Colgate University Libraries


Matthew Greeson


As late as the mid-1980s, almost no international relations theorust or historian would have predicted the fall of the Iron Curtain. In 1989, however, free elections in Poland triggered a chain reaction of pro-independence and democracy movements across the Soviet sphere of influence. The question is what cuased the native-born reform in Poland: was it purely inevitable and based on economic or political factors, or was it something deeper? This paper argues that it was a strong nationalism and sense of tradition in Poland that fed the creation and success of the Solidarity trade union. As Soldarity grew from a labor lobby to a social movement, it drew on a sense of Polish nationalism and pride that had its roots in the nation's tradition of independence and Catholic heritage. Polish history of revolt against occupying powers played a secondary but equally important role. In the end, it was Poland, a strongly heterogeneous and unified nation, which triggered the fall of Communism across Eastern Europe.