Warsaw Winter

Hungary had its 1956 uprising, when it appeared that the Soviet satellite might gain its independence. The USSR moved in and reasserted control by force.

Prague had its Spring: reforms and liberalizations in 1968 by the puppet Communist regime that eventually warranted a full scale invasion by the Soviets to settle things down.

Poland never experienced such a “corrective” invasion, though there was always the thought that the Soviets might have invaded had Jaruzelski not imposed martial law on December 13, 1981. Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarity party was gaining too much influence and there was concern that unrest might spread throughout the nation.

The conventional Polish wisdom (as I understood it) has been that Jaruzelski imposed martial law in a bid to preempt a Soviet invasion. Antoni Dudek, a Polish history professor, has published on his blog contents of a note Jaruzelski said to Viktor Kulikov, a Soviet general,

Będzie gorzej, jeżli wyjdÄ… z zakładów pracy i zacznÄ… dewastować komitety partyjne, organizować demonstracje uliczne itd. Gdyby to miało ogarnąć cały kraj, to wy (ZSRR) bÄ™dziecie nam musieli pomóc. Sami nie damy sobie rady”.

It will be worse if [the protests] spread from the workshops begin devastating the party committee, organizing street protests, etc. If it were to spread throughout the country, you (the USSR) would have to help us. We couldn’t manage it alone.

And so the possibility for a Polish Winter to match the Prague Spring was very real.

WałÄ™sa, in the meantime, has suggested that Jaruzelski might be brought up on charges of treason. Dudek admitted that while WałÄ™sa usually likes “strong words,” these words might indeed be “adequate.”

Jaruzelski of course denies all of this. Words were taken out of context. Shades of meaning have been applied that were not intended. It seems to be just the beginning, and given the generally closed nature of the Polish archives (compared to the open archives of the former East German government), it seems a resolution is distant, if not impossible.

Dudek’s blog is available here. The Onet story includes information about WałÄ™sa’s reaction. Hat tip to the beatroot.

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