About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos



Poland - Acknowledgments and Preface


The authors are indebted to numerous individuals and organizations who provided materials, time, advice, and expertise on Polish affairs for this volume.

Thanks go to Ralph K. Benesch, who oversees the Country Studies-Area Handbook Program for the Department of the Army. The authors also appreciate the advice and guidance of Sandra W. Meditz, Federal Research Division coordinator of the handbook series. Special thanks also go to Marilyn L. Majeska, who managed the editing and production process, assisted by Andrea T. Merrill; to Teresa E. Kemp, who designed the book cover and the title page illustration for chapter 2; to Marty Ittner and who designed the other chapter title page illustrations; to David P. Cabitto, who provided graphics support and, together with the firm of Greenhorne and O'Mara, prepared maps; and to Tim Merrill, who compiled geographic data. LTC Peter J. Podbielski, United States Army, provided invaluable personal insights into the current status of the Polish military; Marcin Wiesiolek of the Foreign Military Studies Office, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and Michal Bichniewicz of the Center for International Studies and Defense Analyses updated the national security section; and Karl W. Soper assembled basic source materials for preparation of Chapter 5.

The Polish Information Agency (Polska Agencja Informacyjna) provided the editor with a wide selection of current photographs of economic and military activities. Ronald D. Bachman and Sam and Sarah Stulberg also contributed numerous timely photographs.

The contributions of the following individuals are gratefully acknowledged as well: Sharon Costello, who edited the chapters; Barbara Edgerton and Izella Watson, who did the word processing; Catherine Schwartzstein, who performed the final prepublication editorial review; Joan C. Cook, who compiled the index; and The Printing and Processing Section, Library of Congress, prepared the camera-ready copy under the supervision of Peggy Pixley.


At the end of the 1980s, Poland, like the other countries of Eastern Europe, underwent a rather sudden shift away from communist rule and into an uncertain new world of democracy and economic reform. The events spurred by the repudiation of Poland's last communist regime in 1989 demanded a new and updated version of Poland: A Country Study. Because the emergence of the opposition Solidarity movement in 1980 increased the flow of information from communist Poland, reliable coverage of the 1980s has been possible. Thus, this new treatment of Poland is based on a number of authoritative monographs and a host of scholarly articles. The most useful of those sources are cited in a bibliographic summary at the end of each chapter.

The authors of this edition have described changes in the past ten years against the historical, political, and social background of Poland. Particular emphasis falls on the transition period that began in 1989 with the rejection of the last communist government. This period, a historic watershed not yet concluded in 1993, promises to have permanent impact on all aspects of Polish life. The authors have attempted to present a compact, accessible, and unbiased treatment of five main topics: historical setting, society and its environment, the economy, government and politics, and national security.

Polish personal names are rendered with full diacritics. The spelling of geographical names conforms to that approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names, including the use of diacritics, with the exception of commonly used international spellings such as Warsaw (Warzawa) and Oder (Odra). On maps English-language generic designations such as river, plain, and mountain are used. In the text, organizations commonly known by their acronyms (such as PZPR, the Polish United Workers' Party) are introduced first by their full English and Polish names.

The body of the text reflects information available as of October 1992. Certain other portions of the text, however, have been updated. The Bibliography includes published sources thought to be particularly helpful to the reader.


Poland - History


THE POLES POSSESS one of the richest and most venerable historical traditions of all European peoples. Convention fixes the origins of Poland as a nation near the middle of the tenth century, contemporaneous with the Carolingians, Vikings, and Saracens, and a full hundred years before the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066. Throughout the subsequent centuries, the Poles managed despite great obstacles to build and maintain an unbroken cultural heritage. The same cannot be said of Polish statehood, which was notoriously precarious and episodic. Periods of independence and prosperity alternated with phases of foreign domination and disaster. Especially in more recent centuries, frequent adversity subjected the Poles to hardships scarcely equaled in European history.

Many foreign observers perceive Poland as a perennial victim of history, whose survival through perseverance and a dogged sense of national identity has left a mixed legacy of indomitable courage and intolerance toward outsiders. To Poles, their history includes brighter recollections of Poland as a highly cultured kingdom, uniquely indulgent of ethnic and religious diversity and precociously supportive of human liberty and the fundamental values of Western civilization. The contrast between these images reflects the extremes of fortune experienced by Poland. The two visions of history combine in uneasy coexistence in the Polish consciousness. One striking feature of Polish culture is its fascination with the national past; the unusual variety and intensity of that past defy tidy conclusions and produce energetic debate among Poles themselves on the meaning of their history.




In the first centuries of its existence, the Polish nation was led by a series of strong rulers who converted the Poles to Christendom, created a strong Central European state, and integrated Poland into European culture. Formidable foreign enemies and internal fragmentation eroded this initial structure in the thirteenth century, but consolidation in the 1300s laid the base for the dominant Polish Kingdom that was to follow.

The Origins of Poland

According to Polish myth, the Slavic nations trace their ancestry to three brothers who parted in the forests of Eastern Europe, each moving in a different direction to found a family of distinct but related peoples. Fanciful elements aside, this tale accurately describes the westward migration and gradual differentiation of the early West Slavic tribes following the collapse of the Roman Empire. About twenty such tribes formed small states between A.D. 800 and 960. One of these tribes, the Polanie or Poliane ("people of the plain"), settled in the flatlands that eventually formed the heart of Poland, lending their name to the country. Over time the modern Poles emerged as the largest of the West Slavic groupings, establishing themselves to the east of the Germanic regions of Europe with their ethnographic cousins, the Czechs and Slovaks, to the south.

In spite of convincing fragmentary evidence of prior political and social organization, national custom identifies the starting date of Polish history as 966, when Prince Mieszko (r. 963-92) accepted Christianity in the name of the people he ruled. In return, Poland received acknowledgment as a separate principality owing some degree of tribute to the German Empire (later officially known as the Holy Roman Empire). Under Otto I, the German Empire was an expansionist force to the West in the mid-tenth century. Mieszko accepted baptism directly from Rome in preference to conversion by the German church and subsequent annexation of Poland by the German Empire. This strategy inaugurated the intimate connection between the Polish national identity and Roman Catholicism that became a prominent theme in the history of the Poles.

Mieszko is considered the first ruler of the Piast Dynasty (named for the legendary peasant founder of the family), which endured for four centuries. Between 967 and 990, Mieszko conquered substantial territory along the Baltic Sea and in the region known as Little Poland to the south. By the time he officially submitted to the authority of the Holy See in Rome in 990, Mieszko had transformed his country into one of the strongest powers in Eastern Europe.

Mieszko's son and successor Boleslaw I (992-1025), known as the Brave, built on his father's achievements and became the most successful Polish monarch of the early medieval era. Boleslaw continued the policy of appeasing the Germans while taking advantage of their political situation to gain territory wherever possible. Frustrated in his efforts to form an equal partnership with the Holy Roman Empire, Boleslaw gained some non-Polish territory in a series of wars against his imperial overlord in 1003 and 1004. The Polish conqueror then turned eastward, extending the boundaries of his realm into present-day Ukraine. Shortly before his death in 1025, Boleslaw won international recognition as the first king of a fully sovereign Poland.


Poland - The Medieval Era


During the eleventh century and the first half of the twelfth century, the building of the Polish state continued under a series of successors to Boleslaw I. But by 1150, the state had been divided among the sons of Boleslaw III, beginning two centuries of fragmentation that brought Poland to the brink of dissolution.

Fragmentation and Invasion, 1025-1320

The most fabled event of the period was the murder in 1079 of Stanislaw, the bishop of Kraków. A participant in uprisings by the aristocracy against King Boleslaw II, Stanislaw was killed by order of the king. This incident, which led to open rebellion and ended the reign of Boleslaw, is a Polish counterpart to the later, more famous assassination of Thomas ą Becket on behalf of King Henry II of England. Although historians still debate the circumstances of the death, after his canonization the martyred St. Stanislaw entered national lore as a potent symbol of resistance to illegitimate state authority--an allegorical weapon that proved especially effective against the communist regime.

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Poland lost ground in its complex triangular relationship with the German Empire to the west and the kingdom of Bohemia to the south. New foreign enemies appeared by the thirteenth century. The Mongol invasion cut a swath of destruction through the country in 1241; for fifty years after their withdrawal in 1242, Mongol nomads mounted devastating raids into Poland from bases in Ruthenia to the southeast. Meanwhile, an even more dangerous foe arrived in 1226 when a Polish duke invited the Teutonic Knights, a Germanic crusading order, to help him subdue Baltic pagan tribes. Upon completing their mission with characteristic fierceness and efficiency, the knights built a stronghold on the Baltic seacoast, from which they sought to enlarge their holdings at Polish expense. By that time, the Piasts had been parceling out the realm into ever smaller units for nearly 100 years. This policy of division, initiated by Boleslaw II to appease separatist provinces while maintaining national unity, led to regional governance by various branches of the dynasty and to a near breakdown of cohesiveness in the face of foreign aggression. As the fourteenth century opened, much Polish land lay under foreign occupation (two-thirds of it was ruled by Bohemia in 1300). The continued existence of a united, independent Poland seemed unlikely.

The Later Piasts

In the fourteenth century, after a long period of instability and growing menace from without, the Polish state experienced a half century of recovery under the last monarchs of the house of Piast. By 1320 Wladyslaw Lokietek (1314-33), called the Short, had manipulated internal and foreign alignments and reunited enough territory to win acceptance abroad as king of an independent Poland. His son Kazimierz III (1333-70) would become the only Polish king to gain the sobriquet "great." In foreign policy, Kazimierz the Great strengthened his country's position by combining judicious concessions to Bohemia and the Teutonic Knights with eastward expansion.

While using diplomacy to win Poland a respite from external threat, the king focused on domestic consolidation. He earned his singular reputation through his acumen as a builder and administrator as well as through foreign relations. Two of the most important events of Kazimierz's rule were the founding of Poland's first university in Kraków in 1364, making that city an important European cultural center, and his mediation between the kings of Bohemia and Hungary at the Congress of Kraków (also in 1364), signaling Poland's return to the status of a European power. Lacking a male heir, Kazimierz was the last ruler in the Piast line. The extinction of the dynasty in 1370 led to several years of renewed political uncertainty. Nevertheless, the accomplishments of the fourteenth century began the ascent of the Polish state toward its historical zenith.


Poland - Integration into European Civilization


Without question the most significant development of the formative era of Poland's history was the gradual absorption of the country into the culture of medieval Europe. After their relatively late arrival as pagan outsiders on the fringes of the Christian world, the Western Slavs were fully and speedily assimilated into the civilization of the European Middle Ages. Latin Christianity came to determine the identity of that civilization and permeate its intellect and creativity. Over time the Central Europeans increasingly patterned their thought and institutions on Western models in areas of thought ranging from philosophy, artistic style, literature, and architecture to government, law, and social structure. The Poles borrowed especially heavily from German sources, and successive Polish rulers encouraged a substantial immigration of Germans and Jews to invigorate urban life and commerce. From its beginning, Poland drew its primary inspiration from Western Europe and developed a closer affinity with the French and Italians, for example, than with nearer Slavic neighbors of Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine heritage. This westward orientation, which in some ways has made Poland the easternmost outpost of Latinate and Catholic tradition, helps to explain the Poles' tenacious sense of belonging to the "West" and their deeply rooted antagonism toward Russia as the representative of an essentially alien way of life.


Poland - THE JAGIELLON ERA, 1385-1572


The next major period was dominated by the union of Poland with Lithuania under a dynasty founded by the Lithuanian grand duke Jagiello. The partnership proved profitable for the Poles, who played a dominant role in one of the most powerful empires in Europe for the next three centuries.

The Polish-Lithuanian Union

Poland's unlikely partnership with the adjoining Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Europe's last heathen state, provided an immediate remedy to the political and military dilemma caused by the end of the Piast Dynasty. At the end of the fourteenth century, Lithuania was a warlike political unit with dominion over enormous stretches of present-day Belarus and Ukraine. Putting aside their previous hostility, Poland and Lithuania saw that they shared common enemies, most notably the Teutonic Knights; this situation was the direct incentive for the Union of Krewo in 1385. The compact hinged on the marriage of the Polish queen Jadwiga to Jagiello, who became king of Poland under the name Wladyslaw Jagiello. In return, the new monarch accepted baptism in the name of his people, agreed to confederate Lithuania with Poland, and took the name Wladyslaw II. In 1387 the bishopric of Wilno was established to convert Wladyslaw's subjects to Roman Catholicism. (Eastern Orthodoxy predominated in some parts of Lithuania.) From a military standpoint, Poland received protection from the Mongols and Tatars, while Lithuania received aid in its long struggle against the Teutonic Knights.

The Polish-Lithuanian alliance exerted a profound influence on the history of Eastern Europe. Poland and Lithuania would maintain joint statehood for more than 400 years, and over the first three centuries of that span the "Commonwealth of Two Nations" ranked as one of the leading powers of the continent.

The association produced prompt benefits in 1410 when the forces of Poland-Lithuania defeated the Teutonic Knights in battle at Grunwald (Tannenberg), at last seizing the upper hand in the long struggle with the renegade crusaders. The new Polish Lithuanian dynasty, called "Jagiellon" after its founder, continued to augment its holdings during the following decades. By the end of the fifteenth century, representatives of the Jagiellons reigned in Bohemia and Hungary as well as PolandLithuania , establishing the government of their clan over virtually all of Eastern Europe and Central Europe. This farflung federation collapsed in 1526 when armies of the Ottoman Empire won a crushing victory at the Battle of Mohįcs (Hungary), wresting Bohemia and Hungary from the Jagiellons and installing the Turks as a menacing presence in the heart of Europe.


Poland - The "Golden Age" of the Sixteenth Century


The Jagiellons never recovered their hegemony over Central Europe, and the ascendancy of the Ottomans foreshadowed the eventual subjection of the entire region to foreign rule; but the half century that followed the Battle of Mohįcs marked an era of stability, affluence, and cultural advancement unmatched in national history and widely regarded by Poles as their country's golden age.

Poland-Lithuania as a European Power

The Teutonic Knights had been reduced to vassalage, and despite the now persistent threats posed by the Turks and an emerging Russian colossus, Poland-Lithuania managed to defend its status as one of the largest and most prominent states of Europe. The wars and diplomacy of the century yielded no dramatic expansion but shielded the country from significant disturbance and permitted significant internal development. An "Eternal Peace" concluded with the Ottoman Turks in 1533 lessened but did not remove the threat of invasion from that quarter.

A lucrative agricultural export market was the foundation for the kingdom's wealth. A population boom in Western Europe prompted an increased demand for foodstuffs; Poland-Lithuania became Europe's foremost supplier of grain, which was shipped abroad from the Baltic seaport of Gdansk. Aside from swelling Polish coffers, the prosperous grain trade supported other notable aspects of national development. It reinforced the preeminence of the landowning nobility that received its profits, and it helped to preserve a traditionally rural society and economy at a time when Western Europe had begun moving toward urbanization and capitalism.

The Government of Poland-Lithuania

In other respects as well, the distinctive features of Jagiellonian Poland ran against the historical trends of early modern Europe. Not the least of those features was its singular governmental structure and practice. In an era that favored the steady accumulation of power within the hands of European monarchs, Poland-Lithuania developed a markedly decentralized system dominated by a landed aristocracy that kept royal authority firmly in check. The Polish nobility, or szlachta, enjoyed the considerable benefits of landownership and control over the labor of the peasantry. The szlachta included 7 to 10 percent of the population, making it a very large noble class by European standards. The nobility manifested an impressive group solidarity in spite of great individual differences in wealth and standing. Over time, the gentry induced a series of royal concessions and guarantees that vested the noble parliament, or Sejm, with decisive control over most aspects of statecraft, including exclusive rights to the making of laws. The Sejm operated on the principle of unanimous consent, regarding each noble as irreducibly sovereign. In a further safeguard of minority rights, Polish usage sanctioned the right of a group of gentry to form a confederation, which in effect constituted an uprising aimed at redress of grievances. The nobility also possessed the crucial right to elect the monarch, although the Jagiellons were in practice a hereditary ruling house in all but the formal sense. The prestige of the Jagiellons and the certainty of their succession supplied an element of cohesion that tempered the disruptive forces built into the state system.

In retrospect historians frequently have derided the idiosyneratic, delicate governmental mechanism of PolandLithuania as a recipe for anarchy. Although its eventual breakdown contributed greatly to the loss of independence in the eighteenth century, the system worked reasonably well for 200 years while fostering a spirit of civic liberality unmatched in the Europe of its day. The host of legal protections that the nobility enacted for itself prefigured the rights generally accorded the citizens of modern democracies, and the memory of the "golden freedoms" of Poland-Lithuania is an important part of the Poles' present-day sense of their tradition of liberty. On the other hand, the exclusion of the lower nobility from most of those protections caused serious resentment among that largely impoverished class, and the aristocracy passed laws in the early sixteenth century that made the peasants virtual slaves to the flourishing agricultural enterprises.

Poland-Lithuania in the Reformation Era

In modern eyes, the most saliently liberal aspect of Jagiellon Poland is its exceptional toleration of religious dissent. This tolerance prevailed in Poland even during the religious upheavals, war, and atrocities associated with the Protestant Reformation and its repercussions in many parts of sixteenth-century Europe. The Reformation arrived in Poland between 1523 and 1526. The small Calvinist, Lutheran, and Hussite groups that sprang up were harshly persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church in their early years. Then in 1552 the Sejm suspended civil execution of ecclesiastical sentences for heresy. For the next 130 years, Poland remained solidly Roman Catholic while refusing to repress contending faiths and providing refuge for a wide variety of religious nonconformists.

Such broad-mindedness derived as much from practical necessity as from principle, for Poland-Lithuania governed a populace of remarkable ethnic and religious diversity, embracing Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and numerous nonChristians . In particular, after the mid-sixteenth century the Polish lands supported the world's largest concentration of Jews, whose number was estimated at 150,000 in 1582. Under the Jagiellons, Jews suffered fewer restrictions in Poland-Lithuania than elsewhere in Europe while establishing an economic niche as tradesmen and managers of noble estates.

The Polish Renaissance

The sixteenth century was perhaps the most illustrious phase of Polish cultural history. During this period, Poland-Lithuania drew great artistic inspiration from the Italians, with whom the Jagiellon court cultivated close relations. Styles and tastes characteristic of the late Renaissance were imported from the Italian states. These influences survived in the renowned period architecture of Kraków, which served as the royal capital until that distinction passed to Warsaw in 1611. The University of Kraków gained international recognition as a cosmopolitan center of learning, and in 1543 its most illustrious student, Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikolaj Kopernik), literally revolutionized the science of astronomy.

The period also bore the fruit of a mature Polish literature, once again modeled after the fashion of the West European Renaissance. The talented dilettante Mikolaj Rej was the first major Polish writer to employ the vernacular, but the elegant classicist Jan Kochanowski (1530-84) is acknowledged as the genius of the age. Accomplished in several genres and equally adept in Polish and Latin, Kochanowski is widely regarded as the finest Slavic poet before the nineteenth century.

The Eastern Regions of the Realm

The population of Poland-Lithuania was not overwhelmingly Catholic or Slavic. This circumstance resulted from the federation with Lithuania, where ethnic Poles were a distinct minority. In those days, to be Polish was much less an indication of ethnicity than of rank; it was a designation largely reserved for the landed noble class, which included members of Polish and non-Polish origin alike. Generally speaking, the ethnically nonPolish noble families of Lithuania adopted the Polish language and culture. As a result, in the eastern territories of the kingdom a Polish or Polonized aristocracy dominated a peasantry whose great majority was neither Polish nor Catholic. This bred resentment that later grew into separate Lithuanian, Belorussian, and Ukrainian nationalist movements.

In the mid-sixteenth century, Poland-Lithuania sought ways to maintain control of the diverse kingdom in spite of two threatening circumstances. First, since the late 1400s a series of ambitious tsars of the house of Rurik had led Russia in competing with Poland-Lithuania for influence over the Slavic territories located between the two states. Second, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-72) had no male heir. The Jagiellon Dynasty, the strongest link between the halves of the state, would end after his reign. Accordingly, the Union of Lublin of 1569 transformed the loose federation and personal union of the Jagiellonian epoch into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, deepening and formalizing the bonds between Poland and Lithuania.


Poland - THE NOBLE REPUBLIC, 1572-1795


Although most accounts of Polish history show the two centuries after the end of the Jagiellon Dynasty as a time of decline leading to foreign domination, Poland-Lithuania remained an influential player in European politics and a vital cultural entity through most of the period.

The Elective Monarchy

The death of Sigismund II Augustus in 1572 was followed by a three-year Interregnum during which adjustments were made in the constitutional system. The lower nobility was now included in the selection process, and the power of the monarch was further circumscribed in favor of the expanded noble class. From that point, the king was effectively a partner with the noble class and constantly supervised by a group of senators. Once the Jagiellons passed from the scene, the fragile equilibrium of the commonwealth government began to go awry. The constitutional reforms made the monarchy electoral in fact as well as name. As more and more power went to the noble electors, it also eroded from the government's center.

In its periodic opportunities to fill the throne, the szlachta exhibited a preference for foreign candidates who would not found another strong dynasty. This policy produced monarchs who were either totally ineffective or in constant debilitating conflict with the nobility. Furthermore, aside from notable exceptions such as the able Transylvanian Stefan Batory (1576-86), the kings of alien origin were inclined to subordinate the interests of the commonwealth to those of their own country and ruling house. This tendency was most obvious in the prolonged military adventures waged by Sigismund III Vasa (1587-1632) against Russia and his native Sweden. On occasion, these campaigns brought Poland near to conquest of Muscovy and the Baltic coast, but they compounded the military burden imposed by the ongoing rivalry with the Turks, and the Swedes and Russians extracted heavy repayment a few decades later.


Poland - The Deluge, 1648-67


Although Poland-Lithuania escaped the ravages of the Thirty Years' War, which ended in 1648, the ensuing two decades subjected the country to one of its severest trials. This colorful but ruinous interval, the stuff of legend and the popular historical novels of Nobel laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916), became known as the potop, or deluge, for the magnitude of its hardships. The emergency began with an uprising of Ukrainian Cossacks that persisted in spite of Warsaw's efforts to subdue it by force. After the rebels won the intervention of Muscovy on their behalf, Tsar Aleksei conquered most of the eastern half of the country by 1655. Taking advantage of Poland's preoccupation, Charles X of Sweden rapidly overran much of the remaining territory of the commonwealth in 1655. Pushed to the brink of dissolution, Poland-Lithuania rallied to recover most of its losses to the Swedes. Swedish brutality raised widespread revolts against Charles, whom the Polish nobles had recognized as their ruler in the meantime. Under Stefan Czarniecki, the Poles and Lithuanians drove the Swedes from their territory by 1657. Further complicated by noble dissension and wars with the Ottoman Turks, the thirteen-year struggle over control of Ukraine ended in the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667. Although Russia had been defeated by a new Polish-Ukrainian alliance in 1662, Russia gained eastern Ukraine in the peace treaty.

Despite the improbable survival of the commonwealth in the face of the potop, one of the most dramatic instances of the Poles' knack for prevailing in adversity, the episode inflicted irremediable damage and contributed heavily to the ultimate demise of the state. When Jan II Kaziemierz abdicated in 1668, the population of the commonwealth had been nearly halved by war and disease. War had destroyed the economic base of the cities and raised a religious fervor that ended Poland's policy of religious tolerance. Henceforth, the commonwealth would be on the strategic defensive facing hostile neighbors. Never again would Poland compete with Russia as a military equal.


Poland - Decay of the Commonwealth


Before another 100 years had elapsed, Poland-Lithuania had virtually ceased to function as a coherent and genuinely independent state. The commonwealth's last martial triumph occurred in 1683 when King Jan Sobieski drove the Turks from the gates of Vienna with a cavalry charge. Poland's important role in aiding the European alliance to roll back the Ottoman Empire was rewarded with territory in western Ukraine by the Treaty of Karlowicz (1699). Nonetheless, this isolated success did little to mask the internal weakness and paralysis of the PolishLithuanian political system. For the next quarter century, Poland was often a pawn in Russia's campaigns against other powers. Augustus II of Saxony (1697-1733), who succeeded Jan Sobieski, involved Poland in Peter the Great's war with Sweden, incurring another round of invasion and devastation by the Swedes between 1704 and 1710.

In the eighteenth century, the powers of the monarchy and the central administration became purely trivial. Kings were denied permission to provide for the elementary requirements of defense and finance, and aristocratic clans made treaties directly with foreign sovereigns. Attempts at reform were stymied by the determination of the szlachta to preserve their "golden freedoms" as well as the rule of unanimity in the Sejm, where any deputy could exercise his veto right to disrupt the parliament and nullify its work. Because of the chaos sown by the veto provision, under Augustus III (1733-63) only one of thirteen Sejm sessions ran to an orderly adjournment.

Unlike Spain and Sweden, great powers that were allowed to settle peacefully into secondary status at the periphery of Europe at the end of their time of glory, Poland endured its decline at the strategic crossroads of the continent. Lacking central leadership and impotent in foreign relations, PolandLithuania became a chattel of the ambitious kingdoms that surrounded it, an immense but feeble buffer state. During the reign of Peter the Great (1682-1725), the commonwealth fell under the dominance of Russia, and by the middle of the eighteenth century Poland-Lithuania had been made a virtual protectorate of its eastern neighbor, retaining only the theoretical right to self-rule.


Poland - The Three Partitions, 1764-95


During the reign of Empress Catherine the Great (1762-96), Russia intensified its manipulation in Polish affairs. Prussia and Austria, the other powers surrounding the republic, also took advantage of internal religious and political bickering to divide up the country in three partition stages. The third partition in 1795 wiped Poland-Lithuania from the map of Europe.

First Partition

In 1764 Catherine dictated the election of her former favorite, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, as king of PolandLithuania . Confounding expectations that he would be an obedient servant of his mistress, Stanislaw August encouraged the modernization of his realm's ramshackle political system and achieved a temporary moratorium on use of the individual veto in the Sejm (1764-66). This turnabout threatened to renew the strength of the monarchy and brought displeasure in the foreign capitals that preferred an inert, pliable Poland. Catherine, among the most displeased by Poniatowski's independence, encouraged religious dissension in Poland-Lithuania's substantial Eastern Orthodox population, which earlier in the eighteenth century had lost the rights enjoyed during the Jagiellon Dynasty. Under heavy Russian pressure, the Sejm restored Orthodox equality in 1767. This action provoked a Catholic uprising by the Confederation of Bar, a league of Polish nobles that fought until 1772 to revoke Catherine's mandate.

The defeat of the Confederation of Bar again left Poland exposed to the ambitions of its neighbors. Although Catherine initially opposed partition, Frederick the Great of Prussia profited from Austria's threatening military position to the southwest by pressing a long-standing proposal to carve territory from the commonwealth. Catherine, persuaded that Russia did not have the resources to continue unilateral domination of Poland, agreed. In 1772 Russia, Prussia, and Austria forced terms of partition upon the helpless commonwealth under the pretext of restoring order in the anarchic Polish situation.

National Revival

The first partition in 1772 did not directly threaten the viability of Poland-Lithuania. Poland retained extensive territory that included the Polish heartland. In fact, the shock of the annexations made clear the dangers of decay in government institutions, creating a body of opinion favorable to reform along the lines of the European Enlightenment. King Stanislaw August supported the progressive elements in the government and promoted the ideas of foreign political figures such as Edmund Burke and George Washington. At the same time, Polish intellectuals discussed Enlightenment philosophers such as Montesquieu and Rousseau. During this period, the concept of democratic institutions for all classes was accepted in Polish society. Education reform included establishment of the first ministry of education in Europe. Taxation and the army underwent thorough reform, and government again was centralized in the Permanent Council. Landholders emancipated large numbers of peasants, although there was no official government decree. Polish cities, in decline for many decades, were revived by the influence of the Industrial Revolution, especially in mining and textiles.

Stanislaw August's process of renovation reached its climax on May 3, 1791, when, after three years of intense debate, the "Four Years' Sejm" produced Europe's first written constitution. Conceived in the liberal spirit of the contemporaneous document in the United States, the constitution recast Poland-Lithuania as a hereditary monarchy and abolished many of the eccentricities and antiquated features of the old system. The new constitution abolished the individual veto in parliament; provided a separation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government; and established "people's sovereignty" (for the noble and bourgeois classes). Although never fully implemented, the Constitution of May 3 gained an honored position in the Polish political heritage; tradition marks the anniversary of its passage as the country's most important civic holiday.

Destruction of Poland-Lithuania

Passage of the constitution alarmed nobles who would lose considerable stature under the new order. In autocratic states such as Russia, the democratic ideals of the constitution also threatened the existing order, and the prospect of Polish recovery threatened to end domination of Polish affairs by its neighbors. In 1792 domestic and foreign reactionaries combined to end the democratization process. Polish conservative factions formed the Confederation of Targowica and appealed for Russian assistance in restoring the status quo. Catherine gladly used this opportunity; enlisting Prussian support, she invaded Poland under the pretext of defending Poland's ancient liberties. The irresolute Stanislaw August capitulated, defecting to the Targowica faction. Arguing that Poland had fallen prey to the radical Jacobinism then at high tide in France, Russia and Prussia abrogated the Constitution of May 3, carried out a second partition of Poland in 1793, and placed the remainder of the country under occupation by Russian troops.

The second partition was far more injurious than the first. Russia received a vast area of eastern Poland, extending southward from its gains in the first partition nearly to the Black Sea. To the west, Prussia received an area known as South Prussia, nearly twice the size of its first-partition gains along the Baltic, as well as the port of Gdansk (then renamed Danzig). Thus, Poland's neighbors reduced the commonwealth to a rump state and plainly signaled their designs to abolish it altogether at their convenience.

In a gesture of defiance, a general Polish revolt broke out in 1794 under the leadership of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a military officer who had rendered notable service in the American Revolution. Kosciuszko's ragtag insurgent armies won some initial successes, but they eventually fell before the superior forces of Russian General Alexander Suvorov. In the wake of the insurrection of 1794, Russia, Prussia, and Austria carried out the third and final partition of Poland-Lithuania in 1795, erasing the Commonwealth of Two Nations from the map and pledging never to let it return.

Much of Europe condemned the dismemberment as an international crime without historical parallel. Amid the distractions of the French Revolution and its attendant wars, however, no state actively opposed the annexations. In the long term, the dissolution of Poland-Lithuania upset the traditional European balance of power, dramatically magnifying the influence of Russia and paving the way for the Germany that would emerge in the nineteenth century with Prussia at its core. For the Poles, the third partition began a period of continuous foreign rule that would endure well over a century.




Although the majority of the szlachta was reconciled to the end of the commonwealth in 1795, the possibility of Polish independence was kept alive by events within and outside Poland throughout the nineteenth century. Poland's location in the very center of Europe became especially significant in a period when both Prussia/Germany and Russia were intensely involved in European rivalries and alliances and modern nation states took form over the entire continent.

The Napoleonic Period

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Europe had begun to feel the impact of momentous political and intellectual movements that, among their other effects, would keep the "Polish Question" on the agenda of international issues needing resolution. Most immediately, Napoleon Bonaparte had established a new empire in France in 1804 following that country's revolution. Napoleon's attempts to build and expand his empire kept Europe at war for the next decade and brought him into conflict with the same East European powers that had beleaguered Poland in the last decades of the previous century. An alliance of convenience was the natural result of this situation. Volunteer Polish legions attached themselves to Bonaparte's armies, hoping that in return the emperor would allow an independent Poland to reappear out of his conquests.

Although Napoleon promised more than he ever intended to deliver to the Polish cause, in 1807 he created a Duchy of Warsaw from Prussian territory that had been part of old Poland and was still inhabited by Poles. Basically a French puppet, the duchy did enjoy some degree of self-government, and many Poles believed that further Napoleonic victories would bring restoration of the entire commonwealth.

In 1809, under Józef Poniatowski, nephew of Stanislaw II Augustus, the duchy reclaimed the land taken by Austria in the second partition. The Russian army occupied the duchy as it chased Napoleon out of Russia in 1813, however, and Polish expectations ended with the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. In the subsequent peace settlement of the Congress of Vienna, the victorious Austrians and Prussians swept away the Duchy of Warsaw and reconfirmed most of the terms of the final partition of Poland.

Although brief,the Napoleonic period occupies an important place in Polish annals. Much of the legend and symbolism of modern Polish patriotism derives from this period, including the conviction that Polish independence is a necessary element of a just and legitimate European order. This conviction was simply expressed in a fighting slogan of the time, "for your freedom and ours." Moreover, the appearance of the Duchy of Warsaw so soon after the partitions proved that the seemingly final historical death sentence delivered in 1795 was not necessarily the end of the Polish nation. Instead, many observers came to believe that favorable circumstances would free Poland from foreign domination.

The Impact of Nationalism and Romanticism

The intellectual and artistic climate of the early nineteenth century further stimulated the growth of Polish demands for selfgovernment . During these decades, modern nationalism took shape and rapidly developed a massive following throughout the continent, becoming the most dynamic and appealing political doctrine of its time. By stressing the value and dignity of native cultures and languages, nationalism offered a rationale for ethnic loyalty and resistance to assimilation. The associated principle of the nation state, or national homeland, provided a rallying cry for the stateless peoples of Europe.

Romanticism was the artistic element of nineteenth-century European culture that exerted the strongest influence on the Polish national consciousness. The Romantic movement was a natural partner of political nationalism, for it echoed the nationalist sympathy for folk cultures and manifested a general air of disdain for the conservative political order of postNapoleonic Europe. Under this influence, Polish literature flourished anew in the works of a school of nineteenth-century Romantic poets, led by Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855). Mickiewicz concentrated on patriotic themes and the glorious national past. Frédéric Chopin (1810-49), a leading composer of the century, also used the tragic history of his nation as a major inspiration.

Nurtured by these influences, nationalism awoke first among the intelligentsia and certain segments of the nobility, then more gradually in the peasantry. At the end of the process, a broader definition of nationhood had replaced the old class-based "gentry patriotism" of Poland.

The Era of National Insurrections

For several decades, the Polish national movement gave priority to the immediate restoration of independence, a drive that found expression in a series of armed rebellions. The insurgencies arose mainly in the Russian zone of partition to the east, about three-quarters of which was formerly Polish territory. After the Congress of Vienna, St. Petersburg had organized its Polish lands as the Congress Kingdom of Poland, granting it a quite liberal constitution, its own army, and limited autonomy within the tsarist empire. In the 1820s, however, Russian rule grew more arbitrary, and secret societies were formed by intellectuals in several cities to plot an overthrow. In November 1830, Polish troops in Warsaw rose in revolt. When the government of Congress Poland proclaimed solidarity with the insurrectionists shortly thereafter, a new Polish-Russian war began. The rebels' requests for aid from France were ignored, and their reluctance to abolish serfdom cost them the support of the peasantry. By September 1831, the Russians had subdued Polish resistance and forced 6,000 resistance fighters into exile in France, beginning a time of harsh repression of intellectual and religious activity throughout Poland. At the same time, Congress Poland lost its constitution and its army.

After the failure of the November Revolt, clandestine conspiratorial activity continued on Polish territory. An exiled Polish political and intellectual elite established a base of operations in Paris. A conservative group headed by Adam Czartoryski (leader of the November Revolt) relied on foreign diplomatic support to restore Poland's status as established by the Congress of Vienna, which Russia had routinely violated beginning in 1819. Otherwise, this group was satisfied with a return to monarchy and traditional social structures.

The radical factions never formed a united front on any issue besides the general goal of independence. Their programs insisted that the Poles liberate themselves by their own efforts and linked independence with republicanism and the emancipation of the peasants. Handicapped by internal division, limited resources, heavy surveillance, and persecution of revolutionary cells in Poland, the Polish national movement suffered numerous losses. The movement sustained a major setback in the 1846 revolt organized in Austrian Poland by the Polish Democratic Society, the leading radical nationalist group. The uprising ended in a bloody fiasco when the peasantry took up arms against the gentry rebel leadership, which was regarded as potentially a worse oppressor than the Austrians. By incurring harsh military repression from Austria, the failed revolt left the Polish nationalists in poor position to participate in the wave of national revolution that crossed Europe in 1848 and 1849. The stubborn idealism of this unprising's leaders emphasized individual liberty and separate national identity rather than establishment of a unified republic--a significant change of political philosophy from earlier movements.

The last and most tenacious of the Polish uprisings of the mid- nineteenth century erupted in the Russian-occupied sector in January 1863. Following Russia's disastrous defeat in the Crimean War, the government of Tsar Alexander II enacted a series of liberal reforms, including liberation of the serfs throughout the empire. High-handed imposition of land reforms in Poland aroused hostility among the landed nobles and a group of young radical intellectuals influenced by Karl Marx and the Russian liberal Alexander Herzen. Repeating the pattern of 1830-31, the open revolt of the January Insurrection by Congress Poland failed to win foreign backing. Although its socially progressive program could not mobilize the peasants, the rebellion persisted stubbornly for fifteen months. After finally crushing the insurgency in August 1864, Russia abolished the Congress Kingdom of Poland altogether and revoked the separate status of the Polish lands, incorporating them directly as the Western Region of the Russian Empire. The region was placed under the dictatorial rule of Mikhail Muravev, who became known as the Hangman of Wilno. All Polish citizens were assimilated into the empire. When Russia officially emancipated the Polish serfs in early 1864, it removed a major rallying point from the agenda of potential Polish revolutionaries.

The Time of "Organic Work"

Increasing oppression at Russian hands after failed national uprisings finally convinced Polish leaders that insurrection was premature at best and perhaps fundamentally misguided and counterproductive. During the decades that followed the January Insurrection, Poles largely forsook the goal of immediate independence and turned instead to fortifying the nation through the subtler means of education, economic development, and modernization. This approach took the name Organic Work for its philosophy of strengthening Polish society at the grass roots. For some, the adoption of Organic Work meant permanent resignation to foreign rule, but many advocates recommended it as a strategy to combat repression while awaiting an eventual opportunity to achieve self-government.

Not nearly as colorful as the rebellions nor as loftily enshrined in national memory, the quotidian methods of Organic Work proved well suited to the political conditions of the later nineteenth century. The international balance of forces did not favor the recovery of statehood when both Russia and Germany appeared bent on the eventual eradication of Polish national identity. The German Empire, established in 1871 as an expanded version of the Prussian state, aimed at the assimilation of its eastern provinces inhabited by Poles. At the same time, St. Petersburg attempted to Russify the former Congress Kingdom, joining Berlin in levying restrictions against use of the Polish language and cultural expression. Poles under Russian and German rule also endured official campaigns against the Roman Catholic Church: the Cultural Struggle (Kulturkampf) of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to bring the Roman Catholic Church under state control and the Russian campaign to extend Orthodoxy throughout the empire.

The Polish subjects under Austrian jurisdiction (after 1867 the Habsburg Empire was commonly known as Austria-Hungary) confronted a generally more lenient regime. Poles suffered no religious persecution in predominantly Catholic Austria, and Vienna counted on the Polish nobility as allies in the complex political calculus of its multinational realm. In return for loyalty, Austrian Poland, or Galicia, received considerable administrative and cultural autonomy. Galicia gained a reputation as an oasis of toleration amidst the oppression of German and Russian Poland. The Galician provincial Sejm acted as a semiautonomous parliamentary body, and Poles represented the region in the empire government in Vienna. In the late 1800s, the universities of Kraków and L'vov (Polish form Lwów) became the centers of Polish intellectual activity, and Kraków became the center of Polish art and thought. Even after the restoration of independence, many residents of southern Poland retained a touch of nostalgia for the days of the Habsburg Empire.

Social and Political Transformation

Throughout the later nineteenth century, profound social and economic forces operated on the Polish lands, giving them a more modern aspect and altering traditional patterns of life. Especially in Russian Poland and the Silesian regions under German control, mining and manufacturing commenced on a large scale. This development sped the process of urbanization, and the emergence of capitalism began to reduce the relative importance of the landed aristocracy in Polish society. A considerable segment of the peasantry abandoned the overburdened land. Millions of Poles emigrated to North America and other destinations, and millions more migrated to cities to form the new industrial labor force. These shifts stimulated fresh social tensions. Urban workers bore the full range of hardships associated with early capitalism, and the intensely nationalistic atmosphere of the day bred frictions between Poles and the other peoples remaining from the old heterogeneous Commonwealth of Two Nations. The movement of the former noble class into cities created a new urban professional class. Mirroring a trend visible throughout Central Europe, antisemitic sentiment mounted visibly, fed by Poles competing for the urban livelihoods long regarded as Jewish specialties.

These transformations changed the face of politics as well, giving rise to new parties and movements that would dominate the Polish landscape for the next century. The grievances of the lower classes led to the formation of peasant and socialist parties. Communism gained only a marginal following, but a more moderate socialist faction led by Józef Pilsudski (1867-1935) won broader support through its emphatic advocacy of Polish independence. By 1905 Pilsudski's party, the Polish Socialist Party, was the largest socialist party in the entire Russian Empire. The National Democracy of Roman Dmowski (1864-1939) became the leading vehicle of the right by espousing a doctrine that combined nationalism with mistrust of Jews and other minorities. By the turn of the century, Polish political life had emerged from the relative quiescence of Organic Work and entered a stage of renewed assertiveness. In particular, Pilsudski and Dmowski had initiated what would be long careers as the paramount figures in the civic affairs of Poland. After 1900 political activity was suppressed only in the Prussian sector.




Beginning in 1914, the newly invigorated Polish political scene combined with cataclysmic events on the European continent to offer both new hope and grave threats to the Polish people. By the end of World War II, Poland had seen the defeat or retreat of all three occupying powers, establishment of a shaky independent government, world economic crisis, then occupation and total domination by the resurgent Germans and Russians.

World War I

The first general European conflict since the Napoleonic Wars exerted a huge impact on the Poles, although their position in Europe was not an issue among the combatants. Again, however, Poland's geographical position between Germany and Russia meant much fighting and terrific human and material losses for the Poles between 1914 and 1918.

War and the Polish Lands

The war split the ranks of the three partitioning empires, pitting Russia as defender of Serbia and ally of Britain and France against the leading members of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary. This circumstance afforded the Poles political leverage as both sides offered pledges of concessions and future autonomy in exchange for Polish loyalty and recruits. The Austrians wanted to incorporate Congress Poland into their territory of Galicia, so they allowed nationalist organizations to form there. The Russians recognized the Polish right to autonomy and allowed formation of the Polish National Committee, which supported the Russian side. In 1916, attempting to increase Polish support for the Central Powers, the German and Austrian emperors declared a new kingdom of Poland. The new kingdom included only a small part of the old commonwealth, however.

As the war settled into a long stalemate, the issue of Polish self-rule gained greater urgency. Roman Dmowski spent the war years in Western Europe, hoping to persuade the Allies to unify the Polish lands under Russian rule as an initial step toward liberation. In the meantime, Pilsudski had correctly predicted that the war would ruin all three of the partitioners, a conclusion most people thought highly unlikely before 1918. Pilsudski therefore formed Polish legions to assist the Central Powers in defeating Russia as the first step toward full independence for Poland.

Much of the heavy fighting on the war's Eastern Front took place on the territory of the former Polish state. In 1914 Russian forces advanced very close to Kraków before being beaten back. The next spring, heavy fighting occurred around Gorlice and Przemysl, to the east of Kraków in Galicia. By the end of 1915, the Germans had occupied the entire Russian sector, including Warsaw. In 1916 another Russian offensive in Galicia exacerbated the already desperate situation of civilians in the war zone; about 1 million Polish refugees fled eastward behind Russian lines during the war. Although the Russian offensive of 1916 caught the Germans and Austrians by surprise, poor communications and logistics prevented the Russians from taking full advantage of their situation.

