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An Economic Renewal Built on Optimism

May 11, 2015 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Gdansk, Poland — Over the past 1,000 years, this city on the Baltic has gone through cycles of great prosperity and almost total destruction. This is the city where World War II began 76 years ago on Sept. 1, 1939. And this is the city where the fall of European communism began in 1980. This past week, several leaders of Eastern and Central European nations came to Gdansk to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970, who were shot by the communists for merely peacefully protesting their conditions.

Gdansk has been at times a German city known as Danzig and at other times a Polish city. During the Middle Ages, it was at times a free German city and part of the Hanseatic League. It then became a Polish city until Poland was divided up between Russians, the Austria-Hungarians and the Germans in the late 1700s, whereupon it became the German city of Danzig again. After the first World War in 1918, Danzig became a free, independent, predominately German city. At the end of World War II, Gdansk was given back to Poland as the border was shifted westward, and the remaining German residents where shipped back to Germany. Gdansk was then repopulated with Poles, many of whom had lost their homes and property as part of what had been Poland was given to Belarus and Ukraine.

Much of Danzig-Gdansk was destroyed during World War II. The old part of the city has been rebuilt with many 17th century-style buildings that fit in perfectly with the ones that had not been destroyed or severely damaged, thus making it a delightful area filled with fine restaurants and other attractions for both the tourists and the locals.

In this last chapter in the renewal of Gdansk, all of Poland and Eastern Europe began with the movement for an independent (non-communist) union at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980, under the leadership of a 36-year old electrician by the name of Lech Walesa. The shipyard strike and protest spread to other factories and institutions throughout Poland under the name of Solidarity. Almost 10 million people joined the movement, but then in December 1981, the communist prime minister introduced martial law, outlawed Solidarity and undertook mass arrests of its leaders and other protesters. Solidarity went underground, and the Polish economy continued to shrink. By 1988, the government was forced to re-legalize Solidarity. Free Parliamentary elections were held in June 1989, which the communists lost. The largely nonviolent revolution in Poland quickly led to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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