Stalinism In Poland
The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of Soviet Communist dominance imposed after the end of World War II over the People's Republic of Poland. These years, while featuring many improvements in the standards of living in Poland, were marred by social unrest and economic depression.
Near the end of World War II, the advancing Soviet Red Army pushed out the Nazi German forces from occupied Poland. At the insistence of Joseph Stalin, the Yalta Conference sanctioned the formation of a new Polish provisional and pro-Communist coalition government in Moscow, which ignored the Polish government-in-exile based in London. This has been described as a Western betrayal of Poland on the part of Allied Powers to appease the Soviet leader, and avoid a direct conflict. The Potsdam Agreement of 1945 ratified the westerly shift of Polish borders and approved its new territory between the Oder-Neisse and Curzon lines. Poland, as a result of World War II, for the first time in history became an ethnically homogeneous nation state without prominent minorities due to destruction of indigenous Polish-Jewish population in the Holocaust, the flight and expulsion of Germans in the west, resettlement of Ukrainians in the east, and the repatriation of Poles from Kresy. The new communist government in Warsaw solidified its political power over the next two years, while the Communist Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) under Bolesław Bierut gained firm control over the country, which would become part of the postwar Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Following Stalin's death in 1953, a political "thaw" in Eastern Europe caused a more liberal faction of the Polish Communists of Władysław Gomułka to gain power. By the mid-1960s, Poland began experiencing increasing economic, as well as political, difficulties. In December 1970, a price hike led to a wave of strikes. The government introduced a new economic program based on large-scale borrowing from the West, which resulted in an immediate rise in living standards and expectations, but the program faltered because of the 1973 oil crisis. In the late 1970s the government of Edward Gierek was finally forced to raise prices, and this led to another wave of public protests.
This vicious cycle was finally interrupted by the 1978 election of Karol Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II, strengthening the opposition to Communism in Poland. In early August 1980, the wave of strikes led to the founding of the independent trade union "Solidarity" (Polish Solidarność) by electrician Lech Wałęsa. The growing strength of the opposition led the government of Wojciech Jaruzelski to declare martial law in December 1981. However, with the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, increasing pressure from the West, and continuing unrest, the Communists were forced to negotiate with their opponents. The 1989 Round Table Talks led to Solidarity's participation in the elections of 1989; its candidates' striking victory sparked off a succession of peaceful transitions from Communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1990, Jaruzelski resigned as the President of the Republic of Poland and was succeeded by Wałęsa after the December 1990 elections.
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“It is often said that Poland is a country where there is anti-semitism and no Jews, which is pathology in its purest state.”
—Bronislaw Geremek (b. 1932)