Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

people at open-air masses, provided an example of the continued power of religion in Poland. The dangers of a diluted Marxist-Leninist ideology was countered by the order of the communist leadership in 1978, tightening control over the nation's university system.

In spite of all these efforts, the most articulate, most efficient dissident movement of all the East European satellites of the Soviet Union emerged in Poland. In the 1970s, dissidents established an entire network of underground publishing houses, issuing newspapers and even magazines. The Polish communist government was powerless to stop the dissidents without resorting to outright terror. Unwilling to do this, the government resorted to periodic arrests of intellectuals and the confiscation of underground presses. It wanted to remind the dissidents that the government still had the power to act against them. Such arrests were invariably followed by protests, reminding the government that public opinion was not on its side. Nevertheless, the tone of vituperation that characterized Czechoslovak cultural life after the Warsaw Pact invasion of that country in 1968 was completely absent in Poland. The Polish dissidents (and, sometimes, the communist government), acted with prudence and circumspection.

After 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev made it quite clear to all Soviet Bloc leaders that Soviet tanks would no longer come to their aid in domestic matters, the Polish government gradually retreated and provided greater latitude for dissident cultural activities. With the beginning of the Round-table discussions (see Roundtable talks in Poland) between the dissident movement and the government in 1986, all censorship was finally abolished. The press was freed of official restraints, and the compulsory teaching of Marxism-Leninism and the Russian language in schools was discontinued. The postcommunist governments ended government subsidies of cultural life which, at times, presented hardships for creative people. The rule of the market place was established in cultural life, and the Polish economy will not be able to do much for culture at least in the short run.


Bibliography

Czarnecka Ewa, and Fiut Aleksander, Conversations with Czeslaw Milosz ( San Diego, 1987); Held Joseph, "Cultural Policies," in Stephen Fischer-Galati, ed. Eastern Europe in the 1980s ( Boulder, CO, 1981); Kridl Manfred, A Survey of polish Literature and Culture ( New York, 1966); Mchnik Adam, Letters from Prison and Other Essays ( Berkeley, CA, 1985); Milosz Czeslaw, The Captive Mind ( New York, 1953).

Demographic Changes in Communist Poland. The war-related losses came to over 11.5 million people, including the Jews who were exterminated by the Nazis, the Poles who were lost as a consequence of the German occupation, the people who died following the Soviet occupation of Poland, and the Germans who were expelled from the country after 1945. Nearly 6 million ethnic Poles were killed. Almost 2 million new settlers, expelled from the Soviet-absorbed eastern territories, were moved in to replace the expelled Germans. Before World War II, the Jewish population of

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