December 14, 2018




Polish King Elected.  The Polish Parliament elected Stephen Bathory as King of Poland on December 14, 1575.  He was the son of Stephen VIII Báthory of the noble Hungarian Báthory family and his wife Catherine Telegdi.  Báthory faced opposition to his election by Emperor Maximilian, who was responsible for fostering internal opposition and who was prepared to take military action against Bathory.  Initially, the representatives of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania refused to recognize Báthory as Grand Duke, and demanded concessions - that he return the estates of his wife Anne to the Lithuanian treasury, hold Sejm conventions in both Lithuania and Poland, and reserve the highest governmental official offices in Lithuania for Lithuanians. Bathory accepted the conditions and was recognized as Grand Duke of Lithuania, Duke of Ruthenia and Samogitia. However, with Maximilian's sudden death, Báthory's situation improved markedly. But the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) still refused to recognize his election without significant concessions. It resulted in the Danzig rebellion. Most armed opposition collapsed when the prolonged Siege of Danzig by Báthory's forces was lifted, as an agreement was reached. The Danzig army was defeated in a field battle on April 17, 1577. But since Báthory's armies failed to take the city by force, a compromise was reached. In exchange for some of Danzig's demands being favorably reviewed, the city recognised Báthory as ruler of Poland and paid the sum of 200,000 zlotys in gold as compensation.


Poland's Transfer of Power:  On December 14, 1922 at the Belweder Palace, Josef Piłsudski officially transferred his powers as Chief of State to his friend Narutowicz, who had been elected President, on December 9.  On December 16, 1922, Narutowitz was assassinated by a right-wing painter and art critic, Eligiusz Niewiadomski. The gunman originally intended to assassinate Piłsudski but had changed his target, influenced by National Democrat anti-Narutowicz propaganda.  The assassination was a major shock to Piłsudski, who had believed  that Poland could function as a democracy.  It changed his perspective and made him support government with an iron hand. He became Chief of the General Staff and, together with Minister of Military Affairs Władysław Sikorski, managed to stabilize the situation, quelling unrest with a brief state of emergency.


The Polish 1970 protests:  As a result of a sudden spike in the prices of food and consumer items, massive protests occurred in northern Poland between December 14 and 19, 1970.  Gomułka's right-hand man, Zenon Kliszko, made matters worse by ordering the Polish People's Army and Citizen's Militia, to open fire on workers as they tried to return to their factories. Apparently the communist regime suspected that a wave of sabotage was occurring, thus legitimizing a brutal government crackdown on protesters.  The action resulted in the deaths of at least 42 people, and more than 1,000 wounded.  In Gdynia the soldiers were under orders to stop workers from returning to work and on December 17 they fired right into the crowd of workers emerging from their trains - hundreds of workers were killed or wounded. The protest movement then spread to other cities, leading to strikes and occupations. The government mobilized 5,000 members of special squads of police and 27,000 soldiers equipped with heavy tanks and machine guns.  The crisis led to a meeting of the Party leadership in Warsaw where they agreed that a massive working-class revolt was inevitable unless drastic steps were taken.  Gomulka, Kliszko and other leaders were forced to resign, and Moscow drafted Edward Gierek as the new Polish leader. Price increases were reversed, wage increases announced, and sweeping economic and political changes were promised. Gierek went to Gdańsk and met the workers, apologising for the mistakes of the past and promised a political renewal. He confided to the workers that as a worker himself he would now govern for the people.

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