Regaining trust : the work of communist Poland’s foreign service in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s
Восстановление доверия : работа дипломатической службы коммунистической Польши в Чехословакии в 80-е гг.
Vosstanovleniye doveriya : rabota diplomaticheskoy sluzhby kommunisticheskoy Pol'shi v Chekhoslovakii v 80-ye gg.
The deepening socio-political crisis in the Polish People’s Republic during the early1980s was closely monitored in Eastern Bloc countries, and led to Poland’s temporary isolation on the international stage. Mutual relations between Warsaw and Prague were characterised by a lack of trust from the Communist Party leadership, which had not forgotten their own experience during the Prague Spring and were afraid that a movement like Solidarity would find its way into Czechoslovakia. In order to counter this, the Polish government undertook explanatory actions aimed at restoring confidence in Poland as an ally. The main research aim of the article is to analyse the activities of the embassy of the Polish People’s Republic in Prague, the consulates general in Ostrava and Bratislava, and the Polish Information and Culture Centres in Prague and Bratislava in the 1980s. It then answers the following questions: what problems in bilateral relations did these institutions face, what means did they use to restore the state of Polish-Czechoslovak relations to those existing before 1980, and who was their intended audience? An interpretation of archival sources and an analysis of the literature shows that the work of the Polish foreign service in Czechoslovakia was focused on several problems – counteracting unfavourable propaganda with regard to Poland, recovering from isolation, and restoring political, economic, cultural and academic contacts, as well as fulfilling a pastoral role for Polish workers employed in Czechoslovakia and for Polish tourists. Despite the Czechoslovak communists’ declared support for cooperation and the above-standard activities of the Polish institutions, it was not possible to restore the state of relations which had existed in the 1970s until the end of the 1980s; a further obstacle was Prague’s fear of the effects of the reforms being carried out in Poland.