Poland Contemporary History
The first postwar period
At the end of the First World War, Poland rose again as an independent state led by Piłsudski. In the years immediately following territorial disputes pitted it against Germany and Czechoslovakia, Lithuania and especially Russia, following the Polish invasion of parts of Ukraine and Belarus, which was followed by a conflict, concluded in 1921 by the Peace of Riga, which recognized Polish sovereignty over the western regions of the two republics. Internally, in 1926 there was a military coup led by Piłsudski, upon whose death (1935) a new reinforced Constitution further forced presidential powers, in a political framework increasingly characterized by fascist and anti-Semitic tendencies. On the economic level, the effects of the Great Depression aggravated the problems of the country, linked both to the difficulties of integration between the three previously separated areas, and to the failure to resolve the agrarian question and to the permanence of a feudal social order.
The Second World War
In 1939 the German invasion of the central-western regions followed the outbreak of the Second World War and in 1941 the eastern regions of the country, occupied by Soviet forces, were invaded by the Germans. German domination expressed itself in a frightening extermination system: millions of men, women and children were eliminated in the extermination camps, including almost the entire Jewish community. A Polish government in exile was established in France in 1939 and moved to London in 1940. A strong resistance movement developed in the country which gave rise to two distinct military forces, the Armia krajova (National Army), linked to the government in exile, and the Armia ludowa (People’s Army), an expression of the left forces. The latter formed a National Liberation Committee in 1944 in Chelm which was set up as a provisional government under the leadership of the socialist E. Osóbka-Morawski; the entire Polish territory was liberated by the advance of Soviet forces in 1945. At the end of the conflict, the former German territories east of the Oder and Neisse rivers (Lower Silesia, Brandenburg eastern and Pomerania) were placed under the Polish administration; the border to the East was moved along the so-called Curzon line, while the border with Czechoslovakia was brought back to the line before 1938. A government of national unity proceeded with agrarian reform and nationalized medium and small industries.
The communist regime
According to A2zdirectory, the political elections of 1947 led to a large victory for the communist and socialist parties, linked by a pact of unity of action. In this way, Poland became a Soviet-style country, fully integrated into the political and military system of the USSR, despite the extensive demonstrations against the regime that developed in the following decades, in particular after the start of ‘de-Stalinization’ in the second. mid-1950s. The new executive, chaired by the socialist J. Cyrankiewicz, launched a first three-year plan, while the Communist B. Bierut was elected to the presidency of the Republic. From 1948 the political regime it underwent a Stalinist stiffening and the socialist and communist parties merged into the Polish Unified Workers’ Party (POUP) under the leadership of Bierut. In 1952 the People’s Republic of Poland was proclaimed and a new Constitution passed. Poland’s integration into the socialist field was strengthened by joining COMECON (1949) and the Warsaw Pact (1955).
Solidarity and the end of the regime.
During the 1960s popular support gradually waned, while the regime stiffened in an authoritarian sense. In 1970 a workers’ revolt broke out in Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin led to the election of E. Gierekas first secretary of the POUP, while Fr. Jaroszewicz became president of the Council of Ministers. The first half of the 1970s was characterized by an improvement in the standard of living and greater political stability, but then the Polish economy was faced with a growing financial crisis. In 1980 a new wave of workers’ protests forced the government to recognize the right to strike and trade union freedom. Then arose the union of Solidarność which, with its leader L. Wałesa, became the engine of the struggle against the regime, with the support of the Polish Pope John Paul II. The government of W. Jaruzelski introduced martial law and outlawed Solidarność, but in the following years these measures were attenuated, especially after the rise to power in the Soviet Union of MS Gorbačëv (1985). This process culminated, in 1989, in the celebration of the first multi-party elections which marked the full affirmation of Solidarność (Wałesa was elected president in 1990) and, in fact, the end of the regime.