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Communism in Poland

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COMMUNISM IN POLAND
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By the end of the Second World War a Communist regime had taken power with the help of the Soviet Union. Poland was a satellite state of the U.S.S.R, and were ruled by a one-party
Communist regime, since the takeover during the Cold War (1945). The Cold War was a brief time of tension between the Untied Sates of America (U.S.A) and the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R).
Without actual combat, the war lasted from 1945 to 1991. The U.S.S.R was trying to gain total power and take over all of Eastern Europe, strongly encouraged and hoping to enforce communism along the way. The U.S.A was against this decision, moulding the start of the tension. Many public outbursts appeared over the communist ruled period within Poland, especial in Warsaw, their capital. The government was constantly changing, whilst remaining communist. The people of Poland were silenced by fear of death, torture and exile, in a time that needed a voice.

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Poland helped bring about the Cold War simply by existing where it did, to the west of the
Soviet Union. Early in World War Two (WWII), Poland had been divided between Germany and
Russia when they still had a non-aggression pact between them. Poles, not surprisingly, wanted their independence back. At the end of WWII, however, the Yalta Conference gave
Poland to the Soviet Union giving them the green light for the full-scale takeover of Poland, including their government. Poland was given new borders that moved it further west, into
German territories. The coalition government in Poland, called the Government of National
Unity, was formed in June, 1945, and was strongly pro-Communist. All large industries were nationalised, and the takeover of farm lands began.
In January, 1947, the Soviets agreed at the Yalta Conference to allow Poland to have free elections. This agreement was upheld, long after the promised time, and with great harassment and force to ensure that the Poles would have communist puppet regimes leading them. The
Communists won, of course, by a landslide of votes and went on to intimidate non-Communist politicians to retire their seats in Parliament during 1948–49. The Soviets felt that they needed to control Poland to protect them against invasions from the West.
Despite Poland’s hope for democratisation, only more terror arrived. Arrests and executions of the opposition followed, the elections were rigged and, after a few years, Poland was renamed People's Republic. To the US and Britain, the Soviets’ actions in Poland showed that they wanted to expand their power and to dominate everything around them. This made

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the Western Allies very suspicious of the communists, thus, leading to the start of the Cold War.
Poland’s geographic placing was its key part in helping to trigger the Cold War.

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With the Soviets holding key positions in the government and power over the economy, they dominated Polish affairs. In 1949 the Communists attempted to exclude the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the Poles daily lives. The Soviets believed that religious beliefs would only cloud the citizens judgment when it came to following the rule of Communism .
Many members of the clergy were imprisoned, and church lands were seized. In June, 1956 there were anti-Soviet riots in Poznań. Strikes broke out, protesting both working conditions and Soviet domination; the fights broke out between police and demonstrators eventually bringing in armed forces and tanks to restore order. With at least 74 people dead, and several hundred injured, the demonstrators message still didn’t get through. Following a cleanse of
Soviet sympathisers from the Communist party, a nationalist government was set up in October with Gomulka at its head. The Soviet Union threatened to invade Poland because of their new formation of a Nationalist government, one that could contend for power at upcoming elections, but accepted the new government after being assured Poland would remain an ally.
Under Gomulka's leadership, Soviet officers in the armed forces were replaced with
Poles; members of the clergy were released from prison; persecution of the church was halted; and farm collectivisation was reversed, with most of the land put under individual ownership.
The Polish people were given greater liberty, and the nation established wider contacts with the
West. The people of Poland were given hope that a communist free future was now reachable under Gomulka’s rule. This hope, however, was taken away in the early 1960’s, with Gomulka restraining his liberty and cracking down on the Churches influences. Of course, this led to more riots and rallies, which were suppressed by force and threats.
Unfortunately Gomulka wanted to keep his contacts in the West and in 1970 Poland signed a friendship treaty with West Germany. This opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, but also took up the main focus in the Nationalist government, creating suffering working and living conditions for the Polish people, hurting their economy. Widespread rioting by workers broke out over the country once again, but this time for the worsening economic conditions, causing Gomulka to resign.