A total of 2 million Polish troops fought with the armies of the three occupying powers, and 450,000 died. Several hundred thousand Polish civilians were moved to labor camps in Germany. The scorched-earth retreat strategies of both sides left much of the war zone uninhabitable.

Recovery of Statehood

In 1917 two separate events decisively changed the character of the war and set it on a course toward the rebirth of Poland. The United States entered the conflict on the Allied side, while a process of revolutionary upheaval in Russia weakened and then removed the Russians from the Eastern Front, finally bringing the Bolsheviks to power in that country. After the last Russian advance into Galicia failed in mid-1917, the Germans went on the offensive again, the army of revolutionary Russia ceased to be a factor, and the Russian presence in Polish territory ended for the next twenty-seven years.

The defection of Russia from the Allied coalition gave free rein to the calls of Woodrow Wilson, the American president, to transform the war into a crusade to spread democracy and liberate the Poles and other peoples from the suzerainty of the Central Powers. Polish opinion crystallized in support of the Allied cause. Pilsudski became a popular hero when Berlin jailed him for insubordination. The Allies broke the resistance of the Central Powers by autumn 1918, as the Habsburg monarchy disintegrated and the German imperial government collapsed. In November 1918, Pilsudski was released from internment in Germany, returned to Warsaw, and took control as provisional president of an independent Poland that had been absent from the map of Europe for 123 years.


Poland - Interwar Poland


Pilsudski's first task was to reunite the Polish regions that had assumed various economic and political identities since the partition in the late eighteenth century, and especially since the advent of political parties. Pilsudski took immediate steps to consolidate the Polish regions under a single government with its own currency and army, but the borders of the Second Polish Republic were not established until 1921. Between 1921 and 1939, Poland achieved significant economic growth despite world economic crisis. The Polish political scene remained chaotic and shifting, however, especially after Pilsudski's death in 1935.

Formative Years, 1918-21

From its inception, the Second Polish Republic struggled to secure and maintain its existence in difficult circumstances. The extraordinary complications of defining frontiers preoccupied the state in its infancy. To the southwest, Warsaw encountered boundary disputes with Czechoslovakia. More ominously, an embittered Germany begrudged any territorial loss to its new eastern neighbor. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles settled the German-Polish borders in the Baltic region. The port city of Danzig, a city predominantly German but as economically vital to Poland as it had been in the sixteenth century, was declared a free city. Allied arbitration divided the ethnically mixed and highly coveted industrial and mining district of Silesia between Germany and Poland, with Poland receiving the more industrialized eastern section. These terms would be a primary incentive to the German aggression that ignited World War II.

Military force proved the determinant of Poland's frontiers in the east, a theater rendered chaotic by the repercussions of the Russian revolutions and civil war. Pilsudski envisioned a new federation with Lithuania and Polish domination of western Ukraine, centered at Kiev, forming a Polish-led East European confederation to block Russian imperialism. Vladimir I. Lenin, leader of the new communist government of Russia, saw Poland as the bridge over which communism would pass into the labor class of a disorganized postwar Germany. When Pilsudski carried out a military thrust into Ukraine in 1920, he was met by a Red Army counterattack that drove into Polish territory almost to Warsaw. Although many observers marked Poland for extinction and Bolshevization, Pilsudski halted the Soviet advance before Warsaw and resumed the offensive. The Poles were not able to exploit their new advantage fully, however; they signed a compromise peace treaty at Riga in early 1921 that split disputed territory in Belorussia and Ukraine between Poland and Soviet Russia. The treaty avoided ceding historically Polish territory back to the Russians.

From Democracy to Totalitarianism

Reborn Poland faced a host of daunting challenges: extensive war damage, a ravaged economy, a population one-third composed of wary national minorities, and a need to reintegrate the three zones kept forcibly apart during the era of partition. Under these trying conditions, the experiment with democracy faltered. Formal political life began in 1921 with adoption of a constitution that designed Poland as a republic modeled after the French example, vesting most authority in the legislature. The postwar parliamentary system proved unstable and erratic. In 1922 disputes with political foes caused Pilsudski to resign his posts as chief of state and commander of the armed forces, but in 1926 he assumed power in a coup that followed four years of ineffectual government. For the next decade, Pilsudski dominated Polish affairs as strongman of a generally popular centrist regime. Military in character, the government of Pilsudski mixed democratic and dictatorial elements while pursuing sanacja, or national cleansing. After Pilsudski's death in 1935, his protégé successors drifted toward open authoritarianism.

In many respects, the Second Republic fell short of the high expectations of 1918. As happened elsewhere in Central Europe, the attempt to implant democracy did not succeed. Minority peoples became increasingly alienated, and antisemitism rose palpably in the general population. Nevertheless, interwar Poland could justifiably claim some noteworthy accomplishments: economic advances, the revival of Polish education and culture after decades of official curbs, and, above all, reaffirmation of the Polish nationhood that had been disputed so long. Despite its defects, the Second Republic retained a strong hold on later generations of Poles as a genuinely independent and authentic expression of Polish national aspirations.

Poland's International Situation

By far the gravest menace to Poland's longevity came from abroad, not from internal weaknesses. The center of Poland's postwar foreign policy was a political and military alliance with France, which guaranteed Poland's independence and territorial integrity. Although Poland attempted to join the Little Entente, the French-sponsored alliance of Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia, Czechoslovak suspicions of Polish territorial ambitions prevented Polish membership. Beginning in 1926, Pilsudski's main foreign policy aim was balancing Poland's still powerful neighbors, the Soviet Union and Germany. Pilsudski assumed that both powers wished to regain the Polish territory lost in World War I. Therefore, his approach was to avoid Polish dependence on either power. Above all, Pilsudski sought to avoid taking positions that might cause the two countries to take concerted action against Poland. Accordingly, Poland signed nonaggression pacts with both countries in the early 1930s. After Pilsudski's death, his foreign minister Józef Beck continued this policy.

The failure to establish planned alliances in Eastern Europe meant great reliance on the French, whose enthusiasm for intervention in the region waned markedly after World War I. The Locarno Pact, signed in 1926 by the major West European powers with the aim of guaranteeing peace in the region, contained no guarantee of Poland's western border. Over the next ten years, substantial friction arose between Poland and France over Polish refusal to compromise with the Germans and French refusal to resist Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the early 1930s. The Polish nonaggression treaties with Germany and the Soviet Union resulted from this bilateral deterioration of confidence.

The Polish predicament worsened in the 1930s with the advent of Hitler's openly expansionist Nazi regime in Germany and the obvious waning of France's resolve to defend its East European allies. Pilsudski retained the French connection but had progressively less faith in its usefulness. As the decade drew to an end, Poland's policy of equilibrium between potential enemies was failing. Complete Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in early 1939 encircled Poland on three sides (East Prussia to the northeast had remained German). Hitler's next move was obvious. By 1939 Hitler had shattered the continental balance of power by a concerted campaign of armed diplomatic extortion that brought most of Central Europe into his grasp.


Poland - World War II


Profiting from German national resentment of World War I peace terms and international aversion to new armed conflict, Hitler began driving a new German war machine across Europe in 1939. His invasion of Poland in September 1939 was the tripwire that set off World War II, the most devastating period in the history of the Polish state. Between 1939 and 1945, 6 million people, over 15 percent of Poland's population, perished, with the uniquely cruel inclusion of mass extermination of Jews in concentration camps in Poland. Besides its human toll, the war left much of the country in ruins, inflicting indelible material and psychic scars.

The Outbreak of War

The crisis that led directly to renewed European conflict in 1939 commenced with German demands against Poland, backed by threats of war, for territorial readjustments in the region of Danzig and the Baltic coast to connect East Prussia with the rest of Germany. When Warsaw refused, correctly reading Hitler's proposal as a mere prelude to further exactions, it received only hesitant promises of British and French backing. Hitler overcame the deterrent effect of this alliance on August 23 when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression treaty that ended their interwar hostility. A secret provision of the treaty essentially divided all of Eastern Europe into Soviet and German spheres of domination. This provision signified the blessing of Soviet dictator Joseph V. Stalin for Berlin to attack Poland without fear of Soviet interference.

The Hitler-Stalin pact sealed Poland's fate and put the country in an indefensible position. On September 1, Germany hurled the bulk of its armed forces at its eastern neighbor, touching off World War II. Based on existing guarantees of security, Britain and France declared war two days later, but they gave no effective assistance to their ally. By midSeptember , Warsaw was surrounded in spite of stout resistance by outnumbered Polish forces. As Poland reeled under the assault from the west, the Soviet Union administered the coup de grace by invading from the east on September 17. By the end of the month, the "September campaign" was over, Hitler and Stalin had reached terms defining their respective gains, and the Polish lands had been subjected once more to occupation.

German and Soviet Rule

For the next five years, Poland endured the most severe wartime occupation conditions in modern European history. Initially, Germany annexed western Poland directly, establishing a brutal colonial government whose expressed goal was to erase completely the concept of Polish nationhood and make the Poles slaves of a new German empire. About 1 million Poles were removed from German-occupied areas and replaced with German settlers. An additional 2.5 million Poles went into forced labor camps in Germany.

Until mid-1941, Germany and the Soviet Union maintained good relations in the joint dominion they had established over Poland. Moscow had absorbed the eastern regions largely inhabited by Ukrainians and Belorussians. By 1941 the Soviets had moved 1.5 million Poles into labor camps all over the Soviet Union, and Stalin's secret police had murdered thousands of Polish prisoners of war, especially figures in politics and public administration. The most notorious incident was the 1940 murder of thousands of Polish military officers; the bodies of 4,000 of them were discovered in a mass grave in the Katyn forests near Smolensk in 1943. Because Soviet authorities refused to admit responsibility until nearly the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Polish opinion regarded the Katyn Massacre as the ultimate symbol of Soviet cruelty and mendacity.

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, all the Polish lands came under control of the Third Reich, whose occupation policies became even more bloodthirsty as the war continued. Hitler considered Poland to be an integral part of German Lebensraum, his concept of German domination of the European continent. Eastern Europe would be purged of its population of putative racial inferiors and prepared as the hinterland of a grandiose Germanic empire. This vision fueled the genocidal fanaticism of the conquerors. Reduced to slave status, the Poles lived under severe restrictions enforced with savage punishment. As the principal center of European Jewry, Poland became the main killing ground of the Nazi Holocaust; several of the most lethal death camps, including Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka, operated on Polish soil. The Germans annihilated nearly all of Poland's 3 million Jews. Roughly as many Polish gentiles also perished under the occupation.

Resistance at Home and Abroad

Poland was the only country to combat Germany from the first day of the Polish invasion until the end of the war in Europe. After the disaster of September 1939, a constitutionally legitimate Polish government-in-exile established a seat in London under the direction of General Wladyslaw Sikorski. In the early years of the war, Stalin maintained a strained cooperation with the Polish government-in-exile while continuing to demand retention of the eastern Polish territories secured by the Hitler-Stalin pact and assurances that postwar Poland would be "friendly" toward the Soviet Union.

Shortly after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Kremlin sought to organize Polish forces to aid in repelling the Nazis on the Eastern Front. Although 75,000 Polish troops were amassed on Soviet soil from Soviet camps, they never were deployed on the Soviet front because of disagreements about their utilization. Instead, the forces under the command of the "London Poles" fought with great distinction in the British Eighth Army in North Africa and Italy. The armored Polish I Corps played an important role in the Normandy invasion. Although some Polish units fought with the Red Army on the Eastern Front in the early years of the war, by 1943 Stalin had broken relations with the Sikorski government and the Soviet Union formed a rival front group, the Union of Polish Patriots, led by Polish communists in the Soviet Union. That group formed an entire field army that aided the Red Army in the last year of the war.

Polish intelligence personnel also made a major contribution to the Allied side. In the 1930s, Polish agents had secured information on the top-secret German code machine, Enigma, and in the war émigré Polish experts aided the British in using this information to intercept Hitler's orders to German military leaders.

In Poland itself, most elements of resistance to the German regime organized under the banner of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), which operated under direction of the London government-in-exile. The Home Army became one of the largest and most effective underground movements of World War II. Commanding broad popular support, it functioned both as a guerrilla force, conducting a vigorous campaign of sabotage and intelligence gathering, and as a means of social defense against the invaders. The Home Army became the backbone of a veritable underground state, a clandestine network of genuine Polish institutions and cultural activities. By 1944 the Home Army claimed 400,000 members. Acting independently of the overall Polish resistance, an underground Jewish network organized the courageous but unsuccessful 1943 risings in the ghettos of Warsaw, Bialystok, and Vilnius.

Soviet Liberation of Poland

Later in the war, the fate of Poland came to depend on the Soviet Union, which was initially the agent of deliverance from Nazi tyranny but later was the bearer of a new form of oppression. Stalin responded to Polish indignation over the Katy Massacre by establishing an alternative Polish government of communists. The underground Polish Workers' Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza) had already been active in German-occupied Poland for over a year. In 1943 it established a small military arm, the People's Army (Armia Ludowa). The Home Army and the Polish Workers' Party acted separately throughout the war.

As the tide of war turned in favor of the Allies, the Soviet shadow over Poland and Central Europe loomed larger. When Soviet forces neared Warsaw in the summer of 1944, the Home Army, anticipating imminent Red Army assistance, launched a rebellion against the German garrisons in the capital. Instead, the Soviets halted their advance just short of Warsaw, isolating the uprising and enabling the Germans to crush it after two months of intense fighting. In retaliation against the Poles, the Germans demolished Warsaw before retreating westward, leaving 90 percent of the city in ruins.

Just before the Home Army uprising, the communist factions had formed the Polish Committee of National Liberation, later known as the Lublin Committee, as the official legal authority in liberated territory. In January 1945, the Lublin Committee became a provisional government, was recognized by the Soviet Union, and was installed in Warsaw. From that time, the Polish communists exerted primary influence on decisions about the restoration of Poland. Given this outcome, there is a strong suspicion that the Soviet failure to move on Warsaw in 1944 was an intentional strategy used by Stalin to eliminate the noncommunist resistance forces. The Red Army expelled the last German troops from Poland in March 1945, several weeks before the final Allied victory in Europe.




Soviet success in liberating Poland began an entirely new stage in Polish national existence. With the reluctant blessing of the Allies, the communist-dominated government was installed in 1945. During the next seven years, Poland became a socialist state modeled on the Soviet Union. Although Poland remained within this political structure through the 1980s, open social unrest occurred at intervals throughout the communist period. Protests in 1980 spawned the Solidarity (Solidarnosc) labor movement, which forced fundamental compromise in the socialist system.

Consolidation of Communist Power

The shattered Poland that emerged from the rubble of World War II was reconstituted as a communist state and incorporated within the newly formed Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, despite the evident wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Polish nation. The deciding factor in this outcome was the dominant position gained by the victorious Red Army at the end of the war. At the conferences of Yalta and Potsdam in 1945, United States presidents and Britain's prime minister, Winston Churchill, met with Stalin to determine postwar political conditions, including the disposition of Polish territory occupied by the Red Army. At Yalta in February, Stalin pledged to permit free elections in Poland and the other Soviet-occupied countries of Eastern Europe. At Potsdam in July-August, the Allies awarded Poland over 100,000 square kilometers of German territory, west to the Oder and Neisse rivers, commonly called the Oder-Neisse Line. In turn, about 3 million Poles were removed from former Polish territory awarded to the Soviet Union and resettled in the former German lands; similarly about 2 million Germans had to move west of the new border.

The Yalta accords sanctioned the formation of a provisional Polish coalition government composed of communists and proponents of Western democracy. From its outset, the Yalta formula favored the communists, who enjoyed the advantages of Soviet support, superior morale, control over crucial ministries, and Moscow's determination to bring Eastern Europe securely under its thumb as a strategic asset in the emerging Cold War. The new regime in Warsaw subdued a guerrilla resistance in the countryside and gained political advantage by gradually whittling away the rights of their democratic foes. By 1946 the coalition regime held a carefully controlled national referendum that approved nationalization of the economy, land reform, and a unicameral rather than bicameral Sejm. Rightist parties had been outlawed by that time, and a progovernment Democratic Bloc formed in 1947 included the forerunner of the communist Polish United Workers' Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza--PZPR) and its leftist allies.

The first parliamentary election, held in 1947, allowed only opposition candidates of the now-insignificant Polish Peasant Party, which was harassed into ineffectiveness. Under these conditions, the regime's candidates gained 417 of 434 seats in parliament, effectively ending the role of genuine opposition parties. Within the next two years, the communists ensured their ascendancy by restyling the PZPR as holders of a monopoly of power in the Polish People's Republic.


Poland - From Stalinism to the Polish October


Communist social engineering transformed Poland nearly as much as did the war. In the early years of the new regime, Poland became more urban and industrial as a modern working class came into existence. The Polish People's Republic attained its principal accomplishments in this initial, relatively dynamic phase of its existence. The greatest gains were made in postwar reconstruction and in integration of the territories annexed from Germany. Imposition of the Soviet model on the political, economic, and social aspects of Polish life was generally slower and less traumatic than in the other East European countries following World War II. The PZPR took great care, for example, to limit the pace of agricultural collectivization lest Soviet-style reform antagonize Polish farmers.

Nevertheless, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, PZPR rule grew steadily more totalitarian and developed the full range of Stalinist features then obligatory within the Soviet European empire: ideological regimentation, the police state, strict subordination to the Soviet Union, a rigid command economy, persecution of the Roman Catholic Church, and blatant distortion of history, especially as it concerned the more sensitive aspects of Poland's relations with the Soviet Union. Stringent censorship stifled artistic and intellectual creativity or drove its exponents into exile. At the same time, popular restiveness increased as initial postwar gains gave way to the economic malaise that would become chronic in the party-state.

Soviet-style centralized state planning was introduced in the First Six-Year Plan, which began in 1950. The plan called for accelerated development of heavy industry and forced collectivation of agriculture, abandoning the previous go-slow policy in that area. As the earlier policy had cautioned, however, collectivization met stubborn peasant resistance, and the process moved much more slowly than anticipated. The state also took control of nearly all commercial and industrial enterprises. Leaving only family-run shops in the private sector, the government harassed such independent shopkeepers with bureaucratic requirements.

In its relations with the Roman Catholic Church, the communist government carefully avoided open intervention, seeking rather to foment anticlerical sentiment in society. Polish Catholic clergy denounced the atheism and materialism in the regime; in 1949 the Vatican's excommunication of Catholics belonging to the PZPR brought open hostility from both sides, including state control of church institutions and propaganda against them and church officials. By 1954 nine high Polish churchmen, including Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, had been imprisoned.

A brief liberalizing "thaw" in Eastern Europe followed the death of Stalin in early 1953. In Poland this event stirred ferment, calls for systemic reform, and conflict in the ranks of the PZPR. The de-Stalinization of official Soviet dogma left Poland's Stalinist regime in a difficult position, especially following Nikita S. Khrushchev's 1956 attack on Stalin's cult of personality. In the same month as Khrushchev's speech, the death of hard-liner Boleslaw Bierut exacerbated an existing split in the PZPR. In 1951 Bierut had won a struggle with Wladyslaw Gomulka for the top position in the party. In June 1956, scores of demonstrators died when army troops quelled street riots in Poznan, inaugurating a recurrent phenomenon of Polish worker protest against the self-proclaimed workers' state.

Realizing the need for new leadership, the PZPR chose Gomulka as first secretary in October 1956. This decision was made despite Moscow's threats to invade Poland if the PZPR picked Gomulka, a moderate who had been purged after losing his battle with Bierut. When Khrushchev was reassured that Gomulka would not alter the basic foundations of Polish communism, he withdrew the invasion threat. On the other hand, Gomulka's pledge to follow a "Polish road to socialism" more in harmony with national traditions and preferences caused many Poles to interpret the dramatic "Polish October" confrontation of 1956 as a sign that the end of the dictatorship was in sight.


Poland - Gomulka and Gierek


Although Gomulka's accession to power raised great hopes, the 1956 incident proved to be a prelude to further social discontent when those hopes were disappointed. The 1960s and 1970s saw Gomulka's decline in power and his eventual ouster; spectacular economic reforms without long-term results; widespread dissent, often including open confrontations, from intellectuals, the church, and the workers; and, finally, the near-collapse of the Polish economy.

The Gomulka Years

The elevation of Gomulka to first secretary marked a milestone in the history of communist Poland. Most importantly, it was the first time that popular opinion had influenced a change at the top of any communist government. Gomulka's regime began auspiciously by curbing the secret police, returning most collective farmland to private ownership, loosening censorship, freeing political prisoners, improving relations with the Catholic Church, and pledging democratization of communist party management. In general, Gomulka's Poland gained a deserved reputation as one of the more open societies in Eastern Europe. The new party chief disappointed many Poles, however, by failing to dismantle the fundamentals of the Stalinist system. Regarding himself as a loyal communist and striving to overcome the traditional Polish-Russian enmity, Gomulka came to favor only those reforms necessary to secure public toleration of the party's dominion. The PZPR was to be both the defender of Polish nationalism and the keeper of communist ideology. By the late 1960s, Gomulka's leadership had grown more orthodox and stagnant as the memory of the Poznan uprising faded. In 1968 Gomulka encouraged the Warsaw Pact military suppression of the democratic reforms in Czechoslovakia.

Gomulka's hold on power weakened that year when Polish students, inspired by the idealism of the Prague Spring, demonstrated to protest suppression of intellectual freedom. Popular disenchantment mounted as police attacked student demonstrators in Warsaw. The PZPR hardliners, who had been alarmed by Gomulka's modest reforms, seized the opportunity to force the first secretary into purging Jews from party and professional positions, exacerbating discontent among the most vocal elements of Polish society.

The downfall of the Gomulka regime in December 1970 was triggered by a renewed outbreak of labor violence protesting drastic price rises on basic goods. When strikes spread from the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk to other industrial centers on the Baltic coast, Gomulka interpreted the peaceful stoppages and walkouts as counterrevolution and ordered them met with deadly force. The bloodshed claimed hundreds of victims and inflamed the entire coastline before the party annulled the price increases and pushed Gomulka into retirement. The Baltic slayings permanently embittered millions of workers, while the events of the later Gomulka period convinced Polish progressives that enlightened communist rule was a futile hope. Many of the future leaders of Solidarity and other opposition movements gained their formative political experiences in 1968 and 1970.

Edward Gierek

In the wake of the Baltic upheavals, Edward Gierek was selected as party chief. A well-connected party functionary and technocrat, Gierek replaced all of Gomulka's ministers with his own followers and blamed the former regime for all of Poland's troubles. Gierek hoped to pacify public opinion by administering a dose of measured liberalization coupled with a novel program of economic stimulation. The center of the program was large-scale borrowing from the West to buy technology that would upgrade Poland's production of export goods. Over the long term, the export goods would pay for the loans and improve Poland's world economic position. The program paid immediate dividends by raising living standards and expectations, but it quickly soured because of worldwide recession, increased oil prices, and the inherent weaknesses and corruption of communist planning and administration. By the mid-1970s, Poland had entered a seemingly irreversible economic nosedive compounded by a crushing burden of external debt. Another attempt to raise food prices in 1976 failed after an additional round of worker protests.

Domestic economic problems were accompanied by increased pressure from the Soviet Union for closer Polish cooperation with the other members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon). In 1971 Poland abandoned Gomulka's strict opposition to closer economic integration, and a series of long-term agreements committed Polish resource and capital investment to Soviet-sponsored projects. Such agreements guaranteed Poland access to cheap Soviet raw materials, especially oil and natural gas. Nonetheless, in the 1970s Poland experienced shortages of capital goods such as computers and locomotives because Comecon obligations moved such products out of Poland.

Meanwhile, the Helsinki Accords of 1975 inspired open dissent over human rights issues. The immediate objects of dissent were the regime's proposal of constitutional amendments that would institutionalize the leading role of the PZPR, Poland's obligations to the Soviet Union, and the withholding of civil rights pending obedience to the state. In 1976 a group of intellectuals formed the Committee for Defense of Workers (Komitet Obrony Robotników--KOR), and students formed the Committee for Student Solidarity. Together those organizations intensified public pressure on Gierek to liberalize state controls, and many publications emerged from underground to challenge official dogma.

By the end of the 1970s, the hard-pressed Gierek regime faced an implicit opposition coalition of disaffected labor, dissident intelligentsia, and Roman Catholic clergy and lay spokespeople sympathetic to dissident activities. Democratically oriented activists grew more adept at defending workers' interests and human rights, a strategy that paid off handsomely in 1980. Under the stellar leadership of its longtime primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the Catholic Church attained unrivaled moral authority in the country. The prestige of the church reached a new peak in 1978 with the elevation to the papacy of the archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. As John Paul II, Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope since the sixteenth century. The election of the Polish pope sparked a surge of joy and pride in the country, and John Paul's triumphant visit to his homeland in 1979 did much to precipitate the extraordinary events of the next year.


Poland - The Birth of Solidarity


When the government enacted new food price increases in the summer of 1980, a wave of labor unrest swept the country. Partly moved by local grievances, the workers of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk went on strike in mid-August. Led by electrician and veteran strike leader Lech Walesa, the strikers occupied the shipyard and issued far-reaching demands for labor reform and greater civil rights. The workers' top priority was establishment of a trade union independent of communist party control and possessing the legal right to strike. Buoyed by a wave of popular support and formally acknowledged by other striking enterprises as their leader, the Gdansk workers held out until the government capitulated. The victorious strikers hailed the Gdansk Agreement of August 31 as a veritable social contract, authorizing citizens to introduce democratic change to the extent possible within the confines of the communist system.

Solidarity, the free national trade union that arose from the nucleus of the Lenin Shipyard strike was unlike anything in the previous experience of Comecon nations. Although primarily a labor movement led and supported by workers and represented by its charismatic chairman Walesa, Solidarity attracted a diverse membership that quickly swelled to 10 million people, or more than one of every four Poles. Because of its size and massive support, the organization assumed the stature of a national reform lobby. Although it disavowed overtly political ambitions, the movement became a de facto vehicle of opposition to the communists, who were demoralized but still in power. With the encouragement of Pope John Paul II, the church gave Solidarity vital material and moral support that further legitimized it in the eyes of the Polish population.

In the sixteen months following its initial strike, Solidarity waged a difficult campaign to realize the letter and spirit of the Gdansk Agreement. This struggle fostered an openness unprecedented in a communist East European society. Although the PZPR ousted Gierek as first secretary and proclaimed its willingness to cooperate with the fledgling union, the ruling party still sought to frustrate its rival and curtail its autonomy in every possible way. In 1980-81, repeated showdowns between Solidarity and the party-state usually were decided by Solidarity's effective strikes. The movement spread from industrial to agricultural enterprises with the founding of Rural Solidarity, which pressured the regime to recognize private farmers as the economic foundation of the country's agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, the persistence of Solidarity prompted furious objections from Moscow and other Comecon members, putting Poland under constant threat of invasion by its Warsaw Pact allies. This was the first time a ruling communist regime had accepted organizations completely beyond the regime's control. It was also the first time an overwhelming majority of the workers under such a regime were openly loyal to an organization fundamentally opposed to everything for which the party stood. In 1981 an estimated 30 percent of PZPR members also belonged to an independent union.

In late 1981, the tide began to turn against the union movement. In the midst of the virtual economic collapse of the country, many Poles lost the enthusiasm that had given Solidarity its initial impetus. The extremely heterogeneous movement developed internal splits over personality and policy. Walesa's moderate wing emphasized nonpolitical goals, assuming that Moscow would never permit Poland to be governed by a group not endorsed by the Warsaw Pact. Walesa sought cooperation with the PZPR to prod the regime into reforms and avoid open confrontation with the Soviet Union. By contrast, the militant wing of Solidarity sought to destabilize the regime and force drastic change through wildcat strikes and demonstrations.

In 1981 the government adopted a harder line against the union, and General Wojciech Jaruzelski, commander in chief of the Polish armed forces, replaced Stanislaw Kania as party leader in October. Jaruzelski's very profession symbolized a tougher approach to the increasingly turbulent political situation. At the end of 1981, the government broke off all negotiations with Solidarity, and tension between the antagonists rose sharply.


Poland - Jaruzelski


The Jaruzelski regime marked another historic turning point in governance of the Polish state. Beginning with repressive measures to silence all opposition, Jaruzelski eventually presided over the popular rejection of Polish communism.

Martial Law

In December 1981, Jaruzelski suddenly declared martial law, ordering the army and special police units to seize control of the country, apprehend Solidarity's leaders, and prevent all further union activity. In effect, Jaruzelski executed a carefully planned and efficient military coup on behalf of the beleaguered and paralyzed the PZPR. The motives of this act remain unclear. The general later claimed that he acted to head off the greater evil of an imminent Soviet invasion; detractors dismissed this explanation as a pretext for an ironfisted attempt to salvage party rule. In any case, the junta suppressed resistance with a determination that cost the lives of several protesters, and by the new year the stunned nation was again under the firm grip of a conventional communist regime.

Under martial law, Jaruzelski's regime applied draconian restrictions on civil liberties, closed the universities, and imprisoned thousands of Solidarity activists, including Walesa. During the succeeding months, the government undid much of Solidarity's work and finally dissolved the union itself. Official pressure overcame repeated attempts by Solidarity sympathizers to force the nullification of the December coup. By the end of 1982, the junta felt sufficiently secure to free Walesa, whom it now characterized as the "former leader of a former union." After gradually easing the most onerous features of the state of emergency, Warsaw lifted martial law in July 1983, but Jaruzelski and his generals continued to control the most critical party and government posts.

Poland at an Impasse

From the viewpoint of the regime, implementing martial law efficiently extinguished the immediate challenge posed by Solidarity. It did nothing, however, to resolve the long-standing crisis of "People's Poland," which in many ways originated in the very foundation of communist rule and the shadow of illegitimacy and ineptitude from which it never escaped. Jaruzelski presented himself as a realistic moderate, a proponent of reform who nevertheless insisted on the leading role of the party. Polish society remained sullenly unresponsive to his appeals, however. At the same time, he encountered resistance from the PZPR conservatives. These so-called hardheads, held in contempt by the public, regarded the party chief as too conciliatory and resented the interference of Jaruzelski's fellow generals in the affairs of the civilian party apparatus.

Time proved that Jaruzelski's coup had staggered Solidarity but not killed it. Adherents of the union operated underground or from jail cells, advocating a waiting game to preserve the principles of the Gdansk Agreement. Walesa in particular refused to fade into obscurity; he gained added luster by his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1983. In the next year, the Jaruzelski government suffered embarrassment when secret policemen were discovered to have abducted and murdered Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a priest who had gained recognition as the spiritual adviser of the repressed Solidarity. At that juncture, Poland seemed mired in frustrating deadlock, with no reasonable prospect of resuscitating the stricken economy or achieving political harmony.

Collapse of the Communist Regime

The deadlock was broken chiefly by events elsewhere in the Soviet alliance. The birth of Solidarity proved to be a precursor of forces of change across all of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Once again Poland was in the midst of cataclysmic European events, but in this case Poland had a decisive influence on events in neighboring countries. Beginning with the liberalization programs of Mikhail S. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and continuing with the unforeseen and sudden demise of Poland's communist regime, decades of tension had been released throughout the region by the end of 1989.

Toward the Round-Table Talks

The first break in the Polish logjam occurred in 1985 when Gorbachev assumed leadership of the Soviet Union. Although Gorbachev in no way willed the demolition of the communist order in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, his policies of glasnost' and perestroika inadvertently accelerated the indigenous systemic rot in those countries. As the literal and figurative bankruptcy of East European communism became obvious, apologists resorted more frequently to the Brezhnev Doctrine--the understanding that Moscow would use force to prevent ceding any territory once under its control--as the ultimate justification of the status quo. But the sustained liberalism of the Gorbachev era undermined the credibility of this last-ditch argument. The inhibiting fear of Red Army retaliation, which had blocked reform in Poland and elsewhere in earlier years, gradually faded. Hastening to identify itself with Gorbachev, the Jaruzelski team welcomed the spirit of reform wafting from the east and cautiously followed suit at home. By 1988 most political prisoners had been released, unofficial opposition groups were flourishing, and Solidarity, still nominally illegal, operated quite openly.

In the meantime, however, economic malaise and runaway inflation had depressed Polish living standards and deepened the anger and frustration of society. In early 1988, strikes again were called in Gdansk and elsewhere, and a new generation of alienated workers called for representation by Solidarity and Walesa. Amid widespread predictions of a social explosion, Jaruzelski took the momentous step of beginning round table talks with the banned trade union and other opposition groups. This measure was taken over the objections of the still-formidable hard-line faction of the PZPR.


Poland - The 1989 Elections


After months of haggling, the round table talks yielded a historic compromise in early 1989: Solidarity would regain legal status and the right to post candidates in parliamentary elections (with the outcome guaranteed to leave the communists a majority of seats). Although to many observers the guarantee seemed a foolish concession by Solidarity at the time, the election of June 1989 swept communists from nearly all the contested seats, demonstrating that the PZPR's presumed advantages in organization and funding could not overcome society's disapproval of its ineptitude and oppression.

Solidarity used its newly superior position to broker a coalition with various small parties that until then had been silent satellites of the PZPR. The coalition produced a noncommunist majority that formed a cabinet dominated by Solidarity. Totally demoralized and advised by Gorbachev to accept defeat, the PZPR held its final congress in January 1990. In August 1989, the Catholic intellectual Tadeusz Mazowiecki became prime minister of a government committed to dismantling the communist system and replacing it with a Western-style democracy and a free-market economy. By the end of 1989, the Soviet alliance had been swept away by a stunning succession of revolutions partly inspired by the Polish example. Suddenly, the history of Poland, and of its entire region, had entered the postcommunist era.


Poland - Geography


Generally speaking, Poland is an unbroken plain reaching from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Carpathian Mountains in the south. Within that plain, terrain variations generally run in bands from east to west. The Baltic coast lacks natural harbors except for the Gdansk-Gdynia region and Szczecin in the far northwest. The northeastern region, called the Lake District, is sparsely populated and lacks agricultural and industrial resources. To the south and west of the lake district, a vast region of plains extends to the Sudeten (Sidetu) Mountains on the Czech and Slovak borders to the southwest and to the Carpathians on the Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian borders to the southeast. The country extends 649 kilometers from north to south and 689 kilometers from east to west. Poland's total area is 312,683 square kilometers, including inland waters--a slightly smaller area than that of New Mexico. The neighboring countries are Germany to the west, the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and Lithuania and the Russian province of Kaliningrad to the northeast.


The average elevation of Poland is 173 meters, and only 3 percent of Polish territory, along the southern border, is higher than 500 meters. The highest elevation is Mount Rysy, which rises 2,499 meters in the Tatra Range of the Carpathians, 95 kilometers south of Kraków. About 60 square kilometers along the Gulf of Gdansk are below sea level. Poland is traditionally divided into five topographic zones from north to south. The largest, the central lowlands, is narrow in the west, then expands to the north and south as it extends eastward. Along the eastern border, this zone reaches from the far northeast to within 200 kilometers of the southern border. The terrain in the central lowlands is quite flat, and earlier glacial lakes have been filled by sediment. The region is cut by several major rivers, including the Oder (Odra), which defines the Silesian Lowlands in the southwest, and the Vistula (Wisla), which defines the lowland areas of east-central Poland.

To the south of the lowlands are the lesser Poland uplands, a belt varying in width from ninety to 200 kilometers, formed by the gently sloping foothills of the Sudeten and Carpathian mountain ranges and the uplands that connect the ranges in southcentral Poland. The topography of this region is divided transversely into higher and lower elevations, reflecting its underlying geological structure. In the western section, the Silesia-Kraków Upthrust contains rich coal deposits.

The third topographic area is located on either side of Poland's southern border and is formed by the Sudeten and Carpathian ranges. Within Poland, neither of these ranges is forbidding enough to prevent substantial habitation; the Carpathians are especially densely populated. The rugged form of the Sudeten range derives from the geological shifts that formed the later Carpathian uplift. The highest elevation in the Sudeten is 1,602 meters, in the Karkonosze Mountains. The Carpathians in Poland, formed as a discrete topographical unit in the relatively recent Tertiary Era, are the highest and most picturesque mountains in the country. They are the northernmost edge of a much larger range that extends into Czechsolvakia, Ukraine, Hungary, and Romania. Within Poland the range includes two major basins, the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and Sandomierz, which are rich in several minerals and natural gas.

To the north of the central lowlands, the lake region includes the only primeval forests remaining in Europe and much of Poland's shrinking unspoiled natural habitat. Glacial action in this region formed lakes and low hills in the otherwise flat terrain adjacent to Lithuania and the Baltic Sea. Small lakes dot the entire northern half of Poland, and the glacial formations that characterize the lake region extend as much as 200 kilometers inland in western Poland. Wide river valleys divide the lake region into three parts. In the northwest, Pomerania is located south of the Baltic coastal region and north of the Warta and Notec rivers. Masuria occupies the remainder of northern Poland and features a string of larger lakes. Most of Poland's 9,300 lakes that are more than one hectare in area are located in the northern part of the lake region, where they occupy about 10 percent of the surface area.

The Baltic coastal plains are a low-lying region formed of sediments deposited by the sea. The coastline was shaped by the action of the rising sea after the Scandinavian ice sheet retreated. The two major inlets in the smooth coast are the Pomeranian Bay on the German border in the far northwest and the Gulf of Gdansk in the east. The Oder River empties into the former, and the Vistula forms a large delta at the head of the latter. Sandbars with large dunes form lagoons and coastal lakes along much of the coast.



Poland - Drainage


Nearly all of Poland is drained northward into the Baltic Sea by the Vistula, the Oder, and the tributaries of these two major rivers. About half the country is drained by the Vistula, which originates in the Tatra Mountains in far south-central Poland. The Vistula Basin includes most of the eastern half of the country and is drained by a system of rivers that mainly join the Vistula from the east. One of the tributaries, the Bug, defines 280 kilometers of Poland's eastern border with Ukraine and Belarus. The Oder and its major tributary, the Warta, form a basin that drains the western third of Poland into the bays north of Szczecin. The drainage effect on a large part of Polish terrain is weak, however, especially in the lake region and the inland areas to its south. The predominance of swampland, level terrain, and small, shallow lakes hinders large-scale movement of water. The rivers have two high-water periods per year. The first is caused by melting snow and ice dams in spring adding to the volume of lowland rivers; the second is caused by heavy rains in July.


Poland - Climate


Poland's long-term and short-term weather patterns are made transitional and variable by the collision of diverse air masses above the country's surface. Maritime air moves across Western Europe, Arctic air sweeps down from the North Atlantic, and subtropical air arrives from the South Atlantic. Although the Arctic air dominates for much of the year, its conjunction with warmer currents generally moderates temperatures and generates considerable precipitation, clouds, and fog. When the moderating influences are lacking, winter temperatures in mountain valleys may drop to -40° C.

Spring arrives slowly in April, bringing mainly sunny days after a period of alternating wintry and springlike conditions. Summer, which extends from June to August, is generally less humid than winter. Showers alternate with dry sunny weather that is generated when southern winds prevail. Early autumn is generally sunny and warm before a period of rainy, colder weather in November begins the transition into winter. Winter, which may last one to three months, brings frequent snowstorms but relatively low total precipitation.

The range of mean temperatures is 6° C in the northeast to 8° C in the southwest, but individual readings in Poland's regions vary widely by season. On the highest mountain peaks, the mean temperature is below 0° C. The Baltic coast, influenced by moderating west winds, has cooler summers and warmer winters. The other temperature extreme is in the southeast along the border with Ukraine, where the greatest seasonal differences occur and winter temperatures average 4.5° C below those in western Poland. The growing season is about forty days longer in the southwest than in the northeast, where spring arrives latest.

Average annual precipitation for the whole country is 600 millimeters, but isolated mountain locations receive as much as 1,300 millimeters per year. The total is slightly higher in the southern uplands than in the central plains. A few areas, notably along the Vistula between Warsaw and the Baltic and in the far northwest, average less than 500 millimeters. In winter about half the precipitation in the lowlands and the entire amount in the mountains falls as snow. On the average, precipitation in summer is twice that in winter, providing a dependable supply of water for crops.


Poland - Environment


Poland suffered as heavily as any other East European country from the environmental negligence inherent in the central planning approach to resource development. Although some warnings reached the public during the 1980s, the communist regimes typically had portrayed economic activity in the capitalist countries as the true enemy of the environment. Investigations after 1989 revealed that enormous damage had been inflicted on water, air, and soil quality and on forests, especially surrounding the industrial centers in Upper Silesia and the Kraków region. But because the economy had depended for over forty years on unrestrained abuse of Poland's natural resources, environmental planners in the early 1990s faced the prospect of severe economic disruption if they abruptly curtailed the industrial practices causing pollution.

Environmental Conditions and Crises

In 1991 Poland designated five official ecological disaster areas. Of the five, the densely concentrated heavy industry belt of Upper Silesia had suffered the most acute pollution. In that area, public health indicators such as infant mortality, circulatory and respiratory disease, lead content in children's blood, and incidence of cancer were uniformly higher than in other parts of Poland and dramatically higher than indicators for Western Europe. Experts believed that the full extent of the region's environmental damage was still unknown in 1992. The situation was exacerbated by overcrowding; 11 percent of Poland's population lived in the region. With 600 persons per square kilometer, Upper Silesia ranked among the most densely populated regions of Europe. In 1991 the region's concentrated industrial activity contributed 40 percent of Poland's electrical power, more than 75 percent of its hard coal, and 51 percent of its steel.

A variety of statistics reflect the effects of severe environmental degradation in Upper Silesia. In 1990 the infant mortality rate was over 30 deaths per 1,000 births, nearly five times the levels in some countries of Western Europe; some 12,000 hectares of agricultural land had been declared permanently unfit for tillage because of industrial waste deposition; and between 1921 and 1990 the average number of cloudy days per year had increased from ten to 183. Average life expectancy in southern Poland was four years less than elsewhere in the country.

Water and air pollution affect the entire country, however. A 1990 report found that 65 percent of Poland's river water was so contaminated that it corroded equipment when used in industry. After absorbing contaminants from the many cities on its banks, the Vistula River was a major polluter of the Baltic Sea. River water could not be used for irrigation. In 1990 about half of Poland's lakes had been damaged by acid rain, and 95 percent of the country's river water was considered undrinkable. Because Polish forests are dominated by conifers, which are especially vulnerable to acid rain, nearly two-thirds of forestland had sustained some damage from air pollution by 1990. In 1989 Polish experts estimated total economic losses from environmental damage at over US$3.4 billion, including soil erosion, damage to resources and equipment from air and water pollution, and public health costs.

In 1988 about 4.5 million hectares, or 14.3 percent of Poland's total area, were legally protected in national and regional parks and reserves. But all fourteen national parks were exposed to heavy air pollution, and half of them received substantial agricultural, municipal, and industrial runoff.

A special environmental problem was discovered when Polish authorities began inspecting the military bases occupied by Soviet troops for forty-six years. Uncontrolled fuel leakage, untreated sewage release, noise pollution from air bases, and widespread destruction of vegetation by heavy equipment were among the most serious conditions observed when inspections began in 1990. The government of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki was late in pursuing the issue with the Soviet government, however, and in 1991 the Soviet Union continued its longstanding refusal to pay fines and natural resource usage fees required by Polish law. In 1992 the Poles dropped all demands for compensation as part of the withdrawal protocol.

Environmental Groups

The burst of political activity in the late 1980s and the early 1990s included establishment of over 2,000 organizations with environmental agendas. A precedent for such groups was set in 1980, however, when the Green Solidarity movement forced closure of an aluminum plant in Kraków. The diverse groups that appeared in the next decade achieved some additional successes, but lack of cohesion and common goals deprived the movement of political influence. No environmental group or party was represented in the Polish legislative branch in 1992.

Among the objects of protest in the 1980s were Poland's lack of a national plan for dealing with ecological disasters; construction of a Czechoslovak coking plant near the Polish border; continued reliance on high-sulfur and high-ash coal in electric power plants; and the severe environmental damage caused by Soviet troops stationed in Poland. In 1986 the explosion and resulting fallout from the Soviet Union's Chernobyl' nuclear power plant galvanized environmental activism, which in Poland was dominated by the professional classes. But environmental groups faced several obstacles. Volunteer recruitment, a critical aspect of organizational development, was hindered by the necessity for many Poles to work two jobs to survive. Refining practical operational priorities proved difficult for organizations whose initial inspiration came from broad statements of environmental ethics. And the agendas of the many activist groups remained fragmented and dissimilar in 1992. Meanwhile, the most influential political parties were split between advocates of preserving jobs ahead of protecting the environment and those who saw unchanged economic activity as the paramount danger to the health of workers and society. Public attitudes toward environmental problems also were divided. In a 1992 nationwide survey, only 1 percent of Poles cited the environment as the country's most serious problem, although 66 percent rated environmental issues "very serious." By contrast, 72 percent cited economic issues as the country's most serious problem.

Government Environmental Policy

Poland established a Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources in 1985, but the new department exerted little authority. Between 1987 and 1988, for example, government investment in environmental protection increased by only 6 percent. In 1990 the initial postcommunist environmental timetable was to achieve "substantial" reduction of extreme environmental hazards in three years and to reach the level of European Community (EC) requirements in seven to ten years. In early 1991, the ministry drafted a new state ecological policy, the core of which eliminated the communist rationale of "social interest" in the arbitrary consumption of natural resources. Instead, the new policy fixed responsibility for the negative results of resource consumption at the source. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources officially identified the eighty enterprises causing the most pollution and promised to shut them down if pollution were not reduced. The role of nongovernmental environmental organizations in policy making was recognized officially for the first time. In late 1991, a State Environmental Protection Inspectorate was established, with broad powers to regulate polluting industries. Penalties for environmental damage also were increased at that time.

At the same time, government policy steered carefully away from measures that would sacrifice economic development, and policy makers debated the appropriate standards for comparing immediate economic growth with the estimated longer term gains of beginning a rigorous cleanup program. Accordingly, in 1990 the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources adopted a policy of "ecodevelopment" emphasizing modernization and restructuring measures that theoretically would curtail pollution while they streamlined production operations. The policy included distribution of information to the public to gain acceptance of economic sacrifice for environmental improvement; linkage of environmental law to the new market mechanism slowly being created; promotion of an awareness in Western Europe of the transnational impact of Poland's air and water pollution; and application of foreign capital and technology to environmental cleanup problems. At the end of 1990, Western banks began opening credit lines for Polish environmental protection, and plans for some multinational ecological enterprises included Poland. In 1991 the United States government agreed to forgive part of Poland's debt in exchange for domestic investment in pollution control.


Poland - The Society


In the years following World War II, Poland, like other East European countries, underwent a rapid, planned transition from a predominantly agrarian to a predominantly industrial society. When the country came under communist control in 1945, Polish society also was subjected to a set of rigid ideological tenets. Communist dogma failed to change the intellectual or spiritual outlook of most Poles, however, because traditional institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church and the family remained strong support structures for alternative viewpoints. On the other hand, the institutions created by the communist regimes fundamentally influenced the day-to-day functions of Polish society. This influence was especially pervasive in areas such as health and education, where state programs made services accessible to more of the population, albeit in a homogenized and regimented form.

Among the permanent results of communist ideology was the disappearance of the landed aristocracy, which had played an especially large role in governance and in preserving Polish culture and national consciousness, especially during the more than 100 years when Poland was partitioned. The disruption of traditional social hierarchies and barriers also brought substantially more upward mobility as the urban population came into direct contact with the peasants. Within a decade of the communist takeover, however, the initial benefits of this social engineering had faded, and in 1956 the first of several waves of unrest swept the country. Subsequent social and economic stagnation mobilized intellectuals and workers to stage increasingly widespread and effective protests. These protests eventually overthrew communism and ended its suppression of social diversity. Nevertheless, the forty-four-year postwar communist period left permanent marks on the Polish way of life even after the state control structures crumbled in 1989.

World War II resulted in a marked homogenization of the Polish population, which previously had been ethnically and religiously rather diverse. Massive relocations of ethnic populations resulting from boundary changes and the destruction of most of Poland's Jewish population in the Holocaust meant that a country previously two-thirds ethnically Polish and spiritually Roman Catholic entered the postwar era with a population over 90 percent Catholic and over 98 percent ethnically Polish.

Demographically, Poland in 1992 was a young country, more than 64 percent of whose population was under forty years of age. The country also had one of Europe's highest birth rates. By 1980 nearly half of employed Poles belonged to a socioeconomic group different from that of their parents, showing the mobility of the younger generations across traditional class lines. By 1980 less than one-quarter of working Poles remained in agriculture, and about two-thirds were either manual or white-collar workers in urban areas. About one-third of the postwar intelligentsia came from worker families, while about one-quarter came from peasant families. These numbers represented a drastic change from the predominance of the aristocracy in the intelligentsia before World War II.

Both by cultural tradition and by recent social policy, Poles were relatively well educated. The 1990 literacy rate was 98 percent. At that time, more than 17 percent of Poles had postsecondary education, and 4 percent had achieved advanced college degrees.

The end of communist rule in 1989 presented new challenges to Polish society and to government policy makers. The concept of universal, state-guaranteed protection from unemployment, sickness, and poverty was challenged as Poland turned toward privatization and opened its economy to market forces. Although society had retained a healthy skepticism about the benefits of total socialization, postcommunist governments could not devise replacement social programs fast enough to avoid bitter social dissatisfaction when the security of the old system disappeared.



Poland - Population


Between 1939 and 1949, the population of Poland underwent two major changes. The deaths, emigration, and geopolitical adjustments resulting from World War II reduced the 1939 population of about 35 million to about 24 million by 1946. Only in the 1970s did Poland again approach its prewar population level. In addition, the ethnic composition of the country was drastically homogenized by the mass annihilation of Polish Jews and the loss of much of the non-Polish Slavic population through the westward shift of the borders of the Ukrainian and Belorussian republics of the Soviet Union.


Beginning with the early postwar years, Polish has been the language of all but a very few citizens. Grouped with Czech and Slovak in the West Slavic subgroup of the Slavonic linguistic family, Polish uses a Latin alphabet because the Roman Catholic Church has been dominant in Poland since the tenth century. Documents written in Polish survive from the fourteenth century; however, the literary language largely developed during the sixteenth century in response to Western religious and humanistic ideas and the availability of printed materials. In the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment stimulated a second period of advances in the literary language. When the Polish state fell at the end of the eighteenth century, the language played an important role in maintaining the Polish national identity.

Although modern Polish was homogenized by widespread education, distribution of literature, and the flourishing of the mass media, several dialects originating in tribal settlement patterns survived this process in the late twentieth century. Among the most significant are Greater Polish and Lesser Polish (upon a combination of which the literary language was formed), Silesian, Mazovian, and Kashubian, which is sometimes classified as a separate language.

Population Growth and Structure

In the immediate postwar period, Poland's birth rate surged upward and many Poles were repatriated from military duty or imprisonment abroad. This population increase was tempered, however, by continued emigration of ethnic groups such as the Jews and non-Polish Slavs after the war ended. The annual growth rate peaked in 1953 at more than 1.9 percent; between 1955 and 1960, it averaged 1.7 percent before dropping to 0.9 percent in 1965. The growth rate then remained fairly steady through 1980. In the early 1980s, however, Poland's growth rate of 1.0 percent placed it behind only Albania, Ireland, and Iceland among European countries. The population increase in the early 1980s was attributed to childbearing by women born in the postwar upswing as well as to lower death rates.

Later in the 1980s, as many women passed their peak childbearing years, projected growth rates again dropped. From 1985 through 1991, the actual population increase was smaller every year. The actual increase in 1991 was 122,000. Nevertheless, in 1988 one in five persons added to the population of Europe outside the Soviet Union was a Pole. Experts forecast that in the year 2000 Poland would be contributing virtually all the natural growth in Europe's employed population. In 1990 the shape of Poland's population pyramid was expected to remain relatively constant; it was composed of a relatively small base of young people, with a wider component of citizens over age sixty and a bulge in the cohort born during the postwar upswing. In 1990 this group ranged in age from thirty-five to forty-four. At the end of 1991, the total population was estimated at 38.3 million; projected population in the year 2000 was 39.5 million.

In 1988 about 51 percent of Poland's population was female, a statistic reflecting the fact that average life expectancy was about nine years greater for women (66.5 years for men, 75.5 for women). The ratio of men to women was significantly higher (as much as five to two) in rural areas, from which many women migrated to escape poor conditions on private farms. Over a period of years, a lower rural birth rate led to a smaller agricultural work force. Already in 1981, only 55 percent of the rural population was of working age, compared with 63 percent of the urban population. (Working age was defined as eighteen to fiftynine for women, eighteen to sixty-four for men.) In 1991 some 29.4 percent of the overall population was below working age, and 13 percent was past working age. The former figure had fallen since the mid-1980s, while the latter rose in the same period. The 547,000 live births in Poland in 1991 equaled 14.3 births per 1,000 people. However, the 74 deaths versus 100 births recorded that year was a higher ratio than in any recent year. (In the early 1980s, the ratio was less than 50 to 100.)

In the late 1980s, emigration from Poland was stimulated mainly by poor economic conditions. The 1989 total of 26,000 émigrés dropped to 18,500 in 1990, but the slow progress of economic reform caused the rate to increase again in 1991. In this period, the group most likely to emigrate was healthy men between the ages of twenty-six and thirty who had completed high school or trade school. The majority in this group came from regions of high unemployment and had experience working abroad. In 1991 polls showed that as much as one-third of the Polish population viewed emigration as at least a theoretical option to improve their standard of living.

Population Density and Distribution

The most important change in postwar Poland's population distribution was the intense urbanization that took place during the first two decades of communist rule. The priorities of central economic planning undoubtedly hastened this movement, but experts hypothesize that it would have occurred after World War II in any case. In 1931 some 72.6 percent of the population was classified as rural, with nearly 60 percent relying directly on agriculture for their livelihood. By 1978 those figures had diminished to 42.5 and 22.5 percent, respectively. In the next ten years, the share of rural population dropped by only 3.7 percent, however, indicating that the proportions had stabilized.

In 1989 Poland had twenty-four cities with populations of at least 150,000 people. Major urban centers are distributed rather evenly through the country; the most concentrated urban region is the cluster of industrial settlements in Katowice District. In 1990 overall population density was 121 people per square kilometer, up from 115 per square kilometer in 1981. The most densely populated places are the cities of ód (over 3,000 people per square kilometer) and Warsaw (about 2,000 people per square kilometer). Urban areas, which contain over 60 percent of Poland's population, occupy about 6 percent of the country's total area. In 1990 average population density in rural areas was fifty-one people per square kilometer, a small increase over the 1950 figure of forty-seven people per square kilometer.

Updated population figures for Poland.




The dislocations during and after World War II changed Poland's class structure and ethnic composition. Important parts of the Polish middle class--which between the world wars had become the foundation of industrial and commercial activity--were annihilated or forced to emigrate, and those that survived the war lost their social status with the advent of state socialism. Nazi and Soviet occupation also decimated the intelligentsia that had supplied expertise to the legal, medical, and academic professions. Under the postwar communist regimes, leaders of the ruling Polish United Worker's Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza--PZPR) formed a new elite class by combining workers, peasants, and members of the intelligentsia in their ranks. Then in the late 1970s, the intelligentsia began to carry greater weight in the social structure by leading an intermittent, longterm protest movement. That movement culminated in the overthrow of the communist elite and reemergence of the dormant entrepreneurial segments of society.

Ethnic Groups

During most of its history, Poland was a multiethnic society that included substantial numbers of Belarusians (prior to 1992 known as Belorussians), Germans, Jews, and Ukrainians. This ethnic diversity was reduced sharply by World War II and the migrations that followed it. The Jewish population, which in the interwar period was over 10 percent of Poland's total and over 30 percent of Warsaw's, was reduced by about 3 million in the Holocaust. Postwar resettlement and adjustment of borders sent about 2 million Germans from Polish territory westward and awarded the Polish territory inhabited by 500,000 Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Lithuanians to the Soviet Union. These multiethnic émigrés were replaced by an estimated 3 million ethnic Poles repatriated from the Soviet Union and by thousands of others who returned from emigration or combat in the West. (Poland's communist governments, which consistently emphasized ethnic homogeneity, had not differentiated ethnic groups in official census statistics.) As a result of this process, in 1990 an estimated 98 percent of Poland's population was ethnically Polish.

<>Ukrainians and Belarusians
<>The Intelligentsia
<>The Working Classes
<>Social Relationships
<>The Role of Women


Poland - Jews


Although an estimated 200,000 Polish Jews survived the Holocaust, only about 10,000 remained in Poland in 1991, and that population was mostly elderly. As the postcommunist era began, relations with the now very small Jewish community retained an ambiguous but prominent place in the consciousness of Polish society. Beginning in the late 1970s, public interest in past Polish-Jewish relations increased significantly despite the dwindling of the Jewish population. Social observers attributed this partly to nostalgia for prewar times, when the Jews had made a dynamic contribution to Poland's diverse urban cultural environment. Another source of renewed interest was a need to finally understand the long and tangled historical connection of the Poles and the Jews. That connection was formed most prominently by the Holocaust, which had wrought havoc upon both Poles and Jews, and by the role of antisemitic elements in Polish society before and after World War II. In the early 1990s, these issues still provoked deep emotional responses as well as intellectual contemplation.

When communist rule ended, the phenomenon of "antisemitism without Jews" came under renewed scrutiny. In the first national elections of postcommunist Poland, candidates frequently exchanged charges of antisemitism and, conversely, of undue Jewish influence in policy making. In 1991 Solidarity leader Lech Walesa apologized personally before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, for antisemitic statements by some of his supporters during the presidential campaign. According to a 1992 survey, 40 percent of Poles estimated the current Jewish population in Poland at above 750,000 people; 16 percent believed the Jews were a threat to Poland's political development in the 1990s; and 26 percent said the Jews exerted too much influence in Polish society. On the other hand, 81 percent said that the memory of the Holocaust should be preserved indefinitely to prevent a recurrence. Extreme right-wing parties with antisemitic platforms gained no seats in the parliamentary elections of 1991.


Poland - Germans


The German population of Poland is centered in the southern industrial region of Silesia, but a small population remains in the northeastern region that had been East Prussia in the nineteenth century. As was the case with other ethnic minorities, only approximate estimates of numbers were available in 1991. Definition and quantification of the German population of Polish Silesia vary greatly according to the time and the source of statistics. The communist regimes of Poland counted only 2,500 Germans through 1989. In 1992 German minority organizations, whose activities increased markedly after 1990, claimed that over 300,000 Silesians, concentrated in Opole District, were ethnic Germans. The official Polish estimate at that time, however, was 100,000 ethnic Germans.

The constant shifting of Silesia between Polish and German control during several centuries created a unique ethnic amalgam and regional self-consciousness. Whatever the original ethnic composition of the region, the Silesians themselves developed a separate culture that borrowed liberally from both Polish and German. The predominant spoken language is a heavily Germanized dialect of Polish.

Although the Silesians retained close traditional ties with their locality and their own group, in the early 1990s they could not ignore the difference between their standard of living and that of nearby Germany. Many non-German Silesians very likely declared themselves ethnic Germans to receive preferential treatment from the German government; this practice played a major role in the diversity of minority population estimates.

Some Silesians were bitter over the resettlement policy of the postwar communist governments and other forms of anti-German discrimination. Immediately following the end of Polish communist rule, a well-organized German faction in Silesia demanded that dual citizenship and other privileges be guaranteed the German minority in Poland by the forthcoming Polish-German friendship treaty. In this demand they were joined by German citizens who had been expelled from the German territory awarded Poland after World War II. Ratification of the Polish-German treaty of friendship and cooperation in 1991 blunted the impact of radicals, however, and promoted pragmatic local cooperation rather than confrontation between Poles and Germans in Silesia.

Postcommunist Polish governments established no firm criteria for proving German nationality; in most cases, oral declarations were accepted as sufficient proof. Beginning in 1989, the Social Cultural Association began propagating German culture in Silesia. By 1992 the group had initiated German instruction in 260 schools, stocked libraries with German materials, and arranged technical instruction in Germany for Silesian health and education workers. The special ties with Germany make Opole one of the most prosperous regions in Poland; the Silesian Germans provide important resources to the local economy, and the lifestyle of many Silesian communities resembles that of Germany more than that of Poland. Although many non-German Silesians feared that the spread of German economic and cultural influences would erase the unique ethnic qualities of their region and the idea of German dominance retained some negative historical associations, in the early 1990s postcommunist aspirations for the prosperity promised by German connections remained an important factor in public opinion on the German ethnic issue.

A smaller concentration of Germans became active and visible for the first time in 1990 in Olsztyn District in northeastern Poland, although the resettlement of the 1950s and ongoing emigration had reduced the German population there substantially between 1956 and 1980. In 1992 estimates of the group's size ranged from 5,000 to 12,000. Beginning in 1990, several German cultural associations appeared in the region with the aims of preventing discrimination and preserving German culture. Association members received transportation to and employment opportunities in Germany, and the German government contributed money to support association activities in the early 1990s.


Poland - Ukrainians and Belarusians


Before World War II, the Ukrainian population, concentrated in the far southeast along the Carpathian Mountains, constituted 13.8 percent of interwar Poland's total, making the Ukrainians by far the largest ethnic minority. Postwar border changes and resettlement removed most of that ethnic group, whose persistent demands for autonomy in the 1930s had become a serious worry for the postwar communist government. In 1947 most remaining Ukrainians were resettled from their traditional centers in Rzeszów and Lublin districts in southeastern Poland to northern territory gained from Germany in the peace settlement. State propaganda designed to further isolate the Ukrainians reminded Poles of wartime atrocities committed by Ukrainians. In 1991 some 130,000 Ukrainians remained in the resettlement regions, while the rest of the Ukrainian population was widely dispersed and assimilated.

Beginning in 1989, Ukrainians in Poland sought redress for the abuses they had endured under communist regimes. The Union of Ukrainians in Poland demanded that the postcommunist government condemn the postwar deportation policy and compensate Ukrainians and their churches for state confiscation of property in the resettlement period. In 1992 all such claims awaited approval by parliament. Property claims by the Greek Catholic Church aroused controversy for two reasons. First, the Polish Catholic Church had occupied many former Greek Catholic churches and refused to return or share them. Second, conflicting claims between Greek Catholic Ukrainians and the Ukrainians of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church threatened the minority with a major rift along religious lines.

In 1992 estimates of the Ukrainian population in Poland ranged from 200,000 to 700,000. Of that number, roughly one-third belonged to the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, a branch of the Greek Orthodox Church. The remainder belonged to the Greek Catholic Church, which recognizes the authority of the Vatican. Orthodox Ukrainians are especially visible in Poland because they compose nearly the entire population of the Polish Orthodox Church. Because of the importance of religion in Polish society, the relations of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland with the two major minority religions influence the status of Ukrainian communities in areas other than religion. In the communist era, the government attempted to minimize the danger of Ukrainian nationalism by shifting its support as the two Ukrainian churches sought recognition. The Ukrainian Social and Cultural Society, founded in 1956, published a weekly newspaper in Ukrainian and supported several schools in Warsaw, with the purpose of preventing the assimilation of Ukrainians into Polish society.

The size of the Belarusian population also was disputed in the early 1990s. In 1991 the official figure was 250,000, but minority spokesmen claimed as many as 500,000 people. Although concentrated in a smaller area (nearly all live in the Bialystok District adjoining the Belarusian border), the Belarusianminority has been less assertive of its national identity than have been the Ukrainians. Bialystok is one of Poland's least prosperous and most sparsely populated regions. Mainly composed of peasants, the minority includes few educated citizens, and the group has received little support from Belarus itself. Therefore, low national self-awareness has led to easy assimilation into Polish society. The Belarusian Social and Cultural Society, founded in 1956 as the minority's official mouthpiece in Poland, remained under the control of former communists in 1991 because of Belarusian distrust of Solidarity's ties with the Polish Catholic Church. Since 1989, however, some new ethnic organizations have appeared. A weekly newspaper is published in Belarusian, and a few new student, political, and social organizations have brought a modest revival of Belarusian ethnic community in the early postcommunist years.


Poland - Gypsies


The Gypsies (Rom, in the preferred vernacular term), a major sociopolitical issue in most other East European countries, are much less numerous and less controversial in Poland. Estimates of the Gypsy population in Poland range from 15,000 to 50,000. Czechoslovakia's Gypsy population, by contrast, numbered 500,000 in the 1980s, when Poland became a transit point on the illegal migration route from Romania to Germany. Emigration of Polish Gypsies to Germany in the late 1980s reduced Poland's Gypsy population by as much as 75 percent. Nevertheless, negative stereotypes remain strong in Polish society, and acts of violence and discrimination against this most visible minority are common in Poland. In 1991 a mob destroyed a wealthy Gypsy neighborhood in central Poland. The Polish governments has adopted no comprehensive policy on Gypsies byt instead had treated violent acts against them as isolated incidents.


Poland - The Intelligentsia


The Polish intelligentsia played a unique and vital role in several phases of Polish history. During the partition period of the nineteenth century, the intelligentsia was the chief repository ofnational consciousness. Containing the last vestiges of the landed gentry that had led the country during its heyday as an independent commonwealth, the intelligentsia was the chief means by which new and progressive ideas entered the fabric of partitioned Poland's society. As such, the class became the chief repository of a romanticized, idealistic concept of Polish nationhood. Well into the twentieth century, the roughly 50 percent of the intelligentsia that had roots in the landowning class maintained the aristocratic values of their ancestors. Although those values conferred a distinctly higher social status on the intelligentsia in everyday life, they also included the cultural heritage that all Poles recognized.

In the first part of the twentieth century, the intelligentsia was diversified and enriched as more middle- and lower-class Poles attained education and upward mobility. At this point, the intelligentsia divided philosophically into conservative idealizes of the past (whose landholdings gave them a vested interest in maintaining the status quo) and liberal reformers advocating development of capitalism. In the interwar period, Poland's social structure was further complicated by the rise of a vigorous, practical upper middle class. After the war, however, socialism drastically reduced the influence of this entrepreneurial class.

Facing a severe shortage of educated citizens, in 1945 the communists expanded opportunities for political loyalists to advance through education into the professions and the bureaucracy. Of the 300,000 college graduates produced by the education system between 1945 and 1962, over 50 percent were from worker or peasant families. The introduction of these groups sharply diversified the class basis of the postwar intelligentsia. In the late 1960s, however, the policy of preferential treatment in education ended. The percentage of working-class university admissions dropped to below 25 percent. Because the chief means of entry into the professional classes remained educational achievement, the drop in university admissions drastically slowed mobility from the working classes into the intelligentsia. In the postwar years, the intelligentsia diversified into several categories of employment: highly educated professionals, government and party officials, senior civil servants, writers and academics, and toplevel economic managers.

Especially in the 1970s, many members of the intelligentsia established careers in the ruling party or its bureaucracy, joining the cause of the socialist state with varying degrees of commitment. By 1987 all but one of the forty-nine provincial PZPR first secretaries had at least a bachelor's degree. The strong presence of the intelligentsia in the party influenced the policy of the ruling elite away from standard Soviet practice, flavoring it instead with pragmatic nationalism. Then, as that force exerted subtle influence within the establishment, other elements of the intelligentsia joined with worker and student groups to express open dissent from the system. They objected to the system as a whole and decried the increasingly stressful conditions it imposed on Polish society in the 1970s and 1980s. The most salient result of this class alliance was the Solidarity movement, nominally a workers' movement that achieved broad support in the intelligentsia and finally toppled the last communist regime.

In the 1980s, the activist elements of the intelligentsia resumed the traditional role as protectors of national ideals from outside political interference. In this role, the Polish intelligentsia retained and gradually spread the values it had inherited from its nineteenth-century predecessors: admiration for Western society, disdain for contact with and reliance on Russia and the Soviet Union, and reverence for the prepartition commonwealth of the nobility and the romantic patriotism of the partition era.

As it had after Poland regained its independence in 1918, however, the intelligentsia reverted to its naturally fragmented state once the common enemy fell. In the early 1990s, the official communist leadership elite had disappeared (although in reality that group continued to control powerful economic positions), and no comparably identifiable and organized group had taken its place. In this atmosphere, a wide variety of social and political agendas competed for attention in the government, reflecting the diverse ideas proposed by the intelligentsia, the source of most of Poland's reformist concepts in the early 1990s.


Poland - The Working Classes


In the years following World War II, the composition of the Polish working classes changed significantly. Agriculture, which underwent several major changes in government policy during this period, consistently lost stature as an occupation and as a lifestyle in competition with expanded urban industrial opportunities. The postwar rural exodus left an aging farm population, split apart the traditional multigenerational families upon which rural society had been based, and fragmented landholdings into inefficient plots. In the same period, the augmented Polish industrial work force struggled to achieve the social gains promised in Marxist-Leninist ideology. In the early days, the central planning system yielded impressive gains in the education level and living standards of many industrial workers. Later in the communist era, this group made less tangible gains in social status and began actively opposing the regressive government policies that prevented its further progress. In the early postcommunist era, industrial workers faced high unemployment as privatization and the drive for efficiency restructured their enterprises. By the early 1980s, the working population reached a stable proportion of 40 percent in industry, 30 percent in agriculture, and 30 percent in the service sector (which, like industry, had tripled in size in the postwar era).

Agricultural Workers

Although the communist leadership's economic agenda was the immediate cause of large-scale shifts from agriculture to industry, prewar conditions also contributed to this trend. Contrary to the nineteenth-century romanticization of the Polish peasant class as a homogeneous repository of national virtue, agricultural workers in the interwar period were stratified economically. A few peasants had large farms, many more farmed small plots, and fully 20 percent of peasants did not own the land they farmed. In 1921 only 43 percent of peasants owned their own house. The depression of the 1930s hit the peasants especially hard because much of their income depended on world commodity prices. By the late 1930s, Poland had several million superfluous agricultural workers, but industry had not developed sufficiently to offer alternative employment.

At the close of World War II, little had changed in the society of rural Poland. At that time, Poland's peasants made up 60 percent of the population. Although many villages were wrecked or diminished and 500,000 farms were destroyed, war dead included a much higher proportion of urban Poles. After the war, the large estates owned by former noblemen and rich peasants and worked by rural proletarians still dominated the rural social structures. The first step of the postwar communist regime was confiscation of the largest estates. Those lands were redistributed to private owners, although to avoid alienating the peasants, plots smaller than fifty hectares were allowed to remain with their original owners. At this point, rapidly expanding local industry began to offer peasants supplementary income, and industrial expansion in urban centers relieved prewar overpopulation and starvation in many rural areas. After the war, rural life increasingly was transformed by electrification, improved roads, and statesupplied equipment and materials. Nevertheless, on most Polish farms the fundamental relationship of the peasant to the land remained as it was before World War II.

Although Soviet-style collectivization remained a nominal state goal until 1956, early attempts caused precipitous declines in production and an estimated 1 million farmers to leave the land. As a result of the decollectivization program of the late 1950s, only 6 percent of farms remained collectivized. In the long term, the state's attempts at collectivization fostered a permanent resistance among peasants to direct state interference. In the next thirty years, the peasant family farm, whose value system made distribution of farm products to the rest of society clearly subordinate to immediate household needs, continued to be the dominant form of agricultural organization. Improved communications and agricultural education programs gradually broke the isolation of rural existence, however; as more contact with the outside world brought new values, it weakened the family cohesion and the inherited patterns of life that were the foundations of the purely domestic farm.

Immediately after the collectivization drive ended in 1956, mid-sized farms (those between five and fifteen hectares) predominated in the private sector, but in the next decades farms of that size were split repeatedly. By 1986 nearly 60 percent of private farms were smaller than five hectares. Furthermore, the holdings of individual farmers often were scattered across considerable distances. In the late 1980s, state efforts to stimulate reconcentration were stalled by peasant suspicion and by ideological disagreements among communist policy makers over the solution to agricultural problems. Prevented by government inertia and distribution policies from obtaining tractors and other equipment, many small landowners used horses for cultivation or simply ignored portions of their land. Frequent reliance on nonagricultural employment for a livelihood further reduced peasants' concentration on improving the use of their rural plots.

In the mid-1980s, only 50 percent of Poland's rural population was involved in agriculture. The other 50 percent commuted to jobs in towns. Of the private farmers in the first group, 33 percent were full-time farmers, 34 percent earned most of their income from agricultural employment, and more than 21 percent earned most of their income from nonagricultural sources. The remaining 11 percent worked for institutions with land allotments smaller than 0.5 hectare. The large group of landless rural laborers of the interwar years had virtually disappeared by 1980.

In the postcommunist era, experts projected large numbers of peasants would continue their split lifestyles unless major investments were made to upgrade Poland's rural infrastructure. In the late 1980s, new housing units and water mains were still extremely rare and sewage lines virtually nonexistent in rural areas. Only half of Polish villages were accessible by paved roads, and many poorer villages lacked a retail store of any type. An important failure of the collectivization effort had been the exclusion of peasants from the broad social welfare benefits instituted by the socialist state for urban workers. Although the peasantry received nominal coverage under the state medical system beginning in 1972, rural education and health services remained far behind those in the cities for the next twenty years.

The lack of rural amenities caused the most promising young Poles from rural families to move to the cities. As the traditional rural extended family began to collapse, the aging population that remained behind further strained the inadequate rural social services. The communist state modified its pension and inheritance policies in the 1970s to encourage older peasants to pass their rural plots to the next generation, but the overall disparity in allocation of benefits continued through the 1980s. In the early postcommunist era, however, urban unemployment and housing shortages began to drive workers back to rural areas. Experts predicted that as many as 1 million people might return to rural areas if urban employment continued to fall.

Industrial Workers

Between 1947 and 1958, the number of agricultural workers moving to industrial jobs increased by 10 percent each year. In those years, most industrial jobs did not require even basic education. Therefore, over 40 percent of recruits from agriculture were basically illiterate in 1958. From that time, however, the level of education among Polish industrial workers rose steadily. By 1978 only 5 percent of workers lacked a complete elementary education. A fundamental change in the social status of workers was heralded by the first workers' councils, founded in the late 1950s to voice opinions on industrial policy. Those increasingly articulate leadership groups, dominated by the 5 percent of the work force that had a secondary education at that time, led to the formidable labor organizations that shook Poland's political structure in the 1980s.

In the 1980s, workers age thirty-five and younger were better educated and more likely to come from urban families than their elders. Also, unlike their elders, the young workers had been raised under a communist regime and were accustomed to the social status conferred by membership in workers' organizations. Many saw their laborer status as an intermediate social step between their agricultural past and anticipated advancement to whitecollar employment. Conversely, association with the working class was an important qualification for advancement into social leadership positions both during and after the communist era. Labor's active role in the political and social life of the 1980s revived the self-esteem and prestige of workers. On the other hand, a 1985 study showed that 70 percent of workers did not wish their children to pursue a manual occupation.

In the late 1980s, some 45 percent of industrial workers had second jobs. Increasing numbers of moonlighting workers sharply stratified the working class, as workers without supplementary income were less able to maintain their living standard. Major inequities were inherent in the wage system as well. In 1986 the best-paid workers earned nearly five times the pay of the average Polish worker, while 33 percent of workers received less than 65 percent of the average wage. Postcommunist reforms brought new financial risk to industrial workers by lowering the upper end of the pay scale. That change, combined with the scarcity of supplementary jobs, pulled a significant new section of Polish workers below the official poverty line in the early 1990s.

In 1992 workers in many industries, including coal and copper mining, aviation, and automobiles, organized strikes to protest lower wages and the displacement caused by economic reform. Outside the jurisdiction of Solidarity, which advocated negotiation with the government, the strikes escalated under the leadership of radical labor leaders. Coal miners, who had enjoyed the highest pay and the best perquisites throughout the communist era because of coal's importance as a hard-currency export, played a central role in the strikes as they sought to protect their privileges.


Poland - Social Relationships


In the forty-five years of their rule, the communists built a monocentric society whose social and political fabric was dominated by a new elite of loyal government functionaries. In the 1950s, social institutions such as political groups, voluntary organizations, youth and professional organizations, and community associations lost their autonomy and were forced into a hierarchical state-controlled network. Only the Polish Catholic Church retained some degree of independence during this period. At the same time, however, smaller groups, initially isolated and fragmented, developed informal, pragmatic networks for economic supply, mediation of interests, and expression of antiestablishment views. Such groups functioned both within state-sanctioned institutions and among families, groups of friends, and small communities. In this context, dojscie (informal access to useful connections) was the means by which ordinary citizens remained above subsistence level.

The family, the traditional center of Polish social life, assumed a vital role in this informal system. In this respect, everyday urban life assumed some characteristics of traditional rural life. For both professional and working classes, extended families and circles of friends helped when a family or individual was not self-sufficient. Private exchange arrangements eased the chronic scarcities of the official supply system. Especially important within the family structure were parental support of grown children until they became self-sufficient and care by the children for their aging parents and grandparents. In the economic slump of the 1980s, urban food shortages often were alleviated by exchanges with rural relatives.

The inventive and independent networking process formed a distinct tier within Polish society. Seen by its participants as the repository of Polish nationhood and tradition, the world of dojscie increasingly contrasted with the inefficient, rigid, invasive, and corrupt state system. The emergence of Solidarity was a first step toward restoring the variety of social structures and independent cultural activities present in interwar Poland. In 1980 the phenomenon of public figures rising to tell the truth about Poland's problems began to break the wall between private and public morality, although the subsequent declaration of martial law temporarily dampened its effect.

The second tier involved illegal and quasi-legal actions as well as the pragmatic rearrangement of social relationships. Especially in the 1980s, the relationships between work performed and official wages and between job qualification and salary level (which for "ideological" reasons was higher for many classes of unskilled workers) were objects of general ridicule in Polish society. Under these circumstances, Poles increasingly saw the second tier, rather than the official economy, as the more rewarding investment of their initiative and responsibility. By the 1980s, this allocation of energy led some sociologists to argue that the second tier was necessary in order for communist societies such as Poland's to function.

The end of communism brought no rapid change in social attitudes. In the early postcommunist period, many Poles retained a deep-seated cynicism toward a state long perceived as an untrustworthy privileged elite. Direct and indirect stealing from such a state was at worst an amoral act that could never match the hypocrisy and corruption of high authorities who claimed to govern in the name of all the Polish people. But society's habit of separating "us" from "them" became a major obstacle to enlisting widespread public cooperation and sacrifice for largescale economic and political reform. Between October 1990 and January 1992, public confidence in the national government declined from 69 percent to 27 percent, according to a national poll.


Poland - The Role of Women


By the mid-1970s, nearly half the Polish work force was made up of women. On a purely statistical basis, Poland, like the rest of the Soviet alliance in Eastern Europe, offered women more opportunities for higher education and employment, than did most West European countries. Between 1975 and 1983, the total number of women with a higher education doubled, to 681,000 graduates. Many professions, such as architecture, engineering, and university teaching, employed a considerably higher percentage of women in Poland than in the West, and over 60 percent of medical students in 1980 were women. In many households in the 1980s, women earned more than their husbands. Yet the socialist system that yielded those statistics also uniformly excluded women from the highest positions of economic and political power. In the mid-1980s, only 15 percent of graduates in technical subjects were women, while more than 70 percent of jobs in health, social security, finance, education, and retail sales were filled by women. During the 1980s, very few women occupied top positions in the PZPR (whose 1986 membership was 27 percent women). Similar statistics reflected the power relationships in Solidarity, the diplomatic corps, and the government. By definition, women were excluded completely from the other great center of power, the Catholic Church. In mid1992 , Poland elected its first woman prime minister, Hanna Suchocka. Her coalition government included no other women. In 1992 the head of the National Bank of Poland, a very powerful position, was a woman, and Ewa Letowska, former commissioner of citizens' rights, was prominently mentioned as a presidential candidate.

Some experts asserted that the male power structure protected its dominance by limiting the opportunities for the advancement of Polish women to those that filled an existing need in the male-dominated society. Another factor in the role of women, however, was the high priority that Polish society continued to give to their role within the family and in raising children. In the 1980s, one in ten Polish mothers was single, and many single mothers had never been married. In 1991 over 6 percent of Polish families consisted of a single mother caring for one or more children. The extended family provided support for such unconventional arrangements. During the 1980s, both the state (by adjusting school schedules and providing nurseries and substantial paid maternity leave) and the church (by its influential emphasis on the sanctity of the family) successfully promoted the traditional role of women in raising the next generation. In the early 1980s, a very small women's liberation movement began at Warsaw University, but in the years following it failed to expand its membership significantly. In 1990 women in Warsaw set a precedent by demonstrating against church-inspired legislation making abortion illegal.

Even with the support of state institutions, however, during the communist era working women with families often had the equivalent of two full-time jobs because their husbands did not make major contributions to household work. According to one study, working women averaged 6.5 hours per day at their jobs and 4.3 hours per day on household duties. In the times of scarcity in the 1980s, standing in line to make purchases occupied a large part of the latter category. Women without jobs, by contrast, spent an average of 8.1 hours per day on household duties. The increased unemployment of the early 1990s generally affected more women than men. According to official figures, in 1992 forty women were jobless for every vacancy they were qualified to fill, while the ratio for men was fourteen to one. Women made up 52.4 percent of the total unemployed, a higher percentage than their overall share of the work force.

In 1992 women ran about 20 percent of Polish farms, a much higher percentage than in Western countries. In most cases, such arrangements reflected necessity rather than choice. Nearly 70 percent of these women were single, and over 40 percent were over age sixty. In most cases, grown children had left the farm for better opportunities and the husband had died or become incapacitated.

The end of communist government brought a new debate about women's role in Polish society. After 1989 many Poles began to associate women's rights with the enforced equality of the discredited communist past. A significant part of society saw the political transformation as an appropriate time for women to return full-time to the home after communism had forced them into the workplace and weakened the Polish family.

The rights of women were central to the controversy over state abortion law that escalated sharply in 1991 and 1992, although few women had policy-making roles and no major women's groups took advocacy positions. Some of the social policies of the postcommunist governments complicated the situation of working mothers. A 1992 national study revealed discrimination against women in hiring practices and payment of unemployment benefits, and no law prohibited such sex discrimination. Because childsupport payments were not indexed to the cost of living, the payments many women received became nearly worthless in periods of high inflation. In the communist system, daycare for the children of working mothers had been cheap and widely available, but by 1992 more than half the Polish daycare centers had closed. Striving to become self-supporting, the remaining centers raised their prices sharply in the reform period.


Poland - HOUSING


At the end of the communist era, housing was a major social problem. Although the postwar era saw steady growth in housing quality and quantity, that growth fell far short of demand in both geographic distribution and total availability. In 1990 the disparity between available dwellings and number of households requiring housing was estimated at between 1.6 million and 1.8 million units. The causes of this enduring shortage were complex. They included the failures of the communist centralized approach to housing policy before 1989 and the economic downturns that occurred in the 1980s and after the reform era began in 1990.

Communist Housing Policy

As in most other economic and social areas, postwar Polish housing policy followed the Soviet model. The principle behind that model was that housing should be public property and a direct tool of the state's social policy. Accordingly, the Soviet model eliminated private ownership or construction of multifamily residential buildings. Except for single-family units, the government had the legal power to take over private houses and land required for building. Private construction firms were turned into state enterprises that did contract building for central state organizations. State housing policy disregarded supply and demand in favor of administrative space allocation norms, standardized design and construction practices, and central rent control. Maintaining rents at a very low level was supposed to ensure that housing was available to even the poorest citizens. However, housing policy was subordinate to the requirements of central economic planning, so resources for housing construction were directed to industrial areas critical to fulfilling plans and advancing state policy. Materials distribution for housing also was subject to delays or disruption caused by the urgency of other types of construction projects. Although rural and small-town housing nominally escaped direct control, materials rationing and deliberate state hindrance of private construction limited the availability of new housing in such areas.

Polish Housing in Practice

In practice the housing policy of Polish communist regimes was more pragmatic than the Soviet model. In some regions, high housing demand inspired locally controlled cooperatives that pooled state and private resources. State housing construction actually was halted in the 1960s to create demand for cooperative housing, for which rents were much higher. Thereafter, however, the cooperatives gradually became centralized national monopolies, and construction in the 1970s was dominated again by large state enterprises. The monopoly status of the builders and the cooperatives insulated those groups from market competition and enabled them to pass along the costs of inefficient operations to the tenant or to the state.

Under these conditions, housing construction was extremely wasteful and inefficient. The economic crisis of 1980 combined with existing weaknesses in industrial policy to begin a housing shortage that lasted through most of the decade. Between 1978 and 1988, annual housing completions dropped by nearly 45 percent, and investment in housing dropped by nearly 20 percent. At the same time, the Polish birth rate added pressure to the housing situation. By the late 1980s, the average waiting time to buy a house was projected at between fifteen and twenty years if construction continued at the same rate. The housing shortage was a primary cause of social unrest; however, the structural flaws of Polish building continued unchanged. Construction remained of low quality, builders maintained the monopoly control granted by centralized planning, labor productivity dropped, and distribution and transport remained centralized and inefficient.

Housing also remained subordinate to industrial goals. In the 1980s, this meant that new workplaces were the center of housing construction activity, which produced dormitories for workers. By 1988 Poland ranked last in Europe in housing with only 284 dwellings per 1,000 persons; 30 percent of Polish families did not have their own housing accommodations; and the average number of persons per dwelling was 20 percent above the European average. In addition, the average usable area per dwelling in Poland was 10 to 15 percent below the average for other socialist countries and 30 percent below the average for Western Europe.

Private housing revived somewhat in the 1980s, although independent cooperatives still faced critical materials shortages in the construction stage. An easing of tax regulations and other economic changes raised the profitability of private property in that period. In 1988 the percentage of housing construction projects in which individuals invested had risen to nearly 34 percent from its 1978 level of 26 percent. Although state investment also rose slightly in that period, both increases were at the expense of cooperative investment, which dropped by 10 percent. Nevertheless, in towns privately owned properties remained insignificant until 1989, mainly because high inflation in the 1980s devalued the long-term, low-interest loans offered on state property. In 1989 the new government's anti-inflation measures realigned such loans with present currency values and raised interest rates, stimulating conversion of two-thirds of cooperative flats into private property by early 1990. At the same time, the monopolistic Central Cooperatives Association was split into numerous genuine cooperatives, the state housing administration was abolished, and new incentives were introduced to stimulate private building and rentals.

