armed Forces.

Until 1947, guerrilla units of the anti-communist independence underground (WiN, NSZ), which at their peak (1945) numbered about 9,000-12,000 people,[101] persisted in the country (the number of members of all underground organizations and groups is estimated at 120,000-180,000 people)[102]. Ukrainian partisans of the UPA also persisted. The end of the Polish underground was brought by massive repression by the apparatus of the Ministry of Public Security, NKVD[103] and KBW troops, as well as amnesties announced by the authorities, especially the one announced after the rigged elections to the Legislative Sejm in January 1947. The political defeat of Stanislaw Mikolajczyk resulted in the collapse of hopes of removing the PPR and its satellites from power. Until 1947, the activities of the security apparatus focused on the Polish underground.

In May 1946, student protests broke out in many cities, provoked by the brutal suppression of a student demonstration in Cracow on May 3, 1946[104]. An equally brutally suppressed dockers’ strike at the Port of Gdansk took place on August 10.

From April 1945 to the end of 1948, at least 1,220 strikes were carried out in Poland, the cause of which was the living conditions of workers, rising inflation and falling real wages in 1945/46. The strike wave culminated in 1946, when 365 strikes broke out, the average strike time was 3.1 days, the total number of strikers reached 340,000, or about 28% of the industrial workforce. At times, nearly 30,000 workers went on strike in one city. Strikes broke out in all branches of the economy, with the textile industry and mining leading the way. Thus, Lodz and the province accounted for 529 strikes (43%), and Upper Silesia for 231 strikes (19%)[105]. In Bielsko-Biała, 15 factories went on strike from April 24 to May 31, 1946[106][107]. The last major strike took place in September 1947 in Lodz, began on September 16 at the Poznański factory, and involved 40,000 workers, or about one-third of all the city’s textile workers, from September 19-23.IX. It was suppressed after 10 days by MBP functionaries, with the participation of PPR activists. Several dozen people were arrested. There was an expansion of agents and the creation of a network of UB residences in factories, which, combined with police repression and the elimination of any independence for works councils and trade unions, led to the systemic extinction of strike protests nationwide[108][109].

Social resistance repeatedly took the form of sabotage. At the “Kosciuszko” mine in Jaworzno, a strike broke out in October 1945, which was preceded by sabotage actions. At the “Julia” steel mill in Bobrek, acts of sabotage took place in 1945, including tossing grenades to blow up the furnace, and blowing up the marten furnaces. Cases of sabotage were found at the “Pokój” steelworks in Bytom, the power plant in Warsaw, the State Wagon Factory in Wroclaw, and textile factories in Lodz. There were also cases of blowing up and burning railroad bridges and causing rail transportation disasters[110].

3,000 people were sentenced to death and executed, about 10,000 were tortured during interrogations or mass executions, 150,000 were sentenced to prison and about 100,000 were sent to gulags. 518,000 peasants were arrested for resisting collectivization and compulsory deliveries. About 20-50 thousand people were killed during the struggle against the independence underground[111]. Through the prisons of People’s Poland since 1944 passed about 2 million people, the number of those sentenced to death by military district courts operating since 1946 amounted to about 3,500 people, military courts, operating under the People’s Polish Army sentenced to death in 1944-1956 about 5 thousand people. In 1954, the files of the security organs contained almost 6 million names, considered criminal and suspicious elements, every third Pole was under surveillance by officers of the Ministry of Public Security, Military Information, Civic Militia and their annexes[112]. The number of terror victims by 1954 is estimated in the tens of thousands[113].

See also category: Anti-communist underground organizations (1944-1956).

In 1952, Poland was a closed country. It was separated from the world by a barbed wire fence more than 2,000 kilometers long, 1,300 watchtowers and a strip of seized land more than 3,000 kilometers long, the borders were guarded by 30,000 soldiers of the Border Protection Forces with orders to shoot anyone who tried to escape. The Ministry of Public Security issued passports for only 12,000 foreign trips that year. The vast majority of them were issued to carefully selected and vetted party officials and activists traveling on official business to other Soviet bloc countries. Passports for private travel to the West were given to about 50 people[114].

Liquidation of the Ukrainian underground[edit | edit code].

The first monument to General Karol Swierczewski in Yablonki (1952)

Separate article: Action “Vistula”.

Originally, pacification actions in the areas inhabited by the Ukrainian population, which were the area of action of the armed Ukrainian underground, were carried out by separate units subordinate to experienced officers of the Second Republic[115]. In March 1946, the coordination role in the fighting was taken over by the State Security Commission headed by General Marian Spychalski and Stanislaw Radkiewicz, to which all military units in the country were subordinate in this regard[116]. After the PPR consolidated power as a result of the rigged elections in January 1947, a decision was made to crack down on the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) underground through the mass forced displacement of the Ukrainian population living in the southeastern provinces to the Recovered Territories. The pretext for the resettlement operation was the death of Deputy Minister of National Defense Gen. Karol Swierczewski in a skirmish with a UPA unit near Baligrod. The resettlement operation, codenamed “Vistula,” led to depriving the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) of support in the local population and, consequently, to the smashing of the UPA underground by KBW units and the army.

Power camp, building support[edit | edit code].

The forces of the PPR and its coalition partners were growing. While in the summer of 1944 the PPR had about 20,000 members,[117] by February 1945 it had about 175,000 members,[118] and by April it already had 300,000 members, becoming a mass party[70]. In February 1946, the Secretariat of the Central Committee began a campaign to recruit new party members en masse. As a result, by the end of the year it had 555,000 members (a 136 percent increase over the year), to reach 820,000 members by the end of 1947[119]. By mid-1948, the PPR had 997,000 members[118].

The communist authorities’ policy was based not only on terror. As Cat-Mackiewicz wrote: “Compared with the Russian revolution, from its period in 1918-1922, the Polish revolution has so far been mild. This relative liberalism of the Polish communists has rendered enormous services to the communist cause. They used patriotic phraseology in Poland, put a damper on communist slogans, respected the Catholic Church, returned state jobs to the intelligentsia, pressed the anti-German button, and saw in anti-Germanism a link to the Red Army. All this pseudo-patriotism of Polish communism contributed to the control of the country by the communists far more than all the security offices[120].

The ranks of supporters of the new power became more and more numerous. Some did so for selfish and opportunistic reasons, while others did so out of deep conviction, believing that the new power was pursuing the best interests of the nation as a whole, or of the working masses, hitherto socially disadvantaged. For large sections of the population, especially in the former western provinces, the shift of the borders to the Oder and Lusatian Neisse was a historic achievement. This was seen as the realization of historical justice, the dreams of generations and the compensation due Poland for German crimes and the loss of eastern lands. People from various backgrounds, including anti-communists, were recruited to work for the Western Territories. A phenomenon of unprecedented scale was the social advancement of numerous representatives of the lowest social strata. The new government’s distrust of former managerial, official and scientific cadres opened the field to new and fast careers[121].

It would seem that the communist ideology imposed by the new authorities was fully rejected by society. This is because it contained two essential elements – it was a promise to build a non-capitalist industrial society and, at the same time, to preserve some features of traditional society. At the price of a lack of political and economic freedom, the PPR/PZPR guaranteed social security and civilizational and professional advancement for representatives of the lower classes. Traditional social barriers were broken down, and above all, civilizational advancement was made possible for rural residents. In a non-market economy, certain sources of inequality ceased to exist (e.g., the effects of property rights), and the significance of others was severely reduced (e.g., social origin from the lower classes). A huge motivational role was played by the slogan of universal education. The beneficiaries of these changes were the main support of the new government[122].

Within a few years of the new power, fundamental social changes took place, as evidenced by the following two opinions of émigré politicians:

New people are constantly coming here from the country (…). Talk to them, the result is one picture: society is changing! Unfortunately! It is assimilating communism! We may not like it, it may frighten us, but it is so – and this truth must be looked in the eye. And the emigration does not want to see this truth

From a letter by Wladyslaw Pobog-Malinowski in December 1949[123].

In the (…) domestic section, the situation is increasingly grim The emigration is swayed by the fact that constantly people are choosing freedom (…). There is no appreciation of the fact that (…) there is a growing layer (…) tied to the regime to the death, because to it they owe their social advancement. This is the youth, who get dizzying opportunities, and people who “advance” like peasants and workers

From a letter by Jerzy Giedroyc in October 1950[123]

Agrarian reform[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Land reform in Poland (1944).

The implementation of agrarian reform after the war was an inevitable affair[124] (even landowners were reconciled to it[125]), given the pre-war peasant protests and demonstrations (during one of them, 100 people were killed due to brutal police intervention[126]).

PGR in Szczyrce (contemporary view)

Agrarian reform was carried out in 1944-1945 on the basis of the PKWN decree of September 6, 1944 on carrying out agrarian reform[127] and concerned the distribution of land estates over 100 hectares in total area or 50 hectares of agricultural land[128]. The land was partly divided among peasants and partly taken over by the state. A total of 9707 land estates (approximately 3.49 million hectares) were seized for land reform purposes between 1944 and 1948. Of this number, 1.2 million hectares were parceled out among 387,000 peasant families. The land taken over by the state was managed by the State Land Estates, on the basis of which State Farms were created from 1949[129].

The provisions of the decree were interpreted broadly, evicting previous owners from their homes and depriving them of their possessions, including cultural goods[130]. The landed gentry layer was thus liquidated, and former landowners were forbidden to stay and live in the district where their landed property had previously been located[131]. Landowners received a lifetime supply of Group VI civil servant salaries for their seized and parcelled property. Landowners meritorious in the fight against the German occupiers received a provision higher than the average[132].

This so-called landowner’s pension was quickly restricted to those unable to work, and was later changed to a disability pension at the lowest level. The agricultural policy of the new government in Poland was characterized by a particular radicalism. This is because land reforms carried out at the same time in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania left landowners with a certain minimum of possession[132]. The land reform was met with harsh criticism from circles that considered property rights inviolable. In contrast, there was no particular resistance from landowners, as they knew from the programs of the Polish Underground State that reform would be carried out after the end of the war. So they were reconciled to it, they were only surprised by the quick timing of its introduction[125]. The parceling out of landed estates won the support of the PSL, which criticized only the creation of farms that were too small and economically dependent at the time of land distribution[133]. The introduced agrarian reform brought about great changes in the Polish countryside, marginalizing the role of the landed gentry and strengthening the position of small- and medium-sized peasants[134]. There were cases that landed gentry land was allocated to peasants by force with the help of party activists and military brigades[135], as these often doubted whether the people’s authority was not only temporary and whether its allocations would be valid after the end of the war[125].

From the operation of the Land Reform Decree of September 6, 1944, issued by the PKWN,[127] were excluded dead-end property belonging to the Church and religious associations. This happened, according to the testimony of Wanda Wasilewska, at the express request of Joseph Stalin[136]. Nationalization of dead hand property took place in March 1950[137].

Separate article: Dead hand goods.

Out of a total of more than 3 million farms in 1950, 26% were new farms and 8% were enlarged farms as a result of land reform. No land reform carried out in countries where the Communists ruled[138] had such a wide range of benefits for peasants.

During the land reform, 3.5 million hectares of forests were nationalized, which resulted in the State concentrating 85% of the total forest area in its hands. This enabled rational forest management[138].

Polish administration in the western and northern lands, population migrations[edit | edit code].

Election poster of the Democratic Bloc, led by the PPR before the elections to the Legislative Assembly (January 19, 1947)

Opening of the July 21, 1948 Exhibition of the Regained Territories, from left, Stanislaw Szwalbe, Boleslaw Bierut, Michal Rola-Zymierski and Hilary Minc

Separate articles: The Recovered Territories and The Territorial Administration of People’s Poland in 1944-1950.

Approximately 13.8 million citizens of the Second Polish Republic remained in the territories incorporated into the USSR, including: on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR – 8.1 million, Belarusian SSR – 5 million, Lithuanian SSR – about 0.7 million. Poland was granted 311,700 square kilometers (before the war Poland had more than 388,000 square kilometers). The shape of the state, however, was somewhat more favorable. The sea border was increased (from 140 to 497 kilometers), while the land border was reduced. In 1945, Poland had a population of 23.9 million people, within five years the number changed, as a result of population growth and the return of Poles to their homeland, the number of citizens increased by more than 2 million. In Poland there were 650,000 Ukrainians, 200,000 Germans, 300,000 Jews, 160,000 Belarusians, the number of national minorities accounted for 2% of the country’s total population. The Germans who stayed in Poland stayed of their own free will and were not subject to the displacement determined at international conferences[139].

At the “Big Three” conferences (Tehran December 1943, Yalta February 1945, Potsdam July 1945), it was agreed that the areas of eastern Germany up to the Oder – Lusatian Neisse line would be incorporated into the Polish state. The situation with their development and settlement caused problems for the government. Germans left abandoned houses, factories. The development of these territories was to be facilitated by the Ministry of Recovered Territories, established by a decree of the Presidium of the NKN under the Provisional Government of National Unity on November 13, 1945,[140] with Wladyslaw Gomulka, deputy prime minister of the TRJN and general secretary of the PPR, at its head. This meant taking one-third of the country’s territory out of the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Administration, led by Władysław Kiernik, representing the Polish People’s Party.

The population initially came to the new territories reluctantly, fearing the outbreak of another war and the loss of the newly acquired territories; the colonists’ fear was also heightened by the underground German units of the Werwolf organization operating in the territories, which terrorized the Poles settling there[141]. Veterans of the 1st and 2nd Polish Army were the first to settle the new territories. In February 1946, the Recovered Territories already had 2.7 million inhabitants, and in January 1947, 4.6 million. By the end of 1948, the number of settlers exceeded 4 million to reach a figure of 5.9 million in 1950[142].

In 1945-1948, Poland was the site of a wave of migrations, which had been formally controlled by the State Repatriation Office since 1944. This wave gained momentum during the period of the Provisional Government of National Unity, especially during the armed struggle, population resettlement and as a result of land reforms. 520,000 Poles returned to Poland from forced labor in Germany, as well as Poles residing in the USSR. The Polish population from the eastern territories of the former Second Republic was resettled in areas that were included in the new borders of the Polish state. Poles in exile in Western countries were returning to Poland. Polish Jews were leaving for Israel. Ukrainians and Germans were being resettled from Poland, which was established during the Potsdam Confederation. The resettlement (Clause XII of the Potsdam Conference) of Germans from Poland (5,057,000 Germans in Poland), Hungary and Czechoslovakia involved 16.5 million people[143]. Contrary to later propaganda by the Bund der Vertriebenen, an organization active in West Germany, the resettlements were not Polish revenge, but were arranged by the Allies[144].

There were hundreds of thousands of Poles in Western Europe immediately after the war. They faced a choice: stay in their country of residence or return to a country ruled by the new authorities. The vast majority decided to return. By mid-1947, more than 800,000 people had returned from the western occupation zones of Germany and Austria, and about 750,000 from the Soviet zone. Also arriving were approx. 70 thousand people previously residing in France. A separate problem was the repatriation of soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, which in July 1945 numbered 228 thousand soldiers. About 105 thousand soldiers and officers decided to return to Poland[145].

Economy, social changes[edit | edit code].

Opening balance[edit | edit code].

Ruins of the Old and New Town (1945)

In the urban planning studio “Śródmieście” of the Capital Reconstruction Bureau

The value of material losses suffered by Poland in World War II exceeded four times the national income generated in 1938[146].

The losses of the Polish state in World War II were more than five times greater than the losses suffered in the Polish territories during World War I[147].

Material losses were gigantic, amounting to about 38% of the national wealth before the war (in France – 1.5%, and in Great Britain – 0.8%[147]).

World War II resulted in the deaths of 6 million Polish citizens (including 3 million Jews), which accounted for 22.2% of the total Polish population in 1939.[147] Deaths were suffered by 30% of those with higher education and 21% with secondary education. Forty percent of doctors, 68% of dentists, 57% of attorneys, 22% of judges and prosecutors and 30% of academics were killed. 600,000 people became invalids.

Industry lost 32% of material substance, communications and transportation 60%, trade 65%, forestry 28%, agriculture 35%. 63% of bridges and 33% of railroads were destroyed.

During the war, cities such as Warsaw were almost completely destroyed, and cities located in the Recovered Territories, such as Gdańsk, Szczecin, Wrocław and Kołobrzeg, were also ruined[148].

At the end of 1946, agricultural production per capita was 66% of the 1934-1938 average, while the value of production per hectare was only 58% of the pre-war value. In that year, grain production was 60% lower than before the war in the then Polish territory, and in the Western Territories it reached 20% of the pre-war production in that area. Average caloric intake in 1946 was 57% of the 1938 level[146].

Reconstruction of the country[edit | edit code].

Opening of the W-Z Route

Reconstruction of the country from war damage began. Of particular importance in this was the 3-year plan (1947-1949) – the settlement of the Recovered Territories, land reform and nationalization of industry.

Back in January 1945, the new authorities decided to rebuild Warsaw. The Office of Reconstruction of the Capital was established.

As I climbed the hills from the ruins in the Old Town, the cause of its resurrection seemed hopeless. But I remember standing shattered on those ruins and saying to myself – And yet we will rebuild it!

Jan Zachwatowicz – General Conservator of Monuments in 1945-1957, author of plans for the reconstruction of the Old Town and the Royal Castle, [149].

On January 15, 1945, the Provisional Government created the National Bank of Poland (NBP) by decree[150].

On October 26, 1945, Boleslaw Bierut issued a decree on the ownership and use of land in the area of the capital city of Warsaw, the so-called “Bierut Decree.”[151]

The export product became hard coal, which was exchanged for Swedish iron ore, cotton from the USSR and other raw materials from European countries. As a result of the war effort, coal production declined, but a year after the war, coal mining managed to increase[152].

On July 27, 1947, coal miner Wincenty Pstrowski issued a call for competition in coal mining, marking the beginning of the PPR’s introduction of the “labor forefathers” movement in Poland, a copy of the stakhanovschina that had existed in the USSR since 1935[153].

Nationalization of industry[edit | edit code].

Hilary Minc

January 1946 saw the nationalization of the most important elements of the branches, the largest plants, banks, mines, insurance or communications companies. The owners of the plants could theoretically count on compensation, but in practice only foreign owners (citizens and companies from the US, Great Britain, France, Sweden, etc.) received it, based on interstate agreements.

Progressive economic dependence on the USSR[edit | edit code].

In August 1945, a trade agreement was signed in which Poland guaranteed the supply of 8-13 million tons of coal to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at prices about eight times lower than world prices. These exports were forced by Vyacheslav Molotov in exchange for giving up the creation of mixed Polish-Soviet companies[154]. In 1948, the Polish government adopted a four-year trade agreement with the USSR to the tune of 2 billion rubles[155]. In addition, the state was forced to sign a series of economic agreements with the USSR, exploiting the Polish economy (between 1945 and 1956 alone, the USSR obtained unilateral benefits at Poland’s expense in the order of 2 billion US dollars at the dollar exchange rate at the time[156]), forcing the sale of coal to the USSR for future war reparations from Germany, which were never received[157].

The rebuilding of the country was hampered by the massive and organized looting of Poland’s territories of machinery and resources by Red Army units formed specifically for this purpose.

What the Germans in the industrial field had not destroyed or exported, was now being destroyed and exported by Soviet troops. Everything that was installed in industrial enterprises, relocated or changed at all after 39 is considered a post-German inheritance, and therefore a war trophy, is being dismantled and exported to Russia.

Information from the Government Delegate for Poland Deputy Prime Minister Jan Stanislaw Jankowski to London, March 21, 1945[158].

Three-year plan[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Three-Year Plan.

“Ground-floor” Marszalkowska in the 1950s.

Three-Year Plan was launched in 1947, and was mainly developed by activists with pre-war socialist rather than communist backgrounds, thus resembling plans implemented in the West more than in the USSR, unlike the later Six-Year Plan[159]. The plan was developed by the Central Planning Office, established as early as 1945 and headed by Czeslaw Bobrowski, and a large part of its staff came from the PPS and educated in Western countries[155]. Both Bobrowski and the main economic authority of the time, Oskar Lange, were in favor of an economy consisting of a balanced three sectors: state, cooperative and private. From 1947, however, there was a growing conflict between the CUP and Hilary Minec, who headed the Ministry of Industry, demanding more investment in industry (especially heavy industry). In 1948, a purge was carried out in the CUP, removing supporters of the tri-sectoralization of the economy[160].

