Primary Sources

Brezhnev's Report on Poland


Just a few days after Soviet leaders met with two Polish officials, Stanislaw Kania (first party secretary) and Josef Pinkowski (prime minister), to discuss the critical situation in Poland, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev wrote an urgent letter to Erich Honecker, first party secretary in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). This letter shows the grave concern on the part of the Soviet leadership regarding ongoing strikes and determination of the opposition in neighboring Poland. It points to a fear that resistance in Poland could affect the rest of the region. It was, as Brezhnev wrote, an "internationalist" and "class" duty of all Soviet bloc leaders, notably Honecker, Gustav Husak (Czechoslovakia), Janos Kadar (Hungary), and Todor Zhivkov (Bulgaria), all strong supporters of the Soviet Union, to assist Poland, especially economically. This private letter shows that Soviet leaders expected other Soviet bloc countries to interfere in the events unfolding in Poland; the crisis in Poland went well beyond its borders.


Leonid Brezhnev to Erich Honecker, 4 November 1980, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

Dear Erich!

After discussing matters in the Politburo, we decided to turn to you and Comrades G. Husak, J. Kadar, and T. Zhivkov on an important and, in some sense, extremely urgent matter.

Not long ago, as you know, we received Cdes. Kania and Pinkowski in Moscow. The situation they face is ... exceptionally onerous. An urgent necessity has arisen for all of us together to help Poland make it through the current crisis.

... The counterrevolution is on the attack and has practically seized the party by the throat. At the recent meeting we conveyed to the Poles our views about the need to halt the course of events and launch an attack against the counterrevolutionary forces, and we are informing you about this separately. In these circumstances, the situation in the economy acquires enormous significance and is now close to a catastrophe. A further deterioration of the situation in Poland threatens to inflict enormous damage on the entire socialist commonwealth. For that reason it is our common internationalist and ... our class duty to do everything we can to prevent this.

... [W]e believe it is necessary to give Poland significant financial and economic assistance by extending hard-currency grants and extra shipments of a number of goods.

However, it will be impossible to provide this assistance without a certain degree of participation by the other fraternal countries....

... We propose to reduce oil shipments somewhat to a number of countries in the socialist commonwealth. This oil will be sold on the capitalist market and the hard-currency revenues will be transmitted to Poland in the name of the corresponding countries. This will enable Poland to alleviate its critical financial situation and to purchase certain vitally necessary products and other goods.

... I am certain that our display of fraternal solidarity will help our Polish comrades withstand what for them is a trying hour.

With Communist greetings


How to Cite this Source

Leonid Brezhnev, "Brezhnev's Report on Poland." Making the History of 1989, Item # 251.