1983 Polish series on Netflix

Discussion in 'Alternate History Books and Media' started by Pera, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2012
    Yes, Poland has fourth biggest Vietnamese diaspora in Europe, mostly located in Warsaw. They started to came to Poland already before 1983, although most came after fall of communism.
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  2. ZincOxide Well-Known Member

    Mar 1, 2011
    Not having watched all the series, it suggests to me that Poland might have had an under the table agreement with Vietnam to take in people who wanted to leave; maybe unemployment (unoffically, of course, since in that era Communist countries stuck to the story that they didn't have any) was rising as Vietnam's reforms took place, but Poland needed workers because they had managed to solve their economic issues. Likely, the official text of any agreement was more along the lines of soft soap about "fraternal cooperation within the framework of COMECON to permit guest workers, etc."

    As to how that came about - I've said bits and pieces previously, but a fairly coherent version probably goes thus:

    Jaruzelski, after the 1983 bombings, manages to effectively quell dissent and prod the population into accepting the hardships they previously militated against in order to radically boost economic output by keeping them working all-out in the factories and farms.

    The Soviet Union kicks oil and gas into the pot, probably almost for free, in order to subsidize Poland's short-term economic expansion.

    By 1986, changes in the Soviet leadership and Jaruzelski turning over control to PZPR civilian leaders allows the PZPR to trumpet relaxations of economic controls as the "next logical step in the evolution of socialism, our reward for years of struggle after the terrible bombings, &c."

    Poles, just happy that they're getting the 'bread' part of 'bread and circuses', begin starting up private enterprises both on and off the books (recall that the Poland we see in this series has a thriving underground bar and club scene that caters to some pretty, ehm, wild tastes in some respects) and this, like China, initiates the virtuous cycle of continued economic growth with higher-quality goods and services. Thus, the need for Vietnamese workers and tolerance of organized crime factions getting in on the import-export scene.
  3. Raferty Well-Known Member

    Oct 23, 2017
    Just got started on the series, only a few episodes in.

    I think the AH portions revolve around the idea of a waning USSR but no big Eastern European upheavals after the discrediting of Solidarity and the co-option of the Church in Poland (this happened in most Eastern Bloc states, but Poland was sort of the exception and was the Church was a counterforce). The technology seems a bit odd, in that they don't seem to have actual smartphones or super advanced laptops, but very capable desktops and the architecture seems way advanced. Then again, we only really see Warsaw so not sure if thats applicable for the whole country. The evidence of standard things like rationing, price and wage controls, state controlled labour organizations, and nationalized industries and the like seem scant; perhaps that is more because of the fact that the series revolves around the security and law sectors. On the other hand, widespread apartment/tenement living and state controlled media are quite present. Perhaps the Dengist China model is indeed what we are seeing.

    It also seems like there is some tension between the Party and the Military, but need to see more on that.
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  4. AZNMAGICMAN Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2016
    I have the impression that Poland has adopted an economy similar to Modern China in the post-Mao period. So it's plausible for them to become advanced from adopting the similar economy as Deng's Reform. Though in the show, apparently relations between Poland and the USSR don't seem to be good from what I recall having watched.
  5. Roberto El Rey Minister-Chairman of the Chief Directive Executive

    Mar 4, 2017
    Tukhachevskiburg, Bavarian SSR
    I just finished Episode 4. The show’s made by actual Polish people, many of whom probably remember life under Communism, so some of the general conditions and states of mind are portrayed pretty well. Alt-hist elements reported so far:

    • The Eastern Bloc still exists, obviously. The 1983 bombings caused the failure of the Polish pro-democracy movement by galvanizing the country behind the government, apparently leading to the failure of democratic reform across the whole of the Eastern Bloc.
    • Vietnamese-Polish relations are extremely good, apparently because at some point, Vietnam was undergoing troubles and Poland swept to the rescue, welcoming Vietnamese people into the country. An intercontinental railway is being built to connect the two countries, there’s a “Little Saigon” in Warsaw, and Polish schoolchildren are being taught Vietnamese.
    • There’s a rebellion in Chechnya that the Soviets are having difficulty suppressing, to the point that the Polish government is being called upon for advice. There is also some sort of rebellion going on in Yugoslavia, though no details are given.
    • The President of the United States is Al Gore. He is building up arms in Kuwait (despite “objections from the international community”), threatening war with Iraq.
    I actually think that this series’s take on AH is uniquely Polish because of the subtle, but present self-aggrandizement of the Polish nation as a whole. There’s a scene in which a Vietnamese-born character states his admiration for the fundamental Christian kindness present in every Pole’s heart, and one in which the Poles are implied to be both more competent than the Soviets and diplomatically independent of them. It reminds me of the description given on this TV Tropes page for “Atomic Roulette” by Andrzej Pilipiuk, or that infamously terrible Pole-wank which I refuse to link to: Whenever a Pole writes alternate history with anything less than academic level rigor, it seems, national pride dictates that Poland must always be given an elevated status as some sort of world power in the alternate world, and the Polish nation must be praised as having some sort of fundamental, uniquely virtuous characteristic.

    That aside, the show seems pretty cool so far. I agree with your assessment of the style—it’s doing a good job of mixing 1984-esque imagery (which it’s clearly trying to allude to directly, because of the title of the show and the fact that the book itself is shown prominently in one scene), Matrix-like imagery and the typical architectural trappings of Communist Europe. The cars still look like slightly modernized Ladas and Volgas, which I think is funny. The exposition is handled kind of clumsily, but I’m willing to forgive it because this is a such a new genre for TV that these people are practically trailblazers.

    WARNING: this show is NSFW. Strong language, plus quite a bit of graphic nudity in every episode so far.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  6. marcinL Well-Known Member

    Oct 31, 2008
    Atomic roulette has two more parts and at the end Poland gets completely screwed
  7. Roberto El Rey Minister-Chairman of the Chief Directive Executive

    Mar 4, 2017
    Tukhachevskiburg, Bavarian SSR
    Really? I’ve never actually read it, I’m just going off the TV Tropes description.
  8. Polish Eagle AntiFa Supersoldier

    Apr 11, 2009
    Where the skies are so blue
    So I just watched the show, and it definitely is more in the Cyberpunk genre, though the setting is established through AH. I really dig the references to Mickiewicz.

    As to its AH content, Poland developing atomic weapons is not too unbelievable--the PRL did attempt that in the 1970s IOTL, though mostly focusing then on pure-fusion designs (to avoid conspicuous uranium-enrichment facilities). IOTL, the physicist in charge of the project died when the breaks on his car mysteriously failed (in Poland, it's widely believed to have been a Soviet assassination). So the PRL going all the way to an atomic test isn't too implausible. Likewise, I like the aesthetic choices for the Polish Army--the uniforms are obviously modeled on those of the Polish Army in the 1920s, indicating (with his portrait seen in one scene) that Pilsudski has been rehabilitated into a hero of one-party Poland. It seems the Party is Communist in name only by now--as Orwell might have said, power exists for its own sake here. The sale of atomic weapons to Iran is an interesting touch--it seems that the General is planning to take Poland out of the Warsaw Pact and into its own non-aligned power bloc, guaranteed by its atomic arsenal. Definitely wish-fulfillment on some level, but interesting so far.

    Similarly, I like the SB's uniforms--very much a sinister take on the familiar Polish styles.