Housing after 1989

In 1990 Poland's traditionally low rents rose drastically when government subsidies of fuel, electricity, and housing maintenance ended. The long-term goal of housing reform was to let rents rise to market levels. A housing benefits program was to help the poorest groups in society, and new rules were put in place for financing housing purchases. In the transitional period that followed the end of communist government, however, the gap between demand and supply grew. Rising rental and purchase prices, the new obstacles created for housing construction firms by competitive conditions, and the economic downturn that began in 1990 also contributed to this gap. To function efficiently, the housing industry also required more substantial investment in modern technology, particularly in chronically wasteful areas such as cement production and building assembly.

In 1989 and 1991, new housing legislation concentrated on privatizing the ownership of housing units. Of the 2.7 million cooperative apartments in Poland, 57 percent were still tenantoccupied rather than owner-occupied in 1991. An additional 1.5 million apartments were owned by enterprises, which continued the uneconomical communist system of subsidizing as much as 80 percent of the property upkeep for their tenant workers. Beginning in 1989, private owners of multifamily houses could receive subsidies for maintenance, for which they had paid in full under the old system. The 1991 legislation set financial and legal conditions under which renters of cooperative-owned and enterprise-owned housing could assume ownership, creating individual property units from the larger units formerly administered by a central agency.




World War II essentially transformed Poland into a state dominated by a single religion. According to a 1991 government survey, Roman Catholicism was professed by 96 percent of the population. The practice of Judaism declined more dramatically than any other religion after the war, but the numbers of adherents of Greek Orthodox, Protestant, and other groups also fell significantly. Although the claim of religious affiliation signified different levels of participation for different segments of society (80.6 percent of professed Catholics described themselves as attending mass regularly), the history of Roman Catholicism in Poland formed a uniquely solid link between nationality and religious belief. As a result of that identity, Poland was the only country where the advent of communism had very little effect on the individual citizen's practice of organized religion. During the communist era, the Catholic Church enjoyed varying levels of autonomy, but the church remained the primary source of moral values, as well as an important political force. Of the 4 percent of Poles who were not Roman Catholic, half belonged to one of forty-two other denominations in 1991, and the rest professed no religion. The largest of the nonCatholic faiths was the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Although Poland returned to its tradition of religious tolerance after the communist era, jurisdictional issues complicated relations between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

<>The Polish Catholic Church and the State
<>The Polish Catholic Church and the People
<>Other Churches


Poland - The Polish Catholic Church and the State


Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the Catholic Church was not only a spiritual institution but also a social and political force. The dynamics of church-state relations in Poland after the communist era were shaped by the multifaceted identity the church had assumed during many decades when conventional social and political institutions were suppressed. That identity, called by one scholar a "civil religion," combined religious and political symbols in Poles' conception of their national history and destiny. Important aspects of this social and political role remained intact after 1989, fueling a controversial new drive for church activism.

Church and State Before 1945

The first impetus for an expanded church role was the social repression Poles experienced during the era of the third partition, from 1795 to 1918. In this period, the partitioning nations severely limited freedom of organization, education, and publication in Polish territory. With the exception of the post-1867 Austrianoccupied sector, public use of the Polish language was also forbidden. These restrictions left religious practice as the only means of national self-expression and the preservation of social bonds among lay Catholics. From that situation came a strong new sense of national consciousness that combined nineteenth-century literary, philosophical, and religious trends within the formal structure of the church. In 1925 the newly independent Polish state signed a concordat that prescribed separate roles for church and state and guaranteed the church free exercise of religious, moral, educational, and economic activities.

Although Poland enjoyed fourteen years of independence between the signing of the concordat and the Nazi invasion, the special role of the church continued and intensified when postwar communist rule again regimented other forms of self-expression. During the communist era, the church provided a necessary alternative to an unpopular state authority, even for the least religious Poles. Between 1945 and 1989, relations between the Polish Catholic Church and the communist regimes followed a regular pattern: when the state felt strong and self-sufficient, it imposed harsh restrictions on church activities; in times of political crisis, however, the state offered conciliatory measures to the church in order to gain popular support.

The Early Communist Decades

The Polish Catholic Church suffered enormous losses during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II. Its leadership was scattered or exterminated, its schools were closed, and its property was destroyed. Ironically, in the war years this destruction fostered the church's conversion from an aloof hierarchy with feudal overtones to a flexible, socially active institution capable of dealing with the adversity of the postwar years. In the first two postwar years, the church enjoyed considerable autonomy. In 1947, however, consolidation of the East European nations under the hegemony of the Stalinist Soviet Union led to the closing of Polish seminaries and confiscation of church property in the name of the state. The state abolished the concordat and assumed legal supremacy over all religious organizations in 1948.

In the decades that followed, the church adapted to the new constraints, pragmatically reaching compromise agreements with the state and avoiding open confrontation over most issues. Between 1948 and 1981, the church was led by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, an expert on Catholic social doctrine whose commanding personality augmented the power of the church hierarchy as a direct conduit from the Vatican to the people of Poland. As a general policy in the early communist decades, Wyszynski avoided fruitless direct campaigning against communist oppression. Instead, he stressed the church's role as advocate of Christian morality. Nevertheless, the cardinal's criticism of PZPR party leader Boleslaw Bierut earned Wyszynski three years under house arrest (1953-56), as well as international stature as a spokesman against communism. During this period, a total of 1,000 priests and eight bishops were imprisoned, and convents were raided by the police in the communist drive to destroy completely the authority of the church in Polish society.

Wyszynski was released in 1956 as a result of severe social unrest that forced a change in party leadership. The release was followed by a church-state agreement significantly relaxing restrictions in such areas as religious teaching and jurisdiction over church property. This agreement marked a general softening of state religious policy at the end of the period of hard-line Stalinism. Ten years later, the church's lavish celebration of the millennium of Polish Christianity strengthened the identification of Polish national consciousness with the church and, in the process, the state's respect for the church as representative of national opinion.

Relations in the 1970s and 1980s

When the "reform" regime of Edward Gierek came to power in 1970, it took conciliatory measures to enlist church support. The 1970s were a time of bargaining and maneuvering between a state increasingly threatened by social unrest and a church that was increasingly sure of its leadership role but still intent on husbanding its political capital. Between 1971 and 1974, the church demanded the constitutional right to organize religious life and culture in Poland, using education institutions, religious groups, and the mass media. Major protest documents were issued in 1973 and 1976 against the weakening or withdrawal of state guarantees of such a right.

In 1976 church support for workers' food price riots began a new phase of political activism that would endure until the end of communist rule. In late 1977, a meeting of Gierek and Wyszynski, prompted by continuing social unrest, promised a new reconciliation, but the church continued its harsh criticism of state interference in religious affairs. In 1978 the selection of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Kraków as pope opened vital new lines of communication between Polish Catholics and the outside world and gave the Poles a symbol of hope in a period of economic and political decay. In 1979 the triumphal visit of Pope John Paul II to Poland boosted the Polish cultural self-image and turned international attention to Poland's political and spiritual struggles. The next year, the church lent vital moral support to the Solidarity labor movement while counseling restraint from violence and extreme positions. In 1981 the government requested that the church help it to establish a dialog with worker factions. Needing church approval to gain support among the people, the government revived the Joint Episcopal and Government Commission, through which the church gradually regained legal status in the early 1980s. In 1981 the Catholic University of Lublin reopened its Department of Social Sciences, and in 1983 clubs of the Catholic intelligentsia reopened in sixty cities. Twenty-three new church-oriented periodicals appeared in the 1980s, reaching a total printing of more than 1.2 million copies in 1989. Nevertheless, state censorship, paper rationing, and restriction of building permits provoked serious conflicts with the Polish government in the last decade of communist rule.

Wyszynski died in 1981. He was replaced as primate by the less dynamic Cardinal Józef Glemp, who attempted to continue the dual policy of conciliation and advancement of religious rights. By 1983 several activist bishops and priests had broken with an official church policy they saw as too conciliatory toward the regime. In a 1984 meeting with Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski, Glemp again attempted to obtain official recognition of the church's legal status as well as freedom for imprisoned dissidents. Later that year, the murder of dissident priest Jerzy Popieluszko by Polish security agents fueled a new confrontation between church and state. The Jaruzelski government, which had met with Glemp seeking the legitimacy that would come from renewed diplomatic relations with the Vatican, abandoned its conciliatory tone and returned to the pre-1970 demand that the church limit itself to purely spiritual matters and censure politically active priests. During 1985 and 1986, the church hierarchy replied with renewed demands for the release of political prisoners and for constitutional guarantees of free assembly. By the end of 1986, 500 political prisoners had received amnesty, and Pope John Paul II's second visit to Poland included a meeting with Jaruzelski--signals that relations were again improving.

The last two years of communist rule brought intensified bargaining as social unrest continued to weaken the government's position. The church demanded that the government open dialogs with opposition organizations, arguing that social and economic problems could not be solved without considering all views. When national strikes hit Poland in mid-1988, the church attempted to arbitrate between labor organizations and the government and to prevent labor from adopting radical positions. The Polish Episcopate, the administrative body of the Polish Catholic Church, took part in the talks that began in September 1988 between Solidarity representatives and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Those talks ultimately led to restoration of Solidarity's legal status. In early 1989, round table discussions between church and state representatives yielded a new law on church-state relations passed by the Sejm (the lower legislative house) in May 1989. The religious freedom guaranteed by that law allowed the church to resume officially its role as intermediary between the state and society. The law also set the stage for organized activity by the Catholic laity never permitted in the communist era. The Vatican resumed full diplomatic relations with the Polish government two months later.

Church and State after 1989

The approach of the Polish Catholic Church to the Polish state changed drastically after 1989. The church's influential role in promoting opposition views, its close relationship with Solidarity, and its mediation between factions in the tumultuous 1980s brought it enhanced political power in the postcommunist system. In 1989 virtually every significant public organization in Poland saw the church as a partner in its activities and decisions. One result of this identification was that when the Sejm began deliberations on a new constitution in 1990, the Episcopate requested that the document virtually abolish the separation of church and state. Such a change of constitutional philosophy would put the authority of the state behind such religious guarantees as the right to religious education and the right to life beginning at conception (hence a ban on abortion). Throughout the communist era, the separation of church and state had been the basis of the church's refusal to acknowledge the authority of atheistic political regimes over ecclesiastical activities. In justifying its new approach to the separation doctrine, the Episcopate explained that the communist regimes had discredited the doctrine as a constitutional foundation for postcommunist governance by using the separation of church and state to defend their totalitarian control of society against church interference.

As a political matter, however, the unleashing of stronger church influence in public life began to alienate parts of the population within two years of the passage of the bill that restored freedom of religion. Catholic intellectuals, who had shared opposition sympathies with the church in the communist era, also had opposed the autocratic rule of Cardinal Wyszynski. Many people feared that compromise between the church and the communist state might yield an alliance that in effect would establish an official state church. Once the common opponent, the communist system, disappeared in 1989, these fears revived and spread to other parts of Polish society.

In the period that followed, critical issues were the reintroduction of religious instruction in public schools--which happened nationwide at church insistence, without parliamentary discussion, in 1990--and legal prohibition of abortion. Almost immediately after the last communist regime fell, the church began to exert pressure for repeal of the liberal communist-era abortion law in effect since 1956. Between 1990 and 1992, church pressure brought three progressively tighter restrictions on birth control and abortion, although surveys showed that about 60 percent of Poles backed freedom of individual choice on that issue. By 1991, the proper boundary of church intervention in social policy making was a divisive social and political issue. At that point, only 58 percent of citizens polled rated the church the most-respected institution in Polish public life-- second behind the army. By contrast, one year before 90 percent of citizens polled had rated the church as most respected.

The church responded to the conditions of the reform era in other ways as well. It campaigned vigorously (but unsuccessfully) to prevent dissemination of pornographic materials, which became quite abundant in all East European nations after 1989 and were viewed as a moral threat. The church strongly defended aid for the poor, some aspects of which were suspended in the period of austerity that accompanied Poland's drive toward capitalism, although some policy makers saw welfare programs as remnants of the communist state. Following the issuance of a papal encyclical on the condition of the poor, Cardinal Glemp stressed the moral dangers of the free market.

After 1989 the church had to cut its highly professional publication operations drastically. In 1992 the church discussed improving access to the lay community, however, by publishing a mass-circulation newspaper and establishing a Catholic press agency. Glemp also considered decentralization of the church hierarchy and establishment of more dioceses to reach the faithful more directly.


Poland - The Polish Catholic Church and the People


Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, more than 90 percent of Polish children were baptized in the Catholic Church, showing that the younger generation shared loyalty to traditional religion. Surveys of young people in the 1980s showed an increase in professed religious belief over the decade, from 74 percent to 96 percent. Also, the number of men preparing for the priesthood rose from 6,285 to 8,835 between 1980 and 1986. The church's influence extended far beyond the limits of a traditional predominant religion, however. Especially in rural areas and among the less-educated urban population, religion permeated everyday life, and church attendance was higher in the communist era than it had been before World War II. As other forms of social affiliation were repressed or reorganized, churches continued as the de facto arbiters of a wide range of moral and ethical problems in their communities, a role they had assumed initially during the war. Although church affiliation was less prevalent among the educated elite, over 60 percent of that group (which included most of the nominally atheistic communist ruling class) professed belief in Catholicism in 1978.

Experts point to certain characteristics of Polish Catholicism to explain its unique resilience in a population bombarded for decades with state-sponsored atheistic propaganda. Polish Catholic religiosity focuses more strongly on the Virgin Mary and the saints than on the direct relationship of the individual to God or on abstract religious doctrine. The most important pilgrimage destination for Polish Roman Catholics is the image of the Virgin (called the Black Madonna) at Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa. The image is believed to have rescued Poland miraculously from invasions by the Tatars and the Swedes, and some Solidarity leaders wore replicas of the icon.

Especially for less-educated Poles, Mary represents a tangible yet mystical connection with God much preferable to contemplation of abstract theological doctrine. During the communist era, this more immediate and anthropocentric religiosity seemed uniquely resistant to replacement by the intellectual doctrine of atheism. On the other hand, in the early 1990s, once the specter of state-sponsored atheism had disappeared, this immediacy promoted individual expression of beliefs in ways that questioned the church's authority over secular social ethics. Thus, the official church that had protected the spiritual interests of all Poles under communism risked separation from the everyday religious practice that retained great meaning for the average Polish Catholic.


Poland - Other Churches


A total of forty-two non-Catholic church groups existed in Poland in 1989, accounting for about 2 percent of the population. In the communist era, the legal status of these communities was severely restricted. In March 1988, the Polish Ecumenical Council, which represented the major non-Catholic groups, began participating in a commission with government representatives to restore unrestricted freedom of religion. The 1989 law on freedom of conscience and creed redefined the state's relationship to all religions, conferring equal status on the Roman Catholic and the minority churches.

The Greek Catholic Church

The Greek Catholic Church (also called the Uniate Church) was established in 1596 by the Union of Brest-Litovsk. That agreement brought several million Eastern Orthodox Belorussians and Ukrainians under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, although they preserved Orthodox religious rites. From the outset, many in the Orthodox Church strongly opposed Latinization and what they perceived as the compromise of tradition, and conflict between the Greek Catholic Church and both the Polish Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church flared periodically into the early 1990s. In Poland the tense relations between proponents of the Latin and the Greek Catholic rites had relaxed significantly in the 1980s, although serious issues remained unsolved. Among the foremost of those issues was Catholic occupation of Greek Catholic Church property confiscated by the state in the late 1940s.

In 1947 the resettlement of the Ukrainian population from southeastern Poland substantially reduced the practice of Greek Catholicism in Poland. In 1949 Pope Pius XII appointed Wyszynski as the papal delegate to the Greek Catholic congregations of Poland. In 1956 Wyszynski named sixteen Ukrainian priests as the clerical body of the Greek Catholic Church, and a vicar general was also named and installed in Przemysl. In 1981 Glemp named two vicars general for Warsaw and Legnica to improve the church's ministry to the dispersed Ukrainian Greek Catholic communities. Beginning at that time, church administration was divided into northern and southern districts. In 1989 the total membership of the Greek Catholic Church in Poland was estimated at 300,000, with eighty-five centers of worship and fifty-five priests. Twelve candidates were preparing for the Greek Catholic priesthood at the Catholic University of Lublin in 1989; five monasteries and three orders of nuns were active.

The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession

The largest Protestant church in Poland, the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, or Old Lutheran Church, had about 90,000 members in six dioceses in 1989, figures substantially reduced by postwar resettlement of the German minority that made up a large part of the church's membership. Services were conducted in Polish. The membership was concentrated in the Cieszyn Diocese, on the Czechoslovak border southwest of Kraków. Of the original twentysix parishes founded in German communities of Silesia and Pomerania, nineteen remained in 1985. Despite its name, the church was not a formal member of the Germany-based Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession.

The Old Catholic Churches

The Polish National Catholic Church, one of a number of socalled Old Catholic churches worldwide, had about 50,000 members in 1989, organized in dioceses centered in Katowice, Warsaw, Kraków, and Wroc aw. The church claims to retain all genuine Roman Catholic doctrine, while rejecting mainstream Roman Catholic tenets such as the infallibility of the pope and the immaculate conception and assumption of Mary. The thrust of the Polish National Catholic Church's beliefs is a return to "original" doctrine untainted by the addition of any new belief. The church belongs to the Union of Utrecht, which include Old Catholic churches from many countries and is overseen from the Netherlands by the archbishop of Utrecht.

The Mariavite Catholic Church of Poland is a schismatic Old Catholic group excluded from the Union of Utrecht because of unorthodox beliefs. In 1989 its membership in Poland was about 25,000, divided into three dioceses administered from Plock. About thirty priests were active in 1989.

The Polish Ecumenical Council

Founded in 1946 to promote interchurch cooperation, the Polish Ecumenical Council includes nearly all churches except the Polish Catholic Church. In 1989 member churches included the Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Reformed (Calvinist), Old Catholic, and Evangelical churches of Poland. Cooperation with the Polish Catholic Church began in 1974 when the council established a Combined Ecumenical Commission to deal with the analogous ecumenical commission of the Polish Catholic Bishops' Conference. In 1977 the council named a subcommittee for discussion of individual theological questions; by 1980 bilateral dialogs had begun among members sharing similar doctrine. Given Poland's history of religious tolerance, the restoration of religious freedom in 1989 was expected to expand the tentative ecumenical contacts achieved during the communist era.




Throughout the modern history of Poland, education has played a central role in Polish society. Together with the church, formal and informal education helped to preserve national identity and prepare society for future independence during the partition period. In the communist era, education was the chief mode of restructuring society and improving the social mobility of hitherto unprivileged workers. The postcommunist era brought an extensive debate over the goals of restructuring the system and the role of the church in secular education.

The Education Tradition

The education of Polish society was a goal of rulers as early as the twelfth century, when monks were brought from France and Silesia to teach agricultural methods to Polish peasants. Kraków University, founded in 1364 by Kazimierz the Great, became one of Europe's great early universities and a center of intellectual tolerance. Through the eighteenth century, Poland was a refuge for academic figures persecuted elsewhere in Europe for unorthodox ideas. The dissident schools founded by these refugees became centers of avant-garde thought, especially in the natural sciences. The Renaissance and Enlightenment periods in Western Europe brought advanced educational theories to Poland. In 1773 King Stanislaw August established his Commission on National Education, the world's first state ministry of education. This body set up a uniform national education system emphasizing mathematics, natural sciences, and language study. The commission also stressed standardizing elementary education, integrating trade and agricultural skills into the elementary school curriculum, and improving textbooks at all levels.

Eras of Repression

Partition challenged the work of the Commission on National Education because Germany, Austria, and Russia sought to destroy Polish national consciousness by Germanizing and Russifying the education system. During the 123-year partition, pockets of resistance continued teaching and publishing in Polish, and some innovations such as vocational training schools appeared. In general, the Austrian sector had the least developed education system, whereas the least disruption in educational progress occurred in the Prussian sector.

Between 1918 and 1939, the newly independent Poland faced the task of reconstructing a national education system from the three separate systems imposed during partition. Although national secondary education was established in the 1920s, the economic crisis of the 1930s drastically decreased school attendance. Among the educational accomplishments of the interwar period were establishment of state universities in Warsaw, Wilno (Vilnius), and Poznan (available only to the upper classes), numerous specialized secondary schools, and the Polish Academy of Learning.

Between 1939 and 1944, the Nazi occupation sought to annihilate the national Polish culture once again. All secondary and higher schools were closed to Poles, and elementary school curricula were stripped of all national content during this period. In response, an extensive underground teaching movement developed under the leadership of the Polish Teachers' Association and the Committee for Public Education. An estimated 100,000 secondary students attended classes in the underground system during the Nazi occupation.

Under communist regimes, the massive task of postwar education reconstruction emphasized opening institutions of secondary and higher education to the Polish masses and reducing illiteracy. The number of Poles unable to read and write had been estimated at 3 million in 1945. In harmony with the principles of Marxism-Leninism, wider availability of education would democratize the higher professional and technical positions previously dominated by the gentry-based intelligentsia and the wealthier bourgeoisie. Because sweeping industrialization goals also required additional workers with at least minimum skills, the vocational school system was substantially expanded. At least in the first postwar decade, most Poles welcomed the social mobility that these policies offered. On the other hand, Poles generally opposed Marxist revision of Polish history and the emphasis on Russian language and area studies to the detriment of things Polish--practices especially stringent in the first postwar decade, when Stalinist doctrine was transferred wholesale from the Soviet Union and dominated pedagogical practice. During this period, all levels of Polish education were plagued by shortages of buildings and teachers. Capital investment lagged far behind the grandiose goals of centralized planning.

Education reform was an important demand of widespread Polish demonstrations against Stalinism in 1956. Under the new PZPR first secretary, Wladyslaw Gomulka, government education policy rejected the dogmatic programs of Stalinism and in their place began the first period of (fragmentary) postwar education reform. Religious instruction was restored, at the option of parents; by 1957 over 95 percent of schools had resumed offering such instruction. In the vocational program, agricultural training schools were added, and technical courses were restructured to afford greater contact with actual industrial operations. By 1961, however, state doctrine followed the generally conservative turn of Polish politics by again describing the goal of education as preparing workers to build the socialist state.

The Law on the Development of Education Systems, passed in 1961, established four formal principles that reiterated the goals of the pre-1956 system and endured through the rest of the communist era. The education system was to prepare qualified employees for industry, to develop proper attitudes of citizenship in the Polish People's Republic, to propagate the values of the working classes everywhere, and to instill respect for work and national values. Education was specifically described as a function of the state, and schools were to be secular in nature. Religious institutions could sponsor schools under strict limitations, however, and the church was permitted to establish a network of separate religious education centers to compensate for this restriction. In 1968 the return of strict communist dogma to school curricula was an important stimulus for a national wave of student demonstrations. Although the Gierek regime sought broad education reform when it took power in 1970, the uneven progress of reform programs in the 1970s led to further unrest and diminished the role of education in state control of society.

In the communist era, two levels of education management existed. At the central level, the Ministry of National Education was the chief organ of state administration. That agency prescribed course content, textbooks, principles of school operation, standards for admissions and scholarship awards, examination procedures, and interschool relations throughout the country. At the local level, superintendents established personnel policy, hired and trained personnel, and oversaw other local institutions having educational functions. The daily functioning of each individual school was administered by a headmaster and a pedagogical council.

The Drive for Education Reform

In the Solidarity movement of 1980, student and teacher organizations demanded a complete restructuring of the centralized system and autonomy for local educational jurisdictions and institutions. In response, the Jaruzelski government issued sympathetic statements and appointed committees, but few meaningful changes ensued in the 1980s. Although an education crisis was recognized widely and experts advised that education could not be viewed in isolation from Poland's other social problems, the PZPR continued making cosmetic changes in the system until the party was voted out of office in 1989. The political events of that year were the catalyst for fundamental change in the Polish education system.

The round table discussions of early 1989 between the government and opposition leaders established a special commission on education questions, which was dominated by the Solidarity view that political dogma should be removed from education and the heavily bureaucratized state monopoly of education should end. That view also required autonomy for local school administrations and comprehensive upgrading of material support. Accordingly, the Office of Innovation and Independent Schools was established in 1990 to create the legislative basis for government support of private schools established by individuals and civic organizations. In a compromise with communists remaining in parliament, state subsidies were set at 50 percent of the state's per-student cost. The new private schools featured smaller classes of ten to fifteen students, higher teacher salaries, and complete freedom for educational innovation. Tuition was to be high, from 40,000 to 50,000 zloty per month, with scholarships available for poorer students with high grades. In the first eighteen months, about 250 new private schools appeared, 100 of which were affiliated with the Catholic Church. In 1990 the total enrollment of 15,000 reflected parental caution toward the new system, but the figure rose steadily in 1992. The Ministry of National Education viewed the alternative schools as a stimulus for reform of the public school system.

In 1990 Minister of National Education Henryk Samsonowicz established interim national minimum requirements while offering teachers maximum flexibility in choosing methodology. The drafts of new education laws to replace the 1961 law called for the "autonomy of schools as societies of students, teachers, and parents," with final responsibility for instructional content and methods. Controversy over the laws centered not on their emphasis on autonomy and democracy, but on the relative status of interest groups within the proposed system. Disagreements on such issues postponed the effective date of the new Polish education laws until September 1991.

The most controversial aspect of the new law was the status of religious education in public schools. A 1991 directive from the Ministry of National Education required that every student receive a grade in religion or ethics. For many Poles, this meant an invasion of the constitutional right to keep silent about religious convictions as well as recognition of a church education authority rivaling secular authority. Many other Poles, however, considered separation of the church from education to be a continuation of communist policies and a weakening of the national moral fabric.

Structure of the Education System

Poland's postcommunist education legislation left intact the public structures established by the 1961 education law. In that system, the first stage was kindergarten, attended by children between three and seven years of age. City kindergarten schools were open from seven to eleven hours per day and designed their programs to accommodate the schedules of working parents. Schools in rural areas were open from five to eight hours, depending on the season and on agricultural requirements. The level of education and auxiliary services was generally much lower in rural schools, and kindergarten attendance there was roughly half that in the cities. Some primary schools also had kindergarten sections, whose graduates continued to the next level in the same institution. The cost of kindergarten education was shared by the government and parents. Under the communist system, the cost of kindergarten education had been paid wholly by the parents. In 1992 the 23,900 kindergartens in operation included 11,000 separate kindergartens and 12,900 kindergarten sections.

Eight years of primary school were obligatory in both the communist and the postcommunist systems. Children entered this phase at age seven and remained until they completed the program or until they turned seventeen. Foreignlanguage instruction was widely available. Some special schools were available for students gifted in the arts or sports, and special courses were designed for physically or mentally handicapped students.

Poland's acute shortage of classroom space required double shifts and large classes (thirty to forty students) in most primary schools. Some schools provided after-school programs for students in grades one to three whose parents both worked; older students, however, were released at the end of the school day, regardless of their home situation. In 1992 some 5.3 million children were in primary school; new enrollments dropped 2.9 percent from the previous year.

In 1991 over 95 percent of primary-school graduates continued to some form of secondary education. Admission to the secondary level was by examination and overall primary-school records. In general, the students with the highest primary achievement went into a college preparatory track, those with the lowest into a trade-school track. Of pupils completing primary school in 1991, about 43 percent went to three-year trade schools (specializing in various trades, from hairdressing to agriculture), 25 percent to four-year vocational lycea and to technical schools, and 26 percent to college preparatory schools. The last category grew by 3.2 percent between 1990 and 1991, while the other two fell slightly. Of the three categories, only the first provides a trade immediately upon graduation. Students in the other two categories require further education at a university or at a twoyear postsecondary schools to prepare them for employment. Some college preparatory schools combine a variety of nontechnical subjects in their curricula; others specialize in humanities, mathematics and physical sciences, biology and chemistry, sports, or classical subjects. In 1987 these schools enrolled more than twice as many girls as boys; about 11 percent of secondary-school students received scholarships. Students passing final exams in the college preparatory program are permitted to take university entrance exams.

Most technical programs are five years in length. Such programs are offered in economics, art, music, theater production, and teacher training (a six-year track). Many students live at secondary technical schools because some districts have only one such school. The government and parents share board and room expenses; tuition is free. The Polish Catholic Church also operates fourteen high schools, whose curricula were state-mandated until 1989.

To enroll at the university level, students have to pass entrance exams. Institutions at this level include full universities (of which Poland had twelve in 1990), polytechnical schools, academies, and specialized colleges. In 1988 the largest of these were Warsaw University (23,300 students), Marie CurieSklodowska University in Lublin (12,900), Adam Mickewiecz University at Poznan (12,100), the Warsaw Technical School (12,000), and the Silesian University at Katowice (11,400).

The polytechnical schools offer theoretical and applied training in such fields as electronics, engineering, computer science, and construction. Academies specialize in medicine, fine arts, economics, agriculture, sports, or theology; thirty-four academies were in operation in 1990. In that year, twenty-nine specialized colleges were training students in pedagogy, oceanography, and art. College enrollment increased each year between 1989 and 1992. In 1992 some 430,000 persons attended college, 330,000 as full-time students; initial enrollment for the 1991-92 school year was 17.7 percent higher than for the previous year.

As a rule, students pursue postgraduate degrees as members of an academic team working under a single professor. Continued progress through the academic ranks depends on regular evaluation of scholarly activity and publications, and failure to meet requirements means removal from the program. Polish postgraduate studies programs, which culminate in doctoral degrees, suffer from lack of material support, low salaries, and low demand for individuals with advanced degrees in the job market. In the late 1980s, these factors made the dropout rate very high and forced cancellation of several programs. Between 1982 and 1992, Poland suffered a serious "brain drain" in higher education and the sciences as more than 15,000 scientists emigrated or changed their profession.




The fall of centralized state planning and the onset of massive economic and social reform put new strains on Poland's health and welfare systems, whose nominally full and equal coverage had been increasingly faulty in the 1980s. In the last decade of communist rule, national health care suffered from poor material support, inaccessible medical personnel and facilities, and poor organization. At the same time, critical national health indicators for the 1970s and 1980s showed many negative trends. Likewise, access to social services, nominally equal for all workers, was limited by the availability of welfare funds in individual enterprises during the communist era. Because no national standards existed, some enterprises offered their employees no social services at all, while others offered a wide range. By 1989 the material position of low-income families and pensioners was especially desperate. The economic "shock therapy" begun in 1990 by the Balcerowicz Plan further reduced the level of guaranteed health and welfare services, to which a large part of Polish society had become accustomed under communist regimes.

Health Conditions

In the two decades after World War II, the health of Poland's people improved overall, as antibiotics became available and the standard of living rose in most areas. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, alarming trends appeared in certain national health statistics. Between 1970 and 1986, the mortality rate rose from 8.1 to 10.1 persons per 1,000, and from 8.8 to 10.9 males per 1,000. The increase was sharpest among males between the ages of forty-five and fifty-four. For the same period, working days lost because of illness or accidents increased by 45 percent. Between 1988 and 1991, the incidence of newborns requiring intensive care rose from 2.9 to 4.5 percent. Experts listed the major contributing factors as high levels of air and water pollution, unsatisfactory working conditions, overcrowded housing, psychological depression because of deteriorating economic conditions, poorly balanced diets, alcoholism, and deterioration of health services, especially in prenatal and postnatal care.

<>The Health Care System
<>AIDS, Narcotics and Alcoholism
<>The Welfare System


Poland - The Health Care System


The constitution of 1952 guaranteed universal free health care. In the last two decades of the communist era, however, such care became progressively less dependable for those without informal support networks or enough money to buy health care outside the official system. As early as 1970, Polish governments recognized the need to reform the cumbersome, inefficient national health care system, but vested interests in the central planning system prevented meaningful change. From the beginning, administration of the system was inefficient. The structure of the medical profession did not supply enough general practitioners, and medical personnel such as dentists and nurses were in short supply. Treatment facilities were too few and crowded, preventive medicine received little attention, and the quality of care was generally much poorer in rural areas. As in other communist countries, the finest medical facilities were reserved for the party elite.

In the postcommunist reform period, constriction of the state budget and fragmentary privatization of medical practices made the availability of health care unpredictable for many Poles. After inheriting a deteriorating health care system, Polish policy makers placed their near-term hopes on reducing bureaucracy, encouraging self-government in the medical profession, shifting resources to more efficient departments, and streamlining admissions and diagnosis procedures.

In 1992 Poland had fifty-seven hospital beds per 10,000 citizens, about half the ratio of beds available in France and Germany. The ratio had been declining since the 1960s; in 1991 alone, however, over 2,500 beds and nearly 100 clinics and dispensaries were eliminated in the drive for consolidation and efficiency. Already in the mid-1980s, about 50 percent of the medicines officially available could not be obtained by the average Pole, and the average hospital had been in service sixtyfive years. Because the reform budgets of the early 1990s included gradual cuts in the funding of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, additional targeted cuts of 10 to 20 percent were expected in clinics and hospital beds by 1994. The long-term goal of Polish health policy was a complete conversion of state budget-supported socialized medicine to a privately administered health system supported by a universal obligatory health insurance fee. Under such a system, fees would be shared equally by workers and enterprises. Before introduction of that system, which was not expected until at least 1995, interim funding was to depend heavily on a patchwork of voluntary contributions and local and national health-care taxes. Even after 1995, however, planners projected that the state budget would continue contributing to the national health care fund until the insurance system became self-sufficient. The state would now contribute directly, however, bypassing the old health care bureaucracy.


Poland - AIDS, Narcotics and Alcoholism


In 1991 Poland's overall mortality rate increased to 10.6 deaths per 1,000 persons, from the 1990 figure of 10.2 per 1,000. In the same period, infant mortality remained constant at 15.9 per 1,000. About 50 percent of the 405,000 deaths in 1991 were attributed to circulatory diseases, and another 20 percent were caused by malignant tumors. Poland's communist regimes partially or completely ignored a number of major health problems, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), drug addiction, and alcoholism. Only with the open discussion that began in 1989 did the extent of these problems become clear. Solutions, on the other hand, were often blocked in the postcommunist years by popular distrust of state authority, controversy between church and state, and lack of resources.


AIDS emerged as an issue in Poland later than in the West-- partly because of communist suppression of statistics, partly because the epidemic apparently reached Poland later. In 1991 the government officially estimated that 2,000 Poles had been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), whereas an independent health expert put the figure at 100,000. This statistical discrepancy reflected Poland's late start in testing the groups at highest risk of infection. Narcotics addicts were endangered particularly because the drug in widest use in Poland was administered and distributed by syringe, one of the most potent means of HIV transmission. Early efforts to control the spread of HIV were hampered by public ignorance and superstition; in 1992 about 70 percent of Poles believed they could not be infected, while many believed that water and mosquitoes were carriers. The total lack of sex education programs in the schools (the Polish Catholic Church forced their removal after the communist era) and the disinclination of political and religious leaders to address the issue publicly further hindered prevention efforts.

Twice in 1991, World Health Organization (WHO) teams evaluated the Polish situation and proposed a program to combat the spread of AIDS. The teams advised that, to prevent the disease from spreading from high-risk groups to society at large, information on the epidemic be given maximum dissemination to certain less visible groups that were likely victims of the second phase of the disease. The most urgent target groups were the prostitute community--whose numbers in 1992 were estimated to be as high as 180,000--and their potential customers. At that point, however, a comprehensive information program was impossible because the country lacked trained workers and money for training programs. Other obstacles were lack of modern diagnostic technology and poor hygiene in public health facilities. In 1991 WHO allocated a small fund for a three-year education and prevention program in Poland.


As in the case of AIDS victims, communist regimes denied the existence of drug addicts. The first private drug treatment center opened in 1970, and in the 1970s health and legal professionals discussed the drug problem guardedly. Not until the 1980s were organizations founded to combat drug addiction, and they were harassed and limited by government agencies until 1989. In 1992 between 4,000 and 5,000 Poles dependent on narcotics were being treated at facilities of the national health service or social organizations. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare estimated that 200,000 to 250,000 persons were taking drugs at that time, however. In 1991 some 190 deaths were attributed to drug overdoses. Addicts under treatment were predominantly from the working class and the intelligentsia, male, and younger than thirty years of age (nearly half were under twenty-four). The most commonly abused substance, kompot, was a powerful and physically devastating drug readily produced from the poppy plants grown widely in Poland. The drug was injected intravenously. Kompot moved through society via informal networks operating independently of the international drug market.

In the period from 1986 to 1992, drug abuse in Poland remained stable despite declining standards of living, rising unemployment, and a rising overall crime rate. As barriers to the West fell, however, amphetamine manufacture and trafficking introduced a new threat. By 1992, amphetamines from Poland were considered as serious a threat in Germany and Scandinavia as imported cocaine and heroine; at that time, an estimated 20 percent of amphetamines in Western Europe originated in Polish laboratories. The confiscation of 150 kilograms of cocaine in Poland in 1991 also indicated that domestic narcotics production was diversifying, and local authorities feared that Colombian drug cartels were investing in that activity. To counter criminal drug producers, who also were involved in other types of crime, Poland established a National Drug Bureau in 1991. Because kompot remained much cheaper and more accessible in the early 1990s, however, the Polish market for amphetamines remained very small. Meanwhile, a 1990 law made illegal the cultivation of poppies without a government permit, and a new, morphine-free poppy species was introduced in 1991 to enable farmers to continue poppy cultivation.

In 1992 nineteen of Poland's drug rehabilitation centers were operated by the Young People's Movement to Combat Drug Addiction (known by its Polish acronym, MONAR). Although hundreds of people were cured in such centers in the 1980s, the severe treatment methods of MONAR's two-year program caused controversy in the Polish health community. For that reason, in 1990 the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare began opening clinics that emphasized preparing individuals for life after treatment.


The older generations of Poles escaped narcotics addiction, but alcoholism is a problem in all generations. Alcohol consumption is an integral part of Polish social tradition, and nondrinkers are relatively rare. Per capita consumption increased significantly after World War II, however, and consumption remained above the European average throughout the communist period. Children often began drinking when still in primary school. Government programs nominally discouraged excessive drinking, but the importance of revenue from the Polish alcohol industry restricted their activity. Throughout the 1980s, the percentage of strong alcoholic beverages in overall consumption rose steadily, putting Poland near the top among nations in that statistic. In 1977 an estimated 4.3 million Poles consumed the equivalent of more than 48 liters of pure alcohol per person per year; of that number, about 1 million were believed to be clinically alcohol-dependent. In 1980 the average male Pole over sixteen years of age consumed the equivalent of 16.6 liters of pure alcohol per year.


Poland - The Welfare System


The communist central planning system made a wide variety of payments to subsidize citizens in certain categories and encourage or discourage the activities of citizens in other categories. By the mid-1980s, the planning labyrinth created by such payments was such a fiscal burden that severe cuts were made in some payments. Like the health system, Poland's welfare system underwent substantial decentralization and restructuring, and all parts of the system suffered from limited funding in the transition period that began in 1989. Although a higher percentage of the population needed welfare services because of high unemployment in that period, the need to reduce the government's budget deficit caused drastic cuts in many services. Eventual reversal of this trend depends upon the speed with which Poland's economy rebounds from its transition crisis and upon the efficiency of the new welfare bureaucracies.

Structural Change

Until 1989 social policy making was centralized in the Planning Commission of the Council of Ministers. The postcommunist reforms placed social policy responsibility in the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, with the aim of liberating social policy from its communist-era linkage with economic policy considerations. The social welfare policy of the postcommunist governments was planned in two phases. The first stage included short-term measures to offset the income losses of certain groups resulting from government antiinflation policy. These measures varied from the setting up of soup kitchens and partial payment of heating bills to reorganization of the social assistance system. The second, long-term policy aims at rebuilding the institutions of the system to conform with the future market economy envisioned by planners. Communal and regional agencies are to assume previously centralized functions, and authority is to be shared with private social agencies and charities.

Welfare Benefits

In the late 1980s, Poland spent about 22 percent of its gross national product (GNP) on social benefits in the form of monetary payments or services. At that time, over 5 million Poles received retirement or disability pensions, and about 100,000 were added yearly in the latter category. In the years of labor shortage, government incentives encouraged pensioners to continue to work past retirement age (sixty-five for men, sixty for women). In the early 1980s, the number of invalids receiving benefits increased from 2.5 million to 3.6 million, straining the welfare system. The communist system also paid benefits to single mothers with preschool children, sickness benefits for workers, income supplements and nonrepayable loans to the poor, and education grants to nearly 75 percent of students, in addition to providing nominally free health care, cultural and physical education facilities. By the mid-1980s, however, all the free, state-funded services were being considered for privatization, fees, or rationing.

In the first postcommunist years, social support programs for the unemployed underwent important changes. The initial postcommunist policy guaranteed unemployment benefits and retraining regardless of the reason for a person's unemployed status. Benefits were to be paid indefinitely and were based on previous pay or on the national minimum wage for those who had never worked. Benefits included old-age, disability, and survivors' pensions and compensation for work injuries, sickness, maternity, and family-related expenses. Although the system covered both industry and agriculture, enterprises in the industrial sector paid much higher surcharges (usually 45 percent of the worker's salary) to the benefit fund than did either the agriculture or housing sectors.

In 1991 and early 1992, a series of laws drastically reduced the coverage of the unemployment program. Under the modified policies, benefits no longer went to those who had never been employed; a twelve-month limit was placed on all payments; and benefit levels were lowered by pegging them to income the previous quarter rather than to the last salary received. This reform immediately disqualified 27 percent of previous beneficiaries, and that percentage was expected to rise in ensuing years.

In 1992 the Warsaw welfare office divided its benefit payments among 4,500 recipients of permanent benefits, 8,500 recipients of temporary benefits, and 25,500 recipients of housing assistance. The public assistance law entitled one person per family to permanent benefits at the official minimum subsistence level. Throughout Poland, the demand for welfare assistance grew steadily between 1990 and 1992, well beyond the financial and organizational capabilities of the state system. The shortage affected a wide range of social categories: the homeless and unemployed, AIDS victims, families of alcoholics, and the elderly. According to a 1991 study, 18 percent of Polish children lived in poverty. Thus, the postcommunist conversion of a state-sponsored and state-controlled economy reverberated strongly in the "social security" that communism had promised but very often failed to deliver in the 1980s.


Poland - The Economy


POLAND'S ECONOMIC GROWTH was favored by relatively rich natural resources for both agriculture and industry. Eastern Europe's largest producer of food, Poland based its sizeable and varied industrial sector on ample coal supplies that made it the world's fourth largest coal producer in the 1970s. The most productive industries, such as equipment manufacturing and food processing, were built on the country's coal and soil resources, respectively, and energy supply still depended almost entirely on coal in the early 1990s.

After World War II, Poland's new communist rulers reorganized the economy on the model of state socialism established by Joseph V. Stalin in the Soviet Union. The result was the predominance of heavy industry, large enterprises, a topheavy centralized bureaucracy controlling every aspect of production. Considerations such as consumer demand and worker job satisfaction, familiar in Western capitalist systems, were ignored. Isolated from the processes of the marketplace, pricing and production levels were set to advance the master plans of the ruling party. The socioeconomic disproportions that resulted from this isolation were a burdensome legacy to the reform governments in the early postcommunist era.

Poland's abundant agricultural resources remained largely in private hands during the communist period, but the state strongly influenced that sector through taxes, controls on materials, and limits on the size of private plots. Many small industries and crafts also remained outside direct state control.

The Polish economy also was isolated from the international economy by the postwar nationalization of foreign trade. Reforms in the 1970s and 1980s gradually gave individual enterprises more direct control over their foreign trade activities, bypassing much of the state planning machinery. But until 1990 Polish trade policy remained severely limited by its obligations to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon), which was dominated by the Soviet Union. Although price supports helped Poland's balance of trade within the system, they also encouraged inefficient and low-quality production that discouraged trade with the rest of the world.