The plan was a success and was probably the only one in the history of People’s Poland that was actually exceeded. Gross national income per capita rose from 506 zlotys in 1938 to 860 zlotys in 1949 (mainly due to the annexation of the rich Western Territories and the decline in population from 36 to 26 million people), although real wages remained lower than before the war. By the end of the plan, Polish industry had been rebuilt. In 1949, the volume of agricultural production had already reached 90% of that of 1938. Gradually, the rationing system of food rationing began to be abolished (in 1948 rationing of sugar, groats and potatoes was abolished, and in 1949 of other foodstuffs). In 1949, the amount of industrial production was already about 50% higher than in 1937, and the volume of industrial production per capita was 2.5 times higher than in 1937.[161]

Industrial development led to major changes in the social structure. While in the last years of the Second Republic about 60% of the population made their living from agriculture, and about 13% worked in industry, by 1950 the share of people making their living from agriculture had fallen to 47%, and almost 20% of the total population worked in industry[162].

It is estimated that between 1946 and 1948, national income increased by 14-18% per year[163].

View of Warsaw M-20 cars produced at the FSO factory in Żerań

Six-year plan[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: The Six-Year Plan and The Battle for Trade.

From 1945, the de facto manager of the economy was Hilary Minc, one of the most influential members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers’ Party (PPR), minister of industry successively: in the Provisional Government, the Provisional Government of National Unity, and finally in the government of Józef Cyrankiewicz (where from 1949 he was deputy prime minister, chairman of the State Economic Planning Commission and the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers).

After 1948, there was a forced introduction of the so-called “labor competition” (modeled on the Soviet Stakhanovism), leading to an increase in labor standards while preserving existing workers’ wages – its symbol and tool became Wincenty Pstrowski[141].

On February 10, 1949, the Central Planning Office was transformed into the State Economic Planning Commission[164]. The 6-year plan (1950-1955), was developed by a group of economists led by Hilary Mintz, the growth of industry was to be 85-95%, and agriculture by 35-45%. The plan provided for the forcible construction of heavy industry – the basis of the armaments industry, reducing funds for agriculture and consumer industry compared to the three-year plan,[165] the size of the People’s Polish Army was increased from 250,000 to 500,000 soldiers, which placed a heavy burden on the country’s finances. Under the plan, the city of Nowa Huta, the Lenin Steel Plant, car factories in Warsaw (production of the first postwar passenger car, the “Warsaw M-20,” began in 1951[166]) and Lublin, cement plants in Wierzbica, numerous machine factories, shipyards in Szczecin and Gdansk, chemical plants, a power plant in Jaworzno, and previously existing plants were expanded. The plan led to a 250% increase in industry. The social reconstruction of the country was underway (population migration, urbanization)[167]. Employment in industry increased by 2.2 million people[168].

As of January 1, 1949, the post-war card system of supplying the population in People’s Poland was abolished[169].

On October 30, 1950, banknotes were exchanged in Poland without warning, invalidating about 60% of the money circulation. This was a de facto confiscation of the monetary resources of the country’s population.

Separate article: Currency reform in Poland (1950).

During this period, the collectivization of agriculture also began. It was assumed that it would be voluntary. A system of incentives was designed to induce people to join cooperatives (tax breaks, assistance in house construction, electrification, land reclamation, lower standards for mandatory deliveries, loans). At lower levels of administration there was coercion to join cooperatives condemned by the central authorities (criticism of such cases in Gryfice in 1951 and in Lubelskie in 1953)[170]. Agricultural production increased by 13%. Beginning in 1949, there were State Agricultural Farms (PGR)[169].

In January 1953, the card system was abolished, but with it came a large increase in the price of consumer goods[171].

Science, culture, social life[edit | edit code].

Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw (until 1956 Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science)

Ceremonial opening of the MDM (1952)

Poster of the 8th WP (1955)

On October 23, 1944, the PKWN established the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin as the fifth Polish university. The Catholic University of Lublin resumed its activities at that time. In 1945, three more universities were established: The University of Lodz, the University of Nicolaus Copernicus in Torun and the University of Wroclaw; the core of their academic staff consisted of resettled lecturers and academics from Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov and Stefan Batory University in Vilnius.

The program to combat illiteracy, which was eliminated (before 1939 its rate was 33%[172]), was a great success. The authorities organized free evening courses, and even the elderly were taught to read and write[173]. The circulation of books and pamphlets increased significantly. While in 1934-1938 they amounted to 24.6 million, in 1951-1955 they amounted to 92.5 million[172].

However, a significant part of the publications and circulations were communist pamphlets and other propaganda publications published in mass quantities, in addition to selected items of fiction. Probably the largest single Polish circulation of A Short Course in the History of the Communist Party(b) took place in 1950, as reported by Tygodnik Powszechny in its April 30, 1950 (no. 18) “From the Day” column: A. Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz achieved the highest circulation after the war, with 1.5 million, followed closely by A Short Course in the History of the CPSU(b), with 1.25 million copies. Between 1952 and 1953, 2,500 titles were removed from libraries, in several million copies, and taken under control to paper mills designated in each province, where they were milled[174].

The PPR came out with the concept of universal, uniform and free, state and compulsory education. The pre-war system of differentiated types of elementary education was broken up, and private schools were abolished. In 1948, a uniform model of a 7-grade elementary school and a 4-year high school was introduced[175].

The stage of “mild revolution” in culture ended at the end of 1947. In art, the authorities began to promote Socialist Realism, finally imposed forcibly on the creative circles in 1949. This trend depicted the daily life of workers and reality. Posters were produced, paintings depicting workers and the reconstruction of the country. In music, mass songs, pop cultural music and classical music led the way. Composers creating classical music in the first years of postwar Poland included Grzegorz Fitelberg, Witold Lutoslawski and Grazyna Bacewicz. Independent artists who did not support the regime of the new Poland included Jan Szczepanski and Zbigniew Herbert[176]. Poetry at the time was written by recognized Polish authors such as Władysław Broniewski and Wisława Szymborska.

By 1949, 20,000 rural library outlets and 1,600 community libraries were opened, with 1 million books purchased with state funds[177]. Between 1950 and 1955, readership grew rapidly. The number of public libraries increased from 3885 to 5110, and library points (mainly in rural areas) from 17,300 to 29,000. Their book collections grew from 6.6 million to 22.9 million copies of books[178].

In the 1950s, cultural policy toward the Jewish minority was open. The People’s Republic of Poland was one of the largest Jewish book publishing centers in the world. Beginning in 1950, the Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Poland was established (similar societies: Belarusian, Ukrainian and German were not established until after 1956)[179].

From July to October 1945, 12,700 people took advantage of vacation spots in the country, while in 1949 the number was already 451,700.[180] In February 1949, the Employee Vacation Fund (FWP) was established[177]. From 1946 to 1956, vacationers received free round-trip train tickets. Only 30% of the cost of the stay was covered by the employee (the rest by the FWP and labor unions). In 1952, the right to rest was introduced into the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Poland (Article 59)[181].

In May 1948, the first International Cycling Race of “Głos Ludu” and “Rudeho Prava” was held on the route Warsaw – Prague – Warsaw. This was the beginning of the history of the “Peace Race”. From 1953, Berlin also became a stage of the race[182].

The concept of the “Polish road to socialism”, a split in the leadership of the PPR[edit | edit code].

Wladyslaw Gomulka (1947)

Bolesław Bierut

Jozef Cyrankiewicz

The faction in the PPR that believed that strong-arm rule must be based on a broader political base was represented by Wladyslaw Gomulka. He believed that repression alone could not replace popular support for the new government. He recognized that it was possible to build socialism in Poland without the dictatorship of the proletariat, terror and the annihilation of the existing social structures. He stressed the differences between the conditions of the revolution in Russia and Poland. “We gained power against the background of the liberation struggle, under the banner of expelling the Germans. We do not need to overthrow the old state apparatus. (…) We in Poland assumed the possibility of development other than the Soviet way (…) we assumed the possibility of development similar to parliamentary development, of which the NSC is a substitute.” – he stated. He allowed for the existence of an opposition, but only one that did not negate the new system[183].

In September 1947, Joseph Stalin convened a conference in response to the controversy among communist European governments over whether to attend the Paris conference on the Marshall Plan in July 1947. It was held in Szklarska Poreba. On the part of the USSR, the conference was headed by Andrei Zhdanov, who delivered a paper stating that in view of the offensive of “American imperialism,” which allegedly led to the formation of two camps (“imperialist” and “democratic”), it was necessary to “close ranks” and establish a permanent “consultative” body of the Communist parties – the Kominform (Information Office of the Communist and Workers’ Parties). At the conference, the idea of establishing the Kominform was supported primarily by representatives of the CCP(b) and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, while other participants took a rather passive stance; on the PPR side, Hilary Minc strongly supported the idea, while Wladyslaw Gomulka was skeptical of establishing the Bureau, fearing the creation of a new Comintern, which would be an overarching structure over the national communist parties. Gomulka threatened to resign as general secretary of the PPR, and ultimately accepted the international and domestic policy goals imposed at the conference, defending only the specifics of the Polish way. However, he objected to the new institution’s headquarters being in Warsaw[184]. The Kominform was established on September 27, 1947, with the bureau’s headquarters in Belgrade; after the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was excluded from the Kominform in June 1948, the organization’s headquarters was moved to Bucharest.

Gomulka was in favor of the unification of the PPR with the PPS. He wanted the unification to result in a party with a viable base of popular support. Therefore, despite his recognition of the PPR as a hegemonic party, he recognized the need for the new party to also appeal to the independence tradition of the PPS. In a paper, not agreed with the other members of the Politburo, delivered on June 3, 1948, at a PPR Central Committee plenum devoted to the traditions of the Polish labor movement, Gomulka defended the “Polish road to socialism” in this context. He stated that for a new political party to have real popular support, it must advocate and defend state independence. He criticized the KPP for not understanding this when conducting political activities in the pre-war period. “The KPP used the slogan of national self-determination in such a way that it wanted to legislate for the nation and the working class itself,” – Gomulka stated. The paper was met with criticism from other BP members, who rejected Gomulka’s position in a resolution. For the first time, a split in the PPR leadership became public. Despite the pressure, Gomulka did not give up his theses, although he agreed not to step down demonstratively from his position as general secretary of the PPR[185]. Gomulka also opposed Stalin’s ordered crackdown on the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. He tried to mediate Moscow’s conflict with Belgrade against Stalin’s wishes[186]. On June 20, 1948, the Kominform held its deliberations in Bucharest. They marked the beginning of a period of increased uniformity among the Central European countries in line with the Soviet model. The deliberations condemned the KPJ and referred to the need for such transformations in the countryside that would lead to its collectivization. Gomulka objected to the content of the conference’s resolutions on collectivization, stating that the Polish delegation should have the approval of the PPR Central Committee to support the Cominform’s resolution on this issue.

A plenum of the Central Committee was held in July 1948, which announced a tighter domestic course and fully supported the resolutions of the Kominform meeting, while criticizing Gomulka’s theses on the traditions of the Polish labor movement. The plenum was convened without Gomulka’s participation as general secretary of the PPR[187]. On August 14, a meeting of the Politburo was held during which Gomulka was removed from the post of general secretary and the position was given to Bierut. A plenum of the PPR Central Committee was held from August 31 to September 2, 1948, at which Gomulka was finally dealt with. In his introductory speech, Bierut accused Gomulka of, among other things, “right-wing-nationalist deviation,” hesitation over the establishment of the Information Bureau, his unclear attitude toward the Soviet-Yugoslav conflict, support for the “nationalist traditions of the PPS,” a negative attitude toward collectivization, the erroneous concept of creating the NDC during the occupation on the basis of the widest possible social circle, distrust of the USSR and factional activities[188].

Gomulka still spoke at the Unification Congress of the PPR and PPS, at which the PZPR was established, disagreeing with accusations coming from the rostrum that he had betrayed the interests of the working class. Describing himself as an internationalist, he stated that it was necessary to fight not only nationalism, but also cosmopolitanism and national nihilism. “We despise those who do not respect our nation, who do not appreciate its greatness and abilities, who diminish our contribution to the international treasury of culture,” he said[189].

On August 2, 1951, Gomulka was arrested along with his wife by officers of Department X of the MBP of the Ministry of Public Security under the command of Colonel Jozef Swiatla; the arrested were imprisoned in the MBP villa in Miedzeszyn.

Formation of the PZPR in 1948[edit | edit code].

A rally in Warsaw’s Polytechnic Square during the unification congress of the PPR and PPS in December 1948

Separate article: Polish United Workers’ Party.

In December 1948, at the Unification Congress held at the Warsaw University of Technology, the Polish United Workers’ Party was formed from the merger of the Polish Workers’ Party and the Polish Socialist Party, following an earlier mass purge in the ranks of the PPS. Boleslaw Bierut became the general secretary. Władysław Gomułka, who was skeptical of the USSR, was sidelined. A large part of the PPS activists were against unification, however, the PPR had activists in the ranks of the PPS who were willing to see the two parties unite[190]. Socialist circles beyond the reach of the influence of the PZPR found themselves in exile[99].

The remnants of previously existing parties independent of the PPR were incorporated into the People’s Party and Democratic Party, which were satellites of the PPR. In 1949, the United People’s Party was formed from a merger of the People’s Party with the remnants of Mikolajczyk’s PSL, as well as the Central Council of Trade Unions and the Union of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (ZBoWiD). In 1950, some pro-communist Labor Party activists joined the Democratic Party. The ZSL and SD were treated by the PZPR as the so-called transmission of the party to the masses.

As late as June 1948, the Union of Polish Youth was formed from the merger of four youth organizations.

The military during the period of transition[edit | edit code].

From left: Michal Rola-Zymierski, Marian Spychalski and Karol Swierczewski on the Lusatian Neisse River (1945)

Konstanty Rokossovsky in a Polish uniform

In August 1945, the top-secret “Guidelines of the Supreme Commander for the Formation of Officer Cadres of the Polish Army” were issued. This was the document that shaped personnel policy in the Polish Army until 1948, until the removal of the co-author and implementer of this policy Deputy Minister of National Defense Gen. Marian Spychalski. Participants of underground leftist organizations from the war, officers of the 1st and 2nd Armies of the Polish Army and post-war alumni of officer schools were considered the most desirable human element from which they wanted to build future cadres. The young officer cadre of the Second Republic (up to and including the rank of captain) was regarded with appreciation as “the most valuable part of the pre-war officer corps” and the pre-war reserve officers. Negative reference was made to the senior officer corps of the Second Republic, considering it to be “poorly selected, superficially trained and falsely selected for Sanacja-fascist purposes.” Nonetheless, officers of this ilk were deemed useful in the army due to “the need to gradually ease Red Army officers into senior positions in the Polish Army.” As for the soldiers of the Home Army, recognizing it in general as an organization hostile to the new government, with moderate tolerance was applied to those soldiers of the Home Army who “fought and risked during the occupation.”[191]

Between 1946 and 1948, seventeen of the twenty-odd general promotions went to officers from the Second Republic, most of them from prisoner-of-war camps (nearly 60 pre-war officers were promoted to general rank over time)[192].

In 1947 there were still about one and a half thousand Soviet officers serving in the People’s Army. They were all expected to leave Poland by the end of 1951. In 1949 when the command of the People’s Liberation Army was assumed by Marsh. Rokossovsky there were several hundred Soviet officers (all of Polish descent) serving in the LWP[193].

Soldiers of the People’s Army of Poland in 1951

Until 1948, liberal tendencies in shaping the personnel face of the LWP persisted in the army, similar to those adopted in the Polish Army in 1918 when officer positions were occupied not only by legionaries, but also by officers who had previously served in the partitioning states[194]. As a result of the downsizing of the army between 1945 and 1948, at the beginning of 1949 they numbered about 140,000 soldiers.

At the beginning of 1949, alumni of the People’s Army, including officers of the People’s Army and other partisans associated with the Communist movement and soldiers with experience of fighting in the Spanish Civil War, made up about three-quarters of the officer corps; pre-war officers and those with roots in the Home Army – less than a quarter; about 6 percent were Soviet officers[195].

Separate articles: Army Mining Corps and the Tatar-Utnik-Novitsky Trial.

On November 6, 1949, Marshal of the USSR, a Soviet citizen (who was granted Polish citizenship on the occasion) Konstanty Rokossovsky was appointed Minister of National Defense, appointed at the same time to the rank of Marshal of Poland and co-opted to the PZPR Politburo on November 13, 1949[196]. In December 1949 Rokossovsky demanded that the Polish Sejm enact new credits for the military (between 1949 and 1954, as a result of the new regulations, they exceeded as much as 15% of the national income), and in 1951 the 6-year plan was amended on his orders – the result was the allocation of huge sums to the military at the expense of civilian investments. Significant military investments led to Poland’s inclusion in the Soviet military infrastructure. From 1952 Rokossovsky was also deputy prime minister. He implemented the policy of repression of pre-war Polish officers, which had already begun at the end of the war, purges and Sovietization in the People’s Army, as well as introducing a repressive system of forced labor in coal mines, uranium ore mines and quarries, performed in lieu of military service by young people from politically insecure families.

The deep reduction of the army between 1945 and 1948 and its loss of capacity to undertake effective defense operations led to the adoption of a 7-year plan to expand the military in 1949. These undertakings coincided with a tightening of the international situation (see Cold War, USSR blockade of West Berlin (1948-1949). As a result, in late 1949, the Polish Army began to prepare for a possible war[197]. The change in the concept of development coincided with the formation in the West (April 4, 1949) of a political-military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which the Eastern Bloc countries considered a threat. After the outbreak of the Korean War and Poland’s inclusion in the arms race between the Eastern Bloc and NATO, the Polish Army reached the apogee of organizational development. As part of the implementation of the plan for the accelerated development of the army in 1951-1952, the following were additionally formed: four army corps commands, two air corps commands, ten airborne divisions, two mechanized divisions, seven infantry divisions, five anti-aircraft artillery divisions, three anti-tank artillery brigades, three anti-tank brigades, six independent tank regiments. As a result, the full-time status of the Polish Army increased by more than 200% between 1950 and 1951, and as of January 1, 1952 amounted to 356,481 soldiers. Relative to its population, the PLA became one of the strongest armies in Europe[198].

State-Church relations 1944-1952[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: State-Church Agreement 1950, Patriotic Priests and “Pax” Association.

Boleslaw Piasecki

In 1945, President Boleslaw Bierut, faced with a proposal by Primate August Hlond to present newly appointed apostolic administrators for dioceses in the Western Territories, declared the concordat between the Holy See and Poland non-binding. On September 12, 1945, the Provisional Government of National Unity passed a resolution annulling the concordat. The reason given for the resolution was the Vatican’s violation of Article 9, which occurred in December 1939, when the Diocese of Chelm was entrusted to the German Bishop Karol Maria Splett[199]. At the same time, the authorities accused the Vatican of refusing to recognize Poland’s western and northern borders.

As of December 1945, by order of the Minister of Education, the compulsion to teach religion in schools was abolished. A further step on the path of secularization was the abolition of the “religion” column in official records. As of January 1, 1946, a nationally uniform secular law on civil records went into effect allowing divorces and civil weddings[200].

Nevertheless, the authorities maintained formally correct relations with the Catholic Church until 1948. The first institution of higher learning still operating in the patch of liberated Poland was the Catholic University of Lublin (on August 2, 1944 it received permission from the new authorities to operate[201]). Representatives of the authorities (Boleslaw Bierut, Piotr Jaroszewicz) participated in church ceremonies (e.g., the Corpus Christi procession of 1946). President Boleslaw Bierut, while taking the oath of office on the Constitution, ended it with the words: So help me God. He also participated in ceremonies related to the restoration of a statue of Jesus Christ in front of one of the churches in Warsaw[202]. Independent publishing activities of religious orders and the Church were allowed (“Gość Niedzielny”, “Rycerz Niepokalanej”). “Caritas” was active, providing gifts from the West for the needy in Poland. Soldiers of the People’s Polish Army began their barracks life with the religious song When the morning rises. The same was true of Polish Radio programs, which also began with the aforementioned song. The Catholic Church and other religious associations were also given back the property they had lost during the occupation, and Bishop Teodor Kubina even issued a statement saying that: “all restrictions ordered by the occupier have been rescinded, and the requisitioned church buildings have been returned to the possession of church and monastery authorities.”

