Poland; key historical events
Peasant emancipation, 1800s.
Conflict with Russia / fight for indepoendence 1794-1918.
15/5/2014, General Wojciech Jarulzelski died, aged 90. He was appointed Defence Minister of Poland in 1968; in 1970 his troops shot dozens of striking shipyard workers in Gdansk and Gdynia, and was leader of Poland during the rise of Solidarnosc.
10/4/2010, Polish President Lech Walesa and other senior government officials were killed in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia. They were travelling to Russia to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. Russia blamed pilot error; Poland blamed poor pilot advice from Russian air traffic control.
26/8/2005, Jean Michael Jarre held a ‘Space of Freedom’ concert in Gdansk, Poland, to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Solidarnosc trade union.
22/12/1990. Lech Walesa became president of Poland.
27/1/1990. The Polish Communist Party dissolved itself. On 28/1/1990 East Germany formed an all-party government.
19/9/1989, Poland became the first country in Eastern Europe to end one-party rule, as Solidarity’s Tadeusz Mazowiecki became Prime Minister.
19/8/1989, Tadeusz Mazowiecki of Solidarity became Prime Minister of Poland, the first non-Communist PM in 42 years.
19/7/1989, General Wojciech Jaruselski, who imposed martial law in 1981, was elected President of Poland by 270 votes out of 537, However he was the only candidate, 233 voted against and 34 abstained. Solidarity declared the vote illegal. Poland was bankrupt with a resentful population.
19/6/1989, The second round of elections to the Polish National Assembly. Solidarity won an overwhelming victory.
4/6/1989. Poland held partially-free elections. The result was a major embarrassment for the country’s leaders as Solidarity won the lion’s share of the vote. On a turnout of 62% - smaller than Solidarity had hoped for – the union’s candidates had by 6/6/1989 won all Warsaw’s constituencies except Zoliborz, where the result was still awaited. In some constituencies Solidarity won over 80% of the vote cast. Few government candidates won over 18% of the votes cast.
17/4/1989. In Poland, Solidarnosc was legalised after an 8-year ban.
5/4/1989, The Polish Trades Union Solidarnosc won the right to contest partially-free elections in Poland and to publish its own newspaper. Solidarnosc had been banned by the Polish Government under General Jaruzelski since 1982.
29/4/1988. The worst industrial unrest in Poland since the 1981 martial law crackdown on Solidarnosc. Workers demanded large pay rises after the Polish government raised food prices by 40%, rents by 50%, and electricity by 100%; a spell of austerity was needed to restore economic stability, said the government.
30/10/1984, The body of pro-Solidarity priest Father Jerzy Popieluszko, 37, was found by police frogmen in a reservoir in Wloclawek Reservoir, northern Poland. He had been kidnapped 12 days earlier; hardline opponents of Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski were suspected.
21/7/1984. Poland granted amnesty to 652 political prisoners.
5/10/1983. Lech Walesa, leader of the Polish trade union Solidarnosc, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
21/7/1983. Poland ended martial law.
1/5/1983. Polish police broke up demonstrations in 20 Polish cities.
7/2/1983, The Polish Communist Party suffered a financial crisis as many members refuse to pay their dues.
3/1/1983. Poland formed new trade unions.
19/12/1982. Poland lifted martial law. In May 1981 more than 3,000 Poles were arrested when Polish police used teargas and water cannons to break up anti-government demonstrations in Warsaw. Other serious riots took place in the Polish cities of Szcecin, Wroclaw, the steel town of Nova Huta, and the Baltic port of Gdansk where Solidarnosc began. In October 1981 Solidarnosc and Rural Solidarnosc were banned, but their leader, Lech Walesa, who had been held in prison since late 1981, was released on 12/11/1982.
12/11/1982. In Poland, Lech Walesa was freed after one year’s detention.
8/10/1982. The trades union Solidarnosc was outlawed in Poland.