Failure of central state planning to yield economic growth inspired social unrest and official policy reform in the 1970s and the early 1980s, but no real change occurred until the installation of a noncommunist government in mid-1989. With massive public support, the first noncommunist government imposed a shocktherapy reform program in 1990. This program included privatization of all parts of the Polish economy and a rapid shift from the unrealistic state planning system to a Westernstyle market economy. The momentum of the early reform days flagged in the next two years, however. In 1992 signs of economic progress were very uneven. Consumer goods became much more available, but the continued existence of inefficient state enterprises lowered productivity significantly, unemployment rose, and inflation became a serious threat after initially being reduced to virtually zero.

In its efforts to westernize its economy after 1989, Poland relied heavily on expertise and financial support from international financial institutions. Although its substantial hard-currency debt was partially forgiven in 1991, the remains of the communist management system hindered efficient use of foreign capital and discouraged the foreign investment that Poland vigorously sought. Thus, by 1992 what was initially planned as a brief period of painful economic adjustment had become a much longer ordeal that had brought mixed results.





Poland's rapid postwar industrialization was supported by a combination of readily available natural resources, especially economically important minerals. After the era of communist economics and politics ended in 1989, however, industrial policy makers contemplated major changes in the balance of resource consumption.

Minerals and Fuels

Coal is Poland's most important mineral resource. In 1980 total reserves were estimated at 130 billion tons. The largest coal deposits are located in Upper Silesia in the southwestern part of the country, where large-scale mining began in the nineteenth century. Silesian deposits, generally of high quality and easily accessible, accounted for about 75 percent of the country's hard coal resources and 97 percent of its extraction in the 1980s. The Lublin region of eastern Poland was exploited in the 1980s as part of an expansion program to supplement Silesian hard coal for industry and export. But development of this relatively poor, geologically difficult, and very expensive field ended in 1990. A number of unprofitable Upper Silesian mines also were to be closed in the early 1990s.

Poland also has significant quantities of lignite in the district of Zielona Góra in the west and in two districts located in the central part of the country between the Vistula and the Oder rivers. This low-quality fuel has been used on a large scale for the production of electricity, despite its very damaging effect on the environment. Plans called for gradual reduction of lignite extraction and use in the 1990s.

Natural gas is extracted mostly in Upper Silesia, Lower Silesia, and in the southeastern part of the country. Production expanded in the 1960s and 1970s, then declined in the next decade. In 1989 domestic production covered 43 percent of the country's total requirement.

A major offshore oilfield was discovered in the Baltic Sea in 1985. Including that field and the older fields in the Carpathian Mountains in southeastern Poland, total oil reserves were estimated at 100 million tons in 1990. Poland remained heavily dependent on the Soviet Union for petroleum throughout the 1980s.

Large reserves of sulfur at Tarnobrzeg and Staszów in the south-central region make that material Poland's most important nonmetallic export mineral. Favorable geological conditions have supported large-scale operations in three mines yielding about 5 million tons annually. About 3 million tons of sulfuric acid, along with several other chemicals, are produced each year.

Poland has limited deposits of some nonferrous metal ores. The most significant is copper, which is extracted in large quantities at ten mines in Lower Silesia in southwestern Poland. Copper production expanded greatly after discovery of major new deposits in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1990 annual copper ore output was about 26 million tons, and 51 percent of electrolytic copper was exported. In 1982 Poland had the world's fifth-largest deposits of lead and zinc (which occur in association). The annual output of lead and zinc ores was about 5 million tons, supporting annual production of 164 thousand tons of zinc and 78,000 tons of lead. In 1990 about 76 percent of Poland's zinc and nearly all its lead were used by domestic industry.

Although Poland had some fairly large iron ore deposits, this ore requires enrichment before processing. Until the 1970s, the main source of iron ore was the district of Czestochowa; but output there declined sharply in the early 1980s, and other deposits were of poor quality or provided such small quantities that exploitation was unprofitable. The country depended on iron imports from the Soviet Union and Sweden to support the rapid expansion of the steel industry that was a high priority in the communist era.

Rich deposits of salt provide an important raw material for the chemical industry. Salt mining, which began in the Middle Ages, was concentrated in the Wieliczka-Bochnia area near Kraków until the middle of the twentieth century; then the major saltmining operations moved to a large deposit running northwest from ód in central Poland. Salt is extracted in two ways: by removing it in solid form and by dissolving it underground, then pumping brine to the surface. Annual output declined from 6.2 million tons in 1987 and 1988 to 4.7 million tons in 1989. Other mineral resources include bauxite, barite, gypsum, limestone, and silver (a byproduct of processing other metals).

Agricultural Resources

Poland's climate features moderate temperatures and adequate rainfall that enable cultivation of most temperate-zone crops, including all the major grains, several industrial crops, and several varieties of fruit. Crops are distributed according to the substantial regional variations in soil and length of growing season. The sandy soils of the central plains are most suitable for rye, the richer soil in the south favors wheat and barley, and the poorer soil of the north is used for oats. All parts of Poland favor potato cultivation; sugar beets, the most important industrial crop, grow mainly in the west and southeast.

Labor Force

At the end of 1991, about 30.7 percent of Poland's estimated population of 38.3 million lived in urban centers with populations of 100,000 or more. The priority given urbanization and industrialization in postwar Poland caused the urban working class to grow dramatically and the rural working class to shrink proportionately in the first decade of communist rule. This process slowed considerably over the next three decades.

In 1989 nearly 22 million Poles were of working age: 11.3 million men between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four years and 10.6 million women between ages eighteen and fifty-nine. The population was relatively well educated. In 1988 about 1.8 million people had a postsecondary education, another 7.0 million had a secondary education, and 6.7 million had a basic trade education.

In 1989 the total labor force of 18.4 million included 36.8 percent employed in manufacturing, mining, and construction; 25.7 percent in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; and 7.1 percent in transport and communications. About 12 million workers, or 70 percent of the work force, worked in the state sector in 1990.

The communist system was marked by major inequality of labor allocation. In spite of considerable overstaffing in both production and administrative units, labor shortages were a perennial problem in other areas of the economy. Unemployment began to grow in January 1990, partly as the result of the reform policies of the postcommunist governments and partly because of the collapse of markets in the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), which were Poland's most important trading partners in Comecon. At the end of 1991, unemployment had reached 11.4 percent. Unemployment benefits, an unemployment insurance system, and some retraining were introduced in early 1990.

Wage increases in the state sector were controlled by a very steep tax on wages that exceeded prescribed levels. In the private sector, the labor market operated without such restrictions, however. Wages generally were low in the first reform years. In 1991 the average monthly wage was 2,301,200 zloty, not including agricultural labor and positions in education, health and social services, culture, law and order, national defense, and public administration. At that time, however, rents were low, electricity, gas, and fuels remained partly subsidized, and medical services were free.

In 1992 two nationwide labor unions existed. The Solidarity labor union (Solidarnosc) was internationally known for the decade of strikes and efforts to achieve reform that finally thrust it into a central political role in 1989. The National Coalition of Labor Unions, originally established by the communist government after the suppression of Solidarity in the early 1980s, became independent of state control in 1990 and began to compete with Solidarity for members.




After World War II, a centrally planned socialist system was transplanted to Poland from the Soviet Union without any consideration for the differences in the level of development of the country, or its size, resource endowment, or cultural, social, and political traditions. The inadequacies of that system left Poland in an economic crisis in the late 1980s.

System Structure

The new system was able to mobilize resources, but it could not ensure their efficient use. High but uneven rates of growth of the net material product (NMP), also called "national income" in Marxist terminology, were recorded over a rather long period. However, these gains were made at the expense of large investment outlays. Lacking support from foreign capital, these outlays could be financed only by severe restriction of consumption and a very high ratio of accumulation (forced saving) in the NMP.

During the communist period, the same cycle of errors occurred in Poland as in the other state-planned economies. The political and economic system enabled planners to select any rate of accumulation and investment; but, in the absence of direct warning signals from the system, accumulation often exceeded the optimum rate. Investment often covered an excessively broad front and had an over-extended gestation period; disappointingly low growth rates resulted from diminishing capital returns and from the lowering of worker incentives by excessive regulation of wages and constriction of consumption. Planners reacted to these conditions by further increasing the rate of accumulation and the volume of investment.

Investment funds mobilized in this wasteful way then were allocated without regard to consumer preference. Planners directed money to projects expected to speed growth in the economy. Again, considerable waste resulted from overinvestment in some branches and underinvestment in others. To achieve the required labor increases outside agriculture, planners manipulated participation ratios, especially of women, and made large-scale transfers of labor from rural areas. Shortages of capital and labor became prevalent despite government efforts to maintain equitable distribution.

An example of inefficient state planning was the unpaid exchange of technical documentation and blueprints among Comecon members on the basis of the Sofia Agreement of 1949. The countries of origin had no incentive to make improvements before making plans available to other members of Comecon, even when improved technology was known to be available. For this reason, new factories often were obsolete by the time of completion. In turn, the machines and equipment these factories produced froze industry at an obsolete technological level.

The institutional framework of the centrally planned economy was able to insulate it to some extent from the impact of world economic trends. As a result, domestic industry was not exposed to foreign competition that would force improvements in efficiency or to foreign innovations that would make such improvements possible. Above all, the isolation of the system kept domestic prices totally unrelated to world prices.

Prices were determined administratively on the basis of costs plus a fixed percentage of planned profit. Because every increase in production costs was absorbed by prices, the system provided no incentive for enterprises to reduce costs. On the contrary, higher costs resulted in a higher absolute value of profit, from which the enterprise hierarchy financed its bonuses and various amenities. When the price was fixed below the level of costs, the government provided subsidies, ensuring the enterprise its planned rate of profit. Enterprises producing the same types of goods belonged to administrative groups, called associations in the 1980s. Each of these groups was supervised by one of the industrial ministries. The ministry and the association controlled and coordinated the activities of all state enterprises and defended the interests of a given industry. The enterprises belonging to a given industrial group were not allowed to compete among themselves, and the profit gained by the most efficient was transferred to finance losses incurred by the least efficient. This practice further reduced incentives to seek profits and avoid losses.

In this artificial atmosphere, prices could not be related to market demand; and without a genuine price mechanism, resources could not be allocated efficiently. Much capital was wasted on enterprises of inappropriate size, location, and technology. Furthermore, planners could not identify which enterprises contributed to national income and which actually reduced it by using up more resources than the value added by their activities. The inability to make such distinctions was particularly harmful to the selection of products for export and decisions concerning import substitution, i.e., what should be produced within the country rather than imported.

Development Strategy

In the postwar years, all East European countries including Poland adopted a fundamentally similar inward-looking development strategy following the Soviet model of accelerated industrialization and collectivization of agriculture. Planners attempted to enforce excessively high rates of growth and to achieve a relatively high degree of self-sufficiency. Strong autarkic tendencies were modified only by the shifting import requirements of the Soviet Union and by specialization agreements within Comecon; those agreements were limited, however, by their insulation from the factors of real profitability and comparative advantage.

In 1945 the Polish economy was completely disorganized and urgently needed reestablishment of its prewar industrial base. The initial central planning organization that began work in Poland in late 1945 stressed socialist rather than communist economic goals: relative decentralization, increased consumer goods production to raise the standard of living, and moderate investment in production facilities. In 1949, however, that approach was scrapped in favor of the completely centralized Soviet planning model. During the 1950s, planners followed Stalin's requirements for a higher growth rate in heavy industry than the overall industrial rate and a higher growth rate in the steel industry than that of heavy industry as a whole. This approach neglected the other economic sectors: agriculture, infrastructure, housing, services, and consumer goods. The sectors that were emphasized were all capital-, fuel-, and material-intensive. Materials shortages had developed already in the Comecon group by the 1960s. In response, Poland was required to expand its extraction of coal, copper, and sulfur, as well as its production of steel and other basic industrial materials without considering costs.

Stalinist planning also forcibly redirected foreign economic relations. Poland's extensive interwar commercial links with Western Europe were reduced, and some important prewar markets were lost as trade with the Soviet Union expanded rapidly. For Poland this trade was based mainly on export of coal and manufactured goods primarily from the rapidly growing heavy industries. In return, Poland became dependent on the supply of Soviet oil, natural gas, iron ore, and some other raw materials. This arrangement meant that Poland's industrial structure adjusted to Soviet needs and specifications, yielding many products that could be sold only to the Soviet Union or its allies. Thus exports became heavily dependent on markets in Comecon.




This development strategy brought about a specific pattern of economic growth in Poland. As in the other centrally planned economies, rates of growth depended on increases in the quantity of inputs rather than on improvements in productivity. Material production remained high as long as greater quantities of inputs were available. This pattern of growth priorities and the emerging industrial structure left no possibility of raising wages significantly. Wages had been reduced during the first industrialization drive of the early 1950s. For this reason, the Polish standard of living lagged behind that of Western Europe as the continent recovered from World War II. Already in the first postwar decade, awareness of this disparity began to cause social unrest, a situation that became a tradition during the next thirty-five years.

Establishing the Planning Formula

Centralized planning ranged from broad, long-range statements of fundamental future development to guidance on the operation of specific enterprises. The basic planning unit for transformation of the Polish economy was the five-year plan, the first of which began in 1956. Within that framework, current production goals were established in an annual operational plan, called the National Economic Plan. As the years passed, these plans contained more and more specific detail; because requirements and supplies could not be forecast in advance, plans were inconsistent and constantly needed revision.

The Soviet system had already encountered difficulties, however, in the overly ambitious Six-Year Plan of 1950-55. Maladjustments, shortages, and bottlenecks appeared in the implementation of that plan, which was intended to create the infrastructure for the industrial future: heavy industry, mining, and power generation. In 1956, after workers' riots in Poznan, a general uprising was averted only by a change in the leadership of the communist party, the Polish United Workers' Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza--PZPR). The new government of Wladyslaw Gomulka promised modification of the system and changes in the development strategy. Consumer goods received a larger share of the national product, and some quantities of grain and food were imported from the West. State control was mitigated by giving limited policy input to enterprises, and the rate of investment was reduced. Although a lively debate occurred on socalled "market socialism," actual systemic reforms were limited and short-lived. Among the reform measures of 1956, the only significant lasting change was the decollectivization of agriculture.

Retrenchment and Adjustment in the 1960s

By the early 1960s, economic directives again came only from the center, and heavy industry once more received disproportionate investment. At that point, the government began a new industrialization drive, which was again far too ambitious. Rates of investment were excessive, the number of unfinished industrial projects increased, and the time required for project completion was considerably extended. Structural distortions increased, and the rates of growth in high-priority sectors were adversely affected by the slower than expected growth in lowpriority sectors. Bottlenecks and shortages increased inefficiency. By the late 1960s, the economy was clearly stagnant, consumer goods were extremely scarce, and planners sought new approaches to avoid repetition of the social upheavals of 1956. At this point, suppression of consumption to its previous levels had become politically dangerous, making a high rate of accumulation problematic at a time when demand for investment funds was growing rapidly. Because of these factors, additional investment funds were allocated to the neglected infrastructure and to the production of consumer goods.

Modernization efforts stressed technological restructuring rather than fundamental systemic reforms. However, a policy of "selective development," introduced in 1968, required another acceleration of investments at the expense of consumption. Selective development and a new system of selectively applied financial incentives ended in the worker riots of December 1970 and a second forced change in the communist leadership in Poland. Meanwhile, no funds were invested in remedying the environmental crisis already being caused by excessive reliance on "dirty" lignite in the drive for heavy industrialization.

These conditions necessitated a switch from an "extensive" growth pattern (unlimited inputs) to an "intensive" pattern of growth that would ensure high rates of growth through improvements in productivity rather than in the amount of inputs. The new emphasis helped drive another reorganization of industry in the early 1970s. State enterprises were combined into a number of huge conglomerates called Big Economic Organizations. They were expected to increase efficiency by economies of scale. Wage increases were tied to net increases in the value of outputs as an incentive to labor productivity. In practice, however, central planners could now control a smaller number of industrial units and regulate their activities more intensely. The system was never implemented fully, and no improvement in efficiency resulted. The failure of the 1973 reform demonstrated that the technological level of industrial products was still too low to permit significant increases in efficiency.

Reliance on Technology in the 1970s

In the early 1970s, East-West detente, the accumulation of petrodollars in Western banks, and a recession in the West created an opportunity for Eastern Europe to import technology and capital from the West to restructure and modernize its industrial base. Poland was relatively late in introducing this so-called "new development strategy," but it eventually went further in this direction than its Comecon allies. The share of trade with Comecon declined, and trade with other countries increased quite dramatically during the first half of the 1970s.

The technology import strategy was based on the assumption that, with the help of Western loans, a large-scale influx of advanced equipment, licenses, and other forms of technology transfer would automatically result in efficient production of modern, high- quality manufactured goods suitable for export to the West. Under those conditions, repayment of debts would not be difficult. Expansion of exports encountered considerable difficulties, however, partly because of the oil crisis and stagflation in the West, but mainly because the central planners remained unable to effect the required changes in the structure of production. The investment drive, financed by foreign borrowing, exceeded the possibilities of the economy. Removed from direct contact with the foreign markets, centralized selection of exportables was ineffective in expanding the markets for Polish goods. At the same time, the dependence of the economy on imported Western materials, components, and machines inevitably increased. By the middle of the 1970s, large trade deficits had been incurred with the Western countries. The negative balance of payments in convertible currencies increased from US$100 million in 1970 to US$3 billion in 1975. During the same period, the gross convertible currency debt increased from US$1.2 billion to US$8.4 billion. Unable to expand exports to the West at the necessary pace, Polish planners began centralized restriction of imports. This policy in turn had an adverse effect on domestic production, including the production of exportables.

Reform Failure in the 1980s

By 1980 it had become clear that the large-scale import of capital and technology from the West could not substitute for economic reform. On the contrary, systemic reforms were needed to ensure satisfactory absorption and diffusion of imported technology. Significant expansion of profitable exports to the world markets was impossible for an inflexible and overly centralized economic system. On the other hand, without an increase in exports, reducing or even servicing Poland's rapidly increasing international debt was extremely difficult.

Meanwhile, the enormous investment drive of the early 1970s had destabilized the economy and developed strong inflationary pressure. Rates of NMP growth dropped throughout the second half of the decade, and the first absolute decline took place in 1979. Although planners should have been adjusting the level of aggregate demand to the declining aggregate supply, they found this task politically and administratively difficult. The authorities also feared major price revisions, especially after workers' riots forced withdrawal of a revision introduced in 1976. In the late 1970s, some prices were increased gradually whereas other increases were concealed by designating them for new, higher quality, or luxury items. The rest of the inflationary gap was suppressed by fixing prices administratively.

By the late 1970s, the shortage of consumer goods was acute. Nominal income increases continued as a "money illusion" to minimize social discontent and provide a work incentive. This strategy increased the "inflationary overhang," the accumulated and unusable purchasing power in the hands of the population. At the same time, suppressed inflation spurred maladjustments and inequities in the production processes, further reducing the supply of goods. The deteriorating situation in the consumer goods market resulted in a series of watershed events: a wave of strikes that led to the formation of the Solidarity union in August 1980, a third enforced change in the communist leadership in September 1980, and the imposition of martial law in December 1981.

Between 1978 and 1982, the NMP of Poland declined by 24 percent, and industrial production declined by 13.4 percent. The decline in production was followed by prolonged stagnation. Recognizing a strong grass-roots resistance to the existing system, the new government of Stanislaw Kania, who had replaced Edward Gierek, established the Commission for Economic Reform in late 1980. This body presented a weakened version of drastic reforms recommended by the independent Polish Economic Society, an advisory board of economists formed earlier in 1980. Implemented hastily in mid-1981, the reforms nominally removed the PZPR from day-to-day economic management and gave the enterprises responsibility for their own financial condition and for planning. These decentralizing reforms were distorted by the constraints of martial law that had been imposed nationally in December 1981, however, and they failed to improve the economic situation. Internally inconsistent and insufficiently far-reaching, the reforms reduced central administrative control without establishing any of the fundamentals of an alternative market system. Thus, in effect, the economy operated from 1981 to 1989 in a systemic vacuum.

After 1985 the foreign trade situation further complicated Poland's economic crisis. The relative importance of Comecon trade declined yearly, necessitating expanded trade with the West, particularly the European Community (EC). This shift was a policy change for which neither the communist regime nor the economic system was prepared in the late 1980s.




In 1989 the NMP declined by 0.2 percent to a level 1 percent below the 1978 figure, and industrial production also declined slightly. Despite price controls, inflation increased from 25.3 percent in 1987 to 343.8 percent in 1989. As the scarcity of goods rose sharply, lines in front of stores lengthened and social unrest grew. Shortages of materials and fuels, unreliable supply, and administrative disarray caused frequent shutdowns of industrial production lines.

Disequilibrium also increased rapidly in the external economy. The balance of payments deficit in hard currency (denominations exchanged on the world market) increased from US$392 million in 1987 to US$1,922 million in 1989, and the national debt grew from US$39.2 billion to US$40.8 billion during that period. In the last years of communist rule, hard-currency deficits were exacerbated by the priority still given to economic relations within Comecon. In its Comecon transactions between 1987 and 1989, Poland converted a current account deficit of 424 million transferable rubles (the artificial currency used in Comecon transactions but unrecognized outside the trading bloc) to a positive balance of 1,104 million transferable rubles as its ruble debt declined from 5.8 billion to 0.6 billion. These transactions meant that Poland was ignoring the catastrophic condition of its domestic economy to help alleviate the general shortages within Comecon by supporting a net outflow of capital (more exports than imports), most of which went to the Soviet Union.

In 1989 new policies in the Soviet Union made clear that Soviet retaliation against liberalization in Poland was no longer a real possibility. Under a new set of international conditions, the long history of riots and strikes by workers and students, criticism by the intellectual classes, and general lack of cooperation by society with the economic programs of successive communist governments ended in the collapse of the communist regime of Wojciech Jaruzelski in May 1989. The proximate cause of its fall, however, was deepening economic crisis. Although the crisis was a very effective political weapon for Polish noncommunist parties, the underlying structural defects of the national economy became a legacy of persistently intractable problems for the noncommunist governments that followed Jaruzelski.

<>Marketization and Stabilization
<> Macroeconomic Indicators for 1990-91
<> The Privatization Process


Poland - Marketization and Stabilization


The first noncommunist government in Eastern Europe was formed in Poland by Tadeusz Mazowiecki after Solidarity won an overwhelming victory in the parliamentary election of June 1989. The government came to office on September 12 and within one month announced an ambitious program of economic reforms. The objective was not to improve the socialist system, as had been the case in previous reforms, but to accomplish a rapid and complete transformation from the Soviet-type economy into a capitalist system and to reintegrate the Polish economy into the world economy.

Under the best of circumstances, accomplishing such a transformation would be an enormous task. But, like other Comecon countries, Poland had an inefficient industrial structure that was fuel- and material-intensive and a foreign trade mechanism incompatible with expansion of exports to the West. The inherited system did not support greater supply of consumer goods, nor was it any longer appropriate for trade with Poland's Comecon partners, all of which were now restructuring their economies according to national requirements and resources. Without fundamental restructuring, the economy faced further declines in production, high unemployment, and strong inflationary pressure. Therefore, the first postcommunist Polish governments pursued economic reform with great urgency, although they had limited success.

Required Short-Term Changes

Modernization was a fundamental requirement. Because a considerable part of Poland's capital stock was obsolete or in poor condition, a very large share of the country's industrial products was of poor quality. The system lacked a well-developed modern infrastructure, particularly in financial institutions, transportation and telecommunications, and housing. Without major improvement of infrastructure, the economy's overall efficiency could not be raised significantly. Reform was further hampered by a shortage of well-trained managers and enterprise staff who understood the workings of the modern freeenterprise economy and could function efficiently in such a system. Expenditures necessary to meet these needs were restricted or delayed, however, by simultaneous requirements to reduce inflation and the balance of payments disequilibrium.

The Shock Strategy

The gravity of the economic crisis and the immediate threat of hyperinflation caused the Mazowiecki government to choose a "shock strategy." Called the Balcerowicz Plan after its chief architect, Minister of Finance Leszek Balcerowicz, the program received approval and financial support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On January 1, 1990, a program for marketization was introduced together with harsh stabilization measures, a restructuring program, and a social program to protect the poorest members of the society. The program included liberalizing controls on almost all prices, eliminating most subsidies, and abolishing administrative allocation of resources in favor of trade, free establishment of private businesses, liberalization of the system of international economic relations, and introduction of internal currency convertibility with a currency devaluation of 32 percent.

At the same time, a very strict income policy was introduced. Although prices were allowed to rise suddenly to equalize supply and demand, nominal wage increases were limited to a fraction of the overall price increase of the previous month. Very heavy tax penalties were imposed on state enterprises whose wages exceeded these ceilings. This policy reduced real incomes and the real value of accumulated balances that, combined with inadequate supplies of goods and services, had caused prolonged inflationary pressure. Together with the lifting of restrictions on private economic activity, import policy reform and internal convertibility, the wage-and-price policy reestablished market equilibrium.

Initial Results

Within one month, stores were well stocked, and the long lines in front of them had disappeared. Individual budgets rather than the availability of goods became the primary determinant of buying patterns. A large number of street vendors appeared, contributing to the supply of consumer goods and competing with established stores. This new type of enterprise often was the starting point for launching more established business units.

Besides income policy, the new government used highly restrictive monetary and fiscal policies to reduce aggregate demand. The reorganized central bank drastically limited the quantity of money by imposing a positive real rate of interest, introducing and subsequently increasing obligatory reserve ratios for the commercial banks, and imposing caps on credits. The budgetary deficit in 1989 had been equal to 11 percent of expenditures. In 1990 this deficit was converted into a surplus of 1.3 percent of expenditures. The surplus then began to decline, however, in the second half of the year, and by the spring of 1991 negative economic factors had again created a large deficit. The government eliminated most enterprise subsidies from its budget and introduced specific tax reductions to force state enterprises to depend on their revenues. In the many cases where the government action threatened their operations, state enterprises gained time by developing a system of interenterprise credits, selling some extra equipment and materials, and obtaining extensions for the payment of taxes and debts.

Long-Term Requirements

These rapidly introduced short-term policies quickly and fundamentally changed the workings of the Polish economy. Establishment of a full market system has other requirements, however, that take more time and are more problematic. The new Polish economy required a reorganized legal and institutional framework. Financial institutions, capital and labor markets, the taxation system, and contract laws required revision. Establishing systems for protection of consumers and of the environment was another priority. For these institutional changes, legislation had to be prepared, considered, and enacted by the government; then key personnel had to be trained to gradually bring the system to full efficiency. Because many flaws in new legislation or regulations were only detectable after implementation, policy making took on an unstable, trial-and- error quality. Reform and stabilization measures did not meet expectations, and the country's economic situation deteriorated in 1990-91.


Poland - Macroeconomic Indicators for 1990-91


Postcommunist economic reform initially brought both positive and negative results in the key areas of prices, productivity, inflation, and wages. In general, early indicators showed that the adjustment to a market economy would require more time and greater social discomfort than was anticipated in 1989.

Price Increases

Sudden liberalization of prices brought an average price increase of 79.6 percent in the program's first month. The high prices were intended to eliminate some major distortions in pricing and begin to adjust demand to the existing limited supply. Price liberalization stopped hyperinflation but, unexpectedly, inflation remained high.

Annual price increases were 250 percent in 1990 and 70.3 percent in 1991. Except for the first quarter, however, average quarterly price increases in 1990 were considerably smaller than the equivalent increases in 1989, when the administrative system of price determination and controls still dominated. The average quarterly price increases were lower in 1991 than in 1990.

Impact on Productivity and Wages

Experts predicted that the highly restrictive stabilization policy would suppress production, but the extent of the decline exceeded all projections. Industrial output declined by 24 percent in 1990 and by another 12 percent in 1991. In 1990 all branches of industry registered a substantial decline. In 1991 only the food industry showed a modest increase in output. In agriculture the situation was somewhat better. Gross agricultural production declined by 2.2 percent in 1990 and by 2.4 percent in 1991. In both years, however, the grain harvest was a very robust 28 million tons.

Gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 12 percent in 1990 and by 8 percent in 1991. Gross fixed investment, after declining by 2.4 percent in 1989, decreased by 10.6 percent in 1990 and by 7.5 percent in 1991. Consumption declined by 11.7 percent in 1990 but increased by 3.7 percent in 1991. The decline in investment meant that no significant modernization and restructuring could take place, which in turn jeopardized future growth. The number of unemployed people reached 1.1 million or 6.1 percent of the labor force, at the end of 1990 and 2.2 million people, or 11.4 percent, at the end of 1991.

Real personal incomes decreased by 22.3 percent in 1990, but they increased by 12.7 percent in January-September 1991. Real wages, excluding agriculture and jobs financed directly from the state budget, declined by 29.2 percent in 1990 and increased by 2.0 percent in 1991. The average real value of pensions decreased by 14 percent in 1990, then increased by 15 percent in 1991.

Statistical Distortions

Comparative statistics for this period, which generally caused overstatement of the 1990 decline, must be understood in their context. Two factors contributed to this faulty estimate. First, 1989 figures provided the basis for evaluating the economy's 1990 performance. Traditionally, output statistics in centrally planned economies were inflated to show success in every case. Also, the 1989 figures did not reflect the lowquality , unprofitable goods produced by subsidized state enterprises. Unprofitable production was shown as a statistical increase in NMP even as it reduced national income in the real world. Furthermore, until 1989 personal income and real wage calculations used the artificial official price index, so they were not a true measure of consumer purchasing power.

On the other hand, official statistics for 1990 and 1991 reflected a downward bias. Revenues and incomes deliberately were underestimated in order to avoid higher taxes. Because of these distortions, decentralized economic activity in the state sector and rapid growth in the private sector clearly required new methods of collecting and presenting statistics. In 1992, however, the Central Statistical Office in Poland had not yet removed the distortions of the previous system from its statistical formats. Unemployment statistics also failed to keep pace with the actual economic situation. The rapid expansion of private enterprise in 1990 provided jobs for many people who had registered for benefits established at the beginning of the reform period. Meanwhile, legislation was slow to reform the accounting system. Even after statistical adjustment, however, the first three years of economic reform brought Poland genuine, deep decline in industrial production, in GDP, and in real personal incomes and wages.

Agricultural Imbalances

A serious political problem developed in the agricultural sector during this period. Reduced domestic demand for food, the loss of Comecon markets, a rapid increase in imports, and relatively good harvests led to oversupply of agricultural products. Agricultural prices lagged behind the prices of goods and services purchased by Polish farmers. As a result, incomes fell farther than incomes in other sectors in 1990 and 1991. This situation made farmers one of the most dissatisfied groups in Poland; although traditionally not politically active, farmers demonstrated en masse to improve their situation. In 1992 they demanded that government policy include higher tariffs, guaranteed minimum prices, and cheap credits to protect them from economic hardship.

Causes of Decline

No single factor was responsible for Poland's large-scale decline in production and incomes in 1990 and 1991. The very restrictive stabilization policy caused some of the decline in economic indicators as well as increased unemployment. But when some fiscal and monetary restrictions were eased and real incomes increased late in 1990, inflation again increased. A similar succession of events in 1991 indicated that under prevailing conditions any increase in aggregate demand would lead to an increase in prices (hence inflation) rather than to an increase in output that would match the demand generated by higher wages.

An important reason for the unresponsiveness of supply was the inherited industrial structure, especially the poor condition of capital stock and shortages of various components and materials only available on the import market. But other factors also played a role. In many cases, enterprise managers failed to make responses and decisions appropriate to reform goals. The reform of 1981 had called for election of most managers by the workers' councils of their enterprises. Under the communist system, the political leverage of this relationship meant that managers sought to satisfy the councils by raising wages and avoiding layoffs through whatever strategy was available. Beginning in January 1990, however, the enterprises suddenly found themselves in a buyer's market instead of the traditional seller's market. Substantial and rapid adjustments within the enterprises were needed to cope with a decline in the domestic demand caused by a drastic reduction in personal incomes, cuts in government expenditures, and rapidly increasing imports. At the same time, the sudden elimination of the formerly secure Comecon markets, especially those in the Soviet Union and East Germany, made establishment of new markets in the West a condition of survival for many enterprises.

Few managers were prepared by training or experience to deal with this new requirement. No consulting or foreign trade brokerage firms were available to provide assistance, and the banking system that succeeded the old structure under the National Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski--NBP) had no experience in this respect. Although the elimination of price distortions and the introduction of an economically meaningful rate of exchange finally made profit and loss projections meaningful, the system of internal accounting within the enterprises still required considerable adjustment in 1992. At that point, however, major changes in the product mix and improvements in quality were unlikely because anti-inflationary macroeconomic policy had caused a scarcity of investment funds for modernization and restructuring.

Another inhibiting factor was the persistent concentration of the postcommunist Polish industrial structure, which in 1992 was still dominated by huge state-owned enterprises. In many cases, one enterprise monopolized an entire group of products. Antimonopoly legislation and an antimonopoly office established in 1990 had limited effect in the early postcommunist years. Some large enterprises were split, and some monopolistic practices were stopped. Rapidly increasing imports provided new competition, but imports also reduced the market for domestic products and created an adverse trade balance despite a surprisingly strong performance by Polish hard-currency exports.

Closing bankrupt or unprofitable state- or municipally owned enterprises proved especially difficult when the livelihood of entire communities or regions was based on one or two such plants. Powerful workers' councils lobbied for continuation of the status quo. In 1992 thousands of bankrupt state enterprises survived on loans from other enterprises or from banks, which were not capable of enforcing repayment under the financial conditions of the time.


Poland - The Privatization Process


Transformation of more fundamental aspects of the economy have proceeded much more slowly than did the reforms undertaken in 1990 and 1991. The most important feature of the longer-term transformation is the privatization of the means of production. The end of the communist system brought an immediate and dynamic growth in new privately owned businesses, most of which were small retailing, trade, and construction enterprises. In 1990 about 516,000 new businesses were established, while 154,000 were liquidated, a net increase of 362,000. Another 100,000 small businesses formerly owned by local government agencies were sold to private investors in the initial rush to privatization. By September 1991, an additional 1.4 million one-person businesses and 41,450 new companies had been registered since the beginning of the year. Overall, in 1990 and 1991 about 80 percent of Polish shops went into private hands, and over 40 percent of imports went through private traders.

Legal and administrative preparations for privatization of state-owned enterprises took much longer than expected. The "small privatization" of shops, restaurants and other service establishments was a relatively simple process, but privatization of large enterprises proved much more difficult. By October 1991, some 227 larger enterprises had been converted into stock exchange-listed companies, and twenty of them had been privatized by offering them for public or private sale. Some of these transactions involved foreign capital. To speed the process, the government of Prime Minister Jan Bielecki, which came to power in early 1990, had made capital vouchers available without charge to all adult citizens. The vouchers were to be exchangeable for shares in mutual investment funds. At first these funds were to be managed under contract with foreign and domestic management firms. Voucher holders would be allocated 27 percent of shares of the enterprises selected for "mass privatization" and would be able to purchase any 33 percent share of the privatized enterprises sold by auction. Because of their configuration, the vouchers were expected to give their holders effective control of these enterprises. Various technical problems delayed implementation of this program, as did the change of government at the beginning of 1992. At that point, vouchers for fewer than ten major enterprises were being traded.

Already in 1990, the private sector had emerged as the most dynamic part of the economy. The economy's overall GDP declined in 1990 by 12 percent, but it increased by 17 percent in the private sector. Total industrial production dropped by 23 percent, but the private sector production increased by 8 percent. At the end of 1991, the private sector provided about 38 percent of employment; it was responsible for 22.1 percent of total industrial production, 43.9 percent of construction output, 70 percent of retail sales, and 16.3 percent of transportation services. Surprising growth occurred in private foreign trade activity, which accounted for 28 percent of foreign transactions in the first three quarters of 1991.

By early 1992, some form of privatization had occurred in 17.4 percent of state enterprises. At that point, plans called for conversion of half of Poland's state enterprises to private ownership by 1995. The rate of privatization had already slowed in 1992, however, partly because of reduced government outlays and continual alteration of program goals. Enterprises were restructured in several ways: medium-sized firms typically were liquidated, and large enterprises were transformed into stock companies and limited liability companies.




Although Poland possessed abundant supplies of some natural resources, the structure and administration of the centrally planned system had long caused misallocation of those resources and of investment funds among the economic sectors. In addition, the cutoff of critical industrial inputs from the Soviet Union required major restructuring and rebalancing of all sectors.

Fuels and Energy

Poland's fuel and energy profile is dominated by coal, the only fuel in abundant domestic supply. Because of lopsided and uneconomical dependence on this single fuel, the fuels and energy sector of the economy was a primary target for reorganization and streamlining in the early 1990s. In 1989 production of coke and extraction and refining of gas and oil accounted for 4.9 percent of Poland's total industrial base. Electrical power generation accounted for 2.9 percent. However, these statistics were downward biased by the very low, heavily subsidized prices of the products of those industries. Higher, market-established prices of fuels and electricity were expected to induce more economical fuel consumption, as were modern fuel-saving technologies in industry, construction, and transportation and gradual elimination of the most heavily fuel-intensive industries. By 1991 official policy had recognized that making such changes was less expensive than continuing the cycle of higher energy demand and production characteristic of the centrally planned economy.


In 1992 coal continued to play a central role in the Polish economy, both in support of domestic industry and as an export commodity. In 1990 about 90 percent of the country's energy production was based on hard coal and lignite. The two largest mines extracted over six million tons each in 1991, but the average mine produced between one million and three million tons. Compared with coal mines in Western Europe, Polish mining was quite inefficient because of isolation from technical advances made in the 1980s and, more recently, lack of investment funds for modernization.

Because the communist regimes ignored profitability in establishing quantitative output targets, coal output was expanded irrespective of costs, and inefficient mines were heavily subsidized. At the same time, the extensive type of mineral exploitation called for by central planning caused a very high ratio of waste (about 24 percent of output) as well as heavy environmental damage. Under the new planning system, a lower annual output is expected, but production operations are to be justified by profitability.

At the end of the 1980s, some eighty-four shaft mines and four large open-cast lignite mines were in operation. Plans for the 1990s call for closing many of those mines. In 1991 annual coal output declined from the 193 million tons mined in 1988 to 140 million tons, and output was expected to remain at the lower level in 1992. During the same period, extraction of lignite declined from 73 million tons to 69 million, with 70 million tons the maximum annual output expected for the next few years. In 1989 about 16 percent of Poland's coal and 19 percent of its coke were exported. In 1990 these shares increased to 19 percent and 26.6 percent, respectively, because a recession reduced domestic demand for coal.

The postcommunist governments abolished centralized allocation of coal and partially liberalized prices. By 1992 a relatively free coal market had been created, and subsidies were gradually reduced. This process also abolished the central administrations for coal mining and for electricity generation that had ensured state monopoly of those industries and perpetuated wasteful resource management. The reform program made both coal mines and power generation plants autonomous state enterprises fully competitive among themselves. To offset the loss of subsidies, price increases of as much as 13 percent were contemplated, although the planned rise of 5 percent had already aroused strong objections from industrial customers. The 1991 economic restructuring program of the Bielecki government envisaged establishment of ten independent and competing coalmining companies, several wholesalers, and one export agency. Following the World Bank's advice, a holding company for lignite mines was also considered.

By the end of 1991, however, the Polish coal industry was in serious economic trouble. Fifty-six of sixty-seven mines ended 1991 showing losses, and only seven showed profits sufficient to cover all obligations. In 1991 government subsidies dropped from their 1990 total of 9.1 billion zloty to 5.9 billion zloty, but individual mines still received as much as 2.2 billion. Liquidation, already accomplished at six mines by 1992, cost between 0.6 and 1.5 billion zloty per mine, not counting the economic cost of added unemployment (coal mining in Poland is much more labor intensive than in the West). An alternative solution, combining individual mines into complexes, had been attempted in the 1970s efficiency campaign but did not have the expected impact. In mid-1992, mines and power plants had large coal surpluses that seemingly could not be alleviated by domestic consumption. At that point, the disparity between low domestic demand and continuing supply threatened to raise unemployment by forcing more mines to close.

Oil and Gas

After rising sharply in the early 1970s, domestic oil production dropped and remained at about 350,000 tons per year into the 1980s because no new deposits were discovered. Domestic oil had never accounted for more than 5 percent of total consumption, but even this figure had dropped sharply by 1980. Under these circumstances, the Soviet Union supplied between 80 percent and 100 percent of Poland's imported oil, with some purchases from the Middle East when market conditions permitted. Poland received Soviet oil through the Druzhba Pipeline, which remained the chief source of imported oil in early 1992. The line supplied the major refinery at Plock. Oil arriving by ship from other sources was processed at a refinery near Gdansk. In 1992, however, the pattern of Polish oil imports changed markedly. Because the Druzhba Pipeline was considered subject to political pressure and delivery taxes by the countries through which it passed, and because Russian crude oil was high in environmentally undesirable sulfur, Poland cut imports from that source from 63 percent in 1991 to 36 percent in 1992. The gap was to be filled by North Sea (British and Norwegian) oil imports, which rose from 19.5 to 26 percent in 1991, and by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imports, which rose from 17.5 to 38 percent in 1992. To accommodate more North Sea oil, the transloading capacity of the North Harbor facility at Gdansk was doubled in 1992.

Domestic natural gas provided a much higher percentage of national consumption than did domestic oil. Although pipeline imports of gas from the Soviet Union rose sharply in the 1970s and early 1980s, reaching 5.3 billion cubic meters in 1981, domestic output remained slightly ahead of that figure. Domestic natural gas exploration was pursued vigorously in the 1980s, but equipment shortages hampered the effort. By 1991, however, Polish experts declared the country potentially self-sufficient in natural gas; in 1990 and 1991, large-scale agreements with United States firms brought about new exploration in Silesia and made possible extraction of gas from Poland's many intact coal seams. New domestic gas sources opened the prospect of reducing reliance on coal and saving the hard currency spent on the 7 billion cubic meters of gas imported (mostly from the former Soviet Union) in 1991. No natural gas was imported from the West in 1991, nor did plans for 1992 call for such imports. At the end of 1991, a new agreement with Russia maintained both oil and gas deliveries from that country at approximately their previous levels. (Some 5 million tons of oil were delivered from Russia in 1991.) At the same time, plans called for linkage of Polish and German gas lines as early as 1993, making Poland's gas supply more flexible.

Power Generation

In 1989 the electric power generation industry comprised seventy enterprises. Between 1980 and 1991, the industry's power production increased from 122 billion kilowatt hours to 135 billion kilowatt hours. By 1990 a large proportion of obsolete or aging generation machines and equipment required replacement. Modernization was especially critical to achieve efficient utilization of fuels and to reduce transmission losses through the national power grid. A wide range of technical improvements and higher energy prices were expected to reduce losses and waste in 1992, making possible a subsequent reduction in annual power generation to 128 billion kilowatt hours. Estimates of energy price increases necessary to achieve conservation ranged as high as five times the subsidized levels of the late 1980s. Meanwhile, obstacles to energy conservation included the lack of meters to measure consumption, widespread use of central heating without charges proportional to consumption, and the high cost of new generating equipment, such as boilers, needed to upgrade generation efficiency.

