Primary Sources

Brezhnev Gets Forced to Make a Decision


During the developing economic and political crisis in Poland in the early 1980s, Polish and Soviet leaders communicated regularly to discuss the situation in Poland. Following a telephone conversation in June 1981 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]) presented a report about that conversation at a meeting of the Central Committee of the CPSU. As revealed in these meeting notes, Brezhnev grew increasingly frustrated with the leadership in Poland and its lack of action as well as its neglect to follow the advice of Soviet leaders. Brezhnev's report also points to the tensions that erupted within the Polish Communist Party during its recent plenum, as described by Kania. The document shows Soviet involvement in the Polish crisis, Polish leaders' hesitancy to adopt Soviet advice, and the tense relationship not only between Soviet and Polish leaders but also among Polish Communist Party members.


Leonid Brezhnev, "On Cde L. I. Brezhnev's Information About His Discussion with Cde. S. Kania," 18 June 1981, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

...BREZHNEV. As you know, for a long time I didn't want to speak with Kania, but he was determined to have a conversation. From Friday until Monday he was calling every day. Then, on Tuesday, the 16th of June, I couldn't any longer avoid having a conversation, so I linked up with him....

...Kania then described the plenum and the decisions adopted there....

With regard to the plenum, it, according to Kania, featured a lot of criticism. The discussion at the plenum was heated and far-reaching.... Criticism of the PZPR Politburo and leadership overall was extensive.... The plenum voted by a majority not to make any changes in the leadership until the Party congress....

...At this point I couldn't restrain myself and said to him: Comrade Kania, how many times have I spoken with you about such things since the very start of this long, drawn-out affair? The whole time I told you what must be done and said that you couldn't respond to counterrevolutionary activities through words alone.

Kania agreed with this....

...I will, I continued, say only one thing: The policy of endless concessions to the counterrevolution has proven utterly bankrupt.

If you don't succeed in achieving a turnaround in the political situation by the time of the Party Congress, you will ruin both the congress and the Party itself, giving power with your own hands to the enemy. That's where matters stand now.... I say this to you as a comrade.

Kania fully agreed with this.

...[T]he main thing now is not words, but action and practical work. You yourself, Stanislaw, declared that you must begin acting right away, beginning the very next day. Let's see what will come of this. It was time for you to take action long ago.

...Kania assured me that he would do everything in his power to fulfill our wishes, to which I replied: Time will tell. On that note we said goodbye....

How to Cite this Source

Leonid Brezhnev and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, "Brezhnev Gets Forced to Make a Decision." Making the History of 1989, Item #263.