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Poland (Gorbachev MkII)


9 May

The Polish government expels two American diplomats over their participation in anti-government protests during the May Day parade. The American Embassy insists that the two officers were observers only, not participants. They retaliate by expelling four Polish officials from their Washington embassy.

21 May

Polish Interior Minister, General Miroslaw Milewsk, is dismissed after pressure is brought to bear by Moscow on the Polish administration. Milewsk is alleged to have been involved in the murder of a Catholic priest. However, the difficulty in achieving the outcome makes the Politburo decide to change its position on Poland. It agrees that there is need for a purge in Warsaw so that a new Communist government can be established.

19 June

The leader of the Solidarnosc trade union in Poland, Lech Walesa, appears in court charged with helping to organise strikes to protest against increases in food prices. Former First Secretary, Stanislaw Kania, calls for an amnesty for all those charged in relation to the matter, and states that the government should seek reconciliation with Solidarnosc activists, not confrontation.

24 October

Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski praises the high turnout by Poles at recent elections, despite calls by Solidarnosc for a boycott of the election. He calls for normalisation of relations with the United States, asking for the lifting of sanctions that are costing $15 billion per annum and blaming Solidarnosc for the quarter’s fall in national income.

12 December

President Laurent Fabius of France cancels planned talks with President Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland. The talks had been scheduled by his predecessor, but the new occupant of the Elysee Palace regarded a meeting on the fourth anniversary of the imposition of martial law to be in bad taste. The Western rejection of Jaruzelski as a legitimate leader makes his political survival doubtful in the long-term.


24 February

Charges against Polish trade union leader Lech Walesa are dropped unexpectedly. This promotes speculation by intelligence communities that the factional balance within the government of Poland may be shifting and that General Wojciech Jaruzelski may be on his way out.

12 June

With the Tenth Polish United Workers Party Congress being held in less than a month, speculation begins around Warsaw that General Wojciech Jaruzelski had lost the support of the Politburo over his new round of intimidation of the Solidarnosc trade union group. Over six years, his tactics have failed to bring the group to heel and there are increasing demands by his party that he seek a reconciliation with those threatening the party’s rule. Jaruzelski categorically rejects any compromise or reform.

11 July

General Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland announces the suspension of the Constitution and the dissolution of the State Council, supported by local Soviet troops. He declares himself President, stating that the country will exist in a state of emergency for the time being, but that such steps have been taken to deal with issues “vital to the future security of the Peoples’ Republic of Poland”. The United States and the Vatican are among those who condemn the actions. Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev is present in Warsaw at the time, as are a group of nine thousand protestors demanding the release of Solidarnosc prisoners.

16 July

The ban on Solidarity, the Polish trade union, is lifted by Acting President Wojciech Jaruzelski. He announces that all prisoners currently held for their affiliation with the organisation will have their cases individually reviewed over the next two months, and, where “appropriate and just”, individuals will be released from detention. Solidarity leaders welcome the reversal in direction, but are cautious and suspicious about the action.

10 September

Acting President Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland announces the release of the remaining Solidarnosc prisoners and requests a top level meeting with the White House for himself and representatives of the previously outlawed trade union, including leader Lech Walesa. His intention is to discuss terms for the lifting of trade sanctions by the Reagan Administration.

21 September

Acting President Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland justifies his recent pardoning of numerous Solidarnosc prisoners, stating it occurred due to “visible improvements in public order” and an agreement by the prisoners not to engage in “clandestine activities”. Jaruzelski has promised reform to the trade unions, but has not embraced the idea of pluralism in social organisations.

7 October

A meeting is held in Gdansk between the chairman of Solidarnosc, Lech Walesa, and the Acting President of Poland, Wojciech Jaruzelski. Walesa states later that concrete proposals were put forward in a spirit of “culture, friendliness and goodwill”. The trade union will be given a year to elect a National Executive Committee, after which it shall take over the All-Polish Conference of Trade Unions. From January, 1988, Solidarity members will run the executive of the Conference, effectively setting up Lech Walesa to become the new leader of Poland’s trade unions from Alfred Miodowicz. As such, Walesa would be legally empowered to negotiate with the government over worker conditions and social reforms. Walesa publicly calls for the Western Europeans and the North Americans to lift trade restrictions, an event which occurs in Brussels two days later.

23 October

The US Secretary of State George Schultz announces that the United States will remove trade sanctions from the Peoples Republic of Poland, after interventions from Solidarity trade leader Lech Walesa. He states that the lifting of sanctions is an “interim” movement, and its continuation is dependent upon continued reforms emanating from Warsaw.

