Primary Sources

Unacceptable Liberalism in Poland


Following a secret telephone conversation with Stanislaw Kania (first party secretary of the Communist Party in Poland [PZPR]), Leonid Brezhnev (first party secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [CPSU]) sent telegrams about their discussion to Soviet ambassadors throughout the region. According to these notes from a September 1981 meeting of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Communist leaders of East Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia were concerned about the deteriorating situation in Poland. Erich Honecker from East Germany even proposed forcing Kania to resign because of his failure to respond decisively against the opposition (Kania stepped down in October). These meeting notes show that Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe participated in condemning Polish leaders and that they feared that Poland's turmoil would spread beyond Polish borders.


Leonid Brezhnev, "Telegram from the Soviet Ambassador in Berlin on 15 September 1981 (Special No. 598)," 17 September 1981, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

... BREZHNEV. After my telephone conversation with Cde. Kania on 11 September 1981, which we arranged at the previous session of the Politburo, I sent information about it to our ambassadors so that they could inform Cdes. [Erich] Honecker [East Germany], [Janos] Kadar [Hungary], [Todor] Zhivkov [Bulgaria], and [Gustav] Husak [Czechoslovakia].

The ambassadors performed this task and reported the results. The leaders of the fraternal parties fully and entirely agreed with what was said to Cde. Kania during the phone conversation, and they believe that Cde. Kania is displaying unacceptable liberalism and that we must apply strong pressure on him.

... Cde. Honecker put forth the following proposal: to have the leaders of the fraternal parties assemble in Moscow and invite Cde. Kania, and then say to him that he has agreed to step down and that the proposed successor to him as PZPR CC First Secretary is Cde. Olszowski.

... Of course, it is difficult for us at the moment to arrive at a simple decision on this matter. We don't yet know the opinion of the other comrades, the leaders of the other socialist countries.

Perhaps we should instruct the USSR Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Defense, and the CC Department to examine the questions laid out in the telegram and, taking account of the exchange of opinions in the Politburo, to prepare and submit appropriate recommendations to the CC.

The members of the Politburo and candidate members of the Politburo say that Leonid Il'ich's [Brezhnev] proposal is absolutely correct and should be adopted, except that the KGB [Soviet secret police] should be included among the agencies instructed to examine these questions.

The proposal is adopted.

How to Cite this Source

Leonid Brezhnev and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, "Unacceptable Liberalism in Poland." Making the History of 1989, Item #267.

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