The study surveys the topography and content of the most important collections in Polish archives, libraries, and museums holding material relevant to the history of the Polish Labour Movement - accounting for the changes that have occurred since 1990. It also lists the most important ancillary archival tools (guides, inventories, catalogues, survey articles) available to the historian.
A considerable part of the materials concerning the history of the Labour Movement in Poland has changed hands during the last three years and to some extent found a new physical location. Some collections were split up between two new owners after 1990. Most importantly, this applies to the - until 1990 - largest Polish collection of archival material on the history of the Labour Movement, the former Central Archive of the United Polish Labour Party (UPLP) <Centralne Archiwum Komitetu Centralnego Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej (CA KC PZRP)>. Its archival holdings were taken over by the State Archive of Modern History Documents <Archiwum Akt Nowych (AAN)> in Warsaw, as were all the other documents of the central bodies of the UPLP. By contrast, the section for printed material of the Central Archive of the UPLP, including rare titles of the labour press, brochures, leaflets and the like was taken over by the Library of the Polish Parliament <Biblioteka Sejmowa> where - under the name of "Collection on Social History" <Zbiory Historii Spolecznej> it constitutes a separate section. On the other hand, the archives of the Woiwodian Committees of the UPLP and their holdings of current documents were taken over by the relevant regional section of the Local State Archives. This was done on the basis of a government decision of the 19th of March 1990.
This extensive material (at least 11,000 meters of document shelves) not only pertains to the history of the UPLP itself and its precursors and the entire post-war history of Poland, during which, of course, party committees at various levels constituted the real centres of power in the country. It also very much touches upon the history of the Polish and international Labour Movement of the early years, in fact from the time when the Labour Movement began its very existence on Polish soil. However, not only the Central Archive of the UPLP, the central historical
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archive of the Polish Labour Movement, collected historical material; so did the numerous Woiwodian Committees, for here local activities to preserve the party history were carried out. All this material has now ended up in state archives where it is made available under the conditions normally obtaining in Polish archives (a 30 year waiting period supplemented by a decree of the 27th of July 1984 made by the Minister for Science and Universities to the effect that access will only be granted to the individual documents provided this is not detrimental to the interests of the state or to any of its citizens).
Some important institutions holding collections on the history of the Labour Movement changed their names after 1990. Thus, the former Museum for the History of the Polish Revolutionary Movement <Muzeum Historii Polskiego Ruchu Rewolucyjnego> in Warsaw is now the Independence Museum <Muzeum Niepodleglosci>. Similarly, the regional museums for the history of the Labour Movement either act under a different name, or they were integrated into the local geographical or historical museums.
To-day, therefore, the only central institutions with any substantial archival collections on the history of the Labour Movement in Poland are: the Archive of Modern History Documents <Archiwum Akt Nowych> in Warsaw, which, in addition to its older collections (Polish state documents after 1918 of which many pertain to the Labour Movement), holds the collections of the former Central Archive of the UPLP <Centralne Archiwum PZPR>, and those documents of the central bodies of the UPLP which had not been integrated into this archive at the time of the dissolution of this party; the Central Archive of Early History Documents <Archiwum Glówne Akt Dawnych> in Warsaw (state documents before 1918, collection of leaflets of the Polish Labour Movement before 1918); the Archive of the Trade Union Movement <Archiwum Ruchu Zawodowego> in Warsaw (the documents of the Polish Trade Union Movement from 1944/45 until our own time - with the exception of the material of the national trade union "Solidarnosc" - and the historical material relating to the Polish Trade Union Movement from its beginnings and until 1945, which was collected by the Institute for the History of the Trade Union Movement <Zaklad Historii Ruchu Zawodowego> extant until 1990); the Archive of the National Executive Committee of the Independent Self-Administrating
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Trade Union Centre Solidarity <Archiwum Krajowej Komisji Wykonaw-czej Niezaleznego Samorzadnego Zwiazku Zawodowego "Solidarnosc"> in Gdansk; the Independence Museum <Muzeum Niepodleglosci> in Warsaw.
The survey also contains basic information on the holdings of major regional archives containing material on the history of the Labour Movement.
In those instances where a published stocklist, an archival guide or any other means of information contains further details about the collection in question, the survey contains the corresponding bibliographical data.
In general it can be established that the change of the system which has taken place in Poland since 1989 has not threatened the existence of any of the archival collections that are important for the historian studying the history of the Labour Movement. Because of the nationalisation of the former UPLP Archives which took place in 1990 access, which had until then been subject to a number of restraints, was facilitated. Access is now regulated simply by the general rules governing Polish archival service.
The situation of the specialised libraries on the history of the Labour Movement looks far gloomier. Many rare historical books which until 1989 were in the possession of the libraries of the UPLP have been lost in recent years. Occasionally books from the collections have cropped up in the antiquarian market. Some unique collections, e.g. the library of the former Academy for the Social Sciences of the Central Committee of the UPLP <Biblioteka Akademii Nauk Spolecznych przy KC PZPR> in Warsaw which used to own numerous rare books and volumes of the historical press of the Polish and international Labour Movement were moved to institutions in the provinces (in casu to the University Library of Szczecin) where the interest taken in them and the use made of them are less than in Warsaw. Basically research is made more difficult by the splitting up of the collections.
Mainly because of insufficient finances the supply of new monographies and maintenance of specialised periodicals in the libraries specialising on the history of the Labour Movement - like most other research libraries in
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Poland - have suffered a serious interruption which will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the pursuit of this branch of history writing in Poland.
Übersetzung aus dem Deutschen: Lena Fluger
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | März 2000