Polish Round Table Agreement

Original table displayed at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw

The Polish Round Table Talks took place in Warsaw, Poland from 6 February to 5 April 1989.

- Polish Round Table Agreement

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Wojciech Jaruzelski

Polish military officer, politician and de facto leader of the Polish People's Republic from 1981 until 1989.

Jaruzelski in 1981
Jaruzelski in 1968
Jaruzelski (right) with Fidel Castro (left) in Poland, May 1972
Jaruzelski in a television studio, preparing to announce the imposition of martial law, 1981
Jaruzelski meeting with Yuri Andropov in Moscow, 1982
Jaruzelski (second from right) with other communist leaders and members of the Warsaw Pact, Berlin, 1987
Jaruzelski with Nicolae Ceaușescu
Jaruzelski in 2006
Jaruzelski's grave at Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw

During the revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe, Jaruzelski supported the change of government for the benefit of the country and resigned after the Polish Round Table Agreement, which led to multi-party elections in Poland.

Polish United Workers' Party

The communist party which ruled the Polish People's Republic as a one-party state from 1948 to 1989.

Statute of the Polish United Workers' Party, 1956 edition
Władysław Gomułka, at the height of his popularity, on 24 October 1956, addressing hundreds of thousands of people in Warsaw, asked for an end to demonstrations and a return to work. "United with the working class and the nation", he concluded, "the Party will lead Poland along a new way of socialism".
First Secretary of PZPR Edward Gierek (left) with Speaker of the House of Representatives Carl Albert (right), Washington D.C., 1974
PZPR's newspaper "Trybuna Ludu" issue 13 December 1981 reports martial law in Poland.
Dom Partii building in Warsaw, former headquarters of PZPR

With communist rule being relaxed in neighbouring countries, the PZPR systematically lost support and was forced to negotiate with the opposition and adhere to the Polish Round Table Agreement, which permitted free democratic elections.

Czesław Kiszczak

Polish general, communist-era interior minister (1981–1990) and prime minister (1989).

Kiszczak - SED chief Erich Honecker meeting 1988
General Kiszczak's grave (November 2015)

But eight years later he presided over the country's transition to democracy as its last communist prime minister and a co-chairman of the Round Table conference, in which officials of the ruling Polish United Workers' Party faced the democratic opposition leaders.

Solidarity (Polish trade union)

Polish trade union founded in August 1980 at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland.

Solidarity logo
30th anniversary mural depicting the murdered priest Jerzy Popiełuszko who publicly supported Solidarity during the 1980s
The logo of Solidarność painted on an overturned Soviet era T-55 in Prague in 1990
Students in Scotland collect signatures for a petition in support of Solidarity in 1981
Solidarity, ETUC Demonstration—Budapest 2011

The 1989 round table talks between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition produced agreement for the 1989 legislative elections, the country's first pluralistic election since 1947.

Lech Wałęsa

Polish statesman, dissident, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who served as the President of Poland between 1990 and 1995.

Wałęsa in October 2019
Wałęsa during the strike at the Lenin Shipyard, August 1980
Wałęsa signs autographs during the strike in August 1980
President Bush meets privately with Wałęsa, November 1989
Wałęsa speaks at a tourism trade fair in Berlin, 2011
Wałęsa speaks on VIII European Economic Forum, 2015
Signature Lech Wałęsa-Bolek on the collaboration agreement with Security Service from the Kiszczak archives
Wałęsa receiving the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, 2011
Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport
Shooting of Walesa. Man of Hope on the Solidarity Square in Gdańsk
Premiere of Walesa. Man of Hope in Warsaw, 2013

Released from custody, he continued his activism and was prominent in the establishment of the Round Table Agreement that led to the semi-free 1989 Polish legislative election and a Solidarity-led government.

1988 Polish strikes

The 1988 Polish strikes were a massive wave of workers' strikes which broke out from 21 April, 1988 in the Polish People's Republic.

Demonstration in front of the main gate of Warsaw University, May 1988

As a result, later that year, the regime decided to negotiate with the opposition, which opened way for the 1989 Round Table Agreement.

Contract Sejm

Term commonly applied to the Sejm ("parliament") elected in the Polish parliamentary elections of 1989.

The first Sejm in Łęczyca. Recording of laws. A.D. 1180

The contract refers to an agreement reached by the Polish United Workers' Party and the Solidarność ("solidarity") movement during the Polish Round Table Agreement.

Mieczysław Rakowski

Polish communist politician, historian and journalist who was Prime Minister of Poland from 1988 to 1989.

Rakowski in 2007

He also played a part in the Polish transformation from state socialism to market capitalism, as his Communist-led government was forced to reform and he was one of the key players in the Polish Round Table Agreements.

Jan Olszewski

Polish conservative lawyer and politician who served as the Prime Minister of Poland for five months between December 1991 and early June 1992 and later became a leading figure of the conservative Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland.

Olszewski (right) defending his government's actions on Andrzej Tadeusz Kijowski's talk show in July 1993
Olszewski greeting Pope John Paul II to the Sejm and Senate Complex, 1999

Olszewski, along with Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa and other anti-government dissidents, participated in the Round Table Talks in early 1989 with the ruling PZPR, where he served as the opposition's legal expert.

Andrzej Gwiazda

Engineer and prominent opposition leader, who participated in Polish March 1968 Events and December 1970 Events; one of the founders of Free Trade Unions, Member of the Presiding Committee of the Strike at Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk in August 1980, Vice President of the Founding Committee of Solidarity, then Vice President of Solidarity in 1980 and 1981; in December 1981 interned and next imprisoned with six other Solidarność leaders (see Martial Law in Poland).

Andrzej Gwiazda.

Unlike Lech Wałęsa, Gwiazda did not participate in creation of the Solidarity Citizens' Committee, nor in the negotiations of Polish Round Table Talks.