Martial law in Poland

A declaration of martial law in Poland was a significant historical period which initiated political and economic changes and consequently shaped our current political body. It was officially established on the night of 12th December with the aim of suppressing social aspirations for thorough political reform in PRL. Although the constitution allows to establish this state, a decree which enacted it was unconstitutional as the parliamentary session was held that time. Martial law was initiated by Military Council of National Salvation led by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.

Wojciech Jaruzelski proclaims martial law in Poland

Wojciech Jaruzelski proclaims martial law in Poland

Martial law regulations

The establishment of martial law has resulted in particular consequences and the most essential one was  restriction of civil liberties due to the imposition of curfew and limitations related to it. Another stew was the suspension of activities of all organizations and associations. The Solidarity, the Polish Journalists Associations, the Independent Students’ Union, the Polish Writers’ Association, the Association of Polish Artists were disbanded. Primary economic sectors underwent militarization, authorities introduced postal censorship, prohibition for public gatherings and address changes, classes in schools and university courses were suspended, telephone communication were brought down and courts began to examine cases summarily. Besides, approximately 10 thousand people involved in the Solidarity activities were interned.


Things did not go according to authorities’ plan. The Solidarity has survived and went underground to form the Temporary Coordination Committee, whose members were among others Z. Bujak, F. Frasyniuk, B. Lis and W. Hardek. The committee were organizing protests and strikes in factories or mines. Such acts were brutally suppressed by Motorized Reserves of the Citizens’ Militia which eventually led to fatal accidents in the Wujek Coal Mine in Katowice and in Lublin. Repressions intensified due to the infamous activity of the Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (SB) which was destined to persecute and defame the leaders of strikes. The society reacted by creating the underground press, radio, secret circulation of information and boycotting institutions.

Tanks on the Warsaw streets

Tanks on the Warsaw streets


Martial law has caused the social resistance. Dissatisfied citizens took strike and boycott actions and consequently the production stopped.  Natural consequence of this situation was the shortage of basic goods in all shops. The most characteristic was the image of empty shelves with bottles of vinegar only. There was no food in shops which made authorities implement rationing. People who wanted to buy a bread stood in queues for hours. Meat was sold in limited amounts, as well as other nutritious products. Another consequence was the energetic risk in the face of incoming winter. Warsaw Pact countries have decided to intervene and declared that they would use military forces if Poland does not solve its problems. This particular announcement has resulted in suspension of martial law on 31st   December 1982 and its further abolishment in August 1932.

Reactions in Europe

The establishment of martial law in Poland has achieved worldwide renown. The leaders of many democratic countries officially condemned it. A number of countries proclaimed “Polish Solidarity Day” and initiated a wide range of charitable activities.

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