25 October

Lech Walesa, leader of the newly-legal Solidarnosc, states that the most urgent task facing President Wojciech Jaruzelski is to take steps to improve the economy and that, in fourteen months, he will hold the government accountable for any failure to undertake meaningful reforms. Jaruzelski insists that the United States must lift sanctions before any further steps to improve the economic situation can be taken

5 December

President Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland announces to his party congress that it has adopted its own platform for economic reform, including increasing manager power, creating wage incentives, stimulating the export sector and allowing limited enterprise ownership reforms similar to those undertaken by the USSR. He states that, “while these reforms are only the start of the process, we must move cautiously. We must embrace as Party members the beginning of our own reform before we can truly reform Poland.” He also confirms that all trade restrictions with the United States are currently in the process of being rescinded but timetables have not been agreed upon. “We are getting there step by step, but the Americans too are being cautious.”

22 December

Poland’s President, Wojciech Jaruzelski, announces that he will engage in wide-ranging consultations “with all parts of society” for the next nine months and that, over that period, he will appoint a National Consultative Committee to begin drafting a plan for “the future of our People’s Republic”. His landmark speech lays out a clear plan for Poland over the next year aimed at “providing the framework to reconstruct our land into a democracy”. Secretary of State George Schultz expresses cautious optimism.


27 February

Ukrainian-born US citizen, John Demjanjuk, is found guilty in absentia of war crimes in Poland and the government in Warsaw issues an extradition request to the United States. However, given delays in the US judicial system, it will be nearly three years before the District Court rules that Poland has produced credible evidence of Demjanjuk’s work in death camps. He will not exhaust the appeal process until May, 1993.

28 February

US President Ronald Reagan lifts the last of the economic sanctions on Poland imposed over five years ago. He praises the Warsaw government for demonstrating greater religious tolerance and freeing political prisoners. President Wojciech Jaruzelski states his “great pleasure”.

13 May

Polish authorities close Warsaw’s Okecie Airport after stating that terrorist threats have been made against LOT Airlines. A thorough check of all aircraft and buildings reveals no bombs, though the airport is closed for the day.

13 June

President Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland announces that he is establishing diplomatic ties with the Vatican City, allowing Pope John Paul II to visit his country again for the first time since 1983.

22 June

Pope John Paul II visits Poland, invited back to his homeland by the government and for the first time since 1983. He is permitted entry to the city of Gdansk, home of Solidarnosc and future home of the Polish Conference of Trade Unions, where he meets for 35 minutes with Lech Walesa. President Wojciech Jaruzelski announces programs to renovate or construct 1,400 Catholic churches across Poland during his public meeting with the Pontiff and tells John Paul that his government is “re-examining every premise in the creation of a contemporary socialist state”.

2 September

Since the opening of links with the Vatican, Polish government authorities have granted numerous visas to visit Italy. Today, Pope John Paul II expresses concern with growing numbers of his fellow citizens who are taking tourist visas and then refusing to return home. He arranges housing for around fifty refugees camped in St Peters Square.

5 September

After the recent gesture of Pope John Paul II, a crowd of six hundred Poles have now gathered in St Peters Square and are demanding that the pontiff should likewise accommodate them. The Italian Prime Minister, Benedetto Craxi, announces that he is cutting back on Pole visas to discourage the exodus and states that he expects it will be at least a month before he can find accommodation for the crowd.

28 September

Polish trade union Solidarnosc announces the election of a National Executive for the organisation, fulfilling the criteria laid out by the government for it to assume an official role in Polish society. President Wojciech Jaruzelski issues a decree, declaring Lech Walesa as the new chairman of the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions and allocating Solidarnosc eighty percent of its executive positions. Jaruzelski states that he will meet with Walesa in early November and hopes to open negotiations with the trade unions shortly thereafter.

8 October

US Vice President John Heinz arrives in Poland for an informal meeting with the leader of the All-Poland Trade Unions, Lech Walesa. Heinz states that the US is encouraged by the progress made the Polish government in reform. He also attends meetings with President Wojciech Jaruzelski, hinting that these talks are key to preparations for the superpower summit in December.

16 October

Lech Walesa outlines publicly a sweeping economic reform package which he will take to the government in negotiations next month. It calls for the slashing of crippling government subsidies and to layoffs of government employees, but would grant greater freedom to state-owned enterprises and allow for the creation of an independent small business community. It compares to the perestroika outlined by the Soviet government, but goes further in moving towards capitalism in its disregard for the workers in unprofitable enterprises.

5 November

Poland’s President Wojciech Jaruzelski announces that talks will commence between the government and the All Polish Congress of Trade Unions in ten days. He lowers expectations by insisting that the country should not expect any agreement between himself and Lech Walesa before the New Year and there would be no concrete changes before March or April.

