Martial law in Poland (Polish: Stan wojenny w Polsce) refers to the period between 13 December 1981 and 22 July 1983, when the socialist government of the Polish People's Republic drastically restricted normal life by introducing martial law and a military junta in an attempt to throttle political opposition, in particular the Solidarity Movement. Thousands of opposition activists were imprisoned without charge and as many as 91 killed. Although martial law was lifted in 1983, many of the political prisoners were not released until a general amnesty in 1986.
Since the 1970s, socialist Poland was in an economic recession. The First Secretary Edward Gierek made large continuous loans from western creditors to achieve a better economic output that instead resulted in a domestic crisis. Basic goods were being heavily rationed which acted as a stimulus for the establishment of a first anti-communist trade union in the Eastern Bloc, known as Solidarity, in 1980. Gierek, who permitted the trade union to appear per the Gdańsk Agreement, was dismissed from his post less than a month later under pressure from the USSR and confined to house arrest. Poland's already somewhat progressive policies concerning the opposition were worrisome for hardliners in the neighbouring Soviet Union, who feared that the protesters may overthrow the government and ally themselves with the Western Bloc. The Soviets were particularly uneasy as the departure of Eastern Bloc's most populous nation from Comecon would trigger further financial and economic problems that would bring an end to socialism in Central-Eastern Europe. After a series of strikes and demonstrations by employees of chief industrial regions, Poland was directly heading towards bankruptcy.
The Military Council of National Salvation was formed by the new First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who was determined to put an end to the demonstrations and crush the opposition by force if necessary. There is speculation whether Jaruzelski instigated martial law to prevent bloodshed if the Soviets and other Warsaw Pact countries were to enter Poland under the mutual assistance treaty, like in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. On 13 December 1981, Jaruzelski announced the introduction of martial law in a televised speech addressed to the entire nation. The Polish People's Army, Citizens' Militia (MO), ZOMO special units and tanks rolled onto the streets, begin regular patrols and maintain curfew. Intercity travelling was forbidden unless a permit was granted by the authorities, food shortages intensified and censorship was placed on all media and post. The secret services (SB) wiretapped phones in public booths and state institutions.
On 16 December, pro-Solidarity miners organized a strike against the declaration of the martial law at the Wujek Coal Mine in the industrial city of Katowice. The ZOMO squads, nicknamed "Communist Gestapo" by the opposition, brutally pacified Wujek, which resulted in the deaths of 9 miners. All other demonstrations across Poland were met with an armed force of the services, which utilized water cannons, tear gas, batons, truncheons and clubs to disperse crowds and beat protesters. Thousands were detained and some were tortured in state prisons. On 31 August 1982, in the copper-mining town of Lubin, 3 people were mortally wounded by ZOMO. Until the end of the martial law on 22 July 1983, approximately 91 people were killed, though this figure varies and is still debated among historians.
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