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Monday marks 40th anniversary of introduction of Martial Law

40 years ago, on the night of December 12-13, 1981, Martial Law was introduced in Poland, resulting in the seizing of power by a military junta led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski. The communist regime feared losing power amid the growing popularity of the “Solidarity” – the multi-million-strong trade union and social movement. The military coup cost the lives of at least several dozen Poles.

Many events planned for the 40th anniversary of the introduction of martial law in Poland

On Sunday before midnight and on Monday, President Andrzej Duda will take part in the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the introduction of…

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The authorities at the time claimed that “Solidarity” had brought the economy to its knees and that the country was on the verge of civil war. As a result, the organisation’s activists were imprisoned without charge and those who managed to escape imprisonment organised strikes that were ruthlessly and violently put down by the regime.

On the basis of the decree on martial law, basic civil rights and freedoms were suspended, ad hoc procedures were introduced in courts, strikes and demonstrations were banned, and uniformed services were allowed to ID and search citizens.

A curfew was introduced from 10 pm to 6 am, correspondence censorship was applied, workplaces were militarised, the sale of press other than that related to the ruling regime was prohibited and the activities of cultural organisations, schools and universities were suspended.

The US and other Western countries opposed the Martian Law’s imposition. On December 23, 1981, the American President Ronald Reagan announced economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL), and a few days later added that they would also apply to the Soviet Union, which, in his opinion, was “seriously and directly responsible for the repressions.” In the following weeks, other Western countries joined the US in its efforts.

Join the campaign honouring victims of martial law in Poland

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On December 31, 1982, Martial Law was temporarily lifted, and on July 22, 1983, it was recalled while retaining some repressive legislation. The exact number of people who died as a result of its introduction is not known as the lists of victims range from several dozen to over a hundred names. The number of people who suffered injuries during this period as a result of persecution, beatings during investigations or street demonstrations, or as a result of the inability to call for help due to blocked telephone connections, is also unknown.


In connection with the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in Poland, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) has launched a social campaign “In tribute to the victims of martial law. Turn on the Light of Freedom.”


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