15 November

Talks, between President Wojciech Jaruzelski and trade union leader Lech Walesa, open in Warsaw. It is suggested that the government intends to co-opt the Solidarnosc movement into the Communist Party and Walesa is threatened with the division of his movement if he compromises too much in his talks with Jaruzelski. Walesa, however, pledges that he will strongly support a reformist view and expresses an expectation that there will be fundamental changes in Poland over the next six months.

3 December

Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in Warsaw to announce the suspension of Romania as a member of the Warsaw Pact. He also meets with President Wojciech Jaruzelski and national trade union boss, Lech Walesa, to discuss elements of a new national agreement. It has emerged that the two are working on reforms to the constitution.

10 December

While not providing any specific detail, President Wojciech Jaruzelski announces that the government has agreed to a “transitional democratisation” process as part of its negotiations with the national trade union, Solidarity. He also states that the trade unions have approved an economic recovery plan, which will increase the price of consumer goods by up to 40% over the next year, to bring the economy more into line with market prices. The announcement leads to a wave of panic buying and hoarding.


13 January

Poland gets a new constitution. Under the arrangement reached between the trade union leader, Lech Walesa, and President Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland will become a parliamentary republic, with a bicameral legislature. The new National Assembly, which will choose a head of government and have a term of two years, will be democratically elected in just two months. The Senate will also be elected, but with one-third of its members elected every two years, meaning that the Communist Party is guaranteed a majority in the Senate for the next two years and will survive politically until at least 1992, but will have the potential to lose its majority in the 1990 election. Lech Walesa is widely expected to become the first Prime Minister. It also virtually guarantees Jaruzelski will remain in office until 1994.

12 February

Prices are rising quickly in Poland due to the inability of the state to maintain subsidies on key items. The cost of living is rising at two percent a month and there have been protests outside Communist Party headquarters, with the feeling that the power sharing arrangement took too long to figure and the time to move on the economy is now. President Wojciech Jaruzelski states that the new “democratic” government will have a difficult and complex economic situation. Lech Walesa states that, to implement his key reforms, he will be borrowing $6 billion from Union Bank International and confirms that the nation will receive Most Favoured Status from the United States to reignite the economy.

15 March

Trade union, or Solidarnosc, candidates take over all but one of the positions in the new Polish Assembly, and Lech Walesa becomes the new Prime Minister of Poland. The Senate, however, remains under control of Communists until the next election, and Walesa warns his compatriots not to expect overwhelming reform in the coming legislative term. His first action as Prime Minister is to lift the 1981 ban on the Independent Students Union.

7 May

Polish Prime Minister Lech Walesa is faced with a growing sense of crisis as strong opposition begins to spread to his prices reforms. Demands emerge among the trade unions, including Solidarnosc, for massive wage increases and a restoration of control on interest rates as millions begin to lose their jobs. Walesa courageously refuses, stating that the action is necessary in order to obtain $2 billion in new loans, but admitting that the nation faces two years of hardship and that the economy will contract by up to 15% over that time. He projects that the economy will recover strongly and the process of reform will be completed by 1993.

14 May

Polish Prime Minister Lech Walesa calls on his people to realise “what is at stake” over their resistance to his economic reform program and suggesting that anti-reform forces within the country are attempting to “evoke a confrontational crisis”. He asks the Roman Catholic Church to authorise mediators to meet with striking workers and open a productive dialogue, arguing that a backward step would condemn Poland to “the maintenance of an ineffective Communist economy”.

20 May

Poland’s Prime Minister Lech Walesa announces that an agreement has been reached to allow striking workers to end their protest. He states that neither side has achieved a “triumph”, but that both parties have completed the pay increase negotiations “with their heads held high”. However, the pay increases will feed into further government debt and higher inflation, exacerbating the problems being experienced as a result of reforms. Members of the Communist Party begin to blame the worsening situation on the interference of “foreign capitalists determined to crush Poland’s competitive abilities”.

25 August

Polish coal miners go on strike, demanding better conditions and shutting down ten mines in Silesia. Premier Lech Walesa, after consulting with the combined trade union leadership, calls the National Defence Committee and orders the army to enter the mines and continue operations. Troops also move on to the dock facilities at the seaport at Szczecin to ensure that his economic plan continues uninterrupted.

1 September

Polish Prime Minister Lech Walesa states that he regrets the extraordinary inflation rate, but tells audiences on national television that the use of the military to wait out strikers is necessary. “The coal mines and shipyards remain our national economic engine,” he says, “and we cannot afford for them to stall.” A curfew is imposed in Katowice. Across the border in Hungary, miners also go on strike in sympathy with their Polish colleagues, but neither prevent strike breakers from crossing picket lines.

8 September

The strikes which have been afflicting Poland finally come to an end, with workers agreeing to return to the job today following an emotional appeal by Prime Minister Lech Walesa. The Polish head of government admits that he has risked his reputation and credibility but pledges that “with patience, we will see visible improvements in the national economy”.

