Primary Sources

Deciding Poland's Fate


In August 1980, a worker's strike in Poland led to a compromise known as the Gdansk Agreement, in which the Communist government agreed to several compromises with the strikers, including the legal formation of a worker's union -- which became Solidarity. While this initially brought stability in Poland, it set shockwaves through the Warsaw Pact from the emerging danger of "antisocialist forces." By March 1981, the Warsaw Pact's reaction had moved from verbal warnings to more active planning for what would eventually become the declaration of martial law in Poland. In this record from a Soviet Politburo meeting, Secretary Brezhnev reports the recent actions of Erich Honecker, the German General Secretary, to become more involved in Poland. With the center of Polish strikes in the city of Gdansk along the East German border, fears of the Polish compromises spreading to East Germany were rampant.


CC CPSU Politburo, "On the Discussion Between Cde. L. I. Brezhnev and Cde. E. Honecker," 12 March 1981, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

BREZHNEV. I started out by welcoming Comrade Honecker and thanking him for taking part in the congress. In addition, I sought Comrade Honecker's views on how the congress was going and how the delegates were receiving it. He responded that the delegates to the congress are speaking about many things, referring not only to successes, but also to difficulties and shortcomings.

In addition, Comrade Honecker's alarm at the situation in Poland was very much in evidence during the conversation. I said to him that the situation in Poland disturbs us, too. I noted that Comrade Honecker had had a meeting with Comrade Kania, which of course was useful. All of us clearly are united in believing that the Polish comrades must begin taking more forceful measures to restore order in the country and to provide stability. The government is now headed by Comrade Jaruzelskiā€”a good, intelligent comrade who wields great authority.


RUSAKOV. If we refer to the discussions that Leonid Il'ich {Brezhenv] had, it's evident that the question of Poland was raised by all the comrades. Of course everyone is worried about the situation in Poland. I think these concerns are shared by the Polish comrades. They must address these concerns by adopting more decisive measures. However, even after the highly publicized conference of the leaders of the fraternal countries, the Polish friends still have not grasped the necessity of carrying out fundamental measures to restore order in the country.

How to Cite this Source

Leonid Brezhnev, "Deciding Poland's Fate," Making the History of 1989, Item #258, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:27 pm).

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