home | about | documents | news | postings | FOIA | research | internships | search | donate | mailing list

With a foreword by
Lech Walesa

Order this book from CEU Press


Solidarity and Martial Law in Poland:
25 Years Later

New Book Publishes Key Documents
on the Solidarity Period, 1980-1981

U.S. Misread Polish Leadership, and Was Unprepared
for the Crackdown despite Having a Spy on the Inside

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 211

Posted - December 11, 2006

For more information contact:
Malcolm Byrne - 202/994-7000

Praise for From Solidarity to Martial Law

"I consider From Solidarity to Martial Law a highly successful effort at depicting the events of 25 years ago. These documents ... enable us to perceive the path we have traversed since that time when, prior to Gorbachev and prior to Reagan, we created the first fissure in the system of communist captivity."
-- Lech Walesa, former Solidarity leader and President of Poland

"An important and very revealing contribution to a better understanding of a particularly critical phase in the Cold War. The documents [in this book] provide a sense of intimacy to the complex interactions between American and Soviet decision makers as well as an insight into the internal Communist debates."
-- Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor


Washington D.C., December 11, 2006 - Twenty-five years ago this week, at 6:00 a.m. on December 13, 1981, Polish Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski appeared on national TV to declare that a state of martial law existed in the country. Earlier in the night, military and police forces had begun securing strategic facilities while ZOMO special police rounded up thousands of members of the Solidarity trade union, including its celebrated leader, Lech Walesa.

A quarter-century later, the George Washington University-based National Security Archive is publishing, through Central European University Press a collection of previously secret documentation entitled From Solidarity to Martial Law, edited by Andrzej Paczkowski and Malcolm Byrne (Walesa provided the volume's foreword). The documents, many of which have never been published in English, are from inside Solidarity, the Polish communist party leadership, the Kremlin as well as the White House and CIA. They provide a vivid history of the Solidarity period, one of the most dramatic episodes in the Cold War.

While martial law was highly effective in suppressing the union and restoring communist party control in Poland, the authorities could not eradicate the political movement that had been awakened, and that Solidarity both led and symbolized. In 1983, Walesa would win the Nobel Peace Prize and before the end of the decade, Poles would elect Eastern Europe's first non-communist government since World War II.

Although a crackdown of some kind against the union had long been feared and anticipated (ever since Solidarity's founding in August 1980), when it came it nonetheless took most observers outside of Poland by surprise. For over a year, Jaruzelski's patrons in the Kremlin had been applying extraordinary political pressure on Warsaw to crush the opposition, but Jaruzelski did not inform them that he was finally ready to act until approximately two days before.

In the United States, observers and policy-makers were also caught off-guard despite having had a highly-placed spy in the Polish Defense Ministry until just weeks before the crackdown. Part of the explanation was that senior officials focused on the possibility of a Soviet invasion, not an internal "solution." An invasion, especially after the Red Army's move into Afghanistan two years earlier, would have created a major international crisis.

But U.S. officials also misread the Polish leadership, including Jaruzelski, documents show. In evaluating the possibility of an outside invasion earlier in 1981, State Department and CIA analyses concluded that even the Polish communist party would resist a Soviet move, along with the rest of the population, and would use martial law as a way to "maximize deterrence" against Moscow. In fact, internal Polish and Soviet records make clear that Jaruzelski and his colleagues were intent on imposing military rule for purposes of reasserting control over society, a goal they fully shared with the Kremlin.

The documents include:

  • Internal Solidarity union records of leadership meetings and strategy sessions
  • Transcripts of Polish Politburo and Secretariat meetings
  • Transcripts of Soviet leadership discussions
  • Detailed accounts of one-on-one meetings and telephone conversations between Leonid Brezhnev and Polish leaders Stanislaw Kania and Jaruzelski
  • White House discussions of the unfolding crisis and a possible Soviet invasion
  • CIA analyses
  • Communications from CIA agent Col. Ryszard Kuklinski who fed the U.S. highly classified information on Poland's plans for martial law
  • Materials from the Catholic Church including Pope John Paul II
  • A page from the notebook of key Soviet adjutant Gen. Viktor Anoshkin showing that Jaruzelski pleaded with Moscow to be prepared to send in troops just before martial law -- shedding rare light on the unresolved historical and political question of Jaruzelski's motives regarding a possible Soviet intervention

The new book contains 95 documents in translation, representing sources from the archives of eight countries, and thus providing a multi-dimensional, multi-national perspective on the key aspects of the Solidarity crisis. The documents are accompanied by descriptive "headnotes" explaining the significance of each item, along with a lengthy chronology of events and other research aids. A major overview by the editors describes and locates the events in their historical context.

Document samples in From Solidarity to Martial Law
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

[Note: document descriptions appear at the top of each document]

Document 1: Message from Ryszard Kuklinski on Impending Warsaw Pact Invasion, December 4, 1980

Document 2: Memorandum from Ronald I. Spiers to the Secretary of State, "Polish Resistance to Soviet Intervention," June 15, 1981

Document 3: CIA National Intelligence Daily, "USSR-Poland: Polish Military Attitudes," June 20, 1981

Document 4: Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs, "Supplement No. 2: Planned Activity of the Ministry of Internal Affairs," November 25, 1981

Document 5: Solidarity NCC Presidium, "Position Taken by the Presidium of the National Coordinating Commission and Leaders of the NSZZ," December 3, 1981

Document 6: Protocol No. 18 of PUWP CC Politburo Meeting, December 5, 1981

Document 7: Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, December 10, 1981

Document 8: Notebook Entries of Lt. Gen. Viktor Anoshkin, December 11, 1981

home | about | documents | news | postings | FOIA | research | internships | search | donate | mailing list

Contents of this website Copyright 1995-2017 National Security Archive. All rights reserved.
Terms and conditions for use of materials found on this website.