During the communist period, hydroelectric power stations were not expanded because of the easy availability of the lignite burned in conventional thermoelectric plants. All hydroelectric stations existing in 1992 were built before World War II. Plans in the 1980s called for construction of three nuclear power stations. The first, at Zarnowiec in south-central Poland, was scheduled to open in 1991 and be at full production in 1993. After long years of construction and controversy, however, doubts about the safety of the station's Soviet-made equipment (similar to that used at Chernobyl') caused the first postcommunist government to abandon the project. Some 86 percent of participants in a 1990 referendum voted against completion. A second station had been started near Klempicz in west-central Poland, but work on it was stopped in 1989. The third station never passed the planning stage, and in 1992 Poland remained without any nuclear power capacity. It had, however, joined its Comecon partners in investing in large nuclear stations in Ukraine, from which Poland received power in the 1980s.

The World Bank's advice on restructuring Poland's power industry included reorganization into four or five companies with seventeen regional subsidiaries responsible for power distribution. All these companies initially would be state owned but eventually would be privatized.

<> Industry
<> Agriculture
<> Fishing and Forestry
<> Banking and Finance


Poland - Industry


The range of products manufactured in Polish plants increased greatly in the postwar years, mostly through construction of new facilities in the period of accelerated industrialization. By the 1980s, heavy industry produced processed metals (mainly iron, steel, zinc, lead, and copper) and derivative products; chemicals; a wide variety of transportation equipment, including ships and motor vehicles; electrical and nonelectrical machines and equipment; and electronic and computer equipment. The most important light industry was textiles.

Under the central planning system, statistics on production by individual industries and on their relative shares in total industrial production through the communist period were distorted by administrative price fixing and unequal distribution of industrial subsidies. In general, however, between 1960 and 1989 the relative importance of food processing declined steadily while that of the engineering and chemical industries grew steadily. The share of light industry declined early in the period but then increased under the stimulus of expanded Soviet export markets. The relative importance of the metallurgical, mineral, and wood and paper industries remained basically unchanged. Within the engineering group, the machine building, transport equipment, and electrotechnical and electronic industries increased in relative importance between 1960 and 1989.

The engineering and chemical industries received a considerable injection of Western technology, including patents and licenses, under the technology import program of the 1970s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, economic crisis, recession, and postcommunist reform measures brought a drastic decline in output in those industries. For example, output of the artificial fertilizer industry dropped 32 percent between 1989 and 1990, mostly because rising fertilizer prices reduced domestic demand. A sharper drop was prevented by quadrupling fertilizer exports. In 1991 output of nitrogenous fertilizers remained stable, but output of phosphoric fertilizers again dropped sharply.

Some existing manufacturing facilities could support expansion of production, but others required modernization before they could be exploited efficiently to meet Poland's new economic priorities. Other facilities offered no possibility of expansion or modernization and were simply closed. In the Polish steel industry, which was second only to that of the Soviet Union in Comecon, only two plants had been built between 1945 and 1982. The Lenin Iron and Steel Plant at Nowa Huta, the largest in the country, was built near Kielce in 1954 with aid from the Soviet Union. Although some plants were modernized in the intervening years, most of the prewar Polish steel plants featured low productivity, low-quality metal, and poor working conditions, as well as very high pollution levels.

With the help of foreign experts, the Bielecki government undertook a number of sectoral studies. The objective was to draw attention to the existing obstacles to growth and to increase international competitiveness of industrial enterprises in various sectors. Four major restructuring programs were prepared in cooperation with United Nations experts. They included improving the management and modernization of the agricultural machinery industry, restructuring the production of fertilizers, improving management and technology in the pharmaceutical industry, and increasing the degree of automation in various branches of industry.

Light Industry

On behalf of the World Bank, United States experts assessed Polish light industry in early 1991. They found the critical difference between Polish and West European manufacturing systems to be computerization; the high degree of computerization utilized by the latter systems enabled them to use short production series and make quick design changes. In textiles, Polish machinery was geared to produce intermediate-quality yarn that could not be made into exportable products. Polish finishing machinery was also outmoded. Although textile enterprises had been privatized quite early, they nevertheless remained too labor-intensive and used materials inefficiently, according to the report. On the other hand, Polish combed woolens and linen products were rated as potentially competitive in the European market.

Automotive Industry

In 1992 the Polish automotive industry was expecting to modernize through a series of joint ventures with Western firms. In 1992 Fiat Corporation, the pioneer of Western automobile production in Eastern Europe since 1973, invested in Polish production of a new model at its Bielsko-Biala plant. Fiat was to arrange for export of a large part of the output of that model. Also in 1992, General Motors Europe, the European branch of the United States automotive giant, was expected to begin assembling cars in Warsaw by agreement with the Warsaw-based Passenger Car Plant. Volvo of Sweden planned to produce buses, trucks, and tractors at a plant near Wroclaw following the signing of a joint venture agreement in early 1992.

Construction Machinery

The construction machinery industry, which expanded during the 1970s on the basis of Western licenses, traditionally exported a large proportion of its output to the Soviet Union, with which some joint ventures were established. Under license, with Western firms, Polish machinery plants produced mobile cranes, heavy truck axles, hydraulic equipment, truck-mounted concrete mixers, and other construction machinery. In the 1980s, reduced Western investments in Poland curtailed demand for these products. In the 1990s, the highly centralized, bureaucratic construction machine industry was reorganized into a large number of small- and medium-sized private firms. The reorganization targeted expansion of the housing construction industry, which received high priority in reform planning. The second goal of this reorganization was to revive demand for the relatively modern and sophisticated construction machines that the Polish industry was able to produce.


Polish shipbuilding expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, spurred by the Soviet drive to become a maritime superpower. In the 1980s, the industry included six shipyards, twenty-one equipment factories, and three research and development centers, altogether employing about 57,000 people. In that decade, Poland became the fifth largest producer of ships in the world, exporting most of its products to the Soviet Union. Some 1,000 plants all over the country supplied materials to the shipbuilding industry. At the end of the 1980s, however, the industry suffered greatly from drastic reduction in orders from the Soviet Union and other customers, the loss of government subsidies in the midst of production, and a rapid rise in domestic material costs for ships already contracted. Nevertheless, the shipbuilding firms were able to attract many Western licenses, and they retained a highly skilled labor force. If modernized and restructured, the industry had the potential to significantly accelerate its production of modern ships, including fishing vessels, factory ships, trawlers, car ferries, container vessels, roll on-roll off ships, and tankers. The wellequipped Gdynia Shipyard was capable of building very large bulk cargo ships, but it operated at only 30 percent of capacity in 1991. Large new contracts were expected to more than double that level of production by 1994, however. In 1992 it seemed probable that the shipyard's very high debt would be eased by a two-step transition, first into a partnership with the State Treasury and ultimately into a private enterprise. In 1991 the Ministry of Industry completed a restructuring program for the entire shipbuilding industry in cooperation with Western experts.


Poland - Agriculture


Of Poland's 18,727,000 hectares of agricultural land (about 60 percent of the country's total area), 14,413,000 hectares were used for crop cultivation, 265,000 for orchards, and about 4,048,500 for meadows and pastures in 1989. In most areas, soil and climatic conditions favored a mixed type of farming. In 1990 the most important crops were grains, of which the highest yields came from wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Other major crops were potatoes, sugar beets, fodder crops, flax, hops, tobacco, and fruits. Cultivation of corn expanded during the 1980s but remained limited. The northern and east-central regions of the country mainly offered poorer sandy soils suitable for rye and potatoes. The richer soils of the central and southern parts of the country, excluding higher elevations, made those regions the centers of wheat, sugar beet, hops, and tobacco production. The more accessible land at higher elevations was used to cultivate oats or was left as meadow and pastureland. In 1989 almost half of Poland's arable land was used for the cultivation of the four major grains, another 13 percent grew potatoes. All regions of Poland raised dairy cows, beef cattle, pigs, and poultry, and cultivated fruit, usually as an integral part of mixed farming.

In 1989 Poland was the second largest producer of rye and potatoes in the world. The latter were used as vegetables, fodder for pigs, and production of industrial starch and alcohol. The country occupied sixth place in the world in sugar beet, milk, and pig production. The quantity and quality of agricultural land ensured self-sufficiency and considerable quantities of various agricultural products and processed foodstuffs available for export. In 1990 Poland exported 26 percent of the bacon it produced, as well as 63 percent of the ham, 16 percent of the tinned meat, 10 percent of the poultry, 17 percent of the sugar, and 67 percent of the frozen fruits and vegetables.

Organization under State Planning

Beginning with decollectivization in 1956, Poland was the only member of Comecon where the private sector predominated in agriculture. The state maintained indirect control, however, through the state agencies that distributed needed input materials and purchased agricultural produce. Compulsory delivery quotas were maintained for farms until the beginning of the 1970s. The state also retained significant influence on the process of cultivation, restrictions on the size of farms, and limitations on the buying and selling of land. Until the beginning of the 1980s, the allocation system for fertilizers, machines, building materials, fuels, and other inputs discriminated severely against private farmers. As a result of these policies, private farms remained inefficiently small and labor-intensive.

Private and State Farms

In 1987 about 2.7 million private farms were in operation. About 57 percent of them were smaller than five hectares. Of the remaining farms, 25 percent were between five and ten hectares and 11 percent were between ten and fifteen hectares. Only 7 percent of private farms were larger than fifteen hectares. Whereas the majority of the private farms were below optimum size, the majority of state farms were excessively large. Only 12 percent of the latter farms were below 200 hectares, and 60 percent were larger than 1,000 hectares.

In 1989 the private sector cultivated 76.2 percent of arable land and provided 79 percent of gross agricultural production. State farms, the main institutional form in state ownership, cultivated 18.8 percent of the total arable land and produced 17.0 percent of gross output. Cooperative farms, the dominant form of state agricultural organization in other East European economies, were not important in Poland. In 1989 they cultivated only 3.8 percent of arable land and contributed 3.9 percent of gross production.

In the 1980s, grain yields and meat output per hectare were higher in the socialist sector than in the private sector. An important factor in this difference was the more intensive use of fertilizers in state farms. On the other hand, the milk yield per cow was higher in the private sector. From the standpoint of overall performance, the private sector was less materialand capital-intensive, and gross production per hectare and the value of product per unit of cost were higher in that sector. Besides being more efficient, private farms were also more flexible in adjusting production to obtain a higher product value.

Postcommunist Restructuring

Because of the predominance of private farms in communist Poland, privatization of agriculture was not a major necessity during the reform period, as it was in the other postcommunist countries. Excessively large state farms were to be split into more efficient units and sold; some state farms would be converted into modern agrobusinesses operating as limited stock companies; and a certain number were to be retained as state experimental farms. In all cases, however, rapid modernization and improvement in agrotechnology were urgent requirements.

The streamlining of agriculture faced serious obstacles in the early 1990s, notably because of the existing agrarian structure. Private farm size had to increase to provide farmers a satisfactory level of income and investment. Drastic reduction in the agricultural labor force also was needed. Because unemployment outside agriculture rose in 1991 and 1992, however, only gradual reductions were possible. A satisfactory social safety net and retraining programs for displaced agricultural workers were prerequisites for further reductions in labor. Experts estimated that unemployment on former state farms would reach 70 to 80 percent, meaning about 400,000 lost jobs, once the farms were privatized and streamlined.

Considerable investment is needed to provide adequate agricultural infrastructure, including road improvement, telecommunications, water supply, housing, and amenities. Especially important is establishment of a well-developed, competitive network of suppliers of materials and equipment necessary for modern agricultural production. Equally necessary are commercial firms to purchase agricultural products and provide transportation and storage facilities. In particular, expansion and modernization of the food-processing industry are necessary to strengthen and stabilize demand for agricultural products. The first postcommunist governments prepared agricultural modernization programs, and some financial help was obtained from the World Bank and Western governments for this purpose. Modernization was expected to require several decades, however.

By 1992 nearly all the 3,000 remaining state farms had substantial unpaid bank loans and other liabilities. For this reason, and because the government had not devised usable privatization plans at that point, the Farm Ownership Agency of the State Treasury was authorized to take over all the state farms in 1992. The agency was authorized to lease state farm lands to either Polish or foreign renters, as a temporary measure to ensure continued productivity.


Poland - Fishing and Forestry


The fishing and forestry industries were important producers for both domestic consumption and the export market during the communist era. For both industries, however, the resource base had begun to shrink noticeably by the end of the 1980s.


The fresh-water fishing industry is concentrated in the numerous lakes of northern Poland. Fishing fleets also operate along the 528-kilometer Baltic coast and in the North Sea and the North Atlantic. The deep-sea fleet, developed in the 1970s to serve the new official emphasis on fish as a cheap source of protein, had grown to 101 trawler-factory ships and ten supply and service vessels by 1982. Besides fishing in the North Atlantic, Polish fleets fished off Africa, South America, Alaska, Australia, and New Zealand. Activity in the more distant fisheries involved much higher expenses, however, especially for fuel. In the 1980s, the Baltic fishery, which provided about 25 percent of the total catch, was plagued by shortages of supplies and storage facilities. At the same time, pollution in the lakes caused fresh-water catches to decline rapidly. In 1990 Poland exported about 123,000 tons of fish and fish products.


Large forested areas are located in the western, northeastern, and southeastern parts of Poland, but the only remaining stands of old forest are in the northeast. Conifers dominate in the far north, the northeast, and at higher elevations, and deciduous species dominate elsewhere. Under the communist regimes, 82 percent of forested land was state-owned, with the remainder held by individual farmers or groups of farmers. The 8,679,000 hectares of forest supported total commercial lumber production of 22,675 cubic decameters in 1989. Already in the early 1980s, however, cutting rates exceeded replacement rates, and heavy demand for wood products prevented meaningful reduction of exploitation. A long-term afforestation program was initiated in the communist era to increase total forest cover to 30 percent of Poland's land surface. This increase would amount to slightly more than 1 percent more than the cover remaining in the 1980s. Poland's forests support the export of significant quantities of lumber, paper, and wood furniture.


Poland - Banking and Finance


In the reform programs of the early 1990s, major restructuring of Poland's financial infrastructure was a top priority in order to achieve more efficient movement of money through the domestic economy and to provide a secure environment for the foreign investment that was expected to carry Poland through its postcommunist economic slump.

The State Banking System

A highly concentrated state banking monopoly was a typical feature of East European economies in the communist period. In Poland the monopoly was composed of the National Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski--NBP), which had replaced the prewar Western-style Bank of Poland in 1945; the Commercial Bank (Bank Handlowy--BH), which had a monopoly in financing foreign trade; the Polish Savings Office, which controlled transactions with private international transfers; and about 1,600 small regional and specialized cooperative banks that jointly formed the Bank of Food Economy. To encourage private savings, a specialized savings bank, the General Savings Office, was established in 1987 by detaching designated departments from the NBP. In 1988 nine state-owned commercial banks were formed from regional branches of the NBP, and a state Export Development Bank was established.

Legislation was introduced in 1989 to allow private individuals, both Poles and foreigners, to form banks as limited stock companies. Between 1989 and 1991, a total of seventy licenses was issued to private banks, including seven banks funded by foreign capital, two cooperative banks, and three branches of foreign banks. In October 1991, privatization of the Export Development Bank began, and the nine state commercial banks (which until that time still operated as they had under the old NBP) were transformed into limited stock companies. The State Treasury owned and operated the banks for an intermediate period while they prepared for privatization.

Banking Reform, 1990-92

A fundamental reorganization of the banking sector took place between 1990 and 1992. The NBP lost all its central planning functions, including holding the accounts of state enterprises, making transfers among them, crediting their operations, and exercising financial control of their activities. The NBP thus became only a central bank, and state enterprises competed with other businesses for the scarce credits available from commercial banks. In its new form, the NBP exercised a considerable degree of autonomy in monetary policy and performed the same functions as the central banks in West European countries or the Federal Reserve System in the United States.

Nevertheless, the entire Polish banking system remained inefficient in the early 1990s because of backward banking technology and a very serious shortage of trained personnel in all branches. Considerable technical and financial aid from the World Bank, the IMF, and the central banks of Western countries was expected to improve the situation eventually.

Insurance and Securities Reform

In July 1990, the insurance system was reorganized. Abolished were the monopoly State Insurance Company, which had been responsible for all domestic insurance, and the Insurance and Reinsurance Company, which had been responsible for all foreign transactions. Domestic and foreign-owned private limited stock and mutual insurance companies were then allowed to begin operating. At the same time, procedures were introduced to maintain adequate financial reserves and legal protection for people and assets insured. At the end of 1991, twenty-two insurance companies were operating in Poland, six of which were foreign-owned.

In early 1991, important legislation was introduced to regulate securities transactions and establish a stock exchange in Warsaw. At the same time, a securities commission was formed for consumer protection. A year later, the shares of eleven Polish companies were being traded weekly on the new exchange. Restructuring the financial market not only was necessary for increasing the overall efficiency of the economy and accelerating privatization but also was a precondition for the rapid influx of Western capital critical to economic development.

New Financial Institutions

Several specialized financial institutions were established with direct or indirect help from the Polish government, international organizations, and foreign experts to facilitate economic restructuring. They include the Agency for Industrial Development, the Polish Development Bank, the Export Finance Insurance Corporation, the Enterprise Consulting Foundation, the Employment Fund, and a growing number of consulting firms. These institutions are expected to provide credit guarantees, help to establish new businesses, purchase a certain quantity of shares of the companies being converted to private enterprise, and facilitate leasing, financial restructuring, and bankruptcy processes. Some of the new institutions received designated funds from international financial organizations. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) established a Joint Investment Fund in cooperation with the Polish Development Bank.

Foreign Loans and Money Supply

In April 1991, representatives of the seventeen major West European creditor governments collectively known as the Paris Club agreed to a two-phase, 50 percent reduction of Poland's debt on government loans. The United States made a similar reduction of 70 percent. Terms for servicing of the debt were rearranged, with payments to escalate gradually from US$0.5 billion in 1992-93 to US$1.5 billion later in the decade. Negotiations with Western commercial banks, the so-called London Club, continued in 1992. The hard currency debt was reduced from US$48.5 billion at the end of 1990 to US$44.3 billion in August 1991, partly because of the debt relief of US$1.6 billion effected by the United States and partly as the revaluation of the dollar against other Western currencies reduced the debt in those currencies.

In 1991 the total money supply in Poland, counting both zlotys and convertible currency, increased by 83.9 trillion zlotys. Of this amount, over 90 percent belonged to private individuals or private enterprises, and about 6 percent belonged to state enterprises. The increase in the money supply came mainly from higher bank debts owed by economic units and the government. A midyear alteration of the exchange rate between the zloty and the United States dollar also played a major role. Foreign currency held in Polish bank accounts increased by 13.2 percent in 1991 because more accounts were opened in 1991. Although money in personal savings accounts grew by 250 percent in 1991, money held by enterprises in bank accounts grew by only 12.4 percent in the same period. Estimated total foreign currency resources declined by over 3 percent in 1991 to US$5.3 billion.




In the early 1990s, internal and external economic conditions forced a major reappraisal of Poland's export and import policies. The once-profitable export markets of the Soviet Union were a much less reliable source of income after that empire disintegrated and hard currency became the predominant medium of exchange among its former members. In this situation, increased trade with much more demanding Western partners became the primary goal of Polish trade policy.

The Foreign Trade Mechanism

Centrally planned economies typically minimized trade with free-trade markets because their central bureaucratic systems could not adjust quickly to changing situations in foreign markets. The high degree of self-sufficiency that was a declared economic objective of Comecon made trade with the West a difficult undertaking for an economy such as Poland's. On the other hand, the basically bilateral barter agreements that characterized trade within Comecon often had made expansion of trade within the organization problematic.

State monopoly of foreign trade was an integral part of centrally planned economic systems. Even after some decentralization of this field in Poland during the 1980s, the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations maintained direct or indirect control of all foreign trade activities. Originally, trading activities in the communist system were conducted exclusively by the specialized foreign trade organizations (FTOs), which isolated domestic producers of exportables and domestic buyers of imported goods from the world market. Then, in the late 1980s, some state and cooperative production enterprises received licenses from the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations to become directly involved in foreign trade, and by 1988 the number of economic units authorized to conduct foreign trade had nearly tripled. Nonetheless, many enterprises still preferred the risk-free, conventional approach to foreign trade through an FTO, relying on guaranteed Comecon markets and avoiding marketing efforts and quality control requirements.

Prior to 1990, the Polish foreign trade system included the following elements: a required license or concession to conduct any foreign transactions; allocation of quotas by planners for the import and export of most basic raw materials and intermediate goods; state allocation and control of exchange and transfer of most foreign currencies; an arbitrary rate of currency exchange lacking all relation to real economic conditions; and artificial leveling of domestic and foreign prices by transfers within a special account of the state budget. Even among Comecon countries, Poland's foreign trade had particularly low value. Its share of total world exports, 0.6 percent in 1985, dropped to 0.4 percent in 1989. The share of imports dropped even lower, from 0.5 to 0.3 percent, in the same period.

In early 1990, Poland entered a painful process of massive transformation for which reintegration into the world economy was a primary objective. The first postcommunist government dismantled the existing foreign trade mechanism and replaced it with a mechanism compatible with an open market economy. This change eliminated license and concession requirements for the conduct of foreign trade activities, eliminated quotas except in trade with the Soviet Union, introduced internal convertibility of the zloty and free exchange of foreign currencies, and accepted the rate of exchange as the main instrument of adjustment of exports and imports, supported by a liberal tariff system.

Postcommunist Policy Adjustments

In early 1990 the Mazowiecki government planned to maintain Poland's high export volume to the Soviet Union for an indefinite period. The goal of this plan was to ensure a long-term position for Poland in that important market and to protect domestic industry from a further decline in production and increased unemployment. Subsequently, however, an export limit became necessary to avoid accumulating an excessive surplus of useless transferable rubles. In 1992, after the Soviet Union split into a number of independent states, the Polish government had no indication whether existing balances would ever be exchanged into convertible currencies, or under what conditions that might happen.

In December 1991, Poland reached agreement on associate membership in the European Community (EC). Having taken this intermediate step, the Polish government set the goal of full EC membership by the year 2000. Among the provisions of associate membership were gradual removal of EC tariffs and quotas on Polish food exports; immediate removal of EC tariffs on most industrial goods imported from Poland and full membership for Poland in the EC free trade area for industrial goods in 1999; EC financial aid to restructure the Polish economy; and agreements on labor transfer, rights of settlement, cultural cooperation, and other issues. The agreement, which required ratification by the Polish government, all twelve member nations of the EC, and the European Parliament, went into interim operation as those bodies considered its merits. Both houses of the Polish parliament ratified the agreement in July 1992.

The End of the Soviet Era

In 1990 Poland's trade balance with the Soviet Union was almost 4.4 billion transferable rubles. At that point, some Polish exporters took the risk of continuing their exports to traditional Soviet markets, hoping that they would eventually be paid either by the importers in the Soviet Union, who were very anxious to get Polish goods, or by the Polish government. In the first quarter of 1991, the value of these exports was about US$130 million. Only about US$20 million was received, however, because the Soviet government was prepared to pay only for imported foodstuffs, which received highest priority in its import policy. The Soviet government refused to pay the bill for Soviet importers who had purchased machines, pharmaceuticals, electronics, textiles, and clothing from Poland.

The sudden collapse of Comecon in 1990 increased short-term obstacles and accelerated changes in the geographic direction of trade. The share of Poland's trade occupied by the Comecon group declined to 22.3 percent in 1990 and 14.4 percent in 1991. On the export side, its share declined to 21.4 and 9.8 in the respective years.

The Role of Currency Exchange

In this situation, expanded exports to the West provided the only alternative for the many enterprises whose survival depended on foreign trade. The government's stabilization policy had an impact that promised expansion of exports to hard-currency markets. In 1991 drastic limitation of domestic demand, devaluation of the zloty by 32 percent, and liberalization of access to foreign trade by private entrepreneurs resulted in significant expansion of export earnings in convertible currencies. In 1990 the volume of hard-currency exports increased by 40.9 percent to over $US12 billion, while hard-currency imports increased by 6.3 percent, securing a positive trade balance of $US2.6 billion.

The level of exports earning hard currency in 1990 was particularly impressive in comparison with the generally sluggish growth of that category in the late 1980s. In the last years of the communist era, fuel exports declined steadily, and metallurgical exports decreased in three of the last five communist years. Construction work in countries paying in hard currency declined in the first three years of the period, whereas exports from the wood and paper, engineering, and chemical industries behaved unevenly.

In 1990, by contrast, hard-currency exports increased in most sectors of the economy. The largest increases in that category were achieved in agricultural, metallurgical, and chemical products. In general, the share of manufactured products in Poland's export mix declined sharply with the sudden shift away from Comecon trade. In 1990 the largest major categories of manufactured exports were, respectively, machines and transport equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, and chemicals; their share of total exports was 42.4 percent, compared with 67.3 percent for the same categories in 1985. Growth in exports of food, raw materials, and fuels accounted for the difference.

Although the share of engineering products among exports declined, that group was the most important single earner of hard currency in 1990, followed by metallurgical, chemical, and food products. In 1992 all those industries possessed considerable capacity to expand their productivity, given appropriate investment in modernization and efficient marketing. However, both modernization and marketing depended heavily on cooperation with Western firms. Despite the remarkable increase in hardcurrency exports in 1990, their overall impact on the national economy was limited by the strong effect of reduced transferableruble exports on the priority sectors. In 1990 Polish light industry led the general decline in ruble exports.

At the beginning of 1991, however, the growth rate of hardcurrency exports declined, and imports increased very rapidly. Inflation remained high, and the advantage created by the 1990 devaluation slowly eroded. Another devaluation, this time 17 percent, was effected in May 1991. At the same time, the zloty was pegged to a combination of hard currencies instead of to the dollar alone. In October the fixed exchange rate was replaced by an adjustable rate that would be devalued automatically by 1.8 percent every month as a partial hedge against inflation. The final import figure for 1991 was 87.4 percent higher than that for 1990. In 1991 exports in convertible currencies were a little over US$14.6 billion and imports were nearly US$15.5 billion, creating a hard-currency trade deficit of about US$900 million.

Figures for the first five months of 1992 showed a reversal of the previous year's imbalance. The hard-currency trade surplus of US$340 million reported for that period was attributed to a combination of commodity turnover and cancellation of interest payments in Poland's debt reduction agreement with the Paris Club.

For years under the old system, Poland dispersed small amounts of its export and import trade to a large number of nonComecon countries on all continents. Experts considered such dispersion a policy weakness because marginal suppliers and buyers usually trade at less favorable terms than high-volume partners, making the former expendable in hard times. This factor became even more important in the first postcommunist years; in 1990 Poland's fifteen top import customers absorbed only 81.3 percent of exports, while the fifteen top suppliers contributed 86.2 percent of Polish imports. Poland's traditional partners in the former Soviet Union and Germany (before and after their respective realignments) retained disproportionately high shares in both categories in 1990.

Foreign Investment

By the end of 1991, Poland had obtained US$2.5 billion from the World Bank and other international financial organizations and US$3.5 billion in bilateral credits and guarantees of credit from Western governments. In 1992, however, the limited absorptive capacity of the country still restricted the amounts of foreign cash and credit that could be used. Only US$428 million was utilized in 1990, about US$800 million in 1991. A significant increase was expected in 1992.

Poland's net balance of payments deficit, calculated as the difference between credits used and the amount paid to service the national debt, was more than US$1.3 billion in 1989, US$312 million in 1990, and US$449 million in 1991. In the long run, even investment credits and continued growth of exports could not maintain a balance of payments equilibrium without a substantial inflow of direct foreign investments.

Cooperative enterprises with foreign firms also offered access to advanced technology, better export trade, improved management and training, and attractive job opportunities for younger members of the work force. The first year of postcommunist rule brought an initial surge of investment in which permits for formation of foreign companies more than doubled. A number of United States, British, French, Swiss, Swedish, Dutch, and Japanese firms started Polish enterprises. Significantly, the share of permits issued to German firms dropped from 60 percent in 1989 to 40 percent in 1990, and that figure was expected to remain at about 30 percent after 1991.

Despite the adoption of very liberal investment legislation in the middle of 1991, however, the year did not bring the anticipated investment increases. In 1991 and 1992, major inhibiting factors were real and perceived political instability, conflicting and slow changes in economic policy, a faulty system for taxation of foreign enterprises, and a steep decline in the GNP. In spite of the increase in registered foreign direct investment projects between 1989 and 1991, the registered foreign capital involved in these projects was only US$353 million in 1990 and US$670 million in 1991. The actual investment amounts were not more than 40 percent of those amounts. At the end of 1991, some 4,800 partnerships operated with foreign participation. Of these, 43 percent were in industry, 24 percent in trade, and 6.6 percent in agriculture; about two-thirds of foreign ventures were concentrated in the economic centers of Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk, Szczecin, Katowice, and ód --meaning that foreign investment was not benefiting many of Poland's less prosperous regions. Altogether, the foreign partnerships generated less than 1 percent of Poland's total national income in 1991.


Poland - Government


THE UNEXPECTED SPEED with which communist governance ended in Poland put the country's anticommunist opposition in charge of the search for appropriate new political institutions. The subsequent hectic experiment in democracy yielded mixed results between 1989 and 1992, when the restored Republic of Poland was still attempting to find its political bearings. In 1989 round table talks between the opposition and the communist government spawned a flurry of legislation and constitutional amendments that merged democratic reforms with institutions and laws inherited from four decades of communist rule.

At that point, the young democracy's centers of power had not yet been able to define their span of control and their relationship to one another. Institutional ambiguity was exacerbated by the outcome of the long-awaited parliamentary elections of October 1991, which seated twenty-nine political parties in the powerful lower house, the Sejm. To form a coalition government from such diverse parties, of which none held more than 14 percent of the total seats, was a daunting task in itself. The greater challenge, however, lay in creating a political culture of negotiation and compromise that would make stable democracy feasible over the long term.

A key element in the development of any Western-style democracy is the unrestricted dissemination of accurate information and diverse opinion. In this respect, Poland underwent a less abrupt transition than other postcommunist states. A prolific, independent press had evolved from modest beginnings in the early 1970s, surviving the setback of martial law, and expanding its activities as government censorship diminished after the mid-1980s. Following the Round Table Agreement of early 1989, the press gave voice to an ever-widening spectrum of political and social opinion. But the end of generous state subsidies in favor of a profit- and competition-based system bankrupted hundreds of Polish publishing enterprises. Radio and television adjusted less rapidly to the changed political environment and remained under closer government control than the print media.

Despite a constantly changing constellation of political parties and coalitions that produced five prime ministers in three years, Warsaw maintained a consistent and successful foreign policy during the transition period. By mid-1992, Poland had achieved many of its long-range policy goals, including sovereignty over its foreign affairs; a Russian commitment for complete withdrawal of Soviet/Russian combat forces from Polish territory; bilateral friendship treaties with most of its neighbors; German recognition of the permanent Oder-Neisse border; associate membership in the European Community (EC); and observer status in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). At that point, Warsaw already had travelled a considerable distance on its "path back to Europe." The West responded to Poland's democratizing and marketizing reforms by granting trade concessions, debt relief, and a range of economic and technical assistance.





In August 1980, faced with an increasingly severe economic crisis and social unrest that had been building throughout the 1970s, the communist government reluctantly conceded legal status to an independent labor federation, Solidarity (Solidarnosc). After monopolizing power for thirty-five years without genuine sanction from Polish society, the communist Polish United Workers' Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza--PZPR) found itself in contention with an alternative source of political power that had a valid claim to represent the country's working people. Under the threat of general strikes and facing economic and political chaos, the regime grudgingly reached a series of limited compromises with Solidarity in 1980 and early 1981.

After the government's initial concessions, however, Solidarity militants insisted on substantially broader concessions. In response, PZPR hard-liners used the memories of the Soviet Union's violent reaction to Czechoslovakia's moderate political reforms in 1968 to justify the imposition of martial law in December 1981. Solidarity was declared illegal. General Wojciech Jaruzelski, earlier that year named prime minister and then first secretary of the PZPR, appointed trusted military men to key government positions and de-emphasized communist ideology. Through the rest of the decade, the government sought in vain to recover a degree of legitimacy with the people and to overcome the country's severe economic problems. The overtures of the Jaruzelski government failed, however, to win the support of the Polish people. In a key 1987 national referendum, voters refused to support the government's package of painful reforms needed to halt the economic slide. Eventually, the government came to realize that improvement of the economic situation was not possible without the explicit support of the Solidarity opposition. At that point, the government had no choice but to enter negotiations with Solidarity.

<> The Round Table Agreement
<> The Mazowiecki Government
<> Popular Election of a President
<> The Bielecki Government
<> Parliamentary Elections of October 1991
<> The Olszewski Government
<> The Pawlak Interlude
<> The Suchocka Government


Poland - The Round Table Agreement


When the government convened round table talks with the opposition in early 1989, it was prepared to make certain concessions, including the legalization of Solidarity. It had no intention, however, of granting Solidarity the status of an equal partner. The fifty-seven negotiators at the talks included representatives from the ruling PZPR, Solidarity, and various PZPR-sanctioned quasi-parties and mass organizations, such as the United Peasant Party, the Democratic Party, the Christian Social Union, the Association of Polish Catholics, and the All-Polish Alliance of Trade Unions. The talks were organized into three working groups, which examined the economy, social policy, and the status of trade unions. A spirit of cooperation and compromise characterized the two-month negotiations.

The document signed by the participants on April 6, 1989, laid the groundwork for a pluralistic society that in theory would enjoy freedom of association, freedom of speech, an independent judiciary, and independent trade unions. The Round Table Agreement legalized Solidarity as a labor union; restored the pre-World War II Senate as the upper house of parliament and granted it veto powers over the decisions of the Sejm; promised partially free Sejm elections; replaced the State Council with the new executive office of president of Poland; and called for the creation of an independent judiciary of tenured judges appointed by the president from a list submitted by the parliament.

Although election to the Senate was to be completely free and open, the PZPR and its traditionally subservient partners, the United Peasant Party and the Democratic Party, were assured of 60 percent of the seats in the 460-member Sejm; and religious organizations long associated with the regime were promised 5 percent of the seats. The remaining 161 seats were open to opposition and independent candidates who had obtained at least 3,000 nominating signatures. The agreement allowed a national slate of incumbents, including Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski, to run unopposed and be reelected with a simple majority of the ballots cast. But because voters exercised their option not to endorse candidates and crossed names off the ballot, only two of thirty-five unopposed national candidates received a majority. At the same time, only three of the government's candidates for contested seats received 50 percent of the votes cast. Consequently, a second round of voting was necessary to fill the seats originally reserved for the PZPR coalition.

With only days to organize, Solidarity waged an intense and effective national campaign. A network of ad hoc citizens' committees posted lists of Solidarity candidates, mobilized supporters, and in June executed an electoral coup. Solidarity candidates won all 161 Sejm seats open to them and ninety-nine of 100 seats in the Senate. This impressive electoral performance soon convinced the PZPR-allied parties in the Sejm to side with Solidarity and to form the first postcommunist coalition government in Eastern Europe.

The erosion of the old PZPR-led coalition was evident in the July 19 parliamentary voting for the new office of president of Poland. Thirty-one members of the coalition refused to support General Jaruzelski, the unopposed candidate for the post. The Solidarity leadership, however, believed that Jaruzelski was the best candidate for the presidency. Seemingly, he could best ensure that the PZPR would honor the concessions it had made in the Round Table Agreement. Also, he was the candidate least likely to alarm Moscow. Through careful polling, Solidarity was able to engineer a one-vote margin of victory for Jaruzelski.


Poland - The Mazowiecki Government


Although Jaruzelski had won the presidency, Solidarity was not willing to concede the leadership of the new government to the PZPR. Jaruzelski's choice for the position of prime minister, General Czeslaw Kiszczak, had won respect for his flexibility as the primary government representative during the round table talks. Kiszczak received the necessary simple majority of Sejm seats by the narrowest of margins. But repeated failures to form a coalition government forced the PZPR to face the reality of its diminished power. After consulting with Moscow, Jaruzelski nominated Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a respected intellectual and longtime Solidarity adviser, to become the first noncommunist Polish prime minister since 1944.

The coalition government gave representation to all of the primary political forces extant in August 1989. To secure Mazowiecki's nomination, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa had assured Jaruzelski that the PZPR would continue to control the key ministries of national defense and internal affairs. While entrusting fourteen ministries to Solidarity, Mazowiecki allocated four ministries to the United Peasant Party and three to the Democratic Party. A tone of reconciliation characterized the new administration. Determined not to engage in an anticommunist witch hunt, Mazowiecki pursued an evolutionary program of democratic reform.


Poland - Popular Election of a President


Although Walesa had handpicked Mazowiecki to be prime minister and had played a key role in persuading the population to grant the young government a grace period, tensions between the two men emerged in early 1990. Perhaps regretting his decision not to seek the office of prime minister himself, Walesa began to criticize the Mazowiecki government. After the formal dissolution of the PZPR in January 1990, Walesa argued that the time had come to discard the concessions from the Round Table Agreement that prolonged the influence of the old regime. Sensing the depth of public discontent over falling living standards and rising unemployment, he leveled ever harsher criticism at Mazowiecki. In return, the Mazowiecki circle accused Walesa of destructive sloganeering. The acrimonious relations between the two camps led to the emergence of the first post-Solidarity political groupings. The pro-Walesa Center Alliance (Porozumienie Centrum) called for accelerating the pace of reform and purging former communist appointees as rapidly as possible. The Mazowiecki forces set up the Citizens' Movement for Democratic Action.

The split grew more serious following President Jaruzelski's announcement that he would retire before the expiration of his term in 1995. With the support of both noncommunist factions, parliament enacted legislation to make possible the direct election of the president. Both Walesa and Mazowiecki ran for the office in the fall of 1990, together with four other candidates of widely varying political associations and experience.

The campaign was bitter and divisive. Despite the heated rhetoric of the campaign, the candidates differed relatively little on substantive issues. Their disagreements stemmed mostly from the different leadership styles of the men. Wounded by attacks on his intelligence, Walesa revealed a streak of antiSemitism with remarks about the Jewish roots of the ruling clique in Warsaw. Meanwhile, falling living standards increased voters' disenchantment with the government's economic program. An uninspiring public speaker and a poor campaign organizer, Mazowiecki could not rally support during the short time remaining before the election.

Many voters apathetic toward the two front runners were attracted to the iconoclastic Stanislaw Tyminski, a wealthy expatriate with no political experience. Tyminski's campaign made effective use of his outsider status. His wild accusations against the leading candidates found a receptive audience. Tyminski asserted that given a chance, he could make all Poles rich.

The election results were a stunning rejection of the Mazowiecki government. With only 18 percent of the total vote, Mazowiecki finished third behind Walesa (40 percent) and the maverick Tyminski (23 percent). The candidate of the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland (SdRP), successor to the PZPR, received more than 9 percent of the vote, demonstrating the residual strength of the old party elite.

A runoff election between Tyminski and Walesa was necessitated by all candidates' failure to achieve a majority. Walesa sought the votes of Mazowiecki's supporters, promising to continue the basic course of economic transformation initiated by Mazowiecki's minister of finance, Leszek Balcerowicz. But the ad hominem attacks of the campaign made immediate reconciliation impossible. With the reluctant support of the Mazowiecki faction and the implicit endorsement of the Roman Catholic Church, Walesa won the runoff with almost 75 percent of the vote to become Poland's first popularly elected president. Although Walesa had prevailed, the bitter campaign had badly tarnished his image and worsened the splits in the old Solidarity coalition.


Poland - The Bielecki Government


Upon taking office in December 1990, Walesa offered the post of prime minister to Jan Olszewski, a respected attorney who had defended prominent dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s and who had a long association with Solidarity. When Olszewski rejected the offer because of Walesa's insistence on controlling key cabinet positions, Walesa offered the position to Jan Bielecki, the leader of a small reformist party, the Liberal-Democratic Congress. Believing that this would be a short-lived interim government, Bielecki accepted and conceded to Walesa the right to oversee cabinet selection. The new government retained several key members of the Mazowiecki cabinet. Leszek Balcerowicz continued to coordinate economic policy, and the widely respected Krzysztof Skubiszewski remained in charge of foreign affairs.

By his involvement in forming the Bielecki government, Walesa expanded the ill-defined powers of the presidency. His resolve to be an activist president caused alarm in the parliament, intellectual circles, and the press. Some people accused Walesa of harboring ambitions to attain the powers of Józef Pilsudski, the strong-willed leader in the interwar years. Although he vigorously denied such charges, Walesa's popularity plunged in early 1990 as his prime minister failed to deliver the promised acceleration of economic reform and improvement of government services. During his tenure, Bielecki made little headway in privatizing large state enterprises and dismantling the managerial bureaucracy left by the communists.

By the summer of 1990, factionalism and the obstructionism of remaining communist legislators prevented the Sejm from enacting major legislation sponsored by the Bielecki government. Therefore, with Walesa's support, Bielecki asked the Sejm to revise the constitution and grant the prime minister authority to issue economic decrees with the force of law. The proposal was defeated, and the gridlock between executive and legislative branches continued.

Walesa grew increasingly resentful of the political, institutional, and legal constraints placed on his office. He felt especially encumbered by the composition of the Sejm, which opposed much of his economic agenda. Therefore, Walesa called for parliamentary elections in the spring of 1991 to install a fully democratic Sejm. Because his timetable could not be met, a long power struggle between the Sejm and the president over parliamentary election legislation ensued, and Walesa sustained a major political defeat. The president had favored an election law that would end the fragmentation of the Sejm by fostering large parties and coalitions. However, the parties formerly allied with the communists joined other anti-Walesa factions in the Sejm in enacting a system that allocated seats in strict proportion to candidates' percentages of the total vote in thirty-seven multimember electoral districts. Such a system, Walesa rightly feared, would enable dozens of minor and regional parties to win seats in the parliament by receiving only a few thousand votes.


Poland - Parliamentary Elections of October 1991


Over Walesa's veto, the Sejm version of the parliamentary election bill became law in mid-1991. Elections were scheduled for the following October. During the months before the election, Walesa refused to endorse any of the numerous post-Solidarity parties and other parties that fielded slates of candidates. He remained noncommittal, distancing himself even from the Center Alliance, which had been his core of support during the presidential election. In fact, Walesa defended the Bielecki government from attacks by the Center Alliance. The president participated in the parliamentary campaign only by urging voters to defeat former communist candidates who had joined other parties after the dissolution of the PZPR.

As Walesa had predicted, the first election held under the new election law produced a badly fragmented parliament. Only 43 percent of the electorate voted in the first totally free parliamentary elections since 1928. Twenty-nine parties won seats in the new Sejm, but none received more than 14 percent of the vote. Both extremes of the political spectrum fared well, while the moderate post-Solidarity parties failed to win the expected majority of seats. This outcome promised a Sejm no less obstructionist than the one it replaced, and prospects for a coalition agreeing on a new prime minister were dim. At least five were needed to form a coalition holding a majority of seats in the Sejm. The Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland was essentially an ineligible party because of its roots in the PZPR. Meanwhile, the grave split of the two leading Solidarity factions made them incompatible in any coalition. This situation left a center-right coalition as the only practical option. Walesa's initial nominee for prime minister failed, however, because he lacked support from the Center Alliance and Bielecki's party, the Liberal-Democratic Congress.


Poland - The Olszewski Government


After five weeks of struggle, Walesa reluctantly acceded to a Sejm coalition of five center-right parties by nominating Jan Olszewski of the Center Alliance as prime minister. Relations between the two men had been strained in early 1990 by Olszewski's initial refusal of the position of prime minister and by Walesa's fear that Olszewski would abandon the Balcerowicz economic reforms. At that point, Walesa had even threatened to assume the duties of prime minister himself.

