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Thanks to the Soviet-style system of surveillance and the post-1989 release of police files, international mobility from European communist states is now one of the best-documented social phenomena of this kind, highlighting the limits of state control. Despite the unprecedented level of control and numerous constraints, between 1949 and 1989 more than two million people left Poland for good. Migration patterns underwent a notable evolution during the half-century of communist rule: from the forced movement of millions in the 1940s, to almost none under the non-exit policy of early 1950s, to the reemergence and expansion of international mobility—especially within the Soviet bloc—after 1956, and mass outflow to the West in the 1980s. In the 1950s and 1960s, migrants were mainly ethnic Germans and Jews, allowed to leave thanks to secret agreements with Israel and West Germany, and the government’s readiness to get rid of minorities established precedents for other emigrants later on. Short-term international mobility occurred on a greater scale than ever before in the 1970s, when Poles travelled abroad ten million times a year. Paying special attention to the role of social networks and informal communications, this talk sheds light on the key factors and collective actors involved in migration processes, including migrants, security officers, and foreign governments (mainly West Germany, Israel, and the U.S.).
Dariusz Stola is a professor of history at the Institute of Political Studies at the Polish Academy of Sciences and Collegium Civitas, and a fellow at the Center for Migration Research at Warsaw University. He has published eight books and more than 100 articles on international migrations in the 20th century, the communist regime in Poland, Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust, as well as on Polish debates about these pasts. His Kraj bez wyjscia? Migracje z Polski 1949-1989 [A country with no exit? Migrations from Poland 1949-1989], awarded the 2011 history book of the year prize, is the first comprehensive monograph of international mobility from any communist country.
Sponsors: Copernicus Endowment, CES, CREES, WCED
Dariusz Stola, professor of history, Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences