restricted access Chronology of Events
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xxviii Chronology of Events 1945–1968 February 4–11, 1945: At the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin reach agreement on demarcation of the Polish–Soviet border and support for the mainly pro-Soviet Lublin government. July 17–August 2, 1945: The Potsdam Conference sets Poland’s western border at the Oder and Neisse rivers, placing areas of former East Prussia, including the Baltic port city of Gdańsk, under Polish sovereignty. December 1948: The Polish United Workers’ Party (PUWP) is formed by merging the communist and socialist parties. Bolesław Bierut heads the new entity, having previously replaced Władysław Gomułka as secretary general of the communist party. January 25, 1949: The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) is established to coordinate the economic policies of the communist states. March 5, 1953: Joseph Stalin dies. May 14, 1955: The Warsaw Pact is established in the Polish capital with Poland as a key member. February 14–25, 1956: At the XX Congress of the CPSU, Nikita Khrushchev delivers a secret speech denouncing Stalin and declaring a more moderate approach to Soviet foreign policy. The speech has far-reaching effects in Eastern Europe, contributing to major outbreaks of unrest in Poland and Hungary later in the year. March 12, 1956: Polish party leader Bierut dies. June 28, 1956: Workers at the Stalin engineering works in Poznań protest against deteriorating economic conditions. Over the next two days, at least 70 people are killed in street fighting. October 1956: The “Polish October” witnesses the PUWP’s reassessment of Stalinism, communist leader Władysław Gomułka’s return to political power, cardinal Stefan Wyszyński’s return from internal exile, and the dramatic confrontation between Polish and Soviet leaders in Warsaw concerning alleged anti-Soviet developments in the country. March 1968: Student protests break out in Poland and are violently suppressed. August 20–21, 1968: Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces invade Czechoslovakia, replacing Alexander Dubček and putting an end to the “Prague Spring.” Two Polish armored divisions take part in the invasion. Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski is Poland’s minister of defense and Gen. Florian Siwicki is in command of the Polish invasion forces. xxix 1970s December 13, 1970: The Polish government raises prices of staple foods by as much as 36 percent, sparking widespread worker protests. Gomułka orders police and soldiers to crush the “counter-revolution” leading to the December 16 shooting of workers in front of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. On December 20, Gomułka is replaced as first secretary by Edward Gierek . The events of December 1970 are later considered the most important precursor to the Solidarity period. June 26, 1976: Following unexpected food price hikes averaging 60 percent, Polish workers again stage nationwide strikes. The crisis marks the beginning of a “nosedive” for Gierek and the Polish leadership. No combination of schemes succeeds in changing the course of the economy. Meanwhile, the population begins to organize and raise fundamental demands of the leadership. September 23, 1976: The Workers’ Defense Committee (KOR) is formed. October 16, 1978: Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, is elected Pope. The initial Soviet reaction is mostly surprise. June 2–10, 1979: Pope John Paul II visits Poland and is greeted by massive crowds at every stop on his itinerary (among them: Warsaw, Częstochowa, Gniezno, Kraków, Auschwitz). December 25, 1979: The Soviet Union launches the invasion of Afghanistan. 1979: For the first time since World War II, the Polish economy shrinks by 2 percent. The growing level of foreign debt—reaching some $18 billion by 1980—is the major problem facing the regime. 1980 February 11–15, 1980: At the PUWP’s Eighth Congress, Gierek is reelected first secretary. July 1, 1980: The Polish government increases the price of some consumer goods, including meat, without advance notice. The deregulation of some meat prices causes as much as a 60-to-90-percent hike. The decision to raise prices, based in part on a miscalculation of public discontent, is later seen as the beginning of the end of the Gierek regime. July 2, 1980: Strikes for compensatory wage increases break out throughout Poland . Strikers are generally appeased with salary hikes of between 10 and 15 percent. However, as soon as a strike is settled in one factory, another begins. This pattern continues throughout the month. July 11–20, 1980: Strikes take place in Lublin, situated along the rail link connecting East Germany and the Soviet Union. July 19...