1 October

The government of Poland splits. Premier Lech Walesa admits that his supporters have divided over the path ahead and that, given the diverse nature of the original Solidarity leadership, it was perhaps inevitable. He will retain a substantial majority in the Polish lower house, but a large number of his fellow members defect to form an opposition under Marian Krzaklewski.

6 October

Polish Prime Minister Lech Walesa states that there will be no “olive branch” to Solidarity defectors led by Marian Krzaklewski. He suggests that they may be behind the recent labour unrest and agrees with media proposals that Krzalewski may be designated as an unofficial “opposition leader”, but that they will lose Solidarity endorsement before the next Sejm election. The upper house leader, the Communist Party’s Mieczyslaw Rakowski, claims that the chaos within Solidarity indicates the “amateur” nature of their efforts.

14 November

British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock leads a delegation into Poland where he meets with Poland’s Prime Minister Lech Walesa and commits to buying Polish bonds in order to assist with the economic transition. He welcomes the recent commitment to free prices, but expresses disappointment that the Communist-dominated Senate has insisted on strong limitations of corporate size. He states that there are signs of strong freedom of expression, freedom of association and a “real and ongoing dialogue with representatives of all sections of society”. He confirms a sound return from investment in the rejuventation of Berlin and predicts that Poland may make as many returns. He announces that the UK will relieve the national debt by as much as $14.4 billion over five years.

10 December

In the first televised broadcast of the Sejm watched by over 80% of Poles, Prime Minister Lech Walesa and Opposition Leader Marian Krzaklewski stage a debate on economic reform. By common agreement, despite his usual rambling style, Walesa is polled as having been the victor by a margin of four to one. The whole debate is seen as a catalyst for renewed enthusiasm for the government.


1 February

Polish Prime Minister Lech Walesa reports that the economy has shrunk by nearly 7% in the past year and that, while the economy has returned to growth, it will be another twelve months before the benefits of the radical economic plan become apparent. Foreign investors continue to complain about lack of competition in some sectors and state regulation. To assist the process, Walesa calls for the creation of a free trade area governing the members of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance.

17 March

After a year in government, the inconsistencies in policy and personality within the Solidarity coalition in Poland become too great for the organisation to handle and the Polish Government crumbles. President Wojciech Jaruzelski states that he will appoint whoever can guarantee a majority in the Sejm and that, in the interim, he will continue to endorse Lech Walesa’s premiership.

24 March

Lech Walesa manages to cobble together a narrow “democratic socialist” majority in the Sejm and wins the endorsement of Communist Party leaders in the upper house in order to maintain his majority in that place. However, it now appears as though he has formed an alliance with the Communists in order to maintain a social democratic government.

29 April

Poland’s President Wojciech Jaruzelski dissolves the National Assembly, stating that the newly-forming political parties must return to the people and contest elections. He also confirms the resignation of a large faction of his own Polish United Workers Party, with leadership of the reduced membership coming into the hands of Aleksander Kwasniewski. He claims that the absence of a government has led to uncertainty about the commitment of Poland to reform and is holding up renegotiation on $39 billion in debts to the United States.

16 May

Only days before the election, with opinion polls savaging the Prime Minister, Lech Walesa resigns as leader of Solidarity and as Poland’s head of government. He states that he will not be a candidate for the prime ministership after the poll, which will be the first truly open democratic election in the Eastern bloc, and will not run for a seat in the Sejm.

25 May

In his last act as Prime Minister, Lech Walesa of Poland attends mass with large numbers of parliamentarians at St Johns Cathedral and prays for the nation, committing it to the hands of another. It appears tomorrow that former Communist, Aleksander Kwasniewski, has the advantage over Walesa’s former chief of staff, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

26 May

Poland elects Aleksander Kwasniewski as its new Prime Minister as leader of a four-party coalition, with his Democratic Left Alliance taking 117 seats in the 460-member Sejm to be the largest party. An interesting factor is the participation of Solidarity as a member of the new governing coalition. The opposition coalition is led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who left Solidarity to form his own party. The leader of the sizeable independent parliamentary bloc is Wieslaw Chrzanowski.

18 June

Former Premier of Poland, Lech Walesa, announces his retirement from national politics to take the position of Secretary General of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance. He will remain in the position for the next three years, charged with overseeing the merging of the organisation into a wider European trade pact.

29 June

Poland’s Prime Minister Aleksander Kwasniewski states that President Wojciech Jaruzelski will remain in office for his full five-year term after rumours that the government is attempting to force Jaruzelski out in order to boost its own support base. “We are not interested,” he states, “in having a government which is acceptable to every idle mind”.

See Also

timelines/poland_from_gorbachev_mk2.txt · Last modified: 2019/03/29 15:13 (external edit)