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Poland Martial Law
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Although the military was taking a low public profile, Jaruzelski played a major behind-the-scenes role in unseating the discredited Gierek in 1980. The following year, Jaruzelski himself became prime minister as a compromise candidate acceptable to all factions of the PZPR's divided leadership. By 1981 military officers occupied fourteen seats in the PZPR Central Committee (three had been the norm during the Gierek regime). Until late 1981, Jaruzelski represented a moderate wing of the PZPR willing to negotiate with the ever-more powerful Solidarity movement. The restraint Jaruzelski had shown in using military force in 1970, 1976, and 1980 sustained his public prestige and that of the armed forces through 1980.

    In 1981, however, the near-collapse of the PZPR caused civilian party leaders to tie the army, by way of Jaruzelski, closer to the role of defending the regime against popular dissent. Party leaders named Jaruzelski prime minister and then first secretary of the PZPR, making the general the most powerful political figure in Poland and completely closing the gap between military and political authority. In December 1981, the party's continued collapse, the country's economic decay, and Solidarity's increasingly radical demands and fear of a Soviet Army invasion triggered by those conditions caused Jaruzelski to declare martial law, in effect executing a military coup.

    The military was mobilized but did not confront activists and demonstrators directly. The army staffed checkpoints and protected communications and transportation facilities while the specialized Motorized Units of the Citizens' Militia (Zmotoryzowane Oddzialy Milicji Obywatelskiej--ZOMO) performed riot control functions on the streets (see Internal Security , this ch.). Nevertheless, martial law associated the military directly with the severe curtailment of civil liberties and the imprisonment of thousands of antigovernment activists. The use of the military to keep a Polish regime in power again tarnished the public perception of the armed forces. The prospect of facing fellow Poles in life-threatening confrontations fragmented and demoralized the army as well. Once the public regained its voice in government policy in 1989, the memory of martial law prompted strong insistence that control of the armed forces henceforth be distinctly lodged with responsible civilian officials and totally separate from any political party.

    The state of emergency ended officially in mid-1983, but Jaruzelski and his military subordinates remained in control of top party and government offices for the next six years. Jaruzelski supporters replaced the discredited upper echelon of civilian PZPR officials, and during this period political officers remained in place at all levels of the military. Especially in the early and mid-1980s, the special police forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs remained a potent arm of the government in suppressing dissident activity by surveillance and physical intimidation. The public's negative image of the military regime was reinforced in 1984 when Jaruzelski's government was implicated in the murder of dissident priest Jerzy Popieluszko by internal security agents. After a unique public trial, the security service was reorganized, but dissidents still were harassed in the years that followed. During this period, military recruitment became increasingly difficult because the declaration of martial law had reduced the prestige of a military career.

    By 1985 Mikhail S. Gorbachev's highly visible reforms in the Soviet Union removed the rationale that political reform in Poland might incite an invasion from the East, and Jaruzelski moved cautiously in the same direction as Gorbachev. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union also orchestrated changes in Poland's international military position by restructuring the Warsaw Pact and revising the military doctrine that justified the alliance. When the Soviet Union began streamlining military planning and increasing doctrinal reliance on reserve forces throughout the alliance in 1987, Poland was able to begin sorelyneeded reductions in its military budget. In 1988 military personnel were reduced by 15,000 persons, and another 33,000 were cut in 1989 (see Military Manpower , this ch.). The military budget for 1989 was 4 percent less than that for 1988 (see Military Budget , this ch.).

    Data as of October 1992

    NOTE: The information regarding Poland on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Poland Martial Law information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Poland Martial Law should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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