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One of Mikhail Gorbachev's most famous reform movements was 'glasnost' (openness), which allowed partial freedom of the press to address social problems and corruption within the Soviet Union. Among the issues raised during the 'glasnost' era of the Soviet Union were social problems, including previously forbidden subjects such as the high rate of divorce. An example of this is the following….

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This is the sermon that Pope John Paul II delivered at the open-air mass described in the previous section, and it is typical of both his rhetorical style and the substance of the sermons he delivered during his trips to Poland. The formal occasion for the mass was the conclusion of a national Eucharistic Congress that had been held over the preceding days in various sites around Poland. Such….

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Photograph #7 from the Papal Visit of 1987

From June 8-14, 1987, Pope John Paul II made his third "pilgrimage" to his homeland (he had already visited in 1979 and 1983). As on the first two occasions, life in Poland seemed to stop during his visit, as nearly the entire country (at least, so it seemed) participated in this historic moment. These photographs were taken a week before he arrived, and the buildings were far from any of the….

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Photograph #1 of the St. Stanisław Kostka church in Warsaw

Father Jerzy Popiełuszko was one of the most vocal priests involved in the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s. Even after the declaration of martial law in 1981, Father Popiełuszko remained an outspoken opponent of the Communist regime, and his church in the Warsaw suburb of Żoliborz became a gathering point for those who wanted to hear anticommunist sermons. The monthly "Masses for the….

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This sermon was delivered in Podkowa Leśna, a small town in central Poland near Warsaw, on October 13, 1982. An émigré publishing house in the United States published a transcript in a collection of sermons that purported to present the views of the rank-and-file clergy during the period of martial law. Much more militant than the official pronouncements of the Bishops, texts such as these….

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This pastoral letter was issued on March 11, 1981, and sent to every priest in Poland. It summarizes the message that the bishops wanted the parish clergy to transmit to their flocks during their Sunday sermons. While not every priest faithfully replicated the tone of this letter, very few openly defied the instructions of the Church hierarchy. The goal of this letter is clear: to hold the….

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This prayer was composed by the Polish Episcopate shortly after Solidarity was legalized for the first time, in 1980. The bishops instructed that henceforth it be recited during every mass. In just one paragraph this text captures several important themes: the link between nationalism and Catholicism; the Church's desire to avoid confrontation and conflict; and the Church's support for basic….

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This sermon was delivered by Cardinal Stefan Wsyzyński, the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, on January 25, 1976, in Warsaw's Holy Cross Church. Here we see the conservative political convictions shared by most members of the Polish clergy at the time (and today), according to which the Church, the nation, and the state must be tightly intertwined. The Polish Church, barely….

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This text was written by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in 1956 and used that year for a ceremony at the Marian shrine of Jasna Góra in the town of Częstochowa. Promoted heavily by the Polish Episcopate, the pledge became a mainstay of organized pilgrimages and remains popular to this day. Częstochowa was the site of a famous battle in 1655, when an invading Swedish (Protestant) army besieged….

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The information presented in this table highlights some of the ambiguities regarding the position of the Roman Catholic Church in the Polish People's Republic. The basic message in these data is that Catholicism thrived between WWII and the 1990s. These decades saw an expanding network of parishes and a dramatic surge in the construction of church buildings. However, by comparing the last….

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In 1984, British journalist John Cole interviewed Great Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev. The interview took place shortly before Thatcher met with current U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Soviet observers had raised the possibility that Gorbachev might become the next head of the Communist Party and Premiere of the Soviet Union. Margaret….

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On October 3, 1990, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) were reunified as one single state, recreating a country that had not existed since the end of World War II. The divide between East Germany and West Germany had been both a political event and also a symbolic one, between Western democracies and Eastern Communist countries. The….

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Soviet propaganda posters presented positive images of healthy, active people engaged in useful service to the state, including children. This Soviet poster from 1953 was typical of this image. Its slogan, "Pioneers and Students, Get Interested in Modeling!", coupled with the image of a happy child in the open air on a bright, sunny day, suggested the positive results of state-approved….

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President George H. W. Bush visited Poland and Hungary in July 1989 after June elections in which Solidarity candidates won 160 of the 161 seats in the Sejm that were available to them and 92 of the 100 seats of the Polish Senate. In addition, many leaders of the Communist Party failed to secure enough votes to be elected to the parliament they had controlled for four decades. In the….

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