The authorities approved the establishment of the PAX association in 1945. The association was headed by Boleslaw Piasecki, a politician of the extreme fascist wing of the pre-war national movement (Falanga National-Radical Movement, ONR-Falanga), who was arrested by the NKVD in 1944 and released by the head of the NKVD representative office in Poland, Ivan Serov, in 1945 under conditions that remain unknown to this day.

A week after the Kielce pogrom in 1946, a delegation of Lublin Jews asked Bishop Wyszynski “to issue a pastoral proclamation to the clergy and faithful of the diocese.” Wyszynski advised that “it would be better for the Jews if they moved out of Poland altogether, e.g. to Palestine, or bought themselves some colony or island.”[203]

After the 1947 elections falsified by the PPR, in the situation of the disappearance of the activities of the armed anti-communist underground, and finally after the liquidation of the legal political opposition (the Polish People’s Party), especially after the flight of Stanislaw Mikolajczyk (October 1947), the pressure of the state authorities on the Church increased. As a result, in 1948 the Polish Episcopate issued a pastoral letter, the letter called on the Church faithful to work together in the new Poland. In the summer of 1949, the government issued a decree on the protection of freedom of conscience and religion. The decree stipulated that it was a crime to refuse religious services for political reasons; Church representatives opposed the decree. The Communist state authorities seized Church land, religious orders and “Caritas” property, contrary to the 1944 PKWN decree. In 1950, the Ministry of Public Security organized a movement of so-called “patriot priests” who supported the Communist authorities[204]. The “patriot priests” movement included about 10% of the clergy[205].

The easing of the conflict between the communist state and the Church took place in the spring of 1950, when an agreement was concluded on April 14 between the Episcopate of Poland, represented by Primate Stefan Wyszynski, and the communist state authorities, which guaranteed the independence of the Church’s structure and the mode of appointment of its authorities from the state administration and replaced the concordat, which had not been formally recognized by the government since 1945, but which had not been formally pronounced. The authorities maintained religious instruction in schools, allowed the publication of Catholic-oriented periodicals, the operation of religious orders and about 30 chaplains in the army[206]. However, the Episcopate made many concessions in return. Among other things, he declared that he would call on the clergy to teach the faithful “respect for the law and state authority” in their pastoral work. It pledged to “oppose activities hostile to Poland” and to explain to the clergy “not to oppose the expansion of cooperatives in the countryside.” In para. 8 of the agreement, the Episcopate stated:

The Catholic Church, while condemning, in accordance with its tenets, every crime, will also combat the criminal activities of underground bands, and will stigmatize and punish with canonical consequences clergy guilty of participating in any underground and anti-state action[207].

On October 24, 1950, the head of the Office for Religious Affairs, Antoni Bida, accused the Catholic bishops of hostility to People’s Poland and failure to recognize the western border, as the Episcopate, according to him, was evading the appointment of bishops in the Recovered Territories. On January 28, 1951, the authorities announced that they had eliminated the state of temporariness in the Recovered Territories by removing the apostolic administrators in Olsztyn, Gdansk, Gorzow, Opole and Wroclaw, appointed by Primate Augustine Hlond with the Pope’s approval, from directing the dioceses. Wyszynski, in order to prevent schism, granted ecclesiastical jurisdiction in accordance with canon law to chapter vicars invalidly elected by order of the authorities on February 8, 1951. In July 1951, Moscow’s Pravda accused Primate Wyszynski of “undermining the vital interests of Poland.” On January 20, 1951, Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek of Kielce was imprisoned, tortured and then sentenced in a show trial. By the end of 1951, some 900 priests were already in prison.

On November 4, 1950, the Today and Tomorrow group led the formation of the Committee of Catholic Intellectuals and Activists at the All-Poland Committee of Defenders of Peace, which was to be PAX’s rival to the priest-patriots of the Union of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy. In 1952, Piasecki’s group adopted the official name “Pax” Association. “Pax” took control of the “priests-patriots” movement in 1955.[205] Communist authorities consistently promoted the activities of the priests-patriots movement and Boleslaw Piasecki’s group until 1956.

People’s Republic of Poland (1952-1989)[edit | edit code].

Draft Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic with Stalin’s amendments applied

Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic[208][edit | edit code].

Separate article: Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic.

On July 22, 1952, the eighth anniversary of the promulgation of the PKWN manifesto, the Sejm formally adopted the Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic (the July Constitution). The actual author of the constitution was Boleslaw Bierut, and his draft was personally amended by Stalin[209][210] (disagreeing, for example, to change the Polish national anthem[211]). Following the example of other “people’s democracies,” the name of the state was changed to the Polish People’s Republic. The office of the president was abolished, and his powers were taken over by a collegial Council of State (on the Soviet model), the term of office of the Sejm was five years and that of the national councils three years. There were also provisions for the right to work, health care, leisure, education,[212] among others.

At the same time, the police system of mono-party dictatorship rule was strengthened, the repressive activities of the Ministry of Public Security intensified (the thesis of the aggravation of the class struggle), which manifested itself, among other things, in trials against political activists of the interwar and wartime period, generals and officers of the Polish Army, former soldiers of the Home Army.

State-Church relations in 1952-1956[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Trial of Bishop Kaczmarek, Trial of the priests of the Krakow curia, Resolution of the Union of Polish Writers in Krakow on the Krakow trial, Today and Tomorrow, Committee of Catholic Intellectuals and Activists and “Pax” Association.

The show trial of the priests of the Krakow curia in 1953

Stefan Wyszynski

In July 1952, the authorities abolished lower seminaries, religious novitiates and threatened to liquidate the remnants of the Catholic press. Restrictions were placed on church construction. The government imposed Father Filip Bednorz of the ZBoWiD as chapter vicar in Katowice, from where Bishop Stanislaw Adamski was removed. On December 4, 1952, the authorities interned Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak, who had been exiled from Lviv in 1945 and was the ruler of the Cracow archdiocese after the death of Archbishop Adam Sapieha. Nor was a passport issued to Primate Wyszynski when he wanted to travel to Rome for a consistory to receive the cardinal’s hat awarded to him. The authorities carried out a campaign for priests to pledge “allegiance to the People’s Republic of Poland.”

On January 27, 1953, the verdict in the show trial of the priests of the Krakow curia was announced. On February 9, the State Council issued a decree on the creation, filling and abolition of ecclesiastical posts, stipulating that every appointment and act of jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Poland was subject to control by the authorities and could be annulled by them. The decree made the filling of church positions subject to the approval of the presidium of the government with respect to bishops, and by the presidium of the Provincial National Council with respect to other positions (including parish priests, parochial vicars and chaplains). It also provided for the removal from clerical positions for practicing […] activities contrary to the law and public order, or supporting or shielding such activities. It made priests dependent on the denominational administration, which gave itself powers vested exclusively in the Ordinary Bishops[213].

On May 8, 1953, the bishops meeting in Cracow sent a letter to the government of the People’s Republic of Poland, protesting the harassment of the Church. On June 18, a joint meeting of the Commission of Intellectuals, the commission of priest-patriots of the ZBoWiD and the PAX Association took place. The statement issued called for “unity” among all Catholic forces on a “socially progressive” plane. On September 22, after a rigged trial, Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Wyszynski’s arrest was decided by Bierut and Franciszek Mazur together with Soviet leadership. The Primate was arrested in Warsaw on November 26, 1953. He was followed by the arrest of Bishops: Stanislaw Adamski, Antoni Baraniak, Herbert Bednorz, Juliusz Bienek and Lucjan Bernacki. Immediately after the Primate’s imprisonment, Julia Brystiger of the Ministry of Public Security obtained Bishop Michał Klepacz’s approval to head the Polish Episcopal Commission[214].

Beginning of the thaw[edit | edit code].

Edward Ochab

Separate article: Thaw (history).

See the publicationCommon History/Poland during the “thaw” at Wikibooks

Poland’s membership in the Eastern Bloc was perpetuated by its membership in economic (since 1949 in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) and military-political (since 1955 in the Warsaw Pact) structures subordinated to the USSR. After the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953, the USSR gradually moved away from the Stalinist system of power. Initially, the crimes of the Stalinist period were not revealed in the people’s democracy countries. In Poland, newspapers and radio published announcements about Stalin’s death, only Tygodnik Powszechny, which refused to publish a full-page obituary of Stalin on the front page, was suspended and then handed over to the team of “Pax”, which collaborated with the authorities. In December 1953, Jozef Swiatlo escaped to the West, and in 1954, on Radio Free Europe, he began to deliver a series of talks Behind the scenes of the party and the security services exposing the backstage of the PZPR’s exercise of power in Poland. After his escape, initially there were a series of resignations in the MBP, and finally in December 1954 the MBP was dissolved, while Stanislaw Radkiewicz was transferred to the position of Minister of State Farm[215]. In the spring of 1955, the leadership of the PZPR ordered the prosecutor’s office to investigate the activities of those institutions that violated the law. The special courts that had existed since the war and the “civil division” of military courts were abolished. In November of that year, Bierut sent a letter to the CPSU to explain the reasons for the dissolution of the CPSU in 1938 (in February 1956, a special inter-party commission declared the decision groundless)[216]. In the same year, Wladyslaw Gomulka and his associates were released from prison[215]. Literary censorship was liberalized, a harbinger of the coming thaw was the publication of Adam Ważyk’s Poem for Adults[215]. The condemnation of Stalinism in the USSR occurred at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. During the congress, the chairman of the Polish delegation, Boleslaw Bierut, fell ill and died on March 12, 1956. It was suspected that his death occurred in an unnatural way. Boleslaw Bierut was replaced by Edward Ochab, and Stalinist methods of governance were gradually abandoned. On April 27, 1956, an amnesty was announced (almost 6,000 political prisoners were released from prisons). In May, Jakub Berman stepped down from his posts[217]. The magazines “Po prostu” and “Nowa Kultura” published articles that criticized the previous system, and demanded punishment of the functionaries responsible for the crimes of the period, especially the UB[218]. In August 1956, the First National Jazz Music Festival took place in Sopot[219]. On October 2, the authorities of the USSR decided to return to Poland some of the art collections and archives[220] that had been looted by the Germans in occupied Poland during the war and were then taken to the USSR from the occupied territories of the Third Reich and the Free City of Danzig (including Matejko’s “Stańczyk” and Memling’s “Last Judgment”)[221].

Poznan Uprising of 1956[edit | edit code].

Protesters in Poznań in June 1956.

Separate article: Poznan June.

Reforms of the system were also demanded by other social groups, dissatisfaction among workers was growing. On the morning of June 28, 1956, workers organized a strike in the largest plants of Poznan. They then took to the streets forming a march that transformed from a workers’ demonstration into a demonstration of society. The march of one hundred thousand people (1/3 of the city’s population at the time) arrived in front of the headquarters of the Polish United Workers’ Party and the Municipal National Council.

Literally, the demonstrators’ determination grew by the minute; the mood gradually radicalized. To slogans with social and economic content: “We demand an increase in wages,” “We want to live like people,” “We want bread,” “Down with the norms,” “We are hungry,” were joined by those already openly anti-communist and anti-government: “Down with the exploitation of the working world,” “Down with the red bourgeoisie,” “We want freedom,” “Down with Bolshevism,” “Down with the communists,” “We demand free elections under UN control,” and even “Long live Mikolajczyk.” Finally, there were also shouts with anti-Russian and anti-Soviet content: “Down with the Russians,” “Down with the Muscovites,” “Down with the Ruskies, We demand a truly free Poland.”[222] Some of the protesters occupied the prison, releasing some prisoners. There were also demonstrations at the Poznań International Fair, some protesters attacked the Provincial Office of Public Security, but officers there fired shots at the protesters. The authorities sent regular military units to the city – initially the 19th Armored Division and the 10th Armored Division, and later the 4th and 5th Infantry Divisions. A total of 9983 soldiers, 359 tanks[223], 31 armored guns, 36 armored personnel carriers, 6 anti-aircraft guns, 880 cars, 68 motorcycles and several thousand weapons were directed to pacify the city. During several hours of fighting, 180,000 rounds of ammunition were used. The forces engaged in street battles with groups of civilians, armed with 250 weapons, including 1 rkm from broken militia stations and military studies of universities, and bottles of gasoline. The demonstrators managed to capture two tanks, from which they attempted to shell the building of the Provincial Public Security Office. These tanks were recaptured by OSWPiZ cadets. A total of 31 tanks were destroyed or damaged[224]. Around 6:30 pm, demonstrators freed prisoners of the Mrowin camp (an NKVD and UB camp for Polish political prisoners, among others, which existed from 1945 to June 28, 1956). The exchange of fire continued at various points in the city of Poznań until the noon hours of June 29, with sporadic shots fired until June 30.

Any provocateur or lunatic who dares to raise his hand against the people’s power should be sure that the people’s power will chop that hand off from him!

Radio speech by Polish People’s Republic Prime Minister Jozef Cyrankiewicz, June 29, 1956[225][226].

In the course of the fighting and the pacification of the city, 53 people were killed, according to official figures, including 4 soldiers and 4 functionaries of the UB and MO. In 2006, Dr. Lukasz Jastrząb announced a verified list of 57 people killed and died of wounds[227] (including 49 civilians, four soldiers, three UB officers and one militiaman[228]). His research was confirmed in 2007 by the Institute of National Remembrance, which further supplemented Lukasz Jastrzeb’s list with the name of Andrzej Styperk, who died in 1964 as a result of a spinal gunshot wound that occurred in June 1956[229]. 80% of the fatalities were not actively involved in the incidents-their deaths were caused by indiscriminate shooting, among other civilians who came into possession of weapons[228]). Ryszard Terlecki claims in 2015 that there were more than 70 victims, but does not name names[230].

A change in the authorities’ assessment of the Poznań June was made by the new First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR), Wladyslaw Gomulka, during the Eighth Plenum of the Central Committee held October 19-21, 1956. He stated:

The workers of Poznan, grasping the weapon of the strike and taking to the street in a demonstrative manner on the black Thursday of June, cried out in a great voice: Enough! This cannot go on! Turn back from the false path! (…) The workers of Poznan were not protesting against People’s Poland, against socialism, when they took to the streets of the city. They were protesting against the evil that has spread widely in our social system and that has also painfully affected them, against the distortion of the basic principles of socialism, which is their idea[231].

Polish October 1956[edit | edit code].

Wladyslaw Gomulka’s speech on Defilad Square in Warsaw on October 24, 1956.

Separate article: Polish October 1956.

The building of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Warsaw

On October 15, 1956, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR), meeting with Gomulka, decided to open the Eighth Plenum of the PZPR Central Committee on October 19 to elect new TAs[232]. The Eighth Plenum of the PZPR Central Committee carried out criticism of the party’s policies of previous years (the so-called cult of the individual), Wladyslaw Gomulka was elected First Secretary of the Central Committee, and Konstanty Rokossowski and Hilary Mintz, prominent Stalinists, were removed from the Politburo. Protests across Poland saw pickets in support of the reforms and Gomulka[233].

On the night of October 18-19, troops of the Northern Group of the Soviet Army, which had left their garrisons in Lower Silesia and Pomerania, began their march toward Warsaw. Columns of motorized infantry and tanks of the Polish Army from units in Legionowo, Kazun and Modlin, commanded by Soviet officers, advancing toward Warsaw, followed strictly the orders of Rokossovsky, who intended to support the units of the Northern Army Group with Polish troops. Eventually, the Polish units stopped their march after a dozen kilometers[234]. In this situation, the recent political prisoner and now commander of the Internal Defense Forces, Gen. Waclaw Komar, and Gen. Włodzimierz Muś, commander of the Internal Security Corps, put KBW units on alert, ordered the manning of strategic facilities and patrolling the streets. Self-defense groups began to form in workplaces, and the KBW issued them weapons to defend the capital[232].

On the day of the scheduled start of the plenum (October 19) in the morning, a Soviet delegation headed by Khrushchev arrived without invitation. It held talks with the Polish Politburo and Gomulka throughout the day. Gomulka referred to the comrades: “They resent us that the Politburo committee proposed the composition of the Politburo without several comrades who are an expression of the Polish-Soviet alliance, namely Comrades Rokossovsky, Novak, Mazur, Jozwiak. Comrade Khrushchev said: “This stunt will not work out for you, we are ready for active intervention.”[232] However, Gomulka reassured Khrushchev, promising him that relations between the People’s Republic of Poland and the USSR would not change. Intimidated by Khrushchev by Mikolajczyk’s return to power from exile in Copenhagen, Gomulka told Khrushchev, “If Mikolajczyk is sitting in Copenhagen, then you too should have sat in Moscow and waited until we came to ask you to save us. Don’t you understand that we should care about you more than you care about us, because our power in this country is largely based on your support! One third of our country’s territory depends on your guarantees.”[235]

A political breakthrough (the October Thaw), supported by the people, took place. A program was adopted to eradicate the cult of the individual, to partially modify the political and economic system. Among other things, decisions were taken to reduce repression, abandon the collectivization of agriculture, increase the scope of civil liberties, modernize the management of the economy – the establishment of workers’ councils. The period of Gomulka’s rule saw rapid de-Stalinization, compared to the rest of Eastern Europe.

On October 12, 1956, Wladyslaw Gomulka said at a meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party.

One can rule a nation, when one has lost its confidence, with bayonets, but whoever orientates himself to such an eventuality orientates himself to the loss of everything. We cannot return to the old methods[236]. The effect of the Gomulka thaw was the release from prison of more than 35,000 convicts, and 1,500 political prisoners were rehabilitated. Most of those convicted of participating in the Poznań June were released[237]. There were also changes in state and military authorities, Stalinist ministers were dismissed from the government, scientists and military officers repressed during the Stalinist period returned to work. Many previously demoted officers returned to the army, Marian Spychalski became defense minister, Stalinist ministers were dismissed, two ministers were non-partisan for the first time in the People’s Republic, and jamming of foreign radio stations was restricted[238]. There were trials of UB functionaries and they were sentenced to prison terms, but the dignitaries were not tried.

Polish citizens were again allowed to possess foreign currencies and raw materials (gold). Stores behind yellow curtains intended for the ruling elite were liquidated[239].

On December 17, 1956, a Polish-Soviet agreement on the legal status of Soviet troops temporarily stationed in Poland was signed, precedent-setting in socialist countries, ending the non-contractual stay of Soviet troops in Poland. Among other things, it stipulated that the stationing of Soviet troops could not violate the sovereignty of the Polish state and could not lead to interference in the internal affairs of the Polish People’s Republic (Article 1 of the agreement). The agreement became the basis for other agreements that regulated the limit of the number of stationed troops (40,000 land troops, 17,000 airborne troops and 7,000 navy), the rules for the movement of Soviet units on Polish territory after they had been notified to the Polish authorities, the rules for holding exercises (with the participation of Polish observers), compensation for losses made in connection with the exercises and fees for the possession of military bases[240].

On January 20, 1957, elections to the People’s Republic of Poland’s parliament were held for a single electoral list of the National Unity Front (as the National Front organization was renamed). The faction centered around Gomulka promised to continue reforms. The Church encouraged people to participate in the elections and support the democratization of the country in this way. Gomulka called for an uncrossed ballot, which effectively meant an open vote. Jozef Cyrankiewicz remained prime minister, Aleksander Zawadzki remained chairman of the Council of State, and Czeslaw Wycech (United People’s Party) became Speaker of the Sejm.

Andrzej Skrzypek writes:

(…) Gomulka’s team managed, in less than a year, in accordance with Polish interests and within the existing possibilities, to arrange relations with the Soviet Union positively. (…) The period after October 1956 in relations with the USSR is a period of self-government for Poland. (…) The possibility of KGB interference was negligible because Nikita Khrushchev forbade this institution to conduct intelligence operations in Eastern European countries and instructed it to maintain contacts with local counterintelligence and security services on a platform of cooperation rather than subordination[241]. According to Andrzej Skrzypek, Moscow respected Poland’s priority interests in international politics (he cites as an example the policy towards the Algerian war – the USSR recognized the Provisional Government of the Republic of Algeria (GPRA) established on September 19, 1958, headed by Ferhat Abbas appointed by the National Liberation Front and the People’s Republic of Poland did not do so, in a way retaliating to France for President de Gaulle’s recognition of the Oder-Neisse border)[242].