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In September 1988, when a wave of strikes was coming to an end, a secret meeting was held which included amongst others the opposition leader Lech Walesa. They all agreed on holding the so-called “Round Table” talks in the near future to plan out the course of action for their country. The Polish Communists, led by General Jaruzelski, who took over from Gomulka,

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hoped to include important opposition leaders into their new ruling group without making major changes in the political power hierarchy.
In reality, the talks radically altered the shape of the Polish government and society. Key events in Poland followed and gave momentum to the fall of the entire Communist bloc; the
Yalta arrangement collapsed soon after these events took place in Poland.
On the 5th of April in 1989, The Round Table Accords are signed allowing Solidarity to be re-legalised. The Solidarity Movement in Poland was suppressed once in the late 60s and again in the late 80s, but eventually led Poland out of Soviet control and into what we see as modern day Poland.
Elections were promised for June, 1988, with two-thirds of the seats reserved for the communists in the lower house, and all of the seats open for election in the upper house.
Overwhelming victories by the candidates in these elections (99 seats out of the possible 100) led to the formation of a Polish government not dominated by the Communists, the Solidarity
Citizens' Committee—the first of its kind since World War II. Communism ended in 1989 when the majority of seats were won by anti-communistic opposition.
Radek Sikorski, a former deputy foreign and defence minister of post-communist Poland, believes that hope allowed people to keep fighting for their rights, "There was tremendous hope and a kind of electricity between people. You know, it's said that we Poles become a nation once [in] a generation, it was one of those moments when, suddenly, millions of people felt that they wanted the same thing, which was free trade unions to represent them against the
[Communist] Party. It gave people hope that perhaps communism could be reformed.” Sikorski said. The end of communism brought about change within Poland. The country suffered great hardships, from 90% of their land being destroyed from being used as Russia’s battlefield during WWII to being forced into voting for a government who controls your way of life. Poland pulled through, blossoming into the new age country we know it as today.

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The contribution of Poland becoming Communist can be debated as important to the origins of the Cold War. Without the controlling of the Polish government by a Soviet puppet regime, the Allies of the U.S.A would never of became aware of the extent the U.S.S.R were willing to go to in order to spread their beliefs of communists throughout Europe. Without this realisation, the Cold War would of never of started, which could also be debated as good or bad. But if the Soviets behaviour hadn’t of got the U.S suspicious, and they hadn’t acted (The
Cold War), the Soviets would of gained further land through continuous invasions, takeovers and murderous acts. Poland was placed in a sandwich between Germany and Russia, who

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had an on again of again relationship. Poland acted as the U.S.S.R’s shield from all invading countries, a shield that had conformed to the ruling and domination of the Soviet Union, a shield that could be ambushed, discarded or burnt at any monument. Without Poland there would be no Cold War or stopping of the Soviet Unions antics and betrayal of nations.

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Communist teachings failed to change the intellectual or spiritual outlook of most Poles.
Although the landscape was bruised, the economy suffered and safety was never guaranteed, the Polish community manage to push through. The Soviet’s planted the seed of communism in their satellite state of Poland, expecting no retaliation or defence from the innocent land.
Although Poland had fought off other intruders, their pact and reliances on the Soviet Union was to great to destroy, and to dangerous to reject at the time. The Polish government was exiled and the Yalta Conference decided their future, limiting their chances of independence, and freedom. When rallies broke out and killed 100’s, all for peace and ownership of their land, the Polish government ignored the suffering and continued in its communistic ways. The government of Poland abided by the Yalta agreement for as long as they could, eventually giving in and disregarding the rules. The government did what they were told, knowing the consequences of betraying the U.S.S.R, they led their people into darkness, expecting them to find the way out. People are pushed to limits but in being pushed they find a way, this is proven through the resilience and community spirit shown in the ever changing Poland.

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