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Matters of Propaganda...Or: how was the West portrayed in Poland?


MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
10 Oct 2009 /  #1
Ok, quick one before I'm off to watch the games:

I was just wondering how the West was portrayed in Poland (and other Eastern Bloc countries) before the Iron Curtain fell? I mean not only the usual blunt propaganda, but also the more subtle one. I've heard from a Polish friend that there used to be a series on Polish tv about a sort of Polish G-man that infiltrated in Western Germany and always won from the as stupid portrayed Germans. Can anybody tell me more about this? And: how was any propaganda implemented in daily life? Thanks!

PS: I can tell from my own experience in Holland that we were told in school that Eastern Europe was full of angry and grey ppl that were only out to kill us and that there were nuclear missiles were pointed at every Dutch city.

>^..^<

M-G (curious)
SeanBM 35 | 5,808  
10 Oct 2009 /  #2
Can anybody tell me more about this?

I have had very interesting and long conversations with the more seasoned generation of Poles.
Very interesting, I have not come across that generation coming on PF.

Can anybody tell me more about this?

A common example of anti-West propaganda, that was spread here, was that in the West very many people are homeless.
They would even have collections of blankets here to send to the west for the homeless people.

Also this Poland Propaganda posters might be of interest.
OP MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
10 Oct 2009 /  #3
Yes, I've heard that one. As well as the one that says that more than half of the ppl of the West are drug addicts...

We had a similar charity thing going on, collecting food, clothes and blankets for the poor Polish Catholics...

>^..^<

M-G (gotta go now)
Crow 137 | 7,756  
10 Oct 2009 /  #4
Matters of Propaganda...Or: how was the West portrayed in Poland?

on a first look one must notice that facts are reversed

question is - how was the West portrayed in Poland?

any Serbian would tell you that he consider Poland as the West, not France, Britain, Germany or USA or etc... see what i want to tell you
polishcanuck 7 | 462  
10 Oct 2009 /  #5
From what I have heard, Poles were generally very interested in the west - even envious. People knew very well that life was a lot better west of the wall. It was the soviet/commie oligarchs and the commie puppet government in poland that spread evil propaganda vs the west - few believed in that BS.
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
11 Oct 2009 /  #6
Poles often looked towards the West and marvelled. There are a select few who still do but the tide has turned. Most people now compare what Poland has to the West and they are generally proud of their record when it comes to food and body.
OP MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
11 Oct 2009 /  #7
So, it was all a big mistake then...For all we knew was that the Poles (and the other ppl from the Eastern Bloc) were just a bunch of bloodthirsty maniacs, only out to kill us and take over our possessions. It's very black and white, but that's how Western propaganda worked. Have to say though that the Western intelligentia didn't swallow it, but the average guy did. And even in early 1989 it was still very much alive.

>^..^<

M-G (had a great date with the woman he's probably going to marry)
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
11 Oct 2009 /  #8
Can anybody tell me more about this? And: how was any propaganda implemented in daily life? Thanks!

All Poles had to go through some form of military preparedness. Most schools had an armory (for educational purposes) some with live ammunition. All males were trained to defend the country (and the noble idea of communism) to degrees depending on various personal and social circumstances. That was all because the West was supposedly getting ready to invade the glorious communist block.

On a daily basis the propaganda machine was most obvious on TV, especially the regular news (7.30 PM, day in day out). The trick was simple. A few flicks from around the world. A strike in England, fuel crisis in the US, a train crash in France or an oil spill somewhere else. And in the other news, an XYZ Polish factory achieved higher than expected production, the Soviets sent us yet another token of their love for us (a flower, a tractor or what have you).

That's pretty much the gist of it.

Poland was unique within the Soviet Block though. The most difficult nut to crack for the Soviets. The only country where religion was left alone and where the default reaction of the general population to the commie propaganda was by default: bullcrap. Hence, according to the Soviet ideologues who mapped the road to the absolute communist nirvana in 10 stages, the USSR was at stage 10, Poland at stage 1.
Bzibzioh  
11 Oct 2009 /  #9
The recipe was very simple: what was good in Poland was due to our greatest friend, Soviet Union, and what was lacking was due to the evil West.
Bratwurst Boy 5 | 9,877  
11 Oct 2009 /  #10
The only country where religion was left alone and where the default reaction of the general population to the commie propaganda was by default: bullcrap.

