From Subjection to Independence

Post-World War II Polish-Italian Relations

by Dariusz Jarosz (Author) Maria Pasztor (Author)
©2020 Monographs 350 Pages


This book seeks to identify the most important problems in post-World War II Polish-Italian relations. The fundamental reflections come in two parts, in chronological-problematic order, from 1945 to 1958 and 1959 to 1989. The key points are: Poland and the main problems of Italian foreign policy; Italian attitude to the main problems of Polish foreign policy; the effects of cultural exchange; the functioning of cultural institutions; cooperation in pure and applied sciences, and higher education; foreign trade and economic cooperation.
The key significance to the problems analysed in the book are documentary collections in the Modern Record Archive, Foreign Ministry Archive in Warsaw, the Historical Archive of the Italian Foreign Ministry, the Central State Archive in Rome.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part I: 1945–1958
  • Chapter 1: The Main Problems in Political Relations
  • 1.1. Diplomats and Diplomacy
  • 1.2. Poland and the Main Problems of Italian Foreign Policy
  • 1.2.1. The Peace Treaty with Italy
  • 1.2.2. Poland’s Attitude to Italy’s Territorial Claims
  • The Issue of Trieste
  • The Upper Adige
  • The Issue of the Former Italian Colonies
  • 1.2.3. Poland and the Admission of Italy to the UNO
  • 1.2.4. Poland and the Admission of Italy to NATO
  • 1.3. Italian Attitude to the Main Problems of Polish Foreign Policy
  • 1.3.1. The Italian Position Regarding the Oder-Neisse Line
  • 1.3.2. Italy and the Rapacki Plan – the Prelude
  • Chapter 2: Economy, Trade, Finance
  • 2.1. Problems with Compensation Claims and Debts
  • 2.2. Trade Exchange Problems
  • Chapter 3: Culture and Scholarship
  • 3.1. Early Post-war Problems (1945–1949)
  • 3.2. The Highpoint of Stalinism (1950–1954)
  • 3.3. The Years 1955–1958
  • Part II: 1959–1989
  • Chapter 4: Political Issues
  • 4.1. Security, Disarmament and Détente
  • 4.2. The Oder-Neisse Border Problem
  • 4.3. Disputes Over the Upper Adige – Continued
  • 4.4. Italy, the Polish People’s Republic, and the Vietnam Question
  • 4.5. Italy and the Polish Crisis 1980–1981
  • 4.6. From Martial Law to the End of the Polish People’s Republic
  • Chapter 5: Economic Cooperation
  • 5.1. The Years 1959–1970
  • 5.1.1. Establishing Cooperation: New Agreements
  • 5.1.2. Effects of Trade Cooperation
  • 5.1.3. Industrial Cooperation
  • 5.2. The Years 1971–1980
  • 5.2.1. General Principles of Cooperation
  • 5.2.2. Status and Condition of Trade Exchange
  • 5.2.3. The Debt Trap
  • 5.2.4. The Effects of Cooperation
  • 5.3. The Difficult 1980s
  • 5.3.1. Dictatorship in Debt
  • 5.3.2. Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation: Regression and Revival
  • Chapter 6: Unresolved Dispute Regarding Compensation and Pre-war Debts
  • Chapter 7: Culture and Scholarship
  • 7.1. In the Gomułka “Minor Stabilisation” Period
  • 7.1.1. Culture, Scholarship, and Technical Sciences: Regulations
  • 7.1.2. Cultural Institutions
  • 7.1.3. The Effects of Cultural Exchange
  • 7.1.4. Cooperation in Pure and Applied Sciences, and Higher Education
  • 7.2. In the Atmosphere of Political Détente (1971–1980)
  • 7.2.1. Agreements, Programmes and Effects of Cooperation in Culture and Pure and Applied Sciences
  • 7.2.2. Institutional Changes
  • 7.3. The Solidarity Revolution and the 1980s
  • 7.3.1. Cooperation Agreements and Programmes
  • 7.3.2. Effects of Cooperation
  • 7.3.3. Institutions
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Polish-Italian Contacts after 1989: Miscellaneous Facts and Figures
  • Bibliography
  • Acronyms
  • Acronyms in the Main Text
  • Acronyms in Footnotes
  • Author Index
  • Tables
  • Series index


This study seeks to identify the most important problems in post-World War II Polish-Italian relations. The fundamental reflections come in two parts, in chronological-problematic order, from 1945 to 1958 and 1959 to 1989. The choice of 1958–1959 as a watershed stems from the conviction that the events of 1956 notwithstanding, basic political changes triggering a revaluation in foreign policy and progression to a new stage in Polish-Italian relations came with delayed reaction.

The adoption of a caesura other than 1956 in Polish-Italian relations is nothing exceptional for researchers into this field of interest.1 In our assessment, it was the gradual abatement in the ferocity of Cold War rhetoric, conventionally taken to date from 1953, that came to inform contacts between Warsaw and Rome. From the political point of view, nothing of sufficient import had occurred in 1956 to speak of are set in Polish-Italian relations. Italian public opinion and its world of politics reacted negatively to the brutal quelling of the Poznań workers’ protests of June 1956 but took note of Poland’s October thaw with hope. However, this did not translate into something that could be called “a new course” towards Poland. For Italian foreign policy towards Poland and Eastern Europe as such, the turning point came in 1958. As maintained by the subject area’s expert Bruna Bagnato, after the parliamentary elections of 25 May 1958, Italy, in its new centre-left coalition government configuration, began to define the basis of its own “Ostpolitik.” Above all, this was set on an economic dimension though, as Bagnato argues, economic interests did not weigh heavily on the general thrust of Italian foreign policy, with the two areas, of economics and politics, governed by different dynamics.2

The change of emphasis in Italy’s policy in this period was driven by the search for improved scope of manoeuvre through reinforcing relations with its western European partners while leaving its ties with the USA unvitiated.3 The return to ←9 | 10→power of gen. Charles de Gaulle brought into play the opposing interests of Paris and Rome, and their differing visions of European institutions and cooperation in the framework of NATO. This brought West Germany into the frame as Italy’s prime partner in Europe which, in turn, dictated exceptional vigilance and prudence in Italian diplomacy towards Poland. Nonetheless, the pitfalls notwithstanding, the development of bilateral relations along the People’s Poland – Italy axis seemed politically feasible and particularly promising economically.4

Early symptoms of change in Polish-Italian cultural and academic relations came to the fore in 1955–1957. It was then that the first visits of Polish scholars in Italy and Italian scholars in Poland took place together with the revival, after years of stagnation, of the activities of the Polish Academy of Science Station in Rome under the energetic impulse of professor Bronisław Biliński.

However, what we see as the most important justification for selecting 1958 as a watershed of sorts was the engagement in true dialogue on economic issues at the inter-state level. It was then that the practice of extending the trade treaty of June 1949 (as the payment system) on the basis of periodic contingencies, was brought to an end. The first trade negotiations in years bore fruit in important agreements with quantifiable effects in mutual relations. These negotiations were continued in the following years. As a result, the downward trend in mutual trade which hit rock bottom in 1955–1956, was reversed in 1957, and became particularly visible in 1958. That’s when negotiations with Poland were commenced or were resumed by big Italian enterprises. Finally, at the end of 1958, Warsaw’s posture regarding negotiations on mutual financial settlements, evolved in a more conciliatory direction, which led to talks with Rome on the subject in January 1959. The initiation of this qualitatively new dialogue at the inter-state level and its concrete effects, made us lean towards 1958 as a natural watershed in post-war Polish-Italian relations to 1989.5

←10 | 11→

In both parts, the chapters are arranged according to our conceptual assumptions. Our reflections are not restricted to strictly political issues which, in light of what we have written above, seems obvious. We believe, which we have already given expression to in our other works,6 that given the bipolar division of the world, the possibility of political manoeuvring in relations between states on any side of the iron curtain, was very limited, though somewhat easier after 1956. In this situation, the role of relations of an economic and cultural character was bound to grow. For this reason, we decided that the traditional restriction of analyses to political negotiations and the exegesis of miscellaneous diplomatic documents, would mar the picture of Rome-Warsaw relations. Hence, apart from those parts of the text dealing with political relations (the first chapters of both parts of this monograph), this work contains detailed findings on economic issues (chiefly trade exchange – the second chapters) and cultural and scholarship-support issues (the third chapters). The reflections in the chapters on cultural-scholarship and economic issues have been divided chronologically into the following periods: 1945–1958, 1959–1970, 1971–1980, and 1981–1989. We believe this periodisation reflects the basic stages in these relations.

The appendix to this work covering the post-1989 period is of a decidedly different character than its two preceding parts. Its aim is to highlight the qualitative change which came in these bilateral relations with the progression from subjection to independence. The materials documenting post-1989 relations accessible to historians are still too sparse to produce an objective picture. Hence, being aware of the importance of this period, but painfully aware of the source limitations, we decided on a compromise solution consisting of a fuller schedule of events highlighting the most important moments of Polish-Italian inter-state contacts as from 1990.

To avoid misunderstandings, we wish to reiterate that we are concerned almost exclusively with state level relations in their broader international context. Hence, in principle, we do not raise the issue of the Polish emigre community in Italy and its political and organisational life. If references to this subject appear in the course of this study, they only come when they impinged on Polish-Italian inter-state relations (as for example in the case of 2nd Corps soldiers, conflicts with its commanders, and disputes over Polish war cemeteries and anniversary ←11 | 12→celebrations at Monte Cassino). For the same reasons, we do not touch upon the Polish embassy at the Holy See which remained in émigré hands, as represented by Kazimierz Papée (who retained the status of ambassador to 1958, then of administrator of the embassy to 1972, and finally as unofficial representative of the Polish Government-in-Exile to his death in 1979). Nor is any attempt made to analyse the possible impact on Polish-Italian relations of the election of Karol Wojtyła as pope John Paul II. To our knowledge, it did not impact significantly these relations.

This work is based on archival sources and select Polish and Italian studies of relevance to the issue.

There are several important studies in Polish academic literature on Polish-Italian relations in the 20th century. The most important coverage of the interwar period remains Stanisław Sierpowski’s7 work of 1974, and for the war years – Krzysztof Strzałka’s8 monograph and the studies of Jerzy Borejsza.9 The post-war period is covered by Grażyna Bernatowicz10 and Stefan Rudnik.11 Their books were based primarily on source materials published earlier, and fragmentary studies. Polish-Italian relations during the Cold War are tackled by two Polish language monographs of our authorship.12

Shorter texts on aspects of relevance to Polish-Italian relations in the analysed period can be found in the works of Polish authors. They are predominantly concentrated on economic relations, in particular on trade.13 The post-war activities ←12 | 13→of the 2nd Corps in Italy in the cultural field have accumulated a wealth of academic and memoir literature.14 Equally interesting sketches have been produced on post-war academic contacts, in this the role of the PAN Academic Station in Rome.15

The most relevant Polish sources for Polish-Italian relations 1945–1989, are to be found in several central archives in Warsaw. They are, above all, materials kept in the Foreign Ministry Archive in Warsaw – telegrams, reports and analyses from the Polish embassy (from 1952 – the Polish People’s Republic, PRL for short) in Rome. This not only applies to questions of a strictly political character; these materials also contain information on trade negotiations, and cultural and academic contacts.

Documentary collections in the Modern Record Archive (AAN) in Warsaw are also of key significance to the problems analysed here. Comprehending the significance of controversies in economic relations between the two countries would be impossible without a detailed archival inquiry into such offices as: the Ministry of Finance, the Treasury Ministry, the State Commission of Economic Planning, the Central Planning Office, and the Ministry of Shipping and Foreign Trade. For an analysis of academic and cultural contacts, much valuable material has been unearthed in the archives of the Ministry of Enlightenment and Higher Education, the Committee of Foreign Cultural Cooperation and the Science and Technical Committee.

To date, post-World War II relations with Poland are hardly a popular topic with Italian researchers. They are usually touched upon in the guise of minutiae in footnotes to works on Italy’s relations with the USSR and West Germany.16 ←13 | 14→There are no monographs or even feature articles on selected aspects of Polish-Italian political, economic or cultural relations. Somewhat more attention has been devoted to relations between Italian trade unions and “Solidarność“ (further: Solidarity), where the pole position is taken by the work Solidarity with Solidarity. Western European Trade Unions and the Polish Crisis, 1980–1982 containing a chapter by Sandra Cavallucci and Nino De Amicis on the relations of Italian trade unions with Solidarity.17

Many valuable documents containing information on the Italian attitude to relations with Poland were found in the central Roman archives, above all the Historical Archive of the Italian Foreign Ministry (Archivio Storico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri) and the Central State Archive (Archivio Centrale dello Stato). The materials bequested by Aldo Moro, the murdered Christian Democrat leader, several-time foreign minister and prime minister of Italy, yielded a rich harvest of insight. Source materials kept in the Archivio Storico del Senato della Repubblica (fondo Amintore Fanfani) containing documents on Polish-Italian attempts at cooperation in the Vietnam question also deserve attention.

Italian political, cultural, and economic reports sent from Poland proved of cognitive value just like the materials found in the Gramsci Foundation Archive which enabled us to determine the standpoint of the Italian Communist Party towards various events in Poland.

The records for Solidarity’s relations with the united federation of Italian trade unions (the Italian Universal Confederation of Labour – CGIL, the Christian Democrat Confederation of Trade Unions–CISL and the Italian Union of Labour – UIL) and earlier contacts of the CGIL with the Central Trade Union Council, kept in the Archivio CGIL in Rome, proved helpful.

The I Documenti Diplomatici Italiani (tenth and eleventh series for the period from 1945 to October 1950), published successively by the Italian foreign ministry in 1992–2010, proved of significant relevance to these reflections. They contain diplomatic correspondence and reports on Italian policy towards various states produced by Italy’s foreign outposts (in this its Warsaw embassy) and the Palazzo Chigi’s instructions sent to diplomatic outposts in foreign policy matters, all of which we were able to utilise for the purposes of this study. They ←14 | 15→constitute a selection of documents kept by the Italian foreign ministry. The Atti Parlamentari (Parliamentary Proceedings) of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and Senate also proved useful to our purposes. The speeches of Italian politicians constitute valuable material giving greater definition to the postures of political parties on important foreign policy issues, occasionally touching on relations with Poland in the period under consideration.

To conclude these preliminary reflections, we wish to stress once again that we are not arrogating to ourselves any claims to having exhausted this subject matter. We are convinced that further archival inquiries, particularly in Italy, could open fresh and interesting vistas. Being fully aware of the partial character our research, we nonetheless believe that we have succeeded in unearthing important material which has so far not been analysed and, thanks to that, we trust we have made at least a modest contribution to the well of knowledge on post-war Polish-Italian relations.

←15 |
 16→←16 | 17→

1 In her study Stosunki polsko-włoskie 1944-1989 (Warsaw, 1990, 7), G. Bernatowicz takes 1960 as the first watershed of relevance. In her view, their gradual shaping followed by a freeze, took place in 1944–1960, while “dynamic contacts” came to predominate in 1960–1980, particularly economic ones, supported by frequent political contacts.

2 B. Bagnato, Prove di Ostpolitik. Politica ed economia nella strategia italiana verso l’Unione Sovietica 1958-1963 (Florence, 2003) 75–76.

3 P. L. Ballini, A. Varsori, “L’europeismo italiano tra aspirazioni fanfaniane e mediazioni morotee (1958-1967).” In L’Italia e l’Europa (1947-1979), ed. by P. L. Ballini e A. Varsori, (Rome, 2004), 305–306.

4 L. Nuti, “La politica estera italiana tra interdipendenza e integrazione,” in: Italia Repubblicana nella crisi degli anni settanta. Tra guerra fredda e distensione, ed. by A. Giovagnoli e S. Pons (Rome, 2003), 26–28; F. D’Amoja, “La sindrome da claustrofobia’’ atlantica e la politica estera dell’Italia alla metà degli anni’50: un’analisi sull’ammissione dell’Italia all’ONU nel dicembre 1955.” In L’Italia e la politica di potenza in Europa (1950-1960), ed. by E. Di Nolfo, R. H. Rainero e B. Vigezzi (Milan, 1992), 783; C. Vordemann, Deutschland-Italien, 1949-1961. Die diplomatischen Beziehungen, Frankfurt am Main 1994; C. Masala, Italia und Germania. Die deutsch-italienischen Beziehungen 1963-1969 (Greifswald, 1997).

5 It seems that in this respect Poland followed in the footsteps of the USSR which initiated the process of rapprochement with Italy at the time. Its most important symptom was the agreement on mutual goods’ deliveries for 1958-1961 signed on 29 December 1959. For more see: L. A Hormač, SSSR-Italiă i blokovoye protivostoyanie v Evropie: vtoraya polovina 40 – pervaya polovina 60 godov, parts 1–2, (Moscow, 2005), part 2, 550.

6 See among others: the introductions to our studies: Polska-Francja 1970-1980. Relacje wyjątkowe? (Warsaw, 2006) and Stosunki polsko-francuskie 1944-1980 (Warsaw, 2008).

7 S. Sierpowski, Stosunki polsko-włoskie w latach 1918-1940 (Warsaw, 1974). See also idem, “Stosunki polsko-włoskie na tle międzywojennej Europy.” Przegląd Zachodni 5–6 (1986).

8 K. Strzałka, Między przyjaźnią a wrogością. Z dziejów stosunków polsko-włoskich (1939-1945) (Kraków, 2001).

9 Among others: Rzym a wspólnota faszystowska. O penetracji faszyzmu włoskiego w Europie Środkowej, Południowej i Wschodniej, Warsaw, 1981; idem, “L’Italia e la guerratedesco-polacca del 1939,” Storia Contemporanea 4, 1978.

10 Bernatowicz, Stosunki polsko-włoskie 1944-1989.

11 S. Rudnik, Stosunki polsko-włoskie w latach 1945-1975 (Słupsk, 1978).

12 M. Pasztor, D. Jarosz, Skazani na podległość. Z dziejów stosunków polsko-włoskich 1945-1958 (Warsaw, 2013) and Nie tylko Fiat. Z dziejów stosunków polsko-włoskich 1945-1989 (Warsaw, 2018).

