Stan wojenny - Martial law in Poland

On 13th of December, exactly 30 years ago, military government of People’s republic of Poland introduced the martial law - stan wojenny - state of war as we call it in Polish. However, at that time Poland was not involved in any war - government wanted to get rid of opposition by restricting normal life, not to mention any kind of political activities.

This is General Jaruzelski, appearing on the Polish television at 6 AM on December 13, 1981 annoncing introduction of the martial law:


The atmosphere of endless conflict, misunderstanding, hatred sows mental havoc.

The chaos and demoralization took the size of the disaster.

History will judge our actions.
We need to tie hands of troublemakers.
The Council of State in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, introduced martial law throughout the country, today at midnight.
We are only a drop in the stream of Polish history.

Polish-Soviet alliance is and will remain the cornerstone of the Polish raison d’etat.
I appeal to you officers of Civic Militia and Security Service – guard the state from the enemy.

The hour of ordeal has come.
translation: Yale Law School

Over 10 000 were arrested and interned during the martial law - including Lech Wałęsa and all the leaders of pro-democracy movements. Many of the political prisoners were not released until general amnesty in 1986, although the martial law was lifted in 1983. Over 100 people were killed - many of them only three day after introduction of martial law in strike action in Wujek coal mine and in demonstrations of August 31st, 1982.

Other restrictions introduced:
  • delegalization of all independent organisations and movements
  • curfew
  • sealed national boarders, airports closed, roads to biggest cities controlled
  • telephone line were disconnected, post mail censored
  • suspended classes in schools and universities
  • prohibition of all kinds of gatherings, marches, demonstrations, cultural, entertainment and sport events
  • prohibition of tourism, sailing and rowing in internal and territorial waters
  • mass media, public administration, health services, power stations, coal mines, sea ports, train stations, and most of the key factories were placed under military management
  • re-imposition of six-day work week
  • and many more - to learn more read this (sadly, only available in Polish)


It’s hard for me to tell how destructive for Poland the martial law was - it not only caused economical crisis, made life in Poland even harder, but also took many people lives, ruining families and society. On the other hand - the military government thought they will kill spirit of freedom in Poles - now they how how wrong they were!

General Jaruzelski two days ago apologized for the martial law, but also said that now he would do this all again…

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