Primary Sources

Exchange of Opinions on the Polish Question


In September 1981, Solidarity held its first Congress in which it adopted a document, "An Appeal to the Peoples of Eastern Europe," a message geared toward working-class people in other Soviet bloc countries. Leaders in the Soviet Union, not surprisingly, viewed this message as dangerous, having the potential to spread the Polish unrest throughout the region. During a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [CPSU], Soviet officials discussed possible responses, including the use of their own workers in large factories to issue a rebuff in the media with the intent of discrediting the statements made by Solidarity. These meeting notes also reveal the continued frustration that Soviet leaders displayed regarding Polish leaders' lack of decisive action against Solidarity and their disregard for advice from Soviet officials. Brezhnev used "An Appeal to the Peoples of Eastern Europe" as a reason to put pressure on Polish leaders to introduce martial law, which was eventually introduced three months later in December 1981.


CPSU CC Politburo, "Exchange of Opinions on the Polish Question," 10 September 1981, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

... BREZHNEV. Yesterday I familiarized myself with the "Appeal to the Peoples of Eastern Europe," which was adopted by the Congress of Polish Solidarity. It's a dangerous and provocative document. It contains few words, but all of them are aimed at the same thing. The authors of the appeal would like to create confusion in socialist countries and stir up groups of different types of turncoats.

I think we should not restrain ourselves at all in our condemnation of this insolent stunt. How about having collectives from our large enterprises — say, the Kirov factory, the Magnitka, Kamaz, etc. — give a rebuff to these demagogues? No doubt, it will be difficult to ignore letters from them addressed to the Solidarity congress, particularly because we'll feature these letters prominently in our mass media....

GROMYKO. ... With regard to a face-to-face conversation with Cde. [Stanislaw] Kania [first party secretary in Poland], it's now perhaps not worth speaking with him, since there already was a conversation not long ago.

... CHERNENKO. Conversations were held earlier, sound instructions were issued, and a discussion was held in the Kremlin. But to what end? Cdes. Kania and [Wojciech] Jaruzelski are doing everything as they please....

ZIMYANIN. ... We will say that the congress demonstrates a further worsening of the situation in Poland. As you know, they appealed to the parliaments and peoples of certain countries, including the socialist countries, with their program of "renewal."

... TIKHONOV. ... What's going on there now is that they're defacing the monuments to our soldiers, they're drawing hostile cartoons of the leaders of our Party and government, they're insulting the Soviet Union in every possible manner, etc. In other words, they're mocking us. It seems to me that we can't remain silent any longer, and that we must, either along state lines or through some other channel, issue a protest to the Polish government about this. A failure to react, in my view, would be unacceptable....

How to Cite this Source

Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, "Exchange of Opinions on the Polish Question." Making the History of 1989, Item #265.

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