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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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1980-81 Polish Crisis

The Polish Crisis of 1980-1981 began with a wave of strikes across Poland and the formation of the first independent labor union in a Soviet bloc country – Solidarity. The crisis ended with the imposition of martial law in December 1981. Most of these documents are from Russian archives and record the Soviet response to the Polish crisis, including preparations for military intervention. There are also documents from other Eastern European archives which contain the Communist bloc leaders’ discussions and reactions to the events in Poland. See also the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia and the Warsaw Pact. (Image, Strike Coordination Committee in Szczecin, 1980, Archiwum autora, Stefan Cielak)

  • March 17, 1981

    Information regarding the meeting between Karel Hoffmann, President of the Central Unions' Council and Member of the CPCz CC Presidium, and Stanislaw Kania, PUWP CC First Secretary, Warsaw, (excerpt)

    Information regarding the meeting between Karel Hoffmann, President of the Central Unions' Council and Member of the CPCz CC Presidium, and Stanislaw Kania, PUWP CC First Secretary, Warsaw, (excerpt), criticizing Kania’s leadership of the PUWP

  • March 26, 1981

    Session of the CPSU CC Politburo, 26 March 1981 (excerpt)

    Soviet leaders discuss the results of negotiations with a delegation from the Polish People's Republic, where Poland requested increased import of raw materials.

  • April 02, 1981

    Session of the CPSU CC Politburo, 02 April 1981 (excerpt)

    Brezhnev and the Politboro grow frustrated with the Polish leadership. They express fear of the Polish crisis spreading to Belorussia and Georgia, and question the health of Polish leaders.

  • April 07, 1981

    Report, Discussion with Supreme Commander of the Combined Military Forces of the Warsaw Pact on 7 April 1981 in Legnica (PR Poland)

    German military commanders meet with Marshal Kulikov following the evaluation meeting by the joint operative-strategic Command Staff Exercise "SOYUZ-81." Kulikov states that the military exercise was called to support Polish leaders Jaruzelski and Kania and so "a certain pressure should also be exerted upon the leadership of 'Solidarity.'"

  • April 09, 1981

    Speech of CPSU General Secretary Leonid Iliyich Brezhnev before the CPCz CC Presidium in Prague, (excerpt)

    Speech of CPSU General Secretary Brezhnev before the CPCz CC Presidium in Prague, (excerpt) regarding the situation in Poland and criticizing Polish leadership

  • April 09, 1981

    Session of the CPSU CC Politburo, 09 April 1981 (excerpt)

    Soviet leaders discuss the results of a meeting held by Cdes. Yu. V. Andropov and D.F. Ustinov with the Polish, where the Polish reported that it was difficult to conduct business with the counterrevolutionary activity, but that the situation was begining to stabilize in the wake of CPSU 26th Congress. A discussion of Poland's situation and recommendations ensued.

  • April 16, 1981

    Session of the CPSU CC Politburo, 16 April 1981 (excerpt)

    Brezhnev tells of his conversation with Kania. He gives his opinion on how the Soviets should proceed with regard to Poland after a meeting of the Sejm. The Politburo agrees with Brezhnev's decision to inform the leaders of the Warsaw Pact of the developments in Poland.

  • April 23, 1981

    CPSU CC Politburo Commission Report, 'On the Development of the Situation in Poland and Certain Steps on Our Part,' and CPSU CC-Approved Plan of'Measures to Assist the PZPR [Polish United Workers' Party]'

    Special Dossier to the CPSU CC discussing the weakening of the PZPR and the rise of Solidarity as an organized political force. Describes the leadership of Kania and Jaruzelski in the party and prescribes a method of politically weakening Solidarity by exposing and exploiting its fragments, including the extremist KOS-KOS, and stepping up propaganda that stresses the impending invasion of Soviet troops to suppress the uprising.

  • April 26, 1981

    Report on the hopeless situation in Poland

    Letter from Kuklinski to his CIA contact indicating that the situation in Poland is militarily hopeless.

  • April 30, 1981

    Session of the CPSU CC Politburo, 30 April 1981 (excerpt)

    Soviet leaders discuss the results of negotiations between a CPSU delegation and the PZPR leadership, and express concern with the decisions of the Polish leadership.

  • May 16, 1981

    Memorandum Regarding the Meeting Between Comrade Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, Erich Honecker, and Gustav Husak in the Kremlin

    Memorandum Regarding the Meeting Between Comrade Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, Erich Honecker, and Gustav Husak in the Kremlin describing the Polish situation and criticizing Polish leadership

  • June 18, 1981

    Session of the CPSU CC Politburo, 18 June 1981 (excerpt)

    Discussion of conversation between Brezhnev and Kania regarding the counterrevolution and other matters.

  • July 22, 1981

    Report to the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party Politburo containing verbatim transcript of 21 July 1981 telephone conversation between Stanislaw Kania and Leonid Brezhnev

    Brezhnev and Kania discuss the new composition of the Politburo and the dangers of counterrevolution in Poland.

  • August 03, 1981

    Transcript of the Meeting Between Comrade L.I. Brezhnev and Comrade E. Honecker at the Crimea on 3 August 1981 (excerpt)

    Brezhnev and Honecker discuss issues related to Poland, including the need for stabilization of the Polish crisis and the composition of the new Politburo.

  • August 22, 1981

    Notes from Brezhnev's Meeting with Stanislaw Kania and Wojciech Jaruzelski, 14 August 1981

    In this meeting, Brezhnev expresses anxiety about Poland's path, especially since it has deteriorated since Congress when it was expected to improve. Kania says that the political crisis can be overcome and that theyare seizing the initiative. Brezhnev insists that they will soon face off with the enemy, and there is still the opportunity to mobilize and rebuff the counterrevolution. Brezhnev concludes that large scale political action is the most feasible way to turn Poland to socialism.

  • September 10, 1981

    Session of the CPSU CC Politburo, 10 September 1981 (excerpt)

    The Soviet Politburo discusses dissent within Poland and the loss of power of the communist party in Poland.

  • September 13, 1981

    Protocol No. 002/81 of the Meeting of the Committee for the Defense of the Homeland

    Meeting of the Committee for the Defense of the Homeland on the implementation of martial law in Poland. Committee members discuss where to increase militarization to be prepared for martial law, and how best to protect martial law through propaganda.

  • September 15, 1981

    Report on the imposition of martial law

    Jack Strong reports that at a recent KOK session, no final decision was made about the imposition of martial law, though almost all participants were in support. A unified plan of command for the surprise introduction of martial law is discussed, as a secondary plan to be implemented after political means were unable to repress the counterrevolution.

  • September 15, 1981

    Transcript of Brezhnev's Phone Conversation with Kania, 15 September 1981

    Brezhnev worries the Polish Solidarity movement will undermine communist authority in Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe.

  • September 17, 1981

    Session of the CPSU CC Politburo, 17 September 1981 (excerpt)

    Brezhnev informs the Politburo about his conversation with Cde. Kania of Poland on 11 September, 1981. He suggests applying strong pressure to Kania to put down the uprising.