British Museum collections, £12.99
Weight: 10.840 g
Diameter: 29.000 mm
Gift of Narodowy Bank Polski
Coins and Medals
Cupro-nickel 10,000 zlotych
Poland, AD 1990
Commemorative issue for the 10th anniversary of the Solidarity trade union
The radical Polish trade union federation, Solidarnosc ('Solidarity'), was established after a strike in 1980 in a Gdansk shipyard. The organization, led by Lech Walesa, grew to have around 10 million members. Initially recognized by Poland's Communist government, it soon came to be seen as a subversive force, and the government tried to break it. Martial law was declared in Poland in 1981, almost totally closing down the country and weakening Solidarnosc's powers.
However, reforms were being made to the communist system elsewhere in Europe. In the Soviet Union the principles of perestroika ('restructuring'/'reform') and glasnost ('openness') eventually led to the collapse of Communist rule there in 1991. Poland experienced its own reforms, and by 1989 free elections led to victory for Solidarity.
This 10,000 zlotych coin commemorates the organization at the time of its triumph. The cross is a symbol of Poland's devotion to the Roman Catholic church but also signifies the resurrection of the 'saviour' of the Polish people, Solidarity.