Although supported by a fragile, unlikely coalition that included the Confederation for an Independent Poland and the Liberal-Democratic Congress, Olszewski was confirmed as prime minister. Within days, however, the coalition began to disintegrate. Although the Liberal-Democratic Congress had been promised a decisive role in setting economic policy, the futility of that promise soon drove the party out of the coalition. Next to leave was the ultranationalist Confederation for Independent Poland, which was alienated when it was denied control of the Ministry of National Defense. A frustrated Olszewski submitted his resignation only two weeks after his nomination.

The Sejm rejected Olszewski's resignation, sensing that no other nominee was likely to form a more viable government at that time. The prime minister survived mainly because of unexpected support from a party outside the coalition, the Polish Peasant Party, which won several key ministerial appointments in the political bargain. Nevertheless, dissension within the coalition continued to weaken and isolate the prime minister at the same time that the two largest parties in the Sejm--Mazowiecki's Democratic Union and the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, heir to the PZPR--openly opposed the government.

Although condemning the previous two governments for the deep recession and budget crisis, Olszewski had very little room to maneuver and continued the austerity policies initiated by those governments. Far from easing the pain of economic transition, Olszewski was forced to impose steep energy and transportation price increases. Government spending could not be increased without jeopardizing crucial credit arrangements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A critical vote in the Sejm in March 1992 rejected the government's economic program outline and revealed the untenable position of the prime minister. The program, constructed by the head of the Office of Central Planning, Jerzy Eysymontt, called for continued sacrifice, reduced government spending, and higher prices for traditionally subsidized goods and services. This program clearly conflicted with the government's promises for a rapid breakthrough and a reversal of Balcerowicz's austerity policies.

Efforts to bring the major opposition parties into the governing coalition began in 1992, but preliminary talks produced nothing and alienated coalition members who had not been consulted in advance. Some members objected to all compromises with the Liberal-Democratic Congress and the Democratic Union. One such member was the Christian National Union, a strong supporter of Olszewski, which dominated his cabinet and advanced a Roman Catholic agenda incompatible with the secular views of the two opposition parties. The most problematic issue upon which the parties disagreed was the state's position on abortion.

The Sejm's rejection of his economic program convinced Olszewski to push harder for expansion of his coalition. In the days following the vote, Olszewski personally offered economic compromise to Mazowiecki in exchange for support by the Democratic Union. Mazowiecki insisted on a dominant role in economic policy and inclusion of his allied parties in a restructured government. Several weeks of amicable negotiations failed to enlarge Olszewski's coalition.

Even as he sought potential coalition partners and proposed economic compromises, Olszewski alienated the opposition and, most importantly, President Walesa, by his partisan leadership style and personnel policies at all levels of administration. Two members of Olszewski's cabinet defied presidential prerogatives in highly publicized, politically destabilizing incidents. First, Minister of National Defense Jan Parys enraged Walesa by failing to consult him in making key personnel decisions, a failure that led to dismissal of Parys for making public accusations that members of the president's circle planned a coup. Then the circulation of an unsubstantiated list of sixtytwo current and former government officials alleged to have collaborated with the communist secret police caused a major upheaval. Walesa charged that the list threatened the stability of the state and required the dismissal of the Olszewski government. The Sejm then voted Olszewski out of office in June 1992 by the substantial margin of 273 to 119 votes.

Olszewski and his cabinet did not leave office quietly. The outgoing government launched unprecedented personal attacks on Walesa, accusing him of presiding over the recommunization of Poland. Walesa replied that Olszewski had issued orders to place on alert security forces in Warsaw, including the presidential guard, as a prelude to a coup d'état.


Poland - The Pawlak Interlude


In June Walesa nominated Waldemar Pawlak, the thirty-two- year-old leader of the Polish Peasant Party, as Olszewski's replacement. The Sejm approved the nomination by a vote of 261 to 149. To calm the highly charged atmosphere in Warsaw and the persistent rumors of coup plots, the new prime minister immediately replaced ministers implicated in circulation of the controversial list. Despite Pawlak's reputation as a reasonable and competent politician, he could not surmount his membership in a party tainted by past accommodation to the communists; he was unable to assemble a cabinet acceptable to the splintered Sejm. The first prime minister without Solidarity connections since the Round Table Agreement, Pawlak failed to win the support of any major party linked to Solidarity. When talks with the major opposition parties broke down a month after his appointment, Pawlak asked Walesa to relieve him of the mission of forming a new government.


Poland - The Suchocka Government


Once again frustrated by an uncooperative Sejm, Walesa threatened to assume the duties of prime minister and form his own cabinet unless a governing coalition were assembled within twenty-four hours. In July two emerging coalitions in the Sejm (a four-party Christian and peasant block and the existing Little Coalition formed around the Democratic Union) surprised most observers by reaching agreement on the candidacy of Hanna Suchocka of the Democratic Union and on the allocation of cabinet positions. Despite misgivings, Walesa approved the cabinet with the warning that if Suchocka failed, he would assume the duties of chief executive in a French-style presidential government.

A relatively unknown political figure, Suchocka was acceptable to other parties that felt personal antipathy toward the more prominent leaders of the Democratic Union. To strengthen support for the new government, two deputy prime minister positions were created, one for economic affairs and one for politics. These posts went to members of the Christian National Union and the Party of Christian Democrats, respectively. Drawing heavily on the experience of the first three Solidarity governments, Suchocka's cabinet included such well-known figures as Jacek Kuron and Janusz Onyszkiewicz (minister of national defense) of the Democratic Union, Bielecki of the LiberalDemocratic Congress, Eysymontt of the Polish Economic Program, and independent Krzysztof Skubiszewski (minister of foreign affairs). Members of the Little Coalition received eleven ministerial posts, most of which were concerned with economic policy; the Christian National Union received five cabinet positions, ensuring it a prominent role in social policy issues such as abortion. Noticeably outside the coalition were the Center Alliance, the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, and the Confederation for Independent Poland, all of which found their political fortunes declining in mid-1992.




Although significantly amended after the Round Table Agreement of April 1989, much of the constitution of 1952 remained in effect in mid-1992. The symbolic target date of May 3, 1992 for adopting a new constitution proved unrealistic in light of Poland's political climate. That date would have commemorated the twohundredth anniversary of the enactment of Poland's first written constitution, the Ustawa Rzadowa of May 3, 1791--a widely hailed document intellectually rooted in the philosophy of the Enlightenment. But in 1990 and 1991 a new constitution was impossible because the Round Table Agreement had allowed the communists continued predominance in the Sejm and because of growing factionalism within Solidarity, the most powerful party. Even after free parliamentary elections in October 1991, however, political instability precluded the adoption of a new constitution in the near term.

The Constitution of 1952

With the adoption of the 1952 document, which replicated much of the Soviet Union's 1936 constitution, the Republic of Poland was renamed the Polish People's Republic, and the crown symbolizing national independence was removed from the country's flag. The constitution declared that power derived from the working people, who by universal suffrage and the secret ballot elected their representatives in the Sejm and the regional and local people's councils. Like its Soviet counterpart, the 1952 Polish constitution listed in exhaustive detail the basic rights and responsibilities of the population. All citizens, regardless of nationality, race, religion, sex, level of education, or social status, were guaranteed work, leisure, education, and health care. The constitution promised freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly, and association, and it guaranteed inviolability of the person, the home, and personal correspondence. As in the Soviet Union, however, the idealistic Polish constitution did not deliver the promised individual rights and liberties.

Instead, the constitution of 1952 provided a facade of legitimacy, behind which the PZPR concentrated real political power in its central party organs, particularly the Political Bureau, usually referred to as the Politburo, and the Secretariat. The document's ambiguous language concerning establishment of a state apparatus enabled the PZPR to bend the constitution to suit its purposes. The traditional tripartite separation of powers among governmental branches was abandoned. The constitution allowed the PZPR to control the state apparatus "in the interests of the working people." As a result, all levels of government were staffed with PZPR-approved personnel, and government in fact functioned as the party's administrative, subordinate partner.

Between 1952 and 1973, the PZPR-dominated Sejm approved ten constitutional amendments concerning the organization and function of central and local government bodies. In 1976, after four years of work by a Sejm constitutional commission, roughly one-third of the original ninety-one articles were amended. The new version described Poland as a socialist state, presumably signifying advancement from its earlier status as a people's democracy. For the first time, the constitution specifically mentioned the PZPR, which was accorded special status as the "guiding political force of society in building socialism." The document also recognized the Soviet Union as the liberator of Poland from fascism and as the innovator of the socialist state. More importantly, the 1976 amendments committed Poland to a foreign policy of friendly relations with the Soviet Union and its other socialist neighbors. These provisions, which in effect surrendered Polish national sovereignty, provoked such widespread protest by the intelligentsia and the Roman Catholic hierarchy that the government was forced to recast the amendments in less controversial terms.

In the decade preceding the Round Table Agreement, the PZPR endorsed a number of amendments to the 1952 constitution in a vain attempt to gain legitimacy with the disgruntled population. In the spirit of the Gdansk Agreement of August 1980, which recognized workers' rights to establish free trade unions, the constitution was amended in October 1980. The amendments of that time promised to reduce PZPR influence over the Sejm. For that purpose, the Supreme Control Chamber (Najwyzsza Izba Kontroli-- NIK--chief agency for oversight of the government's economic and administrative activities) was transferred from the Council of Ministers to the Sejm. In December 1981, the imposition of martial law temporarily halted the erosion of the party's constitutional authority. But in March 1982, the Jaruzelski regime resumed its effort to appease the public by again amending the constitution.

The March 1982 amendments provided for the creation of two independent entities, the Constitutional Tribunal and the State Tribunal, which had the effect of reestablishing the traditional Polish constitutional principle of government by rule of law. The 1976 amendments had placed adjudication of the constitutionality of statutes with the Council of State (chief executive organ of the nation). Although the authority of the Constitutional Tribunal was strictly limited, beginning in 1982 that body issued a number of important decisions forcing the repeal of questionable regulations. The State Tribunal was established to adjudicate abuses of power by government officials. Although legally prevented from reviewing the activities of Sejm deputies, the State Tribunal represented yet another major step in the evolution of the democratic concept of government by the consent of the governed.

Shortly before the official lifting of martial law in July 1983, the Sejm enacted additional constitutional changes that held the promise of political pluralism. For the first time, the United Peasant Party and the Democratic Party officially were recognized as legitimate political parties, existing independently from the PZPR. The amendments also tacitly sanctioned the political activities of church organizations by stressing that public good can derive from "societal organizations."

Another important step toward meaningful constitutional guarantees in a civil society was the July 1987 decision to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Citizens' Rights as a people's ombudsman. The office provided a mechanism for citizens to file grievances against government organs for violations of constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. Receiving more than 50,000 petitions in its first year, the office immediately proved to be more than a symbolic concession.

Constitutional Revisions after April 1989

The Round Table Agreement brought a number of amendments that substantially altered the 1952 Constitution. The so-called April Amendments resurrected the traditional Polish constitutional concept of separation of powers. The legislative branch would again be bicameral after four decades of a single, 460-member Sejm. The new body included a freely elected 100-member Senate and retained the 460-member Sejm as its lower chamber. Power would be distributed among the houses of parliament and the newly established Office of the President, which was to assume many of the executive powers previously held by the Council of State. The April Amendments provided for election of the president by the two houses of parliament.

In December 1989, the new parliament made several additional, highly symbolic amendments to the 1952 constitution to rid the document of Marxist terminology. The PZPR lost its special status when its identification as the political guiding force in Polish society was deleted from the constitution. The hated words "People's Republic" would be discarded and the state's official name would be restored to the prewar "Republic of Poland." Article 2 was revised to read "Supreme authority in the Republic of Poland is vested in the People," amending the Marxist phrase "the working people." The amendments of December 1989 also wrote into law the equality of all forms of property ownership, the essential first step in establishing a market economy.

Aware that piecemeal revision of the Stalinist 1952 constitution would not meet the needs of a democratic Polish society, in December 1989 the Sejm created a Constitutional Commission to write a fully democratic document untainted by association with Poland's communist era. The next year, the National Assembly (the combined Sejm and Senate) prescribed the procedure by which the draft would be enacted. The document would require approval by a two-thirds vote of both assembly houses in joint session, followed by a national referendum. Theoretically, this procedure would bolster the constitution's legitimacy against doubts created by the dubious political credentials of some of its authors.

Chaired by one of the Solidarity movement's most brilliant intellectuals, Bronislaw Geremek, the Sejm Constitutional Commission faced serious obstacles from the outset. The legitimacy of the Sejm itself was at issue because the Round Table Agreement had allowed Solidarity to contest only 35 percent of the Sejm seats. Claiming that its open election in 1989 made it more representative of the popular will, the Senate condemned the Sejm Constitutional Commission and began working on its own version of a new constitution. In reality, however the Senate was not an accurate cross section of Polish society because it lacked representatives from the peasants and the political left. Subsequent efforts to form a joint Sejm-Senate constitutional commission proved futile.

After his victory in the December 1990 presidential election, Walesa cast further doubt on the commission's activity by challenging the credentials of the existing Sejm. Nevertheless, the commission continued its work and presented a fairly complete draft constitution by the spring of 1991. The draft was based on the two series of amendments passed in 1989. It also borrowed heavily from various Western constitutions, most notably the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The draft was soon discarded, however, because of the Sejm's undemocratic constituency; for the same reason, the commission as such ceased to exist in 1991.

In the first half of 1992, attention shifted to the so-called Little Constitution, a document that used much of the 1991 draft in redefining the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government and clarifying the division of power between the president and the prime minister. The Little Constitution was to be a compromise that would solidify as many democratic institutions as possible before all constitutional controversies could be resolved. Nevertheless, the new document would supersede all but a few provisions of the 1952 constitution and provide the basis for a full constitution when remaining points of dispute could be resolved. Its drafts retained the statement that Poland was a democratic state of law guided by principles of social justice. Agencies such as the Constitutional Tribunal, the State Tribunal, and the Office of the Commissioner for Citizens Rights were also retained.




The three years following the Round Table Agreement of 1989 were a period of dramatic but uneven change in the governmental structure of the Republic of Poland. The Round Table Agreement itself moved Poland decisively away from a Soviet-style unitary hierarchy in which the formal government was merely a bureaucracy to implement decisions made by the extraconstitutional organs of the PZPR. The Round Table Agreement created a tripartite structure in which power was distributed among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. By mid-1992, the Polish government had evolved into a presidential and parliamentary democracy with an increasingly independent judiciary. The adoption of the Little Constitution promised to resolve ambiguities in the executive powers of the president and the prime minister and to clarify the scope of control of the bicameral National Assembly.

<>The President
<> Sejm
<> Senate
<> Supreme Control Chamber
<> Council of Ministers
<> Regional and Local Government
<> Judicial System


Poland - The President


The presidency was established by the Round Table Agreement to replace the communist-era Council of State as the primary executive organ of government. According to the agreement, the president was to be elected by the National Assembly to a term of six years. Although not the head of government (that function was performed by the prime minister), the president was empowered to veto legislation and had control of the armed forces. The negotiators of the Round Table Agreement clearly crafted the presidency with the expectation that General Jaruzelski would be its first incumbent. A Jaruzelski presidency would have ensured PZPR compliance with the concessions the party had made in the agreement. Moreover, Jaruzelski was expected to be effective in protecting the new political arrangements from Soviet interference. After solidarity succeeded in forming a noncommunist coalition government in mid-1989, however, Jaruzelski lost most of his powers, and the presidency became a largely ceremonial office. The office changed drastically when Walesa became Poland's first popularly elected president in late 1990.

A constitutional amendment in the spring of 1990 provided for direct popular election of the president to a five-year term with a limit of one reelection. Any Polish citizen at least thirtyfive years of age was eligible to appear on the ballot after obtaining 100,000 nominating signatures.

If accused of violating the constitution and Polish law, the president could be indicted before the State Tribunal if twothirds of the National Assembly so voted. Upon indictment, the president would be relieved temporarily of the duties of office. A guilty verdict from the State Tribunal would bring expulsion from office. The presidency also could be vacated because of physical unfitness to hold the office, as determined by the National Assembly. In such circumstances, the Sejm speaker would temporarily assume the duties of the presidency until a new president could be sworn in.

The president's duties include protecting the constitution; safeguarding the sovereignty, security, and territorial inviolability of the Polish state; and overseeing adherence to international agreements and treaties. The constitution authorizes the president to call for elections to the Sejm, Senate, and county councils. The president also appoints diplomatic representatives and officially receives foreign diplomats; acts as commander in chief of the armed forces; calls and presides over emergency sessions of the Council of Ministers; and performs other duties assigned the chief of state by the constitution or by law.

A critical duty of the president is naming the head of government, the prime minister. The Little Constitution amends the procedure prescribed for this function. Originally, the president nominated the prime minister, but the Sejm had to approve both that nomination and the prime minister's cabinet choices that followed. The Little Constitution specifies that the president designate the prime minister and appoint the cabinet upon consultation with the prime minister. Within two weeks, however, the new government must receive the Sejm's confirmation (by a simple majority of the deputies present voting in favor). If the government is not confirmed, the Sejm then has the responsibility to nominate and confirm its own candidate, again by a majority vote. If the Sejm fails in this attempt, the president has another chance, this time with the lesser requirement that more votes be cast for approval than for nonapproval. Finally, if the president's choice again fails, the Sejm would attempt to confirm its own candidate by the lesser vote. If no candidate can be confirmed, the president has the option of dissolving parliament or appointing a six-month interim government. During the interim period, if the Sejm does not confirm the government, or one of its own choosing, parliament automatically would be dissolved.

The constitution grants the president certain legislative prerogatives, including the right to propose legislation; to veto acts of the National Assembly (the Sejm could overrule such a veto with a two-thirds majority); to ask the Constitutional Tribunal to judge the constitutionality of legislation; and to issue decrees and instructions on the implementation of laws. The president ratifies or terminates international agreements but needs prior approval from the Sejm to ratify agreements involving sizable financial liability on the state or changes in legislation.

If national security were threatened, the president could declare martial law and announce a partial or full mobilization. He or she could also introduce a state of emergency for a period of up to three months in case of a threat to domestic tranquility or natural disaster. A one-time extension of a state of emergency, not to exceed three months, could be declared with the approval of both houses of the National Assembly.


Poland - Sejm


The lower house of the bicameral National Assembly, the Sejm, is the more powerful of the two chambers. The Sejm has the constitutional responsibility of initiating and enacting laws that "set the basic direction of the state's activity" and of overseeing "other organs of power and state administration." The constitution specifies election of the 460 Sejm deputies to a term of four years. The 1991 election was conducted by a system that awarded seats in the Sejm in strict proportion to the number of votes each party or coalition garnered nationally. This system was blamed for the extreme fragmentation that plagued Polish politics in 1991-92. The new Sejm is required to convene within one month after national parliamentary elections.

Upon taking the oath of office, the Sejm deputies immediately elect a permanent marshal, who serves as Sejm speaker. The marshal and three vice marshals constitute the Presidium of the Sejm, the chief duties of which are to oversee accomplishment of the Sejm agenda, to coordinate the activities of the parliamentary commissions, and to represent the Sejm in external affairs. The marshal, vice marshals, and leaders of parliamentary caucuses (called "clubs") form an advisory organ to the Sejm Presidium known as the Council of Elders (Konwent Seniorów), which assists in scheduling.

The constitution empowers the president to declare a threemonth state of emergency in the event of parliamentary paralysis. During this period, the president may perform the duties of the prime minister, but the Sejm cannot be dismissed, and changes cannot be made to the constitution or electoral law.

Among the most important agencies of the Sejm in mid-1992 were twenty-one permanent committees, which enjoyed considerable autonomy in deliberating issues and in referring their findings to the entire Sejm for action. The committees set their own agendas in analyzing the performance of individual sectors of the economy or units of state administration. The Sejm could also create special committees to study specific issues. Committee appointments were highly partisan and reflected the numerical representation of the various parties and factions within the Sejm.

The National Assembly has exclusive responsibility to pass a central state budget and to finance the entire range of state activities, including foreign monetary payments, and to approve a domestic credit plan and balance sheet of incomes and expenditures. The budget bill and financial plans passed by the Sejm are sent to the Senate, which may propose changes. The Little Constitution specifies that the Sejm can overturn the Senate's changes with an absolute majority vote. Previously, overriding Senate changes had required a two-thirds majority, with a quorum of at least 50 percent of the Sejm deputies. The president can dismiss parliament for failing to pass a budget within three months.


Poland - Senate


The upper house of the National Assembly, the Senate, was reestablished by the Round Table Agreement more than four decades after being abolished by the communist government. The Round Table Agreement provides for the direct popular election of all 100 senators--two from each of the forty-nine districts (województwa; sing. województwo, sometimes seen in English as voivodship) with the exception of Warsaw and Katowice, which elect three senators each. The senators' four-year terms of office coincide with those of Sejm deputies.

The Senate sets its own agenda and committee structure. As in the Sejm, committee appointments are dictated by the numerical strength of the parties and factions represented in the chamber. Besides its budget review function, the Senate also reviews Sejm legislation and may approve, amend, or reject within thirty days. The Senate also confirms key appointments, including the commissioner for citizens' rights and the chairperson of the Supreme Control Chamber, both of whom are nominated by the Sejm.

Within one month after parliamentary elections, the president is required to call the first session of the new Senate. The Senate Presidium consists of the permanent marshal and six other prominent senators. The Sejm and Senate presidia occasionally meet to coordinate agendas and create joint committees as required.


Poland - Supreme Control Chamber


The Supreme Control Chamber, often referred to as the NIK, was established during the communist period to monitor the economic, financial, and administrative activities of state organs, their subordinate enterprises, and other organizational units. The chairperson of the NIK was appointed or recalled by the Sejm with the concurrence of the Senate. The chamber gained a reputation for incorruptability in the communist era, exerting some control over inefficiency and budgetary excesses. The office has retained its watchdog role in the democratic system. Among other activities, the NIK submits reports on the performance, abuses, and failures of enterprise funds, customs offices, and currency exchanges.


Poland - Council of Ministers


The highest administrative organ of state authority, the Council of Ministers (commonly called the cabinet), and its chairperson, the prime minister, constitute the acting government. The Council of Ministers answers to the Sejm or, between Sejm sessions, to the president. Prior to the adoption of the Little Constitution, the Sejm could dismiss individual ministers or the entire Council of Ministers on its own initiative. The Little Constitution restricts this prerogative by requiring the Sejm to nominate an alternative candidate supported by an absolute majority of Sejm deputies. If the Sejm produces no such candidate, no vote for dismissal may be taken. The Little Constitution also eliminates the president's power to move for the government's dismissal.

The authority of the Council of Ministers is quite broad. The council coordinates the activities of the ministries and their subordinate entities. Among its other legally specified functions is compiling an annual state budget and presenting it to the Sejm and the Senate for approval. The Council of Ministers also presents an annual report on the previous year's budgetary implementation. Other constitutional functions include ensuring public order; protecting the interests of the state and the rights of individual citizens; guiding foreign policy and national defense; and organizing the armed forces and setting induction quotas. In running the Council of Ministers, the prime minister is assisted by one or more deputy prime ministers and a director of the Office of the Council of Ministers. In mid-1992, the government consisted of seventeen ministries, the Office of Central Planning, and three ministers without portfolio.

The jurisdiction of the ministries is defined by statute, on the basis of which the ministries issue decrees and regulations. Under secretaries of state and vice ministers provide managerial support to the ministers. For certain ministries with exceptionally broad responsibilities, the position of secretary of state was established. The prime minister has authority to appoint and dismiss secretaries and under secretaries of state.


Poland - Regional and Local Government


The territory of Poland is administered through a system of forty-nine districts established in 1975 to replace the previous system of twenty-two districts. In addition, three city councils- -Warsaw, Lodz, and Kraków--enjoy special administrative status. Each district is managed by a government-appointed wojewoda (typically a professional administrator) and a district assembly whose members are chosen by the popularly elected local government units, the community (gmina; pl., gminy) councils. Both the district and community levels of government enjoy far greater autonomy than they did under the highly centralized communist system of administration.

According to the amended constitution in use in mid-1992, local self-rule is the basic organizational form of public life in the community. The community possesses legal status and acts on behalf of the public interest in accordance with the law. The residents of the community directly elect a standing council of their peers to a four-year term by universal secret ballot. A community or town of fewer than 40,000 residents elects council members in single-seat districts on a simple majority basis. Cities with more than 40,000 people use multiseat districts, and seats are allocated on a proportional basis. The executive organ of the community is the municipal government (zarz d), which consists of a "chief officer" (wojt; pl., wojtowie) or mayor, his or her deputies, and other members. Communities may form intercommunity unions to coordinate projects of mutual interest.

Community councils in a given district elect delegates from their membership to a self-governing regional council (sejmik samorzadowy), which approves formation of intercommunity unions and works closely with district authorities through mandatory reports moving in both directions. The prime minister and district authorities monitor community activity, but they may interfere only in instances of obvious incompetence or violation of law.


Poland - Judicial System


The constitution of 1952 reflected the communists' disdain for the concept of judicial independence. As in the Soviet system, the Polish judiciary was viewed as an integral part of the coercive state apparatus. The courts were not allowed to adjudicate the constitutionality of statutes. Instead, the function of constitutional review was within the purview of the legislative branch until 1976, when it passed to the Council of State. A key provision of the Round Table Agreement was the reemergence of an independent judiciary, a concept rooted in the Ustawa Rzadowa, the constitution of 1791. By 1992 most of the communist political appointees had left the Supreme Court, and at all levels new judges had been recruited from among qualified academic and courtroom barristers. On the other hand, in 1992 Poland's body of laws still contained a motley assortment of Soviet-style statutes full of vague language aimed at protecting the communist monopoly of power rather than the rule of law itself. A complete overhaul of the legal system was a universally recognized need.

The National Judicial Council

A critical step in establishing the autonomy of the judicial branch was the Sejm's vote in December 1989 to create the National Judicial Council. The twenty-four member council, consisting of judges from the national, district, and local levels, serves a four-year term and has the primary function of recommending judgeship candidates to the president. Another basic function of the body is to oversee the entire judiciary and establish professional standards.

The Supreme Court

Reform of the appointment mechanism for justices was a necessity to ensure an independent judiciary. In the communist era, the Council of State appointed Supreme Court justices to five-year terms, making selections on purely political grounds. Because the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over all other courts in the land, the political reliability of its members was an important consideration in appointment decisions. Judicial reform after the Round Table Agreement provided that the president appoint Supreme Court justices from a list prepared by an independent National Judicial Council, and that justices be appointed for life terms. The presiding officer of the Supreme Court, called the first chairman, is appointed from among the Supreme Court justices by the National Assembly upon the recommendation of the president. Dismissal from the chairmanship follows the same procedure.

The Supreme Court reviews the decisions of all lower courts; hears appeals of decisions made by the district courts, along with appeals brought by the minister of justice (who simultaneously serves as the prosecutor general) and the first chairman of the Supreme Court; and adopts legal interpretations and clarifications. The court is organized into four chambers: criminal, civil, labor and social insurance, and military. Because of its heavy case load, the Supreme Court is a large body, employing 117 judges and a staff of 140 persons in late 1990.

Lower Courts

In 1990 the system of lower courts included forty-four district and 282 local courts. These numbers were scheduled to be increased to forty-nine and 300, respectively, in 1991. Thereafter the local courts were to concentrate on minor, routine offenses, and the district courts were to take on more serious cases and consider appeals of local court verdicts. Misdemeanors generally are handled by panels of "social adjudicators," who are elected by local government councils. In 1991 these panels heard about 600,000 cases, of which about 80 percent were traffic violations. To relieve the heavy appeals case load of the Supreme Court, ten regional appeals courts were set up in late 1990 to review verdicts of the district courts.

The Supreme Administrative Court

The Supreme Administrative Court was established in 1980 to review and standardize administrative regulations enforced by government agencies and to hear citizens' complaints concerning the legality of administrative decisions. In 1991 the court heard some 15,600 cases, mostly dealing with taxes, social welfare issues, and local government decisions. As of late 1990, the court employed 105 judges and 163 staff members.

The Constitutional Tribunal

The Constitutional Tribunal was established by the Jaruzelski regime in early 1982 to adjudicate the constitutionality of laws and regulations. The Sejm appoints the tribunal's members to four-year terms. Initially, the body did not have authority to review laws and statutes enacted before 1982. Findings of unconstitutionality could be overruled by the Sejm with a twothirds majority vote. Selected by the Sejm for their superior legal expertise, the members of the Constitutional Tribunal are independent and bound only by the constitution. In 1992 the tribunal made controversial findings that government plans to control wages and pensions retroactively violated rights constitutionally guaranteed to citizens.

The State Tribunal

The Jaruzelski regime created the State Tribunal in 1982, by the same law that formed the Constitutional Tribunal, in response to instances of high official corruption in 1980. The State Tribunal passes judgment on the guilt or innocence of the highest office holders in the land accused of violating the constitution and laws. The body's twenty-seven members are appointed by the Sejm from outside its membership for a term coinciding with that of the Sejm. Judges in the State Tribunal are independent and bound only by the law. The chairperson of the State Tribunal is the president of the Supreme Court. As of mid-1992, the State Tribunal had never heard a case.

The Prosecutor General

The communist-era Office of the Chief Prosecutor was abolished following the Round Table Agreement. Thereafter, the minister of justice has served as the prosecutor general. The mission of the prosecutor general is to safeguard law and order and ensure prosecution of crimes. Since 1990 the prosecutors on the district and local levels have been given autonomy from the police and are subordinated to the minister of justice, who has assumed the role of the defunct prosecutor general. In 1992 many prosecutors remained from the rubber-stamp judicial system of the communist era, however. Because they had no understanding of democratic judicial practice, these officials seriously inhibited the new legal system in dealing with the wave of crime that accompanied the transition to a market economy.

The Commissioner for Citizens' Rights

The concept of a people's ombudsman to safeguard individual civil rights and liberties was first proposed by the Patriotic Movement for National Rebirth (Patriotyczny Ruch Odrodzenia Narodowego--PRON) in 1983. Four years later, the Sejm enacted legislation establishing the Office of the Commissioner for Citizens' Rights. Appointed to a four-year term by the Sejm with Senate approval, the commissioner is independent of other state agencies and answers only to the Sejm. The commissioner's mandate is to investigate on behalf of individual citizens or organizations possible infractions of Polish law or basic principles of justice by public officials, institutions, or organizations. Although the commissioner may review the administration of the courts, he or she may intercede only in matters such as scheduling of cases. In military or internal security matters, the commissioner does not investigate evidence but channels cases to the appropriate jurisdiction. As a public ombudsman, the commissioner confronts the accused party and conveys official displeasure at a given action or policy. The commissioner also may request the initiation of civil, criminal, or administrative proceedings and appeal to the Constitutional Tribunal to review a law's constitutionality or consistency with a higher statute.

The public greeted the creation of the Office of the Commissioner for Citizens' Rights with enthusiasm. Lacking an established screening mechanism, the new office received more than 55,000 complaints in 1988 alone. The commissioner also conducts systematic inspections of prisons in response to inmates' complaints. Following the inspections, the commissioner issued a comprehensive report, which has resulted in a more humane, less congested prison system. In 1990 a national opinion poll revealed that at that point the ombudsman enjoyed the highest popularity of any Polish politician.




For four decades before the historic Round Table Agreement, Poland had three legal political parties: the ruling communist PZPR and its two subservient coalition partners, the United Peasant Party and the Democratic Party. The first communist regime to gain power had outlawed the major pre-World War II parties--National Democracy, the Labor Party, and the Polish Peasant Party. The PZPR was formed in 1948 with the merger of the Polish United Workers' Party and the Polish Socialist Party. Realizing the lack of popular support for communism and public fears of Soviet domination, the Polish communists eschewed the term communist in their official name.

In return for acknowledging the leading role of the PZPR, the two major coalition partners and three smaller Catholic associations received a fixed number of seats in the Sejm. Although one of the latter category, Znak, was technically an independent party, its allotment of five seats gave it very limited influence. Typically, the United Peasant Party held 20 to 25 percent of the Sejm seats and the Democratic Party received about 10 percent. Despite the nominal diversity of the Sejm, the noncommunist parties had little impact, and the Sejm was essentially a rubber-stamp body that enacted legislation approved by the central decision-making organs of the PZPR. Following the Soviet model, political parties and religious associations, as well as all other mass organizations, labor unions, and the press only transmitted policy and programs from the central PZPR hierarchy to Polish society.

The years 1956, 1968, 1970, 1976, and 1980 were turning points in the evolution of organized political opposition in Poland. With the death of the Stalinist Boleslaw Beirut in 1956, Poland entered a brief period of de-Stalinization. The PZPR relaxed its intimidation of the intelligentsia, artists, and the church. The Znak group emerged and experimented as a semiautonomous vehicle of dialog between the PZPR and society. But with the Sovietorganized invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the PZPR again suppressed dissent and expelled outspoken Znak delegates from the Sejm. The 1970 shipyard strikes, which claimed hundreds of victims, brought down the regime of Wladyslaw Gomulka (1956-70) and demonstrated the potential of workers to oppose unpopular PZPR policies. In 1976 the arrest of striking workers convinced a group of intellectuals, led by Jacek Kuron and Adam Michnik, to form the Committee for Defense of Workers (Komitet Obrony Robotników--KOR), the most successful opposition group until Solidarity.

<> Solidarity
<> Center Alliance
<> Democratic Union
<> Liberal-Democratic Congress
<> Beer-Lovers' Party
<>More Political Parties


Poland - Solidarity


The breakthrough in ending the political monopoly of the PZPR came in 1980 with the emergence of the Interfactory Strike Committee, which rapidly evolved into the Solidarity mass movement of some 10 million Poles. Guided by Lech Walesa, the Interfactory Strike Committee won historic concessions from the communists in the Gdansk Agreement of August 31, 1980. The PZPR granted recognition of the basic right of workers to establish free trade unions, but in return the strike committee agreed not to function as a political party. The workers promised to abide by the constitution and conceded the leading role in state affairs to the PZPR.

Despite the pledges of the Gdansk Agreement, Solidarity did not remain simply a trade union movement. It rapidly changed into an umbrella organization under which a broad range of political and social groups united in opposition to the communist regime. At Solidarity's first national congress in the fall of 1981, the political nature of the movement became explicit. The congress adopted a program calling for an active Solidarity role in reforming Poland's political and economic systems. In the following months, outspoken radicals urged their leaders to confront the communist authorities, to demand free elections, and to call for a national referendum to replace the communist government. The radical challenge precipitated the imposition of martial law on December 13, 1981. Solidarity, now illegal, was forced underground until the late 1980s. Within six months after the start of the Round Table talks in February 1989, Solidarity not only had regained its legal status as a trade union, but also had become an effective political movement that installed Eastern Europe's first postcommunist government.

During its underground phase, Solidarity lost much of its original cohesion as tactical and philosophical disagreements split the movement into factions. The radical elements, convinced that an evolutionary approach to democratization was impossible, created the organization Fighting Solidarity in 1982. Ultimately, however, Walesa's moderate faction prevailed. Favoring negotiation and compromise with the PZPR, the moderates created the Citizens' Committee, which represented Solidarity at the talks in 1989 and engineered the overwhelming election triumph of June 1989. Led by Bronislaw Geremek, a prominent intellectual, the newly elected Solidarity deputies in parliament formed the Citizens' Parliamentary Club to coordinate legislative efforts and advance the Solidarity agenda.

The stunning defeat of the PZPR in the June 1989 parliamentary elections removed Solidarity's most important unifying force--the common enemy. By the time of the local elections of May 1990, Solidarity had splintered, and a remarkable number of small parties had appeared. Because any individual with fifteen nominating signatures could be placed on the ballot, an astounding 1,140 groups and "parties" registered for the elections. In the local elections, the new groups' lack of organization and national experience caused them to fare poorly against the Solidarity-backed citizens' committees that sponsored about one-third of the candidates running for local office.

Despite the success of the Solidarity candidates in the local elections, serious divisions soon emerged within the Citizens' Parliamentary Club concerning the appropriateness of political parties at so early a stage in Poland's democratic experiment. The intellectuals who dominated the parliamentary club insisted that the proliferation of political parties would derail efforts to build a Western-style civil society. But deputies on the right of the political spectrum, feeling excluded from important policy decisions by the intellectuals, advocated rapid formation of strong alternative parties.


Poland - Center Alliance


An outspoken Walesa supporter determined to end the political dominance of the intellectual elite in the Citizens' Parliamentary Club, Jaroslaw Kaczynski formed the Center Alliance in May 1990. The Center Alliance supported a strong political center embodying the ideals of Solidarity and Christian ethics. With the election of its candidate for president, Walesa, and the appointment of Kaczynski as the president's chief of staff, the Center Alliance became one of the most influential political organizations in the country.

The Center Alliance platform for the parliamentary elections of October 1991 called for accelerated economic reform, privatization, rapid decommunization, and a strongly pro-Western foreign policy, including full membership in NATO. Considering its prominent position in the government and media and its large national membership, the party fared rather poorly in the 1991 elections. Its popular vote total yielded forty-four Sejm and nine Senate seats. The Center Alliance made its last show of political power in engineering the selection of its candidate, Jan Olszewski, to lead the coalition government in December 1991. By mid-1992, however, the influence of the party had waned because of a bitter personal rift between Kaczynski and Walesa, the demise of the Olszewski government, and the party's decision not to participate in the ruling coalition of Hanna Suchocka.


Poland - Democratic Union


The Democratic Union (Unia Demokratyczna--UD) held its unification congress in May 1991 to integrate three Solidarity splinter groups and to adopt a platform for the parliamentary elections. The UD counted among its members such luminaries of the Solidarity movement as Jacek Kuron, Adam Michnik, Bronislaw Geremek, and Tadeusz Mazowiecki. The party sought political and economic reform through the rule of law. Rejecting extremism of any stripe, it pursued policies of economic pragmatism. Although its registered membership ranked only fifth numerically among political parties, the UD was a well-organized national party with branches in all forty-nine districts.

In October 1991, with the UD expected to win more than a quarter of the Sejm seats in the parliamentary election, party chairman Mazowiecki indicated his availability to reassume the duties of prime minister. But the UD took only sixty-two Sejm and twenty-one Senate seats, paying dearly for its refusal to renounce the Balcerowicz Plan of economic shock therapy and for opposing the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of abortion.

During the first half of 1992, relations between the UD and Walesa improved considerably. Walesa offered to appoint the two former prime ministers, Mazowiecki and Bielecki, as his senior advisers. He repeatedly urged the inclusion of the UD in an expanded governing coalition, but negotiations toward that end failed. Instead, the UD joined forces with two other economic reformist parties outside the Olszewski government to form the Little Coalition. After the collapse of the Olszewski government, the coalition failed to reach an agreement with the new prime minister, Waldemar Pawlak, on the composition of a new cabinet. According to Pawlak, the coalition insisted on total control over the economy, a concession he was not willing to make. With the election of Hanna Suchocka as the new prime minister in mid-1992, the Democratic Union regained the leadership of the government and held four of the key cabinet positions, including director of the Office of the Council of Ministers and the ministries of finance, defense, and labor and social affairs.


Poland - Liberal-Democratic Congress


The Liberal-Democratic Congress (Kongres LiberalnoDemokratyczny --KLD) arose in 1983 as a loose organization of businessmen dedicated to a philosophy of small government and free enterprise. The KLD was registered as a party in October 1990 and supported the presidential candidacy of Walesa, who selected KLD leader Jan Krzysztof Bielecki as his nominee to be prime minister. Another prominent party member, Janusz Lewandowski, headed the Ministry of Ownership Transformation in the Bielecki cabinet. Donald Tusk, chairman of the KLD executive board, led an unsuccessful attempt to form a broad coalition to support candidates in the 1991 Senate race. The party foreswore ideological sloganeering and backed rational, pragmatic policies. In the parliamentary elections, the KLD finished seventh in popular vote, winning thirty-seven Sejm and six Senate seats.


Poland - Beer-Lovers' Party


Registered as a political party in December 1990, the Polish Beer-Lovers' Party (Polska Partia Przyjaciól Piwa--PPPP) may have started as a prank. But with time, its members developed a serious platform, for which the humorous stated goals of the party--lively political discussion in pubs serving excellent beer--were a symbol of freedom of association and expression, intellectual tolerance, and a higher standard of living. Its humorous name probably helped the party win votes from a politically disenchanted populace in the 1991 parliamentary elections, in which the PPPP captured sixteen Sejm seats. In early 1992, following a split within the PPPP into the Big Beer and Little Beer parties, the former assumed the name Polish Economic Program. Losing its image of quirkiness, the Polish Economic Program became associated with the UD and KLD in the Little Coalition of liberal promarket parties and supported the candidacy of Hanna Suchocka as prime minister.


Poland - More Political Parties


Peasant Alliance

In mid-1992, the party of the Rural Solidarity farmers' union, the Peasant Alliance (Porozumienie Ludowe--PL) held two prominent positions in the Suchocka government, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources. The party also controlled the post of minister without portfolio for parliamentary liaison. In mid-1992 the Peasant Alliance and the Polish Peasant Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe--PSL) were still divided by their political backgrounds although they both represented Poland's large rural sector. The PL, still distrusting the PSL for its past accommodation with the communists, opposed the selection of PSL leader Waldemar Pawlak as prime minister. The PL supported import tariffs to protect domestic farmers, state subsidies to maintain farm commodity prices, and easy credit for farmers.

Christian National Union

Socially conservative but economically to the left, the Christian National Union (Zjednoczenie Chrzescijansko-Narodowe-- ZChN) was the dominant member of a short-lived electoral alliance known as Catholic Action. The alliance finished third in the 1991 parliamentary elections and earned ZChN forty-nine Sejm and nine Senate seats. The ZChN supported the involvement of the Roman Catholic Church in politics and government, religious instruction in the schools, a generous social welfare program, and trade protectionism. The party played a large role in both the Olszewski and Suchocka governments. Under Suchocka, the ZChN held five cabinet positions and the post of deputy prime minister for economic affairs.

Party of Christian Democrats

Founded in December 1990, the small Party of Christian Democrats (Partia Chrzescijanskich Demokratów--PChD) used the political experience of its membership to gain success disproportionate to its size. Its most prominent member, Pawe Laczkowski, became deputy prime minister for political affairs in the Suchocka government. On social issues, the PChD supported a more pragmatic, centrist brand of Christian democracy than that advocated by the larger ZChN. On economic issues, the PChD supported a rapid approach to economic transformation and privatization.

Confederation for an Independent Poland

Founded in 1979 by military historian Leszek Moczulski, the Confederation for Independent Poland (Konfederacja Polski Niepodleglej--KPN) claimed with some justification to be the first true opposition party of the communist era. Years before the emergence of Solidarity, Moczulski was defying the authorities with calls for the restoration of Polish sovereignty and the replacement of the communist system; he was imprisoned repeatedly from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s. The KPN did not participate in the talks leading to the Round Table Agreement and refused to compromise with the PZPR.

Because of its reputation for radicalism and violence, the KPN fared poorly in its first electoral tests: the parliamentary elections of 1989, the local elections of May 1990, and the presidential election in the autumn of 1990. But by 1991 Polish voters had grown disenchanted with the seeming impotence of the postcommunist political establishment in the face of the country's worsening economic problems. As a result, the KPN was among the extremist groups and individuals that fared well in the 1991 parliamentary elections. The KPN won forty-six seats in the Sejm, two more than the mainstream Center Alliance.