Ryszard Terlecki writes:

Compared to the Stalinist period, the Soviets allowed the PRL authorities greater independence in making less important decisions. Henceforth, Moscow reserved the right to decide on Warsaw’s foreign policy, defense and the most important branches of the economy, especially the development of heavy industry, as well as the staffing of the most important positions in the state[243]. Communist authorities decided to make a compromise with the Church. Clergymen were released from prisons, religious instruction in schools was restored, and the publication of the “Tygodnik Powszechny” was resumed. A group of Catholic activists entered parliament, including Jerzy Zawieyski, who was elected to the Council of State. The year 1956 is considered to be the informal beginning of the Znak movement, based on the Catholic Intelligentsia Clubs established at that time, represented in the People’s Sejm of the People’s Republic of Poland by a five-member parliamentary circle of the same name (Stanisław Stomma (chairman of the circle), Jerzy Zawieyski, Stefan Kisielewski, Zbigniew Makarczyk and Antoni Gładysz[244] became deputies in January 1957). The circle had a symbolic character, but in practice it did not play a major role in the work of the Sejm, voting against 4 bills out of 174 submitted. As a result of the thaw, Tygodnik Powszechny returned to the hands of the editors publishing it until 1953, with Jerzy Turowicz again becoming editor-in-chief. On June 28, 1957, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) issued permission to publish a new Catholic monthly, Więź, the first issue of which appeared in February 1958, with Tadeusz Mazowiecki as editor-in-chief[245].

Eventually, on the official political scene after 1956, there were three secular Catholic circles represented in the People’s Republic of Poland’s Parliament: the “Pax” Association with its magazines Słowo Powszechne and Kierunki (financial backing – United Economic Teams “INCO-Veritas” Ltd. ), the Christian Social Association (secession from PAX) with the magazine “For and Against” (financial backing – “Ars Christiana”) and the Znak movement with the magazine Więź (financial backing – “Libella” sp. z o.o.), the Clubs of Catholic Intelligentsia and the Cracow center associated with “Tygodnik Powszechny” and the monthly Znak.

Scouts participating in the Bieszczady 40 action

After October 1956, the Union of Polish Youth effectively ceased to exist, grassroots youth organizations supporting democratic change were formed, including the Revolutionary Youth Union. In view of the real disintegration of the ZMP, the organization was definitely dissolved during the Fifth Plenum of the General Board on January 10-11, 1957. This was a formality, since a few days earlier the Communists had launched a new “central” youth organization: the Union of Socialist Youth, in which the newly established organizations were merged. The scouting movement was reborn from below, effectively abolished in 1950 through the administrative incorporation of the Union of Polish Scouts into the Union of Polish Youth in the form of the Scouting Organization of the Union of Polish Youth. Within the framework of the reactivated Polish Scouting Union, the Walter Circle was active from the transformation of the Walter Circle, which had existed since 1954.

Separate articles: Scouting in the Stalinist period, Scouting Organization of the Union of Polish Youth, Scouting Organization of People’s Poland, Walters, Scouting in the years 1956-1979 and the Polish Scouting Association.

Many émigrés returned to Poland from the West, including intellectuals and politicians (including Melchior Wańkowicz and January Grzędzinski). In March 1957, the People’s Republic of Poland concluded a repatriation agreement with the USSR, as a result of which 224,000 people arrived in Poland from the USSR by the end of 1958. At the same time, the Polish side requested the USSR authorities to allow the transfer to the country of some 2,000 Poles held in prisons there[246].

Gomulka’s team declared the need to maintain the internationalist character of the ruling party. In his February 1957 expose, Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz stated: “The government will invariably stand on the position of upholding the equal rights and equal duties of all citizens regardless of their origin, nationality or religion, and will fight resolutely against all kinds of chauvinistic tendencies, against anti-Semitism, and against attempts at disadvantage and discrimination directed against national minorities (…). Any attempt to discriminate (…) against the Jewish population, of which Poland has been the homeland for centuries, will be met with a firm counteraction by the government and its bodies.” In April 1957, the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party issues a circular dedicated to combating anti-Semitism. It states, among other things, “We emphatically emphasize once again the internationalist character of our party. There is and can be no place in it for people who propagate nationalist, chauvinist, racist views. People who try to poison the party ranks with the venom of nationalism and anti-Semitism must not be tolerated in the party.”[247]

The pro-reform faction in the Communist Party (the so-called “puleviks”) prevailed despite its entanglement with Stalinist rule, but despite Gomulka’s support, their mutual relations were devoid of trust. Its representatives remembered their involvement in Stalinism and did not want too far-reaching settlements with that period. Gomulka agreed to this, but this involvement was not forgotten by the pundits. The opposing faction – the Natolinists – anti-intellectual, instrumentally anti-Semitic and nationalist, advocating “hard hand” rule and only cosmetic changes to the system, lost, but Gomulka decided to leave its representatives in the party leadership to ensure balance in the party apparatus. This foreshadowed a resumption of conflict in the future[248].

Separate articles: Pulawians and Natolinians.

Ryszard Terlecki:

Gomulka was cautious, and while he still believed in the permanence and prosperous future of communist power, at the same time he did not want Stalinism to return. That is why, in the leadership of the PZPR, he initially juggled between supporters of far-reaching reforms and opponents of any change. Gradually, he tried to eliminate one and the other, relying on obedient opportunists[243].

The reign of Wladyslaw Gomulka 1956-1970 – the departure from “October” and the “small stability” of the 1960s[edit | edit code].

The complex of the Sejm buildings in the 1960s

As early as 1957, the authorities began to move away from the October program. In August 1957, a strike of tramway workers in Lodz broke out, which was forcibly suppressed by the authorities on the night of August 13/14, 1957 with the use of Motorized Reprisals of the Civic Militia (ZOMO). In September 1957, the magazine of the young leftist intelligentsia, “Simply,” which supported the deep democratic post-October transition, was closed down. The magazine’s closure triggered student riots and street riots in Warsaw in early October 1957, which lasted five days and were also suppressed by the ZOMO[249]. In the November 1956 issue, the weekly attacked the Pax Association, recalling the political pedigree of its leader Boleslaw Piasecki, accusing the association of “practicing mafia methods” and “blind worship of the leader.”

Wladyslaw Gomulka, realizing the unpopularity of the communist idea in Poland, tried to legitimize the power of the PZPR not with the realization of this idea, but by presenting the party as a left-nationalist leadership force[250].

After 1956, a formation later called the “cultural left” emerged in the big cities. The most liberal culture in the country’s history formed just then. This was due to the mutually neutralizing influence of communism and Catholicism. By 1968, the Communists were limiting the influence of the Catholic Church and the national tradition, but they no longer had the power to impose “proletarian culture” as they had done in the 1950s. The empty space between the Communist government and the influence of the church was occupied by the ironic and skeptical culture of the liberal intelligentsia modeled on the currents prevailing in Western Europe. The 1960s was a period of the creation of modern mass culture of the era of cinema and television. The events of 1968 led to a kind of national-socialist-Catholic compromise in official culture, hitting the liberal current. “The party is the heir of the ONR,” Czeslaw Milosz wrote[251].

Kazimierz Rudzki presents the “Leningrad” television set.

In 1962 the authorities banned the Crooked Circle Club – since 1955 a meeting place for intellectuals, journalists, writers and artists[252].

In the spring of 1964, the Prime Minister received the so-called Letter 34 against censorship, the authors of the letter were supported by UW students[253].

During this period there was a renewed tightening of relations between the political authorities and the Church. In 1958, a campaign was launched to remove signs of the cross from school classrooms[254].

In November 1964, young Marxists Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski, who demanded changes in the state system and the reconstruction of the state in the spirit of “true socialism,” were expelled from the PZPR. In an open letter[255] addressed to party authorities, they pointed to the movement away from the ideals of communism and the takeover of the state by the bureaucratic elite and party nomenklatura. The authors also pointed to waste in industry, caused by corruption (theft of raw materials) and an amotivating wage system. They also pointed to the conflict between the miserable living conditions of the working class and – allegedly representing them – members of the PZPR[256].

In 1964, the Third National Congress of the ZBoWiD was held, known as the “reconciliation congress” of the veteran community. The formula adopted at the time was based on the assumption that in the judgment of veterans, it is not the past that matters, but the future and acceptance of the construction of the socialist system in Poland. In 1965, about 60,000 former soldiers of the Home Army were affiliated with the ZBoWiD[257].

Several key pieces of legislation were enacted in the 1960s – the 1960 Code of Administrative Procedure, the 1964 Civil Code, the 1964 Family and Guardianship Code (considered one of the most modern in Europe; it did not contain references to the family model modeled on Soviet legal solutions like family codes in other socialist countries[258]), the 1964 Code of Civil Procedure and the 1969 Criminal Code[259] along with the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Executive Criminal Code. The first four acts are still in force.

The number of students of all categories increased from 166,000 in the 1960/61 academic year to 331,000 in 1970/71. The number of universities increased from 75 to 85 (among others, new universities were established in Katowice and Gdańsk[260]).

During the 1960s, the size of the PZPR more than doubled (in 1970 it reached over 2 million 300 thousand members[261]).

Economic policy of Gomulka’s team[edit | edit code].

In 1956, attempts were made to reform the economic system, including by abandoning collectivization of agriculture and accepting individual agricultural ownership.

Reducing compulsory supplies and raising the purchase price allowed agriculture to achieve its best performance since the war[262]. Many agricultural production cooperatives (which were Polish kolkhozes) collapsed – by the end of 1956, 15% of them (about 1,500) remained[262]. In 1959, the First National Congress of Agricultural Cooperatives was held. According to Gomulka’s idea, when introducing the institution of agricultural casters, it was necessary to rely on the historical experience of the cooperative movement and the self-organization of manufacturers in Greater Poland. As a result of this decision, a mass peasant organization was created[263].

In 1956, workers’ councils, which aspired to the role of landlord in enterprises, were developing. Gomulka managed to achieve good economic results in 1957-1958[262].

The good economic results did not last long[264]. Reforms developed by Oskar Lange, Michal Kalecki and Czeslaw Bobrowski (on December 1, 1956, the Sejm established an Economic Council headed by Lange[265]) and aimed at expanding market freedoms and decentralizing the management system were abandoned. The rate of growth of national income was declining: while in 1956 in year-on-year comparison it was 7%, and in 1957. – 11% by 1958. – 6%, and in 1959. – 5%[266].

At the 12th Plenum of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) in October 1958, a turnaround in economic policy was decided[267]. The guidelines for 1959-1965 were based on “secondary industrialization.” – an increase in investment in mining, metallurgy, chemical and engineering industries was envisaged[267].

Supersam in Warsaw (1969)

After the discovery of the lignite deposit, mines were built in Konin and Turoszów, the Rybnik Coal District was expanded, and the raw material became the most important export commodity. In the 1960s, sulfur and copper mining were developed. New industrial districts were created – Tarnobrzeg, Płock, Puławy, Konin, Legnica and Głogów. In Plock, oil refinery facilities were expanded. In 1964, crude oil production was launched based on oil supplied by the “Friendship” pipeline[268]. The Mazowieckie Refining Plant, power plants in Pątnów and Adamów, aluminum smelters in Konin, a zinc smelter in Miasteczko Śląskie, the “Zofiówka” mine or the Phosphorus Fertilizer Factory in Gdańsk were built[269].

The People’s Republic of Poland imported basic raw materials from the USSR (e.g., oil supplies were to increase from 700,000 tons to 2.7 million tons within five years) Only supplies of these raw materials could secure the intentions to expand heavy and chemical industry, which was a priority of Gomulka’s team. Beneficial for Poland was Moscow’s decision to maintain prices for imported raw materials at a level competitive with world prices. In this regard, the Soviet authorities were guided by political considerations rather than economic profitability[270].

The U.S. granted in the 1950s to the People’s Republic of Poland, as the only socialist country, the so-called “most favored nation clause” in economic relations which made it possible, for example, to obtain an interest-free loan for grain imports repayable in zlotys[271].

In 1965, a license for the production of Fiat passenger cars was purchased (production began two years later)[166].

In the 1960s, the first self-service stores (Supersams) began to appear.

In the early 1960s, Polish computer science began to emerge. In 1960, the first digital machine was built, named Odra 1001 in honor of the river symbolizing the Western Territory and the approaching millennium of the Polish state. In 1962-1964, the first 25 computers were produced at the Elwro plant in Wroclaw under factory rather than laboratory conditions. In autumn 1970, serial production of the next-generation Odra 1304 computer fully compatible with Western solutions, with rich software for data processing, began[272].

FSO production line – early 1970s.

Repeatedly, the authorities of the People’s Republic of Poland posed the problem of strengthening the integration of the Comecon countries, setting Western European countries as a model. In 1966, they put forward a project for the gradual transformation of the transfer ruble into the international money of the socialist countries, and held talks with other members of the Comecon on the convertibility of the currencies of the socialist countries[273].

Crafts were developing. In 1965, craftsmen were covered by universal and compulsory social insurance. By the end of the decade, craftsmen were allowed to benefit from lump-sum taxation. A favorable so-called export lump sum was introduced for private exporters[274].

During the 1960s, the number of urban residents increased by 20% and the number of people with higher education by 55%[275].

Poland’s first terrestrial satellite communications station

By the second half of the 1960s, it was apparent that the economy was in need of reform. Real wages were stagnant and economic growth was 2-3% per year despite many investments, especially in Gomulka’s preferred chemical industry. The first two years of the 1966-1970 plan brought strains in the domestic market and poor performance in exports. As a result, a package of reforms was introduced in 1968 that included increasing the importance of the bottom line in evaluating a company, an emphasis on profit, and increasing the incentive function of wages (“material incentives”)[276].

In early 1970, Gomulka recognized the deteriorating economic situation. On April 16, 1970, at a meeting of party and state activists, he stated: “Our economic situation, the situation of our industry, and even the entire national economy, presents itself in a bad light (…) Who is responsible for this? The responsibility lies with the party (…). (…) there is something deeply wrong going on in the administrative and economic apparatus. So a situation has arisen that calls for radical change. Not only are we following the old path – the path of many years ago – we are not improving our economic situation, but on the contrary we are making it worse. (…) Comrades, it is impossible to go on like this. (…) After all, comrades, there is no greater scandal, no greater demoralization, than such a contemptuous attitude to certain economic criteria, such trampling on all elementary economic principles. (…) A few more years down this road like this, and we are becoming a country with which no one reckons. Not only do we have no opportunity for economic development, but we are losing our political independence.”[277].

Millennium of the Polish State, Millennium of the Baptism of Poland[edit | edit code].

School built in Węgierska Górka on the occasion of the Millennium of the Polish State

Primate Stefan Wyszynski during the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland

Separate articles: Millennium of the Polish State, Millennium of the Baptism of Poland, Millennium Estate, Millennium Park and Millennium School.

In connection with the Great Novena preceding the millennium of Poland’s baptism, which the communist authorities regarded as an offensive of militant clericalism, in 1957 the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) decided to implement a laicization program aimed at limiting the role of the clergy exclusively to the sphere of religious practice. This involved, among other things, supporting pro-communist Catholic organizations (PAX, ChSS), promoting schools without religious lessons by funding the Secular School Society, removing chaplains from prisons and hospitals and religious catechists (considered “religious fanatics”) from participating in the education of young people. Religious lessons were planned to be moved to the group of optional subjects and limited to one hour per week. It was agreed that parishes at which catechetical halls would be established, in which religion would be taught for two hours a week, would receive 1,000 zlotys a month from the state budget[278].

The conflict between the state and the Church intensified in 1965-1966 (the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland, the message of the Polish bishops to the German bishops on the reconciliation of the two nations). There was growing dissatisfaction, mainly among the intelligentsia, with social and cultural policies. In 1965, the Church began preparations for the celebration of the millennium of Poland’s baptism. The communist authorities organized a rival celebration of the “millennium of the existence of the Polish state.” The Church sent letters to bishops in fifty-six countries, informing them of the millennium celebrations. The conflict between the state and the Church hierarchy came to a head when the Polish bishops sent a message to the German bishops. The government criticized this step as premature, which was linked to a propaganda campaign in the media against the Polish episcopate.

March 1968[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: March 1968 and Partisans (PZPR faction).

Mieczyslaw Moczar

In March 1968, student demonstrations in Warsaw and Krakow that spoke out against censorship and the suppression of democracy were broken up, and a short-lived anti-Semitic campaign (March events) was unleashed in the face of a struggle for influence between factions within the PZPR. These events were a reaction to the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. The Arabs were treated by the national “partisan” faction as allies of the Eastern Bloc countries, while Israel was approached with detachment, considering it too pro-Western. A large number of state functionaries and high-ranking officers of the People’s Army regarded Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War as a victory for “ours.” A nationalist faction of the Polish United Workers’ Party called the Partisans, led by Interior Minister (since 1964) Mieczyslaw Moczar, recognized that this could harm the unity of the state. The partisans saw this as an opportunity to crack down on the remnants of the Pulevian faction in the party. The PAX of the pre-war far-right national radical Boleslaw Piasecki also joined the “partisans” action.

This period also saw changes in the leadership of the PZPR and state authorities by eliminating supporters of the liberalization of the political system, referred to in party propaganda as revisionists. Some of them joined the student movement together constituting a nascent counter-elite to the party-state elite[279]. Paweł Śpiewak assessed: “The revisionists were condemned not to construct a Stalinist version of Marxism anew, but to get rid of the old Marxist ideology, which was revolutionary in spirit. (…) Together with March, what Italian communist Antonio Gramsci called the intellectual hegemony of Marxist ideas ends. (…) Power began to emphasize much more strongly its continuity with the recently condemned historic Polish state, and the interest and raison d’état defined in national terms became the main elements legitimizing the political system[280].

In relation to the incidents of March 1968, the Church exercised far-reaching restraint, not wanting to take part in the internal struggle within the PZPR. The Episcopate clearly sided with the youth in its public enunciations, but never addressed the anti-Semitic campaign. Primate Wyszynski stated at a meeting of the Episcopal General Commission: “The most difficult thing is the Jewish question. Polish society in general is against the Jews, and this must be kept in mind. The second thing is the unspecified balance of forces in the party.”[281]

This position led to a change in Gomulka’s perception of the role of the Church in the state. The Church continued to remain a political opponent of the Communist Party, but it became apparent that, as in 1956 and 1957, it could play the role of stabilizing the situation. Matters of limiting the role of the Church began to receive less and less attention, and pragmatic elements appeared in the policy towards the clergy.”[282]

In August 1968, units of the People’s Polish Army participated in the intervention of the Warsaw Pact countries in Czechoslovakia. They were commanded by General Florian Siwicki.

Rapacki Plan[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Rapacki Plan.

On October 2, 1957, Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki at the UN General Assembly proposed the creation of a non-atomic zone on the territory of Poland, East Germany, West Germany and Czechoslovakia. Four powers France, Great Britain, the US and the USSR were to be bound by the rules. These countries were to pledge not to keep nuclear weapons in the armaments of their troops stationed in the area of the zone countries, not to keep and not to install in the area of the zone countries any equipment or devices intended for their use, including missile launchers[283]. This plan was remembered as the Rapacki Plan. At the root of the concept was the desire to block NATO’s decision to deploy nuclear weapons on German territory, which could significantly change the balance of power in Europe[284].

In December 1959, the People’s Republic of Poland was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council[285].

Three years later, Gomulka presented a proposal at the General Assembly to freeze nuclear armaments on the territory proposed in the Rapacki Plan (the so-called Gomulka Plan).

The People’s Republic of Poland was a member of the Oversight and Inspection Commission on Korea, Laos and Cambodia. Its growing role in Asian affairs resulted in visits to Poland by, among others, Indian Prime Minister Nehru with his daughter Indira Gandhi, Indonesian Prime Minister Sukarno, Ceylon Prime Minister Mrs. Bandaranaike[286].

In 1965, the Treaty of Friendship, Mutual Assistance and Postwar Cooperation between the USSR and the People’s Republic of Poland was signed. Gomulka managed to negotiate the inclusion in the agreement of a commitment by the USSR to guarantee the inviolability of the border on the Oder and Lusatian Neisse, a provision that had not been included in the previous interstate treaty of April 1945. It can be concluded that Gomulka obtained in the new treaty all the conditions of the alliance that Warsaw had sought[287].

The USSR wanted the best possible relations with the People’s Republic of Poland, which after Moscow’s conflict with China became the largest ally taking into account territorial and demographic factors[288].

In relations with the USSR, Gomulka tried to toe the Kremlin line in order to extract the greatest possible benefit. The warp of his policy in this regard was the concern that any departure from the Yalta-Potsdam order should not be at the expense of Polish interests[289].

