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Polish underground press

Selection of Polish underground publications.

Polish underground press (sl. Polish: bibuła, lit. flimsy, blotter, blotting paper or Polish: drugi obieg, lit. second circulation) has a long history of combatting censorship. In the 19th century in partitioned Poland, many underground newspapers existed; among the most prominent was Robotnik, published in over 1,000 copies from 1894.

In World War II occupied Poland, there were thousands of underground publications by the Polish Secret State and the Polish resistance. The Tajne Wojskowe Zakłady Wydawnicze (Secret Military Printing Works) was likely the largest underground publisher in the world.

In the People's Republic of Poland during the 1970s and 1980s, several books (sometimes as long as 500 pages) were printed in quantities often exceeding 5000 copies. Newspapers were also published. For example, in 1980, a news-sheet, SolidarnoÅ›ä‡, reached a print run of 30,000 copies daily[1] and some of the largest runs reached over 100,000 copies.

Most of the Polish underground press was organized in the 1970s by the Movement for Defense of Human and Civic Rights (ROPCiO) and Workers' Defence Committee (KOR). Over several years, alongside hundreds of small individual publishers, several large underground publishing houses were created, fueled by supplies smuggled from abroad or stolen from official publishing houses.

The Polish underground press drew on experiences of Second World War veterans of Armia Krajowa and much attention was paid to conspiracy; however, after martial law in Poland and the government crackdown on Solidarity, the activities of underground publishing were significantly curtailed for several years following. However, with the communist government losing power in the second half of the 1980s, production of Polish underground printing (in Poland known as bibuła) dramatically increased and many publications were distributed throughout the entire country. After the Autumn of Nations in 1989 some of the underground publishers transformed into regular and legal publishing houses.

There were important differences of scale between Polish underground publishing and the samizdats of the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and other countries in the Soviet-bloc. In the 1980s, at any given time there were around one hundred independent publishers in Poland who formed an extremely interesting institution of an underground market. Books were sold through underground distribution channels to paying customers, including the top communist leaders.[citation needed] Among a few hundred periodicals, the "Tygodnik Mazowsze" weekly reached an average circulation of 60,000 - 80,000, copies, while some issues topped 100,000. The estimated production of books and thick journals can be put close to one thousand per year and more than one million copies. Other products on this market included cassettes, videocassettes, postcards, stamps, and calendars.

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Related topics in the Connexions Subject Index

Alternatives  –  Left History  –  Libraries & Archives  –  Social Change  – 


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