End of Cold War – Introduction & The Solidarity Movement in Poland

End of Cold War – Introduction & The Solidarity Movement in Poland


Time Magazine - GCSE History RevisionBy the time 1970 rolled round, the cold war had been rumbling on for the best part of 25 years. Both the USA and the Soviet Union were finding it a bit difficult to be constantly on the brink of war. More specifically, the USA had suffered a nasty shock in the Vietnam War, and at the same time both powers were finding the cost of funding massive militaries to be very expensive, not least because the price of oil shot up in 1974. In the West, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament also became increasingly popular, putting pressure on both powers to end the nuclear arms race.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, efforts were made by both sides to try and improve relations – this process was known as dtente, which means ‘relaxation’ in French (not that this explains why a French word was used, of course; but let’s try and keep this as simple as possible).

The Solidarity Movement in Poland

The Troubles Begin

Solidarity Movement Poland - History GCSE RevisionThe ruling Communist regime in Poland began to have real problems in keeping control of the country by the late 1970s as people became increasingly sick of both the poverty they had to live in and a lack of freedom to protest against it. Illegal protest movements began to organize themselves to try and fight against the regime.

In July 1980, the Polish government announced yet another increase in food prices. This very unpopular move caused a massive wave of strikes, especially on Poland’s Baltic Coast. The strikers came together in a trade-union movement called Solidarity, led by a worker called Lech Walesa. The strikers didn’t just demand economic improvements, but more political freedoms, such as legal trade unions.

On 31st August 1931, Solidarity signed an agreement with the government which promised to bring in democratic representation into Poland’s communist system.

Reversing the Movement

Unfortunately, this move didn’t go down well in Moscow, where the Polish communists were seen as weak. Under pressure from the Soviet Union, the Polish communists installed a new Prime Minister at the end of 1981, Wojicech Jaruzelski. He attempted to reverse the movement towards democracy by introducing martial law, making Solidarity illegal and crushing any protest movements.