What makes you say so? What makes you think Poles are different to most other peoples who want to live in freedom?
I think that was the case in most if not all countries in the eastern bloc.
I know for example that the BND secretly polled the GDRians regularly till up to '89 what they think and that the answers was overwhelmingly that they still believe in the unity of the nation and despise the party (Der Spiegel had an article about that shortly)

spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/0,1518,654408,00.html

...Der BND befragte bis 1989 systematisch Hunderte von DDR-Bürgern. Die Auswertungen liegen nun erstmals vor. Ein Großteil der Ostdeutschen bekannte sich laut den Geheimdienstunterlagen zur Einheit der Nation und lehnte das SED-Regime ab....

sjam 2 | 541  
11 Oct 2009 /  #11
The only country where religion was left alone

newsweek.com
10 percent (or 2,800) of Poland's 28,000 Roman Catholic clergy were suborned by the SB in varying degrees of complicity.

Left alone?
SeanBM 35 | 5,808  
11 Oct 2009 /  #12
West was supposedly getting ready to invade the glorious communist

the USSR was at stage 10, Poland at stage 1.

In Vilnius, Lithuania (ex-U.S.S.R) there are many bomb shelters built to defend against when the Capitalists invade.
They even have tunnels stretching across the road from the bomb shelters.
I had a friend from Lithuania visit me recently and I was surprised, that he is pro-communist.
He is 27 years old, which is unusual, as I find the oldest generation to be the ones who miss communism the most, their whole world got turned upside-down but for a young fella to think the same, it is strange, the propaganda worked.
OP MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
11 Oct 2009 /  #13
the propaganda worked.

Of course Sean, in most cases propaganda works. Just imagine: if you hear something everywhere you go: TV, Radio, Newspapers, (hired) ppl talk about it at busstops, etc, you see billboards proclaiming it; if this is being kept up long enough, ppl will start believing. Just like we did in that we believed that those Eastern Europeans (we called them all "Russians" at the time, no matter where they came from - compare slogans like "The Russians Are Coming!") were only out to invade us, enslave us and send us to the mines in the steppes of Siberia. All because they were jealous of us. Jealous of our "freedom" (which was relatively, of course - even though we were able to say what we wanted, 1) nothing was done with your opinion and 2) if you had a very different opinion, you could expect a visit of the secret police - yes, we had one too) and jealous of our "richness".

I remember in elementary school we had a map of Europe on the wall where all the "good" countries (i.e. non-communist countries) were brightly coloured and the "bad" countries were just left grey. No details on them, just the capitals were shown in either a red square or circle. When I asked the teacher what was in those grey areas on the map, he said: "nothing. Europe is coloured and the rest is dangerous. No ppl live there".

In highschool we thought it was kinda cool, this Eastern Bloc. There you had these countries of which we only knew images that were taken with a telescopic lens and mostly had soldiers in it. We thought everybody in the East wore uniforms and everybody was equal. It seemed to us that this was so much better than the crap we had in the West: equality in the West? Don't make me laugh. If you had plenty of money, yeah, then you were a little more equal than when you didn't have any money. Freedom wasn't expensive if you had enough money to buy it. Most of us were just poor sobs to whom the idea of equality kinda appealed.

Edit: you must not forget that for the Dutch it was different than for the British or Irish: those were islands, relatively far away Holland directly borders Germany. For me, being born and raised near the German border, the Iron Curtain was only 250 km away. That made it very close, hence the propaganda was different too.

>^..^<

M-G (wanted to write more and will, but first: coffee!)
Bratwurst Boy 5 | 9,877  
11 Oct 2009 /  #14
I don't know about you MG but in my experience people were not very interested about the great politics, much more about their "little" private lives and how to go on best about it. ;)

I surely never saw people discussing an impending war at the busstop!
I don't remember any anti-west propaganda very successfull - it was more like people being forced to listen, nodding outwardly and rolling their eyes inwardly! Even as it was strictly forbidden, the most popular radio station in East Berlin was the RIAS from West Berlin ("Radio in the American Sector")

(And I was born and bred in Berlin, Sonnenallee is near my home, I could practically see the Iron Curtain from my window. The last one killed on the wall came from my neighbourhood. Should a war had happened I would had been the frontline - and probably toast....just imagine: No Bratwurst Boy anymore!!!!)
lesser 4 | 1,311  
11 Oct 2009 /  #15
Teenagers are often such a naive fools, fortunately most of them become smarter with age.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808  
11 Oct 2009 /  #16
How young are you MG and BB?
Bratwurst Boy 5 | 9,877  
11 Oct 2009 /  #17
I remember the parades to the GDR foundation and being forced to become a pionier....*yuck*
OP MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
11 Oct 2009 /  #18
Bratwurst Boy

Of course, that was the case where I lived too. That's why I added the thing about money to my post. Yet you felt that it was creeping up in the consciousness of the ppl. More and more you got seemingly "harmless" songs (in Dutch) about the situation. But indeed day to day life continued and little private things of course prevailed. Maybe it was just me as well as I used to read an aweful lot of newspapers, books, magazines, etc. All I was trying to say that we were being influenced as well. And I sometimes feel that ppl from the former Eastern Bloc think we weren't. But I have to sort my thoughts at this very moment with the help of some good old cafeine and when I have, I will get back with a post about my memories when I was in the army. In hindsight it's hilariously stupid, but at the time we took it very seriously and you could get into serious trouble land even in jail if you made fun of it.

>^..^<

M-G (hates the neighbourhood kids for making lots of racket on an early Sunday morning)
southern 75 | 7,096  
11 Oct 2009 /  #19
The socialists in western Europe portrayed communist countries with bright colours.I remember communists in Greece supported fanatically evenry eastern block country whether it was a football match against a western team or in Olympic Games.They were delighted when teams from communist countries won.

There was also a lot of talk about communist countries achievemnets how there is no unemployment,free eductaion and health care for all etc.

There was also a dark side of people who travelled there and came back and told about hunger,lack of basic consumer products.I remember a description of Poland by a comedian which became famous as a joke:''There the people are hungry.What a country.With a kolynos(brand name of toothpaste) you get a girlfriend.

I heard rumours of people going there bringing with them stockings,women underwear and servietes and I could not believe that there was lack of these things in iron curtain.
OP MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
11 Oct 2009 /  #20
SeanBM

Check your PM, Sean ;)

>^..^<

M-G (coffee!)
southern 75 | 7,096  
11 Oct 2009 /  #21
We had in school some books written by hardcore socialists who continuously praised the economic achievments of eastern block.I remember a book called financial geography which told about the deep crisis and decline of spanish economy while praising the astonishing progress of albanian economy!This was in 1987.
Bratwurst Boy 5 | 9,877  
11 Oct 2009 /  #22
The communists in the West are one of the most despisable idiots I ever encountered...supporting things they have no idea of and would hate if they would have to live in it, but nonetheless hating people fighting for their freedom from communism for destroying their nice and comfy illusions...bah!
OP MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
11 Oct 2009 /  #23
Teenagers are often such a naive fools, fortunately most of them become smarter with age.

Well, we didn't know what went down at the time. We also wanted to be rebellious, do something that would shock our parents. You know how teenagers are. And since our own world was boring, or that's how we perceived it, what else can you expect when there's this vast, grey area a few hundred km away and to which everybody reacts when you mention it...

Bratwurst Boy

A friend of mine, who was a few years older than I was, was a member of the CPN, the Communist Party of the Netherlands. Looking back I must admit that he kinda slavish followed everything Moskau said and took it for the only truth. When Gorbi wrote his Glasnost and Perestroika, he was one of the first to buy the Dutch translation (he couldn't even read Russian). Why? Not because he was in favour of change (he probably didn't even know what was in the book anyway), but because it came from the Soviet Union. Later on he adapted the idea of change as Gorbi had described it.

>^..^<

M-G (more coffee)
southern 75 | 7,096  
11 Oct 2009 /  #24
Now we have the new era of socialists.The hardcore communists driving mercedes.We see lefty parties getting much more votes in rich regions than in workers' regions.
Bratwurst Boy 5 | 9,877  
11 Oct 2009 /  #25
Yeah....things changed here too. Things get more difficult, not so clear borders anymore.
The Linke in Eastern Germany is more like the SPD in the West, but The Linke in West Germany is full of ideological hard core commie nutters of the old school.

Decades old synonyms don't hold anymore...
SeanBM 35 | 5,808  
11 Oct 2009 /  #26
They were delighted when teams from communist countries won.

I never knew that about Greece, strange.
Why was that?

---------------------------------------------------------------------- --

Personally I was in Ireland during all that and it was so poor there, sure nobody cared about the Soviet Union.
We were thought about communism and discussed it a length in school, it was a wonderful idea but it doesn't work in practise.
I went travelling to Lithuania for a month, for the first time in 1998 and I remember thinking that it was a lot worse there than I had been led to believe.

It should be noted that I have spoken to many people here in Poland and Poland was a wealthier country during communism than Ireland was.

My parents did not have running water or even a toilet before I was born. Sure there were things in the shops but no Irish person could afford them. So the communists were not a real 'Enemy' for us.

Unemployment, emigration and generally trying to make ends meet were more important than people we had never met.
OP MareGaea 29 | 2,752  
11 Oct 2009 /  #27
SeanBM

It's funny, but we in the Netherlands never regarded Ireland as a political entity. This is with all due respect, mind you!

The idea we had about Ireland and the Irish was that they were a jolly good bunch, only interested in the beauty of nature, making music and drinking Guinness.

Poland was a wealthier country

In 1981, during the Solidarity strikes, we got leaflets in the mail, asking us to collect food, clothing, blankets and the like for the poor ppl in Poland. After all they were Catholics too (the leaflet was printed in the South of the Netherlands, a predominantly Catholic area) who were surpressed and nearly were dying of hunger and cold. My village (95% Catholics, together with a neighbouring village the only two places in my part of the country which was mainly Protestant) managed to collect about 4 trucks of the above mentioned and they joined in a convoy to Poland. I actually never heard back if it arrived in PL and if the goods were distributed among the ppl there. Anybody knows something about this? This is early 80's, so if there is anybody who knows about convoys from NL to PL in that timeframe, I would like to hear it.

>^..^<

M-G (coffee is good)
Bratwurst Boy 5 | 9,877  
11 Oct 2009 /  #28
Later on he adapted the idea of change as Gorbi had described

Gorbi had (and still has) many fans in Eastern Germany too, but not communists! :)

*Remembers fondly the RIAS*

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rundfunk_im_amerikanischen_Sektor
SeanBM 35 | 5,808  
11 Oct 2009 /  #29
jolly good bunch, only interested in the beauty of nature, making music and drinking Guinness.

Note that all of the things you have just mentioned are free and Guinness was cheaper than larger.

coffee is good

MMMMMmmmmm Cofffeeeee :)

Edit* one huge difference between Ireland and Commie countries is that nobody tried to mess with our heads, as in we did not have such propaganda and I honestly believe we were given a much more neutral education than other countries.
southern 75 | 7,096  
11 Oct 2009 /  #30
I never knew that about Greece, strange.
Why was that?

Civil war maybe?When communists were beaten hard in 1946-1949 and many had to exile to eastern block,a lot of the rest being imprisoned.

A lot of people were concerned about the situation of orthodox church in SU.We heard about churches being closed and priests getting beaten.
When communists had a great party was when it was announced that SU has the atomic bomb in 1948.They were breaking the transistors from their joy,such was their happiness.

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