World Country Poland

About the world country Poland, its location, size, population, and who is in power.

NATIONS OF THE WORLD

POLAND

Location: On the Baltic Sea in eastern Europe, between Germany and the U.S.S.R. Size: 120,725 sq. mi. (312, 677 sq. km.). Population: 36,094,000.

Who Really Rules: Since W.W. II, Poland has been ruled by the bureaucracy of the United Workers' (Communist) party. Although the government restricts dissent, it has been more open than other Eastern European governments. The party tolerates the influential Roman Catholic Church, but it attempts to keep the Church out of politics. The state owns the industrial and mining sectors of the economy, but more than 70% of Poland's agricultural land is in small, private farms.

The Soviet Union, which maintains an estimated 30,000 troops in Poland, put the Communists in power. Though the Russians and Poles have a long history of mutual distrust, the presence of overwhelming Soviet military and economic power on Poland's eastern border guarantees an ongoing Soviet influence.

Several times since W.W. II. Polish workers have struck for lower food prices. (Instead of adjusting wages, the party raises prices.) Successful strikes in 1970 led the government to borrow huge sums from Western banks and governments to stimulate economic growth. By the end of 1979 Poland owed West German banks and other Western institutions more than $20 billion. Once an answer to growing demands by workers, the loans are now draining the Polish economy. In 1980 the government announced new food price hikes, in part to generate the funds to repay the banks.

Polish workers greeted the price increases with a massive wave of strikes. Unwilling to accept mere economic concessions, the strikers pushed for the formation of unions independent of the Communist leadership and for democratic rights. Though the new independent unions have not openly challenged the Communist system, they have rejected outright the Communist party leadership.

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