Mieczysław Rakowski's Diaries Open for Research

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Rakowski with Gen. Czesław Kiszczak, intelligence chief of the Polish People’s R
Rakowski with Gen. Czesław Kiszczak, intelligence chief of the Polish People’s R

With the twenty-fifth anniversary of the peaceful revolution that swept Eastern Europe approaching, Hoover Archives has made available for research the papers of Mieczysław Rakowski (1926–2008), Poland's top communist intellectual, and for many years the editor in chief of the Polish United Worker's Party (PUWP) organ Polityka, perhaps the most open and sophisticated weekly in all the Soviet bloc.  Rakowski was prime minister during 1988–89, the last year of the communist regime in Poland before the takeover of the government by the Solidarity opposition.  After the PUWP suffered a resounding defeat in the first semi free elections in the Soviet bloc in June 1989, Rakowski tried unsuccessfully to salvage the future of his party, becoming its last first secretary.  During the remaining eighteen years of his life, he tried to present himself as a Social Democrat and continued to write and offer occasional political commentary on Polish politics.  He visited the Hoover Institution in 1998 and gave a lecture titled "Ushering Out Communism: A View from the Other Side" on Poland and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, to a standing-room only audience.

The recently accessioned materials include some thirty-eight years of political diaries, writings, printed matter, photographs, and sound and video recordings. Of particular importance are Rakowski's diaries, including the original texts, showing redactions and revisions made before their subsequent partial publication in 1998–99. The diaries, covering the period from 1958 through 1996, are an invaluable source on Polish and former Soviet bloc politics as seen by an astute observer and participant. Comparing of the originals with the published version provides an interesting record of the author's intellectual and political meanderings and evolution and for students of the ancillary disciplines of history, an excellent case study of how diaries are turned into memoirs.  The Rakowski papers were acquired incrementally by Hoover over the span of two decades. What is now available for research represents less than half the collection. The processing of the remaining sixty manuscript boxes of documents and correspondence will be completed in the near future.

The Rakowski papers are the single most important Hoover collection on post–World War II Poland, especially on the decade of Solidarity, the mass opposition movement that was the catalyst for change in Poland and for the consequent implosion of the Soviet empire. Among the dozens of other Hoover collections rich in documentation from the 1980s, the following are most noteworthy sources for the Solidarity opposition side: “Polish independent publications collection, 1976–1990,” “NSZZ ‘Solidarność’ records, 1980–1991,” as well as the papers of Zbigniew Romaszewski, Tadeusz Stachnik, Joanna Szczęsna, and the photographs of Erazm Ciołek.  Representing the communist government are the following:  “Poland. Służba Bezpieczeństwa. Departament III collection,” “Krzysztof Dubiński-Okrągły Stół collection,” and the papers of Jerzy Urban.

For further details contact Maciej Siekierski at siekierski [at] stanford.edu