Poland’s Long Search for Justice

  • Noel Calhoun


Poland took nearly a decade to put in place a series of policies for dealing with its legacy of communist era crimes. The country’s negotiated transition to democracy in 1989 is key to understanding why the government chose not to pursue transitional justice in the months after the first elections. When the regime and opposition negotiate the conditions for holding free elections, the regime demands velvet treatment. The opposition, eager for the opportunity to measure its popularity in the electoral process, is willing to accommodate. The result is a democracy where members of the old regime and its collaborators retain the right to hold public office and comfortable civil service jobs.1 However, the issue of past crimes did not evaporate after Poland’s first free elections. In fact, the issue proved to have a remarkable ability to endure.


Liberal Democracy Round Table Transitional Justice Parliamentary Election Secret Police 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    Mark Osiel, Mass Atrocity, Collective Memory, and the Law (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1997), 111.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Raymond D. Gastil, Freedom in the World (New York: Freedom House, 1989), 53–54, 58.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Jan Kubik, The Power of Symbols Against the Symbols of Power: The Rise of Solidarity and the Fall of State Socialism in Poland (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), 163–168, 200–206; Grzegorz Ekiert, The State Against Society: Political Crises and Their Afiermath in East Central Europe (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 269–270.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Jan Skorzynski, Ugoda i Rewolucja: Wladza i opozycja 1985–1989 (Warsaw: Rzeczpospolita, 1995), 202.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Krzysztof Dubinski, Magdalenka: Transakcja epoki (Warsaw: Sylwa, 1990), 20.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Maria Los, “Lustration and Truth Claims: Unfinished Revolutions in Central Europe,” Law and Social Inquiry, 19 (1995): 157.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    Jerzy Hölzer, “The Communist Poland: The Role of a Concept of the Polish History for the Transformation to Democracy,” in After Communism: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Radical Social Change, ed. Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski (Warsaw: Institute of Political Studies, 1995), 70.Google Scholar
  8. 77.
    Wiktor Osiatynski, “Agent Watęsa?” East European Constitutional Review 1, 2 (Summer 1992): 28–30.Google Scholar
  9. 90.
    Jacek Kurski and Piotr Semka, Lewy Czerwcowy (Warsaw: Editions Spotkania, 1993), 36.Google Scholar
  10. 91.
    Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka, “Crisis in the Polish Justice Ministry,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Report, 2, 15 (April 9, 1993): 14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Noel Calhoun 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noel Calhoun

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations