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social sciences

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Communist Poland

In People's Poland, the Communists did not criminalize homosexual activity as Stalin had in the Soviet Union. A gay elite re-appeared: the most important figure in cultural politics, Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, was joined by the novelists Jerzy Andrzejewski (1909-1983) and Julian Stryjkowski (1904-1996).

By the 1970s, cafés such as the Alhambra on al. Jerozolimskie, "Na trakcie" on ul. Krakowskie Przedmiescie, the bar at the Ambassador on ul. Ujazdowskie, the café Antyczna on ul. Nowy Swiat (opposite the pissoir on Plac Trzech Krzyzy), and the washrooms at Warsaw's Central Station were popular cruising grounds. However, all press organs and cultural organizations were controlled by the Communist government, which did not permit homosexual expression or organizing. Moreover, the police kept detailed records on anyone suspected of homosexuality.

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The first open discussion of Warsaw's homosexual underground arose from a 1981 article in the important Warsaw weekly, Polityka, connecting the need for greater tolerance with the importance of controlling the spread of AIDS. By permitting the publication of this article, the Communists seemed to be opening the door to greater tolerance for homosexuality. Indeed, beginning in the autumn of 1983, the periodical Relax permitted classified ads for encounters between gay men.

The first article from the point of view of a gay male appeared in Polityka in 1985: its author, Dariusz Prorok, described in vivid detail the dominant society's treatment of gay people. Despite such openings, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the police continued to collect records on homosexuals, using the need to control venereal disease as the excuse to launch Operation Hyacinth in November 1985.

During this operation, the police picked up hundreds of gay men at work, school, and home, interrogated them, and attempted to blackmail them into collaboration. Ironically, the first attempts at establishing a gay movement were linked to these mass arrests, including the appearance of the first (and last) issue of a Warsaw gay newspaper, Efebos, in June 1987.

Democratic Poland

With the return of democracy in 1989, Warsaw's gay community established its own organization, "Lambda," in October 1989; the Provincial court in Warsaw officially registered this body in February 1990. The first gay campaign for tolerance, "Love, don't kill" [Kochaj, nie zabijaj], took place that spring, with the publication and distribution of safe sex pamphlets and the establishment of a confidential telephone line.

Warsaw's Pink Service began to publish the English-language "Warsaw Gay News" in September 1990, and Warsaw soon had three more gay monthlies: Men, OKAY, and Gayzeta--Nie? Tak?. The city's first gay demonstration took place in 1993 on Valentine's Day, when Lambda Warsaw passed out brochures that insisted on the equal value of love, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual.

In 1994, Lambda Warsaw held a press conference to release its "Report on the discrimination for reasons of sexual orientation in Poland" [Raport o dyskryminacji ze wzgledu na orientacje w Polsce]. For the first time in Polish history, discrimination against gays and lesbians was formally documented.

On June 17, 1995, the first official celebration of gay pride took place in Warsaw at the student pub "Giovanni." During the 1995 election campaign, the successful Social Democratic candidate for president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, publicly appealed for support from gay and lesbian voters.

Although the Roman Catholic Church condemns homosexuality and opposes all efforts to attain the slightest acceptance, it could not stop Warsaw's gay movement. Józef Cardinal Glemp, Archbishop of Warsaw and Primate of Poland, publicly condemned homosexuality, blaming it for the fall of the Roman Empire. Pope John Paul II, the first Polish head of the Roman Catholic Church, also decried the adoption of children by gay couples and the introduction of gay marriages.

In 1994, a group of gay Christians--Grupa Lesbijek i Gejow Chrzescijan w Warszawie--was established to engage in dialogue with the church hierarchy and to integrate gays and lesbians into the life of the church. However, such overtures have been met with silence.

Warsaw Today

Warsaw now has a large network of gay organizations, bars, dance clubs, and saunas. Lambda Warsaw is the largest and most active gay group in Poland. The Warsaw monthly Nowy Men is the predominant gay periodical in Poland. Despite the favorable legal situation, the Roman Catholic opposition to gay rights shapes national attitudes, holding back the progress of Warsaw's gay and lesbian community. Most of Warsaw's gays and lesbians are still in the closet.

John D. Stanley

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social sciences >> Overview:  Budapest

The capital and largest city of Hungary, Budapest is also the hub of Hungarian gay and lesbian life and the center of the country's glbtq political rights movement.

social sciences >> Overview:  Cross-Dressing

Cross-dressers have often been misunderstood and maligned, especially in societies with rigid gender roles.

social sciences >> Overview:  Nazism and the Holocaust

As part of its agenda to preserve an "Aryan master race," Nazism persecuted homosexuals as "asocial parasites"; more than 100,000 men were arrested on homosexual charges during the Nazi years, with 5,000-15,000 gay men incarcerated in concentration camps.

social sciences >> Overview:  Poland

Although Poland has a rudimentary gay subculture and a favorable legal situation, the country's anti-gay attitudes make life difficult for individual gay men and lesbians.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Russia

A cultural crossroads between Asia and Europe, Russia has a long, rich, and often violent heritage of varied influences and stark confrontations in regard to its patterns of same-sex love.

social sciences >> Overview:  Serbia

Although there now exists an active glbtq rights movement in Serbia, the atmosphere for glbtq citizens is one of hostility.

arts >> Szymanowski, Karol Maciej

Revered as the father of Polish contemporary classical music, Karol Szymanowski unequivocally expresses homoeroticism in his music.


Darski, Krzysztof T. [pseudonym of Dariusz Prorok]. "Jestesmy inni." Polityka no. 47 (November 23, 1985): 8.

Hauer, Gudrun, et al. Rosa Liebe unterm roten Stern: Zur Lage der Lesben und Schwulen in Osteuropa. Hamburg: Frühlings Erwachen, 1984.

Krasicki, Artur. Homoseksualisci w Polsce: Studium srodowiska. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Wydzial Filozofii i Socjologii, Instytut Socjologii, University of Warsaw, 1999.

Mikulski, Anton Feliks. Homoseuksualizm ze stanowiska medycyny i prawa. [Series: Odczyty kliniczne. Serya XXII. Zeszyt 11, 12, no. 263, 264.] Warsaw: Nakladem Gazety Lekarskiej, 1920.

Pietkiewicz, Barbara. "Gorzki fiolet." Polityka no. 8 (February 21, 1981): 8.


    Citation Information
    Author: Stanley, John D.  
    Entry Title: Warsaw  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 17, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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