Struggle for recognition of the Polish western border[edit | edit code].

Separate article: PRL-RFN agreement.

The most important problem in Polish foreign policy from the point of view of Polish interests was the German problem in the broadest sense, including the legal and international recognition of the border on the Oder and Lusatian Neisse.

Until 1948, the East German authorities repeatedly, guided by the necessity of political rivalry with the local Social Democracy and reckoning with public sentiment, raised the issue of the temporariness of the Polish western borders. Only the lack of support from the USSR led Berlin to finally recognize the Polish western border in December 1947. A treaty signed in Zgorzelec on July 6, 1950 between the People’s Republic of Poland and the GDR stated that the common border “constitutes the border between Poland and Germany.” West Germany did not recognize the Polish border.

The turn of 1956 brought the acquisition of a margin of freedom in the international policy of the socialist countries in relation to Soviet policy, particularly concerning the People’s Republic of Poland, which sought at that time to increase its independence from Moscow (to the extent acceptable to the Kremlin). Since 1955, the PRL authorities had been expressing their readiness to normalize relations with West Germany. In February of that year, the Council of State of the People’s Republic of Poland issued a decree ending the state of war with Germany. However, the warming of mutual relations was limited only to resuming the possibility of Polish citizens traveling to West Germany and undertaking cultural exchanges. Chancellor Adenauer refused to establish more intensive contacts with Warsaw, recognizing that the fate of German reunification (which was his main goal), and thus the borders of the new Germany, would be decided in Moscow. Poland proposed to start bilateral talks without preconditions, i.e., to move past the issues that differed between the parties (borders) hoping that the establishment of relations would mean de facto acceptance of the borders without their formal recognition.

After Wladyslaw Gomulka came to power, one of the pillars of Polish policy on German issues was to strengthen the international position of the GDR, as Gomulka assumed that it would be more difficult for Germans divided into two conflicting states to raise claims on the issue of Polish borders. Warsaw watched with concern the process of strengthening Germany’s international position (regaining full sovereignty in 1954, joining NATO, the U.S. also did not rule out recognizing Germany’s efforts to give the West German army tactical nuclear weapons). Gomulka recognized the need for the People’s Republic of Poland to actively join the European power play, seeking to reduce tensions between the blocs, the buildup of which threatened the possibility of Soviet nuclear weapons being deployed on Polish territory, and thus reducing the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of Poland. On October 2, 1957, PRL Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki submitted to a UN session a proposal to ban the production and storage of nuclear weapons on the territory of both Germany and Poland and to create a non-atomic zone on these territories (the so-called Rapacki Plan). The West rejected the plan, considering that from the military point of view it was beneficial to the Warsaw Pact states and “by the back door” led to the recognition of the division of Germany and the recognition of the existence of the GDR. Moscow exercised far-reaching restraint toward the plan, later trying to incorporate the plan’s ideas into its diplomatic proposals. The GDR reacted reluctantly to the plan, seeing it as a manifestation of Warsaw’s desire to get along with West Germany over Berlin’s head (the GDR authorities were only vaguely consulted at the initial stage of the plan’s formation). The concept, promoted by the USSR in the mid-1950s, of reunifying Germany on the condition of its neutralization worried the People’s Republic of Poland, which feared that negotiations on the issue might lead to the reappearance of the topic of borders and a change in Soviet policy on the issue of Soviet guarantees for their immutability. Gomulka therefore considered it a success of his policy to have caused the visit of Khrushchev, the CPSU’s First Secretary, to Szczecin in 1959 (the first visit of a major foreign politician to the city), which underscored the USSR’s recognition of the city’s Polishness. Another success for the Polish cause on the border issue was President de Gaulle’s declaration in March 1959, publicly stating that a prerequisite for German reunification was their recognition of the Polish western border. Following these events, Gomulka decided to tighten his policy towards Germany and from then on made the establishment of diplomatic relations with Bonn conditional on West Germany’s recognition of the Polish border. The authorities of the People’s Republic of Poland welcomed the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 as a factor that dismissed the possibility of German reunification.

Wladyslaw Gomulka

After Chancellor Adenauer left the German political scene, the West German authorities began to correct his policy. Instead of focusing exclusively on relations with the USSR, they decided to intensify economic and cultural contacts with socialist countries, in addition to the GDR, counting on Berlin’s growing isolation in the socialist camp as well. In 1963, among other things, a West German economic mission was opened in Warsaw. However, Germany’s policy began to raise concerns not only in the GDR, but also in the People’s Republic of Poland, for Gomulka suspected that Bonn would want to normalize relations with the remaining socialist countries without recognizing the Polish western border. Gomulka, together with GDR leader Ulbricht, demanded that Brezhnev, reluctant in this regard, convene a meeting of the foreign ministers of the socialist countries to unify their policies toward the GDR. The Polish leadership’s concerns were not misplaced. In January 1967, Ceaușescu’s Romania established diplomatic relations with Bonn, despite Germany’s failure to recognize the postwar border system. Bucharest also refused to send its minister to the aforementioned meeting. With regard to the other socialist countries, Gomulka’s efforts were successful. In 1967, there were significant disagreements between Gomulka and Ulbricht. Gomulka began to promote the concept of a so-called “iron triangle” of Warsaw-Berlin-Prague, which would not only appear with a unified position vis-à-vis Bonn, but would also provide a platform for deep economic integration. This was to be a way to draw the GDR away from increasingly strong economic contacts with West Germany, which Berlin favored over cooperation within the Comecon. Gomulka feared that this was a quiet way of leading to German unification. In his talks with Brezhnev, Gomulka threatened that in the event of deepening problems in cooperation with the GDR, and given the uncoordinated actions of other socialist countries in matters of economic relations with Germany, Poland would be forced to enter into independent negotiations with Bonn. Gomulka, also seeing the GDR’s strengthening position in the socialist camp, its increasing social and economic stability, began to recognize that further strengthening of Berlin’s geopolitical position was beginning to interfere with Polish interests. In 1968 Gomulka, fearing that the new Czechoslovak authorities would abandon relations with Poland as part of the “Prague Spring” policy in favor of an opening to West Germany without the condition of recognizing our western border, became one of the initiators of the Warsaw Pact countries’ intervention in Czechoslovakia in August of that year.

Gomulka and Leonid Brezhnev in the GDR (1967)

Beginning in 1968, a process of rapprochement between Warsaw and Bonn began. Willy Brandt, leader of the SPD, became foreign minister in the West German coalition government. His public statements indicated that the Social Democrats recognized the inviolability of the Polish borders. Confidential talks with West German authorities were undertaken. After another rejection by the GDR of Polish proposals for closer cooperation, Gomulka decided to come out with a new initiative to the West German authorities. On May 17, during an election meeting in Warsaw, he presented Germany with an offer to conclude a bilateral treaty between the People’s Republic of Poland and West Germany on the basis of Bonn’s recognition of the Polish western border. This was a break with the previous political line, which assumed that the establishment of relations with the FRG could only take place after Bonn recognized the existence of the GDR. Gomulka surprised both Berlin and Moscow, with whom he had not consulted on the proposal, with his new concept. The GDR authorities responded by appealing to Moscow to discipline the Polish authorities. At the same time, they canceled a visit to Warsaw by the East German foreign minister and began pressing the Polish side on the issue of revising the Zgorzelec Agreement to change the statement that it regulates the “Polish-German” border to a statement that it regulates the “border between the People’s Republic of Poland and the GDR.” This was also the wording found in the German draft of an agreement normalizing GDR-German relations, which was submitted to Bonn. In an interview with Ulbricht, Gomulka stated: “Do you think I’m stupid and don’t know what’s behind it!”. This interpretive approach allowed Bonn to evade recognition of the Polish western border as a border between third countries (in March 1970, the People’s Republic of Poland sent an official diplomatic protest to the GDR on this issue). Gomulka accused the East German side of showing ingratitude with its policy for Warsaw’s long-standing support of the GDR on the international stage. In October 1969, Willy Brandt became chancellor of West Germany. The Kremlin, which had itself begun negotiations with West Germany on normalizing relations, did not speak directly against Gomulka’s strategy in dealing with the new German authorities, but recommended restraint. Gomulka pressed Brezhnev on the need for Germany to recognize the inviolability of post-war borders in Europe in talks with Bonn. On the one hand, the Kremlin assessed Polish demands as unrealistic due to the difficulty of accepting them by the German authorities, and on the other hand, it feared that the PRL’s independent settlement of the border issue with Germany could lead to the USSR losing its role as guarantor of Poland’s western borders. The FRG signed a treaty with the USSR in August, and a treaty with Poland in November of that year, recognizing all of Warsaw’s demands on the issue of guaranteeing Poland’s western borders. The treaty between the People’s Republic of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany was ceremonially signed on December 7, 1970[290]. During his visit to Warsaw, Brandt paid his respects at the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto.

Revolt of the workers of the Coast in 1970 and the ousting of Wladyslaw Gomulka[edit | edit code].

December 1970, the crowd carries the corpse of Zbyszek Godlewski, who was killed by the MO (Janek Wisniewski fell)

Separate article: December 1970.

Protests occurred in the Tri-City and Szczecin. The demonstrations in Tri-City ended with an attack on the PZPR headquarters and clashes with the MO. The riots and strikes were crushed by the police. Riots also occurred in Szczecin, where the protest escalated into an attack on the PZPR headquarters[291]. After another political crisis in December 1970 and the pacification of the strikes on the Coast, PZPR Central Committee First Secretary Władysław Gomułka was stripped of his position as PZPR Central Committee First Secretary on December 20, 1970, Gomułka’s closest associates (Zenon Kliszko, Marian Spychalski, Ryszard Strzelecki, Bolesław Jaszczuk, Ignacy Loga-Sowiński) were removed from the PZPR Central Committee Politburo and the Central Committee Secretariat, and a little later from the government of the People’s Republic of Poland. Jozef Cyrankiewicz resigned from the post of prime minister on December 23, his duties were taken over by Piotr Jaroszewicz, previously deputy prime minister in Cyrankiewicz’s government, the political castling was completed by Cyrankiewicz’s replacement of Marian Spychalski as chairman of the Council of State. At the Seventh Plenum of the Central Committee of the PZPR on December 20, 1970, Edward Gierek, previously First Secretary of the Central Committee in Katowice and a member of the Politburo, was appointed First Secretary of the Central Committee, while Edward Gierek’s supporters from the Silesian group and Mieczyslaw Moczar’s supporters, who supported the change in the PZPR authorities, also joined the Politburo and the Secretariat of the Central Committee. The protests quieted down, however, continued, including at the Gdansk Shipyard, where Edward Gierek, Prime Minister Jaroszewicz and Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski arrived. The delegation gave way to earlier demands and worked out an agreement. A similar visit also took place at the Gdansk Shipyard, where Edward Gierek convinced the workers to call off the strike. On February 15, 1971, the government withdrew price increases[292].

During the December 1970 riots on the Coast, Poland’s Primate Stefan Wyszynski was concerned about the possibility of military intervention in Poland by Soviet and East German forces and, by extension, for the People’s Republic of Poland to retain even limited sovereignty. He saw no possibility of opposing such an intervention and feared the useless spilling of Polish blood[293].

As a result of the December events, a kind of “workers’ veto right” against the moves of the state and party authorities was created[294].

Gomulka himself, in an interview with Andrzej Werblan in 1981, was convinced that he had been overthrown by a Moscow-inspired conspiracy. It was Brezhnev who took me down, I always had a poor opinion of him as a politician and I did not hide it,” he stated[295].

Edward Gierek’s reign (1970-1980)[edit | edit code].

Edward Gierek (1970)

Piotr Jaroszewicz (1977)

See the publicationHistory General/Poland of Edward Gierek at Wikibooks

The new leadership of the Polish United Workers’ Party set up a commission to investigate the causes of the tragedy on the Coast[296].

The Soviet authorities, concerned about the shaky stability of the Polish People’s Republic, supported Edward Gierek’s seizure of power. At the same time, during Gierek’s first official visit to Leonid Brezhnev in January 1971, the Soviet leadership expressed an expectation to the new PZPR leadership that Poland would change the structure of agricultural property in the country toward nationalization of land, tighten its policy toward the Catholic Church, eliminate non-Marxist influences in the social sciences, and strengthen economic ties with socialist countries[297].

From June 27 to July 5, 1978, Miroslaw Hermaszewski – the first Pole (along with Piotr Klimuk) – flew into space on a Soyuz 30 spacecraft[298].

In July 1980, the PZPR reached the highest number in its history, with 3 million 149,000 members[299].

Economic and social policy in the 1970s[edit | edit code].

The reign of Gierek’s team began with the decision (on March 1, 1971) to cancel the increase in prices of foodstuffs, which led to the December 1970 events, and to freeze prices of basic foodstuffs until the end of 1972 (this decision was extended until 1976)[300].

Gierek’s team formulated a new social and economic policy, the so-called Fourth Five-Year Plan,[301] a strategy for the accelerated economic and social development of Poland, assuming the maintenance of rapid economic growth and the simultaneous improvement of society’s material and cultural living conditions. At the time, the authorities promoted everywhere, in the media, in parades and at parades, the slogan “For Poland to grow stronger and people to live more prosperously.” The country’s development in 1971-1975, financed by high foreign loans, manifested itself in an increase of about 60% in national income and about 40% in real wages. The share of consumption spending rose from 25% to 40% of GDP in the 1970s[302].

“Haperowiec” apartment block in Katowice (1968)

Warsaw Central Railway Station (1975)

International Press and Book Club in Warsaw (1975)

Eastern Wall in Warsaw (1975)

In the 1970s, 617 new industrial plants were built[303]. A number of nationally important investments were completed, including the reconstruction of the Royal Castle and Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, the construction of the National Library and the Lazienkowska Route in Warsaw, the Warsaw Central Station and the Central Railway Main Line (Poland’s first high-speed rail line, suitable for 250 km/h traffic, which was not used until 2013, when Pendolino trains were purchased). The world’s tallest radio mast, two Eiffel Towers high, was built in Konstantynów near Plock, allowing Polish Radio to be received all over the world. Infrastructure was developing, the Warsaw-Katowice expressway was built, mines were built in the Lublin Basin and Belchatow. The Gdansk refinery, the Northern Port, rolling mills in Nowa Huta and Czestochowa, a sugar factory in Lapy were built. Kozienice and Dolna Odra power plants were built[304]. In 1975, the largest lignite coal-fired thermal power plant in the world was built in Belchatow[305]. In the 1970s, due to the poor living conditions of the population, modernist, prefabricated housing estates were built en masse thanks to which the largest number of apartments in Polish history was then built. Factories began producing FIAT cars in Bielsko-Biała, Tychy and Warsaw. During Gierek’s reign, Poland obtained a license to produce the Fiat 126, popularly known as the Maluch. Production of this vehicle in Poland did not end until 2000, with more than 3 million units of this car built in Poland. The FSO factory in Warsaw’s Żerań also produced modern and large family cars Polish Fiats 125p and Polonezes, which were sold en masse to socialist countries, as well as to the West. In addition, the government obtained a license to produce Leyland engines and Berliet buses, among others. The purchase of Western licenses led to an increase in the production of goods such as paper, coal, fertilizer, tape recorders, televisions, machinery and tractors. However, the rapid economic growth was bridged by a total of $6 billion in debt incurred in Western countries.

Mechanical Works “Ursus” (1974)

Since 1972, Poles were the only ones in the Eastern Bloc countries who could open special interest-bearing dollar accounts with the National Bank of Poland. In 1972, a chain of currency stores and kiosks “Przedsiębiorstwo Eksportu Wewnętrznego” popularly known as “Pewex” was established. This network was created from the transformation of the Pekao Bank’s network of foreign exchange stores. In these stores it was possible to buy both domestic and imported goods with convertible currencies.

On May 1, 1972, the Law on the Charter of Teachers’ Rights and Duties[306] went into effect, providing for a systematic increase in teachers’ salaries. In July 1972, maternity leave was extended from 12 to 18 weeks and the possibility was created for young mothers to obtain three years of unpaid leave[307]. In 1974, the Labor Code, which is still in effect, was enacted. An additional six and 12 days off were introduced that year and in 1975. The number of workers taking holidays increased from 2.2 million in 1970 to 3.8 million in 1975. The number of students grew rapidly: between 1970 and 1975, their number increased by 41%, to 468,000.[308]

Annual “Tribune of the People” festivities at the Decade Stadium, 1970s.

In 1972, the office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs was created[309]. In 1974, the Law on Provision for War and Military Invalids and Their Families[310] was passed, which is still in force. The State Fund for Veterans and Prisoners of Concentration Camps[311] was established, from which permanent and ad hoc veterans’ benefits were paid, and treatment facilities and veteran’s homes were built[257].

In 1971, the PZPR and ZSL adopted joint new agricultural policy guidelines. They stipulated, among other things, the introduction of a system of universal health care in the countryside similar to that in the cities, ensuring purchase prices of agricultural products at a level profitable from the point of view of farmers, abolishing the system of compulsory deliveries of agricultural products in favor of contracting, loosening the regulations on area standards for farms (abandoning the principle of the impossibility of selling state land into private hands). At the same time, pensions were introduced for farmers without successors on their farms. It was decided to abandon the system of rationing coal and fodder for individual farmers. Thus, an agricultural policy model was created that was completely different from the models adopted in other Comecon countries. Expenditures on the food industry were significantly increased (a sugar factory in Łapy, a fruit freezing plant in Plonsk, the construction of modern meat plants with the help of contractors from the USA and Germany and a milk powdering plant with the help of Italy, a large chemical complex in Police producing, among other things, fertilizers, built by French companies, the expansion of the “Ursus” plant to produce tractors under the “Fergusson” license). A program of specialization in agriculture was developed (convenient credit policy, tax breaks, priority in land acquisition and consulting support for farms). In horticulture, great successes were achieved thanks to new cultivation techniques promoted by the Skierniewice Orchard Institute. A farm poultry farm was created from scratch. The agricultural policy resulted in significant progress in agriculture in the first half of the 1970s. Between 1971 and 1975, agricultural production increased by 22% (livestock production increased annually by 7.8%, the pig population increased by 60%, pork purchase increased by 80%, beef by 50%, milk purchase by 52%, poultry production almost doubled). The number of tractors in agriculture doubled. Fertilizer consumption increased by 43%. At the same time, there was a complete decoupling of retail food prices from production costs. Steady and low food prices and the relatively rapid growth of people’s incomes resulted in the emergence of a producer’s market and an increase in budget subsidies for agricultural production as it grew intensively. Agricultural production growth collapsed in 1975 with ever-increasing consumption needs. Exports of agricultural products began to be curtailed to saturate the domestic market, resulting in a reduction in agricultural modernization expenditures and an increase in foreign exchange spending on food and feed imports. Positive throughout the post-war period, the foreign trade balance in food became negative for the first time[312].[footnote needed].

During the 1970s, policies were pursued to facilitate the development of handicrafts. On June 8, 1972, the Law on the Exercise and Organization of Handicrafts was enacted, which significantly strengthened crafts self-government by giving it the power to act on behalf of the state in such matters as granting professional licenses. State interference in craftsmen’s pricing of their products was limited. In export production, craftsmen were given freedom of action. In November 1976, the Polish United Workers’ Party and the Democratic Party agreed on a common policy toward crafts. Between 1975 and 1980, the income of those employed in the crafts doubled[274].

Separate articles: Communist Propaganda, Propaganda in the People’s Republic of Poland and Propaganda of Success.

Foreign policy of Edward Gierek’s team[edit | edit code].

Edward Gierek with Jimmy Carter – meeting on December 30, 1977.

Of the important bilateral meetings at the highest level, we should mention in particular the visits to the People’s Republic of Poland of US Presidents: Richard Nixon in 1972, Gerald Ford in 1975 and Jimmy Carter in 1977, French President Valery Giscard dEstaign in 1975, Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1972, as well as Edward Gierek’s visits to the US in 1974 and France in 1972.

In October 1975, an agreement was signed in Warsaw between the People’s Republic of Poland and West Germany on the payment of 1.3 billion marks by Bonn for the supplies hitherto realized by the insurance institutions of the People’s Republic of Poland, and on the granting of a loan of 1 billion marks to Poland[313].

Poland became a transit country for Arab terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which transferred weapons through Poland or used it as a base for their leaders[314]. In Poland during the 1980s, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, Abu Abbas[315] and the co-authors of the Munich massacre of eight years earlier – Abu Nidal (until 1987)[316] and Abu Daoud (on whom an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made in Warsaw in 1981)[317] – were in Poland.