Following its success in the parliamentary elections, the KPN sought to moderate its image by joining four center-right parties in a coalition supporting the candidacy of Jan Olszewski as prime minister. Moczulski took the KPN out of the short-lived coalition, however, when Olszewski failed to name him minister of national defense. Outraged at the government's charges that Moczulski had been a collaborator with the communist secret service, the KPN voted for Olszewski's removal in June 1992. The KPN then withdrew its initial support of Pawlak as Olszewski's replacement. The seven-party alliance in support of Suchocka in mid-1992 seemingly ended the KPN's participation in coalition politics and returned it to the role of the uncompromising outsider.

PZPR and Successor Parties

During the 1980s, the Marxist underpinnings of the PZPR steadily eroded, and, long before the round table talks, the ruling party had lost its ideological fervor. Official PZPR documents compiled in May 1987 revealed that only about 25 percent of the membership were politically active, more than 60 percent paid their dues but were inactive, and 15 percent did not even pay their dues. By that time, protecting the national interest had replaced Marxist doctrine as the guiding principle of the government's actions. For example, the Jaruzelski regime characterized its imposition of martial law in 1981 not as an attempt to restore Marxist purity but as a preemptive measure to avoid Soviet military intervention in Poland. The PZPR had accepted the necessity of economic decentralization, privatization, and price liberalization, realizing that to regain political legitimacy it had to win the cooperation of the opposition.

Despite its enormous advantage in institutional and monetary resources, control of the electronic media and most print media, and a slate of reformist, nonideological candidates, the PZPR suffered an overwhelming defeat in the parliamentary elections of June 1989. Once the parties that were its traditional allies had repositioned themselves with Solidarity to install a noncommunist government, the PZPR had become a political relic. In January 1990, at its final congress (the eleventh), the PZPR patterned itself after Western social democratic parties and adopted the name Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland (Socjaldemokracja Rzeczypospolitej Polski--SdRP).

The SdRP, which inherited the assets and infrastructure of the PZPR, was a political force that could not be ignored in the reform era. During the 1990 presidential elections, for example, the SdRP candidate received 9 percent of the vote. At its first national convention in May 1991, the party adopted a platform supporting pluralistic democracy, a parliamentary form of government, strict separation of church and state, women's rights, environmental protection, the right to work, a generous social safety net, and good relations with all of Poland's neighbors. In July 1991, preparing for the October parliamentary elections, the SdRP invited other groups with a communist lineage to join it in a broad coalition, the Alliance of the Democratic Left (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej--SLD). The most important of these groups was the All-Polish Alliance of Trade Unions (Ogólnopolskie Porozumienie Zwiazków Zawodowych--OPZZ), which Jaruzelski had created in 1984 to co-opt Solidarity's influence among the working people. By the time of the 1991 elections, the OPZZ had a larger membership than Solidarity. Of the 390 SLD candidates for the parliamentary elections of October 1991, 45 percent were members of the SdRP and about one-third belonged to the OPZZ. The SLD surprised most political observers by finishing a close second to the Democratic Union and winning sixty Sejm and four Senate seats. Its failure to expand its membership, however, made the SLD a political outcast in the coalition-building efforts that followed the 1991 election.

Polish Peasant Party

The rebirth of the moderate interwar Polish Peasant Party (PSL) began in the summer of 1989, when the United Peasant Party (Zjednoczone Stronnictwo Ludowe--ZSL) joined forces with Solidarity and Democratic Party deputies in the new Sejm to usher in a noncommunist government. The ZSL adopted the name Polish Peasant Party "Renewal" to distance itself from its past in the communist coalition; then it united with the largest existing opposition peasant party and resumed its original name. In the May 1990 local elections, the PSL garnered 20 percent of the rural vote. In September 1990, the PSL withdrew support for the Mazowiecki government, citing its disapproval of current agricultural policy and Mazowiecki's failure to appoint a PSL member as the minister of agriculture. As it continued to seek legislative relief for farmers, the PSL also became a vocal critic of the Bielecki government that followed Mazowiecki.

As of mid-1992, the PSL was the third-largest single-party bloc in the Sejm. In 1992 the party's 180,000 dues-paying members made it the largest political party in the country. It showed considerable strength even in such heavily industrialized areas as Upper Silesia. Although not a member of the five-party coalition that installed Olszewski as prime minister in December 1991, the PSL provided critical support in securing Sejm approval for Olszewski's cabinet at a time when that coalition was already beginning to collapse. Despite its initial support for Olszewski, however, the party became disenchanted with the prime minister's agricultural program and voted for his removal in 1992.




Prior to the return of democracy in 1989, Poland's independent press defied state censorship and flourished to an extent unknown in other East European communist states. Active publication by opposition groups in the 1970s formed a tradition for the well-organized distribution of censored materials that flowered in the contentious decade that followed.

The Early Opposition Press

As early as 1970, underground groups had begun issuing opposition literature that included short-lived periodicals, strike announcements, and brochures. By 1976 opposition groups were better organized and began issuing influential carbon-copied and mimeographed serials. In the autumn of that year, KOR began producing its Biuletyn Informacyjny (Information Bulletin). During the period between 1976 and 1980, about 500 uncensored serial titles were recorded, some with circulations of more than 20,000 copies. At the same time, underground book publishing flourished as over thirty-five independent presses issued hundreds of uncensored monographs.

Following the Gdansk Agreement of August 1980, Poland saw a new explosion of independent publishing. In addition to Tygodnik Solidarnosc (Solidarity Weekly), whose circulation was limited to 500,000 copies supplemented by ten regional weeklies, Solidarity and its rural affiliate published hundreds of new periodicals. Assisted by donations of printing equipment from the West, about 200 publishing houses had emerged by December 1981, when martial law abruptly curtailed independent publishing.

During Solidarity's first period of legal activity, reprints of opposition literature from abroad, particularly the influential émigré journals Kultura (Culture) and Zeszyty Historyczne (Historical Notebooks), were especially popular.

Liberalization in the 1980s

The imposition of martial law in December 1981 was a major setback for independent publishing. But, despite the confiscation of printing equipment and the arrest of opposition leaders, the clandestine press quickly resumed issuing bulletins. By the end of 1982, some forty publishing houses were producing a great variety of books, brochures, and serials. Not only did the Jaruzelski regime fail to infiltrate and shut down such publishing operations, it allowed considerable freedom of expression in the "legitimate" press. For example, the influential Catholic periodical, Tygodnik Powszechny (Universal Weekly), founded in 1945, provided an independent voice defending the rights of the Polish citizenry.

After the formal suspension of martial law in July 1983, the regime grew increasingly tolerant toward independent publishing. The underground press diversified to reflect the widening spectrum of opposition points of view. By 1986 only about half of the known independent serial titles were organs of Solidarity.

As the independent press grew more diverse, the state press increasingly cited articles published in underground periodicals and even began to publish "illegal" books. In 1986 the regime granted legal status to Res Publica, a scholarly underground journal representing a moderate social and political philosophy. Meanwhile, the Catholic press grew ever more prominent when dozens of church publications were resurrected after long being banned.

The Jaruzelski regime's increasingly liberal attitude toward the print media was motivated not only by a desire to achieve national reconciliation, but also by the realization that the state could not suppress three highly prolific publishing networks--the underground press, the church-sponsored press, and the émigré press in the West. After the mid-1980s, the nonstate publishing houses averaged 500 to 600 new titles annually.

The End of Press Censorship

A key element of the Round Table Agreement was the end of the communist monopoly of the news media. In April 1990, state censorship was abolished. The PZPR publishing and distribution monopoly, the Workers' Publication Cooperative Press-Book- Movement began to break up, and numerous communist-era periodicals were privatized. Some periodical titles, such as the daily Rzeczpospolita (Republic) and the weekly Polityka(Politics), were recast and gained respect for the quality of their journalism. Others, most notably the official party organ Trybuna Ludu (People's Tribune), changed their names but continued to represent a leftist political viewpoint (Trybuna Ludu became simply Trybuna). Many familiar communist ideological publications were discontinued, however. After mid-1989, hundreds of new periodicals appeared, failed, reappeared, and failed again. These failures were the result of the high cost of newsprint, ignorance of free-market business principles, and the unpredictable demand created by a newly liberated reading public.

As of mid-1992, nearly 1,000 Polish periodicals were being published. Among these were seventy-five daily and 164 weekly newspapers. The left-of-center Gazeta Wyborcza (Election Gazette), with a circulation of 550,000 weekday copies and more than 850,000 weekend copies, was the most widely read newspaper. Gazeta Wyborcza, issued in thirteen local editions, resembled Western papers in its layout and extensive commercial advertising. Rzeczpospolit claimed roughly 250,000 readers, followed closely by Zycie Warszawy (Warsaw Life). Of the national political weeklies, Polityka and Wprost (Straightforward) enjoyed the greatest success, with circulations of 350,000 and 250,000, respectively.

In the years following the Round Table Agreement, the Polish press presented a range of opinion that reflected the increasingly fractured political landscape. Following the schism between Mazowiecki and Walesa forces in 1990, Tygodnik Solidarnosc became the mouthpiece of the pro-Walesa Center Alliance, while Michnik's Gazeta Wyborcza and the Catholic church's Tygodnik Powszechny supported the Mazowiecki faction.

Book Publishing

After the Round Table Agreement, book publishing, distribution, and marketing entered a period of unprecedented upheaval. Together with the welcome lifting of censorship came the end of generous state subsidies for publishers. Thus, publishers of esoteric scholarly and literary works with limited market appeal suffered severe losses. At the same time, however, the newfound opportunity to gain profits by satisfying the reading tastes of the Polish public caused a dramatic proliferation of publishing houses. In mid-1992, between 1,200 and 2,000 publishing houses, most of them small enterprises, were in operation. Only about 100 of that number had all the trappings of full-scale publishing firms: catalogs, international standard book numbers, and observance of the copyright deposit law.

Radio and Television

To a significant extent, electronic news and information sources defied government control in the 1980s. Millions of Poles received uncensored radio broadcasts from Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and other Western sources. Solidarity units also occasionally broadcast news programs from mobile radio stations. And hundreds of thousands of VCRs allowed the Polish population to view taboo films by prominent domestic and foreign directors.

Unlike periodicals, the electronic media adjusted slowly to the changed political environment following the Round Table Agreement. As of mid-1992, the Sejm had yet to enact legislation to regulate radio and television broadcasting. Decades of communist manipulation of the electronic media had taught politicians the power of those media in shaping public attitudes. In mid-1992, Walesa indicated his continuing distrust of broadcast journalism by stating that television should represent the government's views and that state television was not the place for contrary political opinions. The membership of the Committee for Radio and Television, a communist-era holdover agency regulating all broadcasting, was determined by the Council of Ministers, and appointment of the committee chairman became highly politicized.

In mid-1992 Poland continued to have only two national television channels, and by Western standards the program offerings were limited. Besides daily news broadcasts, the most popular program was a political satire, "Polish Zoo," a weekly puppet show that lampooned leading political figures and institutions, including the church. To supplement the meager offerings of domestic television, many Poles received foreign broadcasts. Small satellite antenna dishes were common throughout the country. Impatient with the government's inaction, private television stations in Warsaw, Lublin, Poznan, and Szczecin began to broadcast without licenses in the early 1990s.

The government interfered less with radio than with television broadcasting. In addition to the four national stations broadcasting to nearly 11 million Polish receivers, thirteen unlicensed radio stations had come into existence by mid-1992. Nearly 600 applications for broadcasting licenses awaited evaluation. Radio broadcasts were dominated by Western popular music, just as the publishing and film industries were overwhelmingly Western in orientation.

The continuing dominance of Western culture in the 1990s appeared to be assured, as unauthorized reproduction of films, literature, and music made inexpensive, high-quality copies easily accessible to the average citizen. In the postcommunist era, intellectual piracy in Poland emerged as one of the troublesome issues between Warsaw and the United States. In early 1992, it was estimated that the United States lost US$140 million dollars annually to Polish audio, video, and computer program piracy.




In mid-1992, Poland was enjoying the fruits of three years of skillful statesmanship by its foreign minister, Krzysztof Skubiszewski, who had directed foreign policy in five governments beginning with Mazowiecki in August 1989. Skubiszewski guided Poland through a tumultuous period during which Warsaw reclaimed full sovereignty in foreign affairs for the first time since World War II and moved resolutely to "rejoin Europe."

The Soviet-dominated Warsaw Treaty Organization (known as the Warsaw Pact) and its economic counterpart, the Council of Mutual Economic Cooperation (Comecon), which had set the parameters of Polish foreign policy for decades, no longer existed after mid-1991. By year's end, the Soviet Union itself had disappeared, and by late 1992 Moscow was to complete the withdrawal of combat troops from Poland. Meanwhile, Warsaw pursued forward-looking bilateral relations with the many newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Only in the case of Lithuania could relations with eastern neighbors be described as less than cordial.

To replace the old Soviet-dominated military and trade structures, Poland sought collective security with its southern neighbors, the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, and Hungary, with which it formed the so-called Visegrįd Triangle. This arrangement envisioned a bilateral free trade zone between Budapest and Warsaw, which both the Czechs and the Slovaks were invited to join. The Visegrįd partners would also coordinate their strategies to join West European economic and military organizations.

In mid-1992, Poland's relationship with its other traditional enemy, Germany, also was forward-looking. Acquiescing to German reunification, Warsaw won assurances that Bonn would recognize the Oder-Neisse Line as the official, permanent frontier between Germany and Poland, ratifying the postwar transfer of German lands to Poland. Germany offered economic assistance, investment, and support for Polish membership in the European Community (EC).

Relations with other Western nations in mid-1992 were generally excellent. Warsaw was frustrated, however, by its inability to gain full membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Western European Union (WEU), and the EC and by the reluctance of the West to lower import tariffs on Polish goods. Traditionally warm ties with the United States returned to normal after the difficult 1980s, and Poland regained most-favored-nation trade status and benefited from a range of United States economic and technical assistance.

<> Soviet Union and Russia
<> Other Former Soviet Republics
<> Germany
<> The United States
<> Other Western Countries


Poland - Soviet Union and Russia


The geopolitical realities of postwar Europe allowed Poland little room to maneuver in foreign policy. Until the late 1980s, the ever present threat of Soviet intervention kept Poland a compliant member of the Warsaw Pact. In fact, Jaruzelski maintained that the decision to impose martial law in December 1981 was taken to preempt a Soviet invasion. Such an invasion would have been consistent with the Brezhnev Doctrine, which justified military intervention in any Warsaw Pact member where socialism was threatened. In early 1992, Jaruzelski's claim received corroboration when a high official in the former Red Army revealed the Soviet Union's plan to invade Poland at the end of 1981 under precisely that pretext.

In the late 1980s, the Brezhnev Doctrine was suspended when Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev enunciated a new world view, which he called "new thinking." For the first time in the postwar era, the Soviet Union acknowledged the right of its East European neighbors to pursue their own paths of social and economic development. Thus, Moscow reluctantly accepted Poland's 1989 Round Table Agreement, the defeat of the communists in Poland's first open parliamentary elections, and the ensuing installation of a noncommunist government as beyond its legitimate concern.

As the first postcommunist leadership of Poland, the Mazowiecki government approached its relationship with the Soviet Union with cautious resolve, reassuring Moscow that Poland would fulfill its obligations as a member of the Warsaw Pact and Comecon. Nevertheless, Poland soon demonstrated its determination to transform these Soviet-dominated military and economic alliances into consultative bodies respecting the sovereignty of all member countries. Foreign Minister Skubiszewski guided foreign affairs skillfully through this delicate period, as the Warsaw Pact, Comecon, and the Soviet Union itself disintegrated.

Among the difficult issues the new government confronted in redefining its relationship with the Soviet Union were the presence of some 58,000 Soviet troops on Polish territory; the future role of the Warsaw Pact and Comecon; new terms of bilateral trade; the plight of more than 1 million ethnic Poles living on Soviet territory; clarification of the "blank spots" in the history of Soviet-Polish relations; and the Polish relationship to Soviet republics seeking independence.

Skubiszewski handled the issue of Soviet troop withdrawal delicately. In negotiating with Moscow, the government faced accusations of timidity from presidential candidate Walesa on the one hand and the risk of antagonizing Moscow and strengthening the position of Kremlin hardliners on the other. Walesa and some of the center-right parties believed the Mazowiecki government was moving too cautiously on the issue. But Mazowiecki viewed Warsaw Pact forces as a counterbalance to a reunited, possibly expansionist Germany. In September 1990, Mazowiecki yielded to domestic pressure by demanding negotiations on the withdrawal of Soviet forces and cleanup of the extensive environmental damage they had caused. By the end of 1990, the Polish side was pushing Moscow to remove all its forces within one year.

Postcommunist Poland's trade relationship with the Soviet Union also presented a complex problem. Moscow was Poland's most important trading partner, the source of nearly all its imported oil and gas, and the market for 70 percent of its industrial exports. Poland had benefited from the comfortable if inefficient Comecon trading arrangements of administered prices denominated in transferable rubles. Although the impending end of Comecon clearly signaled the need for drastic reorientation of trade policy, in 1990 no source could replace rapidly the fundamental supplies available from the old system. Thus, Moscow retained its economic influence on Polish foreign policy despite Gorbachev's pledges to respect Polish sovereignty.

Yet another obstacle to normalized relations was the legacy of Stalin's crimes against the Polish people in World War II and the plight of Polish nationals who remained in Soviet territory after the war. In April 1990, Gorbachev finally acknowledged Soviet culpability in the massacre of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest, which until that time the Soviets had attributed to the German army despite widespread knowledge of the true situation. Indeed, early in 1989 the Jaruzelski government had declared that Stalin's secret police, not the German army, had committed the atrocities. Gorbachev's action in 1990 did not placate Poland. The Polish government continued to demand information on critical "blank spots" in the history of the World War II era, notably the fate of Poles whom Stalin exiled to Siberia and Central Asia.

In 1990 and 1991, the Bielecki government continued Mazowiecki's policy toward Moscow. The withdrawal of Soviet forces, the interruption of oil and gas deliveries, and the collapse of the Soviet market for Polish exports dominated bilateral relations during Bielecki's tenure. Moscow's decision to shift to hard-currency trade at world prices as of January 1, 1992 had painful consequences for Poland. In response to severe disruption of its export market, fuel delivery, and domestic employment, Warsaw established ad hoc barter arrangements with the Soviet Union and individual neighboring republics.

Meanwhile, on the security front, the Soviets pressured Poland and other members of the dying Warsaw Pact to sign new bilateral treaties giving Moscow the right to veto entry into alliances inimical to Soviet interests. Among the East European nations formerly in the Soviet sphere, however, only Romania yielded to Moscow's pressure. Poland refused to surrender its sovereign right to choose allies. After a failed attempt by hardliners to take over the Soviet government in August 1991, Moscow dropped its demand, and bilateral negotiations proceeded more smoothly.

The coup attempt in the Soviet Union placed Warsaw in a precarious situation and emphasized the real possibility that Soviet hegemony would return to Eastern Europe if reactionaries overthrew Gorbachev. For Warsaw such a scenario was quite plausible because substantial Soviet forces remained in Poland and the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) at the time of the coup, and no bilateral treaty guaranteed withdrawal. Although Walesa's official statements during the crisis affirmed Poland's sovereignty and commitment to democracy, later rumors suggested that he had considered recognizing the Moscow junta.

Galvanized by the coup events, Poland pressed the Soviet Union for a withdrawal timetable. In October 1991, the countries initialed a treaty providing for the removal of all combat troops by November 15, 1992, leaving only 6,000 support personnel by the beginning of 1993. Signature of a final treaty, however, was delayed by disagreement on compensation details. Moscow claimed compensation for fixed assets left in Poland, while Warsaw demanded compensation for damage done to its environment and infrastructure by the basing and transport of Soviet troops and equipment. Walesa and Russian president Boris Yeltsin signed the final accords in May 1992.

The presidents also signed several other bilateral agreements on that occasion. The most important was a new cooperation treaty to replace the Polish-Soviet friendship treaty of 1965. The breakthrough on the new treaty had come soon after the failed August coup, which dramatically changed the relationship among the republics of the Soviet Union. Moscow conceded to Poland the right to pursue its own security relationships and to deal directly with individual republics. During his Moscow visit, Walesa announced the beginning of a new chapter in Polish-Russian relations; in return, Yeltsin expressed hope for mutual understanding and partnership in future relations.

Walesa's visit to Moscow also yielded a Polish-Russian consular convention; a declaration on cultural, scientific, and educational cooperation; a provisional settlement of the issue of double taxation; and an agreement on border crossing points. The presidents issued a joint statement condemning the crimes of Stalinism against both the Polish and Russian peoples and pledging to base bilateral relations on the principles of international law, democracy, and the observance of human rights.


Poland - Other Former Soviet Republics


From the outset, Foreign Minister Skubiszewski pursued a dual-track policy toward Poland's eastern neighbors, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine. This approach enabled Warsaw to negotiate for Polish interests with the central political authority that remained in Moscow as the Soviet Union dissolved, while simultaneously developing bilateral ties with the individual republics that would emerge from that process as independent neighbors. The failure of the August coup signaled to Warsaw the end of the highly centralized Soviet state and the feasibility of officially recognizing independence-minded republics. Accordingly, immediately after the coup Poland became the first East European country to extend diplomatic recognition to the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. On the day following the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Poland announced that it was prepared to open normal diplomatic relations with all the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Although it supported national self-determination, Warsaw feared that the breakup of the Soviet Union might bring regional instability, armed conflict fueled by rival territorial claims, and perhaps millions of displaced persons crossing into Poland. Still struggling with its own economic and political transition, Poland could not have borne the burden of resettling huge numbers of refugees. These concerns moved President Walesa to declare his support for Gorbachev's last-ditch effort in December 1991 to reconstitute the Soviet Union as a loose confederation. Then, after the formal demise of the Soviet Union, Walesa called for massive Western aid for the newly created CIS to avoid what he called a "mass exodus of hungry refugees."

Baltic States

On numerous occasions after mid-1989, the Polish government demonstrated sympathy for the increasingly vocal Lithuanian independence movement. After the Lithuanian declaration of independence in March 1990, a Polish senator was the first foreign government representative to address the Lithuanian parliament. Poland provided important moral support during the economic blockade imposed by the Kremlin, and after the Soviet military crackdown in Vilnius in January 1991, Poland joined Scandinavian nations, the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, and Hungary in calling for a discussion of the action by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).

Despite Warsaw's sympathetic actions, Vilnius grew impatient at the Poles' unwillingness to grant diplomatic recognition. At that time, however, such an action would have jeopardized negotiations on withdrawal of Soviet troops from Poland-- especially because no major Western power had recognized Lithuania. Skubiszewski noted that although good relations with the Baltics were important to Poland, relations with the Soviet Union had immediate strategic significance.

The demise of the Soviet Union transformed Poland's relationship with Lithuania. As the threat of repression from Moscow diminished, Vilnius began to perceive Warsaw as a likely source of external pressure. The Lithuanian government grew suspicious that Warsaw coveted lost territories in Lithuania, where ethnic Poles still resided in heavy concentrations. From Poland's perspective, the respect of minority rights for roughly 260,000 ethnic Poles residing in Lithuania emerged as the most important issue in the bilateral relationship.

In 1988 and 1989, relations of the Polish minority in Lithuania with the Lithuanian government deteriorated with the enactment of language laws that discriminated against nonLithuanian speakers. The laws provoked leaders of the Polish minority to declare an autonomous Polish national territorial district. In response, Vilnius dismissed numerous ethnic Polish local officials and placed districts with large Polish populations under direct parliamentary administration. Further contributing to the worsening relations between the two communities was a citizenship law requiring a loyalty oath that the Polish community viewed as oppressive. Relations reached their nadir in late 1991 when the Lithuanian defense minister called Poland his country's greatest threat. The following March, Skubiszewski charged Lithuania with delaying elections to local councils in districts with large concentrations of ethnic Poles.

Early 1992 also brought hopeful developments, however. The foreign ministers of the two nations signed a wide-ranging tenpoint declaration of friendship and neighborly relations and a consular convention. In the declaration, each country renounced all territorial claims against the other and pledged to adhere to European standards in respecting the rights of its minorities, including native-language education rights.

Polish relations with the other two Baltic states were less complicated. In mid-1992, Skubiszewski visited Latvia to sign the first Polish bilateral treaty with any of the newly independent Baltic states. He also signed important accords on trade, travel, and minority rights. Skubiszewski praised Latvia's treatment of its sizable Polish population, which in mid-1992 was estimated at between 60,000 and 100,000. Skubiszewski then signed a similar treaty in Tallinn, where the Estonian foreign minister described relations with Warsaw as excellent. Both Estonia and Latvia viewed Poland as a benign neighbor whose experience in economic and political reform could facilitate their own transition and could promote their integration into Western Europe.


For several reasons, Polish relations with Belarus were slow to develop. Belarus, which had never existed as an independent state, had been so firmly incorporated into the Soviet Union that it lacked the intense sense of nationhood found in the Baltic states and in Ukraine. Prior to the August coup attempt, Polish overtures were frustrated because the Belorussian Republic (as it was known before independence) hesitated to pursue foreign policy initiatives without the Kremlin's blessing. Most notably, in late 1990 the Belorussians refused to sign a declaration of friendship and cooperation, although Russia and Ukraine had already signed similar agreements. Minsk specifically objected to wording about its borders with Poland and to the treatment of the approximately 300,000 ethnic Belorussians in Poland.

After August 1991, relations evolved rapidly once Belarus had declared its independence. In a declaration of friendship and cooperation, signed in October 1991, each party renounced territorial claims against the other and promised to respect minority rights. In December 1991, Poland extended diplomatic recognition to Belarus. Commercial ties between the two countries flourished in 1991 and 1992, and several important transportation and economic agreements took effect. A bilateral treaty of wideranging cooperation in security, environmental, economic, and other matters was prepared for signing in mid-1992.


Despite a centuries-old legacy of conflict, relations between Poland and Ukraine steadily improved after 1989, particularly after Ukraine gained its independence in late 1991. In the fall of 1990, the countries signed a declaration of friendship and cooperation, renouncing all territorial claims against one another and guaranteeing the rights of national minorities on their territories. Ground-breaking bilateral economic and cultural agreements followed in 1991, as Ukraine emerged from Moscow's domination and reoriented itself toward Central Europe and Western Europe.

Both countries had much to gain from improved ties. Kiev sought Polish intercession to gain acceptance in European economic and security organizations; Warsaw welcomed the prospect of a nonthreatening, denuclearized neighbor on its eastern border.

Hours after the results of a referendum on Ukrainian independence were announced in December 1991, Poland was the first country to grant diplomatic recognition to the new nation. A bilateral cooperation treaty ensuring minority rights on each side of the border was signed during the May 1992 visit to Warsaw of Ukraine's President, Leonid Kravchuk. The treaty called for annual consultations between the countries' foreign ministers and cooperation in economic, cultural, scientific, and environmental affairs. During Walesa's visit to Moscow (also in May 1992) to sign long-awaited troop withdrawal and bilateral cooperation treaties, Walesa noted the rapid progress in bilateral relations since 1989 and hailed the countries' new emphasis on future goals rather than past conflicts. Walesa also noted that the concept of a Warsaw-Moscow-Kiev alliance, raised in his talks with Yeltsin, would depend most heavily on peaceful relations between Russia and Ukraine. This observation reaffirmed Poland's neutrality in ongoing Russian-Ukrainian disagreements over the ownership of the Black Sea Fleet, Crimea, and other territories.

Southern Neighbors and the Visegrįd Triangle

With the demise of the Warsaw Pact and Comecon, the so-called upper tier nations of Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, which in 1990 became the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic) found themselves in a security vacuum with both military and economic dimensions. But by late 1991, all three had gained associate status with NATO and the EC and were pursuing full membership in those organizations.

Poland, the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, and Hungary all supported an enhanced peacekeeping role for the CSCE, and all joined emerging regional integration associations such as the Central European Initiative. Originally called the Pentagonale and including Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, this grouping aimed to strengthen economic, cultural, and ecological cooperation in the region. The organization became known as the Hexagonale when Poland joined in July 1991, only to be renamed the Central European Initiative a few months later when Yugoslavia's breakup brought the withdrawal of that nation.

Already in 1990, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia had begun to coordinate efforts toward shared goals, including the end of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact and Comecon and entry into Western institutions. A milestone in trilateral cooperation was the February 1991 summit meeting of Hungary's Prime Minister József Antall, President Vįclav Havel of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, and Lech Walesa at Visegrįd, Hungary. An earlier summit at Bratislava had initiated a series of meetings and exchanges among the leaders of the three potential partners, leading to the formation of a consultative committee to coordinate policy on regional problems. The following January, the foreign ministers met in Budapest and issued a joint communiqué criticizing the Kremlin's military crackdown in the Baltics. The foreign ministers also issued a statement of support for the United States-led coalition in the Kuwait crisis.

The outcome of the Visegrįd summit was the Declaration on the Cooperation of the Hungarian Republic, the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, and the Republic of Poland on the Road to European Integration. The document committed the signatories to eliminate the vestiges of totalitarianism, build democracy, ensure human rights, and totally integrate themselves into the "European political, economic, security, and legislative order." The triangle was not intended to become a military alliance, as Foreign Minister Skubiszewski carefully emphasized to allay fears in Moscow. Poland subsequently signed bilateral military accords with the other triangle partners, again insisting that the agreements were designed to promote communication and understanding and posed no threat to any specific country.

During the August coup attempt in Moscow, triangle political and military leaders were in frequent contact, agreeing to adopt a common position toward the crisis and the refugee and border security problems that might result from it. In October 1991, a second summit in Kraków formalized the Visegrįd declaration, accelerated efforts to gain NATO and EC membership, and advocated an expanded role for the CSCE. The eight-point Kraków declaration also chastised Serbia as the aggressor in the Yugoslav conflict and called for national self-determination and the preservation of the previously existing republic boundaries in that country.

In the months following the Kraków summit, several key events strengthened ties among the triangle members and with the West. The triangle supported a proposal by the United States and Germany to establish a North Atlantic Cooperation Council that would promote stability and communication between NATO and the nations of Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. And in December, the triangle countries were accorded associate membership in the EC. This step established routine political contacts with the EC and set the course toward eventual full membership. Also in December, the triangle members agreed to coordinate their policy on recognition of the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, which they granted in January 1992. In April 1992, they jointly recognized the independence of Bosnia and Hercegovina.

By early autumn 1992, the future of the triangle was clouded by the impending division of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic and by tensions between Hungary and Slovakia over a series of issues. After meeting Czech prime minister Vįclav Klaus in September, Polish prime minister Suchocka stated that Poland viewed the split as a settled matter and would treat the Czech Republic and Slovakia on equal terms. Klaus stressed that trilateral relations would become less important, and that closer bilateral ties among the members would be the way of the future. Polish foreign minister Skubiszewski, however, favored continuing the Visegrįd Triangle, stating that there were problems that could be resolved better through regional cooperation than by unilateral or bilateral action.


Poland - Germany


Together with securing the removal of Soviet troops from Polish territory, the reemergence of a united, economically powerful Germany presented Warsaw's greatest foreign policy challenge after 1989. Fear of a resurgent Germany motivated Skubiszewski's initial desire to preserve the Warsaw Pact as a political alliance guaranteeing the Oder-Neisse Line as Poland's western border. <"http://worldfacts.us/Poland-Warsaw.htm"> Warsaw also welcomed the continued presence of United States forces in Europe as a check on potential German expansionism. At the same time, however, Germany represented the largest potential source of economic assistance and investment for Poland, accounting in 1990 for one-fifth of Warsaw's imports and one-quarter of its exports.

Throughout the postwar period, relations between Warsaw and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) had ranged from cool to hostile. In 1981 Poland's international isolation following the imposition of martial law further set back bilateral relations. Despite the overall expansion of economic ties in the postwar period, intractable differences remained over such issues as treatment of the 300,000 ethnic Germans in Poland, German territorial claims on Poland, compensation for Polish victims of Nazi persecution, and the permanence of the OderNeisse border. Warsaw consistently and energetically opposed all movement toward German reunification and revanchism. On the other hand, bilateral relations between Poland and East Germany were never warm, in spite of their official alliance in the Warsaw Pact. Poles resented East Germany's general enthusiasm for communist orthodoxy and its support of Jaruzelski's martial law decree in 1981.

West German chancellor Helmut Kohl visited Warsaw in November 1989 to accelerate the recent improvement of relations between the traditional enemies. Kohl hoped to gain Polish guarantees for German minority rights and to quiet fears about German revanchism that had escalated with impending reunification. West Germany extended some US$2 billion in economic assistance to Warsaw and acknowledged Germany's guilt for attacking Poland in World War II. Kohl also reaffirmed a 1970 bilateral treaty promising to respect existing borders. After Kohl subsequently caused an international stir by hedging on that commitment, the border issue was buried when Germany officially renounced all claims on Polish territory and recognized the permanence of the existing border in May 1990.

December 1991 marked a milestone in Polish-German relations when the parliaments of both countries ratified a treaty of friendship and cooperation. On that occasion, Prime Minister Bielecki stated that the common strategic goal of a united Europe had inspired Poland and unified Germany to a level of mutual trust unprecedented in the long history of their coexistence. Bielecki and his successors viewed Germany as Poland's key to integration into the West. In turn, Germany considered Warsaw the gateway to vast economic opportunities in the East. A central element of the treaty was strict adherence to international standards in the treatment of ethnic minorities.

In 1992 bilateral relations continued to improve. On an official visit in the spring, Walesa praised Germany as a democratic, liberal, and modern state and urged greater investment in Poland. In July the new German foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, visited Warsaw to sign routine customs and border agreements. Kinkel praised Poland's treatment of its German minority, which had gained seven representatives in the Sejm and one in the Senate in the October 1991 parliamentary elections.

Despite the many positive signs of a lasting rapprochement between Germany and Poland, however, in 1992 Poles remained suspicious of their powerful western neighbor. European economic instability during the late summer brought into question the feasibility of the EC goal of monetary and political union and rekindled fears of German economic domination. Widespread vandalism and violence by xenophobic extremists in Germany also contributed to Polish unease.


Poland - The United States


Over the years, a special relationship evolved between the peoples of Poland and the United States. Poles and persons of Polish ancestry made enormous contributions at every stage in the development of the United States. For Poles, family ties and genuine admiration for the United States negated decades of official anti-American propaganda. As official relations between Washington and Warsaw deteriorated after the December 1981 imposition of martial law, the United States maintained communication with the centers of Polish opposition, including leaders of labor, the intelligentsia, and the Roman Catholic Church. During the 1980s, United States policies of economic sanctions against the regime and support for the opposition contributed to the ultimate fall of the communist government.

Immediately after Jaruzelski imposed martial law in 1981, the United States invoked economic sanctions against Poland. In 1982 the United States suspended most-favored-nation trade status and vetoed Poland's application for membership in the International Monetary Fund. In the following years, Warsaw repeatedly blamed such United States policies for Poland's economic distress. For the period 1981 to 1985, the Polish government claimed that United States-inspired sanctions and Western refusal to reschedule debts and extend additional credit had cost the Polish economy US$15 billion in export income and other losses.

Despite the end of martial law and limited amnesty for political prisoners in 1983, relations with the United States did not improve. In the mid-1980s, Warsaw's determined efforts to prove its loyalty to the Soviet Union made rapprochement with Washington impossible. Poland supported the Soviet version of events surrounding the shooting down of a Korean Airlines passenger plane in 1983, an incident that greatly heightened Soviet Union-United States tensions. In 1984 Warsaw joined the Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles Olympic Games in reprisal for the United States boycott of the previous games in Moscow. Jaruzelski delivered a scathing attack against United States sanctions policy in a 1985 speech at the United Nations. And in 1986 the Polish government condemned the United States air strike against Libya.

Official relations between Washington and Warsaw began to improve after the Jaruzelski government's 1986 general amnesty released all political prisoners. By early 1987, the administration of Ronald W. Reagan lifted all economic sanctions and restored Poland's most-favored-nation trading status. Vice President George H.W. Bush visited Warsaw the following October and promised United States support for debt rescheduling in return for the Polish government's pledge to respect human rights. In 1988, however, the United States decided to withhold economic aid until Poland reestablished political pluralism.

After the Round Table Agreement of mid-1989, the United States moved quickly to encourage democratic processes and assist economic reform in Poland. Toward this goal, President Bush initially promised some US$100 million in economic assistance, and a three-year package totaling US$1 billion was proposed later in the year. In November Walesa visited Washington and addressed a joint session of the United States Congress, which greeted his unprecedented speech with promises of additional economic assistance. The Congress enacted the Support for Eastern European Democracy Act (SEED) to streamline the delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance for the development of democracy and freemarket institutions in postcommunist Eastern Europe. An interagency coordinating council led by the Department of State was established to direct assistance to Eastern Europe. The privately managed Polish-American Enterprise Fund (PAEF) was created in May 1990 to provide credit for Polish entrepreneurs to start businesses. Contingent on the level of congressional funding, the PAEF estimated that it would make US$130 million in loans in 1991. Another nongovernmental organization, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, began providing loans, loan guarantees, insurance, and advice to facilitate United States private investment in Poland and other East European countries. In 1990 the United States led an international effort to create the US$200 million Polish Stabilization Fund, which was instrumental in making the zloty convertible with Western currencies.

As a major player in such international financial institutions as the World Bank, the IMF, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Paris Club, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the United States led the effort to provide debt relief and other economic assistance to Poland. In early 1991, the United States pledged a further 20 percent reduction of Warsaw's debt to Washington. In a mid-1992 visit to Warsaw, President Bush praised Poland's political and economic reforms and proposed using the currency-stabilization fund to spur private-sector growth.


Poland - Other Western Countries


After December 1981, Polish relations with the West were generally unfriendly for several years. Few high-ranking Western delegations travelled to Warsaw, and the Polish government failed to end West European support of economic sanctions in response to martial law. In 1985 a brief meeting between Jaruzelski and French president Franēois Mitterrand yielded no concrete results. Jaruzelski's first full-fledged official visit to the West was his 1987 trip to Italy, during which he signed an important agreement for automobile production with the Fiat Corporation.

British and French policy toward Poland throughout the 1980s was consistent with that of Washington. Both United States allies imposed sanctions against Warsaw after December 1981. Both cultivated contacts with nongovernment circles and assisted the development of pluralism. And both welcomed the round table talks of 1989 and supported economic assistance to the new government.

The visit of the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to Warsaw in November 1988 sent a clear signal of Britain's support for pluralism and economic reform in Poland. Thatcher met with Solidarity leaders and made a symbolic visit to the grave of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a dissident killed by the Polish secret service in 1984. In June 1989, Mitterrand visited Poland. In March 1992, Prime Minister Olszewski traveled to Paris and received Mitterrand's assurances of support for Polish membership in the EC.

Relations with Israel improved dramatically after 1988, when Poland hosted an international conference to honor the victims of the Holocaust and to observe the forty-fifth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Full diplomatic relations were reestablished in 1990.


Poland - Bibliography

Abromsky, Chimen, et al. (eds.). The Jews in Poland. New
     York: Blackwell, 1986.

Ash, Timothy Garton. The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of '89
     Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague. New
     York: Random House, 1990.

------. The Polish Revolution: Solidarity. New York:
     Vintage, 1985.

------. The Uses of Adversity: Essays on the Fate of Central
     Europe. New York: Random House, 1989.

Barraclough, Geoffrey (ed.). Eastern and Western Europe in the
     Middle Ages. (History of European Civilization Library.)
     London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.

Bhutani, Surendra. "Poland under Gierek: 1970-1980," IDSA
     Journal [New Delhi], 16, July-September 1983, 40-55.

Davies, Norman. God's Playground: A History of Poland, 1
     and 2. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

------. Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland.
     Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

de Weydenthal, Jan B. "Poland Facing the Brink," Current
     History, 74, April 1978, 159-63.

Dziewanowski, M.K. Poland in the Twentieth Century. New
     York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

Gieysztor, Aleksander, et al. History of Poland. Warsaw:
     Polish Scientific Publishers, 1968.

Golan, Galia. "The Soviet Union and the Polish Crisis," Slavic
     and Soviet Series, 5, Nos. 1-2, 1980, 20-29.

Gross, Jan T. Polish Society under German Occupation: The
     Generalgouvernement, 1939-1944. Princeton: Princeton
     University Press, 1979.

------. Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's
     Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. Princeton:
     Princeton University Press, 1988.

Halecki, Oskar. The History of Poland. Chicago: Regnery,

Jasienica, Pawel. The Commonwealth of Both Nations: The Silver
     Age. Miami: American Institute of Polish Culture, 1987.

------. Jagiellonian Poland. Miami: American Institute of
     Polish Culture, 1978.

Karski, Jan. The Great Powers and Poland, 1919-1945: From
     Versailles to Yalta. Lanham, Maryland: University Press
     of America, 1985.

Korbonski, Andrzej. "Civil-Military Relations in Poland Between the
     Wars: 1918-1939," Armed Forces and Society, 14,
     Winter 1988, 169-89.

Kulski, W.W. "The Soviet Union, Germany, and Poland," Polish
     Review, 23, No. 1, 1978, 48-57.

Leslie, R.F. (ed.). The History of Poland since 1863.
     Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Lord, Robert Howard. The Second Partition of Poland: A Study in
     Diplomatic History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,

Malia, Martin. "Poland's Eternal Return," New York Review,
     30, September 29, 1983, 18-27.

Michnik, Adam. Letters from Prison and Other Essays.
     Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Orzell, Laurence. "Poland and Russia, July 1941-April 1943: The
     `Impossible' Alliance," Polish Review, 21, No. 4,
     1976, 35-58.

"Poland: Self-Occupation and Resistance," Survey, 26,
     Summer-Autumn, 1982.

Polonsky, Antony. Politics in Independent Poland, 1921-1939:
     The Crisis of Constitutional Government. Oxford: Oxford
     University Press, 1972.

Rachwald, Arthur R. "Poland Between the Superpowers: Three Decades
     of Foreign Policy," Orbis, 20, Winter 1977, 1055-83.

Reddaway, W.F., et al., (eds.). The Cambridge History of
     Poland, 1 and 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
     1941, 1950.

Roos, Hans. A History of Modern Poland. New York: Knopf,

Toronska, Teresa. "Them": Stalin's Polish Puppets. New
     York: Harper and Row, 1987.

Walesa, Lech. A Way of Hope. New York: Holt, 1987.

Wandycz, Piotr S. The Lands of Partitioned Poland, 1795-
     1918. (A History of East Central Europe series.) Seattle:
     University of Washington, 1974.

Watt, Richard M. Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918-
     1939. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979.

World Bank. Poland: Decentralization and Reform of the
     State. (World Bank Country Studies.) Washington: 1992.

Zamoyski, Adam. The Polish Way. New York: Franklin Watts,

Zawodny, J.K. Death in the Forest: The Story of the Katyn
     Forest Massacre. New York: Hippocrene, 1988.

------. Nothing but Honour: The Story of the Warsaw Uprising,
     1944. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press,

Zuzowski, Robert. "KOR after KOR: The Intelligentsia and Dissent in
     Poland, 1981-1987," Polish Review, 33, No. 2, 1988,


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

TRY USING CTRL-F on your keyboard to find the appropriate section of text


what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact

Copyright 2013 Mongabay.com