17/2/1982, General Jaruselski imposed martial law in Poland as he cracked down on Solidarnosc.
12/12/1981. The Communists outlawed the Polish Trade Union Solidarity, and imposed martial law in Poland.
7/8/1981. In Poland, 1 million Solidarity members went on strike, in protest over food shortages.
27/3/1981, Polish workers staged a General Strike in protest at police harassment of the Solidarnosc Union. The Polish leader, General Jaruzelski, was considering banning Solidarnosc and declaring martial law.
9/2/1981. General Jaruselski, Defence Minister, became Prime Minister of Poland. He had close links with the USSR and promised a crackdown on Solidarity and its leader Lech Walesa.
31/10/1980, The Polish Government recognised Solidarity.
22/9/1980. The Polish trades union Solidarnosc was founded.
30/8/1980. Lech Walesa won the right to form independent trades unions in Poland.
14/8/1980. Polish ship workers went on strike and seized the Lenin shipyard at Gdansk. A wave of strikes in Poland had been triggered by a rise in the meat price. Panic buying of food in Poland ensued, as 17,000 ship workers struck. The strike took on a political dimension as the Trade Union Solidarnosc (Solidarity) demanded the legalisation of independent Trades Unions, an end to press censorship, and the release of imprisoned dissidents. In September the Polish authorities gave in and on 17/9/1980 the Independent National Committee of Solidarnosc convened in Gdansk, electing the shipworker’s leader Lech Walesa (born 1947) as its Chairman. In 2002 Poland and 10 other nations succeeded in their applications to join the EU in 2004, enlarging the EU from 15 to 25 members.
24/6/1976, In Poland, Jaroszewicz announced large food price increases, believing that one sudden large riise was better than a number of smaller ones, Basic food prices would rise some 60% from 27/6/1976. Sugar would be up 100%, meat an average 69%, and butter and cheese up 30%. Low wage earners and OAPs would receive pay rises to compensate, and farmers would be paid more for their produce. On 25/6/1976 there were riots, some violent, across Poland. Many rioters suffered arrest, police brutality, summary imprisonment, and dismissal from their jobs. However an amnesty in July 1977 meant most were released from jail.
20/12/1970 The Polish leader Gomulka resigned after more rioting, to be replaced by Edward Gierek.
16/12/1970. Six killed in riots at the Gdansk shipyard, Poland.
15/12/1970, Food riots in Poland. Poor weather conditions caused bad harvests in 1969 and 1970, and imports of grain to feed animals had virtually ceased because Gomulka wanted Poland to be self-sufficient in animal feed by 1970. Pig and cattle numbers fell dramatically and meat prices soared. Heavy price rises on consumer goods came in just before Christmas 1970.
8/3/1968, Student unrest in Poland intensified. On 30/1/1968 a play by Mickiewicz, Dziady (The Forefathers) was shown at the Warsaw National Theatre for the last time; the authorities were concerned that the play provoked anti-Soviet sentiments in its audience. On the occasion of its last showing, Warsaw University students staged a street demonstration. The organisers of the demonstration were arrested; meanwhile the Warsaw branch of the Writers Union, supported by well-known personalities such as Slonimski, Jastrun, Andrzejewksi, Kolakowski and Jasienica protested the decision to close Dziady as Party censorship curtailing creativity. On 8/3/1968 a student protest meeting was brutally broken up by police and paramilitaries. Unrest spread onto the streets of Warsaw and to other Polish universities. The intelligentsia supported the students but the workers, influenced by official propaganda, opposed them. Around 1,200 students were arrested but only a small number were tried and received jail terms. Some were temporarily suspended from their university, Some academics also lost their posts, entire university departments were closed, new academic appointments were made on political grounds not ability, and overall, academic freedom was replaced by repression and suspicion, at least while Gomulka held power in Poland.