State-Church relations in the Gierek decade[edit | edit code].

In April 1971, the Polish bishops wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Jaroszewicz about the nationwide shortage of some 500 churches and 300 chapels. Primate Wyszynski himself spoke on the matter: “We don’t want help, we don’t want money, bricks or other materials. We don’t even want people to work. (…) There are many other needs: schools, hospitals. However, it seems to us that some things could be built later, and temples earlier. More than one clubhouse, more than one cinema is not the most beautiful need. There would be enough material to build a modest chapel where people could pray without interference.”[318]

Under a law passed by the Parliament of the People’s Republic of Poland on June 23, 1971, the Catholic Church was granted ownership of more than 4,000 churches and chapels nearly 1,500 buildings and several hundred hectares of arable land. 2 years later, the church was additionally granted more than 600 properties. Financial matters related to inventory books were also regulated to the church’s benefit because on February 10, 1972, a decree of the Minister of Finance was issued revoking the obligation of legal entities of church orders and clerical congregations to keep inventory books. On this account alone, the church had tax arrears amounting to PLN 368 million at the end of 1970. In July 1972, a significant portion of this amount was forgiven by decree of the Council of Ministers[319].

A momentous event was the signing in Rome on July 6, 1974 of a protocol establishing permanent working contacts between the People’s Republic of Poland and the Holy See, which was interpreted as an announcement of the establishment of full diplomatic relations in the future.

On August 3, 1976, there was even a manifestation of sympathy for Stefan Wyszynski by high state dignitaries. On Cardinal Wyszynski’s 75th birthday, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office went to the Primate’s palace, handing him a bouquet of 75 roses and wishing on behalf of Prime Minister Jaroszewicz that the hierarch would continue to lead the Church in Poland[320].

Edward Gierek met twice with Primate Wyszynski (1977 and 1979)[321]. On December 1, 1977, Edward Gierek became the first communist leader to meet with the Pope, who was then Paul VI[322].

After the rise of the democratic opposition in the second half of the 1970s, at first the church did not see the need for radical social change. The General Council of the Episcopate, during its deliberations in March 1978, stated: “(…) there are strong pressures on the church from various sides and an attempt to drag it into their games. There is a strong activation of some groups of lay Catholics who are not affiliated. (…) We cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into their political activism, but on the other hand we cannot fight them. The Church and the Nation are not harmed by them, as long as they act moderately, so that they do not exceed the security limit (…) We must defend the Church, but we must also defend ourselves so that the Nation does not face a difficult situation. What would we gain if Gierek left? We are constantly facing so many unknowns.” Also during the hunger strike, which took place at the Church of the Holy Cross in October 1979, Bishop Bronislaw Dabrowski, Secretary General of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, came to the shrine and was critical of the protest held there[323].

After the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope, the authorities decided to address a congratulatory message to him signed not only by the titular head of state – the Chairman of the Council of State, which was in accordance with diplomatic protocol, but also by the First Secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party[324]. Officially, the authorities expressed their joy at the election of John Paul II, but members of the party authorities received this fact with embarrassment. Comrades, we have a problem,” said Gierek, opening the first meeting of the Politburo after the pope’s election[325]. John Paul II’s visit to his homeland in 1979 was the first stay of the head of the Catholic Church in an Eastern Bloc country. During the pilgrimage, Edward Gierek officially met with Pope John Paul II.

According to sociological studies, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, of the 3 million members of the Communist Party, only 27 percent declared a materialist worldview[326].

First signs of economic crisis[edit | edit code].

Sugar ration cards, introduced in July 1976

Separate articles: Foreign debt of the People’s Republic of Poland and Commodity regulation in the People’s Republic of Poland.

The reasons for the collapse of the post-1975 Gierek policy were the failure to undertake political and economic reforms, high accumulation of national income, and foreign debt. The collapse of the “Gierek economic miracle” was accelerated by a change in the international economic climate in the form of the 1973 oil crisis, which brought a drastic increase in energy prices (as a result, the West experienced a recession). To Poland, due to the system of settlements for oil adopted within the Comecon, the increase arrived with a delay, as the main supplier of energy – the USSR modified prices every 5 years. As early as August 1974, export revenues were no longer sufficient to repay loans and imports. In December 1975, Poland ran out of foreign currency for the first time and had to take out a foreign exchange loan from the USSR[327].

Significantly, the state’s debt increased from $1 million 360 thousand to $8 billion 411 million in 1975 reaching the safety limit, a state in which the annual cost of servicing foreign debts exceeds 25% of annual export revenues. By 1980, the debt had already reached $24 billion 969 million[328].

The growth rate of national income began to decline. In 1976 it was 6.8% over the previous year (in 1975 – 9%), in 1977 the growth was 5%, in 1978 – 3%, and in 1979 for the first time in the People’s Republic there was a decline of 2.3%[329].

Political crisis[edit | edit code].

Destruction after street fighting during the 1976 workers’ protests in Radom.

John Paul II’s pilgrimage, mass at Victory Square in Warsaw (1979)

Separate articles: Committee for Defense of Workers, Committee for Social Self-Defense “KOR,” Movement for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights, Polish Independence Alliance, Confederation of Independent Poland, Free Trade Unions of the Coast, Experience and Future, June 1976 and Political Opposition in the People’s Republic of Poland.

On February 10, 1976, the Sejm passed amendments to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Poland, which, among other things, introduced the alliance with the USSR and the so-called leadership role of the PZPR as constitutional principles of the state’s political system. Due to the objection of the chairman of the Constitutional Committee, Prof. Henryk Jablonski, provisions on the establishment of the function of the President of the People’s Republic of Poland, which was to be assumed by Edward Gierek, were not introduced into the draft[330]. During the vote on the draft amendment to the Constitution, only Catholic MP Stanislaw Stomma, who was later removed from the Sejm, abstained from voting[331]. The changes were criticized by intellectuals, and the so-called Letter 59 was sent to the authorities, which criticized the constitutional changes, referring to the 1975 Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which Poland signed.

Separate articles: Letter 59 and Memorial 101.

In June 1976, a wave of strikes and workers’ protests (including in Radom and Ursus) took place after the government of Piotr Jaroszewicz announced the introduction of drastic increases in official prices for some consumer goods.

Separate articles: June 1976 and the Radom Events.

The relatively liberal period of Gierek’s rule tolerated after 1976 the emergence and activities of an organized opposition led in part by young activists excluded from the PZPR in 1965 and Catholic intellectuals gathered around the Znak magazine. At the beginning of 1976, the first clandestine opposition organization was formed, the Polish Independence Alliance. The founders of PPN were Wojciech Karpinski, Andrzej Kijowski, Zdzislaw Najder, Jan Olszewski, Jan Jozef Szczepanski. After the June 1976 strikes, on the initiative of Antoni Macierewicz, Piotr Naimski, Jan Jozef Lipski and Jacek Kuroń, the Workers’ Defense Committee was established in September 1976 with the goal of defending workers. KOR was transformed into the Committee for Social Self-Defense “KOR” on September 29, 1977. In 1977, the Movement for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights was founded.

After the death on May 7, 1977 in unexplained circumstances of Jagiellonian University student Stanislaw Pyjas, a KOR collaborator, and mass student demonstrations in Krakow, Student Solidarity Committees began to form in the country’s major academic cities. Among their activists were Liliana Batko, Boguslaw Sonik, Bronislaw Wildstein, Ewa Kulik, Róża Woźniakowska, Andrzej Mietkowski. Kazimierz Świtoń, Władysław Sulecki and others established the Free Trade Unions of Upper Silesia on February 23, 1978. KOR members affiliated with the “Robotnik” magazine initiated the establishment of the Free Trade Unions of the Coast on April 29, 1978. The founders of the WZZ Wybrzeża were Andrzej Gwiazda, Krzysztof Wyszkowski and Antoni Sokołowski, later joined by Bogdan Borusewicz, Joanna Duda-Gwiazda, Andrzej Kołodziej, Maryla Płońska, Alina Pienkowska, Anna Walentynowicz, Lech Wałęsa, Lech Kaczyński, Bogdan Lis and Tadeusz Szczepański, among others. Opposition magazines and books were published outside the reach of communist censorship by, among others, the Independent Publishing House NOWA. Outside the censorship were published magazines: Zapis, Głos, Krytyka, Opinia, Spotkania and others. Oppositionists initially harassed by searches and arrests were released from prisons in February 1977, and an amnesty was announced in July 1977. Systematic repression by the Security Service against opposition activists, however, continued with varying intensity until the August Agreements, ending the wave of mass labor strikes in the summer of 1980 (the agreements provided for the release of all those arrested).

In October 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, previously Archbishop Metropolitan of Krakow, was elected Pope as John Paul II. In June 1979, John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Poland, which gathered crowds of the faithful in public[332]. On September 1, 1979, the first opposition political party, the Confederation of Independent Poland (Konfederacja Polski Niepodległej), was founded, led by Leszek Moczulski; among others, Romuald Szeremietiew was a co-founder of KPN.

There was also growing ferment within the PZPR itself. Already at the plenum of the Central Committee in December 1978, tones critical of the policies of Gierek’s team sounded strongly. In February 1980, the Eighth Congress of the PZPR took place, at which Piotr Jaroszewicz was dismissed as a member of the Politburo. Jaroszewicz also soon stepped down as prime minister, which was assumed by Edward Babiuch[333]. In 1978, the informal discussion club Experience and Future began its activities, grouping both circles of independent intelligentsia and reformist party circles (Stefan Bratkowski, Kazimierz Dziewanowski, Bogdan Gotowski, Jan Górski, Andrzej Krasinski, Jan Malanowski, Klemens Szaniawski, Andrzej Wielowieyski, Andrzej Zakrzewski, Witold Zalewski and others). The first and only official meeting was held on November 14, 1978, under the aegis of the Free Polish University Society. Further meetings were forbidden by the state authorities. In May 1979 DiP published a Report on the State of the Republic and the Ways Leading to Its Repair, based on surveys sent to about 100 scientists and journalists. The document called for changes in the way power is exercised, including democratization of the Polish United Workers’ Party, greater empowerment of society in its relations with the government by strengthening the representative system, creation of authentic trade unions, guaranteeing equality before the law, the right to work and social welfare, universal access to culture, and respect for the rights of believers. In doing so, it was pointed out that these changes were within the socialist model[334][335].

The 1980 strike and the rise of Solidarity[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: August 1980, August Agreements and the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarity”.

The gate of the Gdansk Shipyard during the strike in August 1980.

Signing of the August Agreements in Szczecin, August 30, 1980.

With mounting debt and the price of products becoming disconnected from the cost of producing them, which caused the market for consumer goods to be deserted, Poland’s economic situation was deteriorating. The new government led by Edward Babiuch began a policy of austerity and disciplined budget spending[336]. On July 1, 1980, the authorities announced an increase in food prices. On July 2, 1980, the Central Board of the Meat Industry expanded the so-called commercial (at prices higher than official prices) sale of meat products[333]. These were direct impulses for the outbreak of peaceful social revolt. Workers’ strikes broke out in July 1980 in Zyrardow and Lublin. The government acceded to the wage demands of the strikers. The situation calmed down, and Edward Gierek went on vacation to Crimea. In mid-August, strikes broke out on the Coast, gradually covering the entire country, including coal mines in Upper Silesia. The events of that period of Polish history are referred to as August 1980. On August 14, a strike broke out at the Gdansk Shipyard in Gdansk. The Inter-Union Strike Committee was formed, which united striking factories throughout Poland. The demands of the strikers, at first economic in nature, with time also concerned general social issues. The most far-reaching was the demand for free trade unions. The strikes resulted in the August Agreements signed in Szczecin, Gdansk and Jastrzêbie-Zdrój.

Trial of strength by the authorities and Solidarity 1980-1981, economic crisis[edit | edit code].

In September 1980, at the Sixth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR), under the pressure of events, the First Secretary of the Central Committee Edward Gierek was forced to resign after a heart attack removed from power, who was replaced in this position by Stanislaw Kania. Various factions were forming in the party, which either took a hard line, hoping for Soviet intervention to suppress the counterrevolution, or more moderate ones, which hoped to gradually “pacify” and dismantle the emerging social opposition. At one stage of the strike action, the workers received significant support from a group of dissidents mainly associated with the KOR. Advisors to the Inter-Union Strike Committee (MKS) in Gdansk included: Lech Kaczynski, Bronislaw Geremek, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Andrzej Wielowieyski.

Lech Walesa

Stanislaw Kania

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski

The period from the founding and registration of the Solidarity trade union to the imposition of martial law was very turbulent. It was a period of strenuous social and political activity by millions of Poles, which resulted in the creation of a broad social movement, encompassing various layers of the environment, centered around Solidarity. It was a collective opposition to the communist system. In the vast majority of workplaces (except for militarized units), cells of free trade unions were formed, and pro-government unions were pushed into the background. Soon the “Agricultural Solidarity” was established, as well as a representation of the student community – the “Independent Students’ Union” (NZS).

“Solidarity” operated on a territorial basis, and not, like all “classical” trade unions, on an industry basis. “With such an organization, it was clear that specific professional interests would be subordinated to an overriding goal, and that this goal could only be the creation of a battering ram for political struggle (…) It was an abandonment of the idea of traditional unions, that is, the defense of specific interests of professional groups,” – stated historian Andrzej Walicki[337].

The authorities tried to counteract and impede the development of the opposition. Activists were arrested, propaganda directed against Solidarity intensified. On the side of the union, too, there were groups hesitant to confront. In a period of tension, close to confrontation on November 10, 1980, the registration of the Solidarity Trade Union took place. The Solidarity Weekly was founded, with Tadeusz Mazowiecki as its first editor-in-chief. December 1980 was probably the original date for the imposition of martial law in Poland. Thanks to Zbigniew Brzezinski’s personal pressure, the Jimmy Carter administration warned the USSR that such an action would be met with an immediate US retort. A little earlier, the second part of the Plenum of the Central Committee took place, at which it was decided to call an extraordinary congress of the Polish United Workers’ Party.

In 1980, national income fell by 6% compared to the previous year. Exports fell by 4.2%[338].

On February 11, 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Minister of Defense, also took over as Prime Minister. In his speech in the Sejm, he called for 90 peaceful days.

In March 1981 when the Warsaw Pact’s Soyuz-81 military exercises were conducted in the country and near Polish borders, the government adopted a confrontational course towards Solidarity. The so-called Bydgoszcz provocation took place. Militia forces beat up three Solidarity activists (including Jan Rulewski). The union authorities demanded an explanation of the cause and course of the incidents. Radical sentiments were growing in the union, and Lech Walesa was demanded to proclaim a general strike. At a meeting of the National Solidarity Covenant Commission, Wałęsa opposed the tendency in the union to confront the authorities, which was dominant, and in violation of the union’s statute, on his own, decided on the merely warning nature of the strike[339].” This stance caused a conflict within the Solidarity leadership; among others, Karol Modzelewski resigned from his position as the union’s spokesman. As a result of the mediation of Primate Stefan Wyszynski, who referred negatively to the idea of a general strike[340]. “There was a meeting between Lech Walesa and Deputy Prime Minister Rakowski. An agreement was made, which said that Solidarity called off the strike. At a meeting of the CPSU BP on April 2, 1981, referring to the compromise reached, USSR Defense Minister Dmitry Ustinov said: “We used to think that Comrade Jaruzelski was a steadfast activist. It turned out that he is, in fact, weak.” At the same time, the CPSU Politburo Commission accused Wojciech Jaruzelski and Stanislav Kania in its document of adhering to “the nationalist idea, which said that a Pole would always get along with a Pole. From this comes not only an unjustified concession to the demands of Solidarity, but also a panicky fear of confrontation with it, a fear of the introduction of Soviet troops.”[341]”

From April to October 1981, many essential commodities, e.g., meat, butter, fats, flour, rice, infant milk, etc., were again subjected to the system of so-called food ration cards. The purchase of agricultural products completely collapsed. Increases in purchase prices ceased to have any effect on producers, as farmers lost confidence in money, for which, by the way, they could not purchase other commodities that were in short supply on the market. In this situation, the government was forced to introduce so-called bundling (machinery had to be paid for with grain), which was a retreat to a form of barter economy. At the same time, Solidarity called on farmers to refrain from selling agricultural products to the state[342].

In March 1981, Gen. Jaruzelski’s government stopped paying the principal and interest on loans taken from some 360 banks in Western European countries belonging to the Paris Club. The total amount owed on this account was about $3 billion. In September, the government delegation succeeded in reaching an agreement with the creditors, which provided for the deferral of 95% of payments until the end of 1988[343]. The total foreign debt of the People’s Republic of Poland at the time was $25.5 billion and 3.1 billion transfer roubles (about $2.5 billion)[344][345]. Due to shortages of basic foodstuffs and medicines, the Polonia, numerous charitable organizations and government organizations from Western Europe organized aid for Poland, channeled through both government (Ministry of Health) and social channels (Caritas, parishes, Solidarity)[346]. In April, Jaruzelski and Kania went on a visit to Moscow. On April 7, the “Soyuz ’81” maneuvers ended in the country, but the Soviet military presence in Poland was a serious threat to suppress the Solidarity movement by force. On May 12, 1981, the Independent Trade Union of Individual Farmers Solidarity was registered. It was an organization representing the interests of individual farmers. They fought to constitutionally guarantee the right to individual land ownership.

The 9th Extraordinary Congress of the Polish United Workers’ Party in July 1981 confirmed the political impasse of the ruling party and its inability to make fundamental social and economic reforms – the democratization of the political system expected by Solidarity and the rationalization of the principles of the centrally controlled command economy.

On September 10, 1981, the Soviet authorities told the Polish government party that due to the situation in Poland in 1982, the USSR would supply 64% less oil and 47% less gas to Poland. Diesel oil Poland was not to receive at all[347].

In October 1981, Wojciech Jaruzelski became the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party after the resignation of Stanisław Kania, elected in July.

Over time, the rhetoric of Solidarity activists sharpened. Jan Lityński stated that while “until July, August there was still some possibility of getting along with the government,” after that it was already known that “the authorities will not change, that the authorities must be changed.” On December 3, 1981, at a meeting of the Coordination Commission with Solidarity regional chairmen, Lech Walesa said:

Today confrontation is inevitable and it will be. Only problem, I wanted to come to this confrontation naturally, then, when almost all social groups will be with us. However, in my opinions, calculations, I was wrong because I thought that we would still persevere, then we would overthrow both these assemblies and these councils and so on. (…) It turns out that we probably won’t go further with this tactic. (…) the change of the system can’t do without grumbling in the jaws, well there’s no way, it just has to be won[348]. In 1981, national income declined by 12% year-on-year[338].

Martial law, the rule of Wojciech Jaruzelski[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Martial Law in Poland (1981-1983), Military Council for National Salvation, Patriotic Movement for National Revival, Victims of Martial Law in Poland (1981-1983) and Internment Camps 1981-1982.

Front page of the “Tribune of the People” on December 14, 1981

T-55 tanks on the streets during martial law

On December 13, 1981, the Council of State illegally (even under communist law, since it could not make decisions during a session of the Sejm) imposed martial law throughout the country. The Military Council of National Salvation was constituted, with Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski as its chairman.

The imposition of martial law was not met with mass public opposition. Resistance from members of the suspended union was weak[349].

In 2006, the Institute of National Remembrance estimated the number of martial law fatalities (mainly fatal gunshots and beatings) during strikes and demonstrations at 56 people from December 13, 1981 to July 22, 1983[350].

On August 31, there were numerous demonstrations across the country organized by Solidarity. However, despite the severity of the protests, they showed that Solidarity’s influence was waning[351].

In December 1982, martial law was suspended. The small scale of public protests announced by the underground “Solidarity” for November 10, 1982, contributed to this decision[352]. On November 14, 1982, Lech Walesa was released from internment.

On July 22, 1983, the Council of State declared the lifting of martial law.

One of the most notorious politically motivated assassinations was that of Father Jerzy Popieluszko by Security Service officers in 1984.

Economy in the 1980s[edit | edit code].

In 1982 there was a further decline in national income (by 5.5%), but already in the third quarter production began to rebound (by 2%), and in the fourth quarter it increased by 7%. This was a period of decelerating decline and beginning growth.

Between 1982 and 1988, national income increased by 22.6% compared to 1981. This was happening amid a sharp reduction in imports from Western countries (by more than 30%) related to the policy of sanctions and restrictions introduced by the West after the imposition of martial law. Because of this, there was also a drastic deterioration in the supply of raw materials, semi-finished goods and consumer goods to the economy. In order to protect the economy from collapse and to pay current debt dues, it was necessary to increase exports to raise foreign currency. Between 1982 and 1988, exports increased by 56% and imports by 27%.

Prices and wages rose during this period. Wage increases were tried to be shaped so that the market would not be starved. As late as 1982, the real volume of wages fell by 25%. However, between 1983 and 1988, real wage growth was 20%, and in 1989 alone it was 9%.

After the collapse of investment in 1979-1982, from the following year investment began to rise to increase by a total of 34% in 1982-1988. The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the People’s Republic of Poland, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, announced to the Sejm in 1982 the decision to build the Warsaw Metro, which began construction the following year[353]. It was an investment of civilian as well as military significance; the stations were designed to meet the standards of nuclear fallout shelters[354].

In 1982, construction began on the Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant, which was discontinued after seven years[355].

National income growth rates were as follows: 1980 – 94%, 1981 – 88%, 1982 – 94,5%, 1983 – 106%, 1984 105,6%, 1986 – 104,9%, 1987 – 101,9%, 1988 – 104,9%[338].

Beginning in 1986, decentralization of the banking system began to take place. The spin-off of nine commercial banks from the NBP began on May 1, 1988[356].

The 1980s were the best period during the communist era for private economic activity. On September 16, 1982, the Law on the Execution and Organization of Crafts was amended, introducing the principle of equality of craft enterprises with public economic entities and recognizing the sustainability of the private economy, which was a departure from the system’s ideological canons. In the first three quarters of 1982, nearly 20,000 craft enterprises were added. Between 1981 and 1985, 145,000 craft enterprises were established, and employment in this sector increased by more than half a million workers. This was more than in the entire 1956 – 1980 period.

During these years, there was a rapid growth of the so-called “Polish companies. Between 1981 and 1988, 583 of them arrived (up to 700 companies), and employment in them increased from 3478 people to 81,800[357].

State-Church relations in 1980-1989[edit | edit code].

The first political gesture toward the Polish Episcopate was the tacit approval by the state authorities of John Paul II’s appointment of Franciszek Macharski as Metropolitan of Krakow – bypassing procedure – and Jozef Glemp as Ordinary of Warmia[358]. Another step in 1980 was the agreement to forgo the appointment of seminary students to military service[358].

On August 26, 1980, Poland’s Primate Stefan Wyszynski delivered a homily in which he laid out the Church’s position on the nascent Solidarity movement, saying, calling for moderation: “Demands may be right, and they are generally right, but it is never the case that they can be fulfilled at once, today Their fulfillment must be spread in installments.” On the same day, a communiqué from the General Council of the Polish Episcopate was released, which reads: “The agreements reached, supported by adequate guarantees, should end the strikes so that the normal functioning of the national economy and social life in peace becomes possible.”[359]

After the August 1980 strikes, mass broadcasts were introduced on Polish Radio. The authorities also allowed the Vatican’s Osservatore Romano to be distributed in Poland. The rules for planning and implementing the construction of churches passed from the jurisdiction of central authorities to local authorities. Workers set up shrines at workplaces, the custom of ordaining Solidarity union banners became widespread, and priests organized masses for striking workers. In December 1980, Chairman of the Council of State Henryk Jablonski took part in a mass on the occasion of the unveiling in Gdansk of a monument to the fallen in the course of the events of December 1970.

In February 1981, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Stanisław Kania, reported the Primate’s position on the situation in Poland as follows: “Wyszynski believes that there must be a strong government in Poland, that Poland is tied to the socialist bloc, that there must be a party that should regenerate itself. And if the party were to crumble, then a new party would have to be formed. He, the Primate of Poland, is in favor of the current party, but a changed one. The party guarantees power and peace.”

The Primate reiterated his mitigating stance to the radicals during the so-called “Bydgoszcz crisis,” when a delegation of Solidarity came to see the Primate a few days before a general strike was proclaimed in the country. He said: “(…) the most urgent matter is that you gentlemen, wanting much, do not lose what you have today. (…) This is obviously not the greatest virtue: valor. The greatest virtue is love, as well as prudence and caution. (…) We abstain from measures as costly as a general strike can be, which is so easy to start, but very difficult to end[360].”

In the fall of 1981, Primate Glemp, who was in Rome without consulting the communist authorities, invited Pope John Paul II to visit Poland, and the state authorities agreed to the pope’s visit[358].

In November 1981, the state authorities proposed the establishment of a Council of National Understanding to include representatives of the authorities, Solidarity and the Catholic Church. The proposal was rejected by Solidarity.

On December 13, 1981, after midnight, at the behest of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, a member of the PZPR Politburo and co-chairman on the government side of the Joint Commission of the Government and the Episcopate, Kazimierz Barcikowski, informed the Primate of Poland Józef Glemp in the course of a direct conversation at the Primate’s residence on Miodowa Street about the imposition of martial law. Later the same day, Primate Glemp delivered a sermon to young people in Czestochowa in which he appealed for calm. He urged the youth to preserve their lives in the name of acting for the good of the homeland. In the evening, during another sermon in Warsaw, he appealed for realism and to abandon thoughts of fratricidal warfare.

After all, the most important thing remains: saving lives and defending against bloodshed (…) It’s nothing that someone can accuse the Church of cowardice, of defusing radical sentiments. (…) Therefore, I myself will call for reason, even at the cost of exposing myself to insults, and I will ask, even if I had to go barefoot and on my knees to beg: do not take up the fight Pole against Pole!

At the same time, on December 15, the General Council of the Polish Episcopate adopted a communiqué negatively assessing the introduction of martial law[361]. However, after the intervention of UdsW head Jerzy Kuberski with Primate Józef Glemp taking place on the night of December 16-17, the publication of the communiqué was halted[361][362].

NSZZ “Solidarity” chaplain Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, during one of the masses for the Fatherland in 1983

During martial law, the idea of transferring Lech Walesa from a government internment center to a place of isolation under the care of the Church was considered in both government and Church circles. The idea was abandoned, but representatives of the Church were given permission for permanent contact with Walesa. At the request of the Church, the authorities decided to release from internment, among others, mothers raising children and people with health problems.

Cardinal Jozef Glemp during the funeral of Father Jerzy Popieluszko (1984)

While still under martial law, the Church obtained permission to establish a network of charitable institutions to replace “Caritas,” which was outside the control of the Church authorities (the state authorities did not agree to return the name “Caritas” to the Church). Incoming donations to the Church from the West were exempted from customs duties and were given both to internees who were provided with religious care and were distributed to the faithful in churches throughout the country.

In March 1982, Church authorities informed the state side that they wished the Pope’s visit to the homeland to take place in August 1982 in connection with the 600th anniversary of the presence of the image of the Madonna at Jasna Gora, which fell on that date. The state authorities considered a visit on that date in view of tensions in the country inadvisable and announced that the visit could come to a conclusion the following year. The Church therefore proposed that the visit take place in May so that the Pope could take part in the festivities in honor of St. Stanislaus, which was met with refusal from the state side arguing that St. Stanislaus symbolically represents the struggle between church and secular authorities. In August 1982, the church authorities also demanded that the state authorities approve the operation of a church foundation that, with money raised in the West, was to help individual agriculture in Poland.

Primate Glemp’s reaction to the dissolution of Solidarity by the authorities in October 1982 was to demonstratively cancel his visit to Rome for the beatification of Maximilian Kolbe. For the same reason, Pope John Paul II refused to receive a delegation of communist authorities representing the country at the celebrations.

Mass for the Homeland at the end of the communist regime. During the singing of the song “God, Coś Polskę” they raised their hands in a gesture of victory

After meeting with Gen. Jaruzelski on November 7, 1982, Polish Primate Józef Glemp said this about the political situation: “The country must grow through peace. The mistakes of power cannot be corrected by fighting. I still consider it a great mistake of the authorities that they did not separate the noble part of “Solidarity” from the radical underground. The liquidation of “Solidarity” swelled the ranks of the underground, and so the transition to the idea of struggle. The ideology of the underground, inspired by secular, if not anti-church circles of the West, wants to instrumentalize the church. So we have the phenomenon of the great evolution of Solidarity. It is becoming a political group and taking up the struggle with the authorities and for power, hence trade union issues are receding into the background. We also have very unpleasant testimonies about Lech Walesa. They are certainly authentic, although getting this news cannot be ethical. I fear a sudden disillusionment of society: the party has betrayed the working class and Solidarity has betrayed it as well[363]. A communiqué released after the meeting stated: “The Prime Minister and the Primate reviewed the current situation in the country and expressed their joint concern for the preservation and strengthening of social peace and order and conscientious work.”[364].

In June 1983, during the suspension of martial law, John Paul II’s pilgrimage to Poland took place during which the Pope met both with Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and privately with Lech Walesa.

On October 19, 1983, Gen. Kiszczak met with Archbishop Dabrowski, convincing him, “We are ready to talk with the Church. After all, you also have reasonable people like Force – Nowicki, Olszewski, Wielowiejski, Chrzanowski, if these would like to get involved.”[365].

In 1984, there was a conflict at a school in Miętne where students demanded that crosses be displayed in classrooms. Also that year, priests abstained from taking part in elections to national councils, which the underground Solidarity called for a boycott. In October 1984, Security Service officers murdered Father Jerzy Popieluszko. PAX chairman Zenon Komender[366] attended his funeral on behalf of the government.

In May 1986 there was a meeting between Primate Glemp and BP PZPR member Hieronim Kubiak. Glemp, encouraging compromise, stated “I understand that it is impossible to talk to Walesa, but there are, after all, other people, very different and divided. The lack of talks and an overly global attitude toward Solidarity makes it easier for the extreme opposition, because everyone is treated the same.”[365] Because of not taking sides, the Catholic clergy came under attack from both the government and Solidarity supporters[367].

In June 1987, John Paul II’s third pilgrimage to Poland took place. During this pilgrimage, the Pope met twice with Gen. Jaruzelski with the exception that the second meeting just before his departure at the Warsaw airport was held on the initiative of the Church side. After the Pope’s visit, work on normalizing state-Church relations was accelerated. The 1983 draft law on mutual relations drawn up by the Joint Commission of the Government and the Episcopate was unfrozen. Restrictions on religious services for particular communities were gradually lifted. This included the pastoral care of prisoners and the sick in hospitals. Regulations on the religious practices of young people on organized camps and vacations, which had been a cause of conflict for many years, were liberalized. The service of military chaplains and the availability of religious practices for soldiers were re-regulated. In 1988, the clergy were covered by the universal social security system. Agreement was given to grant ecclesiastical rights to the State Academy of Catholic Theology.

In 1987, Gen. Jaruzelski, making an official visit to Rome, was received in audience by Pope John Paul II.

In 1989, the People’s Republic of Poland established full diplomatic relations with the Vatican. That year, in May, the Law on State Relations with the Catholic Church was passed, completing the process of official comprehensive normalization of mutual relations[368].

Changes in the system[edit | edit code].

Even before martial law was lifted, the National Unity Front was replaced by the structures of the Patriotic National Revival Movement (PRON).

In 1982, the representative company of the Polish Army received cornets based on the 1935 pattern[369].

Since 1982, economic reform was introduced unsuccessfully.

On July 21, 1983, an amnesty was introduced “in order to create conditions to enable citizens who, for political reasons or inadvertently committed violations of the legal order, to join active participation in the life of the country.” The amnesty was used by 1,898 people[370].

In 1983, new trade unions were formed, and in November 1984 the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions was established, whose ranks quickly reached nearly 5 million members. At that time, the underground opposition numbered no more than 24,000 activists and sympathizers[365].

Changes were also made to the system of political functioning of the state, including the establishment of the State Tribunal in 1982, the Constitutional Court in 1985, and the creation of the office of Ombudsman in 1987.

On August 25, 1983, Deputy Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski met with shipyard workers from the Gdansk Shipyard[371]. Lech Walesa was among them.

By the mid-1980s, the awareness of the erroneousness of the direction taken by the underground structures of Solidarity was becoming more and more widespread – the strategy of fighting the state together with the concept of a general strike was clearly bankrupt. The public, most of which was affiliated with Solidarity, at the same time did not see the possibility of overthrowing the system through street demonstrations and strikes. The underground, disregarding the increasingly weaker response to appeals to take to the streets, increasingly weakened the scope of its own influence in this way and found itself on the brink of self-destruction. The concept of fighting the state went bankrupt because the Communists were too strong an opponent. Adam Michnik was the first to realize the crash of this concept in 1985, posing the question of whether it was possible in Poland to reach a compromise between the forces advocating reform and the consensual factions of the ruling class. The answer to this question was positive: “We allow, namely, the possibility of a situation in which the communists will agree to (…) the demand for at least partially authentic elections to national councils and the Sejm. (…) The way out could be a solution that would allow the people to genuinely elect the Sejm, even if only 30% from among the deputies.”[372]. In the second half of the 1980s, the Solidarity opposition was almost completely marginalized[373].

On July 17, 1986, the authorities announced an amnesty for political prisoners (115 people). Forty-one convicts were released, 74 were provisionally arrested, and proceedings were discontinued against 100 people.

On October 10, 1986, Lech Walesa appealed to the US authorities to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Poland after the imposition of martial law.

After the amnesty in September 1986, Gen. Jaruzelski’s team begins to formulate the concept of a general reform of the state, in which there is room for social pluralism, limited political pluralism, market reform of the economy and making the private sector an essential element of it[373].

On October 18, 1986, Kazimierz Barcikowski and Stanisław Ciosek met with representatives of Catholic circles Andrzej Święcicki, Jerzy Turowicz and Andrzej Wielowieyski. The subject of the conversation was, among other things, the authorities’ proposal that Lech Walesa should join the Consultative Council to the Chairman of the Council of State Gen. Jaruzelski. The initiative was not successful.

On December 6, 1986, the first meeting of the Consultative Council to the Chairman of the State Council Gen. Jaruzelski was held. The Council included representatives of the “liberal” faction in the authorities (including Wladyslaw Baka, Stanislaw Kwiatkowski, Zdzislaw Sadowski), lay Catholics (including Julian Auleytner, Andrzej Święcicki, Krzysztof Skubiszewski, Wladyslaw Siła-Nowicki, Janusz Zablocki), as well as people of culture (including Kazimierz Dejmek, Aleksander Gieysztor, Wieslaw Myśliwski, Jan Szczepanski, Jerzy Trela).

As early as 1986, the authorities took into account the possibility of building a concessionary opposition based on the circles of lay Catholics and the use of the church hierarchy as a guarantor of the “non-confrontational” nature of the process[365].

In 1987, the authorities allowed the official publication in a circulation of 25,000 copies of the previously underground liberal magazine Res Publica, headed by editor Marcin Król. There was a weakening of press censorship[374].

In 1987, official military guards appeared at the Powazki Cemetery in front of the graves of those killed in 1920 and those murdered at Katyn[369].

The country’s economy was in full stagnation in the 1980s, and the state was on the verge of being unable to meet its foreign debt.

Round table, contract elections and the end of the People’s Republic[edit | edit code].

Mieczyslaw Rakowski

Road to the Round Table[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Strikes in Poland 1988.

At the end of April 1988, strikes break out again in some workplaces. They cause Solidarity to return to the political scene, but at the same time show, due to their small scope, that support for Solidarity is small[375]. On May 3, Solidarity advisor Andrzej Wielowiejski meets with Central Committee secretaries Stanislaw Ciosek and Jozef Czyrek, who inform him that Gen. Jaruzelski has agreed to enter into talks with Lech Walesa. On May 5, the militia pacifies the strike in Nowa Huta, and five days later the strikers leave the Gdansk Shipyard.

In June, the authorities go on the political offensive. Gen. Jaruzelski at the seventh plenum of the Central Committee uses the phrase “round table” for the first time. Secretary Ciosek, in a conversation with Episcopal spokesman Father Orszulik, informs him of the possibility of forming a coalition government in which the opposition would have representatives[376]. At the same time, in a conversation with Andrzej Stelmachowski, he proposes the possibility of establishing a Christian party that could receive 40% of the seats in the Sejm and the position of Speaker of the newly created Senate for Lech Walesa[377].

In July, Lech Walesa, in a letter to Gen. Kiszczak, proposes the start of talks. In August, more strikes begin in some workplaces. On August 25, Walesa formulates his demands to the authorities: legalization of Solidarity, reform of the law on associations, freedom to establish political clubs. The Politburo recognizes the demands as not excessive and, on the initiative of Gen. Jaruzelski, the authorities decide to proceed with talks on the organization of the “Round Table.”[377]

Negotiations were frozen after he announced the liquidation of the Lenin Gdansk Shipyard by the new government of Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski. In the deadlocked situation, activists of the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ), along with its chairman, Alfred Miodowicz, became active, and unexpectedly gained approval for a television debate with the farther-recognized Lech Walesa. The debate took place on November 30, 1988, and the perception was that Miodowicz, although no longer a member of the PZPR leadership, represented the authorities, while Walesa represented the opposition. The debate demonstrated Walesa’s preparation (he was advised by well-known TV journalist Andrzej Bober) and the colorlessness of his adversary, which in the public perception was unequivocally considered a victory for the opposition. The event prompted a return to negotiations.

Roundtable negotiations[edit | edit code].

The round table on display at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.

Separate article: Round Table (Poland).

During the subsequent meetings of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Czeslaw Kiszczak and Lech Walesa in Magdalenka, a postulated concept of dialogue between representatives of the opposition, the authorities and the Catholic Church was developed – the Round Table negotiations, whose deliberations, which lasted from February to April 1989, ended with the signing of an agreement. The 10th Plenum of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, which lasted from November 1988 to January 1989, supported a form of political and social pluralism. An important element of the agreement was the agreement on certain systemic changes in the form of reactivating the Senate, restoring the office of the President and holding partially free elections to the Sejm (with 460 seats, 35% for the civic side, as the opposition was called, and 65% for the government side, i.e. the PZPR along with the ZSL and SD) and completely free elections to the Senate (100 seats). Preparations for the elections were very intense, with the opposition calling for the deletion of the so-called national list of the government party, with the aim of demonstrating and weakening the government side.

Elections to the Contract Sejm on June 4, 1989[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Parliamentary elections in Poland in 1989.

Elections to the Sejm and Senate were held on June 4, 1989, ending with the victory of candidates put forward by the Solidarity Civic Committee – they won 35% of the seats in the Sejm and 99 seats in the Senate (1 seat was won by an independent candidate, Pilsen entrepreneur Henryk Stokłosa). Turnout in the first round of elections was 62% of eligible voters (in the second round 25.5%)[378].

As the then government spokesman Jerzy Urban recalled about the Politburo meeting immediately after the election results came in: “I wrote on a piece of paper a statement about the loss of the elections and the party’s acceptance of the results, and I handed the paper to Jaruzelski. Jaruzelski read it out loud and that’s when I experienced the biggest shock. Jaruzelski asked if there were any comments. And no one had any. So the handover of power took place without discussion.”[379]

At the same time, a situation of constitutional crisis arose, as pre-election appeals by the civic side to cross off the national list just as unexpectedly caused the list to be virtually lost in its entirety, making it impossible for the Sejm to be constituted. In this situation, it was agreed to change the rules in the course of the game, that is, to change the ordinance and hold a second round of elections. At the same time, the new situation caused the opposition to rapidly depart from the Round Table arrangements, as expressed by Gazeta Wyborcza editor-in-chief Adam Michnik in his July 3, 1989 article – Your President, Our Prime Minister. The political coalition in power so far (which had a parliamentary majority guaranteed by the Round Table agreement) led to the election of Wojciech Jaruzelski as president (by a margin of one vote, due probably to the abstention of OKP MP Andrzej Wielowieyski) and Czesław Kiszczak as prime minister; the latter failed to form a government. In August 1989, a political alliance was formed (KO “S”, ZSL, SD), which resulted in the formation of a new government headed by Tadeusz Mazowiecki and including representatives of the PZPR.

Change of the name of the state in 1989[edit | edit code].

