• Last updated: 08 Dec. 2011 15:24

Files On-line

Documents Related to Events in Poland (1980 - 1984)


NATO Archives is publishing on-line a selection of NATO records related to the imposition of Martial Law in Poland on the 13 December 1981.  This collection comprises NATO records created by the Council, Political Affairs Division, the Military Authorities (Military Committee and SHAPE), NATO’s Situation Centre assessments on the situation on Poland as well as reports received from the member countries covering political, economic, social, religious and cultural aspects as well as reports of meetings with officials in Poland.


Background to the events in Poland

In the summer of 1980, a series of strikes and factory occupations broke out across Poland in response to a government decision to raise the prices of consumer goods, especially meat. In August of that year a major strike took place in Gdansk, and from there it spread across the country, causing a massive disruption to the economy. The government chose negotiation rather than repression and retaliation, and on 31 August signed the Gdansk agreement, which granted workers numerous rights, including the ability to form free trade unions.

This agreement lead to the formation of the independent trade union Solidarity in September 1980. Solidarity spread rapidly throughout the country. It was the core of an anti-communist movement, with ties to the Roman Catholic Church and the intelligentsia. Solidarity sought to limit government and party control of workers and working conditions, and represented a strong challenge to the Polish United Workers’ Party.

There was much concern in the West in general and in NATO specifically over the threat of intervention in Poland by the Soviet Union. Considerable military build-up occurred along the Soviet-Polish border. Several eastern European leaders, notably those from East Germany and Czechoslovakia, made threats and statements about intervening. The NATO policy at that time was that Poland should be able to manage its own affairs without outside interference. There was much high level debate and correspondence, both within the North Atlantic Council and between the Secretary General and the national ambassadors. NATO reactions to a possible Soviet Union invasion of Poland included both economic sanctions and military show of force.


  • Arrangement note:

    For the purpose of publicly disclosing the records, the NATO Archives has grouped them in separate folders according to originator.  Within each folder the documents are organised by date.

    Records can be accessed either by browsing each folder and downloading individual records or downloading each folder in a zip file.

    Not all documents exist in the two official languages of the Organisation.

  • Conditions of Access and Use:

    The documents in this collection have been declassified and approved for public disclosure under the NATO Public Disclosure Programme.

    The documents have been available for research purposes only and any non-research use of them requires the written permission of NATO.