20/1/1957. Wladyslaw Gomulka was elected First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party. Aware of the USSR’s crackdown in Hungary in 1956 he tempered ideas for a Polish form of Communism, strengthening links between Poland and the USSR. However he ended collective farming in Poland, returning 80% of arable land to private hands, and curbed the worst excesses of the Polish secret police.
8/12/1956, The Polish government completed a process of reconciliation with the Catholic Church. Cardinal Wyszynski had been released from prison on 26/10/1956, and on this day the Church was now free to make its own ecclesiastical appointments. Religious teaching in schools, and religious posts in hospitals and the army, were restored. Criticism of government policies in church sermons was permitted.
28/6/1956. In riots in
20/3/1950, Poland's Sejm passed a law requiring the nation's Roman Catholic churches, and all other religious associations, to transfer their property to government ownership. The purpose, according to the introduction, was "to remove the last remains of the landowner feudal privileges in the Church estates and to secure the material needs of the clergy". The church pastors were allowed to keep and operate their own private farms, and houses of worship and office buildings were exempt, but all other church-owned assets were confiscated.
18/1/1946, Poland appropriated all farms of over 100 hectares (50 hectares for arable land) and redistributed the land to farm labourers. 6 million hectares of land were reassigned, resulting in the disappearance of the landowning gentry class.
29/9/1943. Polish leader Lech Walesa was born in Popovo, the son of a carpenter.
For main events of World War Two see France-Germany
29/6/1941, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Prime Minister of Poland, died.
2/10/1938, Poland annexed Trans-Olza, taking over from Czechoslovakia that portion of Austrian Silesia to which Poland had laid claim since 1920.
12/5/1935, Pilsudski, Polish leader, died.
occupied the free city of Danzig, now renamed
26/10/1931, 11 political leaders went on trial in Poland for conspiring to overthrow Józef Piłsudski.
15/11/1923. Poland was in the grip of hyperinflation, though not as bad as Germany’s. The Polish mark went from 9.8 to the US$ in November 1918 to 580 by end-December 1920, and to 17,800 to the US$ by December 1922. By November 1932 the rate stood at 2,300,000 Polish Marks to the US$.
14/3/1923. The Allies recognised Vilna and
15/5/1922. Germany ceded Upper
20/10/1921, The Silesia
Crisis was settled by the
3/3/1921, Poland signed an alliance with Romania. This resulted in a decline in previously-close Hungarian-Polish relations.
9/2/1921. A peace treaty was signed between
17/11/1921, The Polish Constitution was established.
15/11/1920. Danzig was declared a free city.
6/10/1920. Poland and
19/8/1920, The Russian army was defeated by the Poles at
16/8/1920. As Russian troops closed in on
31/7/1920. Russia postponed peace talks and marched on
23/7/1920, Poland sought peace with
10/7/1920, Lloyd George proposed the Curzon Line as a
Polish-Russian frontier. Subsequent
correspondence was handled by the UK Foreign Secretary, George Curzon. The line, from
6/7/1920. Major offensive by Red Army against
For main events of Russian Revolution 1917 see Russia
For main events of World War One see France-Germany
27/12/1918, Poznan rebelled against the Germans, ending a 103-year-old German occupation.
22/11/1918, The Poles took
6/11/1918. Republic of
5/11/1918, The Poles
27/10/1918. Poland declared its independence.
15/8/1917, In Lausanne Dmowski formed a Polish National Committee, It was almost a government-in-exile, recognised by the Allies as representing Polish interests.
4/6/1917. In France, with the co-operation of the provisional Russian government, a Polish army was formed to fight Germany.
15/8/1906, ‘Bloody Wednesday’ in Poland. 80 people were killed in terrorist attacks by socialists against Russian occupation of the country. Pilsudsky had visited Japan in 1904 and secured their backing in the fight against Russia; Japan was fighting Russia in the Far East.
12/11/1905, Russia imposed martial law in Poland.