The end date of the communist period can be taken as December 31, 1989, when the Law on Amending the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Poland, passed on December 29, 1989,[6] came into force, in which, among other things. The date of June 4, 1989 – the date of the first partially free elections (such a date is also associated with Joanna Szczepkowska’s unexpected statement on October 28, 1989 on TVP’s Dziennik TVP, “Ladies and gentlemen, on June 4, 1989, communism ended in Poland” – a statement that was ambiguously accepted at the time, but years later was considered symbolic).

Political transformation[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Systemic transformation in Poland.

Between 1989 and 1991, as a result of political action, the country was transformed into the democratic Republic of Poland, referred to as the Third Republic.

System[edit | edit code].

Text of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Poland on Wikiresources

It was a state with a non-democratic political system of mono-party dictatorship behind a formal facade of democratic institutions with various forms of repression, depending on the period from authoritarian to totalitarian. The question of defining the social system of the People’s Republic of Poland is disputed – according to the Constitution, it was a people’s democracy, aiming to “realize the great ideas of socialism,” while the statute of the PZPR referred to “the idea of communism” and “the teachings of Marxism-Leninism.”

The totalitarian state in Poland was created by the Polish Workers’ Party, which resulted from the adoption of Marxism-Leninist and Stalinist versions by communists in Poland. In view of the change in late 1948 of the USSR’s policy toward the satellite states and the adoption of the formula of so-called people’s democracy, there was a full Stalinization of the internal systems of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including the rejection of the façade of rule by coalition people’s fronts within the framework of parliamentary democracy in favor of the formal establishment of communist parties as the legal hegemon of power, as well as the renaming of the countries as “People’s Republics” (Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria). In the case of Poland, this meant changing the name of the country to the Polish People’s Republic.

Mariusz Gulczynski argues that the processes of totalization begun in 1948 were not completed in People’s Poland due to the lack of effective collectivization of agriculture and the failure to eliminate the influence of the Catholic Church[380].

Later modifications of the system took place within the same model and did not lead to a violation of its basic features. The Polish October and Gomulka’s return to power in 1956 did not change the Stalinist conception of the party and its leadership role[381].

Norman Davies divides the history of the Polish People’s Republic into three stages, the first in 1944-1948, a period of gradual construction of people’s democracy, the second in 1948-1956, which was an attempt to impose the Stalinist system on Poland, and the third after 1956, a period of domestic “national communism.”[382].

Andrzej Walicki believes that the period of totalization of the system in Poland is followed by the beginning of detotalization associated with the “thaw” of 1954-1956. He calls the later period “authoritarian dictatorship.” He also applies the term to the period of Gen. Jaruzelski’s rule, stating that “unlike totalitarian regimes (…. ) 1) did not attempt to derive its right to exist from an all-encompassing ideology imposed on everyone; 2) did not subordinate its activities to any positively formulated ideological goal, rather it emphasized respect for legal norms and in this context even spoke of “socialist constitutionalism”; 3) did not attempt to politicize all areas of intellectual and cultural life and finally 4) rejected attempts to mobilize the masses from above, opting instead for the traditional keeping the masses out of politics. (…); in the last period, he chose to experiment with a market economy. This meant firmly rejecting totalitarian-communist aspirations and entrenching itself in positions of insecure and self-limiting authoritarianism[383].

Administrative division[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Administrative Division of Poland (1944-1975) and Administrative Division of Poland (1975-1998).

During the existence of People’s Poland, administrative changes and reforms occurred several times. The first temporary division covered the years 1944-1946. At that time the administrative division of the Second Polish Republic was used, without the Eastern Borderlands lost by Poland, however, with the Recovered Territories, which were treated as a separate administrative element. Another administrative division (actually the first in the People’s Republic of Poland) of June 28, 1946 divided the country into 14 provinces and 2 separate cities (Warsaw and Lodz). The next administrative division of Poland from 1950-1957 created 3 new provinces and as many as 89 new districts.

The last major change in the administrative division of the People’s Republic of Poland was the 1975 reform. On June 1, 1975, 49 provinces were created and the intermediate administrative level – districts – was abolished. Characteristic of this reform was the promotion of relatively small centers such as Sieradz, Ciechanów and Krosno to the rank of provincial cities, as well as the incorporation of smaller towns and villages into larger towns and an attempt to artificially create metropolitan centers (e.g., Marklowice, Pszów, Radlin and Rydułtowy, which were incorporated into Wodzisław Śląski). The 1975 reform was also in effect in the Third Republic – until December 31, 1998, when it was replaced by the current 1999 reform.

Social resistance[edit | edit code].

Separate articles: Gdansk dockers’ strike (1946), Poznan June, Warsaw October ’57, Nowa Huta accidents 1960, March 1968 and December 1970.

Separate articles: Radom events, Lublin July 1980, August 1980, Hunger Marches in Poland in 1981 and Martial Law in Poland (1981-1983).

The People’s Republic of Poland has seen cyclical social protests throughout its existence, related to the deteriorating economic situation and restrictions on civil rights, ranging from individual factories to entire cities to most major cities, industrial and academic centers. These protests were suppressed with force, often with fatalities. In the language of propaganda, they were referred to as “events,” “accidents” or “solstices.”[384]

See also category: Social Resistance in People’s Poland.

Evaluation of the People’s Republic of Poland – summary[edit | edit code].

Logo of the Polish United Workers’ Party

The highest decoration of the People’s Republic of Poland – the Order of the Builders of People’s Poland

The badge of the Polish-Soviet Friendship Society

In a December 2003 sociological survey conducted by the Institute of Political Studies and Pentor, the People’s Republic of Poland was viewed positively by 43% of respondents and negatively by 34%[385].

Political issues[edit | edit code].

Political and civil rights[edit | edit code].

Human rights were violated in the People’s Republic, including freedom of speech, press, association, opinion, conscience and religion, and the right to emigrate. At the time, however, it was believed that the regime of the People’s Republic of Poland was the mildest compared to other Eastern Bloc countries.

The unfavorable features of the PRL regime were censorship, suppression of freedom of expression and creative creation, restrictions on freedom of movement and leaving the country[386] (in exceptional cases, particularly inconvenient people were forced to emigrate).

Justice[edit | edit code].

The judiciary, despite its declared independence, was in fact subordinated to the state security services and treated instrumentally: extradition detention and various forms of violations of criminal procedure procedures were regularly used in political cases: obstruction of detainees’ contact with their lawyers, falsification of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, and repression and pressure on lawyers. Lawyers defending defendants in political cases were commonly subjected to “surveillance, tracking, personal searches, searches of apartments and lawyers’ offices.” Judges obstructed the examination of defense witnesses and dismissed their requests for evidence[387].

Pawel Moczydlowski was critical of the Polish prison system during the communist period[388].

Censorship and information policy[edit | edit code].

Soldiers of the LWP airborne forces (6 DPD)

Editorial footers of three books published during the PRL period. Underlined signatures of censors from the Main Office of Press, Publication and Audience Control

Separate articles: Censorship in the People’s Republic of Poland, Main Office of Press, Publication and Spectator Control and The Black Book of PRL Censorship.

In the People’s Republic of Poland, there was institutionalized preventive censorship, which prevented information deemed undesirable or incompatible with socialist ideology by the ruling PZPR party from reaching the media. The ruling party owned all nationalized information-generating media outlets such as radio, television, as well as privileged newspaper titles. All licensed press published in the country was subject to censorship ex officio. The creation and distribution of films, as well as all public readings, performances, concerts, theater and stage productions were also completely under the control of the communist government.

Shortly after the end of World War II, in October 1945, the Ministry of Education sent out a confidential letter to all Polish libraries with an attached list of books that were to be “immediately removed from school libraries of all types and grades.” Between 1951 and 1953, the Ministry of Culture and the Arts and the Ministry of Public Security carried out a large-scale campaign to purge domestic public libraries of those pre-war publications that contradicted the policies of the communist authorities and those post-war publications whose contents were deemed harmful by the GUKPPiW’s constantly updated “Book of Records and Recommendations.”

The party authorities regularly instructed the censorship authorities to block any reports of, for example, mining, construction or transportation disasters, dangerous chemical or biological waste, environmental contamination, etc. For example, after the discovery in 1975 at a school in Gdansk of a sealing agent emitting vapors toxic to children and teachers, the GUKPiW immediately began blocking all press reports on the subject, even though this would make it possible to prevent similar cases in other parts of the country[389].

Separate article: Semi-censorship.

The censors completely halted the broadcast of certain films and banned their distribution, and did not even allow any information about them to be published. In its 1975 recommendations to censors, the Central Office of Press, Publication and Audience Control lists a dozen films that were stopped by the censors, including Long Night (1967) by Janusz Nasfeter, Zasieki (1973) by Andrzej Piotrowski, The Devil (1972) by Andrzej Zulawski, Hands Up (1967) by Jerzy Skolimowski, Przeprowadzka (1972) by Jerzy Gruza, Pełnia nad głowami (1974) by Andrzej Czekalski and others[390]. Tomasz Strzyżewski, in his book on censorship in the People’s Republic of Poland, quotes an official secret document from the control office giving the extent of censorship interference along with a list of banned films: “No material (information, discussions, reviews, reports, demands for introduction to our screens, etc.) should be released.”[390]

The PZPR’s information policy stipulated the absolute priority of the image of the socialist state over everything else, including the health of citizens. In the case of industrial disasters, the authorities pursued a policy of limiting access to information as much as possible for as long as possible, especially if it was linked to negligence at the (party) leadership level. Western journalists Dusko Doder and Louise Branson described this phenomenon as “blocking information in the hope that the effects of the disaster would somehow disappear on their own or that no one would notice.”[391] This often led to an escalation of negative consequences for civilians and material losses far greater than if appropriate information measures had been taken immediately.

Armed forces[edit | edit code].

Separate article: People’s Army of Poland.

The People’s Republic of Poland had a strong army equipped with modern equipment, mostly of Soviet design, and was the second most numerous army in the Warsaw Pact[392]. At the time, the People’s Army of Poland was dominated and controlled by the ruling Communist Party and, as part of the UW, was subject to Soviet authority[393].

Social and societal issues[edit | edit code].

Social advancement[edit | edit code].

Opportunities for social advancement for many social strata are considered by some to be beneficial features of this regime and this form of state.

Between 1946 and 1989, about 6 million people moved from the countryside to the cities[394].

The measures used to promote social advancement, such as additional points for origin for admission to higher education, were debatable. It was not uncommon for the criteria for promotion to be non-substantive – candidates for managerial positions in state institutions, workplaces, schools, etc. were required to be members of the PZPR, according to the principle: passive, mediocre, but faithful (to the system, to the authorities), while people with a directional education, but not conducive to the system and the authorities, were stigmatized and removed from work, especially during periods of political upheaval.

Egalitarianism[edit | edit code].

There has been a widespread equalization of living standards (much smaller personal income disparity) (the Gini coefficient rose from 25 in 1987 to 35 in 2002[395]).

Health care[edit | edit code].

In the first two decades, the population’s health improved greatly due to the introduction of antibiotics and improved living conditions. In the second half of the 1970s, the mortality rate began to increase, reaching a maximum in 1980. This was especially true for men aged 45-55. High environmental pollution, poor working conditions, overcrowded housing, depression caused by worsening economic conditions, alcoholism[396], poor diet and deteriorating medical care[397] are considered the main causes of this.

In 1978, 92% of Poles used a dentist as part of their health insurance (in 1998 – 60%, in 2017 – 28%)[398].

Education and upbringing of children and adolescents[edit | edit code].

Illiteracy, which was 33% before 1939, was eliminated at a rapid pace (within a decade)[172].

In 1958, the “Thousand Schools for the Thousandth Anniversary of the Polish State” campaign was launched, under which 1,417 elementary schools were built by 1966[399].

Among the positives of the People’s Republic of Poland was the universality of summer vacations for children and young people, often associated with sports and tourist camps, and the possibility of cheap vacations in attractive regions of the country even for the lowest income earners.

Youth organizations (the Union of Socialist Youth, the Socialist Union of Polish Students, and the Polish Scouting Association and the Union of Rural Youth, which were taken over by the Communists), operating essentially to indoctrinate youth, were mainly concerned with the dissemination of culture, physical culture and tourism. From the student culture of that period sprang many outstanding artists in various fields, and athletes starting their careers in school sports clubs won medals at the Olympics.

Already in 1949, just 4 years after the end of the war, there were more than 288,000 children in kindergartens (in 1937/38 – more than 83,000). In the last year of the 6-year plan (1955), 19% of children were covered by kindergarten[400]. In 1985, there were 103.5 thousand places in kindergartens in the People’s Republic (1995 – 37.9 thousand, 2000 – 29.9 thousand, 2015 – 74.7 thousand). In 1980. 52 per 1,000 children under 3 were in nurseries (1995 – 23, 2000 – 21, 2015 – 67.5)[401].

Cultural policy[edit | edit code].

The circulation of books and pamphlets increased significantly. While in 1934-1938 they amounted to 24.6 million, in 1951-1955 they amounted to 92.5 million, in 1976-1980 – 150.2 million, in 1986-1990 – 230.7 million[172].

A significant part of the publications and circulation, however, were communist pamphlets and other propaganda publications, published in mass quantities, in addition to selected items of fiction. Probably the largest single Polish circulation of A Short Course in the History of the Communist Party(b) took place in 1950, as reported by Tygodnik Powszechny in its April 30, 1950 (No. 18) “From the Day” column: A. Mickiewicz’s “Pan Tadeusz” achieved the largest circulation after the war, with 1.5 million, followed closely by “A Short Course in the History of the CPSU(b)” – 1.25 million copies.

Between 1952 and 1953, 2,500 titles were removed from libraries, in several million copies, and taken under control to paper mills designated in each province, where they were milled[174].

In 1989, there were 1,435 cinemas in the People’s Republic of Poland (660 cinemas remain in 2002)[402].

Sports[edit | edit code].

Previously elite sports – such as sailing, including sea and ice sailing, as well as equestrianism – were also widely disseminated, thanks to state funding. The athletes of the People’s Republic of Poland enjoyed many world successes, culminating in the Polish national team winning third place in the 1974 World Cup[403]. Great, often world-famous, were the footballers considered today as icons of Polish soccer: Kazimierz Deyna[404], Grzegorz Lato[405] and Zbigniew Boniek[406].

Economic issues[edit | edit code].

Separate article: Economy of People’s Poland.

Low wages and the unavailability of basic products contributed to the growth of corruption, various forms of barter for privileges or goods.

A systemic feature was the low standard of living, the system of promotions and salaries discouraging honest work and promoting conformist attitudes. In addition, during certain periods: high inflation making saving impossible, shortages of supplies causing people to stand in lines for hours[407] and debt (which in 1989 was $48 billion[408]).

The fertility rate in the People’s Republic of Poland: in the record year of 1983, 723,600 children were born (in the record year after 1989 – 1990 – 547,700)[409].

Lenin Steelworks in Cracow – one of the great investments of the communist government

Industry: during the communist period, 1,615 new industrial plants were established, and these were 95% investments in areas previously unused industrially (657 of them were liquidated after 1989). They created more than 2 million jobs[410]. The peak of industrial employment was in 1980 when 5.2 million people worked in the industry (2.8 million in 2013)[411].

Construction: during the communist period, an average of about 220,000 housing units were built annually (as a result, 57% of Poland’s housing stock in 2014 was from the communist period). In the period from 1989 to 2014, about 100,000 housing units were built annually[412]. The largest number of apartments was built in 1971-1979 – more than 260 thousand per year. More than 2.1 million housing units were built then (this is 48% better than in the post-1989 record year – 2017)[413].

Energy: total expenditures on energy amounted to about $70 billion between 1960 and 1989 (and counting district heating and mines, more than $100 billion)[414].

Oil consumption: grew geometrically, e.g. in 1970 it was 8.9 million tons per year, and in 1989. 17.3 million tons (in 2017 – 30.3 million tons)[415].

Coal mining: in 1945 – 47 million tons, in 1971 – 145.3 million tons, 1979/1980 – about 200 million tons (in 2017 – 66 million tons)[416].

Railroads: in 1989, the railroad network in the People’s Republic of Poland was 26 thousand km. (2000 – 22 thousand, 2016 – 18.5 thousand)[417].

Handicrafts: the production potential of handicraft enterprises, after a sharp decline in 1949-1955, quadrupled between 1956 and 1988. The number of crafts establishments increased from 96,000 to 388,000, while the number of employees increased from 141,000 to 972,000 (and thus seven times). The number of private trade and private catering establishments increased threefold (from 16 thousand to over 54 thousand). At the end of 1988, in the entire non-farm economy, the number of business entities amounted to 572 thousand, and they employed 1 million 288 thousand workers. In 1988, the private sector employed 10% of the workforce. The share of the non-agricultural private economy in GDP, according to the CSO, was in 1988. 6%[274].

Footwear production: In the 1980s, the People’s Republic of Poland was one of the largest footwear producers in Europe (production reached 200 million pairs of shoes). Production was driven by demand from the USSR[418].

1950 1960 1970 1974 1978 1980 1982 1990 1995 2000 2004

Life expectancy at birth in Poland[419].

males 56.1 64.9 66.6 67.8[420].

66,4 66,0[421]

67,2 66,5 67,6 69,7 70,7

women 61.7 70.6 73.3 74.6[420]

74,5 74,4[421]

75,2 75,5 76,4 78,0 79,2

Infant mortality[422]

in Poland

62 32


19 14 8 7


53 38


10 8 5 4


46 27


8 6 4 3


31 20


8 6 6 5


81 53


11 8 6 4

in industrialized countries

32 21


9 7 6 5

GDP per capita in 1990 $ with purchasing power parity (thousands)[423]

in Poland

2,45 3,22 4,43 5,60 6,11[420]

5,74 5,29[421]

5,11 5,62 7,21 8,09

Greece 1.92 3.15 6.21 7.35 8.70 8.97 8.88 10.0 10.3 12.1 14.3

Spain 2.19 3.07 6.32 8.15 9.02 9.20 9.29 12.1 12.9 15.6 17.5

Ireland 3.45 4.28 6.2 7.04 8.25 8.54 8.82 11.8 14.4 21.8 25.5

Portugal 2.09 2.96 5.47 7.05 7.34 8.04 8.28 10.8 11.6 13.8 14.0

12 Western European countries[424].

5,02 7,61 11,0 12,3 13,4 14,1 14,1 16,9 17,9 20,1 20,6(2003)

Holidays[edit | edit code].

Celebrated during the communist period[edit | edit code].

Public holidays celebrated during the communist period (1962-1987):

January 1 New Year’s Sunday and Easter Monday May 1 Labor Day Pentecost Sunday Corpus Christi feast July 22 Rebirth of Poland holiday November 1 All Saints’ Day (formally, in propaganda also as the Feast of the Dead) December 25 and 26 Christmas Day.

In addition:

Public holidays according to pre-war ordinances and laws until 1952 (except November 11) and: January 6 – Epiphany until 1961 August 15 – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary until 1961 and again since 1988; November 11 – Polish Independence Day since 1989

Holidays (including those celebrated on working days) introduced in the People’s Republic of Poland:

May 1 – Labor Day

March 8 – Women’s Day

May 9 – Victory Day

July 22 – National Day of Poland’s Rebirth[425] (the anniversary of the promulgation of the PKWN Manifesto)

October 7 – Civic Militia and Security Service Day

October 12 – Polish Army Day[426] (anniversary of the Battle of Lenino)

November 7 – the anniversary of the October Revolution

numerous industry holidays – e.g., Printer’s Day, Foundryman’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Airman’s Day (August 23)

Abolished during the communist period[edit | edit code].

January 6 – Epiphany of the Lord (in tradition: Epiphany) February 2 – Presentation of the Lord (in tradition: Our Lady of Thunder)

May 3 – anniversary of the May 3 Constitution of 1791

Ascension Day (Thursday 40 days after Easter) 2nd day of Pentecost

June 29 – Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

August 15 – Feast of Our Lady of the Herbs and the anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw in 1920

November 11 – Polish Independence Day

December 8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

regimental holidays (pre-war)

Status of the Polish People’s Republic[427][edit | edit code].

The Polish People’s Republic was an independent state. This is evidenced by:

legal international recognition diplomatic relations with most countries of the world membership in international organizations (including the UN) institutions typical of a state right to issue money national symbols

However, it was a non-sovereign state because:

lack of free and unadulterated elections to both the Sejm and national councils at all regional levels

sovereignty was limited by the USSR (many decisions concerning the People’s Republic of Poland were made in Moscow)

From 1944 to 1956 it was total sovereignty, and since 1956 it has been partial.

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