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France and Germany’s position during the end phase of the Cold War : the Polish crisis of 1980/1981

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Abstract

In light of the recent celebration of the 25th anniversary of Solidarnosc, it is interesting to examine the diverging popular perceptions of this movement, and how they have changed since its conception, in Western Europe and in Poland. In the 80s the Solidarnosc movement was received differently in France and in West Germany. Often, the West German reaction to the Polish crisis of the 80’s is conceptualized as the opposite of the French one. While in the collective memory the French remain as the closest allies and supporters of Solidarnosc, the Germans are generally perceived to have been reserved and cold. Initially in Poland, the greatest workers’ movement (almost 10 millions workers) enjoyed enormous popularity. But after the instauration of Martial Law and almost 8 years of conspiracy, the movement lost its popular support. Especially after the Round Table negotiations and the involvement of Solidarnosc in politics (for which the movement was unprepared) the image of Solidarity within Polish society strongly deteriorated. According to a study by "Rzeczpospolita," the Poles who disapprove of the changes started by Solidarnosc outnumber those who approve of them. In contrast to Eastern Germany, in Poland there is no (or almost no) nostalgic wave concerning the communist past (Ostalgie). In France and in Germany, there is still a lot of sympathy for Solidarnosc, and for Lech Walesa, who during the 2000 Polish presidential elections received only 1% of the vote. We will try to compare these two different visions of Solidarnosc; in Poland and in Western Europe, in the 1980s and today.