13 J. Romanowski, „Stosunki handlowe między Polską a Włochami,” Handel Zagraniczny no. 11, 1959; S. Długosz, W. Szczepaniec, Stosunki handlowe Polski z rozwiniętymi krajami kapitalistycznymi (Warsaw, 1974); K. Szczepanik, “Polsko-włoskie stosunki gospodarcze,” Stosunki Międzynarodowe 3 (1989); G. Arlotti, “Czterdzieści lat minęło: polsko-włoska współpraca gospodarcza,” Polski Przegląd Dyplomatyczny 1 (2012).

14 Among others: K. Jaworska, “Ośrodki akademickie Drugiego Korpusu na terenie Włoch,” Zeszyty Historyczne (Paris) 921(1990), 74-89; Polscy studenci żołnierze we Włoszech 1945-1947 (Sussex, 1996); T. Kramer, Z Italii do Polski (Wspomnienia żołnierza) (Katowice, 1997), 24-31; A. Borelli, “Egzaminy dojrzałości i zapach róż.” In Ognisko Polskie w Turynie. Pięćdziesiąt lat historii (Torino, 2002), 249–251.

15 B. Biliński, “Rzymska stacja naukowa PAN i polskie tradycje naukowe w Rzymie,” Nauka Polska 1, 1963; idem, “50-lecie Stacji Naukowej PAN w Rzymie 1927-1977,” part II, “Trzydzieści lat w służbie nauki i narodu,” Nauka Polska 1 (1979); idem, Tradizione e innovazioneneldialogo scientifico polacco-italiano (1945-1969) (Wrocław-Warsaw-Kraków-Gdańsk, 1971). For more on the PAN Station see commentaries by Piotr Hübner in Siła przeciw rozumowi… Losy Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności w latach 1939-1989 (Kraków, 1994).

16 E. Aga Rossi, V. Zaslavski, Togliati e Stalin. Il PCI e la politica estera staliniananegli archivi di Mosca (Bologna, 1997); R. Morozzo Della Rocca, La politica estera italiana e l’UnioneSovietica 1944-1948 (Rome, 1985); S. Sechi, “Tra neutralismo edequidistanza: la politicaesteraitaliana verso l’URSS, 1944-1948,” Studia Contemporanea 4 (1987); B. Bagnato, Prove di Ostpolitik. Politica ed economia nella strategia italiana verso l’Unione Sovietica 1958-1963 (Florence, 2003).

17 S. Cavallucci, N. De Amicis, “Italy: Diversity within United Solidarity.” In Solidarity with Solidarity. Western European Trade Unions and the Polish Crisis, 1980-1982, publ. by I. Goddeeris (Boulder, New York, 2010).

Chapter 1: The Main Problems in Political Relations

Polish-Italian relations in the years 1945–1958 were subject to transformations whose rhythm was set, above all, by the progressive bipolar division of Europe and the world, into two hostile political-military blocs. Insofar as in 1945–1947, it was still considered realistic to assume the possibility of cooperation between states lying on the opposite side of an iron curtain that had not fully descended on Europe yet, as from 1948 this was becoming impossible in face of the consolidating Cold War atmosphere. This situation began to change for the better in step with the gradual de-Stalinisation processes following the dictator’s death in 1953.

Moreover, the shape of bilateral Warsaw-Rome relations was influenced by specific problems constituting a derivative spin-off effect of the war. Italy, as a former German ally, belonged to those states which were to suffer the consequences determined by the great powers. Poland, as a member of the anti-Nazi coalition, was invited to participate in the work of the commission drafting the peace treaty with Italy, and to be one of its signatories. But it soon transpired that this was to give rise to numerous tensions which were resolved by methods which eloquently reveal the determinants of mutual relations which moved far beyond the close-knit decision-making circles in both countries.

The same may be said about numerous other issues discussed in the framework of bilateral political contacts. But before they come to be characterised, it is imperative to adumbrate the basic facts constituting the institutional-legal framework of mutual relations.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (July)
Political History International Relations Cold War Iron Curtain Poland-Italy Communist Poland Polish-Italian relations Upper Adige the issue of Trieste the Oder-Neisse border problem
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 350 pp., 9 tables

Biographical notes

Dariusz Jarosz (Author) Maria Pasztor (Author)

Dariusz Jarosz is a professor of history at the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. He specializes in the social and political history of Poland after 1945. Maria Pasztor is a professor at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Warsaw. She specializes in Polish relations with Western countries (mainly France and Italy).


Title: From Subjection to Independence