Primary Sources

Who Controls Poland?


Following the first congress of Solidarity held in September 1981 in which Solidarity leaders adopted "An Appeal to the Peoples of Eastern Europe," Leonid Brezhnev (first party secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [CPSU]) secretly called Stanislaw Kania (first party secretary of the Communist Party in Poland [PZPR]) to discuss the ramifications of both the congress and the appeal. This report of their conversation points to Brezhnev's deep concern about Solidarity's growing strength and determination and the PZPR's weakness and inaction. Brezhnev viewed Solidarity's appeal as a dangerous effort to spread antisocialist messages to the rest of Eastern Europe, potentially affecting the fate of socialism not only in Poland but also beyond its borders to the entire Soviet bloc. He strongly pressured Kania to finally respond decisively against Solidarity; in response, two months later, Polish leaders introduced martial law.


Leonid Brezhnev, "Information about Cde. L. I. Brezhnev's Telephone Conversation with Cde. S. Kania," 15 September 1989, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

... "Hello, Stanislaw! They told me that you want to speak with me...."

(After S. Kania's information)

... "I discussed the situation in Poland with you and Wojciech [Jaruzelski] in the Crimea roughly a month ago. At that point there was already more than enough basis for disquiet. Since then, in our view, the situation has become even more alarming.... [Y]ou should wake up again and think about who is controlling the situation in Poland. Has the fulcrum of power there already changed? The leaders of Solidarity are acting so brazenly that you cannot help but ask yourself this question.

"Solidarity's congress and the whole atmosphere around it attest that Solidarity openly aspires to the role of a political party, a party with an anti-Communist bent. The results of the first round of the Congress, in our view, amounted to a declaration of war against the PZPR and the socialist regime.

... "Solidarity has decided not to confine itself solely to Poland. It is attempting to impose its subversive ideas on neighboring states and to interfere in their internal affairs. That's the only way one can view the 'Appeal to the Peoples of Eastern Europe,' which was adopted by Solidarity's Congress.... The authors of the document would like to foment disturbances in the socialist countries and stir up groups of various renegades. I don't know what you've decided to do about this provocative escapade, but we believe it is essential to give it the rebuff it deserves.

... I want to emphasize, once again, Stanislaw, that the fate of socialism in Poland and the outcome of the political struggle in your country profoundly affect all the fraternal countries. ... In the emerging situation, on behalf of our Politburo, I request that the PZPR CC leadership respond to us about the matters I have raised, so that we can have a clear idea about your plan of action at least for the near future.

How to Cite this Source

Leonid Brezhnev, "Who Controls Poland?" Making the History of 1989, Item #266.

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