Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law.
by Julia Owerko
On this day in 1981 Poland declared martial law. Due to the rising opposition in Poland and increasing pressure from the Soviet government, Wojciech Jaruzelski, the leader of the People’s Republic of Poland, imposed severe restrictions on civil rights and suspended ordinary law. Over 70,000 soldiers and 30,000 communist police officers (milicja) were recruited. The streets were filled with tanks and military cars. Records show that there were 3650 cars. (wp.pl)
There is much debate as to whether martial law was necessary. Solidarity was rising which meant that the communist party in Poland was faced with a genuine threat. Historians point to records from Soviet archives which state that the USSR army would never invade Poland and that the Soviet threat was fabricated. In their eyes the Polish government needed a pretext to eliminate the growing opposition and suppress protesters.
To read more about the historical debate click here