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Poland: Independent Press, 1976-1990

This guide lists serials independently published in Poland housed in the European Reading Room. The collection also includes books, journals, newspapers, bulletins, declarations, and leaflets published before the fall of communism.


Bloch, Herbert. Solidarity is plotting to turn this into some kind of day for the working class. 1982. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


Since the appearance of The independent press in Poland, 1976-1990: holdings in the European and Prints and Photographs Divisions, Library of Congress in 1991, the European Reading Room has continued to build its collection of Polish independent press materials through exchanges with libraries in Poland. Rather than reprinting the guide, we periodically update this online version. We wish to thank Zbigniew Kantorosinski, the author of The Independent Press in Poland, 1976-1990, for supporting the concept of an updated electronic version of his 1991 publication. We acknowledge with gratitude the efforts of our webmaster, Kenneth Nyirady, who has enhanced the online version by restoring the original Polish diacritics, and Regina Frackowiak, reference specialist in the European Reading Room, who meticulously reviewed the Polish spellings.

Although the European Reading Room is not primarily a custodial element of the Library, for the foreseeable future we will have responsibility for housing and serving through our reading room all the materials listed in this guide. Researchers are advised that in addition to the collection described below, the Library holds the important IDC microfiche collection Polish Independent Publications 1976+. A finding aid is available in the Microform Reading Room, which has custody of the collection.


Independent publications -- books, journals, newspapers, bulletins, declarations, and leaflets in which a people spoke out against their government -- proliferated during the two decades before the fall of communism in Poland in 1989. These publications were "independent" in the sense that they were not published or distributed by licensed organizations. They were "uncensored" in that they were distributed illegally and thus bypassed government censorship. They were "unofficial" in that they ignored and often defied the official "truths" of the government. In some instances they were distributed free of charge with such slogans as Nie niszcz! Nie gub! Podaj drugiemu! [Do not destroy! Do not lose! Pass it on to others!].

The generation of these documents began with the founding of the Workers' Defense Committee (KOR) in 1976. In that year sharp food price increases brought on a wave of strikes in Radom and Ursus that ended with the dismissal of some 2,000 workers from their jobs. KOR was formed by a group of fourteen dissident intellectuals to provide legal, financial, and medical assistance to these strikers. It began clandestine publication of the BIULETYN INFORMACYJNY, which was devoted to reports about reprisals, trials, and judicial irregularities and included the names and addresses of KOR members to whom political prisoners and their families could turn for help.

The independent press continued to grow in the 1980s as Solidarity emerged from a second wave of strikes and absorbed KOR. The Solidarity movement was so well organized that the government was forced to accept the twenty-one demands contained in the Gdańsk Agreement of 1980. Point Three guaranteed freedom of speech, press, and publication. During the sixteen months in which Solidarity was legal, this agreement fostered publication at the individual factory, shipyard, and university levels as well as on the national and regional levels. It also strengthened existing independent publishing houses such as the Niezależna Oficyna Wydawnicza (NOWA). All of this publishing activity continued after the imposition of martial law in December 1981, but it went underground again.

Although the preponderance of publications originated with workers' rights groups such as KOR and Solidarity, many other organizations were involved as well, including human rights groups such as the Movement for the Defense of Human and Civil Rights (ROPCiO) and Freedom and Peace (WIP); student and youth groups and organizations concerned with education, such as the Independent Students' Union (NZS) and the Society for Academic Courses (TKN); social, scientific, and cultural groups, such as the Center for Documentation and Analysis (CDiA) and the Social Committee for Science (SKN); farmers' organizations like Solidarność Wiejska and the All-Poland Farmers' Resistance Committee (OKOR); and political groups and other organizations concerned with national self-determination, such as the Confederation for an Independent Poland (KPN) and the Committee for National Self-Determination (KPSN). By speaking out through clandestine publications, all of these groups contributed to the growing democratic movement.

The European Reading Room of the Library of Congress houses a significant collection of these publications. The collection began with original copies as well as photocopies donated by individuals. In 1991 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty presented the Division with additional materials largely published between 1988 and 1990. Since 1991, the Library has continued to acquire independent press publications through exchanges with several libraries in Poland.

For purposes of this listing, the collection has been divided into three categories: serials, monographs, and miscellaneous items. The serial titles include one-page bulletins as well as newspapers and sophisticated journals. The title of the serial is followed by the place of publication, the year the serial began publication, and frequency (when known). The reading room's holdings of individual issues follows each entry.

The monographs are listed alphabetically by author or editor or, if neither is evident, by title. This section includes writings by Polish authors, translations of Western works, and works by Polish emigres. Some materials were intended for self-education, others filled the "blank spots" in Polish history that the official press ignored, some voiced political opinions, and others, such as a collection of reprinted photographs, documented police brutality.

The miscellaneous items listed in Part Three demonstrate the resourcefulness of the opposition. This section includes the declarations, open letters, appeals, bulletins, telegrams, posters, leaflets, and cartoons they created to express dissent. These entries are listed by author when known or by title, issuing organization, or genre.

All of these materials were first and foremost a means of expressing dissent against the government. As they were distributed and read they became, as Adam Michnik said, "the living symbol of the opposition's survival." But they also embodied the convictions of the opposition. As such, these publications are documents of lasting value for all readers concerned with the rebirth of liberty in Eastern Europe.

Many thanks go to Stephen Cranton for his technical assistance in the preparation of this list, to Daniel and Bianka Kortlan for their proofreading and suggestions, and to David H. Kraus, former Chief of the European Division, for his moral and administrative support.

Compiled by
Zbigniew Kantorosinski, 1991

Updated by
Wiesława Kostrzewa-Zorbas, 1995
Ronald D. Bachman, 1996
Agnes T. Rzeszotarski, 1997
Ronald D. Bachman, 2000
Walter R. Iwaskiw, 2001
Ronald D. Bachman, 2005
Regina Frąckowiak, 2016

Selected Guides for Researching Polish Collections

Polish Collections at the Library of Congress

Polish materials are held throughout the Library of Congress. The European Reading Room is the reference point for these holdings. This guide provides an overview of materials, in different formats, in the general and special collections.

Foreign Newspaper Collections at the Library of Congress

The foreign newspaper collections at the Library are the largest collection of overseas newspapers in the world. This guide provides an overview to these collections found in the Serial & Government Publications Division.

Polish-American Relations, 1918 to Present: Manuscript Resources at the Library of Congress

Primary sources are available in the papers of diplomatic, political and cultural figures. This guide focuses on the multitude of materials related to Polish-American relations in history, 1918 to present, found in the Manuscript Division's holdings.

Cold War Military Archives from Hungary, Poland, and Romania

This guide provides indexes to the Library of Congress microfilm collections of formerly classified records from the military archives of Hungary, Poland and Romania. Also includes papers from the conference "Cold War Archives in the Decade of Openness"

Guide to Law Online: Poland

This guide, prepared by the Law Library of Congress, includes links to free online resources regarding the country of Poland, focusing on its constitution; executive, legislative and judicial branches; legal guides; and general sources.

Poland: Address and Telephone Directories

Telephone and address directories are used by genealogists and historians to identify people and businesses from a particular place and era. This guide lists uncataloged and cataloged directories from Poland in the Library of Congress collection.