The Archive of the Opposition in KARTA Centre
The Archive of Opposition is one of the oldest activities of the KARTA Centre. It was established in 1991 as “The Archive of the Polish People’s Republic” and gathered all the materials concerning political life in Poland since 1956 to 1989, especially in connection to the events of 1956, 1968, 1970, 1980. In 1998 the archive changed its name to “The Archive of Opposition”, which reflects greater awareness of the specificity of the opposition in the Polish People’s Republic: its diversity extending beyond merely political actions. In the Archive researchers and journalists can find a very rich, written and visual material on the newest Polish political and social history.
Warszawa, Ul. Narbutta 29
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Name of collection
- The Archive of the Opposition of KARTA Foundation
Provenance and cultural activities
The Archive of Opposition is one of the oldest activities of KARTA Centre. It was established in 1991 as “The Archive of the Polish People’s Republic” and was to gather all materials concerning political life in Poland since 1956 to 1989, especially the events of 1956, 1968, 1970, 1980. In 1998 the archive changed its name to “The Archive of Opposition”, which reflects greater awareness of the specificity of the opposition in the Polish People’s Republic: its diversity extending beyond merely political actions. In the Archive researchers and journalists can find a very rich written and visual material on the newest Polish political and social history.
The materials gathered in the Archive of Opposition were donated by public figures and average people after a call in the media, and thanks to personal networking of the KARTA Centre team. Jacek Kuroń and Adam Michnik, one of the most prominent dissidents of the liberal democratic opposition in Poland, donated their archives covering the period of their political engagement – from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. The Archive also consists of documents from groups and organisations: Citizens’ Committee, the Federation of Fighting Youth, Freedom and Peace movement or the Independent Students’ Association. Big part of the Archive consists of brochures, leaflets, books and magazines, ie. “Information Bulletin” from the Workers’ Defence Committee. The diaspora organization is covered by the collection from Zdzisław Najder, director of the Polish Section of Radio Free Europe in the 1980s.
In the 2000s the Archive concentrated on digitizing the materials and granting an on-line access to the digital archive. The materials are also accessible in the KARTA Centre reading room (open 3 days a week). The Archive of Opposition cooperates with institutions such as National Library of Poland, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa at Bremen University, and the Archive of the National Commission of the Solidarity Movement in Gdańsk - mostly in terms of exchanging spare copies of the documents and bulletins.
The visual and written materials gathered in the Archive of Opposition can be useful to all researchers and journalists working on the Polish recent history. Numerous books – both academic and from popular science, are based on the historical materials from this Archive.
Description of content
The Archive of Opposition of KARTA Centre contains: the underground publications (over 6 000 books and 30 000 magazines), magnetic tapes with recordings (600 pieces), personal memorabilia (donated by ie. Jacek Kuroń and Adam Michnik, overall from 70 people), posters both official and underground (300), politically engaged postcards made by the dissent circles ( over 1000), underground post stamps (2000), all sorts of artefacts such as pins, jewelry, propaganda materials, strike bands (400) and photographs of events and people connected to oppositional activities (5000). The materials are being systematically catalogued and digitalized and can be found on the KARTA Centre website and on spot.
This collection is one of the biggest in Poland tackling the issues of political opposition and social mobilization from 1944 to 1990s, especially with the rich collection of underground publications from years 1976-90. All the materials were donated by individuals, both public figures and average citizens – overall over 2000 people donated their souvenirs. The documents and artefacts gathered in Archive of Opposition show different ways of confronting the socialist system. The most visible is the political one: on the ideological level (pamphlets, manifestos, articles) and with street discord (demonstrations, strikes, blockades). But in the archive one can also find the more symbolic and cultural forms of opposition, including clothes, posters, songs and visual materials.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
- photos: 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 500-999
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Warszawa, Warsaw, Poland
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Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Iwaszkiewicz, Agnieszka. Katalog zbiorów Archiwum Opozycji: do 1990 roku. Warszawa: Ośrodek KARTA, 2001.
Iwaszkiewicz, Agnieszka, and Agnieszka Rudzińska. Katalog czasopism niezależnych wydanych w latach 1976-1990 w zbiorach Archiwum Peerelu. Warszawa: Ośrodek KARTA, 1996.
Author(s) of this page
- Gospodarczyk, Hanna
Zbigniew Gluza, Odkrycie KARTY. Niezależna strategia pamięci, Agnieszka Dębska (red.), Warszawa: Ośrodek KARTA i Dom Spotkań z Historią, 2012.
Harchut, Monika, interview by Melon, Maciej, May 11, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection