Yoter Base

Documents concerning Poland’s historical period between 1980-1990.

The period between 1980-1990 was one of Poland’s most turbulent times, fraught with influential political and social events. It started with the Gdansk strikes, whose outcome — the rise of the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarity” — was quite unexpected in the Communist reality, and it paved the way for hopes that had seemed impossible. The movement received broad social support as it assumed the possibility of transforming Communism. For over a year, the whole Poland experienced the ups and downs of subsequent negotiations, successive steps towards social reforms, a slow departure from totalitarianism. These failures were followed by consequent strikes and job actions. Introducing martial law on December 13, 1981 proved that the time of Communism in Europe was not over yet. The seed had been planted, but it was not to grow until eight years later — the Round Table Talks and the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. For many Poles, the period between these years equaled a train of struggle, resistance, intensive clandestine operations, repressions, physical and moral suffering.

There remain material traces of those dramatic events — publications that expressed the need for free speech, depending on the possibilities and situation, either legally or underground. These were books, periodicals, bulletins, and newspapers; informative documents such as placards, posters, leaflets and occasional postcards; finally, commemorative documents such as photos, occasional stamps and envelopes, or gadgets. They were published or produced in conditions typical for underground operations, usually using domestic methods, neglecting all norms or principles, by anyone who wanted and, more importantly, who could. The multitude of documents produced at that time makes them difficult to embrace, record, catalogue and classify. Therefore, any attempt at compiling them, especially in a way accessible online to the widest audience possible, appears especially important, since it allows to compare, verify, and synthesize the documents. This database is a compilation of a private collection of documents concerning the Polish “Solidarity” movement between 1980-1990 and the response from other countries. It includes illustrations and offers descriptions of the documents, as detailed as possible. The database will develop with the collection, and its sole aim is to present the documents in an objective way, without any comments whatsoever. Hopefully, it is going to become a useful tool that will provide a basis for a better portrayal of the times.

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