Magazine Poland

On this Day, in 1944: the Polish Committee of National Liberation was proclaimed

On July 22, 1944, the Soviet-backed Polish Committee of National Liberation published its political manifesto, establishing itself as the executive governing authority in Poland, opposed to the London-based government-in-exile.

During World War II, the principal Polish authority in German-occupied Poland was the Polish Underground State, a network of organizations loyal to the Polish government-in-exile, based in London.

But as the Red Army advanced into Polish territory, Joseph Stalin and the Polish communists established a rival executive authority, the Polish Committee of National Liberation, or PKWN, which exercised control over Polish territory retaken from Nazi Germany by the Soviet Red Army and the Polish People’s Army.

Uniting politicians of various communist and leftist parties accepted by Stalin, such as the Union of Polish Patriots (ZPP) and the Polish Workers’ Party (PPR), the Lublin-based PKWN published its political manifesto in July 1944, establishing itself as the executive governing authority in Poland.

Calling the Polish government-in-exile a usurper and the 1935 April Constitution fascist, the PKWN Manifesto promised radical agrarian reforms, expansion of Polish territory to the west at the expense of Germany, and adherence to the 1921 March Constitution of Poland.

Personally amended by Joseph Stalin himself, the PKWN Manifesto also authorized the NKVD’s control over most of Polish territory and announced the restoration of the Polish Army under Soviet leadership.

The manifesto ends with a call to arms: “To the fight! To arms! Long live the united Polish Army, fighting for the freedom of Poland! Long live the allied Red Army, carrying out the liberation of Poland! Long live a free, strong, independent, sovereign and democratic Poland!”

With the Red Army now closing in on Warsaw, the Western-backed Polish Home Army, hoping to liberate the city before the PKWN could assume control, launched an uprising to free the Polish capital from German occupation. But the advancing Soviet forces temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and send in reinforcements.

This led to allegations that Stalin tactically halted his forces to let the Warsaw uprising fail and allow the pro-Soviet Polish administration, rather than the Polish government-in-exile, to gain control of Poland.

In December 1944, the PKWN was reconstituted as the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland (RTRP), which was formally recognized by the Soviet Union, while the government-in-exile retained for the time being the recognition of the United States and the United Kingdom. The RTRP was relocated from Lublin to Warsaw the following month.

The 1947 election marked the beginning of undisguised Communist rule in Poland, though it was not officially transformed into the Polish People’s Republic until the adoption of the 1952 Constitution. 

Find out more about Central European history in our On this Day series.