18/6/1905, A group of striking textile workers from Lodz, Poland, were fired upon by Cossacks and soldiers, killing five. This led to several days of rioting, in which (official figures) 151 were killed, including 55 Poles, 79 Jews and 17 Germans. The Polish middle classes feared more unrest and over the next year some 33,000 applied for passports to emigrate from Poland.
1/2/1905, The General Strike that began in Warsaw (27/1/1905) now spread to Czestochowa and the Dabrowa Basin.
27/1/1905, A General Strike began in Warsaw in support of socialism and workers rights The army was brought in to suppress the strike and 29 companies of infantry along with 5 squadrons of cavalry and 4 Cossack companies killed (official figures) 64 strikers, a further 29 dying of their wounds later. In fact some 200 were killed and 270 wounded.
18/11/1904, In Poland the illegal Polish Peasant Union (Polski Zwiazek Ludowy, PZL) was formed. It demanded a political voice for the workers and peasants.
13/11/1904, In the Plac Gryzbowski, Warsaw, a serious worker uprising took place. In clashes with the police and army, 6 were killed, 27 wounded and hundreds arrested.
28/7/1904, In Poland the Interior Minister, Plehve, was assassinated by the socialist revolutionary, Sazonov.
28/7/1895, In Poland the Peasant Electoral Committee (Ludowy Komitet Wyborcy) assembled in Rzeszow; from this meeting emerged the Polish Peasant Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe). The PSL demanded universal suffrage, redistribution of land from the gentry, and an end to peasant service obligations to their landlord.
6/5/1892, A worker’s uprising began in Lodz, Poland; all workers came out on strike. Order was not restored until 10/5/1893, by which time 217 people had been killed or wounded and 350 arrested.
20/12/1885, The trial of Proletariat Party members in Poland ended (began 23/11/1885). The trial produced the first socialist martyrs; the Russian Piotr Bardovsky, also Stanislaw Kunicki, Michal Ossowski (shoemaker), and Jan Petrusinski (weaver) were hanged on 28/1/1886. Warysnki was also found guilty, and died in the Schlusselberg fortress in St Petersburg in 1889. Maria Bohuszewicz took over leadership of the Party and was herself condemned to exile; she died on the way to Siberia. Stefan Ulrych became the next leader, and was sentenced to exile in Siberia in 1888. Marcin Kasprzak and Ludwik Kulczycki became the next leaders. The movement laid the foundations of Polish socialism.
23/11/1885, The (political) trial of Proletariat Party members in Poland began.
1/9/1882, In Poland Ludwik Warynski founded the Proletariat Party,, a ‘social-revolutionary party working for the liberation of both the rural and urban working class’.
22/1/1863, An uprising in Warsaw against Russian rule.
18/11/1860, Paderewski, Polish politician and first Prime Minister of Poland, was born in Kurylowka.
29/11/1850, An uprising began in Warsaw against Russian rule.
22/4/1848, To placate a restive peasantry, the governor of Galicia, Franz von Stadion, ordered that peasant tenant farmers should receive the freehold to their land and the gentry landlords be compensated by the State. Furthermore on 7/9/1848 (see date above also) the peasants were granted unrestricted access to woods, meadows and pastures.
13/4/1846, To quell peasant unrest, the Polish government abolished the duty on them of extra days unpaid labour previously due to their manorial lord. There was an ongoing famine in Poland, aggravated by cholera and typhus outbreaks; in 1847 there were 380,000 deaths in Poland, compared to the previous annual average of 153,000.
26/5/1831. The Russians defeated the Poles at the Battle of Ostrolenska.
25/2/1831. The Poles halted the Russian advance at the Battle of Grochow.
24/10/1795, King Stanislaus II of Poland, aged 63, abdicated.
9/11/1794, Russian forces entered Warsaw, ending the Polish rebellion.
10/10/1794, The Polish army was heavily defeated by the Russians, and its leader taken prisoner.
23/1/1793, Prussia signed a treaty with Russia. Poland was partitioned, with Prussia obtaining Danzig, Thorn, Posen, and most of Great Poland. Russia received Minsk, Pinsk, and the frontier on the Zbrucz. Austria received promises of help in re-conquering Belgium, as well as some Polish territories.
18/5/1792. Russian troops invaded Poland.
3/5/1791, Poles, seeking the rebirth of their country, declared a parliamentary constitution in Warsaw.
5/8/1772. Russia, Prussia, and Austria signed a treaty agreeing on the partition of Poland. Poland lost about a third of its land and half its population. Frederick II of Prussia wanted the wedge of territory known as West Prussia separating Brandenburg from East Prussia. Catherine of Russia saw a weak Poland as an opportunity for Russian expansion. To appease Austrian concerns about an expansionist Russia, Austria was given the Polish land of Silesia.
5/10/1735, The War of the Polish Succession ended with the Treaty of Vienna. The Elector of Saxony was accepted as King Frederick Augustus II of Poland.
2/6/1734, Danzig fell to the Russians after an 8-month siege. Stanislas managed to escape to Prussia.
1/2/1733, Augustus II of Poland died aged 62, precipitating the War of the Polish Succession. Austria and Russia demanded the succession of Augustus’s only legitimate son, the 36-year old Elector of Saxony, However France persuaded the Polish nobility to restore Stanislas Leszczynski. Russia invaded Poland, forcing Leszczynski to flee to Danzig.
17/6/1696, John III, King of Poland, died.
1/4/1683, Poland made a treaty of mutual defence with the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, against the threat from Ottoman Turkey.
31/1/1667, After eight years war between Russia and Poland, the Treaty of Andruszow between them divided up Ukraine between them, along the Dneiper River.
28/7/1656, The Battle of Warsaw began (ended 30/7/1656)
2/6/1624, John Sobieski, King of Poland, was born.
18/10/1588, The Polish postal service was created, when King Zygmunt August established a permanent postal route from Kraków to Venice.
12/12/1586, Stephen Bathory of Poland died suddenly, aged 53. He was succeeded by the 12-year old son of the Swedish King as Sigismund II.
10/8/1582. After 25 years of conflict, Russia made peace with Poland and gave up its claim on the Baltic state of Livonia.
15/12/1575, Stephen Bathory became King of Poland.
6/7/1572, Sigismund II, King of Poland, died.
1/7/1569, The Union of Lublin united the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Treaty was signed at Lublin Castle. This strengthened Poland against possible attacks from Russia.
1/4/1548, Sigismund I, King of Poland, died aged 81, after a reign of 42 years. He was succeeded by his 28-year old son, Sigismund II.
8/9/1514, At the Battle of Orsha, a combined force of Poles and Ukrainians defeated the Russians.
5/8/1506. Death of King Alexander of Poland. Born in 1461, he succeeded his brother Albert to the Polish throne in 1501.His power was greatly eroded by the Polish nobility and senate. Consequently, because of lack of funds, Alexander was unable to restrain much the expansion of the Muscovy or the Teutonic Order in Prussia.
10/11/1444, Ladislas, King of Poland, died.
30/11/1427, King Casimir IV of Poland was born.
15/7/1410. The Poles and Lithuanians defeated the Teutonic Knights at Tannenberg.
5/11/1370. King Casimir III of Poland died in a hunting accident, aged 60, after a 37 year reign. He had repulsed a Mongol invasion, annexed Galicia, and encouraged the immigration of Jews to serve as bankers and tax collectors. He founded the University of Cracow, and codified the law and administration.
27/9/1332, Battle of Plowce. The Teutonic Knights were defeated by a Polish army under Ladislas IV Lokietek.
30/4/1310, King Casimir III of Poland was born.
18/3/1241, The Mongols plundered the Polish city of Cracow, their furthest penetration westwards.
14/4/966, Mieszko I, the first duke of Poland, was baptized a Christian. This is usually considered the beginning of the Polish state.